THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES… Movie Reviews of Suffragette, Crimson Peak and The Assassin by Howard CasnerPosted: November 9, 2015 | Author: Donald | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Abi Morgan, Ben Wishaw, Brendan Gleeson, Carey Mulligan, Charlie Hunnam, Crimson Peak, Guillermo del Toro, Helena Bonham-Carter, Hsaio-Hsien Hou, Jessica Chastain, Matthew Robbins, Meryl Streep, Mia Wasikowska, Sarah Gavron, Suffragette, The Assassin, Thomas Hiddleston | 416 Comments »
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In the new historical semi-epic Suffragette, women fight for the right to vote. Not a particularly controversial topic these days, except perhaps in some remote regions of the radical right.
Written by Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady, Shame and the TV series The Hour) and directed by Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane), there’s nothing that wrong with the movie and it does its job admirably enough, and all the while backed by impeccable period settings and costumes ranging from working to the more leisurely classes.
At the same time, there’s nothing that exciting about it either. It’s a movie that does what it does, but that’s about all that it does.
The strongest parts of the film are in the first third which dramatizes in often devastating detail the life of Maud Watts who works in a laundry. Here the women are paid less than the men (and do more work and have longer hours); endure horrifying working conditions; and are the victims of their bosses sexual predilections.
Maud is your everywoman here, great at her job, a loving mother and wife, reluctant to rock the boat, but equipped with a righteous conscious. In other words, everything the central character of a movie should be so as not to alienate the audience.
That’s perhaps a bit unfair because Carey Mulligan, who plays Maud, gives a very empathetic performance and makes her more than a construct.
But the film begins to lose its way in the second third as the suffragette movement starts taking center stage. It’s hard to say exactly why the movie starts flailing a bit here, except that the screenplay, perhaps, can’t seem to make the idea of women’s right to vote as compelling and interesting as their work and sexual exploitation. Read the rest of this entry »
Palo Alto is about teenage angst and existential ennui, just like the Twilight series, but without the werewolves and vampires, though almost as painful to get through (sorry, but it’s true).
The story revolves around three teens: April (Emma Roberts), Teddy (Jack Kilmer) and Fred (Nat Wolf) who are going through the throes of finding themselves. Unfortunately, the throes they are going through are pretty much the same throes that millions of other movie teens have pretty much gone through in millions of other movies before this and dramatized in pretty much the same way as those millions of others that came before as well. Read the rest of this entry »
GOOD HELP IS HARD TO FIND: Movie Reviews of Ilo Ilo, Joe and Only Lovers Left Alive by Howard CasnerPosted: April 18, 2014 | Author: Donald | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Angeli Bayani, Anthony Chen, Benoit Soler, David Gordon Green, Gary Brown, Ilo Ilo, Jim Jarmusch, Joe, John Hurt, Koh Jai Ler as the holy terror Jiale, Mia Wasikowska, Nicolas Cage, Only Lovers Left Alive, Tian Wen Chen, Tilda Swinton, Tom Hiddleston, Tye Sheridan, Yann Yann Yeo, Yorick Le Saux | Leave a comment »
The family of Jiale, a young boy growing up in Singapore in the 1990’s, is, shall we say, not having the best of times.
His mother Hwee Leng is, well, quite pregnant, to say the least, and works for a company where she types the dismissal notices for a mass layoff; her job seems secure, but no one else around her is so confident. The father, Teck, works as a salesman for a company that makes shoddy protective glass and he soon finds himself out of a job (though he doesn’t tell the family). And Jiale, well, Jiale is simply a terror, a combination of Damien Thorn and Rhoda Penmark. Read the rest of this entry »
There is an absolutely lovely and thrilling moment in Lawless, the new based on a true story film written by Nick Cave and directed by John Hillcoat about a trio of bootlegging brothers deep in the hills of Virginia. When Jack, the youngest of the clan, decides to court the preacher’s daughter by swigging a full mason jar of white lightning and attending Sunday service, he enters a white clapboard building where long-bearded men in dark coats and women in crisp bonnets and starched dresses sing a hymn by shape noting, an almost feral and mesmerizing way of making music.
When the congregation ends the hymn, they proceed to the tradition of washing one another’s feet. When the preacher’s daughter takes Jack’s foot in her hand, it is way too much for him and he runs outside, leaving a shoe behind ala Cinderella, getting sick along the way. This look at a religious service, an offshoot of Quakers and Mennonites, felt like entering new and unexplored territory, the sort of breathtaking scene one goes to movies to experience. And Hillcoat gives it its due. Unfortunately, once it’s over, we’re back to the more than familiar standard tale of bootlegging and moonshining. But it was nice while it lasted.
Lawless is lovely to look at with ravishing and picturesque frames of the hills of Virginia in full, fall foliage and stark ones of lonely bridges in wintertime. The costuming and sets give the story an intense period feel. But in the end, Lawless feels like a movie in search of a story.
The plot is a bit general. Some corrupt lawmen from Chicago come to town to take over. But the Bondruant brothers, being the alpha male Ayn Randians that they are, refuse to buckle. The story sort of lumbers along after this, making its way through a series of episodes that don’t feel like they’re really leading anywhere and with no satisfactory explanation as to why the Chicago gangsters take so long to try to wipe out the Boudrants. And it all ends with one of those shoot outs that made me ask the friend I was with, “Just how close do you actually have to be to someone in this movie before you can hit them?”
Because of this lack of a clear and strong through line, the screenplay tries to hang the story around Jack’s neck and make his coming of age character arc the linchpin that holds it all together, to mix a metaphor or two. But since Jack’s character is so annoying; because he’s such an idiot that you want to hit him up alongside his head; and since his journey isn’t all that intriguing or interesting, this probably wasn’t the best idea. He does have a journey and he does get somewhere. He reaches manhood the moment he can get himself to finally kill someone. Of course, a lot of people had to die first so he could learn this, but as they say, you got to crack a few eggs to make an omelet. But still, the lesson got learned and I guess that’s all that matters.
The cast does the best they can. Jason Clarke, as Howard the middle brother, who has a very expressive face and eyes, and Mia Wasikowska, as the mature for her age preacher’s daughter, probably give the best performances. Tom Hardy mumbles through his lines, an approach that worked for Marlon Brando, but doesn’t quite have the same effect here. Shia LaBeouf plays Jack and whether you think he’s any good or not will probably depend on how much you like his awkward, semi-nerdy, insecure becoming a child-man schtick. For my money, I think he acquits himself quite admirably, and it’s not really his fault that his character isn’t that interesting. But a special note must be made of Guy Pearce who plays Charlie Rakes, the Chicago germaphobe and sociopath with a messianic complex. A preposterous performance in a preposterous role, it almost has to be seen to be believed. One can’t tell if he’s terrible or he’s playing it exactly the way it was written, or both.