Reese Witherspoon almost certainly won’t be walking off with an Oscar next Sunday, but that doesn’t take anything away from her enjoyably grouchy turn in “Wild,” which calls to mind the electricity of her earlier work. Speaking of which, it’s hard to imagine her ever topping her peerlessly keyed-up turn in “Election,” in which her spunky ambition monster Tracy Flick so pesters an also never better Matthew Broderick that he tries to sabotage her bid for class president. Not that the film totally hates her; like Flick, Alexander Payne’s direction is always “on,” albeit in a way that’s happy-making, not irksome.
Speaking of Alexander Payne, Witherspoon’s “Wild” mom also gave her (arguable) best work in the director’s feature debut, which just happens to be the so-far only great abortion comedy on record. She’s a white trash glue-huffer whose unwanted pregnancy from some lout is seized upon by both sides of the debate, which both prove equally ripe for Payne’s Sturgesian satire. In a just world, Dern’s committed turn would not only have been nominated, but the Oscar clip would have been her shrieking, “Suck the s— out of my ass, you f—er!”
‘The Brothers Bloom’
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Mark Ruffalo was the calm, sane center of “Foxcatcher,” but he’s the goofier of the titular pair in Rian Johnson’s absurdist con caper, in which he and Adrien Brody put the grift on a deeply, wonderfully eccentric heiress (Rachel Weisz, great). Johnson made this between “Brick” and “Looper,” en route to scoring the “Star Wars VIII” job, and it’s a deceptively goofy lark whose last-minute sincerity is both unexpected and very quietly planted during its dizzying opener.