Tag Archives: Rachel Weisz

The Favourite

Yorgos Lanthimos tells stories about relationships. He clearly finds us human beings fascinating, but the way in which he carves his observations out of us us with such surgical precision makes me feel like Lanthimos isn’t quite one of us.

In The Lobster, he imagined that single people were so desperate to pair up, they’d agree to do so under duress, and under deadline, with failure to find love transforming you literally into an animal. In The Killing of A Sacred Deer, a man watches the innocent pay for his sins until he can not only admit them, but make a sacrifice to atone. These films strike a unique tone; Lanthimos’ voice is absurd but bold and unwavering.

In The Favourite, Abigail (Emma Stone) is a former lady fallen quite low. She’s at the MV5BYzUzNzg5ZmUtMzAwNC00NjA0LTkzOGYtMmViNzAzZmY1NjhhXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMjcwODY0NTE@._V1_palace to beg for a job from her cousin, Sarah, Queen Anne’s trusted lady in waiting. Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is mentally and physically frail. Between painful attacks of gout and a nervous disposition, she leads a lonely life on her throne, often bedridden, frequently deranged with pain or paranoia. Her only friend and companion is Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz), who basically rules the country in her place. Sarah is a strict go-between, acting as a buffer between Queen Anne and the demands of her royal position, and if she uses that position to exert her own will and influence, well…of course she does. Wouldn’t you?

But Abigail is way more wily than Sarah first gives her credit for. Abigail’s had to do some shitty things in order to survive, and she’s prepared to do what it takes to make sure she never has to suffer again. She throws her charm into overdrive, ,and soon Sarah realizes she’s competing with her cousin for Queen Anne’s attention.

In The Favourite, Yorgos Lanthimos’s gift to us is a power struggle between the three that is never dull, never less than captivating. Emma Stone is fresh-faced but  clever and calculating as Abigail, the servant with major ambition. Olivia Colman is desperately lonely and deeply insecure, but her queen has learned to wield her power to get what she needs. Rachel Weisz is brilliant, as ever. Insanely brilliant. Sarah has made a deal with the royal devil. She has goals and knows they don’t come cheap. Pretty soon there’s an insane transactional triad going on that you’ve got to see to believe – and to some extent, admire. Obviously, women in the 18th century weren’t exactly in the best position, not even if you were queen, but these 3 are making choices and bargains. They are driven by necessity, and desire.

This period piece is soaking in, nay, fermenting in, rich tapestries, both actual and metaphorical. You eyes will drip with colours and patterns and lush landscapes, but despite the beautiful 18th century dressings, this feels like Lanthimos’s most relevant, most contemporary work. Witty, naughty, and sometimes disturbingly dark, The Favourite is stunning, and an absurd amount of fun.

Advertisements

The Mercy

Donald Crowhurst is hawking navigational tools for sailing that nobody really wants. When a contest is announced that would reward the fastest sailor to navigate the globe without stopping, Crowhurst decides it’s the perfect way to showcase his product, generate press, and make himself known. He’s the last man in the water, but he hopes to make up for it by speed. The problem is, he’s just a hobbyist, an amateur sailor, and he’s going up against the world’s best.

Of course, sailing around the world is the kind of competition that’s very solitary, and MV5BMjMwMTE2Mjc5NF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNzk5NTAyOTE@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_difficult to measure. The irony is that though he’s a master of navigation, sailing-wise, it’s being away from his family that is disorienting to him. Out on his boat, alone for months, never seeing land, rarely hearing the voices of his children, Donald (Colin Firth) goes slightly mad, as one would. It’s a test of endurance, but also of mental fortitude. Though the sea and the elements thwart him at every turn, he himself is his biggest obstacle, and every day is a struggle not to quit.

At home, his wife Clare (Rachel Weisz) tries to keep the family afloat while putting on a cheery face for the children even though she frequently doesn’t know if her husband is dead or alive.

Because they’ve bothered to make a movie out of this ‘incredible true story,’ I thought I knew how it would go. I was wrong. The Mercy doesn’t exactly break new ground cinematically, but thematically it’s as crushing as it is absorbing. Colin Firth is astonishing. Frequently on screen alone, his descent into madness is magnetic. It glues your eyeballs to the screen. Rachel Weisz is no slouch, of course, but as the little woman back home, she’s given much less to do other than look fetching in a head scarf. However, when the film does call on her to be something more, you know she answers is as only she could.

The Mercy is a big lungful of salt water. It’s a surprise. It gives you a jolt. If Colin Firth is the film’s compass, Rachel Weisz is its buoy.

 

Disobedience

Ronit and Esti were childhood friends and young lovers but their Orthodox community forced them apart and Ronit left in disgrace and scandal, shunned by her Rabbi father. Years later, she returns upon his death and finds that her mere presence sets tongues wagging and old rumours flying. Esti is still there and has forged herself a new life within the boundaries of her religion. She is married to a mutual (male) friend and it isn’t terrible.

Old passions are reignited between Ronit (Rachel Weisz), who lives as a photographer in NYC, and Esti (Rachel McAdams), who wears a wig to cover her hair and has careful, kosher sex with her husband every Shabbat. But as good and devout MV5BN2U1ZjllMWQtYzBlOC00ZGQyLTg0YTUtNWQ3YmI3ZjYwNmIzXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_as Esti’s present life is, even the memories of her past with Ronit are scorching enough to make everyone nervous. In their community, straight marriage is the only option, and it’s not so much an option as an obligation. Esti stayed, and conformed; Ronit left, and flourished, though she has all but abandoned her faith.

Disobedience isn’t graphic or specific of pointed. It goes about things in a rounder, softer way, nuzzling up to the subject and laying at its feet. This movie gives you two Rachels for the price of one, and they keep things on simmer for a really long time. On screen like they’re magnets; there’s an electric current between them that’s full of little zaps but no big surges. I really liked Weisz’s choices in particular, how she subtly plays with her hair, reminding us that hers is on display while Esti must cover hers up. And how the uncovering of hair then becomes an act of intimacy, a form of foreplay, a zap in the movie’s current. It’s not just sexual repression that bubbles over in Disobedience; religion and culture are enmeshed in this story. And while the cast does an admirable job of making this feel true, I’m not sure this is director Sebastián Lelio’s story to tell.

Weisz and McAdams communicate a lot through glances and silence. Lelio’s interpretation is a little literal for my taste, but the women here elevate the material and make it something special.

 

Top 10 LGBTQ Movies 2018

10. Duck Butter: While I dislike the title with an intensity I’ve rarely known, I very much like this movie, about two young women (Alia Shawkat, Laia Costa) who decide to buck the normal dating bullshit and spend a very intimate 24 hours together in a sort of romantic, quasi-social experiment.

9. The Death and Life of John F. Donovan: Kit Harington plays Donovan, a teen heartthrob who is no longer a teen himself, but has hidden away his true self in servitude to his leading man roles. And while fame always comes with a cost, so too does hiding your real identity.

8. The Joneses: A beautiful documentary about transgender family matriarch and all the healing and understanding it’s taken to get her family all living together under the same roof, in America’s bible belt.

7. Colette: Keira Knightley plays a real-life writer who was oppressed and overshadowed by her husband. But it’s not just her professional life that suffers – in the shadows, Colette prefers women, and this movie is about her emancipation, in more ways than one.

6. Disobedience: Ronit (Rachel Weisz) returns to the Orthodox Jewish community that shunned her for her attraction to a female childhood friend and finds that their passion is just as they left it, only Esti (Rachel McAdams) is now a married woman and mother.

5. Transformer: Janae Marie Kroczaleski was born Matt and known to the power lifting community simply as ‘Kroc.’ Her transition means giving up the thing she loves most in the world, which she struggles to be accepted by her parents and kids, and to form her own identity outside the gym.

4. Boy Erased: When Jared’s (Lucas Hedges) parents find out he’s gay, it’s off to gay conversion camp for him, so that the religious wackos there can beat it out of him. The nice thing about this film is that Jared, though religious, and a good son, never buys into their bullshit and his self-discovery is really empowering.

3. McQueen: A documentary about a guy whose background and upbringing made him an unlikely haute couture success, but he turned his name into a brand that is recognized around the world today. But his personal life never mirrored the success of his professional one; Alexander McQueen was a tortured, brilliant man.

2. Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Yes, this is a movie about literature and forgery, but it’s also a buddy romance between a cantankerous lesbian and a witty gay man. Their devotion is worthy of any love story. Although their sexualities are never exactly in the spotlight, this is the kind of sweet, platonic, taking-care-of-each-other relationship that’s common in the gay community and almost unheard of in Hollywood.

1.  Love, Simon: Many of the movies on this list are better, but have any had the same impact? Simon is just a regular high school student. His coming out is bigger in his head than it actually is in life. He has a loving support system. But most of all, it’s nice to see a big-studio romance with a queer lead, and I hope it means we’ll get to see many more. There’s a lot of catching up to do.

My Cousin Rachel

Philip (Sam Claflin), receives distressing news from his cousin and guardian, who adopted him as an orphaned baby. While recovering from an illness in Italy, he met and married a woman and now has regrets. If his strange and hasty missives are to believed, this woman, Rachel (Rachel Weisz), is trying to kill him. Philip rushes off to intervene but his guardian is dead before he arrives. He swears vengeance on the widow but she has conveniently disappeared.

Philip returns home, to the estate he will now inherit once he comes of age – and luckily, MV5BMDYxOTU1ZDItYjJkMC00ZTVmLWFhZDktNDFiODRlODI1MzQ4L2ltYWdlXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNDcxNzU3MTE@._V1_his required 25th birthday is right around the corner. But before it can be celebrated, the ballsy widow shows up for a social call. Draped in black, she looks like a grieving widow, but passionate kiss shared between the two perhaps belie other motives. Of course, this particular widow does not look like the wicked witch of Philip’s dreams, but seeing how she’s played by the enchanting Rachel Weisz, probably looks more like the woman in a different kind of dream altogether.

So the film’s central mystery unfolds: is Rachel trying to seduce young Philip into sharing his inheritance (the will was never changed to reflect her at all), or are there genuine feelings here? Whichever way you lean, this is a dark romance at best. A bad romance (roma, ro-a-a?). Which of course is intoxicating to stupid virginal Philip who will follow his cock just about anywhere it seems.

Gothic and moody, Rachel Weisz is a commanding and alluring black widow. Unfortunately, director Roger Michell has less of a firm grip on this Du Maurier mystery. Did she or didn’t she?  Either he doesn’t know, or doesn’t care. So it’s less satisfying than it should be. But ambiguity would have been just fine by me; it’s what allows us to contemplate Rachel’s precarious position and explore the feminist slant – is a woman left penniless and powerless acting in her own self-interest really all that shocking or evil? In any case, Weisz is the reason to watch. Her every moment on screen is magnetic.

TIFF: Denial

denial_04Movies based on true stories were a recurring theme for us at TIFF 2016. Our festival experience included five B.O.A.T.S. in a row. My favourite of those was Denial. As a lawyer, I may be slightly biased toward legal dramas, but if you have even a passing interest in law and order (or Law & Order) then you’ll enjoy Denial.

Denial tells the tale of a defamation lawsuit brought by David Irving, British holocaust denier, against Deborah Lipstadt, American university professor. The claim is brought in England, and as a result in order to defend herself, Lipstadt is faced with proving that Irving is a liar.denial

Director Mick Jackson attended our screening and participated in a Q&A session afterward. Jackson confirmed that the courtroom scenes were word-for-word reenactments of the trial transcripts.  That was a great choice by the writers as it makes the scenes feel authentic in pace, tone and style. It was refreshing to me that the real-life scenes were allowed to stand by themselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the over-the-top moments a la Col. Jessep’s crossexamination in A Few Good Men, but those don’t actually ever happen in real life. Real life is much more subtle.  Denial embraces that subtlety wholeheartedly and in doing so sets itself apart from your typical lawyer movie.denial-timothy-spall

Rachel Weisz puts on her best American accent and convincingly plays targeted Professor Lipstadt as a driven, determined and difficult-to-deal-with client, and Timothy Spall is wonderfully despicable as Holocaust-denier Irving. But my favourite performance by far was Tom Wilkinson as Lipstadt’s barrister, Richard Rampton, Q.C. Wilkinson is just so fun to watch in the courtroom scenes and in the strategy sessions with Weiss and the rest of team Lipstadt, led by Andrew Scott (who, thanks to his role in Sherlock, I was sure would turn out to be the evil mastermind pulling Irving’s strings). He conveys confidence while at the same time hinting at underlying conflict. I can only hope my British accent develops to the point where one day I sound as lawyerly as Wilkinson.

While I practice my accent, you should definitely watch Denial. I give it a score of eight unhandleable truths out of ten.

 

 

 

The Light Between Oceans

The Light Between Oceans is a film for the literary sort. It’s poetically paced, languid in its development. It’s about a man (Michael Fassbender) who, having survived the war, is keen on some isolation and takes a job as a lighthouse keeper on a lonely island. He doesn’t count on falling in love, and is delighted to double the population of his rock when he takes a wife (Alicia Vikander). Now all they need is a baby and they’ll have a real population boom on their hands.

the-light-between-oceans-heroine-alicia-vikander-picturesBut wait. The babies aren’t coming so easily for this young couple. In fact, the only baby that comes is one that washes ashore, screaming in her dead father’s arms. It’s the lighthouse keeper’s duty to report orphaned baby to the mainland, no matter how much his distraught, infertile, grieving wife may want to keep her. Right?

The Light Between Oceans is beautifully shot by DP Adam Arkapaw; you’ll be sick of the postcard-perfect scenery by the end of the movie. We get it, it’s gorgeous. Fassbender and Vikander fit right in (once she shaves off his mustache anyway), pantomiming love so well they actually fell in love themselves, and are a couple to this day. They’re committed in their roles and aren’t to be blamed when this film ultimately falters.

What makes it stumble?  The pace may be a deterrent. While I was okay with the unhurried the-light-between-oceanspace, I worried that Sean was bored. Or asleep. He assured me he was neither, and I nearly believe him. Second, and hugely, is the contrived plot which forces the characters to behave rather stupidly. As much as you want to like them, and have liked them, you will grow frustrated. And emotional: director Derek Cianfrance is adamant that you cry. He will not be satisfied, or leave well enough alone, until you do.