Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Film Week

A review of the films I've seen this past week.


A BETTER LIFE (2011)
I think I said what I needed to say about this film in my recent Oscar post. I thought it was a very moving look at the way our government has dehumanized and unsupported undocumented workers. I feel like going off on a political rant, but why bother? ****

ALBERT NOBBS (2011)
Not a truly bad film, but not a totally convincing one. Glenn Close's performance wavers between subdued and cartoonish as a woman pretending to be a man in order to gain financial security in 19th Century Ireland. Janet McTeer, who is doing the same thing, goes broad, but in a way that works. Good cast, but in the service of a film that isn't entirely convincing about its characters or its situation. **1/2

BEGINNERS (2010)
Precious but surprisingly charming movie about a man (Ewan McGregor) dealing with the death of his father (Christopher Plummer), who came out of the closet in the last years of his life. Emotionally genuine, sweet without being twee. He falls for a French actress (Melanie Laurent, who could blame him?) and tries to navigate the way his uncertain relationships with both of his late parents now throw up emotional obstacles in his present. ****

THE IRON LADY (2011)
At times, I really couldn't stand this film. It chooses to look at the story of Margaret Thatcher as the story of a woman who beat the odds and triumphed over a world of men to achieve political power, without really having an opinion either way about her policies. Frankly, she promoted monetarist policies that were little more than greed and selfishness, and which produced high unemployment. She was nationalistic to the point of being a warmonger. Her moral absolutism was monstrous. Ignoring her legacy--not even venturing a viewpoint about it--is like making a movie about George W. Bush and never mentioning the Iraq War. Improbably and tastelessly, the framing device for the narrative is Thatcher slipping in and out of dementia. No surprise this is from the director of Mamma Mia!, the worst film in modern history, which is similarly confused and not really about anything. I give it ** only because Meryl Streep is very, very good in it.

MY WEEK WITH MARILYN (2011) ***1/2
This film, I think, depends on your perception of Marilyn Monroe. I think she remains such an icon because she provides a template for people, men and women, to project their desires onto. For her part, she often reflected what people wanted to see. She was notoriously insecure and emotionally needy, and there were a lot of people who turned her into a receptacle for their paternal and maternal feelings. There are always people who will need to protect the babe in the woods, and Marilyn provided that for them. Consequently, we've had different pictures drawn for us through the last 50+ years of who the "real" Marilyn was by people who were each sure they knew the "real" Marilyn. The fact that she's such an enigma explains her continued popularity; and, of course, she was also incredibly beautiful. (And, I've always thought, extremely talented.) So Michelle Williams here is excellent at being a Marilyn who responds to various perceptions put on her throughout the film: Olivier's condescension, her handler's proprietary anger, people who desire her or think they need to protect her from herself. I wasn't moved so much by the story of a production assistant (Eddie Redmayne) who falls in love with Marilyn, but I was fascinated by the woman stuck in the middle of all of this competing testosterone and how she did (and didn't) handle it. Marilyn here isn't a character so much as the force that drives the plot. Who she is is almost irrelevant. This is about who people thought she was, and how each of them were convinced they were right. ***1/2 And yes, Branagh is quite good, as I said earlier this week.

THE CANTERBURY TALES (1972)
Never seen a Pasolini film before; not sure this was worth the wait. Good costumes, but so boring and earnest... I kept wondering what it would have been like had Fellini made it. *

DEADLY SIBLING RIVALRY (2011)
Extremely stupid Lifetime movie about twins--one good, one evil, and the evil one pretending to be the good one while the good one is in the hospital. Charisma Carpenter plays both twins. I love Charisma. Her movies suck, but I love her. *, that's half for each Chrissy.

STRANGER IN MY BED (2005)
Lifetime again. Kind of an incoherent mess, but totally worth * for being so damn over the top.

THE PRINCE AND THE SHOWGIRL (1957)
This has actually been on my TiVo forever, so it seemed finally time to watch it. There's such a limited number of Marilyn Monroe movies that I'm taking them slowly... I admit, I'll be a little sad when there are no longer any Marilyn Monroe movies for me to see for the first time. Anyway, I quite liked this one, even though Marilyn seems a little like stunt casting as an American showgirl living in England who spends a few days with the "Grand Duke of Carpathia." Olivier is bit indulgent, not with himself so much but with his usual British patriotism. Marilyn is wonderful as the girl he attempts to seduce and throw away, but who keeps getting entangled in his affairs and makes him earn it. Eventually, the night of earned sex arrives and somehow magically fixes everything...which I actually have no problem believing a night of sex with Marilyn can accomplish. ****

1 comment:

Tallulah Morehead said...

Some years ago I proposed a Lifetime movie about a brain transplant. I called it Stanger in my Skull!