It may seem like a derogatory statement but Gabriele Mucchino is the director that Will Smith built. Yes, I know the filmmaker had acclaim from Remember Me, My Love and The Last Kiss, but neither film made a lot of waves in North America and we only know of the latter film because of the Zach Braff remake. It wasn’t until Overbrook Entertainment, Smith’s production company, hired Mucchino to helm his movie the Pursuit of Happyness that he made his emergence into English language movie making. This proved to be a smart move as the film was excellent and should have netted Will Smith more acclaim than it did. The two reteamed on Seven Pounds, not a great film by any standards but one I enjoyed a lot.
Since then, Mucchino has returned to his native Italy for a film and made a terrible Gerard Butler comedy as well. The stock on Gabriele Mucchino has dipped quite a bit since his Will Smith-led North America debut ten years back and maybe a return to the drama pool would rejuvenate him like Don Ameche in Cocoon. His next choice in story would be Fathers And Daughters, putting Academy Award winner Russell Crowe as the co-lead, along with Amanda Seyfried and Emmy winner Aaron Paul. The cast was promising and the subject matter seemed like a manipulative emotion story aimed right at a man with a little girl like myself. Home run, right?
The film follows Jake Davis, played by Crowe, a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer who is struggling to finish his next book. After a car accident kills his wife, the mother of his daughter Katie, Jake finds himself lost in grief but with the best of intentions for his little girl’s life. Unfortunately, the car accident triggered something in his brain causing him to suffer from debilitating seizures and shakes. As they continue to get worse and worse, it looks like Jake is less and less able to care for his young daughter.
On the flip side of this, twenty-seven years into the future, his daughter Katie (Amanda Seyfried) is grown up and working in a career dealing with troubled youth. Ironically, Katie is quite troubled herself. Emotionally damaged from the death of her father at a young age, Katie sleeps with random men and has a very low opinion of herself. This is until she meets Cameron (Aaron Paul) and the two start a relationship, the most real thing that Kate has ever been a part of. On shaky ground mentally, Katie must fight her urges to sabotage her good situation, channeling her father, who she was a little too young to know his complexities.
It should be known before heading into Fathers And Daughters, that the melodrama in this film is ramped up to a high level which manages to cut it down in every conceivable way. It seems like every time Mucchino crafts a scene that really works, the scene that comes immediately afterwards only serves to lessen the impact of what you just saw. Whether this is through bad writing, over emotionality or frustratingly out of character shifts, it makes the film very hard to get acclimated to. It’s a quagmire of saturated emotions and it’s a bit too much.
The cinematography and the look of the film itself are very enticing. Director of photography Shane Hurlbut does a pretty solid job in making the frame look nice and utilizes a dolly zoom in and out pretty effectively in a few sequences. Does Hurlburt’s name sound familiar? It should. He was the guy that Christian Bale infamously yelled at on the set of Terminator Salvation. It’s good to know that he’s gotten better at his craft, though not through any good films at all as he made Need For Speed and Act Of Valor. That aside, he still shows promise.
It’s a bit sad that Mucchino’s career has seemed to stagnate in making films with bad scripts and bad execution as his mainstream career started with so much promise. The Pursuit of Happyness still appears to be his crowning achievement and Fathers And Daughters only serves to show the continued decline in his work, even with a story base that should have been an easy chord to strike with the audience. Crowe, Seyfried and Paul all try their best to elevate this film to a higher level but with the limited quality production to play off it’s all for naught as the movie flounders every ten minutes and makes you wonder what’s going on in the world of your smartphone because it’s far more real than anything going on onscreen. Let’s hope this filmmaker finds his mojo again because Fathers and Daughters is a low one and a half out of five in my opinion.