Tag Archives: Kate Winslet

Labor Day

Labor Day film posterSynopsis

Kate Winslet is a lone mother with her son.  She seems to be suffering from agrophobia, she can’t get out of the house confidently.  Her son Henry (Gattlin Griffin) takes her to the supermarket where Josh Brolin (playing Frank) kidnaps the pair and force them to take him home.  He’s a fugitive from jail and they must harbour him.  Eventually Winslet and Brolin build up trust then love, but they must leave so as to get away from neighbours and police.  They pack up for Canada, will they get away?


The critics have been dismissive about this and one can see why, it’s all rather hokey and unrealistic.  This guy is too good to be true, he fixes things around the house, he is a good nurse to a visiting disabled boy.  In one scene it’s all hilariously reminiscent of that clay pot making episode with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore in Ghost.  This time Brolin teaches Winslet how to make a peach pie, and what he does with the peaches is as ambitiously sensual as what Swayze did with the clay.  Okay, so it’s all what might be some women’s fantasy: the strong capable guy around the house.  There are erotic nuances except the business of masterfully doing what needs to be done.  The boy is initially hostile but is won over by their domestic bliss.  In spite of this, I did quite like the film because it’s closer to the spirit of David Janssen’s Fugitive TV series from the 60s, than the Harrison Ford Fugitive film is.  I’m a fan of Janssen’s fugitive who was essentially a Christlike figure: wrongfully accused of murdering his wife and leading often corrupt and wicked ‘law abiding’ folk on the right path.  In each episode the innocent Richard Kimble is on the run and has to  battle betrayal to the pursuing law enforcer Gerard.  Brolin’s fugitive is similarly a strong decent guy whose misfortunes expose the shortcomings of others.  His behaviour has the tense rationality of the cornered decency.  There is nothing superfluous in the plot and Winslet is good at tightly controlling the emotional turmoil, she could have been hammy but she isn’t.  Hers and Brolin’s is a happy partnership, unlike her disastrous marriage with Leonardro di Caprio in Revolutionary Road.  It’s the unpromising start that blossoms into love.  Sentimental but quite watchable..

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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in At the cinema, Film Reviews


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Carnage posterSynopsis

Based on a play by Yasmina Reza, it’s supposed to be set in a New York apartment, but was filmed in Paris because Roman Polanski (the director) cannot film in America.  The film starts with an argument between two boys, one of them strikes the other in the mouth with a stick.  Then we go to the apartment where the parents of the two boys try to reach a satisfactory decision which will prevent any recourse to the legal option.  The parents of the offending boy are played by Kate Winslet, who is Nancy Cowan an investment banker, and Christopher Waltz plays Alan a corporation lawyer.  The parents of the injured boy are Michael Langstreet, played by John C Reilly, and Penelope Langstreet played by Jodie Foster.  Their initially sociable politeness ends in raging acrimony.  The film ends with the two boys having a friendly chat.


The title of this film promises predatory behaviour, a Bunuel tea party where bourgeoise politeness will be ripped away.  Since Nietzsche made us aware of Christian hypocrisy and self deception, one of our favourite blood sports is to see the chattering classes stripping the effete convention of politeness from each other, to reveal the ravening egomaniac beneath.  These are affluent cage fighters, whose cage is the smart apartment trip-wired with faux pas giveaways of the anxious social climber.  Polanski has set his films in confined domestic spaces, the affluent respectability accentuating the lurking threat of a psychological disintegration.  The main problem with this film is that these couples become too easy targets.  Penelope (Foster) is so obviously a brittle and hysterical control freak and coffee table liberal that she barely merits satire.  She is humourless and screechingly self righteous, the very epitome of the politically correct crusader.  The rippling latex of her face easily contorts with rage.  She is ready to defend herself against imagined or real assaults on her insecurely contrived dignity.  Her husband Mike (John Reilly) has a prosaic job compared to the more glamorous careers of Nancy and Alan, so they must suspect that they might be the recipients of condescension which makes them in turn even more ready to lash out.  Alan plays the usual middle class game of status-driven put downs but Mike in turn mocks his role in corporate corruption.  Alan keeps answering his mobile phone, to the eventual exasperation of Nancy who drops it in the tulip vase.  The Cowans nearly exit the cage door twice but return to resume hostilities.  On one occasion Nancy improbably comes back for more argument when she could have easily walked away.  We can almost see Polanski (himself pretty corrupt and feral when we look at his biography) prodding the protagonists back through the cage bars.  Nancy vomits over Penelope’s art books, so we wonder how lavatorial the shouting match is going to get.  Their slanging match is then fired by whiskey and we get the descent by Alan into self pity.  Argument seems sustained, but what we get towards the end is a solipsistic scream for help as each character undermines the other’s sincerity in self awareness.  They flatter themselves with the illusion of getting rid of illusions.  We are reminded here of the role of self deception in our everyday social exchanges and how difficult it is to be honest, how lying is socially necessary.  Even the whiskey sodden revelations seem just pre-emptive claims of sincerity that self-servingly sustain the phoniness. The film wallows in this and tries to make us complicit in our self recognition.  It’s artificial and forced and is an unsubtle symptom of our malaise.   One thinks of those films driven by laurating honesty, those by Tenessee Williams and Arthur Miller.

Entertaining but unconvincing, like watching actors rehearsing a play about naughty people.

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Posted by on February 22, 2012 in At the cinema, Film Reviews


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