Movie Review – Fifty Shades Freed

Like an impotent lover that never really attracted you in the first place, the Fifty Shades trilogy limps to an unsatisfying climax that leaves you feeling dirty and ashamed.


Corey Hogan 

Though their relationship pushes the limits of what normal people might consider healthy, average girl Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson) and kinky billionaire Christian Grey (Jamie Dornan) finally tie the knot and get married in Fifty Shades Freed. Their obnoxiously extravagant honeymoon is cut short however, when word that Ana’s former boss/stalker Jack Hyde (Eric Johnson) has been spotted snooping ominously around Grey Enterprises. Drawn back to Seattle, their relationship is tested once more, with Hyde’s interference spelling the end for the two lovers and their friends and family.

So, here we are at last at the end of the Fifty Shades phenomena that grew from humble beginnings as Twilight fan fiction-turned mummy porn back in 2011. If you’ve followed the series up to this point, then chances are you fit into one of two categories of people; the legions of adoring female fans playing out their fantasy of being swept off their feet by a rich hunk, or the so-bad-it’s-good movie enthusiasts scoffing at the woeful acting, dialogue and general preposterousness of the entire situation.

In that sense, Fifty Shades Freed is business as usual, though this barely half-assed final chapter doesn’t even have the courtesy of remaining consistent in its unintentional hilarity. Instead, it gets the laughably un-erotic sex scenes out of the way early on to focus on things literally no one watches these movies for – the mundanities of a kinky relationship succumbing to dull, everyday married life routine. It’s painfully boring, and a bit depressing to think that all exciting, spontaneous partnerships are doomed to flatline and centre on unsexy things, like renovating houses and starting a family. No wonder divorce is so popular.

In a poor attempt to spice things up a bit, a subplot involving Ana’s aggressive ex-boss Jack Hyde is badly integrated into the main story and could be accused of derailing it, were there anything resembling a plot in the first place. Straight out of a Z-grade action movie, Eric Johnson is dreadful as the motivation-less, cliché antagonist, doing stock bad guy things like breaking into the Grey household and holding a knife to Ana’s throat (why, exactly?), and kidnapping Christian’s sister for a $5 million ransom (huh?). It’s maddeningly nonsensical, but at least gives the filmmakers an excuse to cram in an incredibly lazy car chase sequence.

Meanwhile, our mismatched leads bring their happily-ever-after to its climax with the same lack of flair we’ve come to expect. Dakota Johnson looks even more bored than we are, no doubt relieved she can finally leave Anastasia’s dumbfounded expression behind and continue working with directors like Luca Guadagnino. Jamie Dornan at least has The Fall to back up his claim to a career in acting, because his wooden performance as Christian Grey could be mistaken for impersonating someone with autism, were he not so buff and handsome.

So… what else is there to say, really? We’re treated at the conclusion to a montage of clips from Ana and Christian’s most “romantic” moments across the trilogy, right from their meeting at the very beginning. It puts into perspective just how forgettable this journey has been, and confirms that it was never really the story or characters that had any impact on society, it was the idea itself; a kinky wet dream that somehow escaped the trappings of erotica novelisations to cross into the mainstream consciousness. Love it or loathe it, Fifty Shades has shaped and impacted modern culture, for better or worse. At least this one manages to get the title right – we’re finally freed from restraints of one of history’s most atrocious franchises.

Fifty Shades Freed is available in Australian cinemas from February 8 

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2018

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Movie Review – Phantom Thread

Being a fan of Paul Thomas Anderson and Daniel Day-Lewis certainly requires years of patience, fortunately they make it worth the lengthy wait. 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan 

Famous London fashion designer Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) is renowned for his incredible garments tailor-made for high society people. His creative genius stems from his notoriously controlling and massively obsessive-compulsive personality; each activity of his day follows a strict regime down to the tiniest detail. Any slight disturbance or disruption can unhinge Reynolds completely, unleashing his temper and aggressive nature. When he meets a waitress named Alma (Vicky Krieps) on a trip to the countryside, he pursues a relationship, but once she moves in with him, her more impulsive, emotional behaviour clashes with his ordered world, and a great power play begins.

Paul Thomas Anderson’s distinguished career has given us great variety with ensemble comedy dramas about porn’s golden era (Boogie Nights), a mosaic of depression in L.A. (Magnolia), and a drug-fuelled crime caper (Inherent Vice). He’s explored the extreme highs and lows of gambling (Hard Eight), a mental illness love story (Punch-Drunk Love), the monsters of greed and corruption in the old west (There Will Be Blood), and the seductive horrors of joining a cult (The Master).

Once again, PTA goes into completely new territory with Phantom Thread. His second collaboration with Daniel Day-Lewis comes at the ten-year anniversary of their masterpiece There Will Be Blood, making Phantom Thread one of the most anticipated period piece gothic romances ever.

PTA’s unpredictable storytelling and filmmaking methods are on full display here, and the result is something compulsively watchable. The trailers and posters have wisely revealed little of the plot; it is best to head in with a blank slate and let the intoxicating beauty of PTA’s version of a 50’s London wash over you. Complete with stunningly recreated costume work (consider designer Mark Bridges a strong bet for the Oscar) on dazzling 16mm-shot film, Phantom Thread is essentially a slow-burning, unique spin on the eccentric older male prodigy and his younger female muse trope, but again, its curiosities are best discovered for oneself.

On top of the fact that PTA and DDL’s last team-up gave us one of the greatest cinematic masterpieces of the 21st century, Day-Lewis has announced that this will be his curtain call from acting. He has, of course, threatened retirement in the past, and given his films are more infrequent these days than even Paul Thomas Anderson’s, it’s difficult to know what to believe. But if this is to truly be his swansong, he’s bowed out with a brilliant performance that’s not his usual show eruption, but instead a contained masterclass in restraint.

As Reynolds Woodcock, he brings obsessive compulsive genius to a new level; a mad tyrant wrapped in a calm, charismatic personal charm – that is provided his strict daily routine goes exactly as planned. It’s entirely possible that Day-Lewis has decided to leave us with a performance that mirrors his own creative process, given his famously intense preparation and methods in completely embodying his characters.

And then, there’s an even bigger surprise. As both the light of his life and bane of his existence, newcomer Vicky Krieps perfectly forms the yin to DDL’s yang as his young lover Alma. It’s no mean feat for an unknown actress to share the screen with a legendary actor and match him compellingly. Though Lesley Manville earned the Supporting Actress nod (also deservingly, as Reynolds’ subservient sister), Krieps is the true powerhouse and driving force of a deliciously twisted romance for the ages. As DDL’s career ends, hers begins – it’s quite poetic.

If there’s one niggle it’s the somewhat impotent outcome to their magnetic relationship, though it’s a conclusion to be debated rather than scorned. And that’s how PTA, DDL and VK leave us; deep in thought and certain of only one thing – that this is a triumph for all involved.

Phantom Thread is available in Australian cinemas from February 1

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2018

Movie Review – Lady Bird

Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut is one of this generation’s richest coming-of-age tales.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Michael Philp

“Some people aren’t built happy”. Spoken by Marion McPherson (Laurie Metcalf), mother to Christine ‘Lady Bird’ McPherson (Saoirse Ronan), those 5 words encapsulate one of Lady Bird’s main concerns: the pervasiveness of depression. The message hits hard coming from Marion – a woman who has struggled her entire life. Appropriately, she spends most of the movie struggling to impart her wisdom to her belligerent teenage daughter, mostly via ill-conceived tough love. In response, Lady Bird spends most of the movie being passive-aggressive and rebellious.

Lady Bird is a senior at a Catholic high school in Sacramento, California, and she dislikes every one of those descriptors. Frustrated with her family’s money problems, and the tedium of working-class Sacramento, Lady Bird yearns to break free of the restraints she feels other people have put on her. Hence her ‘given’ name (given to her by her) of Lady Bird. In that regard, Lady Bird is your typical coming-of-age heroine: hungry, awkward, and blind to the lessons she needs to learn. Lady Bird follows her for just over a year, beautifully capturing every hilarious and heart-breaking situation that comes with burgeoning adulthood.

Lady Bird is the product of writer/director Greta Gerwig’s unique worldview. Striking out on her own after several excellent collaborations with Noah Baumbach, Gerwig uses autobiographical details to build an honest portrait of working-class Sacramento. Her characters are unhappy, but good-hearted people trying to work with the hand life has dealt them. They are authentic and approachable, and it is an enormous pleasure to watch them bounce off each other, especially with dialogue as sharp as Gerwig’s. The film is at its best when its characters are arguing – snide comments blending with stubbornness to create comedy gold.

All of this praise extends to the film’s secondary characters, who flesh out Lady Bird’s themes with satisfying subtlety. Many of them – such as Father Leviatch (Stephen Henderson) – serve to illustrate the masks we wear around other people. In its removal of those masks, Lady Bird proves graceful and generous, offering sympathetic portrayals of complex emotional issues.

None of this would work half as well without Gerwig’s assured direction. She’s crafted Lady Bird remarkably well for a debut feature. Like the dialogue, the film moves to a unique rhythm without ever missing a beat. The result is something that’s distinctly Gerwig’s, marking her as someone to watch. One’s mind races with the possibilities of what Gerwig could do with a meaty, adult drama.

That’s not to invoke the cliché that Lady Bird is the start of something; it isn’t. It’s more of a continuation of Gerwig’s work on Frances Ha, which she co-wrote with Baumbach. She’s been honing her style and skills for years. Lady Bird is just the first time she’s had a director’s credit attached to those efforts. What Lady Bird does prove is that Gerwig is someone with the necessary talent to expand beyond her current repertoire. If she keeps writing characters of this quality – and directing them with this level of confidence – there’s no telling where she might go.

Lady Bird is available in Australian cinemas from February 8

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2018

Movie Review – Molly’s Game

Aaron Sorkin and Jessica Chastain hit the jackpot with Molly’s Game.

 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Adapted from the exposé memoir of the same name, Molly’s Game heralds the first directorial effort of acclaimed screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network, Moneyball, Steve Jobs). The film centres on Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a failed Olympic skier who finds herself caught in a tangled web of underground Hollywood poker games and the target of an FBI investigation. With lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) fighting in her corner, Molly recounts her fall from grace, from promising athlete to drug addict and poker pit boss.

As this is a Sorkin joint, you know straight away what to expect from the screenplay; machine gun dialogue, lengthy, dynamic monologues, whip-smart characters and a shrewd storytelling angle that keeps you engaged. Here we have three stories told in parallel, with Sorkin flitting between the beginning (Molly’s short-lived skiing career), the middle (the climb from preppy assistant to gambling godfather) and the end (her inevitable arrest and trial).

Rather than laying all his cards on the table, Sorkin keeps them close to his chest; like the crafty players seated around the poker table, he lays out the details of Molly’s story like breadcrumbs for the audience to chase after. While the story is trashier and less reverential than say Steve Jobs, it does what it sets out to do – entertain – and then some. It’s like Sorkin’s take on The Wolf of Wall Street, albeit with more heart and wit and less outrageous nudity.

So we know Sorkin can write, but can he direct as well? Yep, turns out he can. Sorkin’s approach recalls Martin Scorsese or Oliver Stone at their most energetic, with lots of provocative visuals, frenetic editing and lively camerawork. Narration plays a big part in recounting the bulk of the story, and Chastain, bristling with steely composure and sex appeal, strides through it all in style. Similar to her take-no-prisoners performances in Zero Dark Thirty and Miss Sloane, Chastain is committed, fiery and frankly, a mesmeric presence.

Despite its length (Molly’s Game clocks in at nearly two-and-a-half hours), I never once felt bored. Partly because Sorkin’s punchy screenplay never ceases to entertain, but also because all the actors are keen as anything to sink their teeth into the meaty wordplay. Elba lands a couple of straight flushes with emotive monologues, Kevin Costner leaves an impression in his limited screen time, and Michael Cera has never been more punchable as a smarmy player who excels at reading other people.

Loaded with zingy repartee that crackles like fireworks, and a cast that brings its a-game across the board, Molly’s Game is fun, frisky and feverish.

Molly’s Game is available in Australian cinemas from January 25 

Image courtesy of EntertainmentOne Films 

 

Movie Review – I, Tonya

Tonya Harding’s reputation has been on thin ice since the infamous Kerrigan knee incident. Now, almost 25 years later, the American figure skater has been offered some redemption in new film I, Tonya.

 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Elle Cahill

Where does one begin with I, Tonya? Based on the stranger than fiction life events of US figure skater Tonya Harding (Margot Robbie), the film explores the controversial assault on her rival Nancy Kerrigan at the 1994 national championships. Although the attack was conceived by her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly (San Sebastian), the scandal ultimately ended Harding’s career. I, Tonya looks into Harding’s experiences before and after this life altering event, bringing a fresh perspective to a vilified sporting icon.

Director Craig Gillespie brings us a very different kind of biopic in I, Tonya by cleverly constructing a mockumentary style that’s complete with faux interviews and narration from Harding’s mother LaVona Golden (Allison Janney). At key moments, the characters pause mid-action to deliver tongue-in-cheek commentary and chip in their own 2-cents, often to great comic effect. It’s an unusual technique, but given the bizarre nature of the story, it all works together seamlessly.

Known for quirky films like Lars and the Real Girl, Gillespie is able to deftly balance this darkly funny, yet equally tragic story. He also doesn’t shy away from the domestic abuse experienced by Harding, first at the hands of her mother, then her ex-husband. The film is startlingly honest, but while it’s sympathetic towards Harding’s background, it doesn’t let Harding off scot-free. It does, however, give Harding a bit more humanity than was ever seen during the media coverage of the incident.

All of this is carried by a cast of brilliant actors that have undergone radical physical transformations for their respective roles. Janney is hardened and downright vicious as Harding’s mother, and given her background in mostly comedic roles, she is almost unrecogniseable here.

At the end of the day, Robbie steals the show in the lead role, transitioning from a vulnerable girl to a highly ambitious young woman who is acutely aware of her reliance on her figure skating success. Robbie brings a real emotional core to Harding, shifting from feisty and hot-tempered, to fragile and disillusioned. It’s this wide range that Robbie portrays with a natural ease that really propels this film forward, and keeps you grounded in the fact that this is someone’s life you’re watching.

Working alongside the incredible performances is some outstanding cinematography from Nicolas Karakatsanis. I’m very disappointed he didn’t receive an Academy Award nomination for his work; the skating scenes are incredible, especially given this is a sport normally viewed from a distance. Karakatsanis gets up close and personal, zooming in and around Harding as she moves across the ice, making you feel like you’re performing with her, rather than simply spectating.

Overall, I, Tonya is a memorable offering that pushes the bounds of traditional biopic filmmaking.

I, Tonya is available in Australian cinemas from January 25

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films

Movie Review – Darkest Hour

Fat suit? Check. Heavy prosthetics and makeup? Check. Actor at the top of his game bellowing some of history’s most famous speeches? Gary Oldman, awards season is all yours.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan

World War II is in full swing by May 1940, and Britain needs a new Prime Minister to protect its national security. With the most obvious choice for PM unwilling to take up such a task, the responsibility is handed down to the only other man eligible – Winston Churchill (Gary Oldman), the pompous and audacious political head of the Royal Navy. Britain faces imminent invasion with the unstoppable Nazi forces firmly gripping Western Europe, leaving Churchill to face a monumental challenge just days after being sworn in. With his own party conspiring to overthrow him, he must persuade a nation to stand and fight against its overwhelming enemy.

Gary Oldman is one of those actors that has surprisingly never won an Oscar, despite a long, distinguished career filled with consistently terrific performances. It hardly matters anymore, given the Oscars are more concerned with politics these days, but if the Academy still stood for the most exceptional commitments to cinema, Darkest Hour would be Oldman’s Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant moment.

Countless actors have portrayed Churchill – Oldman is the sixth from the Harry Potter films alone – but his performance easily ensures the rest will all be forgotten; even Brian Cox, who appeared in an unfortunately-timed Churchill biopic right before this one.

What bolsters this iteration of Churchill above the others is not a focus on the great things he achieved, but how he achieved these through his fundamental flaws as a human being. Oldman’s Churchill is not an easy man to warm to; he’s arrogant, cranky, rude and quick to create arguments. He shows little respect to his peers, all of whom seem to despise him – with just cause. And yet it’s his unorthodox, contentious ways that get the job done. It’s pure method-in-madness, and Oldman realises the full brilliance of this with a great amount of humour.

As a complete package, Darkest Hour isn’t quite as towering as the man at its core. It could certainly be considered a return to form for director Joe Wright, who stumbled massively when he entered blockbuster territory with Pan. He’s clearly back in his period piece comfort zone, with Pride & Prejudice, Atonement and Anna Karenina being among his better films. Darkest Hour, however, lacks the well-roundedness and accessibility of these crowd-pleasers; it’s competent, but likely to only really pique the interest of those well-versed in the heavy politics and diplomacy of war.

It does, however, work surprisingly well as a companion piece to Dunkirk; while Christopher Nolan‘s film consisted only of the catastrophic events that occurred on the French beaches, this gives us the other side of the coin in what was occurring back home in Britain. Together, the two films form an extensive whole. On its own, Darkest Hour is a good compilation of Churchill’s greatest hits, elevated by a brilliant actor finally earning the acclaim he deserves.

Darkest Hour is available in Australian cinemas from January 11 

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2018

Movie Review – The Post

Steven Spielberg’s The Post is part historical drama, part Trump critic, part female empowerment and part ode to print media.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

The US government lied to its people for over twenty years regarding their involvement in the Vietnam War. Why were they there? Was there any hope of victory? To the American people, maybe. But a handful of politicians knew otherwise; it was a lost cause. Word eventually got out. The White House was implicated. The Post is a thoroughly gripping new film from Steven Spielberg that examines the the reporters who broke the story, and cornered the president of the United States into resignation.

Like Alan J. Pakula’s 1976 drama, All the President’s Men (a spiritual sequel that covered the ensuing Watergate Scandal), The Post is told through the eyes of The Washington Post, owned by Kay Graham (Meryl Streep) as an indirect heirloom handed down from her father to her husband and then to her.

The film starts with Kay practicing a sales pitch to the banks, as the company must be made public to avoid going under. She feels, of course, that The Post is hers to honour, not just for her sake, but for the sake of her family, and so the sale must be made. But exposing the presidency is not exactly a recipe for stability.

The Post has a lot going on. We are invited to Kay’s tumultuous dinner table. We are dropped into the newsroom of The Washington Post, where executive editor Ben Bradlee (Tom Hanks) is desperate to break the story despite the injunction filed on the press by the supreme court. We have to deal with financial legalities and a lot of investment talk, and all this mayhem is choreographed by Spielberg with the precision and experience of a maestro.

But it doesn’t stop here. There arer collusions and secrets. Underhanded exchanges and private phone calls. There’s even time for Ben’s daughter to make a small fortune selling lemonade. And yet the through line is abundantly clear. The Post aims at once to both tell us what the American presidency is capable of to protect its reputation, and how history is doomed to repeat itself.

Anyone watching The Post will surely see the parallels between Nixon’s and Trump’s administrations. Both rule with an iron fist. Both refuse to lose. Both are willing to quash opposition at the expense of their country’s constitution, and more to the point, both think of the press as the enemy.

Such conflict usually gives rise to outstanding characters, and The Post is graced with Streep and Hanks as Kay and Ben. Together they attempt to salvage The Washington Post, uphold the first amendment and freedom of the press, and bring a corrupt government to its knees. And might they also want to one-up The New York Times, their most bitter competitor?

Spielberg makes three kinds of pictures: the box office-smashing blockbuster (Jaws, Jurassic Park), the goofy kids movie (Hook, The BFG) and the thoughtful historical drama (The Color Purple, Lincoln). The Post is a fine addition to the third group. It’s fascinating and bold, and if it dips into a kind of melodramatic tribute towards the end, it’s most likely because Spielberg laments the bygone days when newsrooms were frenetic, reporters were dogged and newspapers were downright fashionable.

The Post is available in Australian cinemas from January 11

Image courtesy of EntertainmentOne Films

Movie Review – Downsizing

By no means a small feat.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Josip Knezevic 

Downsizing is one of those films that’s built on a strong premise, but fails to live up to its full potential. While its overall narrative falls short, it’s still an enjoyable watch thanks to the fascinating world created by writer/director Alexander Payne (Nebraska).

The issue of overpopulation has rarely been committed to film, which in itself makes Downsizing refreshing to watch, but even better is Payne’s proposed solution to this problem, being to shrink a chunk of society to a height of five inches.

Much like how Zootopia looks into animals co-existing in a human environment, Downsizing explores how normal sized humans would live alongside those of tiny stature, and this is where Payne’s film excels. He adapts our world to accommodate for the minuscule, with small compartments on trains designed specifically for those only five inches tall, and looks at the divides that could arise between these two factions. Hot topics include whether the small should be allowed voting rights, tax exclusions and income changes, and while I would have enjoyed more insight into these hypothetical issues, I appreciate that Downsizing isn’t really about the rights of the little people.

At the end of the day, it’s about Paul Safranek (Matt Damon); a small man looking to find himself in a world that’s too big for him. In focusing on Paul’s plight rather than the challenges of a society segregated by size, Downsizing has copped a bit of criticism, but with such a great concept in play, it’s difficult for any protagonist to be equally engaging. In a way, Payne’s creativity is his own downfall; his premise outshines his story and its characters.

Having said that, I was still able to empathise with Paul and the person he became throughout the process of being shrunk. He’s also surrounded by strong supporting characters, with Christoph Waltz offering a lot of fun as his loud and crazy neighbour.

While polarising, I think the positives outweigh the negatives in Downsizing. It’s no Academy Award winner, but by golly is it fun to watch. Go see it.

Downsizing is available in Australian cinemas from Boxing Day 

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

 

 

Movie Review – Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri offers a strong start to 2018, combining wit and sensitivity in a gritty story about one woman’s mission to find her daughter’s killer.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Elle Cahill

What would you do if seven months have passed since your daughter was raped and murdered, but the police have all but given up on finding the culprit? You rent three billboards and put up inciting messages, of course.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is an explosive first offering to 2018 about one mother’s determination to bring justice to her daughter’s killer. Frances McDormand completely owns this film as the no-nonsense mother Mildred Hayes, who begins to act recklessly in order to remind the town that her daughter’s case is still unsolved. McDormand’s talent lies not only in her ability to deliver her foul-mouthed, dry-witted tirades, but also in her ability to portray a complicated woman who has deep regrets, and for the first time is at a loss as to how to fix her situation. Her acknowledgement that she and her family aren’t invincible is the most tragic, and her use of wit to mask her awful situation reminds us that often not everything is as it seems on the surface.

Woody Harrelson plays Police Chief Bill Willoughby, who Mildred personally calls out in her billboards, and despite being embarrassed by her accusations, Sheriff Willoughby is sympathetic and humbled, perhaps because he understands what’s it like to realise your own morality. But its Sam Rockwell’s performance as the deeply disturbed Deputy Dixon that stays with you. In these tumultuous times in America, where the people who are supposed to be protecting the public are instead being put under a microscope for being inherently racist and trigger-happy, Deputy Dixon is the embodiment of this current societal issue. He’s a drunk racist, blinded by his own authority and his belief that his actions don’t have consequences.

The only let down of this film is that it could afford to be half an hour shorter. There are moments when it takes unnecessary pauses, maybe to provide a moment of reflection, which completely slows down the pace of the film. The struggle to then get it back on track takes up time that could have been used to hone the film’s overall impact instead.

Surrounded by such a strong cast, Abbie Cornish seems out of place as Sheriff Willoughby’s wife. She looks too young to be married to Woody Harrelson and be the mother of two pre-teen daughters. Her accent is also a sore point, often flickering between the Missouri drawl and her natural Australian tone.

Director and writer Martin McDonagh has delivered a deeply human telling of the parent-revenge story that’s relatable and grounded. Unlike the absurdity of recent parent-revenge films such as the Taken franchise or The Foreigner, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri wrenches at the soul as the story unfolds slowly and painfully. Each character is horrifically flawed, which makes them somewhat refreshing and extremely vulnerable. Ultimately, the film asks what would you do if you were in Mildred’s position, and how far would you go to make people listen to you?

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is available in Australian cinemas from January 4 

Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox 

Movie Review – All The Money In The World

Ridley Scott’s first feature since Alien: Covenant is a confident reminder that the filmmaker can do a lot more than science-fiction.

 

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

All the Money in the World speaks a universal truth; that all the money in the world cannot, and will not, buy you love. It could buy you happiness, sure. Build several mansions and fill them with whatever your heart desires. Even Ebenezer Scrooge would invert his scowl. But love, that requires work, and according to All the Money in the World, Jean Paul Getty just didn’t have the time.

Getty is played by Christopher Plummer, who had to replace Kevin Spacey less than a month before the movie’s release, but it looks like the role was always meant to be his. Plummer, who was 87 when he was dragged onto set, can surely endorse the fountain of youth. His scenes were reshot in nine days, and he is so comfortable playing a miserly billionaire you’d expect him to have been one his whole life.

The film follows Getty as he tries (or doesn’t try) to negotiate the $17 million ransom for his grandson’s life. Abducted by members of ‘Ndrangheta in 1973, John Getty III (Charlie Plummer) was a boy lost among monsters. The experience traumatised him so badly he became addicted to drugs and alcohol and eventually died in 2011 from complications of both. Getty could’ve easily paid up and saved his grandson’s life if he hadn’t valued things more than family.

All the Money is about that divide between what is valuable to someone and inconsequential to someone else. John Getty III’s mother, Gail (Michelle Williams), is expectedly frantic, and some of the film’s best scenes are about Gail’s futile battles with Getty and his mob of attorneys. It’s hard to imagine someone being so nonchalant about their family’s wellbeing, and yet some of the arguments Getty makes seem to be sensible. “I have fourteen grandchildren”, he explains, “If I paid the ransom I’d soon have to pay thirteen others”.

All the Money in the World is directed by Ridley Scott, whose films tend to be hit-or-miss when they’re not science-fiction. This is much better than some of his grounded dramas (2013’s The Counsellor was particularly horrendous) perhaps because it’s about real people, real emergencies and real selfishness. It demonstrates precisely what money can and cannot do. I thought the writers had taken liberties with Getty’s meticulous accounting, but then I did some reading after the film, and to my surprise, they’re not far off at all. My goodness.

All The Money In The World is available in Australian cinemas from January 4

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films