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Operation Brothers (2019)
Greetings from the diving resort
There was a time when people (well... mainly hippies) used to take adventurous trips to Afghanistan. Nowadays, it seems ludicrous to think about that country - and Sudan - as attractive holiday destinations.
However, this movie reminds us that not as far in time as Afghanistan - actually, in the early 80s - a Red Sea diving resort in Sudan was a covetable destinations for Germans and other tourists.
Even if it's hard to believe that an African country on the brink of massive upheaval was visited by tourists, people actually do lots of stupid things. In this case, silly tourists were nothing more than "probable collateral damage" IRL, a handful of agents operated the resort as a cover for a rescue scheme that went on for years unnoticed. The Ethiopian were carried by trucks to the resort and shipped over to Israel, until the final mission, when the last bunch was transported by plane, because Sudanese officials . In this sort of movie, you should expect most (all?) characters to be a bit stereotyped. They are very much so that I did not get the need to introduce them quite at length, since their background was irrelevant to the development of the plot.
For instance, the Alex Hassle Max Rose's character, seemed quite interesting as a forever hungry assassin, but there is no development nor much action for him (nor for the others).
However, this is quite good entertainment with a solid, humanitarian background and not too much violence, apart from a horrific scene in a refugee camp.
Strangers When We Meet (1960)
Kirk and Kim's hot affair to remember
With a screen play by Evan Hunter (AKA Ed McBain, beloved author of the 87th Precinct novels) I was expecting something more thrilling than the passionate love affair of two married characters. Kim and Kirk, not married to each other, fall in love (or rather lust) while bringing their respective children to the school bus.
They embark in a passionate affair, but honestly it does not seem as if they have much to say to each other or much in common. He is a quirky architect, she an housewife (what else for a woman in the early 60's?)
Watch the awkward scene of the two of them on the beach, while the Kim character tries to dig out something from the past history of Kirk's. Even their first date is weird.
Both Kirk and Kim were in their prime and especially Kim, exuded sex appeal, so it's easy to see the attraction, but their affair did not seem a bright burning flame, apart from the novelty after years of predictable married life.
As such, the movie drags on a bit to establish their relationship and to install some doubts about the ending.
To be recommended if you are an avid Kim Novak fan. I saw many of her movies, but I cannot remember any other where she looked so good, so elegant, so fragile and so convincing in her part.
The Million Pound Note (1954)
Peck is Henry Adams, a stranded American sailor in London who gets involved in the bet of two eccentric English millionaires. Think of "Trading Places", but way less funny.
I was mislead into watching this because of its literary origin, but actually the whole point of the plot is how people treat you differently when they think you are rich and how you might end up getting a lot of stuff for free.
This may be partially true (think about travelling first class and being showered with freebies) but it certainly isn't enough to carry this boring movie, that seems to drag on way longer than its 90 minutes stretch.
Even if you are an avid Peck's fan, I am sure you could do without this.
Man of the World (1931)
Yet another misleading plot summary from this site
The movie opens with William Powell and ends with him, since his character is the main character in the story. Lombard plays the love interest (and not a very interesting one...)
If you read the plot summary you get the idea of a sophisticated comedy starring Lombard as an American socialite who happens to meet her supporting love interest in Paris, in a sparkly development à la "My man Godfrey".
Instead, this is a drama about Michael, a failed journalist, turned blackmailer, who happens to fall for Mary, one of his victims, but their lukewarm love story is nipped in the bud by Michael's ex lover, Irene (a sexy Wynne Gibson).
Irene gets as much screen time as Mary and is a much more vivid character, also wearing some beautiful costumes, the most striking being a super sexy evening gown in her first scene.
Power does a nice turn as Michael the blackmailer; unfortunately the plot development is slow and clumsy and the ending rhetorical and dissatisfactory.
Pretty Woman (1990)
I will never understand why this movie is described as a "modern Cinderella" story. Does it mean that contemporary women need to be prostitutes to meet a "prince"? Or that prostitution is the sort of career you would recommend to your daughter?
Everybody knows the wildly unrealistic plot, which I found stupid years ago and still do, whenever I happen to stumble on this stupid movie on TV. In fact, it seems stupider every time.
Roberts as Vivian is the unbearable "street wise, gold-hearted hooker" who exists only in movies. And, as it happens in movies, "respectable" people are obviously less deserving of respect than Vivian, because they're all liars and hypocrites and the only "honest" person is the hooker.
The "romance" Vivian develops with her customer Edward, is based on a fat paycheck for a week of her services. Really the best way to start a relationship. I can imagine Edward and Vivian twenty years after reminiscing their tender meet-cute... "You were such a pretty hooker with your miniskirt and boots walking the Hollywood Boulevard looking for a john.."
Glamourising violence and female punks
Nikita is a young drug addict who kills a cop during a failed robbery at a chemist's. The cop wanted to help the seemingly fragile girl hiding under the counter, but she shot him in cold blood.
Sentenced to life and then shipped to a secret special force, she gets trained to be a government's assassin, while whining and complaining all the time, as if she got a bad deal. Obviously, killing is so much more fun when Nikita does it for no reason than when the government requires it.
After an indeterminate time in the secret training facility, where she behaves like the total punk she is, she is sent out to be "on call" under the code name of Josephine. She is protected by her instructor Bob, who has the hotties for her, while the big boss Grossman thinks she should have been killed - and I agree with him.
Nikita-Josephine hooks up with a supermarket cashier and they have a splendid romance, interrupted only by Nikita's assignments, which start to be bothersome for her. After a particularly messed up job Nikita disappears, after a tearful goodbye with Loverboy cashier, during which the audience is supposed to feel sorry for her because Loverboy was "the only one who did not judge her and loved her the way she is"... conveniently forgetting she killed several people in cold blood and for cash... sweet darling that she is - but no judgment please....
Obviously everything should be forgiven because Nikita is young, pretty and half naked most of the time - Anne Parillaud was Besson's lover at the time, and he did a good job plastering her body all over this crappy movie. After this, Parillaud disappeared from the scene and unsurprisingly so.
Woman on the Run (1950)
Surprisingly good thriller
I am not familiar with the work of Ann Sheridan but I was most impressed by her role in this movie. Not sure if this could be defined as noir, since Sheridan's part is definitely not "femme fatale".
It's a very well written plot about Frank Johnson, who witnesses a gang murder and goes on the run to avoid complications and his wife Eleanor, who might - or not - care for him and who's left to deal with the police and the killer in pursue.
The plot is as much about the Johnsons relationship as the search for the missing Frank. Sheridan, as Mrs. Eleanor Johnson has the most screen time and does an excellent job with an ambiguous character, who discovers hidden truths about her mysterious husband.
The rest of the cast is also very good, the dialogues are snappy and sarcastic and the development interesting, even if the major plot twist is given away too soon.
Many questionable choices, including Latinos playing Italians and very little about Versace
This should have been titled "The life story of Andrew Cunanan" since only the first two episodes (and bits and pieces here and there) focus on Versace, so if you watch it because you're interested in the glamour of the fashion world, you'll be seriously disappointed.
You get glimpses of Versace's world from the scenes in his villa, from Cruz's wardrobe - as Donatella - and in a few, short scenes about his creative process. Some melodrama is provided by Versace's live-in lover, Antonio, who - like all the other Italian characters - is played by a Latino. Weird and questionable choice and not the only one ....
Most of the other episodes and the majority of screen time are dedicated to Cunanan, his life story playing in reverse, from his weird childhood, to his school days and the development of his egocentric, psychotic personality. From male escort and "best friend" of older guys, to his alleged "love story" with David, one of the victims of his killing spree.
A whole episode is dedicated to Jeff, the first victim, a former naval officer who got in trouble with the navy because of his sexual orientation.
The narrative is incredibly ambiguous. On one hand, discrimination against gay men is denounced loudly, on the other the fact that Cunanan was also gay is somehow overlooked. The police gets a bad rap for underestimating Cunanan, because he was killing "just gay men", even if probably there are hundreds of unsolved cases concerning also heterosexual victims.
Finally, Cunanan is presented in the most sympathetic way. You even get a police woman sort of cracking up at the sight of his dead body, murmuring he "was just a boy"... for sure he was not Godzilla, but he killed five people for no apparent reason whatsoever, one of them with a hammer, and another after sadistic tortures.... a boy he was, but definitely not a nice one.
The Strange Woman (1946)
Feminist heroine not so much
Hedy Lamar was beautiful and clever, but not a great actress. This movie is a melodrama (not a noir) in which she plays Jenny, a social climber ready to sell her assets to the best buyer. Consequently, most of her acting consists of pouting and flirting, without much subtlety.
Jenny marries a rich old man as a way to escape from her drunkard father, then proceeds to flirting with her stepson, only to "really" falling in love with a friend's boyfriend. Not to loose social status, Jenny tries to persuade her stepson to kill his father, while actually planning to dump him, once he would free her from the annoying old man.
Complications ensued, followed by melodramatic ending. It's funny, but also worrying that some reviewers think of Jenny as a tragic feminist heroine, because she "uses her sexuality" and - by the standards of the time - she should be punished. Jenny is actually conspiring to commit murder, planning to get rid of the man she is turning into a killer to seduce another one and deceiving a friend who trusted her. So much for feminist heroism.
Tulip Fever (2017)
Gorgeous photography in search of a story
It starts as a bawdy comedy, bordering soft porn, but it does not feel sexy, it continues as a romantic drama, without being really dramatic and it ends with rightful closure for all characters, leaving a feeling of having being defrauded, just like Cornelis.
In this massively uneven mix of different "genres", beautiful young orphan Sophie (Vikander) gets married to older, rich merchant Cornelis, who desperately wants an heir, after having lost his first wife and two children. Unfortunately Sophie fails to comply. During three years of marriage she gets all friendly with maid Maria who is constantly frolicking with lover Willem, and then with painter Jan.
Sophie starts some frolicking of her own with Jan, and we get more sex scenes, while the tulip fever of the title is forever relegated to the background.
When things get messy with the frolicking couples, pregnancy takes center stage and the mood switches from steamy to gloomy.
The story is narrated by maid Maria, adding a further level of weirdness. The only interesting character is the insolent doctor Sorgh.
I am not surprised by all the negative reviews, which it definitely deserves.
Spying in the politically correct revised world
This is 2019, therefore you should be well aware that every white, straight male is a villain and everybody else is a long suffering victim and/or at least entitled to behave badly, due to the mentioned white-male oppression.
The series heroine is a young British female, who goes under the nickname of Feef. She is looking for a life less ordinary and is therefore upset by the end of WWII and by losing her chance to play her part with the French resistance ... or something along those lines.
Since she also having an affair with an allegedly married American soldier, she gets introduced into the spying game, with the idea of contrasting Commies'infiltration in the British civil service.
Her handler is Rowe, a totally ruthless American white male, who gets her to do despicable things. At last, she gets fed up and wants to quit the spying game, but the obnoxious Rowe blackmails her, with photos of her gay brother performing gay stuff.
She must joins forces with Jackson, the Afro-American soldier who used to be her previous lover's driver and together they fight white-male oppression, and also a little bit of Communism.
Her other antagonist is Priscilla, the Commie agent, herself a female, but justified in her treason by the obnoxious treatment of women and by the demise of her father during WWI, all the fault of white-male, capitalist oppression.
Conclusion: I know the world is a bad place where bad things happen, but a little less of an agenda against white-male oppressors would be appreciated.
Into the Night (1985)
Tries to be a "fun" action drama and fails miserably
Even people nostalgic for 80 movies can probably do without this one. Jeff Goldbloom is at his most lethargic as Guy, a character so bland and ordinary that his wife's cheating should not come as a surprise.
Guy meet dramatically a beautifully Pfeiffer, who plays Diana, an ex model and an ex billionaire's mistress. Pfeiffer at the top of her game and glowingly beautiful is perhaps the only reason to watch this.
The silly plot develops around Diana improbable entanglement with stolen jewellery and international gangs trying to outsmart each other. Unfortunately, Landis, a most overrated director, decided to ask lots of other directors to play cameos (besides having himself playing one of thugs) and the plot derails left and right, with totally irrelevant parts played by the likes of Vadim, Demme, Mazursky, etc...
Even David Bowie gets to play a short cameo as an hired gun, in one of his least memorable excursions in movieland.
This would have been a turkey even with a better male lead, but Goldbloom totally destroys it, with his charisma-free screen presence.
Disappointing and morally ambiguous
By the same director, I watched the two series about the Vietnam war and WWII with great interest. I was very much looking forward to this one, too.
I don't know much about the real history of prohibition, even if countless movies were made about that period of the American troubled history.
The general idea I got was that prohibition was a bad idea and it just contributed to the strengthening of criminal organisations, especially in the Chicago area. However, I did not know how it came to be a law.
Turns out, there was a huge problem with alcoholism in the US. Linked to the macho culture and traditions of the European immigrants, alcohol promoted "social" moments reserved to men, who often squandered their wages at the saloon. In its wake followed poverty, domestic abuse and cirrhosis.
The fight was very much between the rural protestants (dry) and the city-dwellers of all other religious denominations (wet).
After the first episode, that sets the story in motion - albeit very slowly and with an overdose of American politics I found tedious - the documentary starts to hint at the fact that prohibition was mainly a conservative idea (therefore bad) and that the bootleggers were good people, because they provided customers with a product customers were perfectly entitled to buy.
This is just like suggesting that the sale of of hard drugs should be legal, because nobody has the right to interfere with the self-destructive instincts of individuals. That is a fact, but when these instincts interfere with a reasonable functioning of society, I find it highly objectionable.
I don't like the morally ambiguous stance of the story and I also find the minute details fo the politics behind it quite boring. Perhaps best suited to a liberal, American audience or just not well made.
The World's End (2013)
Starts strong, fizzles out
Simon Pegg is a likeable actor and I enjoyed Hot Fuzz, so what could go wrong with this, I thought when I saw it listed on Netflix? Turns out, quite a lot...
Pros: starts strong, albeit predictably enough, with the middle life crisis of five guys. One of them - Gary King (Pegg) - thinks that the failed pub crawl they had twenty years earlier was the best night of his life. Then, all went downhill for Gary. A pathetic alcoholic, Gary sees the successful completion of the pub crawl as the only goal in his life. He enlists his reluctant four friends and they start what seems a silly pursuit of lost youth.
Cons: what could have been a decent story, in the mould of Transporting 2, turns into a bizarre Sci-Fi / Invasion of Body Snatchers parody. Half way in their pub crawl, Gary and co. discovers planet Earth is being taken over by the "Network" and they decide to "resist", by continuing getting drunk... The plot derails completely, because the decision to continue drinking is totally illogical.
Besides, the whole plot is given away at the start of the movie, the "reunion" night duplicating the events of the first.
Also, the fast, funny, sarcastic dialogue of the first half sizzles out in the second part. The unlikely romance between one of the gang and the sister of another looks like filler and the apocalyptic ending is totally silly.
Silver Linings Playbook (2012)
Two lost souls and a lot of football
Pat (Bradley Cooper) is just out of a psychiatric institution, after eight months of "treatment" for violent behaviour and assault on his ex-wife's lover. He lost his job and his home and he is forced to move in with his parents.
Tiffany (Lawrence) is a young widow, stricken by grief after her husband's death, who turned to compulsively sleeping around. The fact that Lawrence plays a part written for a woman over thirty undermines her credibility, but not her capability to deliver.
They meet not-so-cute at a dinner organised by Tiffany's sister and from then on the plot creeps along, following their tentative relationship. It does not help that Pat's father, played by De Niro, is a bookmaker obsessed with football.
Way too much screen time is dedicated to this sub-plot and if you do not care about football - like me - you might find the second part quite tedious, with all the betting and games. Maybe without that and with a tighter editing, it could have been a decent movie... still not Oscar-worthy, but Cooper and Lawrence have some chemistry and their characters are marginally endearing.
On a general note, even if Pat is generically described as "bipolar" and Tiffany as "borderline" they seemed just two people who found it difficult coping with traumatic events - which does not imply any serious mental illness. I found it weird that in our society, reacting in violent or unpredictable ways to the blows of life, is apparently considered as "mental illness"...
The Aviator (2004)
Possibly one of the worst Scorsese ever
The fact that Hughes was an intriguing character who lived a mysterious and glamorous life in the golden age of Hollywood does not translate into an exciting movie.
Among the many problems:
- the total lack of structure. Seems like there is no screenplay and the passage from one scene to the other is totally random.
- the flat dialogue. See Hughes and Brewster's dinner scene as a good example of tedious exchange of words.
- the absurd idea that Beckinsale could in any way be a good choice for Ava Gardner. Beckinsale not only does not posses any glamour and style, but also has no physically resemblance whatsoever.
- ditto for Gwen Stefani, totally miscasted as Harlow
- the overlong scenes with Hughes being obsessive-compulsive, intruding with what should be the main plot.
- the problem of not knowing what exactly should have been the main plot ;-) Was it Hughes as a ladies' man? Or his passion for aviation? Or his being a movie producer? Or maybe the development of civil aviation in the US?
Way too many threads, all undercooked and meshed up in this messy recipe.
24 Hour Party People (2002)
Disappointing, amateurish and dull
Targeted to fans of post-punk Brit music, this is the loosely told tale of 15 years in the life of TV personality and failed music producer Tony Wilson, who put Manchester on the map of musically relevant UK cities.
The tale starts in 1976, when Wilson, already working as TV show host, was one of the 42 people who attended the Sex Pistols "concert" in Manchester and understood that the future of pop music lie with them, rather than in prog, glam or big bands. Wilson started producing Joy Division and other less famous groups with his Factory label and then bought The Hacienda, creating the pre-acid/extasy club scene that exploded in the 90s.
Although Wilson was involved with many groups, the story is roughly divided between the late 70s (Factory Records, Joy Division) and the mid-80s (the Hacienda, Happy Monday). New Order, a very successful band, born from the ashes of Joy Division is totally neglected. The film wraps up in the early 90s, with the sale of the Hacienda and the bankruptcy of Factory Records, Wilson never having been able to manage anything, except his journalistic career.
Apart from the unimpressive soundtrack, the other problems of the film are:
- the non-linear time frame, used randomly, such as showing Ian Curtis's suicide and then him on stage for no discernible reasons
- the blurry photography
- the shaky, handheld camera
- the intrusive and repeated use of "melting titles"
- the constant presence of Coogan, delivering lines in a flat monotone and acting like a total jerk
- the all-obnoxious cast of drug addicts, mean spirited, juvenile "musicians"
"This movie is about the music, I am just a secondary character, even in my own story" states falsely Steve Coogan, but "Tony" is almost in every single scene AND narrating some of the events, so that his presence is actually overbearing.
On the whole, despite my liking of the music and my wanting to like this movie, I found it disappointing, amateurish and badly made.
La Casa de Papel (2017)
Lady detective talks to mummy when going gets tough
A motley gang of criminals spend five months under the supervision of the hyper-annoying Professor, to learn how to pull off the heist of the millennium. If the premise sounds stupid, it's because it is. The Professor must possess infinite time and resources to select his gang, prepare the plan, organise the "lessons", rent a house in a secluded location, feed himself and the gang for months, etc...
But even if you buy it - for entertainment sake - all the "careful preparation" turns out as a mighty waste of time, because boys and girls on both sides of the law are too busy with their hormonal tempests.
All the four main female characters are engaged in illicit affairs and/or showing off plenty of flesh and lots of time is spent gazing at their buttocks. Discussing and carrying out intricate sexual cavortings soon derails the plot. Pregnancies are debated endlessly.
Within 24 hours from creating a hostage situation involving over 60 people, the criminals are privy to the affair of a married guy with his secretary and talk endlessly about that, like gossiping schoolgirls.
The stupidity of the dialogues is impressive.... Raquel, the lady detective in charge of negotiations, after having created a minor mess with the hostages, phones HER MUM, because she is terribly distressed, but they end up talking about a stranger Raquel is infatuated with.
I am not sure if the Raquel's role was a homage to female strength, but she actually succeed in being a massive stereotype of female irrationality and weakness. Could you imagine a male counterpart talking to mum about how hard his job is?
Finally, the whole plot is TOTALLY derivative: Tokyo is a bad copy of Mia, from Pulp Fiction; the criminals choosing fake names is copied from "Reservoir Dogs"; the hostages being forced to wear overalls, from "Inside man"... etc..
PS from the enthusiastic reviews of the audience, one would think the vast majority never watched a heist movie/series before...
Disjointed narrative but interesting cinematography
Emily Blunt plays Kate, a honest agent who mingles with the wrong law enforcement crowd. The first scene establishes Kate as a brave cop, but it is a totally gratuitous plunge into a horror movie and unnecessary to the main plot.
The main plot being Kate joining a motley crew of macho men, travelling to Mexico for a suspicious operation. Among the crew is strong, silent Del Toro as Alejandro. Being a foreigner, his presence as a "consultant" sounds fishy from the start.
After the extraction and torture of a Mexican cartel member and several lies later, we finally discover that Alejandro was indeed a disreputable character and that Kate is in the wrong line of business.
Most memorable is the scene in the tunnel, with an unusual but captivating cinematography. Overall, the plot is fairly predictable, with the expected statement about the West being the father of all evils - just before being shot, the Mexican drug lord tells his killer that it was the Americans who taught him his methods...
Whatever the story may be, looks like there are plenty of non-Westerns who are willing to learn and even surpass their alleged masters in cruelty and cunning. Perhaps it's time they should start taking their own responsibilities.
The Girl on the Train (2016)
A case of the "police procedures conveniently twisted for the audience"
Many thrillers are based on bizarre - or downright absurd - police procedures twisted to fit the plot. To mention but one, Gone Girl suffered form a clearly illogical ending. However, it also proved that the audience can swallow a lot of absurdities for the sake of a few thrills.
In this case, despite Emily Blunt's stellar performance, the execution is too sloppy to generate the consensus of Gone Girl. Emily plays Rachel, an alcoholic divorcee and unreliable narrator, who is fascinated by the allegedly perfect couple (Megan and Scott) she sees from her train commute. They also happen to be her ex-hubby Tom next door neighbours, who moved in after Rachel and Tom divorced.
While Tom is presently settled with ex mistress, now official second wife Anna, Rachel is reaching rock bottom, often hanging around her previous house in drunken despair. Having discovered that Megan is unfaithful to her husband, in a fit of drunken rage Rachel decides to take the matter in her hands. The plot is based on Rachel black-out of the events leading to Megan disappearance and the ensuing investigation.
In cases as this, the husband is always the first suspect, his movements and alibi being checked ASAP. However, in the movie it looks like the idea of checking on Scott comes only as an afterthought, because it makes so much more sense that a complete stranger like Rachel might have done the did for absolutely no reason whatsoever...
I am not revealing any plot twist, because the final one is quite predictable. The lackluster performance of "Girl on a train" is probably due to many factors, such as the theme of maternity hammered in at every chance; the many gratuitous sex scenes; the nastiness of all characters and the lack of real tension.
PS an alternative title could have been "All women obsessed with reproductive challenges, all men jerks"
Pretentious, plotless and soporific
I really had to force myself to watch this movie on Netflix, in three times, each "session" lasting as long as I could, before I started to drift off. I knew I was in trouble from the opnening scene of a symmetrically tiled floor being washed. Interesting it wasn't, but for sure it lasted a very long time. The unexciting opening credits were followed by disconnected episodes in the life of a large family and their two maids. Apologies to the politically correct police, but for a while I could not distinguish one maid from the other. After a while I learnt one was Cleo and the other Adela.
We focus on Cleo, who gets pregnant by an "inconsiderate" lover (understatement of the year). In the meantime, Sofia, the lady of the house is dumped by her doctor husband for a younger model. Sofia must take care of their four kids on her own, but does not seem quite up to the task. All this slightly soap-opera drama is seen from a distance, dialogues are boring and few and far between. There is no building of tension or plot development.
Other than this being filmed in black & white to offer a political statement of some sort, there is nothing that strucks me as genuinely moving. As a commercial operation, it's certainly the perfect Oscar bait. Yet another Mexican director will bag the big prize and everybody will be righteously happy that justice prevailed.... I mean, that the best film won the prize it deserves...or whatever
The Kominsky Method (2018)
Drily funny, thoroughly enjoyable series
After the disappointing "Frankie & Grace" I was not too keen about watching another series about senior citizens, but it turns out this is way better and a lot more enjoyable.
Douglas is the titular Sandy Kominsky, an actor who never quite made he but still has what seems to be a first class agent, Norman, played by an excellent Arkin.
Their friendship dates back several decades but they get closer when Norman's wife dies. Both Norman and Sandy are fathers to youngish daughters, although their relationship could not be more different.
Together, they face the problems of old age with a bit of sarcasm and sadness and a lot of irony.
The Dressmaker (2015)
All dressed up and nowhere to go
Some Australian movies can be very Australian, but easily exportable and loved all around the world (Strictly ballroom, Priscilla, Muriel's wedding). They mix great costumes and locations with social commentary and produce great results. The same cannot be said for this one.
It starts well, with Kate Winslet as Tilly, going back home to her little village in the Australian outback. This is the 50s, but the scene works as a Western, with the hero getting off the train in a dusty town, armed only with his courage and a gun. Tilly is armed with a sewing machine. She is a great seamstress and she is here to rescue Molly, her mother, from the village and to find the truth about what happened during her childhood.
So far so good, but then we're presented with a cast of equally despicable villagers, all bent to dislike and hate Tilly and Molly. The latter is played by Judy Davis, an actress I usually like, but found way over the top in this movie. Molly has allegedly forgotten everything that happened to her daughter and claims not to even recognised her.
The whole "revenge" plot is then derailed into an unlikely love story, which turns out to be a red herring. Tilly is still bent on revenge, but I could not stop wondering why she wasted so much time to work on her revenge and why instead of buying into her lover plan to leave the village with her mother ,when they could have....
The whole story dragged on far too long, there is way too much screaming and Hugo Weaving's police sergeant is too much of a caricature, besides being a major time consuming plot device. Excellent costumes, though.
The Favourite (2018)
Mixing mainstream with experimental pays with the critics
Some movies are born to be darlings of the critics. Take "experimental" director Lanthimos, lately very much in favour, thanks to puzzling movies such as "The lobster" and give him a script whatsoever. You may bet the critics will applaude the results, perhaps also thanks to the abundance of salacious, politically-correct scenes.
Allegedly, this should be a "nastily funny" historical romp, with focus on the powers struggles at court and between the Whigs and the Tories, but the sex indiscretions are a wink to modern voyeurism and manage to derail the movie.
Loosely based on historical facts, compressed and distorted, we spy on Anne queen of England, who after having given birth to 17 children - all of which died in infancy - decides to turn to safer sex and enjoy the intimate company of her best friend, Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough.
We're not given any information about the absence of Anne's husband and her switch from heterosexuality (or any of the background whatsoever).
Enter on the scene Abigail, Sarah's poor cousin and the happy couple is torn apart by jealousy and betrayal. Anne is sick, childish, weak, mentally unstable, easily pushed around by any strong woman who may happen to be around. Sarah is harsh, domineering, power-hungry, but perhaps loyal and Abigail is a hypocrite manipulator. Everything is in background, apart from Sarah and Abigail manoeuvring to get close to the queen and getting close means only the most classic love-sex-jealousy plot, only with all female characters.
Add lots of profane language and modern mannerisms, strident soundtrack, way too many fish-eye shots and weird angles, anachronistic costumes and what you get is a movie loved by the critics. For me it is just a missed chance, given that the three lead actresses are doing a great job and the plot was compelling enough without the overdose of sex.
I, Tonya (2017)
It should be just about the skating...
I do not follow any sports, I know nothing about skating and I live in Europe. Yet, even I caught a distant echo of what seems to have been a major US scandal. As a proof of how damaging gutter press can be, the only memory I had of the facts was that Harding physically assaulted one of her competitors.
Turns out the "real" story was a lot more complex than the version I barely recollected. According to this movie, Tonya Harding was the product of a violent environment, with a nightmare of a mother who pushed her into competition from age three. Throughout a history of domestic abuse, Tonya managed to become a great skater and then she fell for the wrong guy, Jeff who - by his own admission, had "no game whatsoever". The Tonya-Jeff relationship is the cliche' for codependent-destructive. After countless beatings (from both sides), splitting and reconciliations, the couple went back together for Tonya to get through the 1994 Olympic selections, by proving she had a "wholesome" family.
Unfortunately for her, Jeff had friends as dumb as himself. Jeff tried to "help" Tonya getting to the Olympics by "scaring off" her main competitor. It is not clear what the truth about the "scaring" really is: if it involved the beating or "only" treating letters. At this stage I think nobody cares anymore if Tonya knew about Jeff's plans.
Still, it's hard to believe that people that dumb can actually exist. What I also found terrifying is the relentless media coverage that turned a minor story into a scandal that crossed the Atlantic.
Tony was a trashy girl from the wrong part of town, without any social grace, who was considered too embarrassing to represent internationally the US and she made herself an easy target by refusing to mend her ways, mistaking stubbornness for authenticity. Even if I understand that Tonya's life was doomed form the start, I do not see her as a blameless victim, more as an accomplish.
In any case, the movie is absolutely brilliant. I loved the fake documentary technique, the music score is pitch-perfect and the main actors are terrific. Janney's Oscar for her role as Tonya's terrible mother was well deserved.