In Review: Teen Spirit

Somebody said we got a new pop saga on the screen. Does it love us better than the slew of others can? Turns out that actor and now first time director Max Minghella has made one by the numbers that follows every beat we’re familiar with and almost nothing more. Teen Spirit follows a very familiar pop ascension narrative trajectory to acceptably involving results, relying largely on its ultrahip playlist of pop covers. However, the real draw is its headliner Elle Fanning, giving us a new facet to her reign as cinematic teen ingenue.

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In Review: Sauvage

With Sauvage, writer/director Camille Vidal-Naquet creates a film that refuses to be overcome – not to prurient sexual displays, not to emotional manipulation, not to bleakness. This realist telling of a homeless male sex worker’s life is many things, but never is it exploitative. But most exciting is Vidal-Naquet’s achievement in crafting a story that shirks tidiness or the dishonesty of an overly pat, definitively complete character arc. The film is a dark night of the soul where personal demons might always remain to haunt, where darkness has as much potential undertow as optimism. From Sauvage’s vantage, the human spirit is a transitional creature.

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In Review: The Aftermath

Period romance The Aftermath arrives to the screen like a silk-draped salve, the kind of sumptuous melodrama with the empty calories of champagne. This one comes with the genre’s chief sommelier Kiera Knightley, fraught with tragedy in gorgeous gowns, torn between two men for our cathartic benefit. But this after dinner cheese of a film is of the stinky variety, the kind that no presentation can really bring to life or save from the off-putting notes in its flavors. Luckily, and forgivably, The Aftermath doesn’t leave much of an aftertaste.

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In Review: Diane

Underrated character actress Mary Kay Place has finally been given a contemporary showcase for her naturalist gifts in Kent Jones’ Diane. As the eponymous protagonist, Place tells a personal story of sublimated grief in a vacant suburban setting. Diane lives quietly, visiting dying relatives and volunteering in a soup kitchen between check-ins with her addict son Brian (played by Jake Lacy). She is as modestly expressive as Place’s other creations, but it’s the deep rooted and unreconciled emotions beneath her sacrificial actions that make the film and the performance something precious to behold.

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In Review: Sunset

In short order, László Nemes has established himself as a director fascinated by creating for the audience disorientation within a physical space and historical context. His Oscar-winning debut Son of Saul tightly followed an enigmatic protagonist in the Sonderkommando at Auschwitz, keeping the horrors of the Holocaust on the fringes of the frame as it examined the personal void of despair. His follow-up Sunset maintains that tightly framed hounding of his central character, but virtually none of its impact or balance between disorientation and complete perplexion at what we are watching unfold.

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