Tag Archives: Sarah Paulson

Martha Marcy May Marlene

Things that start out seeming like a commune can actually end up more like a cult in the end. The movie starts at that end, with Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) running away from it, and being pursued, which is a good way to know for sure that it wasn’t ever a commune. She’s been gone for years so her sister Lucy (Sarah Paulson) and brother-in-law Ted (Hugh Dancy) are pretty surprised to get her call, but they welcome her into their home though she keeps her past whereabouts on the downlow.

Lucy and Ted have a very nice life and an idyllic home, but Martha can’t really relax. She wonders if she’s far enough away, if she’s safe. She’s haunted by flashbacks of the cult that kept her captive. And Lucy is still a little hurt that her sister was just out MV5BYTZkZmM4ZjYtOGM5Mi00YzllLTk4OTgtNTJlODhmMzIwY2NjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDQzMDYzOQ@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1500,1000_AL_of contact for so long – she might have empathy if only she knew the truth. But the two sisters have only each other for family, and now they’re struggling to readjust to each other. And truthfully, Martha is a little frustrating with the tight lip thing.

John Hawkes plays the charismatic cult leader who rapes the girls but then writes them a lovely ballad the next morning. It’s an interesting role for him. I love John Hawkes, he’s so unassuming but he’s got this massive range. In this he straddles this character, dangling him between ordinary Joe and insidious monster. And of course it’s the monsters who look normal who are the most scary, aren’t they? That’s how they catch you.

Christopher Abbott, Julia Garner, and the wonderful Maria Dizzia round out the cult cast, giving it some flavour, because not everyone gets to be the tyrannical messiah.

Leaving is hard. Staying isn’t easy. Sometimes it seems impossible to do either/or. Director Sean Durkin creates a real psychological quagmire; it goes down relatively smoothly but leaves a drop in your stomach so you remember – yeah, now that was a movie.

Advertisements

Rebel In The Rye

J.D. “Juvenile Delinquent” Salinger gets thrown out of schools just to piss his father off. It’s his mother who encourages him to enroll in a writing class, while his dad doubts there’ll be a single paycheque in his future. In his writing program he meets professor Whit Burnett, a hard-ass he grows to love. “Jerry” writes because he’s angry and he needs to express it somehow. Burnett shows him how to do this without alienating his reader. He’s also the one who encourages him to turn Holden Caulfield into a novel, and the one who worries him when he goes off to war.

Salinger (Nicholas Hoult) returns from war a better writer perhaps, but messed up in other ways, unsurprisingly. Catcher In The Rye is an enormous hit. That messes him up lead_720_405too. I wondered how I’d come to miss this movie, with notable subjects and stars, but I didn’t have to wait long to figure out the why if not the how: Kevin Spacey. He co-stars as the beleaguered, bloated professor, which means the accusations against him would have left the producers scrambling, and they buried it in a shallow Hollywood grave.

But to be fair, Spacey’s involvement isn’t the film’s only problem. It’s too neat, too well-packaged, perhaps even too kind to the author, who no doubt was an interesting, tortured recluse. Hoult is fine as Salinger, and he plays well against the likes of Sarah Paulson, Zoey Deutch, and even Spacey. But this is a pretty ordinary, banal biopic that’s a little starry-eyed about its subject, which dilutes its power and keeps us at arm’s length from the real artist, a man who loved writing but gave it up to live privately, to meditate for his mental health, and to avoid press at all costs.

It’s also, if we’re being honest, hard to reconcile a beloved and important work with so much pain. This movie is both too much (too broad) and not enough (no depth). Rebel in the Rye is more like Mediocre at the Movies.

Ocean’s 8

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has an annual gala to celebrate its epic costume exhibits. It’s the most exclusive party in town, and guests compete to see which top-tier designer will outfit them. It’s a parade of jaw-dropping gowns and over the top accessories worn by the biggest celebrities who don’t mind being incredibly uncomfortable for an evening. It’s paparazzo heaven, and whoever dons the most shocking and exquisite dress WILL make the front page of every magazine and newspaper the next day. I live for this shit: the shoes, the jewels, the blatant disregard for theme. The MET gala is an institution. And it’s a fucking lot of fun to watch some badass women rob the damn thing.

Sandra Bullock plays Debbie Ocean, Danny’s sister who’s fresh off a 5-year stint in the slammer. That’s 5 whole years she’s had of dedicated heist planning, so on the day of her release, she hits the ground running, and the first place she runs to is her old friend and MV5BMzk0M2Y0YWQtZWVlYy00MGU2LTk1NmQtOGRlYWM4ODhlYjkwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTc5OTMwOTQ@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1502,1000_AL_partner Lou (Cate Blanchett) who doesn’t need much convincing. The plan is not to rob the museum, but to rob the neck of famous actress and red carpet savant Daphne (Anne Hathaway) of the 6lbs\$150 million dollars worth of diamonds that will be hanging there ever so tantalizingly.  Who could resist? Debbie and Lou assemble a crack team including a jeweler (Mindy Kaling), a hacker (Rihanna), a soccer mom fence (Sarah Paulson), and a master of the sleight of hand (Awkwafina) to pull off the ultimate crime.

When Ghostbusters got an all-female reboot, sad little cockmuppets cried that their childhoods had been ruined. It seemed like there was less vitriol for an all-female version of Ocean’s, perhaps because the Ocean’s fans are adults rather than manbabies suckling at the teat of nostalgia. Still, I couldn’t help but be sad when Debbie herself justifies her all-female team: women are far more likely to be overlooked.

Ocean’s 8 is good but not great. It’s a heist movie and you’ll never question where it’s going, but the fun is how it gets there. And there is some fun here. Helena Bonham Carter, splendidly cast as a kooky designer, has the time of her life. Anne Hathaway, who I normally cannot stand, earns some laughs with her starlet parody. And Cate Blanchett, hooo-eeee, let’s just sit here and ignore the fact that I’m about to objectify her, big time. Those bangs. Wispy blonde bangs that fall into her eyelashes just so. She’s constantly blinking under their weight, and I’m constantly imagining how I might sweep them away for her. Knock me over, knock me right over.

But with nearly every ensemble, my complaint is similar: just not enough time with all of my favourites. Sarah Paulson is a working mother conwoman, a criminal type we do not often glimpse in Hollywood’s depiction of the underworld, and Paulson’s talent is so enormous she maximizes her screen time and paints her character with charisma and relatability. Mindy Kaling is effervescent but underused. Newcomer Awkwafina has clearly got star power, but she’s not exactly getting equal screen time with the Oscar winners on either side of her. Even though you only need 8 women to do the job of 11-13 men, the movie still feels crowded and the cast just doesn’t always get what it deserves. There are way too few female characters in this genre, and the 8 here are still just a drop in the bucket. We need to see a lot more lady (crime) bosses to even up the score, but maybe next time a lady boss behind the camera might also be in order – you know, if you want it done right.

The Post

In 1971, Kay Graham was the first of her kind, a female newspaper publisher, but she was never supposed to have the job. The Washington Post was part of the family business but her father passed it down not to her, but to her husband. But when her husband committed suicide, she stepped into shoes that had always been loafers, not heels.

Then, something amazing happens: someone leaks top secret documents that detail the Vietnam cover-up that spanned 4 U.S. presidents including the current one, Richard Nixon, who’s kind of a dick. The NY Times gets ahold of them but gets shut down by Tricky Dick and his cronies. The papers then filter down to The Washington Post, and Kay Graham has to decide whether she’s going to risk her little empire AND a serious prison sentence.

Interesting facts about Mrs. Graham: she was not a powerful business person, or used to MV5BMTg5Nzg3NjUzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTY5NzA1NDM@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_being in charge. She’d never had another job. She was naturally meek, and kind of nervous. She was surrounded by assertive men, some of whom weren’t crazy to have her among their midst and certainly didn’t see her as an equal never mind a boss, and none of whom were shy about voicing their opinions. She was, however, an accomplished socialite, which in the city of Washington, means she counted many prominent politicians among her friends – and the particular politician at the epicenter of this scandal was among her closest. These facts are not to diminish her but to illustrate just how courageous she truly was to take the stance she did.

Newsflash: Steven Spielberg is a good director. Yeah, we already knew this, but this film had me noticing all kinds of little details that I admired greatly. This movie has the feel of a smart and sharp little indie; it’s taut and thrilling and lots of fun. It gets a little heavy-handed at times but its best moments are when it’s showing, not telling.

Maybe Spielberg’s greatest asset is his incredible ensemble cast. Tom Hanks is the fevered editor, and he’s flawless. Bob Odenkirk is stupendous as a hard-working investigative journalist. But of course it’s Meryl Streep who steals the show as Kay Graham. It’s not a showy role. Mrs. Graham is never the biggest personality in the room. She’s not commanding, but we are nevertheless riveted by Ms. Streep. Her shaking hands, her tremulous lip – we see how hard this for her, and so we admire her all the more for doing it.

You are not contractually allowed to write a review of this film without using the word “timely”. About a year ago, Nixon was down-graded to only the second most douche-baggiest president in history. Truth matters. The press belongs to the governed, not the governors. Support journalism. Subscribe to a newspaper, even if you read it online. One day they’ll be making movies about this time. But this is not just a news story, it’s also, of course, a nod to feminism. Mrs. Graham walks through a sea of secretaries before she’s admitted to the all-male floor of the New York Stock Exchange. She faces a Supreme Court that has never had a female Justice and wouldn’t for another decade. When someone says that Mrs. Graham’s father willing the family business to Kay’s husband says a lot about the man, Tom Hanks replies that actually, it says more about the time. So yeah, this is the movie we all need right now. It’s essential viewing. But even if wasn’t so “timely”, it’s so thoroughly peppered by exceptionally talented people that The Post is an easy recommendation and a damn fine film.

The Other Sister

I have 3 sisters, all younger, not that I usually admit that. We look nothing alike (one makeup artist once had the audacity to question our mother’s fidelity) and we act even less alike – personalities, politics, habits and hairstyles. We are DIFFERENT.  With a mere 5.5 years between the oldest and youngest, I still feel oddly protective of 0f606ab50a1c97cfb33ffa49c80c7804them and it’s mind-boggling to think that they’re not in fact little girls anymore, but women, and 2 of them mothers with babies of their own. Not dollies, babies. And not even babies: one nephew is already a dinosaur expert, another an enthusiastic soloist, and a third a stunt bike rider. They’re all 5 and under and as handsome as they are smart (which is inherited from the aunt, right?).

I’ll be on my way to see them this weekend since it’s Thanksgiving and all, the holiday where we honour the tradition of my mother being an almost adequate and fantastically bland cook, the upside being we all manage not to overeat.

I have 3 sisters (and 3 sisters-in-law) but I do not have an Other Sister. The Other Sister (as in the movie, and the character) is Carla, the sister who has a mental disability. Played by Juliette Lewis, Carla was sent away as a child when her disability proved too big a 7eaaec97eb82cb540938d3880e982006disability for her family to handle. Now a young woman, she’s moved back home and is trying to assert her independence. Her mother, played by Diane Keaton, has never really known how to parent her. Her sisters (Poppy Montgomery, Sarah Paulson) didn’t grow up with her. It’s making friends with someone with his own challenges (Daniel, Giovanni Ribisi) that inspires Carla to aspire to a larger life.

All of the sisters in The Other Sister are celebrating Thanksgiving in the film, an especially auspicious holiday because it’s the date Daniel and Carla choose to consummate their love. Turkey makes any anniversary more special, as you can imagine. And pie is always good post-sex. Post-nearly-everything. I’m not sure if any of my sisters are marking similar occasions, and I bet I won’t even ask. Instead I’ll say thanks for all the blessings in my life, even the teeny tiny ones like my pink headphones that let me watch sappy movies at work. Happy Thanksgiving to you too.

 

TIFF: Blue Jay

For 16 glorious hours, Blue Jay was my favourite movie at TIFF. Then I watched La La Land and I was in cinematic, technicolour heaven. I’ll tell anyone who will listen every single day of my life that I’m a lucky, lucky girl. Getting to watch 2 astounding, knock-your-socks-off films? Frosting on my fucking cupcake.

Blue Jay is nearly an anti-La La Land. It’s a small, quiet, black and white film that’s not destined for the Oscars, or even really theatres (a small run in LA and NY, and then Netflix by the end of the year – lucky us!). But it is superb.

bluejay_03-h_2016It stars Mark Duplass and Sarah Paulson, almost exclusively. They play high school sweethearts who bump into each other 20 years later. Agony and ecstasy, right there on the screen. And heaping spoonfuls of awkwardness, don’t forget that. Because they were in luuuuurv. The real deal. And now they don’t even know each other. It reminded me of a friend who had recently posted on Facebook that it was her ex-husband’s birthday, a date she can’t help but remember even if she no longer even knows if he’s alive. Isn’t it weird that we can lose track of people who used to be our whole worlds?

For Jim and Amanda (Duplass and Paulson), once they get over their initial weirdness, it’s almost like no time has elapsed at all. They’ve both moved on, new cities, big jobs, other lovers. And yet they can pick up where they left off, the magic reappearing in an instant. It’s like opening up a dorky little hole into time and space, hurtling these two pushing-40-year-olds back to their glory days in high school, when things were light and fun, thecaa09d60-5f6f-0134-3e92-0ad17316e277 sex was hot and heavy, and Annie Lennox was everything. Jim and Amanda will take you down your own worm hole, and if you don’t end the movie thinking about your own First Love, then you my friend have a cold, cold heart.

I picked this movie on two words alone: Mark Duplass. But Sarah Paulson is luminous; she fucking shoots starlight out of her face. The two together have incredible chemistry, and it’s obvious they work-shopped their characters together to perfection – the nostalgic backstory, their lovable eccentricities, the subtle hints to what caused their demise. Duplass and Paulson each deliver career-best performances. No kidding.

If you have ever loved and lost, this movie is for you. If you didn’t marry your high school sweetheart, this movie is for you. If you married him and left him, this movie is for you. If you appreciate things like smart dialogue, meticulous observation, authentic and vulnerable performances, and little bursts of spontaneity that are pure joy on celluloid, this movie is for you.

 

Oh fer fuck’s sake, just see it. It’s for everybody. It’s perfect.