I can’t explain it but I feel so refreshed and relaxed today. And the song Feeling Good as sung by the amazing Nina Simone explains it all perfectly. Take it away Nina and spread the positivity to all my followers.
Henry and June
Inspired by the diaries of Anaïs Nin, who documented in them her strange and intriguing relationships with author Henry Miller and his wife June, Henry and June’s casts a haunting spell and details the intense sexual encounters and impact all three had on each other.
Paris, in 1931. Anaïs Nin is an aspiring writer looking for something else. She is married to the good but somewhat dull and unenthusiastic Hugo, Anaïs craves excitement and adventure. These come knocking at her door in the form of writer Henry Miller, who is in Paris working on what would later become his first novel. Anaïs is intrigued by Henry and relates to his discussions of literacy and art. She begins to develop feelings for the boorish Henry and soon enough passion is ablaze. Also introduced into this is Henry’s bisexual wife June; a most alluring woman who begins to entrance Anaïs as well, despite her mercurial tendencies. Anaïs witnesses the temperamental relationship between the two and while she still loves her husband, the promise of a bohemian lifestyle with Henry and June is too tempting to resist. Her eyes are opened to sexual experience and her longings become very erotic as a result, culminating in an unusual love triangle with Henry and June. When the capricious June returns to America, she gives permission for the sexually blooming Anaïs to continue an affair with Henry. Anaïs continues to evolve and becomes immersed in a world of bohemian and sexual abandon with Henry, as she becomes one of the inspirations for his book(the other being June) and Anaïs does something similar with her writings. But Anaïs and Henry often disagree as the mix of sexual adventure and they critique each other’s work; much in a similar way to how June used to criticise Henry’s work and how one of the characters is an unflattering portrait of her. Yet when June returns to Paris in typically difficult style, passions boil over as Anaïs and Henry must both contend with the fact that she forms the last point of the sexual triangle that could easily break due to the desires and passions everyone has that become complex.
As he is very much an iconoclastic director, Philip Kaufman is right at home directing something provocative and controversial like Henry and June. Kaufman clearly enjoys showcasing these complex characters and wastes no time in getting this across through expressionistic close-ups and silent era fade outs to signify the longings each of the three characters bears. While his direction is intelligent and well done, a minor flaw emerges when it comes to pace that can get grindingly slow. But with this being the only thing I can nitpick at, it’s more than safe to say that Henry and June is a success in its presentation of a dark and intense love triangle between three intriguing people. From doing research about the movie, it appears to have a big impact on the ratings system upon release as it became the first film to be certified NC-17. The rating signified that the film would have sexual content for adults only but was not given an X certificate that could have damaged people flocking to see it in theatres. And I can’t review Henry and June without talking about the sexual scenes as they are what makes up the core of the film. The scenes of a sexual nature are explicit to be sure, but they are not the stuff of skin flicks. Rather, these scenes are artfully shot and because they take basis from Anaïs’ diaries and expressions, have an intellectual, serious and observant quality to them that helps them stand out from mainstream sex scenes. I can see why they invented a new rating for this kind of film as it does deal heavily with sex, but is an artistic exploration of the three-way relationship, rather than a titillating one.By far one of the biggest draws that can be taken from Henry and June is the splendidly evocative cinematography. Bathing scenes in a sensual glow and tinged with a moody and melancholy feeling, it’s a truly marvellous visual style that really brings the passionate and most unusual story to stylish life. Coupled with the cinematography is the marvellous editing and jazz soundtrack, that helps the film gain something of a dreamlike and hypnotic impact that presses itself into the memory.
With her round eyes and elfin features that suggest a girlish innocence, Maria de Medeiros is extremely good at playing Anaïs Nin, who emerges as a passionate adventurer in all things erotic thanks to Henry and June. Maria de Medeiros is one of those people that the camera loves, but can also emote with a depth and subtlety, crafting Anaïs into a complex woman who has a core of observational passion and curiosity that consumes her little by little. I can’t picture anyone else playing Anaïs quite like de Medeiros, as she is simply marvellous in the role. Essaying the part of the controversial Henry Miller, Fred Ward plays him like a bear, full of vigour and unmissable shows of anger. Walking and talking like an old-fashioned gangster minus the Tommy gun, Ward invests Henry with a lust for life and an inability to sever himself from inevitable trouble, as it is too good to walk away from. Yet it is Uma Thurman who makes possibly the biggest and most memorable contribution to the film as one half of the titular couple. Playing so many different sides to June, from sensual and engaging, angry and bitter, tragic and unforgiving, Thurman doesn’t miss a beat and it says a lot when you miss her when she isn’t on screen. That’s a lot of clout to have and Uma Thurman makes her presence felt throughout, with her haunting presence and accent employed. Although he has probably the most thankless role of the film, Richard E. Grant does his best as the husband of Anaïs, who is safe and pleasing yet can’t quite provide the excitement that Anaïs craves. Also viewers should watch out for Kevin Spacey in a supporting role as the louche man who introduces Anaïs to Miller.
Visually splendid, well acted and benefiting from the intelligent direction of Philip Kaufman, as well as more than overcoming the sometimes overly languid pace, Henry and June is daringly adult cinema that knows how to be provocative and artistic in equal measures.
1990's, Alan Cumming, Comedy, Douglas McGrath, Emma, Ewan McGregor, Greta Scacchi, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jane Austen, Jeremy Northam, Juliet Stevenson, Period Drama, Polly Walker, Romance, Sophie Thompson, Toni Collette
A ravishing and witty rendering of Jane Austen’s classic novel, Emma is a fine comedy romance about the errors and misinterpretation when it comes to matters involving the heart. With a delightful performance by Gwyneth Paltrow at the heart of it and an equally compelling cast surrounding her, Emma is one of those films that is almost impossible not to enjoy.
In the English countryside of the early-19th-century, a young woman by the name of Emma Woodhouse lives. A vivacious and charming woman, Emma likes to think of herself as being all-knowing when it comes to setting people up in romantic connections. This notion started after she helped introduce her now former governess Miss Taylor to the man who is now her husband. From then on Emma has made it her goal to unite others, all of it comes from a genuine place but little by little the results get complicated. Her meddling in the affairs of others begins to become a lot more complex when Emma decides to fix her shy best friend Harriet Smith up with the local minister Mr Elton. Though Harriet likes someone else, she is a little naive and instead takes Emma’s advice to pursue Mr Elton. Observing Emma’s meddling ways is family friend Mr. Knightley, who is the one person who understands what Emma is like and warns her not to get involved in other people’s love lives. Emma though is stubborn and genuinely believes she is aiding everyone with her services as Cupid, which she extends to almost everyone she meets. The amusing part of all of it is that while she’s so busy plotting to bring others together, she doesn’t see that love could be in front of her from many men; including the wise Mr. Knightley and the dashing Frank Churchill. Eventually, through all of Emma’s schemes that have been meant to be helpful for her social circle, disastrous results and odd pairings emerge through confusion and Emma’s belief that she is always right when it comes to love. But what of her own experience with love? Can she truly begin to see that love may be something for her if she’s so busy matching others up? And what of all the matches(or should that be mismatches) that she’s orchestrated from a good place that has gone awry?
Director Douglas McGrath mounts this comic tale with skill and a disarming wit, much in keeping with the Austen source material. He makes scenes flow into the next with a glee that is most delightful, as it captures how much of an impact Emma’s plans have on everyone’s romances and decisions. He also writes the script and delightfully covers the ways of old society and how Emma crucially misinterprets certain bits of information and runs with them, not realizing that something else was meant by the remark. With is direction and screenplay, McGrath makes Emma a class act from start to finish. The device of us hearing Emma’s innermost thoughts is a funny one too, especially when what she’s thinking goes opposite to her facial expressions. I must give a lot of credit to the cinematography of this movie as it contributes a playful and vivacious tone to the piece, much in the same way the eponymous character does in her own mischievous way. An elegant set design is beautifully rendered and compliments the absolutely stunning costumes worn by the characters, in particular the women involved in the story. And particularly of note and worthy of praise is the lush and romantic score from Rachel Portman, that won her a well-earned Oscar.
Embodying the title role with poise, personality and a convincing English accent is Gwyneth Paltrow, in one of her best performances. Showcasing Emma’s misguided belief that she is helping others when in fact a lot of what she does goes wrong, Paltrow finds humour within Emma as well as a core of naughtiness. Although Emma is a meddler and schemer, she does it out of kindness and Paltrow is adept at showing how she wants the best intentions for others, but how even she can’t hold sway over the heart and isn’t as skilled at matchmaking as she likes to think. It’s a stunning performance from a radiant Gwyneth Paltrow. The actors and actresses that surround Paltrow are of excellent calibre and ability. The handsome Jeremy Northam excels portraying the smart and very observant Mr. Knightley, who knows what Emma’s up to and warns her of the repercussions. A gentle and sweet performance from Toni Collette as Emma’s friend Harriet is another great part that is well suited to the talents of the very versatile actress. Then we have Ewan McGregor; delightfully charming but slightly uncouth as Frank Churchill, who could be a romantic contender for Emma’s heart. Alan Cumming is rather funny as the local minister who becomes unwittingly part of Emma’s matchmaking and Polly Walker is lovely to behold as the rather shy Jane Fairfax. Snobbery and bitchy lines come courtesy of Julie Stevenson, who is a hoot as the opinionated and stuck up woman who becomes Mr. Elton’s wife and knows how to rub Emma up the wrong way from the get go. Greta Scacchi and Sophie Thompson in small roles are both very appealing in different ways and put real stamps on the characters.
Capturing the observant nature and muddled romantic couplings of Austen’s novel as a result of the title character, Emma emerges as a hugely entertaining and lively period comedy that is topped off with a winning performance from Gwyneth Paltrow.
I got the idea to do a post in which my fellow bloggers ask me questions on whatever topic they choose(as long as it’s nothing offensive) from reading a similar post from the cool dude Diego. So with this post, I hope you all get a better understanding of me and it gives you the opportunity to ask me some interesting posts. So whatever questions, movie related or not that you have, ask away. I promise to answer you all. Ask away people, I have a feeling this post will be fun.
A gleefully nasty and exciting horror/adventure, Anaconda isn’t going to win any prizes for superlative film making or emotive writing. But that isn’t what the film is all about, it’s about surrendering to the gloriously tongue in cheek horror and on that score it registers at a high rating.
Terri Flores is a director of documentaries who thinks she’s nearing a big break. Her latest expedition is down the Amazon River to find proof that a legendary Indian tribe known as The People of the Mist has not vanished and is far from forgotten. Joining her on a boat down the river as part of her film crew is her anthropologist love interest Dr. Steven Cale, good friend and cameraman Danny Rich, the snobby English narrator Warren Westridge, sound engineer Gary, his production manager girlfriend and Mateo, the captain of the boat. Along the way in their journey, they pick up Paul Serone, a mysterious Paraguayan man who is stranded on the embankment and makes his living capturing snakes. He claims to have knowledge over where the fabled tribe is and travels with them down a new route to where he says they reside. Serone manages to put everyone on edge with his unusual ways and slimy appearance, most of all Cale who catches him out on a number of lies. Yet before he can act upon these suspicions, he is stung by a wasp that gets caught in his swimming gear when he’s sorting out something under the boat and as a result, he is rendered unconscious. The odious and crazed Serone takes charge of the boat and his true diabolical motives are quickly revealed to all. He is forcefully using the crew as bait so he can hunt the famed and very dangerous 40-foot anaconda. And sure enough, the giant snake is soon on the attack, crushing anyone in its way before swallowing them whole as its next meal. As Serone slips further into psychosis in his hopes of capturing the predator, it’s up to Terri and the others to fight against the giant snake as it picks through the crew very quickly, leaving a blood soaked carnage in its wake.
Luis Llosa’s direction is efficient and while nothing particularly special, still retains a feeling of suspense and adventure. Llosa understands that the material within Anaconda is not meant to be taken seriously and he acquits himself well in this respect, while still giving some good gross out scares and disquieting deaths. A misty visual style, capturing the Amazon Rain forest setting and its dangerous splendour as well as frenetic camerawork helps the film go at a quick pace that keeps chills and dark laughs coming thick and fast. Chief among these moments is the creepy shot of the approaching anaconda slowly digesting a victim that we can see the impression of the terrified face and an attack scene of the snake snatching one of the crew as they jump from a waterfall. It must be said that the script is rather simple and dialogue nothing revelatory in terms of character development, but with so many thrills going on, does it really matter? Now it must be said that the main antagonist of the film the killer anaconda is something people are divided on when it comes to the film. The creature is rendered through both animatronics and CGI, and it must be said that the execution is more than a bit hokey. If they’d gotten rid of the CGI it could have been more memorable, but when the animatronics is on show, as ropy and often laughable as it is, it adds a B-movie quality to this already slightly goofy film. While Anaconda is an exercise in tongue in cheek horror, it doesn’t scrimp on the suspense and scares, brought out through a very good score that heavily features drums growing quicker as the giant snake makes its presence known in a very threatening way.
Jennifer Lopez makes for a grounded and very tough lead in the film, doing battle as much with her smarts as her fists. She works well alongside Ice Cube, who plays the smart ass and sarcastic cameraman Danny. Jon Voight turns in a performance of extravagant hamminess as the utterly maniacal Serone, who has no qualms about using his rescuers as potential food for the eponymous snake. Sporting a shifty ponytail and dodgy attempt at a Paraguayan accent, Voight’s performance sails over these questionable aspects with evil glee and serviceable menace that is just right for this kind of movie. And he really knows how to turn on the slimy factor and lather it up to levels of psychopathic overdrive. Eric Stoltz has something of a heroic nature about him in the beginning but when his character is incapacitated, he is is required to do very little. There is also of note an amusing Jonathan Hyde as the pompous actor clearly out of his depth when it comes to survival because of his fussy ways. The rest of the cast, consisting of Owen Wilson, Kari Wuhrer and Vincent Castellanos are purely in the film to be snake bait for the ferocious anaconda.
A somewhat daft but very exciting and thrilling horror, Anaconda if seen in the right way is as a slithering creature feature in a B-movie style makes for a good way to kill an hour or so and doesn’t require nary a speck of brain power.
1990's, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Anna Friel, Bernard Hill, Calista Flockhart, Christian Bale, Comedy, David Strathairn, Dominic West, Fantasy, Kevin Kline, Michael Hoffman, Michelle Pfeiffer, Romance, Rupert Everett, Sam Rockwell, Sophie Marceau, Stanley Tucci, William Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
A well cast and amusing adaptation of the classic Shakespeare comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream gets points for direction, writing and acting. Yes it isn’t the best Shakespeare adaptation there is and there are a few flaws, but by and large it’s a success of love’s complications, romantic entanglements and mischievous magic.
The setting is Italy near the beginning of the twentieth century( in the play the setting is Greece). The Duke Theseus is preparing for his upcoming marriage to Hippolyta. He is a respected man and is asked near the beginning to help Egeus with his problem. The problem in question is his daughter Hermia, who he has betrothed to Demetrius. Hermia is actually enamored with Lysander, but their love is forbidden. With Hermia being forced to marry Demetrius, the young lady and her lover Lysander secretly plan to elope. Meanwhile, Hermia’s friend Helena pines for the moody Demetrius, but to no avail as he loves Hermia. The downtrodden Helena seizes the opportunity to make an impression on Demetrius by informing him of Hermia and Lysander’s plans to run away one night through the nearby forest. Demetrius follows the two star-crossed lovers deep into the forest, with the desperate Helena behind him. Yet what none of the four realise is that the forest is inhabited by fairies, and most importantly the fairy King Oberon and his wife Queen Titania. The couple is going through trouble and their differences begin to hold sway on the fates of the four young lovers in the forest. The scheming Oberon, to get back at Titania, devises an amusing plan and enlists the help of loyal but mischief-loving sprite Puck to help. By obtaining a magical flower and applying the nectar of it to the eyelids of Titania, when she awakens she will fall in love with the first person she sees. Into this game unintentionally comes the talkative actor Nick Bottom and his company, who are rehearsing a play to perform at the upcoming wedding. Using the flower on Titania and then turning the unsuspecting Bottom into a donkey, a funny beginning of events flourishes as Titania becomes smitten with the transformed Bottom, much to the actor’s surprise and delight. Oberon also asks Puck to help out Helena so that Demetrius falls in love with her. But naughty Puck accidentally mistakes Lysander for Demetrius and soon enough chaos ensues as the romances interlink and much squabbling occurs thanks to Puck’s devilish intervention.
Michael Hoffman successfully translates the enjoyable and funny qualities of the play to the screen with both imagination and inventiveness. He updates the setting to pre-twentieth century and it actually works very well, though I’m sure purists may quibble and take issue with it. The update allows for some beautiful scenery and gorgeous cinematography that is marvellous. A few parts of his direction are flawed, such as letting some scenes in the middle to lumber on longer than necessary, yet his overall control and skill is evidence throughout as he retains the riotous humour of the piece. Hoffman also is adept at being scriptwriter, bringing the fantasy and romantic switch ups into full fruition with humour and style and sticking to Shakespeare’s poetic verve. A vibe of sexiness is ever-present through this film; found in the double entendres and the presence of Cupid gone awry, causing humorous and unexpected matches. A modernity also pervades many parts of this adaptation, with the literal mud-slinging style catfight between Hermia and Helena a highlight. Set design, particularly in the enchanted forest and Titania’s otherworldly domain, has a definite theatrical quality that feels right for something like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, yet is embellished by the beauty of cinematic eyes and the gorgeousness that celluloid can provide. A light and twinkling score, also infused with some grand operatic arias, sets the pace of the film and what will follow with playful glee.
A handsomely star-studded cast fleshes out the roles of this romantic comic fantasy and are skilled with speaking Shakespeare’s words. The biggest standout is Kevin Kline, who is in his element as the buffoonish but strangely touching Bottom. By balancing the two aspects of comedy and pathos, Kline rules the roost and gives his all to the comic yet poignant character whose garrulous ways and thespian dreams are turned on their head by the adventure in the forest. An effervescent Michelle Pfeiffer is ideally cast as Titania; radiating imperious mannerisms and sweet love especially when funnily bewitched by a transformed Bottom. Not only does Pfeiffer look the part, she plays it extremely well and with ethereal poise. Rupert Everett, with his smooth voice and rakish demeanor, makes for an appropriately louche Oberon, whose schemes are both amusingly wicked and benevolent yet flawed. Calista Flockhart is an inspired choice for the part of Helena, emerging both as earnestly passionate but unlucky and wittily sharp. Flockhart’s performance which takes on a tragicomic nature is up there with Kline as one of the standouts within A Midsummer Night’s Dream. An appealing performance of spirit and vivacity is given by the gorgeous Anna Friel, who gets some very good lines as the star-crossed Hermia. Both Dominic West and Christian Bale have fun as Lysander and Demetrius, who more often than not are sparring partners battling for the affections of Helena and Hermia thanks to the magical mix up. Lending impish relish, sprightly naughtiness and hilarious moments is the ever reliable Stanley Tucci portraying Puck, whose attempts at bringing lovers together go rather awry. Now in supporting roles we have David Strathairn, Sophie Marceau, Bernard Hill and Sam Rockwell, who are all actors I very much admire. The trouble is they aren’t utilized well enough here and the film could have benefited from showing them a bit more.
Purists may balk at the change of setting and it must be said that a few parts of the film could have been trimmed, yet A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a warmly funny and sexy interpretation of the play from the Bard.
An Unfinished Life
As well trodden and predictable the story may become, An Unfinished Life gains points and clarity from the uniformly excellent cast and depth from direction that give it something extra. This movie was quickly dismissed upon release, but although more than a little formulaic, it is worth a watch for emotion and heart.
Einar Gilkyson is a Wyoming rancher whose business has gone downhill ever since he lost his son in a car accident and he ended up hitting the bottle. He still has some work to do, but these experiences have made him shut off and become bitter. Living with Einar is his best friend and former rancher Mitch, who a year prior was mauled by a bear and has still not fully recovered from his deep wounds that have left him with difficulty walking. Einar takes care of Mitch, yet when it comes to everything else he is gruff and distant. The two live their lives on the ranch with differing perspectives; Einar is angry at the death of his son and has never really dealt with it properly, while Mitch is genial and with regards to his encounter with the bear has moved on and is trying to live what is left of his life happy. Things change when Einar’s daughter in law Jean arrives with her daughter Griff, that Einar had no idea existed. There is bad blood between Einar and Jean as Einar blames Jean for surviving the accident that claimed his son, whilst Jean has tried to remain strong but has now fled from her abusive latest boyfriend Gary. Needing a place to stay, Einar reluctantly allows them to live with him. Although awkward at first, through the kindness of Mitch towards Griff, Jean’s numerous tries to reconcile and the little Griff’s attempts to break through to Einar, wounds that have festered begin to wane between Jean and Einar as they finally have to confront their fears and grief. Einar soon begins to open up more, but danger could very well be on the horizon with the bear that mauled Mitch back and the psychopathic Gary looking for Jean.
Now while some of his directorial flourishes go a bit mawkish, Lasse Hallstrom at least invests An Unfinished Life with a moving centre, offset by the occasional bit of humour as the souls of the character slowly heal. I liked the sense of immediacy and closeness that Hallstrom gave the film and the brisk pace he employed, that let events unfold with a quickness that never gets rushed. It must be said that a lot of the story is nothing particular groundbreaking in terms of drama and more than a little it can get a bit overly sentimental and the script gets clunky. Yet somehow the film works and while not particularly original, it tells the story in an efficient way that doesn’t squander any of the emotions within it. This story is of healing and learning to let go and its observations of these key themes is well orchestrated and directed. There are some lovely bits of scenery to be found too, with the trees and winding roads of rural Wyoming being lushly photographed and lensed with skilled assurance. A country influenced score charts the gradual emergence of Einar coming into a sense of acceptance and brings a wealth of emotion to An Unfinished Life.
A talented cast brings a poignant sense of emotion, soaring above the sometimes formulaic story. Robert Redford reveals a gruff and cantankerous exterior for Einar as someone who doesn’t want to open up but really should. There’s a sadness to Redford’s delivery that is clouded with anger and the actor really shows off his talent here as Einar is forced to finally comes to terms with the events that he couldn’t deal with before. Morgan Freeman is dignity and quiet strength personified playing the injured Mitch, who refuses to let pain get in his way of being positive and supporting Einar. With gravitas and an amiable smile, Freeman is reliably brilliant in this touching role. Jennifer Lopez is natural and stoic as Jean, who is both afraid and determined to remain strong and find some common ground with Einar. It is her role that forces the shift from Einar’s grief to recovery and Lopez plays it very well. Josh Lucas is the weakest of the cast as he is saddled with the rather uninteresting role of the sheriff who takes a liking to Jean. The role is one that doesn’t give him a lot to work with and it suffers from a lack of scope. The young Becca Gardner has the right amounts of charm and resonance for the part of Griff, who wears down her grandfather’s tough shell and lets him live again. And exuding menace and relish for possession is Damian Lewis, as the controlling and abusive ex boyfriend of Jean’s that can’t let her go.
It stumbles into schmaltz at times and is never going to be the most inventive film put out there, but with what it has, An Unfinished Life is a moving story of learning to let bygones be bygones and begin to live once more.
Lately, one of the blogs that I follow entitled Husband and Husband, which is run by the amazing and witty couple Aaron and Jonathan, have been uploading some fantastic videos. I dare anyone to watch these videos and not smile, it will be impossible as they are filled with such enthusiasm and heart. Aaron and Jonathan are just two amazing people who bring joy to those who watch their videos and read their blog. So what are you waiting for, check out their videos. The following link is to their first vlog, so I hope you enjoy.
A movie that caused a mixed opinion on release, U Turn is actually a head-spinning mashup of noir and dark comedy, wrapped in the guise of a fever dream. This wont be every viewer’s cup of tea, but is inventively strange and overripe with a cast willing to surrender to the baffling weirdness present.
Bobby Cooper is a gambler and two-bit criminal who is driving down the highway to Las Vegas to pay off debts to the mob. Armed with the money, Bobby wants nothing more than to settle the deal and be on his way. His unlucky streak has other ideas as his car breaks down and he’s forced to enter the town of Superior, Arizona. Now to say that this place isn’t a dust bowl and populated by some of the strangest people on Earth is a lie, as Bobby discovers the strange and dark ways that these people live by and how he just wants to leave. The local mechanic Darrell takes delight in annoying him with his obnoxious and unscrupulous ways that test Bobby’s patience no end and his day just goes from bad to worse from then on. A robbery at the local convenience store deprives him of the money he needs to pay of gangsters and puts him in a deadly situation. It’s at this point that the darkness increases with the introduction of seductive Grace McKenna and her brutal, older husband Jake. Grace entrances Bobby with her teasing ways and gorgeous beauty. While Jake makes him an offer that is very tempting but could be tainted. Jake asks that Bobby kill his flirty wife and a lot of money could come his way. Now while Bobby is no saint when it comes to criminal acts, he is more than a little hesitant to commit murder. Yet in a dire situation, what is he supposed to do? Complicating this twisted web is Grace seducing Bobby and bringing him into her plot to have her husband killed and make off with his hidden millions. More encounters with the unusual residents( such as the ditzy nympho Jenny and her short fused psycho boyfriend Toby N. Tucker, as well as a sheriff that is always skulking about) of Superior unnerve and annoy Bobby as he attempts every conceivable way to leave, yet seems to be thwarted at every turn. In need of money quickly and desperate to get out of the creepy town in at least one piece, he is left with either the plan to kill Grace or kill Jake; both of which could get him the stashes of money he craves. Let’s just say that events will go south and very bloody for all involved in this dark neo noir/ black comedy that just brings new meaning to the word weird.
I must say I found U Turn refreshing as it showed me a different side to Oliver Stone’s film making. From what I’ve viewed of his work, he is adept at directing films that confront issues and politics in a very well done way. But I enjoyed seeing him let loose and revel in the darkness of the story and the hazy world of unusual individuals that Bobby finds himself in and tries to inexorably escape from. This isn’t one of Stone’s movies that is addressing any big ideas, but he gives the film a real stamp of his through demented events and weird happenings; all captured in a style highly reminiscent of an acid trip, complete with rapid fire editing, grainy styling and overlapping scenes. Stone is firing on all cylinders here, finding twisted comedy and lurid deceit in the neo noir story at play and obviously having fun with it. You see as much as U Turn is a crime film and noir, it is also something of a black comedy, and let me not forget that Stone tips his hat to the western genre in the setting and some of the tone. It isn’t funny is a way that many people will traditionally laugh at, instead finding humour in disquieting events of which many are so wildly over the top that you will gasp as it basks in perverse glory. Now while U Turn is an underrated surreal film, it’s not without flaws. The main one is the pace growing slightly stale in the middle stretch of the film and your interest could very well wander. The sheer abundance of visuals being thrown at us gets at times a bit bloated, yet there is hope as both flaws are rectified by an electric and twisting final part of the film that redeems whatever flaws came before it. A superlative score that skilfully crosses between the humour and brutality of the film is provided by the great Ennio Morricone, who shapes the score with unusual cues and melodies to further put us under the spell of the hypnotic and surreal events unfurling.
I really enjoyed watching the cast of great actors and actresses put into all these whacked out situations and give it their best shots, all making an impact in some way. Sean Penn is effective in the role of Bobby, who is something of our anti-hero in this strange odyssey. Penn rightfully does make Bobby a really likable guy, instead showcasing his arrogance and intolerance. Yet he imbues the character with a growing sympathy that is hard to forget as he endures the hardships of the crazy town and the murderous plans he is sucked into. Jennifer Lopez sizzles as the femme fatale Grace, lulling Bobby into her devious plans for money. Yet unlike some actresses that just make the temptress role just seductive and nothing else, Lopez excellently brings forth a damaged and saddened side to the character that makes it something different to the usual deadly lady. Granted she is still seductive and dangerous, but it was a bit refreshing to see another interpretation of the femme fatale role. The appropriate nastiness and sleaziness is brought to the table by Nick Nolte as the brutish Jake, who growls his way through life with violence never far away. Then there is Powers Boothe, who appears to be the one decent law-abiding citizen in town, but who may be far from it. A devilish and unrecognizable Billy Bob Thornton turns in a memorable performance as the disagreeable grease monkey that gets more testing to impatient Bobby as the film goes on. With his ragamuffin appearance and sneering smiles, Thornton just adds even more weirdness to the proceedings complete with grimy humour. Claire Danes and Joaquin Phoenix more than gamely play their roles of the floozy with a naive attitude and her petulant, man-child boyfriend. Both stars find ridiculousness and humour within both of the loopy characters. Jon Voight appears as a blind shaman, who talk philosophically to anyone that will listen and is actually pretty spot on about an upcoming carnage that will be brutal.
It does have its moments when it gets a bit much and the middle half drags, but taking all of that into account, U Turn represents an underrated film by Oliver Stone that puts weird into a whole other dimension with editing, good performances and the noir atmosphere tinged with black comedy.
The oh so talented and superb Meryl Streep turns 67 today and what a career she has had, and still has as she continues to make stellar movies. I think its well established by now that she is one of the most gifted and engaging actresses on the planet. I mean just looking through her filmography speaks for itself showing her versatility and strength. I mean is there anything Meryl Streep can’t do? She’s done drama, comedy and even action. She is a master of burying herself into the roles she chooses and a dab hand at essaying a variety of accents. When I see Streep on the screen, she delivers every time without fail. It is impossible not to be impressed and bowled over by her commitment to the roles she takes and how she so embodies the parts seamlessly So I wish her a glorious birthday and want to say how wonderful it is to watch her on screen.