DVD Review: “Nobel Son”

Written by DVD Reviews, Film

Nobel SonNobel Son (2009, Fox)
purchase from Amazon: DVD

Nobel Son, a new caper film on DVD, is a satisfying time if you happen to enjoy films with unexpected twists and turns. The film, written by Jody Savin and directed by Randall Miller (actually completed before his sleeper hit, Bottle Shock) stars Bryan Greenberg (of ABC’s October Road) as a Barkley Michaelson, a twenty-something grad student struggling to finish his PHD thesis on cannibalism. Barkley has had to live his entire life in the shadow of his father, world famous chemist, Eli Michaelson. As portrayed by the eternally entertaining Alan Rickman, Eli is… well, Eli is the world’s biggest asshole. Not only does Eli belittle his only son, but for years he’s been cheating on his lovely wife, Sarah, a forensic psychiatrist. Sarah is played by Academy Award winner Mary Steenburgen, who brings a grace and strength to each role she inhabits. I wish she wasn’t relegated to mostly “mother” roles (as in last years Four Christmases and the current The Proposal). However, in Nobel Son she gets to show some teeth and really makes the character interesting.

On the eve of Eli winning the Nobel Prize, Barkley has a one-night fling with a spacey poet named City Hall. Eliza Dushku (Fox’s Dollhouse) is game for the part and shows some flair in her otherwise small role. Berkeley wakes up the next morning, misses the family flight to Sweden for the award ceremony, and is then clocked over the head with a baseball bat and kidnapped by the deranged Thaddeus James (Shawn Hatosy- we don’t see enough of him these days). Thaddeus has a major grudge with Eli and he demands $2 million of the Nobel prize money. From there, Nobel Son begins throwing the kind of curveballs you only see with a whiffle ball and a plot of betrayal, lust and ultimately revenge play out. Along the way, there are some fancy flashbacks, a nifty car chase through a shopping mall that includes a great bait and switch gag, and some really fine music by Mark Adler and Paul Oakenfold that keeps the action propelling along, never letting up until the credits finally roll.

I don’t want to tell you much more because that would give away too much of the plot and Nobel Son is a film that is dependant on the viewer always being one step behind the filmmakers. It’s an ideal film for DVD viewing as you can go back, re-watch crucial scenes and move on. The film has a fluid pace from beginning to finish, a script that is well written and an entire cast giving winning performances. In addition to the actors already mentioned, Danny DeVito has a small, but crucial role as a neurotic neighbor, Ted Danson has a brief part as a fellow college professor where Eli teaches, and Bill Pullman (who also starred in Bottle Shock) delivers his usual charm in the role of the police detective (and colleague of Sarah’s) who is investigating the kidnapping.

You may read elsewhere that Nobel Son is a film full of flaws, but I say check it out for a good couple hours of solid entertainment. The DVD includes commentary with director/producer Miller, writer/producer Savin, musician Oakenfold, cinematographer Mike Ozier and actors Greenberg and Dushku. There are also deleted scenes and an alternate ending.

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