Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Week with Marylin

Today I saw My Week with Marylin, starring Michelle Williams and Eddie Redmayne.

Colin Clark (Redmayne) is a starstruck twentysomething who will do anything to work in the movie business. Sir Lawrence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh) is beginning production on a new film starring Marylin Monroe (Williams). Colin is in the right place at the right time and scores himself a job as a 3rd director, which (as is repeated ad nauseum in the film) is basically an errand runner.

We are shown the fanfare when Marylin arrives in England as a newlywed (in her third marriage). We are shown how she is babysat around the clock by various handlers with various purposes. We see immediately that Marylin is a very unhappy, high maintenance woman.

But that doesn't stop Colin from developing a debilitating crush on her like many of the men of his time.

Colin's low-on-the-totem-pole role and polite nature make him attractive to the Hollywood starlet, and she soon begins requesting his presence at the home where she's staying for the duration of the film shoot.

If she wants to talk, he talks to her; if she wants to be held, he holds her. All the while we can see she is about to chew him up and spit him out.

But it's hard to hate a woman so desperate to be loved, no matter how much of a pain in the ass she turns out to be. Colin doesn't seem to resent her for using him, so why should we?

The film does a good job of conveying her circumstances, and Williams nails her mannerisms and speaking rhythms. Redmayne is a believable lost-puppy-in-love and all of the supporting cast does fine too. But for a movie so predictable, the story doesn't move very fast.

Also annoying is the padding they have on Williams to create the illusion of Monroe's curves. Williams is anything but voluptuous, and anytime they have her moving seductively, it looks like a teenager who has padded her bra acting out in front of a mirror. Williams face is too thin to be convincingly attached to the allegedly curvy body, and the nude scenes don't come close to showing a 140 lb. woman (that was the real Marylin's last reported weight).

All in all, this true tale plays out for what it is: one man's favorite story to tell, though he doesn't come out looking particularly smart or better for it.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Arthur Christmas

Tonight I saw the animated holiday film Arthur Christmas.

Arthur (James McAvoy) is the youngest of Santa's children. He wears Christmas sweaters we'd only wear as a joke and painstakingly answers Santa's miles and piles of mail.

Steve (Hugh Laurie) is Arthur's older brother, trusted with the operation of getting gifts to kids successfully across the world on the big day.

Santa (Jim Broadbent) is getting old; Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) is already 139. They're both not up to what they used to be.

When it is discovered on Christmas Eve that little Gwen (Ramona Marquez) of Cornwall, England, has accidentally been skipped, Arthur and Grandsanta set out to deliver her pink sparkly bike themselves.

It's a very classic story about doing the right thing that's infused with modern-day humor (there is more than one laugh at the expense of lead toys; they use a GPS to try to locate Gwen's home).

But what's so refreshing about the movie is the lack of 'potty' jokes that seem to permeate 99% of the kids' flicks made today. I was so glad to have chosen to see one that is in the 1%.

The voices are all famous Brits (save for a few of the supporting characters, who are American) and their presence only makes the characters more endearing. Arthur is an inherently sweet soul; Mrs. Santa (Imelda Staunton) is a classic, comforting mum; Bryony (Ashley Jensen) is an elf charmingly obsessed with package bows.

This is one for the whole family—there are enough clever adult references to keep the grown-ups smiling and plenty of holiday action to delight the children.

Seeing this is a great way to kick off the 2011 holiday season.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Today I saw Martha Marcy May Marlene starring Elizabeth Olsen and John Hawkes.

Finally, something Oscar-worthy in this dismal year of film.

Martha (Olsen) is a lost soul. Her father abandoned her family; her mother died. In light of these tragedies, she somehow finds her way to a commune, apparently craving a sense of place. At first, the hardworking family of people who make up the community seem nice, but we later learn that rape and violence are acceptable behaviors. The leader, Patrick (Hawkes), thinks it disloyal if members disagree.

We're not sure what pushes Martha over the edge, but our first introduction to her is when she is escaping the tribe. She calls her only sister, Lucy (Sarah Paulson), for help.

Once in the safe confines of Lucy's summer lake house, Martha attempts to re-acclimate to regular society despite an impatient brother-in-law (Hugh Dancy) and no professional help.

We see the abuse and brainwashing she suffers through flashbacks, woven brilliantly into her present-day experiences. It's somewhat like experiencing PTSD once-removed, and the amazing Elizabeth Olsen does an Oscar-worthy job of conveying it.

Also great, but painful to watch, is John Hawkes as the menacing patriarch of the cult. He appears so gentle at first, it's believable that he could weave new recruits into his web of oppression.

What's clever about the film is that the community isn't blamed on any religious sect, and Martha's wandering spirit is sad, but not completely lost. Every moment of what transpires could happen. In fact, it probably has, many times over.

Though few will relate to brainwashing or communal living, everyone who sees this has certainly searched for belonging at some point in their life, whether it be in a relationship or a friendship or a career.

Watching this tortured soul navigate her way back into a life that she never had isn't easy, but it's so well done, you can't look away.


Saturday, November 12, 2011

J. Edgar

Tonight I saw J. Edgar, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Naomi Watts.

It will be the topic of Cinebanter #109, so tune in later this month for our review.