RSS
 

Archive for the ‘Kate Winslet’ Category

The Dressmaker

01 Oct

The Dressmaker – directed by Jocelyn Moorhouse. Dramedy. 1 hour 59 minutes Color 2016.

★★★★

The Story: A woman returns to her hometown to wreak revenge, and finds revenge in more ways than hers.

~

Shakespeare wrote several comedies which are called problem comedies or romances or failures, depending on who’s trying how to legitimize them. But they are interesting because they’re not legit; defy expectations; renounce definition.

In one the prince is small-minded dolt, but the heroine achieves him. In another jealousy is paid back by a termagant’s plot which improbably restores virtue to its reward with the marriage bed of a vicious ruler. We are met in Shakespeare, as seldom elsewhere in drama, with sudden events which no audience is prepared for or desires. In fact, like life, they dissatisfy. They do not regroup the order of nature and the world at the final curtain. They leave their audiences with the stark tang of reality. They’re Shakespeare’s mean streak. In them, the wickedest characters defiantly proclaim – and we never forget them them for it – “What I am shall make me live!”

This kind of piece is The Dressmaker. It reminds you of Friedrich Durrenmatt’s The Visit, in which The Lunts had one of their late successes and in which in the film Ingrid Bergman and Anthony Quinn did not. A woman comes back to the town which disgraced her, but now, she has enormous power to unleash.

If you cast Kate Winslet as the woman you are home free, for two reasons, aside from her delicious physical appearance. First, she can act the role, which is to say that it is, unlike The Reader, within the range of her instrument and she has the ability. Second, behind that which lurks in the corners of her mouth as an action determined to take place, she has also a natural sympathy for us to participate in. Kate Winslet? Who cannot like her?

Which means that, whatever she does on screen, something in us roots for her. So on the one hand we believe her vengeance is inevitable, and on the other, where we might want forgiveness to reign, virtuous or not, we actually want her to succeed even at the worst she can do. We never want Winslet to fail.

She’s not like Katharine Hepburn or the heroic actresses of that era. Her characters’ success is not mapped out beforehand. No. You don’t know what will happen. She might be stupid or shot or detoured. Will this revenge take place and what form will it take? Especially when it begins with what appears to be also an act of kindness and even forgiveness. But no more of that. It is for you to watch, wonder, and admire.

Opposite her and lodged heels-in against her is her derelict mother played by Judy Davis. Davis, as we all know, is one of the great humorists of modern art. It’s her mouth. Anyhow she is bewitching in the role, and you want to visit the film again and again to see what she does with this woman.

Flying into their midst is Liam Hemsworth, a young man of such resplendent beauty you can hardly imagine he is as good an actor as he actually is. Twenty-six when he makes this film, he is just entering the peak of his masculinity. It’s always satisfying to see a male like this about to burst into ripeness. They come along from time to time, Hugh Jackman, Tyrone Power, and Hemsworth’s appearance brings a stunning reversal of energy to the film, which shifts its story, and shifts it again. Can there be an alternative to revenge? Mmm.

Films like this are hard to end, and a director really has to wrap things up faster than The Dressmaker manages to. But I didn’t mind. I’ll see it again. I know the good of it. The good of it is better than the good of most.

 

Mildred Pierce — 2012 version — The Guy Pearce Papers — 3

13 Oct

Mildred Peirce – directed by Todd Haynes. Drama. A single mother in the Depression struggles to support herself, and turns to baking, which leads to great success with the business and great failure with her daughter and her lover. 5 part mini series. Color 2012.
★★★★★
He enters our field of vision with exactly the right hair, as a sort of male Veronica Lake. Peering from beneath the springy, pendulant twin locks his center-dividing part grants it, his hair is so much of the period of the ‘30s, that one is stunned to remember that that is so. Stunned also by this choice of hair, which is always a leading choice for an actor, and which supports what he makes of the character of this louche playboy: Dan Duryea and George Plimpton rolled up into one, with a dash of impatience and a soupcon of charm. He is fully embodied. Guy Pierce is so at ease inside this smarmy prince that one cannot but admire his style at the same time that one deplores its effects. He is an actor of great phsyical dispatch, with a neck feathered for mating dance at all times. The accent is perfect, as usual with this actor. It never gets misplaced; it never is exaggerated; he is never lost behind it. This is true of the accents of all the players in this perfectly cast piece. Morgan Turner as a young miss putting on airs makes her character so infuriating, one can only send her flowers of congratulations, since that is exactly what the character, and with no holds barred, should be. The range of casting is a cake rich throughout. Evan Rachel Wood is exactly right as the musician the young Veda Pierce grows into. Yes, one thinks, that unusual little girl could have become this raving beauty, and Wood must have copied the younger actor’s performance to get the character so right. Bryan F. O’Byme has this great moving mug; another face of the period; he keeps the story of Mildred’s husband covert and easy, until the very end. A wonderful actor, as, of course, is Melissa Leo as Mildred’s crony and another one, James Le Gros as Mildred’s aid and abettor. Mare Winningham, a waitress, is a creature entirely out of the ‘30s. She existed never after. Remarkable in this picture, in fact, are all the ‘30s production values – music by Carter Burwell, set and art decoration by Peter Rogness and Ellen Christiansen, and all the cars correct. I lived through that time, so I know. But what is most remarkable of all are the costumes by Ann Roth. They are exactly right at every turn. And they are particularly suited to our belovèd Kate Winslet who is not an elegant woman or a fashion plate like Evan Rachel Wood, and who is dressed perfectly for her type, in every scene, as is everyone else, male and female. Winslet brings to the character a determined mother-love, a love which hangs onto her daughter and blinds her to what she is. Winslet is earthy. You believe she can make pies and quarter fowl. Joan Crawford in the part you never believe could do either, but Crawford brought a trait inherent in her, the desire to pull herself up by her bootstraps (or ankle straps) and better herself. Crawford was like that in person, and you believed her drive towards that end. It worked for the role. What Winslet brings to the role is the temperament of a woman who is uneducated and ignorant, a woman who never had a single ambition; had many feelings but no thoughts; lived from day to day, pie to pie. Winslet is always lovable; Crawford never is. Crawford was always special; Winslet never is, and it serves her well. When you see her at the concert leaning forward to understand an aria, you see that, try as she might, she is aesthetically cut off from understanding or appreciation or even enjoyment. She tries too hard for her ever to get it – a human being like that. The director and his cronies give a silly, because unprepared commentary, unworthy of the film they have made. But one thing they do say is that, unlike the Crawford version, they have stayed close to James M. Caine’s novel. Of it they have made an interesting and commanding rendition. A remarkable achievement by all.

 

Contagion

01 Oct

Contagion – Directed by Stephen Soderbergh. Drama. A mysterious plague moves fast through the world killing millions. 109 minutes Color 2011.

* * * *

I don’t believe this film succeeds in accomplishing what it set out to do, which is to incite. But I don’t know if that is what it set out to do, because the massive and spectacular documentary details of its execution, none of which we are allowed to dwell upon either, causes us to lose identity with the characters – such that the characters, in terms of narration, are executed tokenly – bigger than a cameo, smaller than a part — although they are not acted that way. A good example is the final scene of Marion Cottillard to whom is delivered the news that she has unwittingly participated in a fraud, and she simply gets up to rectify it presumably by telling those defrauded that they have been. It’s not enough. And over and over again the spectacle of ruination of the mysterious killer disease is shown, to the dead loss of all of the main characters, except in a sort of follow the dots plotting. But characters are not dots. So there is nothing to latch onto in the human realm, leaving the arrangement of the plague to look like a put-up-job, a numb what-if. The characters turn up here and there and are given very little screen time, leaving us with a fancy show of contagion, which does not frighten because no one we know is threatened. Why? Because the disease kills  immediately; it never threatens, it just does you in. Marion Cotillard plays a research person, and she really should give up playing non-character leads in American films. She is not a leading lady. She is completely cold on the screen. It is as if she were just waiting to find another monster to play. Gwyneth Paltrow is, as usual, an unexceptionable actress, in the part of the first carrier of the disease, as is Kate Winslet who goes out earnestly to stop the plague. Laurence Fishburne is the honcho in charge of Disease Control, and most of what he does is to transmit or suppress what is supposed to be scary information. Jude Law as an Aussie yellow journalist who early latches onto the story and attempts to radicalize it – but succeeds only in making it a scandal – seizes the screen between his uneven teeth and shakes it like a mutt shaking a dead rag. But it is Matt Damon who anchors the film; he’s a very fine actor, if one of modest means, and he deserves a lot of credit for way he holds this role. The acting is unadorned, and no one does a star turn, which is to the director’s credit. The fault lies with the writer’s conception that we could have a movie about a plague that looks like a documentary, is played like a documentary, but is really a whole sea of confetti made from cut up newsprint barged into at various points by neat O’Henry twists.

[ad#300×250]

 

 

 
 
Rss Feed Tweeter button Facebook button Technorati button Reddit button Myspace button Linkedin button Webonews button Delicious button Digg button Flickr button Stumbleupon button Newsvine button