Film Review: Golden Exits

Alex Ross Perry’s observational Golden Exits offers good performances and a meditative look at lives of young and middle-aged adults.

Naomi is a young intern who travels to New York to work temporarily with an archivist. Her arrival disrupts the lives of two families in Brooklyn…

Golden Exits revolves around the lives of a group of characters which are somewhat intertwined. The film focuses on Naomi as a catalytic force, making the main characters examine their relationship with their loved ones and themselves.

Writer-director Alex Ross Perry does not take the predictable route, and he should be applauded for this. Instead, the film concentrates on already fractious relationships. There is a certain amount of navel-gazing in the film. The protagonists are upper middle class, and imbue the trappings of this world. Some of the concerns are only applicable to those of such a class, but this is acknowledged.

The first half of Golden Exits is stronger than the second. There is an ambiguity over the direction the film will take, which holds the viewer’s attention. The second half lacks the vim of this as events unfold subtly. The relationship between the sets of sisters become more significance, as the single sisters take on more importance.

The film is about relationships, but also about being comfortable defying societal expectations. In this sense Naomi’s character extinguishes slightly. There is not much for her to do, leaving the emphasis on the two single sisters. The conversations later in the film point to an empowerment in independence, but a gnawing dissatisfaction. Save for a brief reference, it is refreshing to see adulthood being viewed without the framing reference of having children.

Emily Browning and Chloë Sevingny give decent performances. It is Mary-Louise Parker, Lily Rabe, and Jason Schwartzman who really stand out though. The score feels a little too present, whilst Brooklyn is romanticised, despite most of the action taking place in just a few locations.

Overall, it feels like Golden Exits stops just short of saying something truly meaningful.

Golden Exits is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017.

Film Review: Legend

 

Legend

Featuring an exemplary performance by Tom Hardy in a dual role, Brian Helgeland’s Legend is compelling viewing.

In East London of the 1960s, the Kray twins are building a reputation as notorious gangsters. Ronnie and Reggie are relentless in the aim of building an empire across the city…

Based on John Pearson’s book, Legend functions as a good introduction to the history of the Kray twins, as well as a decent film in its own right. The strongest elements of the film are a great central performance and good writing. The main characters are well drawn in Legend. The narration from the point of view of Frances is a nice touch; the character guides the audience as an outsider who gets to know the protagonists better as the film progresses.

The story charts the rise of the Kray twins to the most pivotal part of their lives. Legend concentrates on a particular, significant period, rather than functioning as a biopic. Writer-director Helgeland successfully informs viewers of the background with succinct exposition. Many viewers will know how the story goes, but the film is more about the characters than offering a history lesson.

Crime, drama and action are genres expected to be featured in a film such as Legend, yet the film also features a good deal of humour. Helgeland has a flare for depicting the absurdity of certain situations in a way that will no doubt generate laughs. Violence in the film is sparse; heightening the effect when depicting in graphic detail. Art direction and styling are great, with the film film feeling very much of the era it is set.

Tom Hardy offers a fantastic performance playing both Ronnie and Reggie Kray. His performance is always convincing. Emily Browning also gives a decent performance as Frances.

Legend does not glamourise the crime it depicts, and is adept at showing the ugly side to such a lifestyle. Moreover, and more importantly, the film delivers flawed but interesting characters in a very watchable way.

Film Review: Summer in February

Summer in February

Based on true events, Summer in February is a historical drama that lacks passion.

Florence Carter-Wood joins her brother Joey in Lamorna Valley, Cornwall, which is home to a colony of artists. There she meets the talented but incendiary artist A.J. Munnings, who offers to teach her. Florence also catches the eye of soldier and best friend of Munnings, Gilbert Evans…

Summer in February looks the part of a period drama. Christopher Menaul’s film concerns love and relationships against the backdrop of art. The film therefore should imbue some kind of passion. Unfortunately this is absent; Summer in February feels tepid more than anything else.

The narrative unfolds at a suitable pace for the most part, although some aspects do seem elongated. Director Menaul introduces the characters succinctly in the beginning of the film so that dominant personality traits are made apparent.

Initial interest in the characters and plot at the beginning of Summer in February does wane as the film progresses. The narrative becomes less engaging; the incidents that occur should be more absorbing than they actually are. Some of the protagonists’ actions should be more frustrating than they are. This is because it is difficult to care enough about them.

Andrew Dunn’s cinematography effectively captures both the beauty and the coldness of the landscape. Costumes and art direction depict an authentic-looking representation of the Edwardian era. The artwork exhibited in the film effectively conveys the talents of the artists who feature.

Dominic Cooper offers a strong performance as Munnings; he is convincing in all the artist’s guises. Emily Browning is adequate as Florence, although at times her beauty is relied upon instead of offering her character more depth. Dan Stevens looks the part as Gilbert Evans, although the role does not seem a stretch for him.

Summer in February is inoffensive and will just about hold the audience’s attention. Nevertheless, the film is unlikely to generate a strong emotional reaction.

Film Review: Sleeping Beauty

Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty is an interesting experiment. The film is intriguing for the most part, but not a particularly satisfying endeavour.

Lucy is a young University student struggling with money problems. Working several jobs to pay her way, Lucy answers an advertisement for a waiting staff at private parties. The money is good, but the circumstances are bizarre. The more Lucy becomes involved with the the secretive world, the more she begins to question what is really going on…

Sleeping Beauty does not follow a conventional format. As the opening scene illustrates, the film is more like a series of scenes rather than a cohesive narrative. Some of the sequences have little to do with the overarching narrative, choosing instead to concentrate on other aspects of Lucy’s life.

Perhaps the main problem with Sleeping Beauty is that it is difficult to relate to suitably empathise with the central character. Lucy is a cold character; there is little that is personable about her. Whilst the struggling student is not an unusual character type, Lucy’s detachment means that it is hard to warm to her. Although she may be pitied in some scenes, an attachment to the protagonist is never really formed.

Sleepy Beauty features an interesting premise that is never fleshed out in a satisfying manner. The job that Lucy does is very strange, yet this is only viewed through a blighted perspective. There is a little exposition that explains why clients may opt for the service, but even this is reduced to two brief conversations. Any sense of apprehension on Lucy’s part only appears much later than it reasonably should do. Moreover, the idea of providing a service for payment and doing the same thing for free is touched upon, but never explored in any further detail.

Julia Leigh’s film treads a line between exploitation and exposition. It is necessary to depict what Lucy does, as there is so little conversation regarding this. Yet at the same time, some depictions can be considered overly gratuitous. The cinematography works well however, with the film being shot in subdued tones in keeping with the sombre theme.

Emily Browning offer a solid performance as Lucy. It is an unusual role, but Browning does a good job. Rachael Blake is also good as Clara, a rather enigmatic character. She is the most fascinating character in the film, and it is a pity that she does not receive more screen time.

Sleeping Beauty is provocative in its ability to cause discomfort in viewers, but lacks the depth and coherence to make it a great drama.

Sleeping Beauty Trailer

Not quite a fairy tale, Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty looks fascinating. Emily Browning stars as Lucy, a young student who takes a job as a ‘Sleeping Beauty’. The trailer does not reveal too much, but it looks as if the film will be disturbing. I am really looking forward to seeing this one. Sleeping Beauty is released on 14th October 2011.

Film Review: Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch is a typical Zack Snyder film in that style is heavily favoured over substance. For all its veneer, the film is severely lacking in the narrative department.

Following the death of her mother, a young girl is institutionalised by her cruel and abusive stepfather. To cope with the traumatic situation, she creates an imaginary world. Baby Doll and four other young girls plot to escape their surroundings by collecting the five items necessary for them to complete their mission…

The plot of Sucker Punch is as flimsy as some of the girls’ outfits. The film is really not much more than an excuse for beautiful women to kick ass in revealing costumes. This may have been passable if there had been a decent storyline, however the narrative is lamentable, with very little plot or character development. The plot is very simple, with all the clichés of a platform game rather than a feature film.

In creating a multi-platform vehicle, it is easy to see what Zack Snyder was aiming for. However, the allegory is astoundingly obvious, leaving little room for alternative interpretation. Those hoping for more depth from Sucker Punch are likely to be disappointed. The epilogue at the end sums up everything that is wrong with the film. There are pretensions of something grander and more profound. Yet there is little more to the film than surface polish.

There will inevitably be some debate as to whether the main characters are positive feminist role models or exploited females who serve the sole purpose of providing titillation. On the one hand, the girls are empowered enough to fight for themselves without having to rely on anyone else. Nevertheless, the young women all wear ridiculously skimpy outfits, totally inappropriate for the combat scenes. Furthermore, Baby Doll and her cohorts are not above using their feminine wiles in order to distract men, who are depicted almost entirely in a negative light.

The action scenes in Sucker Punch are a lot of fun. The high-energy set pieces are bravura, and by far the most entertaining moments in the film. The effects are good, with the highly stylised visuals having become a Snyder trademark. Similarly, the soundtrack is great, totally in keeping with the attitude of the film.

Emily Browning is beautifully striking as Baby Doll, but the actress is given little opportunity to show any range. The other young girls in the film are just as limited. Oscar Isaac is suitably one-dimensional as Blue, and the same can be said for Carla Gugino’s Dr Gorski.

Sucker Punch is an aural and visual feast. It is just a shame that Snyder did not put as much effort into making the script compelling.