I am not party to the Ryan Gosling fan-out, but Drive is hypnotic and spellbinding, and a trashy Joan Holloway steals the best fifteen minutes.
An acutely perceptive take not just on manic depression, but the anxieties of women. Put the Nazi comments aside, and Von Trier has crafted something cosmically and metaphysically out of this world.
Hooking you with the opener, so you’ll head over to New Empress Magazine and finish it…
The ‘family’ genre is often one of nonconformity, a colourful mix where pretty much anything goes so long as it’s safe viewing for wee-uns. Silly concepts also tend to work in kid’s flicks – silly concepts like body swapping. Ticket sales for tween faves 17 Again and Freaky Friday are testament to the fact that a dubious product can work in the correct market. So, with a family un-friendly R-rating and no Zac Efron in sight, David Dobkin’s unimaginatively titled The Change-Up has already come a cropper. Kids are certainly not welcome to this crude shell-switching scenario, which sees Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds playing for juvenile laughs in a film for the John Hughes generation who are yet to grow up………….
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Twisted gangster/occult mash-up in the vein of The Wicker Man, from bright Brit spark Ben Wheatley
The modern rom-com proves that a bit of romance wouldn’t go amiss once in a while. Oh, and a few laughs too.
An unrelenting political thriller from the man who brought us Alanis Morissette as God. Yes, Kevin Smith does serious, and does it bloody well.
Undoubtedly a unique cinematic vision, The Tree of Life is an artistically realized consideration of life and death, which reaches far beyond the usual ambitions of a film starring Brad Pitt. One of the films key metaphysical concepts compares Jessica Chastain and Brad Pitt’s husband and wife, in an exploration of ‘the way of nature, and the way of grace.’ This spiritual paradox carves out two ways of living; either as Pitt’s stormy authoritarian (nature) or Chastain’s saintly nurturer (grace). However, the divine characteristics embodied in Mr and Mrs O’Brien are not as original as, say, the atomistic timeline of humanity complete with dinosaurs and distant galaxies. The newly adapted version of Jane Eyre, by Cary Fukunaga, uncovers the early blueprint for the ways of nature and grace in Wasikowska’s unshakable Jane and Fassbender’s cold Edward Rochester.
In Malickian style, Jane is positioned fragilely in window frames, staring wistfully out onto the vast rolling landscapes ahead of her. Her puritanical disposition is constantly fringed with sunlight, giving her a verisimilitude against the unreadable Rochester. Rochester’s comparatively shadowy appearance brings with it a frenetic energy to the usually serene Thornfield, much like the silent tension which haunts the family home whenever Mr O’Brien is in residence. Jane has a natural affinity with children, where Rochester scorns them and is completely unmoved by their presence. Mr and Mrs O’Brien are also divided in their approach to raising children; the camera follows Chastain dreamily as she frolicks with the boys, where Pitt strikes tangible remorse in each of their hearts. Jane takes comfort in her painterly surroundings, a place free of fear and servitude, but Rochester takes to destroying them, shooting the birds one morning in an act of frustration. Whenever Jane disappears into the mist-laden fields, we feel unnerved, unsure of her safety. But when Rochester does the same, he blends in with the grey cruelties of the landscape, as if returning to its fold.
Although The Tree of Life is an altogether grander piece, with Malick’s reflections spanning the breadth of existence, there are striking similarities between the ethereal characters of both films. The stoical Jane and Mrs O’Brien embody the ‘higher’ order of the way of grace. They might yearn for lives which better reflect their gentle temperament, but they weather the storms of nature and provide a moral center to both of the films.
The androgynously named Lucky McKee has a knack for turning seemingly ordinary situations into unexpected shockers, and often at the behest of a central female character. In 2002’s May, so sick is the eponymous goth of trying to fit in, that she takes to meticulously sewing together her own best friend – comprised of the body parts of those who have wronged her. In a similar tableau of peculiar normality, Chris Cleek’s family live under his authoritarian gaze and an unspoken fear permeates the household. Similar to May, Chris begins a pet project of his own; rehabilitating a feral woman (Pollyanna McIntosh) he has caught in the backwoods of the family property. As the family creak under the pressure of their new addition, the bubbling tensions erupt in a sickeningly satisfying finale.
If May was a heroine styled in the image of Carrie, then The Woman is a full out feminist revolutionary. On first appearance, through the telescopic sight of Chris’s rifle, the woman appears as a hulking untamed creature. Her plentiful supply of body hair and long unclean nails rail against the usual norms of femininity, standing in stark contrast to wife Belle’s petite apron-wearing frame. The children are clearly cast from the same dye as their parental other; only son Brian’s sociopathic behavior mirrors his father’s own misogynistic tendencies, and youngest daughter Darlin’ takes great joy from mimicking the domestic duties of her mother. But it is teen outcast Peggy, with her baggy unshaped t-shirts, defiant black hair, and pale features, which are more aligned with their basement visitor than either of her parents.
Bella’s conveniently turned blind eye is brought to bear, and the household is overturned in an exhilarating final sequence. Although tempting to share The Woman‘s gratifying ending, there is certainly a case for ‘don’t let anybody tell you what it is.’ The climax might be inevitable to some, but no amount of warning will quite prepare you for the graphic final sequence. Following the Sundance premiere, a furious member of the audience questioned what value the film has ‘for any person to see’. The Woman will certainly leave you with a reaction as animalistic as her appearance, but whether that reaction is tribal will probably depend on your assigned XY chromosomes. McKee’s nihilistic horror sometimes breaks into comedic melodrama, turning horror conventions on their head once again. In a radical reading, The Woman expounds a messianic tale of emancipation; of overturning a patriarchal rule which will only fester and trickle down the bloodline to start all over again.