Archive for the ‘Shirley Henderson’ Category

Life In The Time Of War

19 Sep

Life During War – directed by Todd Solondz. Satirical Drama. The effect of child molesters on their families. 97 minutes Color 2009.

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The title is not only counter-invitational but inaccurate, and if it is not inaccurate it is pretentious, and if it is not pretentious it is SYMBOLIC, like someone’s dirty underwear turned inside out and hung up on the clothesline as though it were washed. The picture is also oddly photographed with color filters which make it all seem to be taking place inside a jukebox. This distances it from us. This is odd because the content of the scenes would be intimate if the written responses were plausible which they often aren’t: A mother telling her ten-year-old boy about her love life, a couple being spit at in a restaurant, a ten-year-old boy taking on because he believes he is being molested. To make any of this work, requires acting skill of a genius which some of the actors do not possess. The final scene of the picture is so badly written it is unactable, and is acted badly, and the scene leading up to it likewise. This leaves us with Allison Janney, the great, playing an inane housewife whose husband is jailed for molestation, and everything she does is on the money, both in terms of physical movement and in terms of tone. Shirley Henderson, the English Jennifer Jason Leigh, plays a forty year old woman dressed like a child, except without a child’s gumption. The character is hard to take but not impossible to take, because her lines ring true. And then there is Charlotte Rampling terrifying as a monster picked up in a bar by Ciarán Hinds and perfectly illustrative of the toilsome nature of sex. Renée Taylor is a welcome sight as the Jewish mother of three daughters, the last of whon is played by Ally Sheedy in a brilliantly set and played scene of consummate Hollywood self-involvement. Ciarán Hinds looms gravely, tragically, throughout the film, finally turning up in the background of the last scene as though he could actually resume relations with the Janney wife whose banality would have helped drive him off to start with. She’s not a woman with ideals but only idealizations. There is no conversation possible with her. She can only lie and not know it. The picture is a sequel, with different actors, to the director’s Happiness. It is well worth watching, but not because of its theme of forgiveness, for people never seem to say, “I’m sorry,” but only “Forgive me,” which is not the same thing at all. But still the hand of the director is unusual in its lifelines and worth regarding in its truths and untruths.





Meek’s Cutoff

11 May

Meek’s Cutoff – Directed by Kelly Reichardt. Western. An 1857 wagon train crossing the barrens of Oregon runs out of water. 194 minutes Color 2011.

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Lead by a bunkum guide, this wagon train toils across the badlands of Oregon, a land without respite and without charm, and they are running out of water. The question is not whether they will reach water. The question is by what sort of inner human procedures will they do so, a truth born home as we reach the surprising and requisite ending to the tale. The difference between this and many another Will They Ever Reach Water Movie is that here the means that offer themselves are not Hollywood procedures. This picture is not about the romance of hardship or thirst or endurance. The picture is simply about whose values will you look within yourself to adopt as you undergo a daunting trial. So the characters do not stand out as vivid creations but rather as human instruments forced to choose ways of being. It is not a feminist tract. It is not about heroines. It is not about how women are noble and men are weak, or how women are Democrats and men are Republican.  Pictorially the picture is like none other ever seen. Its tent interiors are particularly well set and designed. It places a high premium on the virtue of tedium to make a setting work. The lack of camber in the film is remarkable. It gives you the flatness of canvas from which nothing deviates to distract. I did not know what was going to happen and I did not know what was going on, and this is what I wanted. The only technical flaw is in the sound recording, which makes Bruce Greenwood and other actors inaudible from time to time. Michele Williams has the principal role, and she certainly has an eye for an interesting vehicle (Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine). So do not come expecting to see a grand old Western about wagon trains. If you want that, there’s a great movie for that subject, Raoul Walsh’s The Big Trail, of 1930, the first wide-screen movie ever made. There you get the full sense of the activity and technology of a wagon train, the life, the business, the promise, made within living memory of those whose relatives had actually done it. Meek’s Crossing is something quite different and quite stunning.



Miss Pettigrew Lives ForA Day

15 Oct

Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day — directed by Bharat Nalluri  Period romantic comedy in which a ditzy 1930s chanteuse is rounded by up an imposter housekeeper who heads them both for romance. 92 minutes color 2008.

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Yes, for the presence of the great Lee Pace. He seems to be unrecognizable from role to role — from the transgender Calpurnia in Soldier’s Girl, to Dick Hickock the Clutter murderer in Infamous, to this forthright male in love with a woman he will sacrifice not one iota of his lyrical being to gain. At 22 as Calpurnia, the arch-archer of feminity, to the male of males now, here at 28, and at the peak of his masculinity. Pettigrew was the first picture I noticed him in, and now I make a rewarding investigation of his contributions to the art. What a great actor! As to the picture itself, I liked it. It’s poorly directed visually and narratively, but there are wonderful actors in it, among whom is the manly Ciaran Hinds and that devious little minx Shirley Henderson, and they are tip top. Our beloved Frances McDormand as the housekeeper whacked-out on ethics, and Amy Adams as the Spring Byington-in-the-making, scatter-brained object of Pace’s perfect love. Pace and Adams play a night club duo, and both sing superbly. I saw it with an older crowd in the theatre, and they applauded, and I can understand why. I applaud here. It’s not for the puerile.


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