In Review!: “Allied”

Allied is something of a curious star vehicle for Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. Set in a world of WWII espionage, the stars play spies that fall in love during a field mission and find potential double crossing once married back at home. The screenplay (by Steven Knight) strives for old school Hollywood wartime love story with dashes of noir and minor twists on character tropes. However, the film itself under Robert Zemeckis’s direction is all but disinterested in what makes the screenplay worthwhile, preferring a glossy veneer that rarely dives deeper than the over-tinkered surface. Much of Allied looks and feels completely artificial.

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The film’s first Morocco-set act (its best) has a simmering intrigue that the movie doesn’t maintain once the lovers are united. Zemeckis empty visual grandness present in the rest of the film is enigmatic and entertaining here, building the film’s world rather than needlessly showing off. The film also hums to the understated rhythms of Cotillard’s performance, sly and involving without borrowing from the screen mavens of the era the film itself is chasing. Allied is never more alive than when Cotillard is center stage, even Pitt deferential to her subtle and sexy work.

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Hit Me With Your Best Shot!: “Death Becomes Her”

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After all these years, Death Becomes Her is still a delightful romp – a broad blend of old Hollywood diva mudslinging, morbid farce, and goddess worship. As much as the film satirizes gratuitous ageism thrust upon women and its impact on the ego, the film adores its actresses. Isabella Rossellini reigns supreme, but Goldie Hawn and Meryl Streep are audience catnip even at their most vicious. With this much talent, wit, and glamour in the frame, its no surprise that director Robert Zemeckis and director of photography Dean Cundey frame them like the queens they are.

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No wonder gays and drag queens have kept the film alive with all this operatic idolatry – though where are the drag queens impersonating Rossellini’s sexual septuagenarian Lisle von Rhuman? Perhaps I just missed that one by a decade.

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There is also a classic monster movie element to the actresses visual representation in the film. Mad and Hel are frequently scene lurking around a corner, behind a bush, stalking into the foreground to frighten Bruce Willis’s Ernest. Their eyes are lit like Dracula, their sexuality as threatening as it is enticing. What is Lisle if not a vampire empress, pulling you in precisely because she’s a bit spooky?

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