Tag Archives: Margot Robbie

Mary Queen of Scots

This is the story about the crazy relationship between two cousins, both queens. And the jealousy and the machinations between the two – one, the Queen of Scotland, who perhaps believed she should also be the Queen of England and everything else as well. But while this movie is obviously about politics, it’s more importantly a movie about gender politics.

Short history lesson:

Queen Elizabeth I was the daughter of King Henry VIII (the guy who liked to behead all his wives) and Anne Boleyn, who suffered her execution just two and a half years after her daughter’s birth. Their marriage thus conveniently annulled, Elizabeth was declared illegitimate, and when her father died, it was a half-brother, Edward IV, who claimed the throne. Not for long, though, and somewhere down the line, the crown did land on 25 year old Elizabeth’s head. Sometimes called the Virgin Queen, Elizabeth I was probably not a virgin, but she never married, and she never bore a child.

Her cousin, Mary I, became Queen of Scotland when her father King James V died when she was just 6 days old. 6 days old! Regents, including her half-brother, ruled in her stead. When she was 6 months old, King Henry VIII proposed (eventual) marriage between her and his son and heir, Edward, thus uniting Scotland and England under one crown, but when Scotland protested, a war dubbed the “rough wooing” ensued. To protect their young Queen, 5 year old Mary was sent to live in France, where that King also decided to unite France and Scotland under one crown by betrothing his 3 year old heir to Mary. They married when she was 15; he became King of France and royal consort of Scotland, but he died shortly after and she went home to Scotland to finally, officially, sit on its throne (and marry twice more). By this time her cousin Elizabeth I was also on her throne over in England, but there were some sticky points in the wills and order of succession, and it was always a thorn in their relationship that perhaps Mary had a claim to that crown as well.

Back to the movie.

MV5BN2FjNmUxNDUtZWIxMy00MmI1LWJkMDMtOWQ5NzgwOWI3NDVkXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_Elizabeth I (Margot Robbie) and Mary (Saoirse Ronan) are not that different. Elizabeth is said to have ruled by “good counsel,” relying on trusted advisors. History depicts her as moderate, cautious, and perhaps indecisive. Mary, on the other hand, was more forward, and clever, not that that stopped her own regents of plotting against her. She pushed Elizabeth to name her England’s heir presumptive. Elizabeth retaliated by proposing her trusted childhood friend as Mary’s next husband; Elizabeth felt she would be able to control him. Mary was too savvy to refuse outright but the relationship came to nothing.

Mary sought to strengthen her crown my marrying smart and creating alliances. And yet she understood that any man who married her would eventually try to steal her crown for himself. Still, producing a (male) heir would also strengthen her position, so marriage must be tolerated. Elizabeth, meanwhile, felt that marriage was too great a risk to her crown – that would only encourage plots against her. Of course she was expected to marry and produce an heir, but she refused.

The movie reminds us that in the 1500s, it sucked to be woman so much that even being the queen was not enough. Still the men would plot against you – your own sons, husbands, and brothers. Mary’s husband(s) and brother(s) both plotted against her. Her third husband was her second husband’s murderer, and her rapist. She was forced to abdicate in favour of her one year old son, James. Elizabeth, by contrast, ruled for 44 years, until her death. At which point the crown went to – yes, that’s right, it went to Mary’s son James. So this weird relationship exists between the two – they are sisters and rivals. No one else can understand this unique pressure to rule a kingdom as a woman with all the vulnerabilities that that entails.

While the movie may have benefited from a more focused approach to narrative, I found this endlessly fascinating and frustrating. I very much enjoyed the performances from both Robbie and Ronan, and I very much approved the race-blind casting. There are people of colour in the English and Scottish courts; this is a rather novel idea for a period film, but director Josie Rourke has a lot of experience in the theatre where this type of colour-blind casting is much more popular. As well it should be. We’re telling old stories, but those stories should be told by people representative of today.

I had not heard great things about this movie but I think people have just been watching it wrong. In 2019, women are still wondering if they can “have it all”: work, family, mental health, balance. In 1568, Mary and Elizabeth wondered if they could have it all: respect, religion, the freedom to marry whom they chose, agency over their own lives, and the ability to cut off each other’s heads if it came to it (and it always did).

 

Advertisements

Terminal

Annie, a beautiful and enigmatic waitress in a grimy, 24-hour, train station diner, greets shady customers and serves out hash with a side of sass.

Bill (Simon Pegg) is a dying English teacher whom she challenges as he tackles a greasy stack of fries. Vince and Alfred are a pair of hitmen who appear and disappear with various mysterious briefcases. Annie (Margot Robbie) sees everything and seems to lead a dangerous double life in the shadows of her underground employment. She and a janitor (Mike Myers) are the only two mainstays in this seedy, forgotten place.

Director Vaughn Stein unleashes all the cliches in his tool belt to evoke a film noir. MV5BMjNhYjllN2QtZTQwNy00ZWRhLWE4MGMtYjA3Mjc1ZTRiMTQxXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjUyNDk2ODc@._V1_Smog obscures the screen as a trench-coated silhouette walks down a path illuminated only by neon light: is this a recycled set from Sin City or are you just happy to see me? There’s really nothing new to see here and the whole thing is just a bit uninspired – or, well, inspired rather obviously by other, familiar things. Luckily for Terminal, I can’t keep my eyes off Margot Robbie. She’s an exceptionally eye-catching woman, but as her past few films have indicated, she’s also quite an actress. So while she’s the only reason to watch this film, it’s also a shame how badly it wastes her. The movie wants to be cleverer than it is. It wants to throw some real curve balls at you, but it has simply cut and pasted the Wikipedia entry for curve balls and put it on the screen. Yes, Robbie is sexy as hell, and sure, many men, and most women, would follow her down the depths of hell without too many questions. But she deserves to be a real character, flesh and blood, with machinations and motivations. Instead, Stein fails to ground this movie in anything solid – what are the rules of this universe? Where have these people come from? Why should we care? It’s all smoke and mirrors, it lives for  the atmosphere but once the smoke clears, there’s just not much there, except Mike Myers being a distraction, acting like he’s in an SNL sketch.

And then the final 15 minutes are fantastically bad. The movie should have ended where those 15 minutes begin, and the movie still would have been empty and pointless. Instead we are punished for having endured the movie thus far and it veers off into such an unearned place that you could decorate the set of your own film noir just with the steam that’ll come out of your ears.

Peter Rabbit

I’m not a Peter Rabbit purist and I don’t much care that the movie deviates conclusively from Beatrix Potter’s beloved children’s series. I do care, however, that this movie was 90% montage, more the sort of Youtube video my 6 year old nephew might put together than an actual movie made by an actual studio. The soundtrack must be in the neighbourhood of an astounding 37 discs, although who would buy them is a bit of a mystery. Most songs featured are older than the audience will be, lots even born in the previous century. And I realize that Galaxy of the Guardians banks on exactly this formula, and we can sit here and debate just how much the 80s deserve to be revered, but I’m nearly 110% certain that no one will be on the “pro” side of the same debate in honour of Len’s Steal My Sunshine, which cannot be forgotten soon enough and certainly didn’t need a Peter Rabbit remix.

Peter Rabbit and his friends are delightfully rendered in CGI, very sweet and cute looking, with just enough clothing to anthropomorphize but never enough to be very confident something rude’s not going on. But don’t let their looks deceive you: these bunnies are homicidal. They’re ruthless and entitled and they’re pretty shitty MV5BZjg0Mjk0NTUtYWU3NS00ZmVmLTk3ZmUtODEyN2FhMTA4ZmZmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_neighbours, to be honest. I mean, they have a whole forest they could forage for food, but instead they repeatedly pillage a garden lovingly tended by an old man mourning the death of his beloved wife. And they don’t just want to steal his cucumbers, they want him dead (although where would the garden be without a gardener, huh, bunnies, did you even stop to think of that?). No, the bunnies, who are obviously thoughtless millennials in this incarnation, only think of themselves, and their stealing is somehow justified.

And not to shock you, but they actually do succeed in killing old man McGregor – only to find that his nephew, who inherits the place, is much worse. So they set about murdering him too. Sure, they mistakenly bring a tomato to a dynamite fight once, but the rest of the time they aim to kill. Sean was pretty shocked when they knowingly choke the guy with food he’s known to be deathly allergic to. Too far, he thought, and yet this was only one small battle in a very long war savagely fought. These are no innocent rabbits. Of course, sweet Bea next door is appalled that anyone should deny her fluffy-tailed friends all the produce they can eat and waste, but not so appalled, I noticed, that she would bother to plant a garden herself. But of course, the rabbits aren’t stealing out of hunger, they’re doing it out of spite, and though it’s played incessantly for laughs, I just don’t know why we need these kinds of stakes in a kids’ movie.

To me, the children’s books were warm and gentle and sweet and the movie seems to strive to be the complete opposite: rude and obnoxious and totally devoid of charm.

Goodbye Christopher Robin

I wonder in what ways the world would have been different if Alan Milne had not married a perfectly horrid wife. Daphne is an excellent socialite but not terribly prone to marital bliss. She waited for her husband to come back from war and is not impressed with the man who comes back. Her advice to just “not think” about the war is not exactly practical, and then she has a son she doesn’t want or know how to love to cheer him up, and that doesn’t work either!

But of course it’s their son, C.R., aka Christopher Robin, aka Billy, whose stuffed animals and wild imagination inspire the very thing he’ll become known for. And it’s his wife’s abandonment of the family that allows father and son to spend meaningful time together, time enough to write the stories that will enchant the world and change their family forever.

goodbye-christopher-robin-domhnall-gleeson-slice-600x200

Domhnall Gleeson plays the famous author A.A. Milne, a man ravaged by war, confused by his wife, haunted by the characters he created. Winnie the Pooh is a beloved story for children, but the people behind it are much darker than I’d imagined. This is not really a happy story. Margot Robbie plays his flitty wife, a woman easy to scorn but Robbie humanizes her, has compassion for her. Kelly Macdonald plays the woman who actually cares for young C.R., a nanny her charge calls Nou but the world will know as Alice, from the books. She’s the one who bears the burden placed upon a little boy upon whom the whole world has expectations. The cast is quite wonderful; even the little kiddo (Will Tilston) playing Christopher Robin is good, as he must be.

But as you can imagine, it’s difficult to flick back and forth between the horrors of war and the child-like wonder that inspired a favourite picture book. It adds little pops of whimsy to lighten the mood, but make no mistake: it is a dark mood in need of lightening. At times the movie really hits the right note, but it’s a tone that’s hard to keep – especially since the point is not really Winnie the Pooh OR war, but the nasty consequences of celebrity. Goodbye Christopher Robin surprised me and moved me, but it’s not a water-coloured, feel-good picture, just the sad truth behind a story you thought you knew all too well.

I, Tonya

Margot Robbie is convinced this film will change your mind about Tonya Harding. Is she a villain or a victim? Abused or abuser? The truth is, your opinion doesn’t really matter and truth doesn’t really exist. What does exist: a wholly funny film that never fails to entertain.

{In the unlikely event you’re in need of a refresher: Tonya Harding was an American figure skater in the 1990s, and competed twice in the Olympics. She was known for two things: for being the first American female to land a triple axel in competition, and for bashing in her Nancy Kerrigan’s knee.}

Margot Robbie is well-cast as Tonya Harding. She’s still just a little too pretty to play elm120117intelmovies-007-1512400299white trash, even with the poofy 90s bangs, but she comes down low and it’s pretty glorious. Sebastian Stan plays Harding’s good for nothing husband, Jeff Gillooly, and he disappears into the role of dumb fuck. Jeff’s dumb ass best friend Shawn (Paul Walter Hauser) pretends to be an international spy even though he’s a grownup who lives with his parents. Not exactly criminal masterminds, but this is the trio that brought us the most delicious scandal of 1994 (until OJ Simpson that is – if you thought Lillehammer was competitive, try being a celebrity fuck up). But for my money, I’d have to say that the real cast stand-out was Ms. Allison Janney, who plays Tonya’s mother LaVonam who, by sheer comparison, makes bathtub scum look appealing. She’s the dirtiest of dirts with not a kind word or intention in the world. If being a crummy mother was an Olympic sport, she wouldn’t have to resort to breaking any kneecaps.

The first thing that may surprise you about this film is that it’s funny. Actually funny, though pretty dark – the kind of laughs you feel slightly guilty about succumbing to, but you’ll need to just embrace the absurdity. It is farcical, in the way only a true story can be when it’s populated with idiots.

The second thing that surprised me anyway, was that it actually does dredge up sympathy for our poor Tonya. Her guilt (or innocence) is not really the point. This is Tonya’s story, hers alone from beginning to end. No one’s trying to excuse what happened, but putting “the incident” within context is actually very interesting.

I, Tonya is funny, dramatic, pumped full of energy, and even the sports angle is well-done. Certainly Margot Robbie can be commended for all the hard work she put in getting skate-ready, but she gets a lot of help from choreographers, stunt people, and CGI – effects that are pulled off almost seemlessly. But it’s the camera work that makes the figure skating extra exciting – you really get a sense of the speed and athleticism, two hallmarks of Harding’s style in particular. No matter your experience of “the incident” at the time, I, Tonya turns tragedy into triumph.

Suicide Squad [spoilers included]

A hot mess. That’s what it is.

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn is just about the only reason to watch this thing, and honestly, I’d like to break up with the rest of the movie and do the post-break-up thing where I cut the rest of the cast out of all the pictures and just make a glorious 18 minute movie out of just the Robbie footage. I’d be happier with that. Not super happy. I still thought the Quinn character was too loosely drawn and scantly introduced. Like, I totally buy that a patient could brainwash her into being evil. But there is no amount of SUICIDE SQUADbrainwashing on the planet that could induce me to speak with a Jersey accent randomly. Or to replace my PhD-level vocabulary with baby talk. That shit is bananas.

I don’t know much about this Suicide Squad outside of what the movie told me, and what the movie told me was downright confusing. Supposedly they’re super-villains, mostly sprung from tremendous prison sentences. Yet assembled they’re pretty…meek. And reserved. And obedient. I thought we’d get to see them just going apeshit in Gotham, unleashing all kinds of gleeful hell, but instead they thoughtfully fight a super bland villain that I felt mislead about in the marketing campaign.

The only thing I really connected to in the movie was the music. I assume that the money they saved on Tom Hardy backing out was funneled directly to the music budget. We don’t know for sure why Hardy left – some say for reshoots for The Revenant, some say he just didn’t like the script (although I expect most of the big stars signed on without seeing a script). I think he was supposed to be the most vanilla cracker out there, Rick Flag, and I can’t imagine him being happy with that crummy role. While I appreciated the music (great big pop anthems that helped perk me back up – my patience and attention floundered considerably, and often), I can also see how it was a cop out. First off: you aren’t Guardians of the Galaxy. Music had a purpose and is part of the universe. In Suicide Squad it just felt they were using music to distract us from the fact that they didn’t know how else to finish a scene. Or begin the next one.

Being part of the Suicide Squad must be a lot like being part of Taylor Swift’s squad. I mean, can you name anyone in it besides Taylor Swift? Harley Quinn is obviously the Taylor Swift here, and Will Smith is The Duff (designated ugly fat friend) – he’s nice to b936730e4fcc67ae733b48c1a797dc91fff102d1have around mostly just to prop her up. Smith didn’t annoy me as much as I feared (this movie has so many bigger problems), but Robbie is the true star. She plays Quinn not with a truly villainous heart, but with a completely troubled one – with loads of vulnerability. When the witch tempts her with a vision, her true heart’s desire is revealed to be…a banal suburban existence, completely with a husband and an infant. Clearly the good Doctor is still buried within her, and is peaking through. Or maybe it’s the baby in her belly poking mama in utero. Because she must be pregnant, right? Why else would the Joker so doggedly rescue her? He’s not exactly the kind of guy who’s all about love, honour, and commitment. But what if she’s his baby mama? Why else would he be seen lying in a womb made out of knives, skirted with baby clothes? It must have been some bad-guy baby shower!

Speaking of the Joker…what the fuck? I’m not in love with Jared Leto’s portrayal, and I’m not certain about David Ayer’s intention. Who is this Joker? Chris Nolan’s Joker was so demented there’s no way he could be in a relationship. You cannot picture Heath Ledger’s Joker having a Netflix and chill night with his girlfriend. So this Joker’s…I’m not sure. Down to earth just seems wrong. But he’s not as twisted. He’s more human, in a hipster’s SUICIDE SQUADironic conception of a Latino gangster-cum-circus clown hybrid kind of way. We didn’t see much of him so it’s hard to tell, but he also didn’t seem as evilly inventive as I’ve come to expect in a Joker. So he’s possessive and he’s got some hacker friends. Big deal. I’m sorry that so many of Leto’s scenes ended up on the cutting room floor because I found him to be the second most compelling character in the bunch, and he’s not even on the squad! He’s the Calvin Harris of the bunch. Or the Tom Hiddleston, I suppose, just trying to steal Taylor Swift away all for himself. Fuck the squad.

And let’s be honest: this movie couldn’t handle the squad. It didn’t know what to do with them. The introductions were wildly variable, and, spoiler alert: the character who noticeably didn’t get one DIES. Yeah, that’s right, Ayer. Your shit is weak. You clearly couldn’t cook up a fun and deliciously depraved story for these fuckers so you gave us this watered down jumble instead. You should have saved it for someone who had the cojones. I think a satisfactory Joker-Quinn story could have been told here instead. DC jumped the gun with Suicide Squad – too many unknown characters, too little for them to do, too little story to make us care. But watching ‘Mister J’ change diapers for little Joker Junior in Arkham? Now that I’d be down for.

 

 

Check out more Suicide Squad discussion on our podcast:

Suicide Squad

Anything I say about Suicide Squad needs to be weighed against the possibly discreditingbatman v superman fact that I liked Batman v. Superman. It was a mess, I’ll give you that. And a whole lot of it didn’t make a bit of sense, even by superhero standards. While there were at least a couple dozen things that I wish had been done completely differently, I walked out feeling exhilarated, as if I had just witnessed the start of something huge. And, for all that Marvel has done right, it’s never really produced a film (with the possible exception of Civil War, which hadn’t come out yet) that felt like such an event.

With Batman v. Superman, I was prepared for the worst. Even the trailers couldn’t hide some of the movie’s bigger problems. With Suicide Squad, which many had dared to hope would save the DC Extended Universe and put it back on the right track, the trailers were filled with bizarre and exciting images and I couldn’t wait to see how they fit into the larger story.

suicide squad 2By now you’ve probably read that a lot of people have felt let down by Suicide Squad. I was too. Its missteps aren’t as embarrassing as BvS’s were but its best moments weren’t as impressive either. Actually, while BvS ended with me feeling like I’d seen the biggest movie of the year, Suicide Squad ended with me wondering “Was that it?”.

Like in BvS, Suicide Squad has a lot to get done and a lot of characters to introduce and ten minutes in it becomes pretty clear that they have no idea what order to do it all in and just decided to throw scenes at you at random. This disorganization continues the whole way through.

As Harley Quinn, Margot Robbie steals every scene she’s in. Clearly insane and easy to suicide squad 1love, Quinn is the only character in the whole ensemble whose actions always make sense and Robbie is the only actor of the bunch who never makes a false move.

I’m a little less enthusiastic about the rest of the team. They include the ruthless hitman and unspoken group leader Deadshot (well, sort of a hybrid between Deadshot and Will Smith, played of course by Will Smith), Australian boomerang nut and notorious asshole Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney), human flamethrower and recent pacifist El Diablo (Jay Hernandez), Reptilian cannibal Killer Croc (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), and rope specialist Slipknot (Adam Beach, who as the trailer suggests is barely in the movie). They don’t always come to life like they should but are at their best by far when they interact with each other. That’s the whole fun of the Suicide suicide squad 3Squad. Unfortunately, they don’t get nearly enough chance to just be themselves and play off one another. Like BvS, it’s far too interested in its needlessly complicated plot than it is in its characters.

Jared Leto’s Joker is the biggest disappointment. Not that it’s a bad performance. The Joker is every bit as menacing and captivating as he should be and Leto makes some very interesting choices but he’s barely in the movie and, when he is, his scenes are rarely relevant to the larger story. Leto’s take on the character never really gets a chance to resonate and deserved a film that used him better.

Suicide Squad has some terrific scenes and gets a lot of things right but overall it’s a missed opportunity to get the Extended Universe back on track. What’s worse, it doesn’t give much reason to hope it’ll get any better in future films.