Wiener-Dog – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

An impressive cast doesn’t save Todd Solondz from drowning along with his wiener-dog.


Zachary Cruz-Tan

I don’t know Todd Solondz nor am I acquainted with his body of work, but after seeing Wiener-Dog, his latest black comedy about a wandering dachshund, I believe a successful career is still far ahead of him. This is an awkward, at times frustrating film in which no one utters a single line of credible dialogue and every performance – except Danny DeVito’s – is tuned to the frequency of a shock therapy patient.

DeVito plays Dave Schmerz, a failed screenwriter working for a prestigious film school. His story is one of numerous, vaguely interconnected tales about different bunches of people and, of course, a wiener-dog that somehow finds its way into their care. “A dachshund passes from oddball owner to oddball owner, whose radically dysfunctional lives are all impacted by the pooch”, states the film’s IMDb synopsis, and yet I don’t recall the dog doing a single thing of value except providing the film with an excruciatingly overdrawn shot of faeces. Its owners could’ve been lugging around an old toilet and it wouldn’t have made a difference.

Sad, then, that the movie is called Wiener-Dog. Solondz, who wrote and directed, must feel affection for canines, but it is lost in his screenplay, which frowns upon them ambivalently with a truly disturbing conclusion, and Julie Delpy having to constantly remind her son that “Dogs are not humans!”. Everyone’s so stunted by the strange dialogue and bizarre staging that the entire picture becomes a distraction of itself. It might also be the only movie under 90 minutes to have an intermission. Gives us the perfect opportunity to walk out, I suppose.

Wiener-Dog is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July) 

Image courtesy of Transmission Films & Revelation Film Festival

Top Knot Detective – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Riotously funny, Top Knot Detective is what happens when you watch too much late-night SBS.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Michael Philp 

It’s hard to describe Top Knot Detective to the uninitiated. Its list of influences includes Power Rangers, midnight SBS insanity and legendarily bad films like The Room. Imagine a mockumentary retrospective on Kung Fury, and you’ll have some grasp of what you’re in for. If those things don’t float your boat, the exit is to your right. For everyone else, Top Knot Detective is brilliant and it deserves to be on your must-see list.

Top Knot details the rise and fall of fictional 90’s Japanese TV show Ronin Suiri Tentai (Deductive Reasoning Ronin), zeroing in on the show’s creator/director/star/writer Takashi Tawagoto (Toshi Okuzaki), who is described as “Errol Flynn without the STD’s or the talent”. Through interviews with his co-stars and the show’s crew, the film builds a fascinating and hilarious portrait of a young man swept up in the creative process.

There are so many things to love about Top Knot. The number of jokes per minute is phenomenal, and just about each one lands perfectly. On top of that, the level of care on display is remarkable. From the acting to the background details, everything around the show is on-point. Even the tie-in advertisements and archive photos feel beautifully real, and you’ll often forget that everything you’re seeing has come directly from the minds of directors Aaron McCann and Dominic Pearce. Top Knot Detective isn’t just a send-up of cheap, over the top Japanese cinema, it’s McCann and Pearce’s love letter to the genre. Theirs is a world of giant penis monsters, talk shows with cats, and gloriously ridiculous (and ridiculously gory) action scenes. If that sentence interests you, Top Knot Detective cannot be recommended enough.

Top Knot Detective is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July)

Image courtesy of Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) and Revelation Film Festival 

Descent into the Maelstrom – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Descent into the Malestrom is a high energy journey into the success, and failings, of 70’s Aussie rock’n’roll band Radio Birdman.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Elle Cahill 

In 1974 in Sydney, a young American man named Deniz Tek formed the band Radio Birdman with Rob Younger. Following the recruitment of four other members, Radio Birdman went on to cause a stir in the Australian music scene, with their unconventional take on rock’n’roll and their determination to stay true to their original brand of music. Whilst the band had a short run of success, with the members of the band choosing to part ways in 1978, they became the influence for many mainstream Australian bands.

The genius of Descent into the Maelstrom lies in director Jonathan Sequeira’s complete understanding of the band. There are so many elements at play that are carefully hidden behind the guise of a historical documentary as Sequeira explores the band’s rise to fame. But this documentary offers so much more, and much like the music of Radio Birdman, it refuses to stick to traditional documentary conventions.

The first half of the documentary is littered with wild tales as retold by the band members, now well into their 60’s, and discusses their struggle to be taken seriously in the music scene. There is an incredible archive of footage and photos from Radio Birdman’s performances, which makes up the majority of the visual content for the documentary, but it’s the clever use of storyboard animations that help to fill the gaps in the footage that adds a little extra something, and makes the documentary slightly unusual.

The second half of the documentary takes on a quiet, reflective state as the band are picked up by a label and begin touring internationally in 1977. The more they tour, the more the cracks in the group become irreparable, and this is supported with a definite change in mood in the present-day interviews as the band members become more solemn and disgruntled about how Radio Birdman ended.

Descent into the Maelstrom does well in immersing the audience into this world of rock’n’roll, but there’s also a certain amount of assumed knowledge that is expected of the audience. Knowledge of the state of the Australian music scene at this time is helpful, as well as knowing a bit about the punk scene, both on an international scale, and on a more local, Australian scale. There’s a lot of reminiscing about forgotten bands and pubs that no longer exist, which can leave you missing the significance of these details if you’re just that bit too young.

Descent into the Maelstrom, much like Radio Birdman’s music and band ethos, is raw, gritty and unorthodox, but it’s the honest portrayal of the highs and lows of Radio Birdman’s short rise to fame, and subsequent conflict within the band, that makes this documentary so interesting.

Descent into the Maelstrom is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July)

Image courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment & Revelation Film Festival

Watch The Sunset – Revelation Perth International Film Festival

Watch the Sunset is a remarkable achievement that maintains a gripping momentum… almost until the end.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Michael Philp

The one-take genre of drama is small; its most oft-cited works being Victoria and Russian Ark. It’s a format that lends itself to intense realism, but is also hampered by logistical constraints. Watch the Sunset, filmed over the course of an afternoon in Kerang, Victoria, delivers the former in spades, but fails to overcome the trappings of its genre.

The film opens with a brief montage of documentary footage on the drug ice, giving context to the film’s first scene: a man, Danny (Tristan Barr), driving a devastated young woman, Charis (Zia Zantis-Vinycomb) to a motel and locking her in a room. From here, Danny abandons her to attempt to reconnect with his ex-wife and daughter. For good reasons, the former doesn’t want a bar of him, and her reservations are proven legitimate when things take a turn for the worst.

For the vast majority of the film, the camera sticks to Danny like a small child, allowing the audience a stomach-churning view of the proceedings. There is a remarkable level of authenticity on display: every actor nails the realism and depth necessary to breathe life into the single take, and the camera is there at every step to unflinchingly capture their performances. Better still, it manages to pull off the impressionistic angle just as well, with several clever uses of reflection elevating Damien E. Lipp’s cinematography.

Sadly, the film goes off the rails near the end. A brief monologue on “what separates us from the animals” comes off as egregiously empty philosophising, and the film never recovers enough to deliver the rousing finale you want. If this were a normal film, the editing bay might have caught that and cut the scene down, but the single-take genre allows no such leeway.

Watch the Sunset is a powerful film: its performances are devastatingly real, and its achievements are awe-inspiring. Every member of the crew deserves commendation; they have pulled off one of cinema’s most daring feats with aplomb, producing a film that will keep you on the edge of your seat almost until the very end.

Watch the Sunset is screening at Revelation Film Festival (6-19 July) 

Image courtesy of BarrLipp Productions and Revelation Film Festival 

Movie Review – It Comes At Night

A24 – the production company behind The Witch, Green Room and Tusk – continues to rescue the horror genre with the brooding and brain-befuddling It Comes at Night.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan

The world has been plagued by an extremely contagious disease, forcing a surviving family – Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and son Travis (Kelvin Harrison, Jr.) to live isolated in a house deep within the woods. When another survivor, Will (Christopher Abbott), breaks into their home claiming to be seeking supplies for his own wife and son, Paul is initially untrustworthy and intends to kill him. After some convincing he agrees to let Will’s family live with them temporarily, but suspicion, allegations, assumptions and the visions that haunt Travis at night soon create a great deal of tension between the families.

It would seem apt to recommend going into It Comes at Night with as little knowledge about it as possible, but the truth is you’re just as likely to come out the other side with as few scraps of information as what you went in with. Writer/director Trey Edward Shults’ (Krisha) second feature is ambiguous in every sense of the word, straight up avoiding anything resembling exposition, convention, backstory or explanation.

What Shults does make clear is his masterwork in atmosphere. Here’s a man with a deep understanding of what it takes to stage a successfully terrifying ambience, fully capable of suspense-building restraint and an awareness that the unknown is often far scarier than what we’re given. Things as simple as a dog barking at something we can’t see in the distant woods, or the red door that lurks at the end of a darkened corridor are dripping with dread, more often than not because we don’t know what lies beyond.

Subtle technical ticks are used to great effect, particularly the shift to a tighter aspect ratio whenever Travis experiences one of his horrifying visions. It’s such a tiny thing, but the mere sight of night coming and those black bars sliding slowly into place is enough to induce fear that something nasty is about to happen.

Shults is helped by a very game cast, especially Joel Edgerton in another apprehensive, dialled-back performance, and Kelvin Harrison, Jr., who will soon no doubt owe his breakout success to this. But Shults’ film is ultimately defined by two things – its unsettling feel and imagery, and the endless barrage of questions you’re left with afterwards.

For better or worse, it’s down to our own personal interpretation and what we choose to make of it. In this sense, It Comes at Night can’t quite manage the satisfaction of say, The Witch, but it is a breathlessly tense 90-minute terror ride.

It Comes At Night is available in Australian cinemas from July 6

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films

 

Movie Review – Table 19

You know it’s bad when your biggest laugh is literally a character falling off a log.

⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Wedding movies are a cute little subgenre that pops up every so often; from Bridesmaids to Wedding Crashers, it’s an arena that has served up several genuine gems over the years. Directed by Jeffrey Blitz (The Office) and written by Jay and Mark Duplass, Table 19 has aspirations of joining these esteemed ranks – but falls woefully short.

The film concerns itself with Eloise (Anna Kendrick), the scorned maid of honour who passes on her duties after being dumped by Teddy (Wyatt Russell), the best man and brother of the bride. Determined to turn up to the wedding and show Teddy what he’s missing, Eloise finds herself unceremoniously dumped at table 19 with the rest of the losers, rejects and hangers-on.

Table 19 is a disjointed tangle of misshapen plot strands and half-baked characters that feel thrown together hastily, as if the finishing touches to the script were still being drawn up as the film entered the final stretch of shooting. Filled with a jealous rage and harbouring a secret, Eloise is supposed to find herself bonding with the rest of her tablemates over their comparable tales of hopelessness – except none of them are satisfactorily explored or explained all that well, save for Eloise.

Kendrick is right at home in the indie surrounds of Table 19; after all, her whole career is built on a solid bedrock of quaint indie comedies like The Hollars, Mr Right, The Last Five Years, Drinking Buddies and The Voices.

And whilst it’s good that Kendrick keeps herself busy, maybe she needs to learn that quality is always preferable to quantity. Table 19 doesn’t give her the platform to put on a show or flex her acting chops. It doesn’t offer room to be comedic or tragic. It doesn’t even provide a coherent emotional arc for her character. Again, like many of the films listed above, her infectious cheer and smiley nature feels like the only thing keeping the film afloat at times.

Serving up the most painful wedding this side of Westeros, Table 19 succeeds in replicating the sheer boredom and chair-shifting awkwardness that comes with attending a function in which you really have no investment. Only a handful of jokes land, the pacing is all over the place and the soundtrack is so cutesy it’s like an elongated Mumford and Sons banjo solo.

However, unlike most wedding receptions, at least Table 19 can claim to be only 87 minutes long. Still, save yourself the trouble of forking out for the gift registry and politely decline this invitation – your time is better spent washing the car, cleaning out the gutters, mowing the lawn or literally doing anything else.

Table 19 is available in Australian cinemas from April 20 

Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Interview: Chloe Hurst – A Few Less Men

Corey Hogan

It’s probably the oldest cliché in the book; chasing your dream in the city of stars itself, Los Angeles, and leaving your life behind to make it big on the silver screen. But it’s another thing entirely if you’re actually achieving that dream, like 26-year-old Perth girl Chloe Hurst is currently. Skipping the humble beginnings most up-and-comers are forced to endure, Chloe’s been on a consistent roll since relocating; kicking off in New York with Broadway smash hits, then landing film roles opposite massive stars like Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe and Stephen Baldwin. In between her Hollywood acting, she’s taken a trip back home to appear in the sequel to the 2011 Aussie/British comedy A Few Best Men – now A Few Less Men. It’s safe to say Chloe’s blown that cliché out of the water.

I talked to Chloe about everyday life amongst the biggest names in film, the different experience of working at home on A Few Less Men (her very first Australian film) and her continuing dream run.

HOF: For starters, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what got you onto the performance and filmmaking scene?

CH: Sure! I’ve been in performing arts since I was a kid, but mainly doing theatre, musical theatre and stage stuff actually until about two years ago, when I went on a trip to L.A. to visit for two weeks from New York; I’ve done I think nine films back to back ever since. It’s definitely been a journey, and I guess the transition from stage to screen is sort of what I’m going through at the moment, and I’m loving every second of it.

HOF: You’ve had an impressive run in theatre with massive productions like Into the Woods and A Chorus Line, how have you found the transition from acting for the stage to acting in film?

CH: The actual process for me – I’ve been working with a lot of incredible coaches who’ve helped along the way, but the biggest difference I’ve found is the transition from New York to L.A., not necessarily the work aspect of it. That shift was huge in terms of lifestyle, but in terms of the work… I’m just surrounded by incredible people that are doing incredible things, and I think when you’re in good hands it makes that transition so much easier because you’re sharing the experience with these pros who have done it for years. In that respect I just find that I’ve been really lucky that I’ve been thrown into the hands of incredible professionals that have ten times the amount of experience I do, and I’m just learning every day from them.

HOF: There’s obviously a huge difference between performance work in Australia and work in L.A., what makes it that way? How does the process differ?

CH: For me, my only experience of working in Australia is A Few Less Men; most of my work has been in America! So this is actually my first real, professional experience with Australian film, and I loved every second of it. Being in my home town and shooting the film was a dream come true, and obviously I’d love to do more and more and more of that. And just seeing how passionate the Aussies are about what they’re doing, their work ethic is incredible. I think often with these big Hollywood sets… they do this all the time; they follow a protocol, they have routine and rules to stick to, whereas I feel like in Australia the energy on set and the excitement to be doing what they’re doing every day is just contagious. Like I said I haven’t had much experience in Australia, so this was such an incredible first introduction to how Aussies work and the comradery that’s created on set is totally different; it’s much more of a family aspect rather than a business. I think we’re all super supportive of each other creating these awesome things and just getting the best out of people from a personal, artistic point of view.

HOF: How did you become involved in A Few Less Men? What latched you on to a production back in Australia?

CH: So I auditioned from L.A., I caught wind that there was this film shooting in my home town called A Few Less Men, and I’d heard about the first one but I hadn’t actually seen it before auditioning. I sort of knew the cast that was attached, and even just being given the scenes that I auditioned with, I could see the comedic aspects of it, and I just thought it was written so incredibly well that I was actually laughing when reading the script – I always think that’s a great sign for a comedy. So I actually put myself on tape out here, and funnily enough one of my best friends Saskia (Hampele) was also taping herself for it from out here, so she came into my audition to read with me, and it turned out the two of us actually booked Lisa and Angie, the two best friends that are travelling in the film together. I think a part of the audition process, having her in the room and reading with me and bantering off each other like that; I feel like sending that across is probably what got us both the roles, so we were both in it together from the very beginning.

HOF: You play Lisa, who is (sort of) a love interest for Tom (Kris Marshall). Tell us a bit about the character.

CH: She’s a fling. She’s not far from me in real life I’d like to think, except perhaps a little more forward and sexual [laughs]. I basically intercept the boys; I’m on this big road trip with Saskia’s Angie in the film and we come across the boys stuck in the middle of the desert, and we take them to this party that I think ultimately resembles a Burning Man type festival. It leads to… I guess you could call it love at first sight with Kris Marshall? I try to get involved with him and proposition him for a threesome and divert their journey; they’re on a mission and we prevent that from happening, we’re giving them an ulterior motive.

HOF: How did you find working opposite all these funny actors like Kris Marshall and Kevin Bishop? Is comedy your thing?

CH: My cheeks were sore every single day; I could not stop laughing with these boys. I can’t even explain to you… they are, I think, the funniest people I’ve ever been in a room with at the same time. And when you get to develop that while shooting seriously, it only gets funnier. They are the kindest, most genuine men, and they are just a scream… what you see in the film is just so similar to what you see on set. Comedy is not my strength at all; I’m working on it at the moment actually, I’m doing an intensive class out here in L.A. just to be as good as these boys at comedy.

I was certainly intimidated to begin with working with Kris; we met, and five seconds after saying “Hi I’m Chloe, nice to meet you,” we filmed the scene where we were making out and doing… you know… [laughs] all of a sudden our tongues were doing each other’s throats. So that was certainly my first experience of being thrown in the deep end, but if anything we got the awkwardness out of the way first, so that was great.

HOF: You were in Shane Black’s The Nice Guys last year, how was it acting with such a prolific director and huge stars like Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe?

CH: I’m still speechless to this day. I think Shane’s casting and directing… he’s a genius, as a writer, as a director, as a mentor, he’s just so incredible. And to get to work with people like Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe… that’s what I mean when I say I’m learning from the best of the best, they take you under their wing and guide you and it’s the reason they are so successful. They’re just the most humble people.

HOF: You had the starring role in the indie film Scarlett, could you tell us a bit about that?

CH: Yeah! Scarlett is a film with Stephen Baldwin and myself from last year which came out… I think it’s doing a state by state release in America at the moment, so it’s come out in Texas, and Colorado I believe so far. That was my first feature film ever, and to play the title role in a film with so little experience was certainly a big responsibility on my part. Of the one hundred page script I think I had about ninety of dialogue, so it was a big responsibility on my part, but I absolutely loved every second of it and would greet the challenge again with open arms. And obviously to work with Stephen Baldwin on your first film… so I was picking his brain for advice, and I got to take away so much from that that led to things like The Nice Guys and now A Few Less Men.

HOF: You’re a bit of a fashion icon too on top of your acting. What do you enjoy the most, or does it all sort of play off each other?

CH: You know, it does play off each other; I’m certainly much more of an actor than a model, I’ve been so blessed to be able to model as my side job all these years. I joke about how modelling is my waitressing, which most actors end up having to do at some point, and I’ve been very blessed that modelling has been that for me. In terms of being a fashion icon… wow. That’s like… that’s a big call. I was flown back last year to be the ambassador of the Perth Fashion Festival, and that was an incredible experience. I basically got to meet a lot of local Perth designers that I’m still in discussion with now, because obviously I want to support where I’m from and the fashion people that are coming up in the world from Perth. I just think there’s nothing better than being supportive of the people who are trying to do their best with what they’ve got or where they’re from; I will always be so supportive of Australian fashion.

HOF: You’re based in L.A. now of course, but would you take the opportunity if more roles in Australia presented themselves?

CH: Yup. Yup, hands down. I struggle everyday living so far away from the people I love the most, so any opportunity to be brought closer to them and still be able to do what I love is a dream for me. I also love what Australians are doing with scripts and films and companies like StudioCanal are obviously being really supportive of the film industry over there, and I want to be a part of that. Like I said A Few Less Men is my only experience so far in Australian film, and I would love to grow that over the next few years, and after that as well. Fingers crossed!

HOF: I guess that brings us to what’s next for you. Are you working on anything at the moment; are there any projects on the table?

CH: So this is actually a really interesting year for me, I got my green card for the US so that in itself has opened a lot of doors over here. It’s pilot season, so I’m currently on the hustle and grind auditioning back to back for TV shows; because I’ve never worked in TV that’s something that my team and I are working on together to try to achieve this year.

A Few Less Men is available in Australian cinemas from March 9 

Image courtesy of StudioCanal

Movie Review – American Honey

Possibly the most poignant American road movie since Easy Rider.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

Teenager Star (Sasha Lane) seems to have very little in her impoverished life, as evident when we meet her scrounging around for food in dumpsters to feed the kids of the white trash family she squats with. So when she happens upon a group of energetic and similarly proletarian teens, and is propositioned by their flirtatious leader Jake (Shia LaBeouf) to join them as they travel across Midwest America, there’s nothing to lose. She enters a world of homeless but happy kids doing everything they can to survive while still partying as hard as possible along the way. An explosion of highs and lows, mixed with the emotions and impulses of growing up await Star on the open road.

It’s difficult to pinpoint what kind of a film Andrea Arnold’s (Fish Tank, Wuthering Heights) American Honey is, since it’s really more of an experience; a kinetic painting of youth enthusiastically splashed against a canvas of economic disparity. Though the odd bit of traditional storytelling peeks around the corner here and there, with a sort-of romance between its two somewhat star crossed leads, most sense of a narrative structure is completely AWOL. This is a montage of raw moments, a haze of hormonal feelings pulsating in and out to the throbbing rhythm of its pop and rap soundtrack. Coming of age may be nothing new, but Arnold’s vision of it is unique, vibrant, hypnotic and infectiously optimistic.

Working in her standard 4:3 aspect ratio combined with guerrilla handheld cameras, Arnold keeps things at an incredibly intimate and private scope, really giving the illusion that we’re with the kids in their impetuous travels. We’re granted a contrasting look at the opposing ends of America’s class scale, which speaks wonders but never passes judgement; both the rich and the poor are shown to be capable of equal virtue and malice. Most refreshing is its portrayal of a generation too often partnered with cynicism; these are simply young people making the most out of life that they can with an inspiring amount of ambition and idealism.

Andrea Arnold supposedly stumbled upon Sasha Lane at a beach while on spring break, and her idea to have her film led by someone unfamiliar with acting is a hugely effective one. It doesn’t feel like acting really – Lane just is Star, going with the flow and simply being a teenage girl as life washes over her. On the other hand, we’ve all been aware of Shia LaBeouf for quite some time, which is where he defies all expectations, giving what is likely his best performance. He’s unlike he’s ever been before here – a shaggy, complex bundle of messy energy tied up in a rat tail – and it’s abundantly clear that he’s having much more fun here than he did in any studio film.

An intensely visceral and gleeful juncture of growing up in poverty, American Honey is possibly the most poignant American road movie since Easy Rider.

American Honey is available in Australian cinemas from November 3

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

Movie Review – Cafe Society

There’s a lot to love in Woody Allen’s rose-tinted love letter to Hollywood’s Golden Era.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Bobby Dorfman (Jesse Eisenberg) is the youngest son of a Jewish family living in New York City. Overshadowed by his older siblings, Bobby decides to pack his bags and fly west to work at the movie studio where his Uncle Phil (Steve Carell) calls the shots.

It isn’t long until Bobby is smitten with Phil’s secretary Vonnie (Kristen Stewart), an unpretentious young woman who doesn’t care for the glamour of Hollywood. After a crush turns into romance, Bobby and Vonnie’s lives begin to pull them in different directions and they’re forced to confront the idea that this relationship might become ‘the one that got away’.

 A frivolous and effervescent affair that fizzes merrily like a crystal flute of fine champagne, Café Society is a potent mixer of wry irreverence and wistful poignancy that views the good old days and the gorgeous paraphernalia that comes with it through thick rose-tinted lenses. Allen’s screenplay and work behind the camera reveals him to be someone who dreamily reminisces about the past, even if that means sacrificing accuracy for agreeability and predictability. He envisions 1930’s Hollywood as an idyllic and unending cocktail party in a narrative so slight that it might’ve been scribbled onto a napkin.

That being said, I found a lot to love in Café Society; sure, it doesn’t broach any of its adult themes (adultery, murder) with anything sharper than misty-eyed whimsy, but the likeable cast do a fantastic job of balancing this with jovial charm and the occasional shred of sincerity.

Eisenberg slots back into his gawky indie niche with ease; away from the suffocating clutches of blockbusters like Batman v Superman, he excels as the young upstart who falls head over heels for Stewart’s ‘too cool for school’ attitude. Now in their third collaboration together, Eisenberg and Stewart’s chemistry is what gives this film life, even when they’re not sharing a scene – you feel the connection between their characters because the two actors just click so well.

Blake Lively, Corey Stoll, Anna Camp and Parker Posey flesh out a supporting cast that doesn’t have a weak link. Lively is particularly arresting as Veronica, a sultry siren who glides into Bobby’s life whilst Stoll’s slimy gangster is pitched as the comic relief – not that the movie really needed another joker in the pack.

When considering its place in Allen’s erratic late-period filmography, Café Society definitely sits closer to gems like Blue Jasmine and Midnight in Paris than misfires like Magic in the Moonlight. Carefree during most of the weirdly paced middle third, it all comes good in the end with a heartening crescendo that feels moving without being maudlin. Noteworthy for delivering another excellent performance from Stewart, this is one easy, breezy time at the movies that is worth checking out.

Cafe Society is available in Australian cinemas from October 13

Image courtesy of eOne Films

Movie Review – Girl Asleep

Blend Napoleon Dynamite, Where the Wild Things Are and Moonrise Kingdom, and dial the quirk factor up to 11 and you’ll have something almost as strange as Girl Asleep.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Corey Hogan

Awkward fourteen-year-old Greta (Bethany Whitmore) has just moved to a new school, where she forms a bond with geeky boy Elliot (Harrison Feldman) and unintentionally breaks the olive branch extended to her by the popular girls. To her horror, she discovers that her parents (Matthew Whittet and Amber McMahon) have planned a fifteenth birthday party for her, and sent invitations out to everyone in her year group. At the party she’s humiliated to the point of lashing out at her loved ones, so she seeks refuge inside a dream world within her mind; a bizarre parallel universe where she can only hope to find herself.

Welcome to hipster heaven. Writer Matthew Whittet and director Rosemary Myers convert Whittet’s theatre production Girl Asleep into a big-screen adaptation, and the result is probably the weirdest thing you’re likely to see at a cinema in 2016. It’s a film that bleeds quirkiness from its every orifice, so much so that it almost forgets to be much more than a cinematic embodiment of peculiarity. Myers very blatantly channels the style and humour of Wes Anderson and Jared Hess, but ramps the eccentricity up to extreme levels; which does give it its own unique branding, but dilutes the levels of emotional investment that those auteurs often strike a balance with.

Filmed in the increasingly popular 4:3 aspect ratio for perfect square framing, every single shot is a showcase for a different technical trick, be it camouflaged people materialising out of the walls to reveal titles or the camera spinning on a food platter as each character grabs their dinner. It’s particularly impressive once Greta enters her dreambox and Myers allows her imagination to run wild with creativity, turning the woods next to the family’s house into a stupendous and spooky acid trip realm where anything seems possible.

Visually and aesthetically, it’s a triumph, especially remarkable for Australian cinema, but ultimately this feels more like a showreel than a fleshed-out film. The 70’s setting – realised with excellent sets and costumes – heightens the campiness to its absolute breaking point, with an overtly ironic tone that screams “hey look at us, we’re being self-aware!” It’s the kind of film that’s a wet dream for the alternative crowd, and drolly entertaining for the average movie-goer (should they happen to see something so indie), but has the potential to be enormously off-putting to anyone even slightly cynical or adverse to gimmicky filmmaking.

Casting is pretty much spot-on. Matthew Whittet gives himself some of the funniest lines as Greta’s father, dropping some shocking dad jokes, but also showing an overprotective side as he tries to keep his daughter from coming out of her shell. Harrison Feldman’s Elliot is a loveable loser, though his character pushes the overbearing envelope a little too much to sympathise with at times. Young Bethany Whitmore gives the star-making turn as Greta; having worked from a very young age in Australian media, she mirrors her nervous character and comes of age herself, confirming what is sure to be a bright future for the teen actress.

Girl Asleep has zilch in the way of depth, but at an incredibly brisk 77 minutes it is relatively quick and painless, so it’s hard to complain too much. In the end, it’s a little film that isn’t likely to float around in your mind for long, yet it remains a neat fable about growing up, with enough sensory delights to form a pleasing oddity.

Girl Asleep is available in Australian cinemas from September 1st 

Image courtesy of Umbrella Entertainment/Kojo Group