Tuesday, 24 January 2017

January 26 2017:  
Live by Night
Perfect Strangers

It's a big day for film! The 2017 Oscar nominations are out, and with them the usual slew of commentary about the snubs, the justly deserved and the not-so-worthy! Certainly Moonlight, reviewed here, is on my top films list. The other three films reviewed today are all possible candidates for Australia Day viewing, depending upon your tastes. Nothing mind-blowing, but nothing too terrible!  

Director: Barry Jenkins
Length: 116 min

© Roadshow - Moonlight is simply sublime
Chiron (as a young lad played by Alex Hibbert) is born to a drug-addicted mother (Naomie Harris) in a rough black neighborhood of Miami. At school he is known as Little and is relentlessly bullied. When he meets a compassionate older man, Juan, (Mahershala Ali), who happens to be the local drug dealer, he develops some measure of self-esteem and a sense of belonging in the home Juan shares with his caring girlfriend Teresa. In his teen years Chiron (Ashton Sanders) is still bullied and grapples with his sexual identity as he shares first tentative kisses with friend Kevin.  Finally as an adult, Chiron becomes known as Black (Trevante Rhodes) and we see how the influences of his prior life have made him who he is. To attempt to pigeonhole what Moonlight is about is to limit this breathtaking movie. A man's life is seen in three distinct chapters, yet underneath the intensely personal tale there are many universal themes.  All the main characters defy stereotyping - they are richly nuanced and the whole image of what it means to be an Afro-American man, and a gay man, is rigorously challenged. This is film-making at the top of its game. From stunning, intimate cinematography to a creative and ethereal music score, along with superb performances from each and every cast member, Moonlight is a film of rare emotion and beauty.   
5 - unmissable!

Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Length: 117 min

© Universal - one man - 23 different identities! 
Despite being condemned as inappropriate film fodder by some mental health bodies, DID, or Dissociative Identity Disorder, has always provided a fascinating movie theme. Split personality, as it was then known, came to the fore in The Three Faces of Eve in 1957. Now Shyamalan, well-known director of the "scary film" genre (The Sixth Sense) tackles the theme, creating Kevin, a character with no less than 23 different personalities. One of these identities abducts and imprisons three teenage girls and subjects them to a terrifying ordeal in which they never know who they will meet next, and whether they can convince one of the personalities to help them escape. This is truly a showcase for the remarkable acting talent of James McAvoy, who segues seamlessly from one persona to the other. The three girls are highly credible, with the stand-out being Anya Taylor Joy as Casey, the most fearless of the three, and someone with her own traumatic past. Kevin's therapist Dr Fletcher is a strong character, who helps fill us in on the theory of DID. As far as scary movies go, this one scrubs up well, without too much overt violence or blood, but with a relentless undercurrent of tension and fear. It certainly had me on the edge of my seat!   
3 - recommended!

Live by Night
Director: Ben Affleck
Length: 123 min

© Warner Bros  - Affleck as the archetypal gangster -
or maybe not! 
Based upon Denis Lehane's best-selling novel, Live by Night is a handsome, sprawling story of Joe Coughlin (Ben Affleck), son of a cop, who is attracted by the dark side. In the era of Prohibition Coughlin teams up with a Florida gangster to run the rum racket, but he is simply not as cruel as is required to be a gangster. 
Affleck must have always wanted to make a gangster flick because he has thrown just about every trope of the genre into the movie - revenge, old jalopies, 1920s glamour,  bucket-loads of machine-gun violence and not one but two gals Joe loves (Sienna Miller and Zoe Saldana).  While the film as a whole is entertaining enough, I didn't really feel ultra-strongly for the characters. Miller, Saldana, Elle Fanning as a junkie turned preacher,  Chris Cooper as her Dad, and Robert Glenister as Albert White, Joe's arch-enemy  are all excellent, but I suspect Affleck himself could be the weak link. Perhaps it's too much to write, direct and star in the one film! The film won't make the pantheon of great gangster movies, but fans of the genre should enjoy it nevertheless, and in certain scenes the cinematography is simply beautiful.     
3 - recommended!

Perfect Strangers
Director: Paolo Genovese
Length: 97 min

© Palace - a salutary tale for the mobile phone era
A group of seven friends gets together for a dinner party. The hosts Rocco and Eva are a plastic surgeon and psychiatrist respectively. Their guests include newlyweds Bianca (a vet) and Cosimo (a taxi driver), unhappily married Lele and Carlotta, and a single man Peppe, a retrenched teacher who was hoping to introduce his new girlfriend to the group, but she is apparently ill. They decide to play a game - put the mobile phones in the middle of the table, and all incoming texts and calls will be revealed to the group in a "we have no secrets from each other" display of bravado. Needless to say the whole thing goes pear-shaped when Lele, fearing being sprung by a text he wouldn't want his wife to see, swaps his phone with Peppe's. This is a smart and salutary lesson about the modern era. Our phones have become the repository of the details of our lives. Those lives themselves are defined by our public selves, private selves and secret selves. The script is full of rapid fire witty dialogue, but when things turn ugly, the director manages to create empathy for most of the characters without alienating the audience. Probably the whole thing would have worked just as well as a play, but it's still a strong film, with wonderful performances, especially from Marco Giallini as Rocco, the most measured and likeable of the group. We have to ask ourselves how well do we really know our closest friends and partners!
3.5 - recommended!

No comments:

Post a Comment