Tag Archives: Kathy Bates

The Highwaymen

In 1934, the infamous criminal duo Bonnie & Clyde were seemingly unstoppable. Their crime spree was turning more serious and their body count higher each day. Though they enjoyed almost movie-star status in certain circles, they were an embarrassment to the law enforcement they continued to evade – including Hoover’s FBI men.

The Texas Rangers have long since been disbanded – too lawless, too unsupervised. But Lee Simmons (John Carroll Lynch) manages to convince Texas governor Ma Ferguson (Kathy Bates) that since her new police force has proved ineffectual, perhaps what is needed is just a couple of highwaymen, doing things the old fashioned way.

Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) chafes in his retirement, and though he hasn’t even held a MV5BMjM2NDg5NjQzMV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMzMyNzI5NjM@._V1_SY1000_SX1500_AL_gun in his hand in years, he doesn’t take much convincing. Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) is a little more reluctant but pride is a tricky thing.

Following Bonnie & Clyde’s bloody trail is a complicated thing. These criminals are hailed as heroes by some, protected by family and friends. The men discuss whether they could shoot a woman, if it came to that. Neither really want it to come to that, but a job is a job is a job. It’s morally muddy ground maybe, but the script is a little shy about saying so, so it merely tiptoes around these dirty puddles, relying too heavily on the grizzled buddy-cop dynamic of Costner and Harrelson. And it’s not a bad dynamic at that: the two do a good job of seeming beaten down by their lives and their choices. But the movie plays it safe, and frankly, sometimes boring. Well, not boring, exactly, but not nearly as jittery and exciting as you might think literally any movie remotely associated with Bonnie & Clyde would be. But that’s the rub, isn’t it? Police work isn’t all car chases and whizzing bullets. Nor was Bonnie and Clyde’s life of crime nearly as glamourous as it was made out to be at the time. The actual truth is lost to us – no witnesses are alive today, and those that talked at the time tended to conflict each other’s stories quite a bit.

I imagine this movie will appeal most to a certain demographic: those inclined to beaten-up recliners and canned nuts. It’s a bit of a dad movie.

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TIFF18: The Death and Life of John F. Donovan

The Death and Life of John F. Donovan is a good movie in the shadow of a great one.

As a child, Rupert Turner was enamoured with a teen hearthrob, John F. Donovan, who was actually an adult playing a teenager on some soapy high school drama. A budding actor himself, Rupert (Jacob Tremblay) writes to Donovan (Kit Harington), telling him of his ambitions and desires – namely, to one day act alongside him. Surprisingly, Donovan writes back, and a beautiful friendship is forged, strictly as pen pals. But when that relationship is discovered, first by Rupert’s mother (Natalie Portman), then by the press, the friendship is misinterpreted and Donovan vilified. He dies before our two buddies can ever meet up.

john_f_donovanTen years later, a grown-up Rupert (Ben Schnetzer) is releasing a collection of their correspondence as a book, and a skeptical reporter (Thandie Newton) is interviewing him. The truth of their friendship is revealed through flashbacks, as is Donovan’s life, which of course was not all rainbows and lollipops.

Behind his privilege, Donovan had an absent father, a family that fauns over him and resents him in equal measure, an alcoholic mother (Susan Sarandon), an agent who is decidedly not his friend (Kathy Bates), and a girlfriend/childhood friend (Emily Hampshire) who is also his beard (unknowingly). He’s hiding a lot. He lives in a world filled with illusion. He’s pulled in a thousand directions and has no friends who aren’t on the payroll, and yeah, it is kind of sad that he unburdens his soul to a kid, but it’s also kind of understandable, which is sadder still.

Director Xavier Dolan is uniquely positioned to have something to say about child actors and the celebrity beast and I really enjoyed his attempts at profundity in this film. This is his first English-language film and while there are still traces of his typically auteur-ish style, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan is perhaps missing just a little of what normally makes a Dolan a Dolan. It also suffers a bit from bloat. Susan Sarandon’s performance is quite good, her character very interesting, but there isn’t a lot of room for her, as Dolan cut the movie down from 4 hours to just over 2 (and left Jessica Chastain completely on the cutting room floor). Kathy Bates’ part isn’t really a part at all, barely more than a cameo.

Dolan’s crime seems to have been starting out with too much to say and then having a hard time parting ways with any of it during editing. But I think John Donovan is a character worth getting to know. And the topic of celebrity death, and our cultural obsession with it, and possibly contribution to it, is ripe for harvesting.  I think the wording of the title has something to say about it all by itself. This movie isn’t all that it could be, and coming in to a Xavier Dolan film, I can’t help but bring high hopes and standards. But there’s something worthwhile here, and I hope it will be mined for the diamonds and not just the flaws.

A Little Bit of Heaven

My bullshit meter was flashing big red lights when I read Netflix’s description of the Kate Hudson film, A Little Bit of Heaven: she plays a “woman who has everything – including cancer.” Hell yes I was wary, but it seemed like it would be light enough that my head cold could deal with it, so I gave it a go. It was actually a little bit of hell.

I mean, first, kudos for giving Kate Hudson ass cancer. Well, that came out a-little-bit-of-heaven-01wrong. But you know what I mean: usually a pretty blonde will linger with some glamorous kind of cancer that makes you pale but otherwise untouched. Colon cancer is a mother fucker. I mean, you wouldn’t know it from the movie. She even keeps all her hair! But she does get to suffer the indignity of the old camera up the wazoo trick, and has to admit to cute guys that she’s bleeding in her poop. So that’s kind of wonderful. A laugh riot, if you will. At least that’s what they’re striving for. In reality, the movie’s quite tone deaf.

They try really hard to make Marley (Hudson) an edgy, new kind of female character, one that doesn’t need love to be happy. Except of course it’s her Earthbounddying wish. And of course her oncologist happens to be dreamy Gael Garcia Bernal. But there are even worse travesties than this afoot. First, as she lays dying, Marley talks to “God” (Whoopi Goldberg), who apparently is in the business of granting 3 wishes, like a genie. Even more egregious is Peter Dinklage, who pops up as a little person hooker whose nickname is – you guessed it – A Little Bit of Heaven. Because when the jokes about butt cancer dry up, why not make a joke out of someone’s sexuality? Ugh.

But just when you’re about to really give in to this sexy romcom -slash-terminal cancer hilarity, director Nicole Kassall shoves a funnel down your throat to make sure your overdose on sentimentality is complete. It’s the kind of movie that has you wishing Kate Hudson would just die already.

 

 

Tammy

Melissa McCarthy plays Tammy, an unhappy woman in the middle of the worst day ever when 1404237409_melissa-mccarthy-tammy-review-467we meet her. On her way to her crappy fast food job, she hits a deer and nearly totals her car. Late to work and bloodied from her accident, her manager fires her on the spot aaaaaand she doesn’t take it well. She makes less than a gracious exit; “burning bridges” comes to mind. She heads home only to find her husband engaged in some very bad behaviour. So naturally she decides to run away with grandmother (Susan Sarandon).

tammy1This movie is fun, and sometimes funny, but it’s never as funny as you’d hope. After all this is Melissa McCarthy. Her star shines pretty bright. She and her husband Ben Falcone wrote the script; she stars, he directs. But if they were given carte blanche, they wasted it. For two crazy funny people, they’ve hatched a pretty mediocre comedy here. McCarthy does her loudmouth thing. Sarandon is just not believable as an old granny despite the wig and bifocals meant to blunt her sensuality. It’s still Susan Sarandon, who is effing hot. The two make for an odd pair, and sometimes the relationship hits the right notes but other times it just feels sour. Kathy Bates almost steals the show as the kind of cousin who’s good to have around in a pinch.

I saw this movie and laughed. Lots of people must have – the critics didn’t care for it, but audiences turned it into a 100 million dollar hit. But I’m still not happy about it. First, because I 130515235652-gilmore-1-story-topthink McCarthy is very smart and this kind of comedy demeans her. Second, because we keep seeing her do this “schtick” over and over: obnoxious fat girl with a dirty mouth. And the thing is, this is not the Melissa McCarthy I know and love. Lots of people came to know and appreciate her with the movie Bridesmaids, where she played another belching, awkward bull. But I know McCarthy from her Gilmore Girls days where she played an adorable chef and businesswoman named Sookie. She was sweet and charming and weird and FUNNY. Funny without it being crass, or referencing her weight, which, to the best of my knowledge, was a non-issue on the show. She was just a funny woman who looked like a lot of women do.

And now Hollywood has turned her into the female Chris Farley. She isn’t just a comic who Melissa-McCarthyhappens to be fat, she’s a fat comedian. Her characters are fat, the kind of fat that is “gross” and should be laughed at. Do it once and it might be inspired, but make a career out of it and it starts to feel like exploitation. America loves to laugh at fat people. And fat women? Laughing at them is all they’re good for. And it looks like McCarthy is afraid of just that – that if she tried to just be Sandra Bullock’s sweet best friend, audiences wouldn’t buy it. How many times have you seen a fat woman in a movie who is not meant as the comic relief?

Often referred to as “America’s plus-size sweetheart,” Melissa McCarthy responds “It’s like I’m managing to achieve all this success in spite of my affliction.” And the thing is, I feel confident that she’s worth so much salt than she’s showing. We saw a tiny glimpse of her playing straight in St Vincent but that’s exactly the problem: unless they’re prepared to be raunchy cannon balls, a fat woman must be relegated to fat best friend, the one who never has a boyfriend of her own. A sad sack, unless she’s black, and then she’s sassy. But still alone and negligible.

1403892018482_melissa-mccarthy-ben-falcone-gq-magazine-july-2014-01Dear Melissa McCarthy: you are beautiful and talented and mega successful.  You are so much better than this. Please stop playing a caricature! Your audience patiently awaits you,

Jay

 

 

(add your name in the comments if you agree!)