In Review: The Climb

On-screen male friendship is well-tread material in revealing the exploits of compulsively bad men. In Husbands, John Cassavettes detailed toxic male behavior to spiritually and physically exhaustive extent, mining deep pathologies about how men goad and bolster their worst impulses in the name of friendship. Todd Phillips’ The Hangover series reflected all of the misogyny and violence of the very worst kind of bro-y male bonds, and aggressively condoned them. The problem with The Climb, Michael Angelo Covino’s debut feature, is that it thinks it’s the former with the dry wit, but it’s actually the latter with a straight face.

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In Review: Ammonite

After delivering a stifled and stoic romance with God’s Own Country, Francis Lee returns with a film that is largely similar to his previous effort. Ammonite is a new closeted duet mired in harsh natural elements and punctuated with hungered sexual catharsis., and centered on a protagonist of few words. Again, Lee makes an unfeeling physical world to embody the limitations faced by gay people in a straight world; here it’s all crashing waves, frozen stone, and shaly mud. But Ammonite takes us back nearly two hundred years, offering a fictionalized account of paleontologist Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) and a love affair with the married Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan).

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In Review: Kindred

An unnerving family dynamic is at play in Joe Marcantonio’s Kindred, a psychological thriller musing on motherhood and madness. Young Charlotte (Tamara Lawrance) is only tensely welcomed by her boyfriend Ben’s (Edward Holcroft) established, but insular small family unit, with Ben’s mother Margaret (Fiona Shaw) wordlessly clutching to whatever domain she still holds over her adult son. Hovering about is Ben’s step-brother Thomas (Jack Lowden), always cooking and maintaining a strict schedule. Margaret’s home is a stately manor of faded affluence and the beginning signs of major disrepair, much too much house for so little life. Instead of company, it’s filled with expectations.

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In Review: Let Him Go

Diane Lane and Kevin Costner are on an interstate road trip to Yikes-ville in Let Him Go, a dopey new vigilante drama collecting dust on screen faster than your grandmother’s knick knacks on a shelf. Like a Norman Rockwell painting of a public execution, Let Him Go is awfully quaint about the casual violence it accepts as everyday. As the film gets progressively more grim, it almost pathologically leans in toward chicken soup sentimentality to mind-boggling effect. You half expect its high body count finale to end by tunefully rhapsodizing the virtues of waking up to Folgers in your cup.

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In Review: On the Rocks

In her delightful seventh feature On the Rocks, Sofia Coppola captures the New York City streets so lovingly as to deceive you into thinking she has always been a New York filmmaker. Or maybe it’s simply that the warmth and generosity she casts over her characters is so overflowing that it can only pour over into their surroundings. Without question, this is her most affectionate film, a deceptively light quasi-screwball comedy about reconciling a parent’s bullshit when it manifests in your adult life. 

But here Coppola seems to be leaving many of her definitive fascinations behind – most obvious being an Angeleno atmosphere both literal and in vibe, but also the dying gasps of youth. Instead she reveals some of the deeper characteristics of her point of view that register more subtly: suppressed emotional displacement, the fitful enlightenment of aging, and our inability to see just how good we have it. Is On the Rocks something of a pivot for the filmmaker? It at least feels like she has shed something cinematically, and given way to deeper feeling.

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