‘Women Talking,’ Audience Listening

1 Comment

Women Talking, ooh, Women Talking! (Credit: Michael Gibson/©2022 Orion Releasing LLC. All Rights Reserved.)

Starring: Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Judith Ivey, Ben Whishaw, Frances McDormand, Sheila McCarthy

Director: Sarah Polley

Running Time: 104 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Discussions of Abuse and Assault

Release Date: December 23, 2022 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: Women Talking is indeed about a group of women who are talking. What are they talking about? Let’s dig into it.

These women are members of a Mennonite colony, which means that they’re rather insular and isolated by nature. And with their current set of circumstances, they’re even more isolated than usual. The men in their community have been severely abusing them, and it’s time to decide what to do about that. Their options are: do nothing, stay and fight, or leave and start anew. None of those choices are perfect, but they’ve reached a breaking point and something must be done. So these very opinionated women hash it out for as long as necessary until they can come to a solution that enough of them can go along with, while Ben Whishaw plays the one kindly man who stays behind to take the minutes.

What Made an Impression?: One of the first things you’ll notice about Women Talking – unless you’re too drowsy to notice – is how hypnotically desaturated the color palette is. It’s liable to lull you to sleep; I’ll leave it up to you all to decide whether or not that’s a positive. I will say that I felt transported, which is one of the best (if not THE best) ways to feel sleepy at a movie theater. I was whisked away into a mysterious land, where the secrets flowed forth like a geyser.

The other major element of Women Talking that is impossible to ignore is Hildur Guðnadóttir’s rustic score that I would label “thriller lite.” It captures the sense of needing to run away while you’re sitting still. There’s also a vibe to those plucking strings that can best be described as The Temptation of Comfort. Stillness and chaos, bound together.

And as a final note, I will register my surprise at how much of a peek we get at the outside world, particularly in the form of a census worker driving by and calling out for the members of the community to come and be counted for the 2010 population. These Mennonites mostly eschew modern amenities, so even knowing what year it is feels like a betrayal of their trust. But that beckoning, that frisson, is what this conflict is all about. The times they are a-changin’, no matter what year you decide to live in.

Women Talking is Recommended If You Like: 12 Angry Men, but if it were set in a barn

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Votes

How Many Men Does It Take to Man Up ‘Men’?

Leave a comment

“Men!” (CREDIT: A24)

Starring: Jessie Buckley, Rory Kinnear, Paapa Essiedu, Gayle Rankin

Director: Alex Garland

Running Time: 100 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: May 20, 2022 (Theaters)

Men, men, men, men, manly men, men, men… I’m sorry if any reference to Two and a Half Men gives any of my readers immediate stress nightmares, but I couldn’t get that repetitive theme song out of my head in anticipation of seeing the Alex Garland-written-and-directed Men. So that’s what’s setting the tone of this review, and we’re simply going to have to deal with it. I’m a musically-oriented person, and that’s just the way it is. If you name your movie “Men,” then I’m going to get a song about men stuck in my head! Thankfully, though, that earworm vibe is sort of appropriate. It’s kind of what the widow Harper Marlowe (Jessie Buckley) experiences herself in a much darker fashion. So in a roundabout sort of way, my subconscious knew exactly what to do to take care of me. It definitely helped to process that climactic “birth” scene.

Grade: Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh, Man!

Entertainment To-Do List: Week of 4/23/21

Leave a comment

Rutherford Falls (CREDIT: Peacock/YouTube Screenshot)

Every week, I list all the upcoming (or recently released) movies, TV shows, albums, podcasts, etc. that I believe are worth checking out.

Mortal Kombat (2021) (Theaters and Streaming on HBO Max)
Together Together (April 23 in Theaters, May 11 On Demand) – Ed Helms, Patti Harrison, and surrogacy, oh my!

Rutherford Falls Season 1 (Premiered April 22 on Peacock) – Mike Schur, Ed Helms, and a town bordering a Native American reservation walk into a sitcom.
Romeo and Juliet (April 23 on PBS) – A new production from London’s National Theater starring Jessie Buckley and Josh O’Connor
A Black Lady Sketch Show Season 2 Premiere (April 23 on HBO)
-93rd Academy Awards (April 25 on ABC) – Handin’ out those Oscars.
The Handmaid’s Tale Season 4 Premiere (April 28 on Hulu)

-Eric Church, Heart & Soul – A three-part album released over the course of a week!
-Dinosaur Jr., Sweep It Into Space

I’m Thinking of Writing Things (‘I’m Thinking of Ending Things’ Review)

Leave a comment

I’m Thinking of Ending Things (CREDIT: Mary Cybulski/Netflix)

Starring: Jessie Buckley, Jesse Plemons, Toni Collette, David Thewlis

Director: Charlie Kaufman

Running Time: 134 Minutes

Rating: R

Release Date: September 4, 2020

I’m Thinking of Ending Things features a couple of things that I REALLY love in a pair of crucial scenes: a furry doggie and a trip to the ice cream shop! But there appear to be sinister elements lurking beneath the surfaces, as Jimmy the fluffy border collie seems to be stuck in a time loop of shaking himself dry, and Jake (Jesse Plemons) and the young woman (Jessie Buckley) buy their frozen treats in the middle of a snowstorm. Ice cream might taste great year-round, but if you’re going to eat it in the winter, you’d probably want to do it while snuggled up at home! (Also, that girl at the ice cream shop hints at … something nefarious.)

Really, the entirety of I’m Thinking of Ending Things is about events that I love but that have something terrifying bubbling (barely) beneath the surface. Meeting your s.o.’s parents for dinner?! Great, but the time-space continuum seems to be coming undone. Having a conversation in the car about whatever the hell pops into your head?! I love it, but often this scene is so dark that I can’t see anything at all. Dancing in a school hallway?! Hurray! … but is the janitor okay?

You’re thinking of ending things? I’m thinking of making them last forever!

Grade: 45 Dog Shakes out of 60 Ice Cream Cones

CGI Animals and a Daffy Robert Downey Jr. Performance Make for a Feather-Brained ‘Dolittle’

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Universal Pictures

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Harry Collett, Antonio Banderas, Michael Sheen, Jim Broadbent, Jessie Buckley, Carmel Laniado, Emma Thompson, Rami Malek, John Cena, Kumail Nanjiani, Octavia Spencer, Tom Holland, Craig Robinson, Ralph Fiennes, Selena Gomez, Marion Cotillard, Jason Mantzoukas, Frances de la Tour

Director: Stephen Gaghan

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Rating: PG for Mild Animal Chaos

Release Date: January 17, 2020

It’s not a great sign when my favorite part of a movie is the end credits revealing who all the voice actors were, especially when it’s a movie about talking to animals, because … I love talking to animals! Not necessarily in the Dr. Dolittle sense, but if I did have that ability, I would be happy to use it. As for Robert Downey Jr.’s version of the classic fictional veterinarian, I wouldn’t say that he is unhappy about his interspecies communication abilities, but he is making some odd choices, what with an unplaceable accent while barely opening his mouth whenever he talks to the point that it seems like he is practicing his ventriloquism. Dolittle is a movie whose existence in 2020 I’m having trouble fathoming, but despite that, I can’t say that I doubt Downey’s commitment, however strange it may be.

Anyway, the plot is some fever dream logic-driven concoction about how a reclusive Dr. Dolittle, hiding away in his home following the death of his wife, is summoned to set out on an adventure to find a cure for a deathly ill young Queen Victoria (Jessie Buckley). Naturally enough, his animal friends join him to help out, and their presence on this journey just feels too unremarkable. Perhaps that has to do with the reliance on CGI, which renders these creatures less adorable and more just humans with fur or feathers or scales. For the most part, then, Dolittle is a mix of humdrum when it should be goofy and ridiculous when it should be straightforward. Although, there is one part when Dr. Dolittle removes a set of bagpipes from a dragon’s colon, so this endeavor wasn’t a total disappointment.

Dolittle is Recommended If You Have: A Bottomless Appreciation for CGI Animal Hijinx

Grade: 1.5 out of 5 Quacks

‘Judy’ is a Paint-By-Numbers Biopic Somewhat Enlivened by Renée Zellweger’s Truly Garland-Esque Presence

Leave a comment

CREDIT: David Hindley/Courtesy of LD Entertainment and Roadside Attractions

Starring: Renée Zellweger, Rufus Sewell, Michael Gambon, Finn Wittrock, Jessie Buckley, Richard Cordery, Darci Shaw

Director: Rupert Goold

Running Time: 118 Minutes

Rating: PG-13, Mainly for the Substance Abuse

Release Date: September 27, 2019 (Limited)

Of all the tragedies that Judy Garland endured in her life, perhaps the most visceral one that we get to witness in the biopic Judy is when she is strictly forbidden from eating a burger at a diner while she’s a teenager under the iron fist of MGM co-founder Louis B. Mayer. It’s far from the most abusive trauma she ever experienced, and burgers certainly aren’t the most healthy indulgence. But that little bit of rebellion that is chomping on junk food is just the point. This moment is a microcosm representing just how thoroughly Garland’s life was not her own. Judy is driven by that unstable foundation, but it rarely says anything revelatory beyond, “Here’s how this child star was mistreated, and here’s how it still echoes in her life decades later.”

Screenwriter Tom Edge and director Rupert Goold follow the tack of recent showbiz biopics like Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and Stan & Ollie by presenting with their subject long after the height of fame when they happen to find themselves in England. It’s 1969. Garland’s most iconic films came out a generation ago, but she’s still mighty beloved. Thus, plenty of people want to see her when her financial reality forces her to temporarily leave her young kids behind in California while she books some live gigs in London. As the adult Judy, Renée Zellweger is a natural fit to convey the constant agony that comes with struggling in the public eye. It’s a fine performance, but one that rarely transcends the standard biopic structure (save for the showstopping number she delivers in the final scene). Judy is a valuable cautionary tale; I just wish it had delivered that note of caution more uniquely.

Judy is Recommended If You Like: You Must Remember This, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Somewheres Over the Rainbow

Movie Review: ‘Wild Rose’ Demonstrates the Power of Country Music and Forgiveness

1 Comment


Starring: Jessie Buckley, Julie Walters, Sophie Okonedo

Director: Tom Harper

Running Time: 101 Minutes

Rating: R for Some Snogging and Some Cussing

Release Date: June 21, 2019 (Limited)

Great news, country music lovers: Scotland has a country music scene that is just waiting for you to traverse across the pond and discover! Well, it’s not so much a “scene” as much it is one bar and one aspiring professional. Also, I’m describing the Scotland of the fictional film Wild Rose as opposed to the actual Scotland. I cannot speak with any authority about the presence (or lack thereof) of country music in any part of the non-cinematic Great Britain. But I can say that if you are a country music lover, you will appreciate Wild Rose‘s cameos from the likes of Kacey Musgraves and Ashley McBryde as well as Jessie Buckley’s dangerously committed lead performance, in which the Irish-born actress throws herself respectfully full-bore into the intricacies of an American art form.

Buckley stars as Rose-Lynn Harlan, who is bursting fresh out of prison when we first meet her. That’s an origin story that would fit right in with her chosen genre, and she’s got the chops to beat the odds, but alas, she’s also got two young kids and not a whole lot of income to take care of them. Then there’s her mother (Julie Walters), who is good for reminding Rose of her responsibilities but usually in a way that makes her feel pretty crummy. So she takes a job as a housekeeper, and BIG BREAK ALERT, wouldn’t you know it, the woman she works for (Sophie Okonedo) believes in her dreams and might be able to give her a legitimate boost.

It looks like a (kind of well deserved) happy ending is in the cards, but alas, Rose is still grappling with the mistakes of her past, and she is paralyzed whenever she confronts her own self-image. Wild Rose is anchored by a message of forgiveness, and nobody needs to hear that message more than Rose does. There are few actors who are as skilled as Buckley at carrying psychological detritus, which is why it is so satisfying whenever anyone in Rose’s orbit offers her a second chance and when she finally accepts those offers. If you have to live through the struggle to truly be a country music star, then here comes Wild Rose-Lynn.

Wild Rose is Recommended If You Like: Coal Miner’s Daughter, The Commitments, Sing Street

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Stage Frights

This Is a Movie Review: Beast

Leave a comment

CREDIT: Roadside Attractions

I give Beast 3.5 out of 5 Glass Shards: https://uinterview.com/reviews/movies/beast-movie-review-british-thriller-reveals-that-the-animal-lies-within-us-all/