It’s good to see Sally Field on screen again even when the character she plays is a creepy woman who people view as somewhat eccentric and cute at best. I could even forgive the eventual incursion into over-emoting somewhat reminiscent of Steel Magnolias just because she’s that kind of a performer.
Doris has had much of a life. She took care of her mother and unfortunately inherited her less than desirable traits — like hoarding. [Although, to be honest, hers is not an out of control hoarding worthy of an hour’s intervention on A & E, but it’s enough to define the character as someone who hasn’t been able to move on and can’t let go of minor things. Such as, the object of her affection’s pencil, which she smells.]
A visit to a self-help guru (played to narcissistic perfection by Peter Gallagher) with her friend Roz (Tyne Daly, offering solid support in a well-written character that deserves its own story) becomes a catalyst for Doris to pursue her new office-mate John (Max Greenfield), who’s pencil she stole while they were stuck in an elevator for a meet-cute-awkward ride. At first it’s innocent — she asks him to pump air into her balance ball, a scene that turns hilarious on its own. Soon she’s delving into online stalking on social media via a fake profile complete with a Hot Girl’s pic to check his profile on Facebook and see what he’s about. While it does allow her to share a mutual like for an electronic band (which lands her at a concert in Williamsburg where she becomes an instant hit with the millennials), it’s still a little cringing. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to root for Doris and John to wind up together, or giggle at the sheer disparity between the two and the several comical moments they share together, mostly at Doris’ klutzy expense and incursions into Walter Mitty territory.
A monkey wrench gets thrown in, and John starts dating a Bright Young Thing, Brooklyn (Beth Behrs). Somewhat predictably, this spirals Doris out of control, and remember that fake profile Doris created just to spy on John? Once she confirms that he’s dating Brooklyn . . . well. Over wine and The Platters’ Smoke Gets in Your Eyes [used to perfection in 45 Years], she does precisely what she shouldn’t. Chekhov’s gun goes off.
Hello, My Name is Doris is a very entertaining comedy that wears its darker aspects under multi-colored glasses as bright and peppy as Doris’ outfit. It’s a wonderful return for Sally Field, whom I last saw in Lincoln (2012). She starts the movie in complete sight-gag mode, unafraid to play that kooky office person we all know and . . . love? (okay, okay, tolerate), until a crucial sequence with her brother and sister-in-law (Stephen Root and Wendi McClendon-Covey) and the therapist assigned to her case (Elisabeth Reaser, in a small role) lets Doris spill out years of frustration and regret in one powerful scene. Which, again, reminds you the strength of Sally Field’s ability to perform on several levels at once.
This may be a breakout hit given the fact that in its second week it’s expanded to a little over 600 theaters nationwide over the initial 4 in its debut week. I think that Hello My Name is Doris will be the sleeper hit this spring because of its appeal to both fans of the younger cast as well as its more established performers. Recommended. Watch for Caroline Aaron, Kumali Nanjiani, and Natasha Lyonne in small parts.
This year’s Rendezvous with French Cinema has featured some of the most diverse films coming out of France and it’s hit two home runs by bringing to US audiences the Cesar Award winner for Best Picture, Fatima, and Dheepan, the Palm D’Or winner at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, both which I saw back to back at the Walter Reade. Thematically, both are strikingly similar films dealing with the issue of cultural differences and a language barrier that immigrants experience when coming into France. However, those similarities end there: while Fatima grapples with a less than veiled racism and two conflicted daughters. Dheepan contains elements of the mythical warrior pushed to his limits.
Having lost everything to war, Sivadhassan, a Sri Lankan soldier, Yalini, a young woman on the verge of womanhood, and an orphaned young girl, Illayaal, procure false IDs to leave Sri Lanka for a better life. In a striking, near wordless montage, Dheepan (as Sivadhasaan is now known) walks the streets of Paris covered in cheap glow lights trying to sell them to anyone who will buy for pennies. When Immigration reels him (and the other two) in, a sympathetic Sri Lankan translator helps his case out, grants the three of them temp visas, and relocates them to the Parisian projects where they can start anew.
The problem is that these like your typical projects are rife with drug dealing and with that vicious shoot-outs. Dheepan gets work as a caretaker, Yalini lands a job taking care of a largely mute older man (which comes with its own set of complications), and Illayaal attends school for kids with special needs, which in Paris is aimed at children who cannot speak the language but nevertheless need education.
For a while, everything is going well except for a couple minor ruffles: Illayaal getting into a school brawl over being rejected at recess and Yalini confusing the mail is the worst of their problems. Relations are at a rocky, unstable start — Yalini would rather continue to London and leave Dheepan and Illayaal behind. However, a gradual sense of comfort starts to come into the picture and it’s not long when the three of them have formed a new sense of family, and Dheepan has begun to fall a little for Yalini.
Just outside the picture, another drama is about to explode. Brahim, a drug-dealer and leader of a vicious gang often visits the man Yalini is taking care of, and while there is a certain, tentative attraction between the two, that comes to a crashing halt one day when a shoot-out takes place and almost hits Yalini and Illayaal on the way home from school. It proves to be a little too much for her to bear, because didn’t she leave a war-ravaged country already?
This is where the second half of Dheepan smashes this false sense of security: as he was considering an engagement ring to make his life with Yalini legal, she’s panicked and taken off. At about the same time a character from his past, another Sri Lankan soldier, wants his help in the war, but Dheepan has moved on and is on another plane. These two events rip the ground off his feet and define the more violent second half, where Brahim’s own out of control violence will intersect with Dheepan’s self-contained warrior. Director Jacques Audiard ratches up the tension as rival gangs threaten not just themselves but Dheepan himself, and at times the ferocity of how characters clash seems out of context with the slow buildup that has preceeded, but seems fitting due to the story’s location.
Dheepan is carried out almost entirely by newcomer Jesusthasan Anthonythasan who plays a character not too dissimilar from his life as a child soldier in Sri Lanka. From the first scene to the last, he is the one character your attention focuses on, going through the motions of tragedy of a past he can’t go back to, to the insecurity of the future, to the anguish of having to dig back into his past to make sure that future, faint at first but burgeoning, doesn’t die before it has a chance. Equally as good are the newcomes playing Yalini and Illayaal and Vincent Rottiers as Brahim, a bad guy who has a soft spot for Yalini.
Human survival gets tested all the way in this often touching, but never over-dramatic film. I highly recommend it.
She’s a divorced Moroccan immigrant barely making ends meet to support her two daughters in a country who’s language she can hardly speak. Her two daughters seem to harbor a resentment towards their own heritage for different reasons that stem to the fact that they’re in a white-intensive country, with white values, and would like to have what’s called a “normal family.” Such a rift, visible to her Moroccan neighbors, causes a sense of anger: how dare these two young women reject their own?
To that, Fatima (Soria Zeroual) offers no clear answers because there are none. All she can do is toil ahead in menial jobs to pay for her daughters Nesrine’s and Souad’s college and high school, respectively (although she does get some help from her former husband). Most of the conflict lies in the language barrier between Fatima and her own daughters, her employers, and the unspoken racism that permeates the story with every encounter. One early example is when Fatima mentions to the woman who’s house she cleans that Nesrine is studying to be a doctor. The woman, a stately, patrician redhead, has just had an argument with her son who’s throwing his future away. Upon Fatima’s revelation, again, spoken in terrible French, there’s a clear stiffening in the woman’s pose. It’s almost as if this challenged her own sense of privilege, her own status: her cleaning lady also having a daughter who will one day become a doctor.
Another example is when Nesrine goes looking for an apartment to move into: there is a tension between the very white blond landlady and these three dark-skinned women that ends on a negative note. If you’ve read how minorities are treated here in the US when seeking apartments in nicer areas, Fatima lays it out pretty plainly. Later on in the movie Fatima reveals in conversation with Nesrine that her employer has been leaving money out carelessly in places where she will clean. It’s almost as if her employer would want her to steal it to self-fulfill her own prejudice that all foreigners not of Anglo origin are thieves.
To top this off, Fatima has begun to have increasing problems with Souad, her youngest daughter. While Nesrine’s conflicts arise from her own need to succeed and pass her exams (and that she doesn’t feel the need to wear a scarf around her head which angers her neighbors), Souad’s problems are much deeper.There is a sense of something missing from her life. Her grades are dropping, her relation with both her parents is deteriorating, and she seems to be hanging with “the wrong crowd,” she mocks Fatima’s French (which Fatima countermocks Souad’s own poor Arabic). It’s a situation that brings argument after argument with Fatima and one wonders whether there can be a middle ground between the two.
The only action sequence is a tumble down the stairs that renders Fatima with severe shoulder pain and in need of therapy. It’s a shocking development that comes out of nowhere but as a hidden blessings it allows Fatima to writer her innermost thoughts which she shares with her therapist and (offscreen) learn French to communicate better, on her own terms
Fatima is a brief, yet wonderfully warm slice of life that manages to draw a complete portrait of an otherwise invisible woman that a privileged section of society would rather tend to forget due to her African origins. I loved how lived in, how real the entire story felt and how this could appropriate itself to many foreigners who now live in a country that, while giving them limited resources, often tries to stamp out their identity by turning the other cheek. That this unassuming woman slowly comes to her own after a time spent in the shadows makes it a must-see.
As of yet there is no US release date for Fatima although Kino-Lorber has acquired it for distribution.
Just how many superheroes exist in the Marvel Comics universe? Wait. Don’t answer that. I’m probably not going to keep tabs or remember the answer, because other than a cursory interest in the Superman movies that made Christopher Reeve a household heartthrob, it’s just not my cup of tea. I’m most decidedly not the target audience for this type of story. So what am I doing at the AMC watching Deadpool on a Friday night in early March?
No clue. Curiosity, perhaps?
Let’s leave it at that. Also, from what little I know, this was/is a totally different creation in the Marvel Comics Universe, one so blatantly outre and dripping in sheer bravado that I kind of had to give up a little snobbery and concede. You see, when you see a little of yourself in a character you get the character and Deadpool has attitude in spades. Heck–his attitude has attitude. He’s like the honey badger video that’s made the rounds on YouTube forever, voiced by the lisping gay guy: he doesn’t give a shit. And he wants you to know he doesn’t give a shit. Everyone’s game; everyone’s a target, and even when you need him to do a favor for you, don’t expect him to accept your thanks because he just needed to vent a little and make a stalker pee in his pants and never, ever, consider terrorizing the girl on campus (as is what happens in one of the film’s many flashbacks). Ryan Reynolds is perfect as the reluctant hero. If you’ve seen his movies you knew this one was coming: he has the right amount of comedic presence, the right amount of vocal delivery, and even the right amount of visual badassery to convince me that he, Wade Wilson, would don a red suit and strike out on his own.
His Wade Wilson gets introduced in medias res as he’s about to engage in some massive ass-kicking. But first: cue the credits, who roll with outrageous mentions as “a British Supervillain” “a hot chick” “the gratuitous cameo” “the comic sidekick”. I loved it. This is a hard-rock movie that doesn’t take anything that happens in its story too seriously and wants you to know it and have fun.
And the fun explodes from the intro and then gets amped up to eleven real quick. What helps it is a composition of its plot which can be summed up as “Deadpool goes after the man who ruined his life; mayhem ensues”–backed up with some hilarious set pieces that work perfectly as flashbacks. These flashbacks come in the form of thought bubbles stemming from Deadpool’s stream of consciousness as he, the former Wade Wilson, flies through the air after getting a hit from someone. They manage to give us a connect the dots from point a) when he saved a girl from a stalker (see paragraph above), to b) when he met the woman who was essentially his match in every shape and form, fell in lust/love, and just as they were about to find bliss? Point c) Cancer. Incurable. Tick-tock.
Wade’s problem stems from the fact that he buys into the seemingly impossible sell that he may regain his life back through an obscure procedure. Here is where he meets Ajax/Frank, a man who uses him as a guinea pig with the sole intent to make him suffer. One experiment goes too far, and Wade’s defense mechanism goes into absolute overdrive, creating a new creature who’s basically invulnerable to injuries, but hideous. Or as he himself states, “I look like balls with teeth.” Sounds like an episode from Botched on Bravo.
And there you have it — that’s the meat of the story; how it’s a matter of time until Deadpool and Ajax meet for One Final Encounter. Tim Muller has created a massively frantic movie that throws everything that it can to the viewer — in one rapid-fire scene I counted no less than 3 jokes and several visual sight gags along with several pop-culture references. Some of the funniest set pieces involve him and a man he uses as a limo/taxi driver whom he also lectures in how to act in his private life (which yields some rather hilarious circumstances). Not as funny are the fight scenes themselves, but I guess they were necessary, although a small exchange between Colossus and Angel Dust who are battling it to the death made me laugh out loud. After all, when a man is fighting a woman and she reveals a naked breast (which Muller blocks by placing Colossus’ hand in a strategic position), it’s no reason why he should forget to be a gentleman. Those two should pair up. That’s the sequel I want to see.
This is a fun as balls movie. It’s outrageous, it’s raunchy, it’s almost disgusting, and completely politically incorrect, and that to me is solid popcorn entertainment I enjoy. And coming from someone who’s numb to fantasy superhero movies, that is saying a lot.
(4 / 5)
Not as fast moving as Deadpool is Glassland, an Irish movie that demands you to sit back and see the slow-burn train wreck unfolding in the lives of a young Irish man and his alcoholic mother. The situation as it is, starts out pretty bad: a mostly wordless montage introduces you to John (Jack Raynor), a taxi driver working late nights to support his alcoholic mother Jean (Toni Collette). Upon returning from his shift he comes back to find her unconscious and drowning in her own puke on the bed after what seems like one too many drinks. An emergency hospital visit doesn’t give John too much hope: if she continues the way she’s carrying on she’ll need a liver transplant. When John and Jean return to their apartment she goes into a frenzy and rips the place apart looking for her drinks. Jean would rather drink herself to death than sober up and face life and is dragging Jack along for the miserable ride. It’s a gamble if Jean will survive her own addiction or one day, not wake up.
While there are other subplots, Glassland is a haunting two-person character study of people in pain who don’t see a way out. This brutal movie will linger long after the credits have rolled, it’s that good. All of the most powerful scenes involve Jean and John as they both confront and argue with each other — he’s heartbroken that she’s unwilling to let go of the drink; she’s just too dependent on the bottle for reasons she eventually discloses in an emotional scene. Toni Collette continues to essay strong performances that flesh out real people; her Jean is drowning in more ways than one. It’s painful to see her face filled with lines, wallowing in her own self-pity, screaming at the top of her lungs, a woman gone mad. Also good is Jack Raynor who creates a solid character of John without turning him into a caricature of selfless suffering. He provides the film with enormous gravity.
Glassland is available on VOD and premieres in limited release Friday March 18.
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot:
(3.5 / 5)
And now, a different type of film with a different type of heroine. Based on her memoirs, The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is another slice of cinematic chick-lit peppered with a faux-grittier slant that feels a little too color-by-numbers. And I’m not saying this is a bad thing: I like movies where the main character goes into unknown territory to explore and possibly, oh, learn something, and I assume the real Kim Barker did, but somehow, it just didn’t quite register here. Perhaps if it had taken a cue of Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty (its distant cousin) I would have felt like this was less a somewhat feel-good movie about war in Afghanistan and something closer to the stuff Christiane Amanpour goes through when she’s out in the field and bombs are exploding in the distance. To a degree, this is no one’s fault: there has to be a story and as based on reality as it portends to be, elements of the fictitious creep in and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot somehow does justice to its acronym and morphs into a sometimes credible, sometimes “eh” Tina Fey vehicle where she gets to do something serious for about two hours and emerges less dirty and hopefully a little bit wiser.
Hell is other people. Trapped in a box. With partial information that something worse walks the ground outside the box, just waiting for you to come out. Oh, and with the creeping, crawling terror that the man that saved you from a grisly fate is also operating on a faulty elevator that doesn’t go to the top floor . . . and is all eyes, suspicion, and sudden, violent reflexes.
Imagine that you’re in a bad relationship of sorts (although, when that relationship comes under the form of Bradley Cooper, I’d be hard-pressed to say I’d want out. Has anyone seen the man’s legs and buns?). You’re in a frenzy, packing what little you can and zooming the heck outta dodge. Later that evening while on the road, boyfriend calls. You let it go to voicemail. He calls again. A report of some unusual activity catches you off guard and suddenly–
–you wake up in what looks like a cellar. Dim lights. Chained. An IV tube attached without your explicit permission to your arm.
Don’t you hate it when that happens?
Michelle wakes up and immediately is all reflexes and tense, jerky motions. She was in a situation she didn’t ask for, but this one is much worse. And then, a man you wouldn’t imagine to be looney tunes walks in and tells you he’s saved your life. Played by John Goodman, you think, okay, this is Roseanne’s husband; this is about to get fun. Oh, yes. Fun it will get. Just . . . not the kind you think about.
You see, John Goodman’s character, Harold, is a lot of things: former marine, for example. A former father who lost his daughter Megan. He’s also a doomsday prepper, and tells you there’s been some attack on the planet and upstairs, the world as we know it, is now gone.
Michelle isn’t having it and she decides she’s going to take matters into her own hands. It backfires, badly, because Goodman goes from a mild-mannered if slightly creepy host to a dangerous psychopath in less than five seconds when while at dinner, she tries to flirt with a fellow prisoner, Emmet (John Gallagher, Jr.). [The scene is as frightening as anything in the movie because Goodman looks like he could kill her right there and then for her affront.] It doesn’t end there. Michelle has somehow managed to get Harold’s keys from him. Herself still a caged animal intent on fleeing, she attacks Harold and by sheer force makes it to ground level. There she encounters a woman with peeling skin on her face who asks to be let in. Michelle is literally frozen in a quandary with the lurching Harold bellowing to her that the woman is infected and the woman progressively losing her shit and banging her head against the window that separates her from the momentary safety where Michelle stands. Michelle realizes that Harold may actually not be the bad guy after all.
And thus begins a sequence of complacency where the two tenants (captives) start to accommodate themselves into domestic complacency. When you’re in a bunker, there’s not much else to do, you know? Bonding inevitably happens, and Michelle learns about Harold’s daughter Megan. Until a chance trip to regulate the air vents leads Michelle to a chilling discovery, one that shatters every sense of this fake reality she’s been forced to live until that moment.
Dan Trachtenberg’s first movie is an excellent game of cat and mouse with homages to Misery and The Twilight Zone’s episode The Shelter. Mary Elizabeth Winstead is a final girl unlike any I’ve ever seen. She doesn’t play dumb; her character is so invested on returning to the free world even if it means exposing herself to toxic air and . . . other things, she makes a weapon and a tool out of everything she can get her hands on. There isn’t a single scene where one isn’t rooting for her other than in Cloverfield when the tired trick of TJ Miller yammering off screen as he films everything as “documentation” wears itself out pretty quickly. John Gallagher, Jr. plays his part pretty much straight; he’s almost a baseboard for Winstead to act against. And Goodman . . . I wouldn’t cross that man if my life depended on it. He doesn’t hobble anyone, but Jesus on a stick he’s crazy. And his crazy comes from a real fear — that makes him all the more unpredictable.
So far, so good with 10 Cloverfield Avenue. I wouldn’t really call it a direct sequel (not even the monsters are similar), but the same way Stephen King’s books transpire in alternating or overlapping universes that relate to a single Event, this one seems to be of the same vein. This is one solid, nerve-wracking horror movie with a spectacular pay-off. Except more from where that came from.
It’s hard to believe it’s been twenty-five years since Curtis Hanson released his (can we call it a classic?) excellent movie The Hand that Rocks the Cradle, a film that pretty much chilled America to the bone with the prospect of psycho-nannies wanting a little more than the meager pay they get for watching over unruly kids while Mom and Dad are out having A Night Out. Michael Thelin’s debut picture Emelie owes quite a bit to that film, and I say that in a good way. This is a slow-burn pressure cooker of a movie that doesn’t spell its cards immediately; instead, it opts for scenes of domestic playfulness that slowly peel back a rather disturbing character study of a young woman who isn’t just insane, but dangerous.
Much of the movie’s intro is rather tame, involving playful family banter as Mom and Dad prepare themselves for an evening dinner while Anna, the substitute babysitter gets the lowdown on the kids. Once the parents are gone, the tone does a subtle shift, and in almost imperceptible ways, Anna starts to disclose that she has other things in mind than taking care of three children. Things start to get a little uncomfortable when Anna, after a game of hide and seek, calls oldest son Jacob into the bathroom and reveals herself to be sitting on the toilet, having her period, and asking for tampons. [A quick shot of blood on the toilet nails the uneasiness of these scene.] Thelin ratchets up the creep factor even more when Anna forces the daughter to watch her pet hamster get eaten by Jacob’s pet snake, and if you thought this was bad enough, wait until she gathers the kids for a special video. It’s horrifying, more so because of the whole domesticity of the scene where it takes place — and that the parents are completely oblivious.
Michael Thelin delivers a smart thriller that always manages to keep the focus on a family about to experience terror at the hands of a random person who isn’t right in the head. Sarah Bolger, an Irish actress with a striking resemblance to Saoirse Ronan, is quite the stand out here, with her cold blue eyes and cool, detached yet friendly demeanor until the gloves are off. Even then, she doesn’t overplay her character’s psychopathy as other movies with a psycho-nanny tend to do — which I appreciated. Then there is the house: it becomes a character all its own, a trap full of shadows. Some genre tropes make their way into the movie, but that’s to be expected. Falling inches away from pure horror (perhaps due to its running time, a quick 80 minutes including credits), Emelie is an uneasy penny dreadful with atmosphere and suspense to spare.
Had I been paying more attention to my gut instinct I would’ve caught Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s new movie Cemetery of Splendour, a euphoric whisper of a film that played to great acclaim at the 53rd New York Film Festival. [It probably conflicted, also, with the US premieres of a couple more accessible movies, so that hurt its chances for me seeing it then.]
But not to digress. Witnessing Cemetery of Splendor is seeing a slice of life that completely lived in, softly, with gentle, earthy humor, and rich sensibility of one’s surroundings at a cosmic level. The story revolves around a middle aged Thai woman, Jenjira Pongpas Widner married to an American ex-pat, who’s volunteering to take care of the ill at a school that’s been retrofitted to house wounded soldiers who have inexplicably fallen to what’s referred to as a sleeping sickness. She makes friends with Keng, a young woman with psychic abilities, and one of the soldiers, Itt, who periodically wakens up and accompanies Jenjira to walks around the grounds.
While Jenjira suggests she’s going through a period of loneliness despite her little-seen husband Richard, she doesn’t engage in a romantic liaison with Itt. Rather, both start communicating in a platonic manner, sharing the type of conversations pregnant with a deeper, spiritual bonding parallel to the otherworldly air that hover over the hospital.
In the interim, the hospital employs group meditation and color therapy for the sleeping soldiers in the hopes of perhaps finding a cure. It seems that the reason the soldiers are sick is because they are under the psychic spell of the spirits of dead soldiers who are still fighting their battles and using their prana as fuel. At the same time, Goddesses make their presence known to Jenjira with offers, and while she reacts in a way most of us would — completely nonplussed — she starts experiencing a subtle awakening to a greater reality around her in a climax filled with tears of joy.
Don’t look for special effects here because there are none: rather, the only effects if you will come from the tubes of colored light that perpetually hover over the sleeping soldiers, switching from green, to yellow, to red, to blue, to violet. This is more an equivalent of a soft rain for the senses interrupted by moments of genuine humor, as when a patient’s penis comes erect and Jenjira and the nurses casually talk about it as if nothing had happened. There might be a slight amount of ambient filler, but again, this is a personal art film about the invisible amongst the pedestrian than a regular narrative.
Hunter Miles, like his real-life counterparts Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, and Janis Joplin, met an early demise at the prime of his life, and while he only produced one album, it caused such an impact among music lovers that they make pilgrimages to his grave and leave tokens of remembrance. Hannah (Rebecca Hall), his widow, has been somehow left in suspended animation: frozen in time and grief, but surviving regardless. She’s seeing a lumberjack (Joe Manganiello) as a form of sexual escapism while trying to write a book about Miles. What she doesn’t yet know until the call comes, is that someone else is interested in writing about Miles, and he may have a more objective point of view than hers.
The person in question is Andrew (Jason Sudeikis). A pop-culture professor, he’s aware of Miles’ influence and thinks there is a good book here. Conversations with Hannah both on the phone and in person turn immediately confrontational: they have different points of view, and it looks like the book will be buried even before the first sentence.
She decides to give it another swing, but their relationship alternates between professional and antagonistic. It’s understandable and Sean Mewhaw draws a solid study of a woman’s controlled pain confronted by the impending catharsis of a biography, but I suspect that Hannah’s cagey behavior hides the fact that she actually likes to be around Andrew, more than she would care to admit. The problem — and it’s one that Andrew himself will ask her at a point during the movie — is that he can’t possibly compete with perfection. And Hunter Miles was precisely that.
Tumbledown alternates with gentle comedy and drama well, reaching a solid, satisfying balance that will please women looking for a rom-com that’s not too sappy. Rebecca Hall continues to essay characters with repressed inner conflicts as she did in A Promise. Jason Sudeikis is quite good here, removed from the sillier comedies he’s done, and he fills his leading man shoes believably, with sensitivity. Perhaps the removal of some unnecessary characters thrown in for some quasi-romantic tension (Diana Agron, Joe Manganiello) would have sparked a two-character plot about discovery. Even as such it’s a good little variation on the opposites attract. Watch for Blythe Danner and Griffin Dunne in small, supporting roles that balance Rebecca Hall perfectly.
Having been seen in period dramas (and art-house heavies, female crowd-pleasers) like Far from the Madding Crowd and A Little Chaos last year it’s a return for Matthias Schoenaerts to the more brooding characters such as the ones he essayed in Rust and Bone. In Alice Winocour’s newest movie, a drama turned thriller about a man suffereing from PTSD, Schoenaerts plays his Vincent, an ex-soldier, as a man who’s all reaction and little communication, hyper alert and ready for even the slightest attack, but also in pain from his own inner torment. This is a man who, because of having fought to protect his country, has been rendered so damaged he might as well be untrustworthy. So the fact that he moonlights as a security guy is an odd choice, but not uncommon for men accustomed to protect. The problem then becomes, can they be trusted with the well-being of those in charge when he himself suffers from moments of crippling panic attacks and loss of judgement?
Disorder opens to a series of scenes that showcase the brutality of discipline, followed by finding himself not just abandoned by that life, but now, thanklessly serving as a security guy for a party hosted by a Lebanese magnate in a luxurious mansion where he is all but invisible. After walking into a meeting not meant for his ears, he’s asked by the Lebanese to go in search of the host’s wife Jessica (Diane Kruger). At first meeting, there is a palpable animosity between Jessica and Vincent, but as fate would have it, Denis has to bow out of a weekend assignment to guard her and the household while her husband is out on business. Vincent steps in . . . and starts to see danger at every turn.
Winocour plays her cards somewhat close to her chest during a large portion of the movie. We’re not totally sure that Vincent may be unraveling — he’s too quick to spot danger even in the most innocuous details — but a drive to the beach terminates all that. It’s here that Disorder changes gears and becomes a high-intensity thriller where no one is safe at any moment and threats are lying in wait in the shadows as the mansion becomes a battleground of heart-thumping, escalating violence. Even moments of stillness where Jessica and Vincent start to get to know each other doesn’t offer much respite. It just shows that true to its title, while VIncent may have PTSD, it’s actually Jessica who living a life of bliss and, aware of it or not, reaping the benefits of illegal dealings, at the center of a much different chaos: the chaos of the ugliness tucked under the carpet in order to preserve status.
Disorder will most likely get a release proper in the US later this year. I suggest to go see it: this is a powerful thriller with a thumping, masculine score set to techno music that starts out strong and becomes nearly unbearable towards its explosive finale. Winocour is a director to take notice of. I wouldn’t be surprised the day she crosses over and lets her talent loose this side of the pond.
The first time you see Huppert, it’s from behind, walking down a sidewalk towards some destination. She’s wearing a light summer dress and pulling on a carry-on in what reveals itself to be a desert resort. Her entire body language shrieks disapproval, malcontent. Later on, we see her fumble to get a connection on her phone, barely even trying to establish any conversation with the American guests who approach her, and even disapproving of the food [“They call this a soup?” she snarls at a can of dried ramen.] She’s clearly not happy to come here. Soon, we’ll know why.
When we first see Depardieu, your heart breaks in two, and I’ll tell you why. This is the man of great physical stature, boyish face with unusual looks who brought enormous presence to his films with just an entrance. Not that he doesn’t do so here, but when you see just how much he’s aged and gained weight, you’ll see how shocking it is, that he’s almost shuffling his entire upper body, completely disproportionate to his lower body, to meet Huppert (not that she’s too happy to see him). Age is an unforgiving curse, and while Huppert only demonstrates a slight aging of her neck, her skin is a map of freckles, and her limbs are now those of a frail woman.
Even so, there is love between these two, who play versions of themselves. Following a simple plot heavy on dialogue that could have been written by Marguerite Duras at her most cathartic, Guillaume Nicloux directs these two French giants to perfection, having them reveal only what we need to know, in bits and pieces, scene after scene, a timed release of what lies beneath. This isn’t an ordinary meeting of a former man and wife. This is something completely different, and once elements of surrealism reminiscent of an Antonioni film film sets in, one is no longer sure what is true, what is false, and where is this going.
Gullaume Nicloux, who also experimented between reality and fiction with his 2013 movie The Kidnapping of Michel Houellebecq, sits back and grants both actors ample ground to inhabit their roles and brings only a truly eye dropping cinematography to enhance scenes fraught with tension, stillness, and the vastness of the desert into play. It’s a gamble that pays off: both Depardieu and Huppert completely complement each other without risking parodying themselves. She emotes in high and low notes, going into nervous tangents that can barely contain her rage and disappointment and sheer hatred for the place she’s in.
Depardieu, on the other hand, is quieter. He let’s her have her cake and eat it, and reveals but very gradually, a softer, more caring man underneath his gruff appearance. Nicloux directs him ever so subtly for comic perfection when an American asks him for his autograph, having recognized him, Gerard Depardieu, from other movies, and Depardieu signs “Bob de Niro” before shuffling off back to Huppert. Later on, one sees his stoic pathos while reading the letter that has reconnected him with Isabelle, and then the beginnings of fear while encountering a strange girl who seems to know more than she reveals.
What does come clear is that both of them have deep regrets and unresolved wounds involving the writer of the letter and I don’t wish to disclose too much because with these movies it’s best to come in with a naked mind. Both characters will have some unexpected emotional peaks that will leave them shaken. The crux of the action is, can they survive it.
Valley of Love works as a variation of the stations of the cross, with its two leads revisiting the past while they veer closer to a significant revelation that will redeem or destroy them. It’s a devastating story of loss and the acknowledgement that this loss runs deeper than they can tolerate. Some missteps involving Americans most likely serve as a reminder of how intrusive we can be as a whole but other than that, this is a tragedy that unfolds in stages, and extends itself to the edges of the desert.