Tag Archives: dakota fanning

Please Stand By

Wendy went to live in a group home when her sister got pregnant. Wendy (Dakota Fanning) has never been allowed to meet her baby niece for fear of her (autistic) tantrums, but under Scottie’s (Toni Collette) care, she’s doing much better. They work on routines, sustained eye contact, and interpreting emotion. Wendy lives by the rules she carefully writes down in the notebook around her neck. She has a job at Cinnabon, a pet dog, and a penchant for speed-knitting sweaters for said dog – Pete, a chihuahua. In her spare time, she has written a 400+ page manuscript, a Star Trek episode. She’s a fan of the show and a particular fan of Spock’s, a dude whose half-Vulcan blood means he too has trouble understanding human emotion.

A visit with her sister (Alice Eve) that’s meant to be celebratory turns sour when Audrey MV5BMmQ5MzJlNmItNzg3MC00MTZjLTkwNTUtYzllOTdlZGM4ZjdhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzQxNzUzNzQ@._V1_has again not brought baby Ruby, and hints that she may be selling the family home and moving away. A meltdown seems imminent, but Wendy is fixated on her script, and getting it to Paramount Pictures on time for a contest. When she’s mysteriously not in her bed the next morning – well, let’s just say it’s not much of a mystery.

I love Toni Collette and she’s faultless in this, but it’s not her movie. It belongs to Dakota Fanning, who is Dakota Fantastic. Her portrayal may not be 100% authentic to autism, and could never be representative of everyone’s experience, the material is revived by using Star Trek as a tool for talking about her challenges. Dream sequences serve to reinforce this.

The story is slight but the heart is big. I really enjoyed Please Stand By, its attempt to show a different kind of coming-of-age, its commitment to keeping things light and fun but true. In an age where super heroes overcome astronomical, impossible, unbelievable things in at least 3 different acts of each movie, it’s refreshing to see a young woman overcome such humble obstacles and know that they mean so much more.

 

 

Advertisements

Night Moves

Josh and Dena are passionate about their cause: the environment. Tired of small measures, they team with Harmon, a shadier character who can help them pull off an act of eco-terrorism, the bombing of a hydroelectric dam.

Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) and Dena (Dakota Fanning) are idealistic and young. They figure this revolutionary act will prompt people to think about what they’re doing to the environment, which you and I know is almost never how it works. What happens in real life is that we’re angry about the disruption to our lives. In the movie, however, what happens is even messier. The greatest impact they have is on themselves.

MV5BMTY1NDIzODA2MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTE4Mjk0MTE@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,999_AL_Night Moves isn’t so much about the environment as it is a character study between these three individuals trying to make a statement, and then living with the consequences. It’s slow, almost plodding. There’s no flashiness, just a creeping sense of guilt and paranoia.

The thing is, Jesse Eisenberg is a one-note actor and I’m damned tired of that note. He wears this grimace that tells us the world is just painful to him, like how can his pinched little rat face be expected to live in a world with us plebeians? He got lucky once with a role whose neuroticism suited him perfectly. Everything else has been derivative, and while it might have been slightly funny to watch Mark Zuckerberg get chased by zombies, I just don’t buy him as an eco-thug, bless his entitled little heart.

Otherwise I think Kelly Reichardt puts together a uniquely character-drive film that defies classification. It pushes us to challenge what we think of as “natural” and ratchets up the tension with increasing themes of alienation. What Reichardt doesn’t do is decide for us.

The Runaways

The Runaways is a biopic-ish film about the rise and fame of all-girl rock group of the same name. The film’s script is based on Cherie Currie’s memoir, and is produced by Joan Jett. Unsurprisingly, the film mostly focuses on these two women, Currie on the mic and Jett on rhythm guitar. Lots of other ladies came and went – most wanted nothing to do with the movie, and their parts are fictionalized.

Curie (Dakota Fanning) and Jett (Kristen Stewart) were pioneers, therunawaysand came together under the influence of scuzzy manager Kim Fowley (Michael Shannon). Like any respectable rock band of the era, they eventually combusted, but not before releasing four albums in as many years. They never made it huge in North America but had some crazy success in Japan for a while, where their sound and aesthetic were appreciated.

The movie is just okay. The leads are phenomenal, stylish and electric performances from both Stewart and Fanning (and Michael Shannon is stellar, as always). But the “biopic” aspect is less bio,832729701403947af2c28f14dac46933 more pic. It barely scratches the surface. We don’t get to know anyone, and at any rate, Joan Jett’s post-Runaways life and music is where the real meat is. That said, it’s a clichéd ride about sex, drugs, and rock & roll, but it’s one worth watching to see Dakota Fanning get salty and Stewart own the role of rock’s first goddess. But it’s a condensed version featuring some character composites. The only member of the band besides the two front ladies that is touched upon is that of Sandy West, the drummer, but by the end they don’t give a shit about her, forgetting her in the title cards. She’d died before production began. Pesky cancer. The Runaways were revolutionary, a band about self-empowerment, but not all selves are created equally.

TIFF: Brimstone

Something has to bear the banner of “bloodiest thing I saw at TIFF” and I’d wager that Brimstone bears it proudly, has indeed gone to great lengths to earn it.

mv5bndqzm2zhnzctztexns00mdk0ltgwodatzmi3zdbjmme4yzczxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymju2otaymzq__v1_uy1200_cr8506301200_al_Dakota Fanning plays a mute woman newly married, raising a dead woman’s son and  a daughter of her own. She is unable to speak but the look of dread on her face when she hears the new preacher’s voice tells us all we need to know. That preacher (Guy Pearce) has been stalking her for years, and bathing villages in blood as he attempts to make her his.

Their story unravels backwards – chapter one sets the above scene; chapter two rewinds to her childhood in a religious-pioneer settlement when her mother was the object of his cruel “affections”; chapter three follows her to a saloon where she does what she must in order to escape; chapter four has him caught up to her, and to her kids, as she flees through snowy, barren land.

Guy Pearce is diabolical – the extent of his character’s actual super-naturalness is unclear, or up for debate, but he’s a twisted zealot AT BEST and I’ll let you decide if there’s more to it. Dakota Fanning as Liz is necessarily quiet but full of strength and grit. He comes at her hard with vengeance but she’s a surprisingly formidable opponent.

This is Martin Koolhoven’s first English-language movie and he’s determined to show us what he’s made of. And for the record: blood and guts. He’s made of blood and guts. So am I, I brimstonepearce2suppose, but I’ve never worn my intestines as a scarf. Have you?

The images are powerful, and will burrow under your skin. And there are 148 bloody minutes of them. It’s not all gore though, there’s plenty of foreboding, plenty of tension. The setting does a lot to add to it: isolation is nobody’s friend. The land is unforgiving.

The MPAA warns of brutal bloody violence, strong sexual content including disturbing behavior, graphic nudity, and language. That doesn’t really tell a story though, does it? And it certainly doesn’t account for how thoroughly you’ll scour yourself in the shower after watching it. There’s no label for that. Except maybe “A film by Martin Koolhoven.”

 

 

TIFF: American Pastoral

pastoralbar640Ewan McGregor makes his directorial debut with American Pastoral, an adaption of Philip Roth’s novel. As always, I haven’t read the book and Jay has. She reports the movie to be quite faithful to the book, even pared down to have a two hour run-time.

I feel like the book must have a black cover, because American Pastoral is dark from start to finish. It is methodical in chronicling a family’s unravelling and is as far from idyllic as you can get.

With its dialogue-heavy scenes divided by contextual stock footage clips, American Pastoral felt more like a play than 21st century cinema. It is richly shot but largely static. The style mostly fit but at times the transitions were jarring. When they worked the transitions felt like covers of Life magazine, reenacted. Except as far as I know, Life magazine never featured a pipe bomb explosion at a small-town post office. Perhaps my dad’s magazine collection is incomplete.

In the Q&A session following the screening, McGregor described his approach to directing as an attempt to give life to the movie he saw in his head when he read the script. He imagined some nice shots and paid the price to get them (literally in the case of some costly train platform scenes). His foray into directing is a workmanlike effort but not a distinguishing one.

As an exploration of the destructive power of children, American Pastoral succeeds. As entertainment? Not so much, not for me.

By the closing credits I felt sad and drained, which I have no doubt is exactly how McGregor and Roth would have wanted me to leave the theatre. But because nothing stuck with me other than that empty feeling, American Pastoral is not a movie I can recommend.  If you enjoyed the book it’s likely worth a shot though, and in that case I hope you can connect with it in all the ways that I didn’t.