Movie Review: ‘Greta’ is Kind of Dumb But Also Very Fun, Just Like All Good Trashy Thrillers!

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Jonathan Hession/Focus Features

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Isabelle Huppert, Maika Monroe, Colm Feore, Stephen Rea

Director: Neil Jordan

Running Time: 98 Minutes

Rating: R for Psychological and Physical Torture From a Spry Sixtysomething Woman

Release Date: March 1, 2019

Is it better to know going in to a nonsensical movie that it doesn’t make sense, or to put it all together afterwards? Or perhaps thinking in terms of a binary between “sense” and “nonsense” is not really the best way to approach a juicy horror flick about obsession. That is certainly the case with Greta, in which director Neil Jordan sets Isabelle Huppert loose on Chloë Grace Moretz, turning a budding intergenerational friendship into a deranged domestic fantasy. There are moments when I wonder how a character can get away with so much bad behavior, or when I am taken back at how big a role coincidence plays in all the machinations. But there are so many twisted pleasures along the way that I cannot be too mad.

CREDIT: Shane Mahood/Focus Features

Frances McCullen (Moretz) has recently moved to New York City, and she is somehow still trusting enough to return a handbag she finds on the subway to the home of the person who lost it. That person is Greta (Huppert), a French piano teacher who lives alone and who it turns out has been leaving behind a whole series of bags to lure unsuspecting kind young women into her clutches. But before we peel back all the layers on Greta, we get to spend some quality time with Frances and her roommate Erica (Maika Monroe). Erica is the much more cautious yin to Frances’ yang, immediately pegging Greta for the creep that she is. But that does not mean she isn’t also an advocate for alternative gut health treatments, which means that we get a surprising amount of dialogue about the wonders of colonics. Seriously, I would have been happy if this movie were just an hour and a half of Monroe discussing the joy of fluids getting shot up her butthole.

As for why Greta enjoys torturing Frances and others like her, her motivations remain vague, to the film’s advantages although perhaps to some viewers’ frustrations. Through reveals about Greta’s strained relationship with her daughter, Jordan hints at some clear explanation that never really comes. But if you calibrate your expectations to accepting that that explanation is unnecessary, then you should be good to go. There are also some implications that Frances is drawn to Greta because she sees her as a replacement for her own recently deceased mother. But all this mother business is just a framework to build the shenanigans around. Don’t worry about all that – just sit back and enjoy Huppert dancing psychotically and ignore any concerns about “logic” and “motivation.”

Greta is Recommended If You Like: Audition, Misery, The Visit

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Colonics

This Is a Movie Review: Luca Guadagnino’s ‘Suspiria’ is So Baroque, Don’t Fix It

1 Comment

CREDIT: Alessio Bolzoni; Courtesy of Amazon Studios

This review was originally published on News Cult in October 2018.

Starring: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Chloë Grace Moretz

Director: Luca Guadagnino

Running Time: 152 Minutes

Rating: R for Imaginatively Bloody Violence and Witchcraft-Based Nudity

Release Date: October 26, 2018 (Limited)

I’ve seen the 1977 original Dario Argento-directed Suspiria, but I don’t remember much about it, other than the colors and the music. I also recall that the premise is that a young American ballet student arrives at a prestigious dance academy in Germany, where she discovers that the place is run by a coven of witches. That is the same setup for Luca Guadagnino’s remake, but in just about every other way, this is not a film that should feel compelled to call itself a remake. Let me jump in with my theory on proper remake strategy: a good remake can be based on a good or bad movie, but it must necessarily be significantly different enough from the original. Because if the original was bad, why would you want to do it over again? But if the original was good, it would be pointless to do it all over again, since the original still exists. The new Suspiria is certainly different enough, more inspired by than redoing the original. Although it is possible that it is recreating scenes that I forgot about, but if that is the case, that’s clearly not a problem.

Guadagnino is a master of baroque delights. From Dakota Johnson’s slithery dancing to an onslaught of bodily contortions and explosions, this is a mass feast of sensory awesomeness. I’m pretty sure that Thom Yorke’s score is also excellent, but I’ll have to listen again to make sure. As for any deeper themes – whether regarding feminism, power dynamics, or the like – there may be plenty to jump into there. Perhaps I will dig into it a month or a year from now. But it’s also possible there may not be any subtext at all. And that is just dandy in this case. Also, pay special attention to “Lutz Ebersdorf.” He’s going places.

Suspiria is Recommended If You Like: Suspiria (1977), Hausu, Hereditary

Grade: 4 out of 5 Leotards

 

This Is a Movie Review: ‘The Miseducation of Cameron Post’ is Sure of Itself, Almost Too Sure

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Jeong Park/FilmRise

This review was originally posted on News Cult in August 2018.

Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, John Gallagher Jr., Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck, Jennifer Ehle

Director: Desiree Akhavan

Running Time: 90 Minutes

Rating: Unrated, But It Would Probably Be R for Clear (Though Not-Entirely-Explicit) Sexuality

Release Date: August 3, 2018 (Limited)

There’s something fundamentally unsatisfying about the ending of The Miseducation of Cameron Post. But it would be unfair to be too angry at this lack of resolution, as it is justified both narratively and (I would imagine) by real-life verisimilitude. Chloë Grace Moretz plays the lesbian title character who gets sent by her aunt to God’s Promise, a camp that practices gay conversion therapy. Without spoiling too much, there is hope for her and a few other camp attendees by the conclusion, though there are also still plenty of reasons to be concerned about their future. That ambiguity is fine. But there is a larger impasse at play here that makes Cameron Post feel a little incomplete despite how astute and empathetic it is.

The issue is with the protagonist. To be entertaining, a movie does not require a dynamic, changing lead character, but it does require that if it wants to take us on a journey. Writer/director Desiree Akhavan does want to do that, but Cameron Post is rather static. Moretz does exactly what is asked of her. She is broken up over her family’s inability to embrace her true identity, but she will never believe any of the lies that God’s Promise feeds her. She recognizes emotional manipulation for what it is and is strong-willed enough to withstand it. She is like that when we meet her, and she remains so throughout. Her two closest friends (Sasha Lane, Forrest Goodluck) are similarly just as sure of themselves.

On the one hand, it would make more sense if Akhavan focused more on characters who are having a more difficult struggle. There would be no shortage of options, as multiple attendees attempt to buy into the camp’s teachings while ultimately unable to suppress their urges, some of them resorting to self-harm to deal with the conflict. But on the other hand, I appreciate that we get to spend more time with the kids who are defiantly certain about who they are. There is a low-key hangout vibe in what would otherwise be an emotional minefield. It’s a pleasant enough film, but it sometimes it takes unpleasant confrontation to make a difference.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post is Recommended If You Like: Saved!, Hangout Sitcoms with Dark Undertones

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Icebergs

‘I Love You, Daddy’ Was Already Creepy Before the Louis C.K. Allegations Broke. Now It’s Totally Inexplicable

Leave a comment

CREDIT: YouTube Screenshot

This essay was originally posted on News Cult in November 2017.

After multiple women came forward with stories of sexual misconduct perpetrated against them by Louis C.K., The Orchard pulled his film I Love You, Daddy (written, directed by, and starring C.K.) from its release schedule, just a week before it was set to come out. Considering the nature of the accusations, C.K. confessing to their truth, and the subject matter of the film, there was really no other choice for The Orchard to make, despite having paid $5 million for the distribution rights. Whenever entertainers get caught up in scandal, the viability of their projects is called into question, both financially and ethically. In this case, that is especially true, as I Love You, Daddy is astoundingly reflective of C.K.’s own experiences.

I Love You, Daddy will likely never see the light of a full theatrical release, but it was screening for press up until just a few days before it was pulled from the schedule. It offers plenty that is worth discussing, but I cannot imagine it is something that any potential viewer could ever unabashedly enjoy, even if C.K. had never masturbated in front of women without their consent. The premise reads like the worst possible idea that can be conceived in light of this story coming out. C.K. plays Glen Topher, a TV writer/producer (he’s pretty much basically playing himself) who tries to prevent his 17-year-old daughter China (Chloë Grace-Moretz) from dating 68-year-old filmmaker Leslie Goodwin (John Malkovich), who is infamous for his predilection for younger women and has been dogged for years by rumors of sexual abuse.

Did C.K. mean for I Love You, Daddy to be some sort of elaborate confession/apology? (At one point, Glen literally says, “I’m sorry, women.”) Or is he just baiting us, as The Huffington Post’s Matthew Jacobs suggests, into thinking it is something more substantial than it actually is? I can only speculate at his motivation. Perhaps he will speak to that publicly at some point. I often make a point when discussing controversial films to emphasize that portrayal does not equal endorsement, but in this case, that maxim falls short. I can describe for you the specific events that happen in I Love You, Daddy (like one character aggressively miming masturbation in front of others), but I am struggling to figure out what message, if any, it is portraying or endorsing. But considering the subject matter and the real-life context, that ambiguity cannot be defended.

Even if C.K. were not guilty of sexual misconduct, I Love You, Daddy would still be a dicey proposition. Leslie is clearly a stand-in for Woody Allen, who started his relationship with his wife, Soon-Yi Previn, when she was still a teenager and he was in his fifties and who has been accused of sexual abuse by his own children. The film is also a clear homage to Allen’s Manhattan, in which he plays a 42-year-old dating a 17-year-old. Let’s suppose a hypothetical in which Allen and C.K. are both free of controversy, rendering Glen and Leslie both wholly fictional creations. Even in that case, I Love You, Daddy is still creepy and misguided. In its best possible version, it could have seriously grappled with whether or not human beings’ most socially unacceptable urges can ever be morally defended. But that would require a delicate touch that this film simply does not have.