Tag Archives: Penelope Cruz

TIFF18: Everybody Knows

What I went into the movie knowing: family wedding, family secrets. What I didn’t know, and would come to understand, was the little unifier between the two: kidnapping. Which tends to ruin the wedding part, or dampen it at least, depending on who disappears, but it’s quite fertile in terms of secrets.

Laura (Penelope Cruz) returns to Spain for her little sister’s wedding, her teenage daughter Irene and young son in tow, husband left behind in Argentina for work.

Laura is happy to reconnect with sisters, parents, and dear friend\ex-lover Paco (Javier Bardem), who is himself happily married. Whatever used to be between them seems to have dissolved to merely friendship, though I’m not certain if everyone else is really convinced of that. At any rate, the wedding in the village church is beautiful and nothing can ruin it – not when Irene mischievously rings the bells in the clock tower during mass, and not when the priest takes the opportunity to hint heavily that Laura’s wealthy (but absent) husband should pay for its repair as he did for the church renovations. A MV5BN2ZjNDc3ZTUtZjJiNS00ZTBjLWEyNzYtOTFkMGE1YmYxN2NiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_reception follows in the courtyard of the family hotel. It is high-spirited, with lots of happy guests drinking, dancing, and making merry. Irene steals one too many unattended glasses of wine and retires to an early bedtime, with her little brother. But then the power goes out and Irene goes missing, which is when things get interesting.

Although I felt the film a tad overlong, Everyone Knows is engrossing thanks to its clever trail of breadcrumbs. A terrific ensemble cast helps pull this off, essential when everyone’s a suspect – even the crime itself is suspicious.

As those all-important first 48 hours tick by, we get to know our characters (or should I say suspects?) at their worst, which is an intimate introduction indeed. Old secrets are unfurled as new ones are forged and kept guarded – soon the whole village is under a dark cloud of tension. And sure, they milk the tension a little longer than is fair. It’s moody and captivating but doesn’t quite know when to call it quits.

Seeing real-life lovers Cruz and Bardem act opposite each other is always a treat, and both get to flex a little – if not to impress us, then each other. Cruz has real fire (her real-life children with Bardem likely help ignite her mama bear instincts), and combined with her seductive beauty, imagine the difficulty I had taking my eyes off her long enough to read the subtitles. The struggle is real – multiplied by however many Penelope-lookalikes hired to play her sisters are on screen at any given time. The film’s got some challenges, you bet, but all obstacles can be overcome given sufficient motivation.

Advertisements

Noel

This movie’s got more Oscar winners and nominees than most, so I can’t quite figure out how I’ve never heard of this movie before. Alan Arkin plays a creepy cashier who’s obsessed with Paul Walker, who plays a cop who’s crazy-jealous over his super hot girlfriend, played by Penelope Cruz, who thinks she may be pregnant with her crazy-jealous boyfriend’s baby and she’s feeling so insecure she confides in a lonely woman played by Susan Sarandon, who’s completely alone for the holidays other than her comatose mother and a complete stranger she meets while visiting another patient, played by Robin Williams, who’s an ex-priest having a crisis of faith.

penelope_cruz_noel_still_2004_OGXxLss.sizedThis holiday movie has something for everyone: spirituality, homophobia, reincarnation, crippling depression, dead babies, and more. But in its heart of hearts it’s really just about a bunch of people who don’t want to end up alone – on Christmas, on their deathbeds, in the world just generally. Some of us feel encumbered by all our obligations to friends and family over the holidays but others are completely bankrupt when it comes to people who care, and for them, the holidays can be really, really hard.

If you’re one of those people, maybe opt for something a little more cheerful. And if you’re already feeling cheerful, why bring a good mood down? This is possibly just too depressing for Christmas fare, and that’s not even counting the fact that it stars two men now dead in real life, one of whom also expires on camera. It’s a real corker! Contrived doesn’t begin to cover it; Noel is a stocking full of sadness hung by the chimney with despair. But it does have Penelope Cruz dancing around in lingerie, so.

 

Murder on the Orient Express

Hercule Poirot is a world-renowned detective, known almost as much for his venerable mustaches as for his excellent deductive skills. On the way home from solving yet another case successfully, his train gets stuck in the middle of nowhere thanks to an avalanche, and that’s not the worst thing that’s happened aboard the Orient Express. Overnight, there has been a murder most foul. One of the dozen or so passengers is dead, and another must be his murderer. With Hercule Poirot unluckily aboard, can his or her identity remain secret? It seems unlikely.

MV5BMTU4NjU5NDYxNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzgyODg0MjI@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1497,1000_AL_Kenneth Branagh directs himself as Agatha Christie’s famed Poirot, and he’s equally right in both roles. He leads an all-star cast including Daisy Ridley, Johnny Depp, Josh Gad, Judi Dench, Michelle Pfeiffer, Penelope Cruz, Willem Dafoe and more. The only thing you can complain about with such an ensemble is that we spend precious little time with any one of them – Dench is particularly underused.

Branagh shoots on 65mm film and the result is luxurious and beautiful; I could barely take my eyes off the scenery, and indeed, the script gave me little reason to. I’m still not sure what genre of movie Murder on the Orient Express was trying to be. There might be a mystery at its core, but the audience feels no particular sense of urgency in solving it. There’s almost zero tension, which seems like a failure when a murderer is trapped among a gaggle of vulnerable potential victims, each with a neck ripe for slicing. And though I commend Branagh’s attempt at making Poirot sag a little under the pressure of his special skill set, the character seems largely untouched by the story unraveling before him. Leached of the emotional heft probably its due, the story never delivers any punch. There’s no real suspense. So while every shot is perfectly composed and the film is a stylistic triumph, it just doesn’t do justice to Christie’s plot.

Mother-Daughter Movies

TMPIt’s time for Thursday movie picks! This week we’re covering movies featuring mother-daughter relationships, which means I for one have been through about 6 boxes of tissues while deciding which are my absolute favourites. Thanks once again to spectacular blogger Wandering Through the Shelves for hosting this weekly meeting of the minds.

Matt

While I’m relieved not to be watching live-action fairy tales or YA movies anymore, this was harder than I thought. About a month ago, I had no trouble making a list of classic father-son dynamics but to mother-daughter relationships- that call for not one but two great roles for women- are a little harder to find in Hollywood.

Mamma Mia! At first, my strategy was to name as many Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton moviesmm7_L as I could. This only got me a third of the way there when I remembered Mamma Mia!, the only American movie on my list. Judge me all you want but I love this musical. Yes, the cast was clearly chosen for their comic timing and definitely not their singing voices but their energy with the help of lots of Abba music make this a party I wish I was at. When searching for the father she never knew, a 20 year-old soon-to-be bride comes to realize how little she appreciated the mother who brought her up all by herself.

Jay: Consider yourself judged, Matt.

The Piano Teacher The dynamic between mother and daughter can be as messed up as any piano-teacherand who better to explore just how bad it can get than Austrian director Michel Hanake. Never afraid to make his audience squirm, Hanake (Funny Games) cast Annie Giradot as a mom that makes Carrie’s look permissive. Isabelle Huppert plays a forty-something pianist who shares not only an apartment but a bed with her controlling, perfectionist, and manipulative mother. All this withholding and repression leads to some pretty bizarre behaviour when the daughter meets a young man that she can’t help but be attracted to. Watching it can be an uncomfortable experience but it’s never dull and is sure to inspire lively discussions- even debates.

Volver Penelope Cruz got her first Oscar nomination for Pedro Almodovar’s 2006 Spanish volver-cruz-cobocomedy-drama. Carmen Maura plays mother to both Cruz and Lola Duenas, seemingly back from the dead to seek the forgiveness of her estranged daughter. There’s some serious stuff here but Volver is also surprisingly funny. It’s a hard film to categorize but an easy one to love.

 

Sean

terms_of_endearment_3_maclaine_wingerTerms of Endearment – I saw this movie for the first time yesterday and right away I wondered how I had not seen it before. The opening credits contain so many recognizable names and everyone lives up to expectations. It is not an easy movie to watch because it seems so real. It’s not often a happy movie but it’s so genuine and for that reason above all else I think it will stick with me for a while. I highly recommend it to anyone else who hasn’t seen it.

Spanglish I didn’t even realize until now that this was also written and directed by James L. Brooks (just like Terms of Endearment). Score two for him because this movie is also fantastic. Like Terms of Endearment, it is also not very happy but comparing these movies is a disservice to both. Spanglish stands on its own as a story of true love and sacrifice. Just don’t watch these two movies back to back as you may never recover from all the heartbreak.1112065277

Jay: I can’t believe I let you do this one! I love Spanglish because their cultural isolation really pits the two of them against the world. Even when they occasionally hate each other, they’re still each other’s entire universe, and when other options start to present themselves, this mother is prepared to make the hard choices. You know this movie gets me every time, to see how close the mother gets to love and fulfillment but turns her back on it because she knows it’s best for her daughter.

Freaky Friday (1976) The third slot was a tough one because while I watched several other Freaky-Friday-classic-disney-18104673-900-506mother-daughter movies this week, I felt the other tearjerkers didn’t hit the mark. I went another way. I have to make 100% clear that this is the original Freaky Friday, not the remake. I did not see this movie as a kid, mainly because I confused it with the Friday the 13th series and horror movies terrified me. It’s very dated but it’s fun to see a young Jodie Foster try to act like a regular kid and then do a very accurate impression of herself as adult who happens to be pretending to be a regular kid.

Jay

I’m having a tough time paring down this list. I watched Autumn Sonata (Ingrid fucking Bergman!) which succeeds in being uncomfortable and intense despite subtitles. And I watched Imitation of Life, which pitted parenting styles against each other with equally depressing results. And I watched Because I Said So because frankly, how could I not? As Matt pointed out,acc3e0404646c57502b480dc052c4fe1 Diane Keaton is just screaming to be on this list, and this film with 3 sisters and a meddling mother is a comforting exercise in voyeurism. And Pixar’s Brave – I love the circularity in that relationship, the growth experienced by both women and the understanding that comes with it. And The Kids Are All Right – there’s so much here in terms of a family coming to terms with shifting roles, and it’s striking how much the two mothers complement each other. And Sherrybaby. And Easy A (love Patricia Clarkson in that!). And Anywhere But Here. And Mother and Child. Nothing like a major health crisis to flush out your Netflix queue!

But fuck it. Steel Magnolias, baby. There, I said it. It’s goopy and sentimental but you know 5a64037be0d86f25_steel_jpeg_previewwhat? The relationship at its core, Sally Field and Julia Roberts, feels absolutely genuine. Julia Roberts plays a young woman with diabetes, and Sally Field the constantly-worried mother. Both are headstrong but you can tell that Mom is secretly proud that her daughter is determined not to let her illness stop her from living on her own terms. Sally Field will give anything, including body parts, to keep her daughter going, but when the worst happens, the grief and anger are palpable and real.  For my money, Sally Field talking to her comatose daughter is just about the most heart-wrenching tribute to motherhood you’re apt to find.

And Mermaids. I can’t help it. The family situation reminds me so much of my own – just a mom mermaidsposterand her girls on their own in the world. It’s not always easy, or friendly. When you fight you fight big, but you love big too. And the dancing in the kitchen: yes! I love Cher’s awkward stabs at motherhood – the funny little food and the ill-timed advice – and Christina Ricci’s weird little pumpkin-headed wiggles.

 

Now Voyager is the ultimate in family dysfunction. A hateful and over-bearing mother stifles her daughter NowVoyager-Still6(played by the inesteemable Bette Davis) into a nervous breakdown that turns out to be her weird salvation. Of course, upon return, the now glammed up and self-assured daughter is again reduced to a puddle in the face of her unfeeling mother.