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Tag Archives: Dermot Mulroney

August: Osage County

August: Osage CountySynopsis

Violet (Merryl Streep) is a pill addicted career sufferer.  Her husband (Sam Shepard) is an alcoholic poet who kills himself.  Her three daughters are Barbara with husband (Ewan McGregor), Ivy, and Karen (with boyfriend).  They turn up for Shepard’s funeral.  Benedict Cumberbatch misses the funeral but turns up for the wake.  Barbara also brings her teenage daughter.  Mattie Fae (Margot Martindale) is Violet’s sister and she brings her husband.  There are arguments and people go home…

Review

At the centre of this “Who’s Afraid of Meryl Streep” is of course, Meryl Streep who is superbly bitchy to everyone.  Did Sam Shepherd jump into the lake or very sensibly get lost?  It’s Sam Shepherd’s fate to play the ageing Hemingway patriarch of frontier artistic America, even when he’s carrying a gun you expect some philosophy to go with it.  Enduring Violet is above and beyond the call of duty.  Streep is sometimes like Elizabeth Taylor in Who’s Afraid? and sometimes like Vivien Leigh: all amateur psychodrama played by method actor’s school.  You do get weary of her self centred vileness.  The family members stoically have to wait to be patronisingly dismissed for their self absorbed dejection.  Because of her career she wears a black wig but this seems more like a quirkily interesting stage prop.  I kept wondering when she was going to take it off and flog somebody with it.  Violet’s self revelation is all speechy performance rather than something natural.  Scripted by playwright Tracey Letts, we feel like we’ve been dragged on to its stage rather than watching real people hammer out family problems.  Violet mercilessly mocks Benedict Cumberbatch’s character. In this film his fish mouth looks even more lugubrious as he reveals his incestuous attraction for the woman who turns out to be his sister.  Could this film sustain any fascination if it were just about ordinary people venting their tensions around the dinner table?  Of course not, that would be too close to soap opera, things have got to be melodramatic and hokeyly colourful.

The best lines in the film are at the beginning when Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor talk about the terrifying emptiness of the Oklahoma prairies.  Barbara thinks it would be better if it were returned to native Americans.  This is the same wonder at it we saw in Nebraska and Inside Lewyn Davis.  Naturally, it’s all set on a hot day so the weather can match their passion.  A pretty corny film, though as ever, Meryl Streep acts well.

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Posted by on March 29, 2014 in Film Reviews

 

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Stoker

Stoker film posterSynopsis

Starring Nicole Kidman as Mrs Stoker whose husband Richard has just died (played by Dermot Mulroney).  Her daughter is India (Mia Wasikowska).  Charlie (Matthew Goode) turns up.  He has sexual designs on the Stoker mother and daughter.  India flirts and Charlie teaches her to kill.  Charlie has a psychiatric history.  He kills his brother Richard.  Who else will he kill?

Review

Made by Park Chan Wook (who made Oldboy in 2003).  This is such a sensually loaded film it makes you feel you’re being stroked.  The images are lush in a sort of Elvira Madigan trance of an idyllic summer.  One scene goes from the combing of hair to wheat waving in the wind.  Blood sprays white flowers.  It’s like Terence Mallick’s visual style mixed with a Hitchcock plot (indeed it derives from Shadow of a Doubt).  Nicole Kidman looks poised to aim neurosis or worse at whoever is in her sights  Sexual jealousy from mother to daughter is highly charged.  Emotions swarm beneath chilly elegance and it later electrifies the atmosphere.  Charlie. is a smirking con man, we know he is dangerous but we’ve seen more convincing specimens of his type: like Laurence Olivier in Rebecca, Humphrey Bogart and Claude Rains.  Charlie is not given any memorable lines but he is a suave killer.  This film lacks any originality of plot so it compensates by its density of image.  India says arty things about the photographs catching us out in unusual angles.  She is not exactly a killer in the style of Hitchcock’s Rope, more a lethal primitive pretending to sophistication.  Her voice-over reminds us of the amoral naivety of Sissy Spacek in Badlands.  It does not have the mesmeric music of that film although Summer Wine is a pleasant record sound track.  She sleeps on a bed with several pairs of identical shoes in a circle round her.  She may be rich and beautiful but she is ultimately a mundane assassin.  This is the Southern US and of course stereotypically it has to be loaded with a potential for evil, so it wouldn’t work if it were set in Akron Ohio would it?

Nicole Kidman is left with little to do in this film.  We are left to wonder if she is entirely guiltless of her husband’s death, and who is in more danger from Charlie, daughter or mother, and since they’re both unlikeable from the start we wouldn’t mind seeing their comeuppence.  Like a snooze in a wheat field.

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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The Grey

The Grey posterSynopsis

Set in Alaska in the snow and pine forests where wolf packs live.  Liam Neeson plays a rifleman who is hired by a petroleum company to hunt wolves that attack people.  He is a loner who longs for his wife and nearly kills himself.  He is on a plane with rough frontier people.  The plane crashes in icy wilderness and as Neeson uses his skills to become the leader facing down macho competition from the surviving group.  They all face death,,,

Criticism

The film starts out with the stereotypically rugged loner with an emotionally difficult past, and he’s on a plane with familiarly rugged attitudes and faces you find in many westerns.  The plane crashes and I wondered if we were in for Lost with ice and snow.  Instead a very watchable film survived the early crash.  We have also seen lots of survival films in which the best and strongest guy prevails over the inevitable challenge to his natural authority.  When his leadership is contested we expect his rivals to be motivated by weakness and cynical self disappointment and The Grey has quite a bit of that  Then we get a creepy family man telling the group about his relationship with his family, this is the survival equivalent of the war film in which a soldier shows an enemy soldier his family photograph in order to establish his credentials as a human being under the uniform.  The Grey does all this but it works, after all what would people in extreme situations talk to one another about?  The simplified confrontations are used for the benefit of the film because of the limitations of time.  We wouldn’t pay to watch a film where someone just mumbles inanely in the snow for a couple of hours, would we? Come to think of it, that’s what we get in a lot of mainstream films anyway.

The Grey does a creditable job of steering us through and beyond the usual confrontational reliabilities:  winning over the sneering cynic, the sensitive guy dying, the bloody minded maverick who finally realizes he can’t make it without the others, the ritualized recognition of our animality (they eat a wolf’s carcass and one of the characters hacks off the wolf’s head in a sort of blood rite).  Throughout all this, Liam Neeson emerges as a monument of stern self reliance, his features like a bony mask of patience and suffering.  A sort of nature mysticism welds their solidarity in the face of icy wilderness and predatory wolves who stalk them.  When people face unwanted ordeals  of pain and endurance (like surviving in wildernesses and enduring childbirth) it shows the pathetically childish nonsense of machismo in stark relief, and people will suffer what they can the more reluctantly, the more heroically.  The Grey is at its best when it shows all this.  They have to get off a mountain by crossing over to the forest below and one of them falls and crashes into the trees hallucinating his daughter as he dies.  Their acceptance of probable death is what endows these otherwise unremarkable people with tragic heroism.  There is dark humour and then acceptance of death.  This reminded me of Jack London stories also set in the Alaskan forests.  Watching this film is a bit like studying a manuel for survival after a plane crash.  We learn that wolves have to be faced down in a confrontation, that the alpha wolf will send in a low status wolf to test the opposition.  Mercifully in The Grey we don’t hear about cannibalism or get any cannibal jokes, the main thing is to build a fire and eat the wolves.

A spectacular adventure.

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2012 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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