R.I.P Roger Moore

Tags

, ,

It is with sadness that I do this tribute to Roger Moore, who has died at the age of 89. As a big Bond fan, Moore is a big icon of mine who essayed the part of 007 for the longest time and most films. His slightly lighter and suave touch was charming throughout. He was in countless other great movies, but for me he’ll always be Bond. May he rest in peace as a stylish and cultured gentleman.

Bug

Tags

, , , , , ,

Film Title

Bug

Director

William Friedkin

Starring

  • Ashley Judd as Agnes White
  • Michael Shannon as Peter Evans
  • Harry Connick Jr as Jerry

A psychological horror that’s more about the ravages of loneliness and the persuasive yet damaging delusions to escape that feeling, is rendered unnervingly by William Friedkin in Bug. Scripted by Tracy Letts from his own play, Bug comes to frightening and intense life under the direction of, and aided by two astonishing performances from Ashley Judd and Michael Shannon.

Agnes White is a lonely and haunted young woman who resides in a battered old motel in Oklahoma. Having been terrified by her now released ex Jerry( who keeps cold calling her) and her son disappearing ten years ago, life hasn’t been easy for her. In between working at a local bar, Agnes gets drunk and does drugs with her only real friend to ease the pain. One night, she is introduced to a mysterious man named Peter Evans. He is a little bit awkward but well spoken and pleasant enough towards Agnes. Slowly, the beaten down woman starts to find a certain companionship with this fellow loner. It’s when Peter is seemingly bitten by a bug that his instability comes out, with him talking of time he spent in the army and how he’s being hunted for experimental purposes. At first, Agnes doesn’t know what to make of Peter and his conspiracy stories, but things take a turn quickly. Having been worn down so much and aching for connection that leaves her too open to suggestion, Agnes soon starts to gel with Peter’s delusional theories of a bug infestation in the motel room. Having Jerry lurking around does nothing to help Agnes and how Peter’s imaginings take hold of her. Peter’s frenzied behaviour and ramblings are enough to convince Agnes of something terrible and paranoid. Sealing themselves inside the crummy motel room away from everyone, insanity breeds and the varied delusions of bugs and conspiracy quickly overtake Agnes and Peter completely.

William Friedkin delves deep into the troubled psyche of the protagonists with his cinematic flair illuminating turmoil and eventual downward spiral. that will make your skin crawl and unsettle your mind as it throws you headlong into delusion and isolation that has damaging effects on Agnes, as created by paranoid Peter. Friedkin is a man who knows how to use a camera for maximum impact; often employing gliding motions before cutting to hand-held restlessness as the story cranks up. Armed with a script by its original creator, the encased and isolated aura of a play is successfully kept but as a string to the film’s bow rather than a weakness. The building atmosphere provided by both direction and screenplay is riveting in slowly pacing events, then unearthing with quick succession the obsessive and troubling path to insanity encountered by the characters. Within Bug, Agnes and Peter feed of the others anxieties and paranoid minds, further slipping away from any form of understanding reality. The thematic value of loneliness and desperation is brought out as something that influences the eventual horror in a most effective manner. Part of this is best envisioned in the fact that Bug largely takes place in one setting; the run-down motel room that has seen better days. Even when some light comes in, it’s a setting that takes on a creepy tone as sanity wanes and the cinematography captures some moody contrasts in colour with harsh, grimy efficiency. Now Bug does get a little too abstract in some parts, but the sheer volume of psychological content and claustrophobic mania of it cover up these cracks to produce a quite startling and horrifying movie. Bug reminds us that all the best and most terrifying horror comes from the mind and suggestion, insuring you won’t be able to quite forget this film after viewing. A sparse musical score brings more attention to the alarming content, yet knows when to pitch in for some doom-laded menace.

I’ve always thought Ashley Judd is a good actress, who for whatever reason, seems to be in movies that are somewhat generic, though her talent largely shines through. Here however, she’s got a role that really shows off her abilities with dramatic full force and allows her to shine. Capturing the pensive sadness of Agnes, who seems resigned and wounded by a terrible life, Judd slowly becomes more and more unstrung as her need for company in turn sends her into insanity. With gutsy anguish and feverish unpredictability, the pitiful and in many ways doomed Agnes is fantastically played by the marvellous Ashley Judd in what is probably her finest performance. Michael Shannon has a naturally intense demeanor to him that is largely from his steely eyes and tough jaw. Even when still and not seeming off kilter, he successfully exudes a sense of restlessness that will soon worryingly combust. These traits, along with a palpable sadness, are wonderfully and frighteningly put on display in Bug. Starting out playing Peter as a little awkward and strange, once the paranoia aspect hots up, Shannon lets loose and his frenzied tics and raw energy come out with spectacular results. It’s safe to say, Shannon’s unsettling and manic performance is not one to forget as he’s so scarily effective in the part. Both of the main stars share a warped and startling closeness that is remarkably intense and worrying. One can imagine that both Judd and Shannon must have been exhausted upon filming completion, given the emotional distress and frenzy they both had to play. Harry Connick Jr provides a beefed up and hair-trigger temper as the convict ex of Agnes, whose appearance disturbs her but is nothing compared to what transpires with Peter.

An an uncomfortable and disquieting horror that drags out the dark recesses of the mind and presents them with skin-crawling assurance, Bug is a movie not for everyone. But for those willing to watch a claustrophobic examination of paranoid delusion and alarming co-dependency(acted with striking intensity) that turns to mania , Bug will be well worth checking out. Just be warned, you won’t be able to shake Bug for some time, which is to give credit to the sheer impact of it all.

Waiting to Exhale

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Film Title

Waiting to Exhale

Director

Forest Whitaker

Starring

  • Whitney Houston as Savannah Jackson
  • Angela Bassett as Bernadine Harris
  • Lela Rochon as Robin Stokes
  • Loretta Devine as Gloria Matthews
  • Gregory Hines as Marvin
  • Dennis Haysbert as Kenneth
  • Michael Beach as John Harris
  • Wesley Snipes as James

A glossy comedy drama concerning the love lives and friendships of four African-American women, Waiting to Exhale definitely has a lot of things going for it on the entertainment factor. But while it has some things to recommend, primarily a hot soundtrack and largely impressive casting, Waiting to Exhale just felt overall too slight of a film to make an impact on me.

A quartet of African-American women( Savannah, Bernadine, Robin and Gloria) all experience differences in romantic relationships and love . All living in Phoenix, their relationships with men are never easy and they often meet to discuss their various problems with the opposite sex over vino and food. Savannah is a television producer who has been having a relationship with Kenneth, a married man who keeps promising to leave his wife. Yet she is growing restless with his lying and contemplates taking charge once and for all. Bernadine thought she had a great marriage and lifestyle. That is until slimy John leaves her after eleven years for his secretary and she is crestfallen. She must deal with how best to move forward and reclaim her life as a single woman. The trouble is she never expected any of this to happen, so must go back to square one again and see what she can do. Robin is a flighty girl still hung up on a no good guy, but having casual flings with other guys while she waits for him to finally be in a proper relationship with her. And Gloria, who discovers that her ex-husband is gay, desperately craves company as her son is soon leaving home. Luckily, a new neighbour, handyman Marvin , moves in and she takes a shine to him. Throughout it all, the four women have their friendship to fall back on and rely on in confusing times concerning the heart.

Forest Whitaker adds touches of class as director and knows how to create nice imagery. I do believe he’s trying his best to bring these stories to life and he makes them at least watchable. The script and other areas are where Waiting to Exhale loses me. It just comes off as rather a few, slight vignettes than as a cohesive story, which is something of a detriment to Waiting to Exhale. I mean, I don’t mind me some episodic stories but usually its when they flow that I go for them, which sadly wasn’t the main case here. I did like the interactions between the women(which have humour to a lot of them and a nice dynamic), but I wish there were more of them to flesh things out a bit more. It was mainly Bernadine’s story that moved me the most; her story felt the most compelling as she grew stronger and shared a tentative attraction with a man going through crisis( a brief but memorable turn from Wesley Snipes). The other stories didn’t quite have the pulling power of Bernadine’s, even though Gloria’s pining for her neighbour was nicely observed. I can see that Waiting to Exhale provides escapism for many, I just can’t quite place my finger on why it felt somewhat flat for me. It started pretty well, but for me, it grew rather tedious and drawn out if we’re talking about the overall picture. I think it is a movie that does have some satisfaction and fun, but one that doesn’t really burn into the memory that well because of a lack of depth. The soundtrack however, with soul grooves, courtesy of Babyface, is really smooth and easy to listen to. It was a redeeming feature in a flawed movie.

A saving grace of this film is the main cast, especially Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine. Whitney Houston, looking gorgeous and stylish, gives Savannah a wry humour and quiet depth that is very beneficial and lovely. Angela Bassett is the main standout as the wounded but clearly not beaten Bernadine. As broken down as Bernadine is, the innate toughness Bassett brings to the screen always came off loud and clear that would be a fighter. I mean watching her torch her lying spouse’s fancy clothes and car was pretty satisfying viewing. Her blend of anger and vulnerability sold a lot of the emotion the film was going for and did it successfully. On the other end of the spectrum is Lela Rochon, who does a good enough job, but feels more than a bit stretched as the mixed up Robin. Don’t get me wrong, she’s quite appealing in parts, yet lacks the depth that the role later calls for and comes off as too weak in terms of acting chops. Loretta Devine really has a ball as the caring but hilarious Gloria, who represents a certain voice of calm amid all the entanglements. I loved her vivacious energy and timing, it was pretty spot on. Gregory Hines is a nice presence as the only really good guy(along with Wesley Snipes) in the picture. The rest, mainly Dennis Haysbert and Michael Beach, excel at playing the weasels who do nothing but promise sweet nothing to the ladies.

Undoubtedly entertaining as Waiting to Exhale is, I just found my interest levels lagging a lot. I will say that it all was shot nicely, had a soulful soundtrack and nice work from the cast(mainly Angela Bassett and Loretta Devine), but there was something missing that stopped it from being special.

What Is Your Favourite Cate Blanchett Performance?

Tags

,

Simply stated, I adore Cate Blanchett. The sheer command and versatility of her work never fails to impress or surprise me. She is the definition of reliable, turning out excellent performances continually. It’s staggering to watch her perform and take on a new challenge. She’s one hell of a class act if ever there was one. If I’m honest, I’d find it hard to choose just one favourite performance from her, which is why I’m leaving it up to you wonderful people. So which of her illustrious roles gets your vote as the best?

What’s Love Got To Do With It

Tags

, , , , , ,

Film Title

What’s Love Got To Do With It

Director

Brian Gibson

Starring

  • Angela Bassett as Tina Turner
  • Laurence Fishburne as Ike Turner

A biopic of Tina Turner, her rise to stardom, abusive marriage to husband Ike and eventual freedom is dramatised with verve here in What’s Love Got To Do With It. Now is quite generic and follows the rules of a biopic to the letter, but that shouldn’t distant from the incredible acting, killer soundtrack and revealing glimpse into a woman’s gradual emergence as a liberated and unafraid star.

We begin in Nutbush, Tennessee where Anna Mae Bullock( Turner’s birth name) is a young girl with a big voice. She is abandoned by her parents at an early age and is raised by her grandmother. Flash forward a few years, and she’s a shy and coltish young lady coming to St. Louis to see her long estranged mother. It is here with her sister that Anna Mae first meets charismatic bandleader Ike Turner in a bar. One night when he’s performing, the microphone is passed around the female patrons. It ends up with her and when she belts out a song, everyone is totally surprised. Ike sees something in Anna Mae and begins mentoring her, later giving her the name Tina Turner and structuring his band around her. Soon success is pouring in for Ike and Tina( who marry quickly) in ways she never thought possible. Yet events quickly sour and get darker as Ike becomes more insecure and addled with drugs. This leads to him putting pressure on Tina to perform no matter whether she’s too exhausted to do it. And when she begins to gain most of the attention, Ike’s abusive streak reaches physical heights and brutal beatings, which terrify and cage Tina. Scared to leave despite his torment of her and humiliation at his hands, Tina sticks with Ike, but slowly crumbles under his abuse. That is until Tina finally gains the stiffening of her backbone needed to leave Ike and take control of her life.

What’s Love Got To Do With It is pretty conventional in its main execution like a lot of biopics, but director Brian Gibson still makes it a film to remember with how dark he depicts events behind the curtain. The biggest flaw for me is how quickly everything moves, with certain events and is hit and miss with its timing. Granted, the news footage with a hand-held sort of grain that presents the passing of events in a largely effective manner, even if the screenplay some homes leap frogs some things and leaves you to fill in the gaps. Credit should be given to his grimly realistic the brutality and emotional torture of Tina under Ike is depicted. This unvarnished and at times shocking depiction of events lends a wallop that some biopics miss by trying to be overly glossy. At the centre of the movie is the self-discovery and worth of Tina, who slowly finds a fortitude within herself that enables her to become a survivor. And the other saving grace in the film is the bravura music numbers. From a relentless and exhausting cross cutting performance of ‘Proud Mary’ to the solo triumph of Tina with the title song, the music and its sound are fully alive and vividly staged.

If there is anything that really raises the roof of What’s Love Got To Do With It, it is the two exceptional performances of Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne. Angela Bassett strikingly and uncannily captures the feisty, sultry and energetic persona of Turner on stage, while revealing the well of sadness and torment behind closed doors at the hands of possessive Ike. Seriously, Bassett gets so much into the part, that you genuinely feel like you’re watching the real woman in action. That’s one of the highest compliments you can give a star, but it’s warranted with how Bassett turns in a performance of vulnerability, appeal and a burgeoning steel to stand up for herself. Equally as compelling is Laurence Fishburne and his interpretation of Ike. A seductive and very suave guy in the beginning who recognizes the talent in Tina, his mercurial and resentful personality soon comes out with frightening and brute force. Fishburne explosively charts this path and  frighteningly throws himself into the part with superb results. It’s safe to say that the film wouldn’t have been the same or as watchable where it not for Bassett and Fishburne.

Conventional and oversimplified as some of it may be, What’s Love Got To Do With It gets its power from two sensational lead performances of Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne. Add to that one hell of a soundtrack, as well as its depiction of the strength that Tina had to gain in order to forge her own success away from the darkness and the film is eminently watchable.

 

R.I.P Powers Boothe

Tags

I was saddened to read of the passing of Powers Boothe at the age of 68 today. For me, he was the essence of a character actor. He was the guy who would pop up in movies and with usually a short amount of time, make his presence felt. He was a dab hand at villain roles and I always enjoyed seeing him in a movie. Thanks for all the great movies and roles you had Powers Boothe. This post is a tribute to his greatness that will be missed.

Party of Five Season 2

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , ,

We return to the journey and lives of the Salinger clan in Season 2 of Party of Five. Building on the set up from Season 1, this sophomore installment is just as good in how it deals with tough themes and explores relatable events. Be warned, spoilers will follow.

Charlie(Matthew Fox) and Kirsten(Paula Devicq) are now engaged after many hiccups in their relationship and thinks seem to be improving. Yet more upheaval and chaos throws a spanner in the works and a multitude of things stand in their way. It culminates in Charlie getting cold feet and callings off the wedding, despite the fact that they love each other. Bailey(Scott Wolf) is still struggling to come to terms with the death of Jill, despite the best efforts of buddy Will(Scott Grimes) to bring him out of his shell. At first he largely doesn’t notice sweet Sarah Reeves(Jennifer Love Hewitt), who has an obvious crush on him. But even when he begins to date her, it becomes clear that Bailey is wanting to escape his life that he sees as hopeless. Sarah also has her own struggles, but thankfully brings out some happiness in Bailey. Julia(Neve Campbell) experiences a crisis of the heart regarding her nice boyfriend Justin( Michael Goorjian)and the bad boy Griffin(Jeremy London). Justin breaks up with her after finding out about her tryst with Griffin, then things become more complex for her and Griffin. Julia doesn’t know how to deal with her emotions that are tangled to say the least. It appears that she finally gets a grip on her love life once and for all by reuniting with Justin. Then something really drastic happens and Julia is thrown into a massive tailspin. Claudia(Lacey Chabert), who has now entered high school, finds it difficult to adjust to being older and the pressures of puberty. Hanging out with a troublemaker at school, Claudia begins to rebel a lot. And baby Owen is finally starting nursery, while still needing the mature caring of his siblings in the place of parents. It’s another eventful journey for the Salinger’s as life poses a lot on them, but hopefully through unity they can survive.

Just like I predicted, Season 2 expands on what the debut season set up, finding firm footing in giving more attention to the individual characters, as well as the whole thing of family. The arcs of the characters have depth and honesty to them, tapping into themes of change, lying, love and even the return of their long lost grandfather. And issues faced with honest rendering and impactful force are sexual harassment, teenage pregnancy and commitment, showing the show dealing with complexity and intimacy in a way it knows already in this early stage to manage. Balanced among this is healthy doses of humour that enliven events, yet never get too over the top and take away from the moving stories at its heart. While I don’t think there is anyone who has gone through all of the issues mentioned in such a short space of time, Party of Five boasts a gravity and slices of realism to ground it in the most effective way. You do give a damn about these people and it isn’t a chore to watch the tribulations they must do battle with. Even if some of the stories don’t work as well as others, the overall impact and high quality rise it above just common teen drama into something more moving.

The episode of the wedding is a pretty effective one of highs and lows as Charlie and Kirsten attempt to salvage something but are ultimately at different ends of the spectrum. It’s a real heartbreaking episode as you know the two are meant to be together but are both unsure of what the future holds. Reconciliation could be on the cards, but if so it’s not going to be an easy ride for either party. Equally as wrenching is the episode of Julia discovering she’s pregnant and faced with a very difficult decision. We get to see how everyone reacts to this news and how it impacts on young Julia.  Eventually settling on having an abortion, Julia then experiences a miscarriage that devastates her. As she has no female role model to confide in, she finds unlikely support in the form of the usually not so helpful Charlie. An honest and authentic atmosphere is present throughout this episode, highlighting the issues of teen pregnancy and abortion sensitively.

Scott Wolf rocks it playing the frustration and pain of Bailey, while imbuing a charm and energy that could be the characters saving grace. Once more, Wolf allows Bailey to be troubled, but not so much as we can’t relate to him on a personal level. Matthew Fox impresses again as Charlie; whose coping mechanism of pushing those he loves away makes for drama. scared that his while life has been planned our for him already and wanting escape is rendered excellently by Fox. Neve Campbell hits the right notes with an emotion driven performance as mixed up Julia. You genuinely buy into her turmoil and gamut of unfortunately difficult events she encounters. Campbell nails the intelligence of Julia, but like most people, the pangs of confusion, guilt and unfortunate turbulence are all evoked in her more than capable hands for us to see. Lacey Chabert mixes childlike innocence with playful maturity as Claudia, whose finding out that growing up and all it entails is rough business. Jennifer Love Hewitt joins the cast as the sensitive Sarah, who provides a love interest for Bailey. Possessing an adorable smile and a gentleness, Hewitt is touching and charming in equal measure. She immediately gels with the other members of the cast and slots in nicely as a kind-hearted girl. The main chemistry between the main cast is as splendid as the first season, boasting a deep believability that these people are related. Paula Devicq steps up as Kirsten. I mentioned in my last review that she was a tad wooden last season, but she really shakes at off here with a very good performance. She’s got a sensitive depth and emotive ability that is on full display and shows Kirsten becoming more conflicted over her feelings with Charlie that are frequently challenged and come to a dramatic head. Good support and humour is glimpsed with Scott Grimes returning as loyal best friend Will. Michael Goorjian and Jeremy London provide the two very different love interests for Julia; the sarcastic Justin and rebellious Griffin.

Another impressive season of Party of Five, this second part is an emotionally invested and finely tuned triumph, benefiting from the fine cast and writing.

How to Make an American Quilt

Tags

, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Film Title

How to Make an American Quilt

Director

Jocelyn Moorhouse

Starring

  • Winona Ryder as Finn Dodd
  • Anne Bancroft as Glady Joe
  • Ellen Burstyn as Hy
  • Alfre Woodard as Marianna
  • Maya Angelou as Anna
  • Kate Nelligan as Constance
  • Jean Simmons as Em
  • Lois Smith as Sophia
  • Kate Capshaw as Sally Dodd
  • Dermot Mulroney as Sam
  • Jonathon Schaech as Leon

A heartwarming tribute to female friendship and the shaping of life’s experiences, How to Make an American Quilt is a very sweet and enjoyable movie. It’s nothing revolutionary or startlingly original, but it’s story of looking to the past in order to unlock the future is beautifully directed and acted.

Finn Dodd is a 26-year-old graduate student, who is working on a thesis over the summer. She can’t quite settle on a topic and always changes her mind when she thinks she’s got the right parts. This confusion and inability to come to a decision extends to her boyfriend Sam, who has just proposed. Finn obviously cares about him, but is deeply unsure of whether marriage is a good idea for her. While mulling things over, she goes to visit her Great Aunt Glady Joe and Grandmother Hy, who themselves are sisters usually at each other’s throats. They are both part of a quilting group that includes wise leader Anna; her free-spirited daughter Marianna; stern Sophia; grieving Constance and quiet Em. They are currently in the process of making a wedding quilt for Finn and in their own ways, they each inspire her and give her support in her time of indecision. Over the summer, conflicted Finn is regaled with stories of love from their pasts; some tragic and some inspiring. We glimpse the lessons these older women have learned; from how Glady Joe and Hy became more than a little strained, why Sophia turned into such a battle-axe and in general how love is what you make of it. Also present is a hunky guy named Leon, who takes a shine to Finn and potentially throws a spanner in the works. It all comes down to whether she is ready to make a commitment or live her life in freedom.

Jocelyn Moorhouse beautifully conjures up the loving and touching lessons of life in a straightforward but effective way. We become like Finn, learning about the women who came before her and their experiences with love. Moorhouse aims for the emotions and heart with How to Make an American Quilt, and succeeds in getting you invested in the brief flashes of events that these women now speak of. As sentimental as some of it is, the gentleness and often low-key approach keeps the film on a pleasing level without slipping into overly histrionic content. the pleasures in are listening to the various experiences of these women and how young Finn reacts to them. From heartbreak and upheavals to the starts of companionship, all the stories have some weight on her and impact. Like with any film that weaves together an ensemble story line however, some of the arcs come off better than others that are patchy. This is only to be expected really as it would be impossible to craft something that gave every strand, without it turning into a marathon of a movie. The stories that make the most emotive impression are the ones of Hy and Glady Joe and the flashbacks to Sophia’s early life; where she had some promise but never got the chance to enjoy it due to the inevitability of timing. They are played out in organic and poignant fashion that knows how to get your care. The other stories all have currency, though more than a couple may have been better if expanded upon. If I was to compare this movie to something, the equivalent would be a quilt itself. It’s got some rough edges and is well-worn, but has that cosy and snug feeling that lifts your spirits. The luscious cinematography renders everything with a distinct glow. Thomas Newman’s stirring score is a big plus in this feel good movie.

If there is anyone who can play indecision and curiosity convincingly, it’s Winona Ryder. With her naturally inquisitive and youthful face, she’s excellent casting for Finn. All the confusion and searching questions are there, as she listens to the stories of the past in hopes of unlocking her future.  Anne Bancroft and Ellen Burstyn provide gentle humour, classy depth and consummate professionalism as the feuding sisters, whose grievances are plain to see but whose love for the other more than combats anything completely severing them. Alfre Woodard has the right bohemian air and fun for her role of effervescent Marianna. The wisdom and dignified grace of Maya Angelou stunningly embodies the passionate leader of the quilting group Anna. Angelou possesses a nuanced voice of experience and clarity that is impossible to ignore. I could listen to her voice all day it is that soothing and imbued with sage. Kate Nelligan and Jean Simmons are both moving as two of the women, realising they are linked through one of their husbands philandering. Lois Smith captures the well of sadness arising from someone whose ambitions were cut short, resulting in a hostility and bitterness of character. Kate Capshaw is a breath of fresh air in her small but important appearance as Finn’s flighty mother. She seems very irresponsible but what she ends up saying is quite beneficial and unexpected. Whether big or small in size of parts, all of the ladies here do good work. Dermot Mulroney does well with his limited part of Finn’s boyfriend, letting the female cast members take the lion’s share. Johnathon Schaech is largely there to provide the temptation for Finn, complete with the fact that he never seems to be wearing a shirt.

it isn’t going to win prizes for innovation, but the beating heart and gentleness of How to Make an American Quilt is effervescent that you won’t be able to resist its charms. Just cuddle up and enjoy this nice fable on life and sisterhood.

The Beguiled

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

Film Title

The Beguiled

Director

Don Siegel

Starring

  • Clint Eastwood as John McBurney
  • Geraldine Page as Martha Farnsworth
  • Elizabeth Hartman as Edwina
  • Jo Ann Harris as Carol
  • Mae Mercer as Hallie
  • Pamelyn Ferdin as Amy

A most unusual and unsettling tale of sexual repression, desire and revenge, The Beguiled represents something different from Don Siegel and his go to star Clint Eastwood. And that’s precisely what makes it so unique; it’s an unpredictable film that goes into some really dark areas and knows how to craft something shocking in the long run.

It is the Civil War and Corporal John McBurney is discovered wounded one morning in the South, by a young girl named Amy. She brings him to the all girls school she attends for help to his injuries . The stern headmistress Martha Farnsworth reluctantly takes McBurney in, despite her protestations of him being a Yankee which are discovered early on. The school also houses timid but well-meaning teacher Edwina, a group of young girls including temptress Carol and slave Hallie. These ladies haven’t been in the company of a man for a while, save for the occasional visit from the patrol with news of the war. Gradually, John is nursed into help but watched over due to him bring considered an enemy. But his very arrival signals something very dark that will shake the foundations of everyone to the core. The rigid status quo soon begins to crack as each of the women begin developing romantic longings for John. He leads them all on with his advances and manipulations, his conceit for others slowly emerging as he plays with their romantic feelings for his own pleasure. Even the rigid headmistress Martha starts to get hot under the collar and crumble as the facade of her righteousness stumbles, along with the easily influenced Edwina’s belief that John really loves her. Everything boils over eventually into shocking consequences in the school for everyone there . John is left to fend off the wrath of the scorned women that has been unleashed by his toying with their affections and is now coming back to viciously bite.

This refreshingly unusual and heated film provides Don Siegel with a really experimental film that takes a number of unexpected and shocking turns. It feels very much ahead of its time with some of the content it displays, marking it as different and pretty unsettling at the same time in a pretty psychological way. Don Siegel pitches the mood just right, suggesting the onslaught of dark content that transpires in the latter half, in the slow burn of things that allows The Beguiled to take on a measured but rewarding path to chilling finale. The mood is where The Beguiled is it; creeping away even when nothing startling is happening and throwing in little snippets of potential danger for the fun of it. The Beguiled is at its best as a Southern Gothic drama, that rises to fever pitch as sexual thoughts and betrayal tear the relative calm of the school to pieces. Super imposed frames, spinning camera to signify the unrest he will bring and Sepia toned frames are impressive tools in the arsenal of this strange film. In fact, The Beguiled feels very hallucinatory and disorientating in its construction, captured by the effectiveness of Don Siegel and his off-kilter direction. While the Civil War serves as a backdrop, another war between the sexes rages on in The Beguiled with sheer force and horrifying anguish within the confines of the school. At its core, it’s the male dominance slowly being subverted and oppressed by the female alternative that becomes the real backbone of this claustrophobic story. Stifled and feverish are words that come to mind when viewing the switch of the women in the story, slowly bubbling away until spilling over with John facing the full force of the wronged ladies. Some of it feels too over the top, but the percolating hysteria set off by the sly John is best observed in such an intense way that you can overlook these tiny flawed moments. The culmination of perverse sexuality and dark areas of the mind are evinced best in a hallucinatory dream sequence. In it John is with both Martha and Edwina, the three almost intertwined sexually in disturbing fashion through peculiar angles and overlapping images. An insidiously chilling score allows the unusual nature of this story to reveal itself slowly but surely.

Kudos must be given to Clint Eastwood for playing such an unsympathetic and nasty character. Successfully starting out quietly in his smooth manipulation of the women, his base instincts reveals themselves and his machismo emerges shockingly, resulting in all manner of hysteria among the women. Everything John experiences is by his own hand and it’s a credit to Eastwood’s abilities at capturing his moral ambivalence and greediness of his actions that makes the part an interesting one. Geraldine Page splendidly radiates buttoned-up authority under siege as the headmistress Martha, while laying bare that the morally respectable image she projects is covering something darker. Elizabeth Hartman delicately plays the meekness and abused kindness of Edwina, who falls hardest for John and completely under his spell because of her fragile disposition. Out of all the characters, she’s probably the most inherently decent throughout and the one hurt the most. Jo Ann Harris is good in the role of sultry temptress student, while Mae Mercer is wise as the slave who knows the impact John will have and resists his advances. Pamelyn Ferdin shines as the little girl who rescues him and develops a hopeless crush, only to see it dashed and shattered along with her innocence.

A film not easily forgotten is the best way to describe The Beguiled. With its lurid and unusual story, enlivened by the atmosphere and acting, it stands as a hauntingly intense psychological drama.

Priceless

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

Film Title

Priceless

Director

Pierre Salvadori

Starring

  • Audrey Tautou as Irène
  • Gad Elmaleh as Jean
  • Marie-Christine Adam as Madeleine

A very satisfying romantic comedy about wealth and gold digging, Priceless is an amusing confection of sprightly energy and winning charm. Just like the main character, Priceless is deliciously naughty and amoral, but always immensely enjoyable.

The captivating Irène enjoys the high life, especially when a man of wealth is paying for it. With her abundance of charms and feminine wiles, she’s armed for digging for gold wherever she can find it. Frequenting the French Riviera with her latest conquest who is boring her, she encounters put upon bartender Jean one evening. The amusing thing is Irène assumes he is a rich man of the world by his appearance. Not telling her the truth, Jean and her share drinks and laughs. Later, things are taken to the bedroom. In the morning, Irène has left and Jean is left thinking of her. A year later, Irène returns to the hotel with her sugar daddy in tow, where she promptly seduces Jean once more. Only this time, Jean gets busted and the truth of his status is revealed. This coincides with Irène’s latest squeeze leaving her with nothing money wise and jilting her quickly. A shocked Irène high tails it to Nice, not realising how smitten Jean is with her. Instead of just forgetting her, Jean finds her and attempts to woo her. takes full advantage of this as her expensive tastes nearly bankrupt the far from affluent Jean. Panicking when his finances are tight, Jean is saved by wealthy widow Madeleine. She has been looking for a new toy boy and Jean fits that bill. Surprisingly, Jean finds he has a knack for gold digging too, with the main objective being to romance Irène in the end . Irène is quite impressed by this show of initiative and offers help in the business she is well acquainted with. Transformed from hapless bar tender to jet set smooth talker, he even begins rivaling her at the game of money. Seeing how successful he has got , Irène comes to see Jean in a new light, which puts her plans for finding another rich man in jeopardy as her personal feelings enter the picture.

Pierre Salvadori is in the director’s seat for this frothy and charming comedy. He knows the way to keep events bright and breezy, before colouring them with a bit more depth than most romantic comedies strive to reach for. His eye for humour and timing, most notably in Jean’s attempts to be seen as a prospect to the girl he loves is what really gets the most laughs. The scenario of the film is hardly what one would call groundbreaking, but enjoyment is the name of the game and Priceless rises to the occasion admirably. Depending on your tolerance level, you’ll find Priceless irresistible or too arch. For me, I fell into the former camp by miles. It’s the old-fashioned vibe and nods to romantic comedies of yesteryear that Priceless excels at emulating, and giving it a bit more than the average modern Hollywood rom coms that we are witness too. What you get here is riotous fun that also stops to consider why Irène would go on the path of a gold digger in the first place. A nice depth arises from that strand of story that definitely caught my attention.  As a movie that deals with the rich and well-heeled, Priceless looks gorgeous, supplying us with picturesque and chic views of the French Riviera. Trust me, you may be considering holiday plans after watching Priceless. The extravagance on show and just the overall seductive view of the rich life is swoon worthy. A sparkling and amusingly jaunty score accompanies the film with effusive energy and playful rhythm.

The talented Audrey Tautou supplies slyness, allure and even a bit of desperation as the material girl everything revolves around. Irène is someone who clearly has a plan to snare someone rich and enjoy the high life at the same time. Tautou makes Irène a minx but not one that is completely unlikable. Sure she goes after men’s wallets more than their hearts and practically obliterates most of Jean’s income in the beginning, but with Audrey Tautou the beguiling persona and glimpses of someone not wanting to fall by the wayside are felt by the audience. Gad Elmaleh is blessed with a sad-eyed expression and certain lugubrious charm to make the part of Jean work. Jean is something of an unlikely gigolo, which is a strength Gad Elmaleh and his lanky appear de play to masterfully. Elmaleh like he’s having fun as the love struck man pursuing the woman who captured his heart and trying to play her at her own game. The enjoyment factor from both him and Tautou transfers to the audience, paying great dividends. Marie-Christine Adam appears as the glamorous widow attracted to Jean, and though the role is more than a tad underwritten, she possesses the elegance and worldly appeal of a successful older woman.

It’s not the most sparkling brand new formula for a romantic comedy, yet the very nature of romantic comedy is to recycle, preferably with style. Which is what Priceless does, with witty aplomb and hilarious high jinks between two potential lovers on the make. With Audrey Tautou and Gad Elmaleh making a fun couple, you can’t really ask for more enjoyment because it’s a frothy and sweet movie that will make you laugh and smile.