What they had

After putting some make up, Ruth (Blythe Danner) goes out into the Chicago snowy winter wearing only a nightgown and her slippers. Ruth has Alzheimer. She does things like fail to recognize her own children or talk into the stapler when the phone rings. Realizing that she’s gone, her husband Burt (Robert Forster) phones their son, Nicky (Michael Shannon). Then Nicky phones his sister Bridget (Hilary Swank) who flies in from California with her highly depressed/sleepy daughter, Emma (Taissa Farmiga, Vera Farmiga’s younger sister). Burt did not want Bridget to be called, claiming that all is fine and that he can take care of his wife. They find Ruth unharmed, but the problem remains, according to Nicky: What are we going to do with mom? The family members react differently depending on the way they usually respond to crisis. Dad/Burt wants to be in control and thinks he can manage, even though there are ample proofs that he can’t. Nicky, who has already looked for a memory center, rages and rants when nobody listens. Bridget has the perfect solution: Do nothing. And Emma sleeps. This is a complex family portrait, with the family’s dysfunctions (hey, we all came from dysfunctional families) highlighting everyone’s failing in their personal lives. What I liked about What they had is the excellent ensemble cast. What I liked most is the great performances from two veteran actors: Robert Forster and Blythe Danner. Danner is all subtlety here as she bring sweet and sour nostalgic humour to the film. Forster plays the central character in the film. He’s really the master conductor in an orchestra of great actors. I’m hoping to see Danner and Forster be Oscar nominated. Who knows? Only time will tell. In the meantime enjoy!

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

What they had

 

Directed by:
Elizabeth Chomko

Screenplay by:
Elizabeth Chomko

Starring:
Hilary Swank
Michael Shannon
Robert Forster
Blythe Danner
Taissa Farmiga

101 min.

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The happy prince

The happy prince is an Oscar Wilde biopic about the last years of his life. After spending a few years of hard labour in British prisons for homosexuality, Oscar Wilde goes to Paris where he can live without fear under the name of Sebastian Melmoth. Although Wilde (Rupert Everett) is physically weaker as a result of his time in prison where he had to endure a lot, he also retains a bloated ego. He is shown going to a French tavern, standing on tables to sing with great panache. And there’s the young male prostitute who seems to be in awe of him. At home in England, his wife, Constance (Emily Watson), won’t allow him to see his sons unless he stops seeing his lover young Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas (Colin Morgan). But in Paris Wilde can’t wait to be reunited with Bosie. He gets a lot of support from his ex-lover Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas) or friends like Reggie Turner (Colin Firth). This great cast also includes Tom Wilkinson in a small if-you-blink-you’ll-miss-it cameo. As Oscar Wilde becomes weaker he starts having weird visions. In one stunning moment, a stoic Queen Victoria is staring at Wilde on his deathbed. Except for a few flashback snippets, most of the film shows Wilde at the end of life. On top of playing Rupert Everett playing Oscar Wilde, he also wrote the screenplay and directed the film. The film is all over the place and needed a bit more focus, but it’s excusable as Wilde had a big over the top persona. And Everett plays a complex, multifaceted character. One moment joyous, then depressed and depressing, jumping on tables to quietly singing a love song to some boy (it’s surely Bosie) or later self-pitying. The production values are excellent. What’s not to like?

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

The happy prince

 

Directed by:
Rupert Everett

Screenplay by:
Rupert Everett

Starring:
Rupert Everett
Edwin Thomas
Colin Morgan
Colin Firth
Benjamin Voisin
Emily Watson
Tom Wilkinson
Béatrice Dalle
Anna Chancellor

105 min.

American chaos

Six months before the 2016 Presidential Election, Jim Stern took his camera across the USA with the aim to understand Donald Trump’s appeal to some of his supporters. They look friendly enough, except that they only trust Trump, even when they know he’s lying, and they hate Hillary Clinton with a passion. Among the people who Stern meets are some descendants of the feuding Hatfields and McCoys, except that they are now friends. The closer he gets to election day, Stern gets more and more depressed. Of course we remember the outcome. There’s nothing new that we don’t see it every weeks on cable TV. Maybe some people might find it to their liking, but there’s not much interest from me.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

American chaos

 

Directed by:
James D. Stern

90 min.

Lizzie

Lizzie Borden took an axe
And gave her mother forty whacks.
When she saw what she had done,
She gave her father forty-one.

Skipping-rope rhyme of uncertain origin

On the morning of August 4, 1892, Andrew Borden (Jamey Sheriden) and his second wife Abby (Fiona Shaw) were found dead. They were axed in two separate rooms of their house in Fall river, Massachusetts, and it seems, at two separate times. Around the house but outside, according to their testimonies, were Andrew’s youngest daughter, Lizzie (Chloë Sevigny), and the maid Bridget Sullivan (Kristen Stewart). Later on, Lizzie Borden was arrested and accused. There was a trial, but she was found not guilty. These are the facts and part of the Lizzie Borden legend. In the 125 years since the murders there has been many theories on who killed the Bordens, or, if it was Lizzie, how she did it and why. In the film’s opening scene Lizzie finds her father dead, then we flashback 6 month before the murder. Every theories are explored: Lizzie and her elder sister Emma (Kim Dickens) had a terrible relationship with their father and hated Abby, their stepmother, the rumor that Lizzie was epileptic, another rumor was that she was a lesbian and that she and Bridget were lovers, uncle John Morse (a particularly snake-like Denis O’Hare), who was visiting the Bordens at the time, was considered a suspect by police, and other facts that were made up for the sake the film, as some real facts are conveniently tossed aside. All those things are piled up and hammered with very little subtlety as Lizzie becomes a “whowilldoit” rather than a “whodoneit”. There is enough here for several Lizzie Borden movies. We understand that Lizzie, an adult of 32 years old, was rather repressed by her parents as was the custom in 1892. Understandably Lizzie Borden rebelled against that repression. Too bad that such talented actresses like Sevigny (one of the producers) and Stewart don’t have a better screenplay to work with.

You should know… Despite what the rhyme says, Abby Borden was hit by the axe 19 times and Andrew 11 times.

Good read… In his 1984 novel Lizzie, Evan Hunter (AKA Ed McBain) mixes fiction and facts by taking the real court transcripts and Lizzie’s trip to Europe, of which we know next to nothing about, and inventing what happened there.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

Lizzie

 

Directed by:
Craig William Macneill

Screenplay by:
Bryce Kass

Starring:
Chloë Sevigny
Kristen Stewart
Kim Dickens
Fiona Shaw
Jamey Sheriden
Denis O’Hare

105 min.

The wife

In The wife Glenn Close and Jonathan Pryce are Joan and Joe Castleman. In the film’s opening scene, they receive the news that Joe has been awarded the Nobel Prize in literature. As we look into Close’s piercing blue eyes, we’re not quite sure what Joan feels when she gets the news. Is Joan happy, angry, sad or just plain mad? All of the above at once and more. Soon the Castleman fly to Stockholm accompanied by their adult son David (Max Irons). David who has a highly dysfunctional relationship with his father, is also a writer. Journalist Nathaniel Bone (a miscast Christian Slater) is traveling on the same plane. Nathaniel wants to write Joe Castleman’s unauthorized biography in which reveal that all of Joe’s novel were the work of a ghostwriter. With that cloud, true or not, hanging over their heads, David’s temper tantrums, Joe’s attempt to cheat on his wife again for the nth time by seducing a young Swedish photographer (Karin Franz Korlof) and Joan seeking more independence, things are about to explode. There are some misguided flashbacks to their earlier years, but the only thing that we want and need is Close and Pryce together. Pryce hasn’t been a leading man in a long time and now he has found the right part and the right partner. Close and Pryce enjoy sinking their teeth into those juicy parts. And the moviegoers should also enjoy it!

Rémi-Serge Gratton

 

The wife

 

Directed by:
Björn Runge

Screenplay by:
Jane Anderson
Based on the novel by Meg Wolitzer

Starring:
Glenn Close
Jonathan Pryce
Annie Starke
Harry Lloyd
Christian Slater
Max Irons
Elizabeth McGovern

101 min.

Rated 14A

The Sisters brothers

In the 1850s gold rush, Eli and Charlie Sisters have been hired as hitmen to kill gold prospector Hermann Warm. The two brothers (John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix) travel from Oregon City to San Francisco killing a few people along the route. Meanwhile, Hermann Warm has met detective John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal), who is looking for Eli and Charlie. Rather than becoming enemies, they work together to find the brothers. Warm has invented an intriguing liquid formula that makes it easy to see gold at night. But it is highly toxic. French film author Jacques Audiard has adapted the award-winning novel from Canadian writer Patrick deWitt. The Sisters brothers is a more introspective western than we usually see. But the character study seems to be more successful than then the confused labyrinthine plot. We don’t care where the characters are, what they’re doing there or why. And after a while, we don’t care. The only thing that keeps this affair together is John C. Reilly (also one of the producer), who manages to create a real person amid all the noise. Still Audiard is carefully holding back on the violence. He rarely shows the aftermath of the gunshot even when he shows us the pain. There is a particularly gross moment when a spider enters Eli’s mouth as he is sleeping. And I’m not talking about a small spider, not a tarantula, but still a big enough mother. The cinematography is by Benoît Debie. An inspired score by Alexandre Desplat has metallic rhythmic sounds that reverts back to Jerry Goldsmith or Ennio Morricone’s music for 60s and 70s westerns. It’s as if Desplat understood that it’s all about nostalgia. Like the Sisters brothers eventually seeking something familiar and warm.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

The Sisters brothers

 

Directed by:
Jacques Audiard

Screenplay by:
Jacques Audiard
Thomas Bidegain
Based on the novel by Patrick deWitt

Starring:
John C. Reilly
Joaquin Phoenix
Jake Gyllenhaal
Riz Ahmed
Rutger Hauer
Carol Kane

121 min.

Rated 14A

Colette

Gabrielle Colette (1873 – 1954) was one of the most important female writer. Wash Westmoreland’s exquisite Colette smartly sticks to the facts. She was born in the small country village of Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, Burgundy. Gabrielle’s father was a war hero who lost one of his leg in battle. At the time she marries Henry Gauthier-Villars (Dominic West) the family is so poor that they can’t give him a dowry. Fourteen years older, Gauthier-Villars was a publisher/author. In truth, published under the pseudonym of “Willy”, his novels were mostly all ghostwritten. This enterprise is not a great success until he asks Gabrielle (Keira Knightley) to write. She writes Claudine à l’école (Claudine in school) was loosely based on her own life as a schoolgirl. It is published in 1900 under Willy’s name and becomes very popular but creates a scandal because of the lesbian themes which further boosts its popularity. It is so popular that Willy locks Gabrielle in her room until she writes a follow-up: Claudine à Paris (Claudine in Paris). Again Willy takes all the credits and squander all the money gambling or on other women. When Colette tells her husband that she’s attracted to women, Willy does not seemed concerned in the least. She doesn’t know that one of her female lover is also Willy’s lover. Over the years Colette gained more independence, became an actress, fell in love with female-to-male cross-dresser Mathilde de Morny (Denise Gough) and divorced Willy. Wash Westmoreland has a great production team (costumes, sets, score, cinematography…). It is beautiful. And Keira Knightley as strong female icon Colette has never looked better and nuanced. Bravo! Colette is much fun to watch.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Colette

 

Directed by:
Wash Westmoreland

Screenplay by:
Richard Glatzer
Wash Westmoreland
Rebecca Lenkiewicz

Starring:
Keira Knightley
Dominic West
Denise Gough
Eleanor Tomlinson
Fiona Shaw

111 min.

Rated 14A