I Am Legend


In many, if not most, of the best short stories, the conclusion is inexorable. The tale advances elegantly, carefully, constantly toward its destination—no detours or loose threads. The theme unfolds, the climax arrives, and the final sentence reverberates because it rings true to every word that came before it. The story can end no other way.

In its first two-thirds, I Am Legend feels like one of those short stories—beautiful and relentless—and if the movie only ended at the darkly resonant sequence that caps those two-thirds, it would be a brilliant, brutal cinematic short story. But it doesn’t end there, of course. It spins off into something safer and less interesting. It’s not bad, exactly, but the jarring shift in tone and theme (not to mention quality) make the ending a disappointment. The rest of the movie is compelling enough to make it worthwhile, but the thought of what might have been is hard to shake.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

In theaters.

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day is a screwball comedy playing out beneath a looming shadow. No matter how effervescently perky Amy Adams is, no matter how adorable Lee Pace is, no matter how charming the rest of the cast is, the darkness is always there, waiting to swallow them all.

It’s an odd way to conduct a comedy, particularly one of this genre, and it doesn’t always work. The tonal shifts are often awkward, leaving madcap passages slight and solemn passages overearnest, but in a few scenes, Miss Pettigrew manages to span the chasm between giddy and sober. For a moment or two, the movie, set in London on the brink of World War II, feels eerily contemporary and poignant and special.