In Review: Boy Erased

Adapted from Gerrard Conley’s memoir, Boy Erased paints a picture of repressed queer white middle America, in all of the religious familial practice and assumption of normalcy to go with the setting. Lucas Hedges plays the author (here named Jared Eamons) as he is sent to a gay conversion center called Love In Action by his parents, played by Nicole Kidman and Russell Crowe. In the hands of sophomore director Joel Edgerton (himself playing Love in Action’s mouthpiece and leader Victor Sykes) however, this search for healing is detrimentally willing to sacrifice what’s real.

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In Review: Red Sparrow

Jennifer Lawrence has a new attempt at a franchise with Red Sparrow, a post-Cold War yarn of an injured Russian dancer named Dominika recruited to the spy game. Attempting to care for her handicapped mother she submits to become a Russian sparrow, undercover agents trained to manipulate with sexuality and also willful submissives to a punishing governmental agenda. Dominika falls for her first mark, an American agent Nate Nash (named as such in case you couldn’t already tell you’re really dealing with pulp, no doubt) played by Joel Edgerton – and perhaps finds her way out of subjugation. The entire enterprise is even more skeevy and derivative than it sounds.

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In Review!: “Loving”

Jeff Nichols’s Loving somewhat boldly attempts to embody the spirit of its subject without traditional movie moments. Depicting the lives of Richard and Mildred Loving (played by Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga), whose marriage ultimately led to the Supreme Court ruling on the constitutionality of interracial marriage, the film honestly shows their hesitancy to the spotlight and their humble existence in 1960s Virginia. But while Loving mirrors their disposition in the face of their predicament – don’t expect dramatic courtroom scenes or much invasion from snarling racists – neither does it tell us much about them. The embodiment unfortunately isn’t illuminating to Richard and Mildred, and the stylist risk doesn’t work if we don’t also understand them.

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The modest approach is somewhat of Nichols’s favored point of entry over his filmography; earlier this year his Midnight Special similarly refused genre rules, but it’s aloofness was one of its more intriguing (and love-it-or-hate-it) aspects. Take Shelter, still his best film, was all paranoia and psychosis and showed that he can achieve this embodiment in the unfolding of the film. Loving finds him at his most unassuming, an emotionally intuitive film that simply doesn’t work as well as it should.

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In Review!: “Midnight Special”

Jeff Nichols has been steadily becoming the prominent American writer/director voice for the rural American male after the masterful psychological nightmare of Take Shelter and the open-hearted fable of Mud. His latest, Midnight Special is a bit wider in scope and ambition while keeping one foot in the pool of his previous efforts Americana environment. Nichols is playing with genre this time, a soft sci-fi effort that shows his ability to captivate an engaged audience with his confident control of craft. However unlike those previous efforts (along with the underseen Shotgun Stories), the screenplay rarely cracks the surface of the world he provides for us. The film’s eyes are bigger than its stomach.

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Nichols staple Michael Shannon plays Roy, who is on the run with his childhood friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton) with Roy’s mysteriously gifted son Alton (St. Vincent‘s Jaden Lieberher). Alton’s powers remain vague for much of the film, but he is wanted by the government for perceived threat to national security. Those powers had led Alton to be praised as some kind of deity by the cult he was raised within, an organization reminiscent of recent polygamist raids whose leader had taken claim over the raising of Alton. After kidnapping Alton and meeting up with his birth mother (Kirsten Dunst), Roy must deliver his son to the fateful coordinates that Alton had prophesied.

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Trailer Drop: “Midnight Special”

After the one-two punch of Take Shelter and Mud, Jeff Nichols is among the top emerging directors that we’re excited for here at filmmixtape. He’s venturing into genre elements – skills he hinted at with Shelter – with possibility his most mainstream film yet: Midnight Special. The teaser suggests we’ll get to see a softer side of virtuoso Michael Shannon and a chance for St. Vincent‘s charmer Jaeden Lieberher to shine. After being pushed back from this fall to avoid the holiday multiplex logjam, Special opens March 18 and is one of filmmixtape’s most anticipated of 2016.