CIFF Review: Mr. Sophistication


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Being middle-aged in the entertainment business must be one of the hardest things to deal with. Beyond talent, the industry also puts a strong emphasis on looks. Basically, the younger and better you look, the higher the likelihood for success. Imagine having the success and the fame while in your youth, but letting it all slip away in a drug-fueled misstep.

What would you do if you had a second chance?

Mr. Sophistication
Director: Danny Green
Rating: TBD
Country: USA

Ron Waters (Harry Lennix) is a middle-aged stand-up comedian performing at his wife’s (Tatum O’Neal) club in Chicago. After a gig one night, Ron’s old manager Sterling French (Robert Patrick) approaches him with a few offers to return to LA. Choosing a revival to his career over working out the marital problems with his wife, Ron finds success in the West Coast… as well as a steamy affair with the 24-year-old Rosa (Paloma Guzman). It isn’t long before Ron threatens to make the same mistakes that ruined his career the first time around.

Mr. Sophistication is a drama with some of Ron’s standup sets supplying some comedic elements into the film. However, the best parts of the film are said standup scenes. The so-called “drama” is superficial. If Green’s intentions with the film were to reflect the superficiality of the LA scene with his film, then he did a great job. Otherwise, those expecting a serious drama will be disappointed.

The main problem I had with the film was how little actually happened. Obviously, things happened, a conflict arose and was resolved, but there wasn’t much tension until the third act. Hearing more of Ron’s standup would have added some more entertainment to an otherwise boring film. The main theme of the film is an older, wiser man returning to a life that ate him up early on and to see whether or not he would succumb to the same old vices. I get that. Mr. Sophistication just didn’t do anything interesting with the theme. You would expect such a film to delve deeper into the character, but it just waded on the surface level.

Lennix is a great actor whom most might recognize from The Matrix sequels or Dollhouse, but his line delivery felt so forced and stilted. The title of the film stems from his character’s suave personality, and that plays into the way Lennix talked. I can’t exactly put a finger on it, but it’s as if his voice was mixed on a higher level than every other sound, which made his delivery that much more distracting.

Mr. Sophistication, despite how cool and suave its protagonist acts, is shockingly shallow. Beyond a third act where everything escalates slightly, the film is honestly boring. I was hoping for an intense character study of a man finding redemption for his younger self’s mistakes. Instead, I got a film about a middle-aged man doing whatever his heart desired and finding a smooth way to talk himself out of everything. Doesn’t sound very sophisticated, does it?