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Archive for the ‘Charlize Theron’ Category

The Burning Plain

18 Jan

The Burning Plain – written and directed by Guillermo Arriaga. Drama. 107 minutes Color 2008.

★★

The Story: A young woman sets fire to the trailer her mother and her boyfriend are making love in and burns them to death.

~

It’s a failure on the grounds that the screenwriter who, usually works in a dovetailing mode, takes on a story which needs a classic three act construction. It is also a story whose contents he does not understand. The story he thinks he has written overlooks the story in front of his nose. Again a writer directs: again an error.

The real story is of a girl who deliberately murders her mother. In the movie this is denied by the girl, but since she is played by Jennifer Lawrence, an actress devoid of innocence, who is to believe her? No, no, instead it is an Electra story. What we need to see is her direct intention to murder her mother and her life’s response to that deed. And Jennifer Lawrence is the ideal Electra.

What obscures the mistake, but does not eliminate it, is the presence in it of two film stars, Kim Basinger and Charlize Theron. For when such women present themselves before us, we are faced with an enormous displacement of truth. For such ladies occupy a vast amount of film room. Castles topple around them. Redwoods bow down. Their mere arrival does this. This is always the case with certain film stars. With the greater truth of their very selves, they kidnap us, steal our fascination, credulity, shyness, and reason They are whales in teacups. They can’t help it. We want something good to happen to Theron. It is our nature to. And it is her nature that we should. We feel for Kim Basinger. It is our nature to. It is her nature that we should. The distraction is nobody’s fault. But their presence alone is enough to disguise that they are both performing in the wrong tale.

Basinger certainly is touching as the housewife/mother of four children, stuck nowhere, and losing her looks, maybe (which she has not) and losing her appeal, maybe (which she has not), and taking a rash bite of the apple before all apples are taken away. Her vulnerability steals our hearts.

Theron rides high as the grown-up version of Lawrence. We admire Theron’s mastery as a restaurateur. We go along with her flutters and affairs and how astonishing she looks in clothes. We wish the script afforded her an opportunity to meet the story head-on, but the real story is not there for her engagement with it.

Interesting to see Lawrence as a teenager playing one. Soon she too will grow large on the silver screen. She almost does it here. Won’t be all her doing either, but also ours.

Anyhow, it’s good for us to see how big big stars are, the space they displace, and that we just naturally accord to them. It’s just what they do. It’s just what we do.

 
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Posted in ACTING STYLE: HOLLYWOOD CRISP, Charlize Theron, Jennifer Lawrence, Kim Basinger

 

The Guy Pearce Papers 5 — Prometheus

26 Oct

The Guy Pearce Papers 5: Prometheus – directed by Ridley Scott. SciFi. Explorers on a spaceship search for the answers to The Big Questions on a planet out there. 124 minutes Color 2012.
★★★★
It cost 130 million and it earned 420 million, and I had never heard of it until I tracked it down at the library to see what Guy Pearce was up to in it. I don’t go to SciFi films, Action/Adventure films, Animation films, Gangster films, unless there is someone in it to draw me to watch it. So I am not fit to review this picture except to say that its remarkable spectacle should be even more remarkable on the big screen instead of my TV. The color scheme of the picture is earthy and slimy, for in the huge dome of the tomb-like structure on the planet are found no pastels. Only worms. Octopi. Sarcophagi the color of Brittaniawear. The spaceship exploration has been financed by an ancient and perhaps dead or perhaps virtual plutocrat so old he looks like a mummy – but he may be a zombie – but he also may be both. He’s English anyhow, and with a UC accent I cannot ascribe to any actor I know. I wait for Guy Pearce to appear. Well, all right, he must have some sort significant role later. The ship is in the command of Charlize Theron who moves her impressive beauty rather uncertainly through the early scenes – unusual for this actor, yes? The problem with SciFi is to find an acting style suited to the taciturnity of SciFi scripts, and, with two exceptions, this style is no more stumbled on than the answers to The Big Questions. That is partly because the male and female playing the leads opt for sloppy realism, which does not jibe with the intent of the exploration, with their jobs as scientists, and with the setting, which, as with all SciFi I have ever seen, is Big Machine. SciFi has not progressed beyond Modern Times with Chaplin caught in the machinations of an assembly line. SciFi is all Big Fancy Machines. And it’s fun, of course, to see these monstrous machines come to life and collide. It is also true that neither actor has the substance necessary to carry such an immense film. At each exploration of the slime-dome, I expect Pearce to appear and I wonder what day they are saving him for to save. But no. No, the ancient plutocrat comes alive, and Theron proves to be his daughter, and she’s awfully mean, and she wields a wicked flame-thrower. As an actor she never really finds her voice for the role. But Michael Fassbender and Idris Elba do. Fassbender plays a Peter O’Toole knock-off robot, and what he does to find the style is nothing at all, except to stay infinitely still internally, and say his lines in the ordinary way. Idris Elba is the best thing in the show. He plays the captain, and I believe his every move, each one of which is casual, grounded, and masterly. He brings every scene he is in to complete life! But where is Pearce? Then I take a second look at that parchment faced trillionaire. Oh my word: there he is: playing a man of a hundred and four who is already dead, and he has been in front of me all this time! The great disguise here is not the make-up but the accent – and where he got that from, I could not say – but he is completely someone else, someone else in posture, gait, voice, and energy. Yes, energy. That old bastard tycoon was never in his life Guy Pearce. But still Guy Pearce is that old bastard tycoon.

A Supporting Lead. Sized just right.

 
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Posted in ACTING STYLE: INTERNATIONAL REALISTIC, Charlize Theron, Guy Pearce: ACTING GOD, Idris Elba, Michael Fassbender, Sci-Fi

 

Snow White And The Huntsman

17 Jun

Snow White And The Huntsman – directed by Rupert Sanders. Fairy Tale Escape Action Adventure. A ghoulish queen strives to eat her fleeing stepdaughter alive. 127 minutes Color 2012.

★★★

The problem with live-action fairy tales is that they sink under the specious particularity of the naturalistic, to which by temperament they are alien. A fairy tale is like a very important dream. It is an external narration of an internal contraption. It is parsed out into characters, such as the queen, the witch, the dumb third son, the cunning daughter, the dragon in the gold, the prince, and so forth. Reading them or listening to them we know we ourselves are these things. Even though not externally, our identification is absolute and therefore hypnotic. These are the inner paths, the inner adventures and floorplan of the psyche. They are wise and cautionary stories, and they are absolutely true in the largest sense of the word, since they must be embarked upon and lived out, but they have nothing to do with realism as a style – and realism is a style which live-action cannot avoid. That is why the true film medium for all fairy tales is animated cartoon. In this picture, for instance, which is very well done, beautifully cast, expensively made, very well played, directed, edited, filmed, and scored, we at one point witness Snow White with dirty fingernails, a completely unnecessary and, in fact, counter-productive detail for the meaning and carriage of the fairy tale of Snow White, but inevitable since she has been slogging through the wilds and falling down in mud before our eyes. So there is a sense when watching such films of a remoteness forced upon us by an incorrect medium. When there camera rises high above her collapse in The Dark Woods, we see her lying screened behind the tall branches of the trees far below, and we see that, despite their cruelty, her vicissitudes protect her. That is because we are at that moment witnessing the scheme of cartoon. With fairy tales, live-action rules out identification. There’s too much unelectable detail. Disney’s version was correct. The theater would also be correct. Opera would be correct. Aside from this failure which is nobody’s fault and everybody’s fault, the pictures is beautiful in every scene and sense, rare in its display of nature and anti-nature, by which I mean the queen’s costumes. Charlize Theron plays her, and her character is given many scenes. Set before the days of face-lifts, her step-queen’s political and magical powers depend upon the retention of her looks. With her oceanic beauty, Charlize Theron really is the fairest of them all. But she is also the older sister of a brother who is clearly in his fifties, while she herself is Charlize Theron. She’s wonderful in the part, and her playing of her death scene is imaginative and unusual. The film never fails to interest and never succeeds to fully interest. It is extremely intelligent and completely obtuse. But it is not a waste of time. And as set forth it certainly supports the activism and the vitality and the cunning and the stamina of the female of the species, right along with the males who help her escape and eventually come to follow her.

 

The Road

23 Jun

The Road – Directed by John Hillcoat. Escape Drama. A father and his 11 year-old son head for the salvation of the ocean after an apocalyptic scourge. 111 minutes Color 2009,

* * * *

Scriptwriter’s failure. The father is sentimentalized with hugs and kisses and fond looks at his son, and the language which, as him, the remarkable Viggo Mortensen is obliged to speak makes one turn away in shame. The emotion of apocalypse never needs to be spelled out verbally. We do not need to know verbally what survivors’ feelings are. We can see it for ourselves and we can imagine it for ourselves. For the task, the pleasure, and the raison d’etre of an audience is to supply 50% of what is going on. And a picture of this kind, in its desolate tracts, needs to be mute. At other times, the script is darn good. As witness by what power Charlize Theron invests with it in her key scenes, and what Robert Duval brings to it as a decrepit vagrant. The two actors are remarkable in their daring and their clarity of statement. Guy Pearce fares far less well as the deus ex macchina at the end. He appears out of nowhere, as all good D.E.M.s should, and he is abetted in his role by his adoption of yard-long locks and bad teeth, which make him look like no expected savior – a very clever strategy because of its ambiguity. But then Pearce’s family is unnecessarily dragged in, his kindly wife, his same-age children, and a fumbled finale which we, having gone along through this film’s difficulties, must stumble off with. The director should have left Pearce alone on the screen with the boy, for the boy is the thing. Pearce’s scenes lie on the cutting room floor and we can see them, and they are no better than what is included. The cast is international: Mortensen is from South America and Denmark, Theron from South Africa, Duvall from USA, Pearce and Kodi Smit-McPhee, who plays the boy, from Australia. Master Smit-McPhee is simply amazing throughout the film. Not only does he physically resemble Theron, who plays his mother, but he is entirely open and responsive and full – qualities any fine actor might envy. The film as a whole is beautifully produced, scored, edited, and directed. It’s a film about a very hard journey. I would embark upon it if I were you.

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