Friday, February 08, 2019

A Weatherman of Words

It's not easy to get ten steps out ahead of your audience these days when everybody's looking for the game, but once again Steven Soderbergh lives to make it look easy -- High Flying Bird is as tricky a caper as his Oceans films but with serious-minded pursuits of the political sort switched in for silly card shark shenanigans. You get a sense of what's up about the time you notice it's a basketball movie without any basketball -- such is the conceit, what with a timely league shutdown its play-field, all the better to dribble one-handed behind your back.

Andre Holland's player rep Ray Burke wants to do the right thing, but how right is right enough, and where does a singular right stop and a broader sense of righteousness begin? His game's a tricksy one and as High Flying Bird coasts along, conversation to conversation, it catches you up in a Hawksian rhythm, the conversational minutiae of smart people smarting out over top of one another, so you lose its forest for its trees, its extra innings for its three-pointers.

That's as far as you're gonna get sports analogies from me, I'm already in over my head, and thank goodness High Flying Bird doesn't rely on my polyester-thin knowledge therein to get the game behind the game behind the game. The answers are all hand-delivered in the opening scene, neatly folded inside a manila envelope and carried around, spot to spot, like Hitchcock's Macguffin, like the bomb that blew up the little boy on the bus -- the right character will spot the hand-off, spill the secrets, and unfurl the what for when the right time comes don't you worry. These are the smooth hands of a master massaging over you -- just enjoy the sensations.

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