Tag Archives: Oliver Platt

Please Give

Kate and Alex own a successful, upscale second-hand furniture store; they buy estate items from grieving families and turn a tidy profit. Kate (Catherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) also own the apartment next door to theirs, and are impatiently waiting for its former owner and current occupant to die before they can knock down some walls and start the renovations. The old lady is cantankerous enough that they don’t feel particularly guilty about this, though their repeated run-ins with her granddaughters (Rebecca Hall, Amanda Peet) are increasingly awkward.

That sounds kind of brutal, but what writer-director Nicole Holofcener has created in Kate is actually a very interesting, nuanced character who’s experiencing some of that white woman, liberal guilt that comes with middle age and introspection. Kate is living MV5BNTM0OTU5ODY5MF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwNzgwNzUzMw@@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,997_AL_in complex economic times that challenge her notions of propriety. She can’t pass a homeless person without contributing to their cup, which makes her privileged teenage daughter somehow feel deprived. There’s something really fascinating about Kate; she’s complex, and not afraid to have conflicting emotions. She has mastered the world in which she lives but while she isn’t comfortable holding the reins, she’s not a hypocrite, and she knows deep down she wouldn’t want it any other way. Meanwhile, the women next door, in less than ideal circumstances, provide a nice contrast to Kate’s guilty affluence.

Catherine Keener continues to be under-rated but she’s really terrific in Please Give – it’s inspired casting. Kate’s empathy and ambition give her a complexity that’s rarely seen and difficult to pull off, and I can imagine it being a lot less successful in almost any other hands. The movie feels a little slight at times, a little thin in plot, but everyone has a point of view and the film maker trusts us to sit with the themes and experience our own version of existential reckoning.

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Professor Marston And The Wonder Women

William Marston was a professor of psychology; his wife Elizabeth was an equally and likely superior mind, but being female, was relegated to assistantship. Professor Marston  (Luke Evans) was developing lots of new ideas about behaviour, and had a new theory based on  dominance, inducement, submission, and compliance. He and Elizabeth (Rebecca Hall) were looking among their students for a young apprentice, and found what they were looking for and more in Olive (Bella Heathcote).

The Marstons both fell in love with her, and a polyamourous relationship was born. They had children together and continued to work and invent together – the modern lie detector test is thanks to them. But what may be most remarkable about this MV5BNzMwYmUzZjItNDVjMy00YWE5LWE0MWUtNWZlYThlNmQ1NTQ1XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDg2MjUxNjM@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1499,1000_AL_relationship, taboo and reviled in the 1930s and 40s, was that it inspired the creation of the Wonder Woman comic. Marston’s original stories (written under a pseudonym) incorporated the feminist ideals embodied by his wives. Wonder Woman was a strong woman who needed no man. His early comics also involved a fair amount of bondage and submission, which he pursued in his own bedroom and thought more young men should be turned onto. You can imagine the sort of censorship and uproar he faced.

With Wonder Woman so fresh in our cultural memories at the moment, it’s interesting to witness her birth, to see the surprising and sometimes literal inspirations that Marston drew upon. The performances are strong and the three have a nice chemistry that, despite accusations of “sexual perversity,” feels very honest and sometimes nearly wholesome. Rebecca Hall in particular shows the conflict and the consent and the curiosity that pushes her character toward an unconventional life. I must say, however, that I’m a little disappointed in the title. Though the film makes clear enough that Marston is bested by his lovers, they still seem to take second seat in this story, and that feels like a let down to our hero, and her real counterparts.

Shut In

Mary (Naomi Watts) is a single mother caring for her severely disabled stepson, Stephen (Charlie Heaton), alone in their home ever since her husband passed. Her work as a child psychologist supports them but she’s finding it hard to keep up since Stephen is her whole life but is really only an empty shell.

Meanwhile, Mary is preoccupied with a young patient, Tom (Jacob Tremblay). He’s deaf and her work with him has gone slowly but just as she believes progress is being made, shut1his case worker is yanking him away to yet another group home. Tom has bounced around in the foster care system and Mary’s compassion is inflamed. Tom runs away one wintry night, and the fact that he seems to have run to her home briefly for refuge preys on her imagination. As the days go by and a powerful winter storm pummels them, townspeople give Tom up for dead but Mary becomes haunted by his ghost.

Virtually alone in an old house save for her vegetative stepson, Mary’s nightmares become our nightmares. Is this movie heart-pounding? It was for me. I don’t watch scary movies very often but was drawn to this for the cast, and Naomi Watts does not disappoint. But even a relative novice to the genre such as myself can feel what a retread this script is; there’s nothing new or original here, and the fear factor dips because of its obviousness.

Some beautiful cinematography helps establish a sense of isolation here, but it’s largely useless when the script goes for weak jump-scares and ignores what should have been lush with psychological horror instead. I kept thinking of this movie as “the one with Vera Farmiga” which it is not – but it is an awful lot like the one that is, and many others besides. If you have a hankering for white-lady-haunted-by-child-ghost, well, here it is. Again. But I bet you could do better.

The Master Cleanse

The master cleanse is a cuckoo-for-cocoa-puffs fad diet wherein some idiot eats nothing and drinks only a “juice” made from water, lemon, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper and actually believes that their body is benefiting. Instead of, you know, being completely nutritionally deprived.

TheMasterCleanse_FilmStill_Final_FeaturingJohnnyGalecki_PhotoByMichaelFimognariIn the movie The Master Cleanse, the inventor, Ken Roberts, has pledged to take this purification further – let’s not just detoxify our bodies, but also our souls. And like all high end products and really good, safe ideas, it’s advertised on late-night infomercials.

Who is up late at night with only a bowl of Cheetos for company, that awful orange dust thickly coating his remote, trolling the airwaves for a quick fix for his spiritual malaise? None other than down-on-his-luck Paul (Johnny Galecki), recently (though not THAT recently) dumped and unemployed, living one functioning toilet above squalor. While the promise of a free retreat from a disembodied voice on our televisions might raise a red flag for most of us, Paul diligently irons his only suit to make the best impression.

A small group, including struggling actress Maggie (Anna Friel), and a squabbling young couple, are taken out to a remote wooded area. Bombastic Lily (Anjelica Huston) is their fearless leader, and bids them to drink special juice formulated just for them. That juice leads them to the crucial elimination phase, where all of their hurt, disappointment and trauma are physicallyBTSJohnnyBobbyAnna_TheMasterCleanse_PhotoByBobAkester eliminated…and that emotional baggage just happens to look like a cute little creature.

The dark woods, the derelict cabins, the mysterious cult leader Ken (Oliver Platt)…director Bobby Miller has all the trappings of a horror, and indeed you’ve unconsciously braced yourself for something terrible for quite some time. At a special screening at Fantasia Film Festival, Miller said that at first wallowing in sadness is cute – that Ben & Jerry’s, sweat pants phase. But if left unchecked, your emotional baggage just grows and grows, and threatens to overwhelm. Miller’s film gets pretty serious about those consequences. This is body horror with a pulsing conscience.

There is no mathematical way in which any equation involving  both toilets and horror should add up to something enjoyable, at least for me, but this did. Miller’s got some magic slipped in there somewhere, perhaps in his confidence even as a first time director in sticking with character and theme while being quite conservative in the gross-out department. It’s a lot more melancholic than you’d expect, even sympathetic, but the message is clear: shortcuts to happiness can leave you literally lost in the woods.

 

Frank and Cindy

When GJ returns home from school, his mother, Cindy, has a surprise for him: “I quit drinking!” An even bigger surprise than her 15 months of sobriety? She’s also spent all of his savings. So it turns out he’s home for good. Deprived of film school, he turns the camera on his fuck-up Mom and her has-been rock-star husband, Frank.

MV5BMTYyNTkwNjg4OV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzUyNTM1ODE@._V1_This film is actually a dramatic reenactment of a documentary of the same name, by G.J. Echternkamp. And his parents are undoubtedly larger than life, which in this case is a kind euphemism for colourfully pathetic, hopeless losers. Rene Russo and Oliver Platt play the titular characters and you’ve got to admire their abandon. They each give strong performances, and you’ve got to give props to Russo in particular for her willingness to throw herself into such an unflattering role.

When GJ has enough of their codependent craziness he seeks out his biological father for some commiseration but he surprisingly turns out to be in Frank’s corner. It’s way too easy for GJ to blame his struggles on his underachieving parents, but when that’s not getting him anywhere, what then?

Watching this film and reminding myself that Frank and Cindy are real people makes this a particularly excruciating experience. And to be honest, the screenwriters trying too hard 2015 Features-FrankAndCindy1to stick to the source material means this movie has no real backbone. It ambles but doesn’t amount to much. And weirdly, GJ seems to be the least developed character – it’s his story but he’s a pretty passive player. And that feels ironic since Echternkamp himself helped bring this script to life, and he’s also sitting in the director’s seat, although at times he seems to forget about the advantages of feature vs documentary – he could make the scenes look amazing yet seems to enjoy filming in dank little corners.

At any rate, this is clearly a personal film for Echternkamp. There’s catharsis happening here. And self-indulgence. Lots of that. But Russo and Platt are good, good enough to make up for the film making foibles.

Lucky Them

Toni Collette plays Ellie, a music critic who’s assigned to track down her musician ex-boyfriend. He disappeared over a decade ago, just as his career was taking off, and hasn’t been heard of since. She’s clearly still nursing old wounds: she’s a mess, personally and professionally. She has lucky_them_xlgone-night-stands instead of relationships. But now suddenly she has to go ripping off band-aids with the help of an old flame and total creepster (Thomas Haden Church). Church is a cringe-inducing rich prick who’s decided to take up documentary film-making. Collette is an imposter with a veneer so thin even a complete stranger calls her on it between bites of wedding cake.

This movie is what would happen if last year’s mournful, Oscar-nominated Inside Llewyn Davis and Oscar-winning treasure Searching for Sugar Man got together and had a mediocre baby. Well, maybe mediocre’s a bit harsh. I love me some Toni Collette and she does a bang-up job turning this somewhat predictable coming-of-age-l into a relevant, layered coming-of-middle-age tale.  Church allows her to bounce off his deadpan delivery, although she often seems reduced to grimacing when the script fails her.

The movie is purposefully slow. We really get a sense of Ellie’s stagnation as she is given a goal and then proceeds to ignore it for huge chunks of the movie. Instead of road-tripping out to find the ex-boyfriend, we explore relationships and maybe do a little growing up. All in all, this is a nice little indie flick that didn’t do much in theatres but will have a nice second life on Netflix. This baby doesn’t live up to its parents’ standards but when you run out of A material, here’s a nice solid B.