Out This Week
Everybody Wants Some!! (E One, cert 15)
About perfect, Richard Linklater’s ode to university life when he was a lad is a portrait of 1980s guys just hanging out and having fun, getting laid, listening to music, crashing parties and playing sports. Not much work gets done. It’s done in an Altman-esque overlapping style, pumps music of the era onto the soundtrack and is thick with cultural references to make us feel like we’re there – Space Invaders games as recreation, My Sharona on a car radio, the Burt Reynolds moustache still a non-ironic look. There are no big names and you’d be tempted to think Linklater is aiming for realism, but really he’s going for genre realism, hence that token black guy in a group of jockish dudes, a clear nod to the films of the era. Plot? The slightest, but it’s cute as we follow Jake (Blake Jenner) and Beverly (Zoey Deutch) as they make eyes and hook up, then try not to let on how hot they are for each other though they so are. A lot of whooping, a lot of hell yehs, it’s so freeform it could just kind of go on for ever. The spiritual successor to Dazed and Confused, we’re told. Seems about right. Freedom, that’s what it’s about. And being young. Simple. Brilliant.
Friend Request (Warner, cert 15)
The “stalked by Facebook” film is now a genre staple (see Unfriended, Ratter). Director Simon Verhoeven (no relation to Paul) squeezes new drops of freshness from it with a stalky chiller about a popular girl at college who befriends a needy supergoth and then lives to regret it – no spoilers. Verhoeven paints such an explicitly positive, sunshine-dappled, running-shoes-and-stretches picture of super-friended Laura (Alycia Debnam-Carey) that it’s hard not to feel there’s irony somewhere in that depiction. And as Laura starts getting messages from what appears to be beyond the grave, there’s a sense that this got-it-all girl is perhaps finally getting something she deserves, a comeuppance. It’s a German film, though made in English with very US looks and actors. It’s got pace, it’s got decent actors, it’s got mood. It isn’t particularly novel, but something in there is stirring.
Money Monster (Sony, cert 15)
George Clooney is a TV share tipper – the sort who recommends buys, sells and holds with, literally, a song and dance – who is taken hostage by gun-toting unhappy punter Jack O’Connell, while producer Julia Roberts looks on from the gallery and, a pro to her cuticles, ensures the whole sorry mess is broadcast to the world. Jodie Foster makes one of her occasional forays into directing in what looks initially like a storming satire, or a comedy, or a tragedy, we’re not sure. And it’s nine tenths there, the “miss as good as a mile” evaluation being in the eye of the beholder. Sticking in my eye was Jack O’Connell, normally good, terrible here as the overwrought gun-waving representative of the free-market jetsam who – not in this film anyway – doesn’t really get to have his day. Mister Deeds Goes to Washington is in there, with George’s super-slick Gorgeous George personality gradually morphing into James Stewart as bad banking guy Dominic West is increasingly brought into the frame and held to account, while O’Connell has to manage the harder task of turning into Al Pacino in Dog Day Afternoon as his scheme goes cock-eyed. Roberts, as so often, is perfect – capable, professional, human. Watch it as a farce, rather than as a reckoning with capitalism’s ills, and it’s a fun diversion. I’m not sure that’s what Foster had in mind though…
Author: The JT Leroy Story (Dogwoof, cert 15)
It turns out that the feted author JT Leroy wasn’t the teenage HIV+ son of a truckstop whore at all, but 35-year-old female Laura Albert, who didn’t exactly intend to take the hipster world for a ride. But everyone from Debbie Harry, Gus Van Sant, Bono, Asia Argento, Lou Reed, Billy Corgan and Michael Stipe paid homage of one sort or another when she started publishing books like Sarah and The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things. But take them for a ride she did – until a bit of old-fashioned journalistic research by the New Yorker’s Stephen Beachy and the New York Times’s Warren St John blew her story out of the water, and it was revealed that JT Leroy was in fact being played at public appearances by Albert’s sister-in-law Savannah, and that the publicity-averse real author was generally on hand at these initially rare but increasingly events – as the “manager” or “PA” or some such. Does it matter that it was a woman and not a man who wrote these incendiary works (“It says Fiction on the cover”, as Albert points out)? And if so why? Not points dealt with in this documentary which sticks close to a chronological timeline of the entire messy affair – from largely self-hating Albert first coming up with the pen name (which, after all, is all it was) of Terminator to her final unmasking in 2006. No post-reveal assessment is made of the books either. Maybe it’s felt that they speak for themselves. However, most revealingly, and unintentionally, Author is an almost perfect emperor’s new clothes story about members of the rockerati clutching Leroy close like a security blanket. It says more about them, in a way, that it does about her. Which is why so many of them are furious this documentary was ever made.
Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words (Soda, cert PG)
Why? Why would we be interested? The question remains unanswered even after this documentary about Ingrid Bergman has drifted to a close. Its USP is the wealth of behind-the-scenes film material, home movie footage shot by Ingrid’s own family and by the star herself through her life – from the days when she was just starting out as an actor in Sweden, and was already a phenomenon, to her final capitulation to cancer in 1982. Yes, home movies, so we see Ingrid and her kids in a lot of swimming pools, be warned. It also means we don’t see much of Ingrid at work, or hear much about what she thought about fellow stars – Bogart was “interesting”, apparently. This home movie footage is linked by talking-head commentary from most of her children, none of whom say she was a terrible mother who abandoned them every time this “independent spirit” met a new man, though oldest daughter Pia Lindström comes close, and Isabella Rossellini isn’t far behind. What did she think of Victor Fleming, who directed her in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Joan of Arc – is there a suggestion of an affair? Or photographer Robert Capa, with whom she was in love? Or Italian director Roberto Rossellini, who she famously ran off with and scandalised an easily scandalised world in 1948? We have no idea. Some footage of Isabella in conversation with Liv Ullmann and Sigourney Weaver threatens to get interesting, then it’s back to the pools and the swimming caps and diving boards. As a portrait of an almost supernaturally fresh, pretty and vivacious girl (look at that Hollywood screen test!) whose face seemed to become almost unbearably sad as she got older, it does have value. Otherwise, a missed opportunity.
The Blue Dahlia (Arrow, cert PG)
Often seen as a failed film noir, The Blue Dahlia is an immensely nuanced film from 1946 starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake. Neither of them the greatest actors in the world, but they had something together, these short blonds, and it’s all on the screen in this beautifully restored thriller. The plot: Johnny (Ladd) returns from the war with two pals, George (Hugh Beaumont) and Buzz (William Bendix), though Ego, Id and Superego will do as nicknames. Id has such bad PTSD (see, nuanced) that he can’t function unless he’s using his fists, and while cultured doctor Superego tries to placate him, Johnny heads off to re-connect with his wife, only to find her dressed in a silver sheath, hosting a drinks party in the middle of the day and very thick with Eddie Harwood (Howard Da Silva) the owner of local club the Blue Dahlia (pronounced “Daah-lya” throughout). In short order the floozy wife is dead. But who killed her? In Raymond Chandler’s original treatment it was the PTSD guy Buzz wot dun it, and it’s written into almost every acting and directorial decision in the film that that’s who it was. But, government pressure produced a last-minute change in the screenplay, which is often considered by critics to be a cop-out. I’m not sure why. The joy of watching the film isn’t its whodunit aspect – it never is with Chandler – but watching his emotional switcheroos, the whip-bang dialogue and the occasional eruptions of fairly volcanic violence. Apart from that – watch it for the smoking, the hats, and DP Lionel Lindon’s beautiful lensing of the cold, dark wet streets.
Robinson Crusoe (StudioCanal, cert PG)
Crusoe’s story from the point of view of the animals he shares his desert island with. A parrot, a goat, a gecko, a hedgehog, a woodpecker, a something (armadillo? sloth? no idea). Just one of each, which will make no sense to either Noah or Mr Darwin. There’s a desperately upbeat insistence on everyone just getting along, and the idea is that everyone would if it weren’t for the feral ship’s cats who come ashore when Crusoe is shipwrecked on his island. And… er… that’s it. The animation is interesting, if rendering engines are your thing, the decision to avoid big-name voice casting seems entirely justified (ie it is generally unjustified in other films), though there’s a suspicion that the non-names have been given Ray Romano, Queen Latifah and various other Ice Age voices as a reference. Unlike Hollywood product – this is European – it doesn’t do cultural reference jokes for the adults and there is no ELO on the soundtrack. It’s bright, it’s lively, it’s for eight year olds.
© Steve Morrissey 2016