Skip to content

Recent Movies: Love Is Strange; Mommy; Gone Girl

November 4, 2014

Recent Movies

Love Is Strange

Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) are a New York couple who get married after having lived together for nearly forty years.  Shortly after the wedding, they are hit with a situation that causes them to temporarily live apart.  Ben moves in with his nephew who has a young family;  George moves in with a younger gay couple who are friends.

“Love is Strange” is a wonderful update to the brilliant “ Make Way for Tomorrow” (1937), a rare movie that was made during the Depression and actually used the Depression as part of its storyline.

Director Ira Sachs does a great job in conveying mood throughout this film.  In Ben’s new domestic setting, much tension is exposed with a powerful subtlety by the actors.  Ben is having his own difficulties while his presence is exacerbating the usual problems that a young family faces with a pre-teenage son.  Sachs also makes great use of classical piano pieces as part of the soundtrack creating a sweetness that is very touching.

A couple of major plot points are predictable but the most important one is exposed uniquely as it takes place off-screen and the viewers learn of the event many days after it has taken place.  This technique is quite effective.

The film is filled with many sweet moments such as George conversing with a young gay man who shares about his fading relationship that is coming to an end.  Other moments include the nostalgia for older ways of enjoying the arts and entertainment:  George does not share the enthusiasm of a younger friend about modern technology and Netfilx while Ben shows great enthusiasm about seeing an old movie on a big screen in a theatre.  The most beautiful moment of the movie is when the couple go out to a gay bar and converse about their lives, continuing their conversation as they walk in a deserted Greenwich Village street late at night.  The sweetness and poignancy of this scene are lingering.

Lithgow and Molina are superb in their performances easily convincing the audience that they truly are a couple who have been intimate for decades.  Among the supporting performances, the best include Marisa Tomei and Charlie Tahan as the mother and son of the household where Ben resides.

RATING   (out of four stars):   * * * 1/2

—————————————————-

Mommy

In a Montreal suburb, a single mother with financial and employment difficulties reunites with her violent teenage son who is being released from a detention centre.  More chaos ensues.

It would be very tempting to call this film a “kitchen sink drama”.  There are many explosive scenes which are cathartic.  Most films would have only a few such scenes, maybe only one at the climactic finale.  While the catharsis might seem too much, every one of those scenes works well because of the great talent of director Xavier Dolan and his equally talented cast.

There are thankfully lighter scenes that show the love in the dysfunctional family and their ability to have fun especially as they are joined by a mysterious neighbour across the street, Kyla, who seems to have her own troubles.  Her troubles seem lessened as she bonds with the unusual mother-son duo.  Kyla’s situation seems a bit too mysterious at times.  As a subplot, it could have used a few hints to tap viewers further into the reasons why she prefers the family across the street to her own.

The film’s greatest strengths are two scenes near the end.  One is the perfectly executed climactic scene.  The other is the one that follows – a very melancholy scene of transition with which most viewers could sadly identify.

As mentioned, Dolan has directed a superb cast.  As the troubled teenager, Antoine Olivier Pilon has the perfect balance of rage and vulnerability.  As the neighbour Kyla, Suzanne Clément is very believable as someone facing change and loosening up especially when she has fits of uncontrollable laughter.  As the mother, Anne Dorval gives Dolan another superb performance as she did with “I Killed My Mother” (2009).  Her range in the final two pivotal scenes display true brilliance.

RATING:   * * * 1/2

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT:     Performance by Anne Dorval

———————————————————————————–

Gone Girl

The film begins on the day of the fifth wedding anniversary of Nick (Ben Affleck) and Amy (Rosamund Pike), a not-so-happily married couple who live in a small town in Missouri .  On that day, Amy is discovered to be missing after a home break-in.  During the investigation, there is evidence that Nick might be responsible for Amy’s disappearance.

For the most part, “Gone Girl” is superb as an edge-of-your-seat thriller.  This is not surprising considering the director is David Fincher who did so well with “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (2008) and especially with “The Social Network” (2010).  His cast is very good.  Affleck is great as the film’s anchor; Pike shows superior skills in a way I won’t mention here in order to avoid spoilers.  The screenplay, by Gillian Flynn (based on her novel) has many fascinating twists and turns especially a plot device borrowed from the classic “Vertigo” (1958): bringing the audience up to speed midway through the movie.

While “Gone Girl” had the potential to be a great movie, it is sadly marred by an ending that is unsatisfying and disappointing.  Fiction is allowed some distance from real life but this film takes too many liberties to the point of being far-fetched.  Also, in the portrayal of the rushed presumption of guilt on men who are accused of mistreating women, the viewer is left with a biased lack of balance in this ongoing and necessary debate.

RATING:   * * *

 

Advertisements

From → Uncategorized

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: