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Archive for the ‘Julianne Moore’ Category

Safe

29 Mar

Safe [1995] – directed by Todd Haynes. Drama. 119 minutes Color. 1995.

★★★

The Story: A young woman falls under attack of environmental pollutants.

~

What I saw was a film most beautifully made. It is realized with dirty Marin pastels, which perfectly suit the personnel of the affluent Southern California world in which it begins and which its people inhabit.

It is also a film constructed with a series of calm and beautiful master-shots, which show broad interiors and broad exteriors, characters moving in them, characters placed in them, just so, and just right.

As the piece progresses one sees the characters to be perfectly cast – in this case with excellent actors whom I have never heard of or seen before, so their presence gladdens me as I go.

The film is made with a certain stillness, which, along with the big master-shots, presents a distance for observation of what is going on, a distance almost documentary, but a distance also as refined as the subject environmental allergy requires.

These pleasures give me confidence. As does the fact that I had no idea what this film was about before I saw it. So I had no expectations to defy or meet.

And so I was betrayed. On a fundamental level. The primitive level of: do you believe?

I was betrayed by that intelligent, accomplished, and sometimes daring actress, Julianne Moore who plays the woman.

Her first and perhaps her last error is to place her voice just inside her jaw, dismissing all chord vibration from it. This is an attempt to show the woman has no voice of her own. The result is she emerges as a stupid child.

She retains this method throughout, so the result is monotony of execution.

I expect Moore sees the woman as vacuous. And that is what she manages to give us. It holds our attention only to extent that we watch the film to the end to see if she will ever come alive. But, since she is in no conflict about coming alive or staying a zombie, drama is drained from the character thus from the film.

For she does something which Bette Davis in her days after Eve did which was to mum or play-act the part. Moore does not act it. If she had we would not wonder how her husband could ever in a million years have married such a vacancy. An actress needs always to determine not what is missing in a character but what the character wants. Moore in playing her as having no voice and no want emasculates her.

Those I have known who suffer from environmental abuse have a need for isolation and servants. Their disease must be served. For they cannot shop, clean house, walk abroad, hold a job. You must do for them. The reward is nil. The promise of recovery nil.

The affect they give off is one of collapsed water. They seem to have no affect at all. But inside them is an emotional violence that rules everyone around them in their search for survival, a violence so potent no one can gainsay it, help it, or stay in its presence with sustained affection. This gives one the suspicion that everything they have made themselves into is phony, a trick, a manipulation.

Julianne Moore fasted to emaciate the character she plays. She is blotched with rashes and a boil. Her strong hair is caged. All this works, and all this is an earmark of the dedication to acting of this actor.

But nothing she does survives what she misconceived the role to be. The result on the screen is not mystery but bafflement. We have nothing to identify with because she has, in choosing no-voice, chosen nothing.

 

 

 

 

Still Alice

28 Jan

Still Alice – directed by Richard Glazer and Wash Westmoreland. MediDrama. 101 minutes Color 2014.

★★★

The Story: A successful and happy career woman and mother of 50 falls pretty to early onset Alzheimer’s.

~

As I watch I think I shall go to the movies no more. They hold nothing for me but the spectacle of incompetence relieved occasionally by interludes of striking proficiency.

For this movie is so badly written the mind staggers from its dullness. No one talks like that. No one responds that way. The supporting actors are shocking in their misapplication of tears. You want to slap them sensible. Moreover, they have learned their craft by imitating the emotions of soap opera acting, instead of from themselves. Indeed the world in general seems to express itself nowadays in the style of TV emotionalism. Everyone weeps and grows angry in the jalopy of bad acting. The actors here – I shall not disgrace this page by naming them – have not the slightest idea of how to go about these parts. They slot-in their emotions as called for. They order-in their acting from Domino’s Pizza. For here we have another example of a writer directing actors in his own material. It is a disservice to humanity for directors to do this or for writers to insist upon it.

Perhaps they think they have as much to say as storytellers as Woody Allen, not realizing they are devoid of both his sense of humor and sense of humanity. Every actor in this piece, with one exception, is incompetent.

No, that’s not true. The tertiary character acting is excellent. Stephen Kinker, the neurologist, is excellent. And so is … oh, why bother! If Alec Baldwin is not miscast, then he is entirely to blame for his absence of depth and coherence. He is renowned for comic narcissism, so he has the selfish side of the character … but why go on? The husband is not selfish. The husband is connected to his wife and his career with the same sinew. Baldwin is so creaky in his craft, or lacking in actual compassion, that he produces unintended disgust and a nagging, baffled dissatisfaction.

The reason you go to this film is to see Julianne Moore. She is up for an Oscar, and she deserves one, even here, where the order of her big scenes is shot-gunned by the director/writer. She has beautiful legs, a beautiful smile, a sound and appealing femininity. And what we see here is a great actress making-do. I hope she wins for it. Because her not to have won it by now is just rude.

The film is beautifully produced. The New York street scenes convince. So do the Long Island beach scenes. So do the cottage scenes. The piece is perfectly costumed. Lit. Filmed. So you may think you’re not being cheated. Check it out. Forearmed.

 

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

21 May

The Lost World: Jurassic Park – Directed by Steven Spielberg. Sci-Fi Action. Dinosaurs, still hanging around on a tropical island, draw competing scientists and developers. 2 hours 7 minutes Color 1997.

* * * * *

Pete Postlethwaite devours the screen like a brontosaurus rex whenever he is on it. This is wonderful to behold, because his ruthlessness outstrips the passion of any other character in the movie, and so one loves him for it. The others fare not so well. For the “action sequences” devour character as well as characters. This is true of all such films. David Koepp has written a brilliant script, which means that its wit compliments the wit of the director, and he has made for us characters who have a living eccentricity, in scenes that are beguiling and actable. But all of that is in the beginning of the film. As soon as the dinosaurs start competing with the humans all character is lost as the film bogs down in spectacle, escape, acts of derring-do, mayhem, terror, clumping and munching – in fact, in story- behavior in which, because it is minimally verbal, character, charm, eccentricity, and even motive are devoured. It’s no one’s fault. It’s simply a characteristic of the genre. They all end up this way. The chief consequence of this is that one ceases to love the characters – because they are characters no longer. And too bad too. Because we have the glorious Jeff Goldblum as one of a group of four heros (really five until our beloved Richard Schiff becomes an ors d’oeuvre for a rex). With his bright and wonderful face, and endearing tallness, and supple intelligence, he plays a character who disapproves of everything, in a role which almost becomes thankless because of that. Julianna Moore is delightful in a love scene walking away from him in the middle of a river; she plays a character who approves of everything. And the dewy Vince Vaughan plays a kind of side-car part which is actually underwritten and functions really only to make a certain defunct radio work to save the day (it’s actually night). Never mind. It’s a director’s film, and Spielberg has a witty mind. Never is he unprepared to entertain us. The action sequences unravel with imagination and care and stunning execution. And in this is he ably abetted by the camera of Janusz Kaminsky and the surprising editing of Michael Kahn, who will supply us with a sterling close-up of Moore’s face, for instance, just when you would never expect you would need the relief of it from the action in play. Spielberg always gets his endings wrong, and he does not fail us in this one. It’s a failure of value in him, as, for the wrong reason, he brings the tale around to a city he has not previously established, and so the big bus-wrecking sequences, and so forth, have no connection to us. The ending comes out of nowhere into nowhere. His wit does not fail him, as the rex clomps by an Animal Control vehicle, but his thinking does. This means that the value of actions floats free of the value of settings, streets, a harbor, a ship, and, most important, human inhabitants. However, the film has delivered so much “entertainment” one has to forgive him once again, simply on the grounds that our exhaustion forbids us from sustaining anything more than a sigh of relief that the entertainment is finally over.

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