Tag Archives: Carey Mulligan

The Great Gatsby

Nick Carraway meant to be a writer but is lured by the temptation of easy money to New York City for work, and a shack to stay in outside the city, on Long Island. He’s sandwiched between mansions, and across the bay dwells the old money, including his cousin Daisy Buchanan and her husband Tom. But everyone’s gossiping about Nick’s mysterious neighbour, Jay Gatsby.

There’s almost no one more suited to the decadence of The Great Gatsby than director Baz Luhrmann. Certainly Gatsby’s epic parties, brimming with booze, booming music, and beaded dresses, are brought to life with enthusiasm and an orgasmic level of detail under his direction.

But F. Scott Fitzgerald’s seminal novel isn’t just about the excess, but its flip side as well, the roaring/rotten 20s, the social upheaval and the resistance to change. But maybe a novel as ambitious as this, a book that has spoken to us for generations, belongs strictly to the page. Because as much as Baz Luhrmann gets right, the movie never quite grabs you the way it’s meant to. The way it should. Sean is a philistine who’s never actually read the novel (gasp!) and I wonder how his experience of the film differs from mine. For that matter, his experience of life.

Gatsby, you see, is the mysterious figure who haunts the pages of Fitzgerald’s genius work, but in the film, he’s all too knowable, especially when navigated by Leonardo DiCaprio, a muse of Luhrmann’s and an extremely familiar face to American moviegoers. And Tobey Maguire was already over when Luhrmann cast him as Carraway, the news just hadn’t quite made it to Australia yet. But Carey Mulligan as the luminous, quintessential, ethereal Daisy Buchanan? That was right. Inspired, even.

The best thing about this movie is and always has been Jay-Z’s genre-defying soundtrack. Luhrmann is no stranger to pairing period films with modern music to dazzling effect, but hip hop fits 1924 like it was always there, nestled between the cigarette holders and the champagne fountains and the bobbed haircuts. The costumes are a close second of course, every woman dripping with pearls and jet beads and scandalously raised hemlines. The accoutrements are perfection, so right that they almost distract from the fact that the movie itself is just wrong. And it’s not that anyone could have done it better. It’s probably just that no one should have even tried.

TIFF18: Wildlife

Joe Brinson’s family has just recently moved to Montana but his dad’s already out of work. You can tell it’s 1960 because father and son play football in belted khakis with their perfectly-pressed polo shirts neatly tucked in. Jerry Brinson (Jake Gyllenhaal) has a lot of pride and believes he’s “just too well-liked.” Jeanette Brinson (Carey Mulligan) swallows whatever disappointment she feels with her husband out of work again after yet another move to a place she doesn’t want to be, and still manages to ask politely for his permission to find work herself. Joe goes to work too, part-time, as his father slides into depression. But when Jerry finally gets off the couch and goes to work, Jeanette finally lets her anger erupt. He’s going to fight the massive forest fires for a buck an hour, and she doesn’t think that’s worth risking his life for. When he goes anyway, the crack in their marriage fractures perhaps irreparably, and Jeanette goes off the rails.

Wildlife is a movie about people on the brink. The Brinson family are on the brink of financial ruin. Jerry and Jeanette are on the brink of divorce. With fires ever raging, theMV5BZjhiNzJkZjctZjY2Ny00YTdjLWIxMjYtNjQwZjVmNjFiNGRjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjUxMjc1OTM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,922_AL_ whole town’s on the brink of disaster. In 1960, the whole country’s on the brink of a sexual revolution, and women’s lib. But they’re not there yet. It’s shameful that Jeanette has to work instead of staying home with her son (who is 14 and never home). And they clearly don’t know how to do divorce; they forget the part about telling each other, and not committing adultery in front of the children. It’s a crazy time to be alive!

Paul Dano directed and co-wrote (with partner Zoe Kazan) Wildlife and the love and care show up on film, but he somehow holds back from showing us all the fancy tricks he can do, flexing his muscle with restraint instead. It’s impressive.

And given his pedigree I suppose it’s unsurprising how great he is with his cast. Carey Mulligan, to my¬† mind, turns out one great performance after another, but this still might be my favourite. It’s almost certainly the most complex. Jeanette is a woman ahead of her time. Her agency is startling, her behaviour a direct challenge to the values of 1960. The fact that her son (Ed Oxenbould) is a direct witness to her wantonness is often challenging, but Mulligan makes sure that Jeanette is given a humane treatment, while the script kindly paints the couple without heroes or villains – just two people forced to flaunt and rewrite the rules. It’s a sympathetic family portrait, if not quite an intimate one (we’re often at an emotional remove). And sometimes the story loses steam, but damn if Mulligan doesn’t just keep pulling me back in. All eyes on her.

Mudbound

Two soldiers, equally scarred by the war, return to their homes in the South, and to their families who await them. Their shared experience bonds them but the colour of their skin keeps them wholly separate. Rural Mississippi sucks the big one.

Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedlund) goes home to stay with his brother Henry (Jason Clarke) and his new wife Laura (Carey Mulligan), who he basically saved from spinsterhood, because that’s what we call 30 year old unmarried women in the 1940s. The marriage is not exactly a romantic one, but she bears his children and lives in a hovel raising them while putting up with disgustingly judgy side looks from her creepy father in law (Jonathan Banks).

Meanwhile, just down the road, Ronsel (Jason Mitchell) goes back to the shack where his family is eking out a living helping out the McAllans. It’s hard to really 170123-stern-mudbound-embed1_wdoplhdistinguish between different levels of abject poverty, but there’s no question that the white McAllan family will always be in a better position than the black Jacksons (yeah, I feel weird writing that, so go ahead and feel weird reading it). Ronsel is having trouble adjusting to this country that demands that he risk his life defending it but then will spit in his eye the moment he’s back on American soil. Tough blow.

And Jamie’s only doing nominally better because his budding friendship with Ronsel is particularly irksome to his daddy, who’s a clansman. So yeah, shit gets real. This is not a pretty movie. I didn’t have much of an opinion of Hedlund before this but I found Mudbound to be well-acted: Mulligan, Mitchell, and Mary J. Blige as Mitchell’s mother are stand-outs of course, and Jonathan Banks made me want to spit nails. Into his eyeballs. Or nutsack. Or both. Rusty ones.

This movie says a lot about race and inequality but is largely unsentimental. The setting is sparse but the characters are rich, with great performances fleshing out mudbound existence. Director Dee Rees paints a stark portrait, accurate but not antiquated.

Suffragette

Just a few weeks ago, Canadians voted for “change” and for “sunny ways.” We elected a young Prime Minister with a famous last name and idealism still twinkling in his eyes. He was sworn in last week and presented us a cabinet that among other things, had gender parrity.

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That’s right. Half men, half women. So of course the very first question journalists needed answered about this tall list of accomplished people was why “he went with gender equality” in his cabinet. Why? Why did he “go” with “gender equality.” Is that really a question you can still ask this day in age? Okay, you know what – it is. Because sadly, this is the first cabinet to achieve this status. But Trudeau seemed to agree in spirit, answering simply “Because it’s 2015” – a mic-drop response that was heard around the world.

But the fact remains that if a Prime Minister chooses a cabinet that has a representative amount of women in it, he’ll have to answer as to why.

Isn’t that incredible? And incredibly sad?

As you know, the boys were dragging me off to see Spectre this weekend, and James Bond is probably the human embodiment of the antithesis of gender equality. To correct the imbalance, Sean agreed to hit up Suffragette with me first, because he’s a 2015 kind of gentleman, even if his movie idols aren’t.

Suffragette focuses on some of the lesser known but pivotal “foot soldiers” of the early feminist movement in Britain. After 50 years of peaceful protest, the women have amped up their right-to-vote rhetoric and are ready to engage in civil disobedience for the cause.

suffCarey Mulligan plays a young woman who was born in a laundry facility and has worked there all her life, working herself raw and having her boss force himself on her just to earn a third what the men take home. And then it goes directly into the pocket of her husband to do with as he sees fit. Not a naturally political woman, she gets dragged into the movement almost unwillingly but once she’s there, you can bet that neither her boss nor her husband are pleased. But it’s the vitriol from her fellow women that’s most upsetting. She doesn’t know her place, and this upsets everyone.

And it’s also enough to have her freedom taken away, and her child too if she’s not careful, so AAantithese are pretty high stakes. The laws are against her – but that’s the point. She is subject to laws she’s not allowed to influence let alone make. Women were property or commodities and laws existed to keep them that way.

Helena Bonham Carter plays a semi-educated pharmacist who is not only a pillar of her community, but an agitator and grass-roots activist. She’s recruiting and planning things when it’s time to start smashing windows and bombing letter boxes. HBC played her part well, suffragetteinjecting a little back bone into the character while still ultimately being subject to her husband’s whims. Helena Bonham Carter is the real-life great-granddaughter of H.H. Asquith, who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916, during the height of the suffrage movement. He was of course a staunch opponent of votes for women.

Mulligan is the perfect choice for a young mother who goes through quite the character arc, from wife and labourer to militant feminist – of course, you might find that the first two under such terrible conditions would inspire desperate reactions from anyone. Brendan Gleeson and Meryl Streep also having juicy roles, though Streep’s there in little more than a cameo, she’s nevertheless the perfect choice for theimg095 down with man movement’s heroine, Mrs. Pankhurst (this is the little detail that got to me – that all of these brave, notable women were known only by their husband’s names, ie, Mrs. Pankhurst. It killed me). Streep is strong and steady as ever. All of this capable acting smooths over some of the flaws in film making. It’s not a perfect piece of art, but it is an important one, and it’s hard not to be stirred by it.

Women in Canada got the vote in 1916, for the most part. It was not granted in the province I layout.inddlive in until 1940. American women got the vote in 1920. Some women in the UK were granted the vote by 1918 but it wasn’t unconditionally granted until 1928. That’s less than 100 years ago: way too close for comfort. Is there a woman alive today who hasn’t wondered what it would have been like to live through that? To still be all that we are and yet to be so diminished¬†in the eyes of the law – and society? It’s boggling. And yet, in 2015, when a Prime Minister hires women to work in his government at an equal rate that he hires men, he is still asked why.