Movie Review – Victoria and Abdul

Stephen Frears once again dramatizes the past in Victoria & Abdul.

Zachary Cruz-Tan

Like so many movies of this age, Victoria & Abdul speaks about human prejudice and the wanton savagery pre-programmed into our social preferences, but, in fact, I think it is more about the fear of growing old and lonely, outliving all our loved ones and gradually disintegrating into a shell of our former selves. It is this fear of dying that led Victoria to do outlandish things in her later years, like falling asleep during state dinners and keeping a lowly Indian servant as her closest companion.

This is another biographical movie directed by Stephen Frears and headlines yet another effortless performance by Judi Dench, who, as M in the Bond movies, always exercised a firm hand and a sharp tongue. Here, as a withering monarch, she is like M’s great-great-grandmother draped in what looks like doilies. She is caring and inquisitive, but may God bless your soul if you try to cross her.

On the celebration of her Golden Jubilee, she is presented with a ceremonial coin by two Indians, snatched from their home in Agra and shipped off to the land of their colonisers. One of them, the tall and handsome one, is Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal). Almost at once, he catches the queen’s eye and she is stricken by a fearful fascination with this bearded foreign man.

Abdul is charming and intelligent, and beguiles Victoria with tales of his home, a land Victoria’s empire has conquered that she has never visited or even learnt about. She is told of the story of the Taj Mahal. She is taught Hindi and Urdu. She is introduced to Indian spices and fruit. And when she sends for Abdul’s wife, she is startled to find her hidden beneath impenetrable black silk. It’s like stepping over the threshold into Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

Victoria’s interest in what her subordinates consider to be an inferior being creates tension in the palace, and soon her subjects and eldest son, Bertie (a somewhat puzzling Eddie Izzard), are threatening to resign. We could debate the merits of their consternation for years, but the central inherent racism of the English aristocracy works, within the confines of the film, to bolster our support for Abdul, who may not be the most upstanding young man but is certainly the right elixir for a waning old lady in desperate need of a strong shoulder to lean on. Dench and Fazal share some real chemistry, and while the bickering between Victoria’s subjects adds spice to the proceedings, it’s the scenes between the monarch and companion that really pop with drama.

Frears has made some delightful and intelligent films based on the lives of real people and seems to have a deft touch when it comes to dealing with the English crown. In 2006 he made The Queen, one of the greatest movies about the fragile relationship between royalty and its people. Victoria & Abdul is not one of his best. It slips sometimes into sentimentality and lacks the professional stroke present in his earlier work, but it is held aloft by the charm and honesty of its two leads, who both see the error of Britain’s ways, but are too caught up in the formidable character of the other to really do anything about it.

Victoria and Abdul is available in Australian cinemas from September 14 

Image (c) Universal Pictures 2017


Movie Review – Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie

Exceeding expectations, Captain Underpants is one of the best animated films of the year.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Michael Philp

Full disclosure: I brought some baggage into my viewing of Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie. The novels, written and illustrated by Dav Pilkey, were some of my favourites growing up, and I was wary of seeing it turn into another The Smurfs or Trolls – nostalgic Trojan horses that take every opportunity to try and sell you songs and cute merchandise. Imagine my surprise then, when Captain Underpants not only avoided those pitfalls, but also demonstrated a genuine love for the original books.

The film follows fourth graders Harold Hutchins (Thomas Middleditch) and George Beard (Kevin Hart), best friends since kindergarten, and creators of the comic book hero Captain Underpants. The boys are phenomenal pranksters, and often butt heads with their humourless and cruel principal, Mr Krupp (Ed Helms). When one of their pranks gets caught on camera, Krupp sentences them to the ultimate punishment: putting them in different classrooms! The duo, cornered in his office, hypnotise him into believing he is the titular Captain. Hilarity ensues as the dim-witted superhero comes to life and causes chaos around town.

Everyone is at the top of their game here. Middleditch and Hart are a winning combination, matching the energy of the film with ease. The boys’ imaginations run wild, but it never feels indulgent or out of place, mostly because of how well Middleditch and Hart sell it. Few films would handle the line “Separate classes lead to separate lives, which inevitably leads to robots!” as well as this one does. Better still is the joyous energy that Nick Kroll brings as the villainous Professor Poopypants. Played with Germanic exuberance, Poopypants is the perfect antagonist for the film, and Kroll clearly relishes the chance to go a little bit mad and steal every scene he can.

That craziness is served well by the superb animation. Unafraid to experiment with numerous styles and ideas, the film brings Harold’s illustrations to life in a way Pilkey could only dream of. Talking toilets and killer robots all pop with layers of polish and love. Purely on a visual level, it’s hard to imagine a better adaptation of the books.

The cherry on top of all of this is that the film never undercuts itself with unnecessary marketing ploys. The studio could’ve easily thrown in a random dance montage set to the latest candy-floss pop song (don’t they all do that now?), but it never sinks that low. It even keeps product placements to a refreshing bare minimum. The film’s highest priority is in presenting Pilkey’s world with love and verve.

Being sceptical of a film like Captain Underpants would be natural – the director’s last film was the brain-numbingly average Turbo – but rest assured the end product is something worth seeing. The colour and energy on display is infectious, and it’s in service to a wonderful story of friendship and imagination. Captain Underpants takes the spirit of Harold and George’s comics and puts it on the big screen, and I don’t think there’s much more you can ask of an adaptation. By the looks of things, we’ll be seeing a sequel or two down the line, and for once I’m pretty happy about that.

Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie is available in Australian cinemas from September 14 

Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Movie Review – American Assassin

With American Assassin, Michael Cuesta explores nuclear war in the most outdated fashion possible.

Zachary Cruz-Tan 

There’s something to admire about Michael Cuesta’s American Assassin, albeit somewhat ironically. This is a movie out of time, a relic of Hollywood’s past shuffled forward to the present without planning or coordination. It’s a story a faithful student of Steven Seagal might’ve wanted two decades ago, but with Steven Seagal instead of Michael Keaton. It feels so antiquated one might be amazed to see it made at all, and yet here it is, proud as a featherless peacock.

It begins decently enough, with a thunderous terrorist attack on an idyllic beach. Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien) has just proposed to his fiancée, then she is gruesomely gunned down. Bent on revenge, Mitch takes the only logical step: murder the leader of the terrorist cell himself by taking up martial arts classes and feigning loyalty to the radical caliphate. Uh huh…

His moves are observed by Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan), deputy director of a covert organisation of assassins known as Orion. She hacks his webcam, spies on his chats and paces around one of those secure agency rooms that looks like computer screens have taken over the world with pie charts and graphs. Irene, too, takes the only logical step: Recruit Mitch for her program. Why? Because “I’ve tested them all and he can do things no one else can”. Uh huh. Does anyone else see the crime in using a poor kid’s grief and revenge as weapons for the US government?

This, I suppose, is only the premise, and I think it’s more than what you need to know. The rest involves warring nations, double-crosses and nuclear bombs, which made me think of North Korea, and that, maybe, the plot might have some contemporary relevance. But nothing about Cuesta’s execution supports this notion. His movie is so devoid of energy and so stagnant that even the action sequences seem to unfold in reverse. There is not a word of dialogue with the impetus to develop character. Every line services the plot and nothing else. This is the kind of movie that would work as an academic essay.

There are gunfights and car chases, torture scenes and training montages, fist-fights and a fleet of American warships. And also an explosive crescendo that boasts some of the shoddiest CGI work of recent times. Somewhere in all this is Keaton, who plays a former Navy SEAL like it’s a career-defining audition. He goes balls-to-the-wall and, in a pivotal scene, completely smashes up against it. Keaton’s best when he’s gloomy and brooding, like Bruce Wayne, not when he’s the 21st Century version of R. Lee Ermey.

I think I can appreciate what this film is trying to accomplish, but in an era where the Mission: Impossible and James Bond movies continue to employ new tricks to remain relevant, American Assassin is like that old clown who still thinks balloon animals are what kids want. This is a film that belongs in the ‘90s, and even then it wouldn’t have been verygood at all.

American Assassin is available in Australian cinemas from September 14 

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films

Movie Review – Mountain

A thematic sequel to acclaimed documentary Sherpa, Mountain sees filmmaker Jennifer Peedom tackle the allure and myths surrounding its namesake.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Directed by Australian documentarian Jennifer Peedom, Mountain is a unique cinematic and musical fusion that examines the power high places have on shaping our lives and dreams. A 74-minute odyssey that sees Peedom join forces with the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Mountain offers audiences a moving aural experience as well as a visual one, with the Richard Tognetti-led orchestra matching the achingly beautiful cinematography with classical pieces from the likes of Beethoven and Vivaldi. With each aspect – music and images – given equal weight, Mountain is a strangely captivating cinematic experience that services a number of different purposes, making it hard to define.

On the one hand, it is a hypnotic ode to the maddening allure of mountaineering and the drive felt by those who feel the need to climb and conquer. But it’s also a commentary on the ‘domestication’ and manipulation of the wilderness for contemporary recreational activities as well as an examination of those who court danger and seek increasingly dangerous exploits at high altitudes.

At the same time, it’s also a love letter to the unquenchable geological power of mountains, as well as an exploration of shifting attitudes towards mountains throughout history, from reverence and worship to adventure and leisure. All this is tied together through soothing narration from Willem Dafoe, whose words are often poetic and enchanting.

You owe it to yourself to see this on as large a cinema screen as you can find, with an immersive sound system to boot. Even though it is scarcely longer than your average National Geographic special, Peedom’s stunning aerial photography is worth viewing on as large and loud a format as possible. It is an experience that is simultaneously absorbing and soothing, a symphony of music and moviemaking that holds your attention all the while informing and exciting.

Mountain is available in Australian cinemas from September 21 

Image (c) Madman Films & Stranger Than Fiction Films 2017

Guide to Spoiler Etiquette

Navigating spoilers on social media and at work can feel a bit like creeping through a minefield – but it doesn’t have to be such a stressful and strenuous task.

Rhys Graeme-Drury

A lot of people will joke that they didn’t know Bruce Willis was a ghost at the end of The Sixth Sense if you bring it up, such is the notoriety of that film-altering twist. But then there are those who act annoyed or even angry if you drop spoilers like that, which is just plain ridiculous – the film came out in 1999. So what’s the shelf life for spoilers with a film? How long does one have to wait before discussing spoilers is socially acceptable? When does a twist like those seen in The Sixth Sense or The Empire Strikes Back become accepted as ‘common knowledge’? Until it hits DVD? A month? A week? A weekend? In my mind, it varies depending on their potency.

For a major blockbuster film, you really don’t have long before something is everywhere; a week at most. For something like Logan (spoiler alert: Logan dies), Wonder Woman (spoiler alert: Chris Pine dies) or Rogue One (spoiler alert: everyone dies), I’d wager you get even less, possibly only the opening weekend. If you really cared about spoilers, you’d be there for the midnight screenings to be honest.

For other stuff, that grace period starts to grow. Films like Hidden Figures or Lion can sit on the shelf unspoiled for maybe a month; some people might even seek out spoilers so that they can rest assured that everything and everyone gets a happy ending.

TV is where things start to get a little trickier. By definition, television offers a shared viewing experience unlike that of a blockbuster film – for example, you and a dozen other people in the office might have seen which generic blonde girl was booted off The Bachelor last night, but there’s always that one person who doesn’t want to know because said episode is still sitting, waiting on their DVR.

TV can be live-tweeted and recapped; it’s pivotal moments immortalised into GIF form within minutes. Trying to avoid spoilers for TV shows is inherently trickier than film.

Arguably, the ultimate watercooler show right now is Game of Thrones. The 48-hour period after each episode is rife with detailed examination of what just happened and wild speculation about what will happen next, which is why avoiding spoilers (or even the faint whiff of a spoiler) is so gosh darn hard when you spend even as little as two minutes on social media.

Opposed to film, TV has a much, much shorter life span when it comes to spoilers. Fail to watch Game of Thrones when it airs and you might as well start calling yourself Jon Snow (because he knows nothing, har har).

However, Game of Thrones is its own worst enemy when it comes to spoilers in recent times; as the show moves towards its crescendo, HBO has been plagued with damaging leaks, with entire episodes such as The Spoils of War and Beyond the Wall leaking online long before they actually air on television.

Given Australia’s affinity for pirating and torrenting content, it was probably too idealistic to think people would wait until the show had actually aired legally on Foxtel to watch and start discussing major plot points on social media. Quite the opposite in fact, which changes the game entirely; spoil a show that aired last night and I’ll be a tad grumpy, but spoil something that hasn’t even aired legally and I’ll cut you.

The third and final prong in this equation is streaming. Platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, Stan and SBS OnDemand have changed the way we consume content by popularising the strategy of releasing all episodes for a certain season like House of Cards or The Handmaid’s Tale all in one go. It’s a strategy popular with those of us who have no self-control and love to gorge on episode after episode, but not so great for those of us who actually have social lives and/or jobs to go to.

But it also means no one is on the same page; how can you blather about the cliffhanger of episode eight if everyone in the office is still languishing on episode five? How long are you expected to sit on that particular juicy nugget of spoiler-filled gossip before you just have to share it with someone? Streaming has created a world where we’re on different pages and moving at our own pace – which you’d think would help solve the issue, but only serves to muddy the waters further.

At the end of the day, the basic principle undercutting my argument is this; don’t go around being a twat. If you’ve stayed up until 3am watching every episode of The Defenders, don’t waltz into work the next day and lord it over everyone. No-one (and I mean no-one) likes that guy. And don’t be the guy who expects everyone around him to simply not talk about the final season of Breaking Bad even though it ended four years ago. No-one can go through life wrapped in spoiler-resistant cotton wool and you are bound to stumble across something you wish you hadn’t on Facebook from time to time. It happens.

Image courtesy of Buena Vista & Buena Vista Home Entertainment 

Movie Review – Patti Cake$

In his debut feature, Geremy Jasper delivers an endearing film about chasing your dreams even when the odds are stacked against you.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Elle Cahill

If someone pitched a film to you about an overweight white girl from the wrong side of the tracks with aspirations to be rap star… well, you’d probably think it a recipe for disaster. Fortunately, this story of Patricia Dombrowski aka Patti Cake$ actually holds up to deliver a tale of ambition and perseverance in the face of adversity.

Patricia (Danielle Macdonald) dreams of escaping Jersey with her best friend Jheri (Siddharth Dhananjay) to seek fame and fortune, and most importantly, a recording contract. But will her responsibilities to her sick Nan and her alcoholic mother keep her from accomplishing her goals?

The trailers for Patti Cake$ set it up as an 8 Mile-come-Fish Tank-come-Precious blend, but instead Patti Cake$ brings a lot of heart, hope and some killer beats. It is the first feature for director, writer and composer Geremy Jasper, and his ability to capture Patti’s hardships as well as the character’s flaws in a sympathetic light is this film’s overarching strength.

In her unwavering belief in her rap abilities, Australia’s Danielle Macdonald brings an innocence to Patti that makes you want to root for her. Her relationship with Dhananjay is uplifting and funny, and amazingly remains a platonic friendship, which is unusual, but actually a relief.

The most impressive part of this film by far is the music. Jasper composed all the tracks in the film, and Macdonald’s ability to rap out the slick lines is really impressive. Rap fan or not, the music is catchy and full of attitude, but most importantly, fun. It’s not angry or abusive like Eminem in 8 Mile, but rather heartfelt and earnest, softening the abrasive nature that is often associated with the rap genre.

Equally impressive is the film’s fully constructed narrative, which I honestly haven’t seen in a long time. All the characters experience their own trials and tribulations and demonstrate clear growth.  The story, no matter how simple and formulaic, feels complete when it ends.

With a break-out cast and director, Patti Cake$ ability to look at the harshness of reality and examine people’s flaws without judging them makes this film a must-see. It’s a film that tells you never to give up on your dreams and to persevere in doing what you love.

Patti Cake$ is available in Australian cinemas from September 14 

Image courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox 

Movie Review – It

Pennywise is back and he ain’t clowning around this time

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Rhys Graeme-Drury

Based on Stephen King’s popular novel of the same name, Andy Muschietti’s adaptation of It sees the town of Derry, Maine terrorised by a demonic clown called Pennywise (Bill Skarsgard). With a growing number of children strangely missing, unravelling the mystery of their disappearance falls to a group of young outsiders who call themselves the Losers Club.

If you’re expecting to be scared silly, It might not be what you’re looking for. Truth is, it’s more of an adventure than a straightforward horror, with a vibe more closely matched with Netflix’s recent nostalgia fest Stranger Things. There is still a dark edge to proceedings, but nothing here scared me in the same way The Conjuring 2 or The Witch did.

The line between gruesome and goofy is one that gets increasingly blurred as the film goes on, with the third act in particular becoming increasingly comical as Pennywise darts back and forth like a demented Ronald McDonald. The camerawork and editing here is disorienting to say the least, as limbs spin and spiral to the point that it is genuinely hard to follow what is happening.

The film is definitely more at ease with itself when the horror takes a backseat and the action focuses in on its magnetic cast of dynamic youngsters. There is something about them that meshes so well, giving It a warmth and energy that is hard to replicate or manufacture. Finn Wolfhard’s character is the undoubted standout – his cocksure and bespectacled Ritchie provides comic relief by the barrowful – whilst Sophia Lillis makes for a compelling Sissy Spacek meets Molly Ringwald heroine. Her sweet romance with Ben (Jeremy Ray Taylor) is the beating heart of this film.

There are few weak links, namely Wyatt Oleff’s Stanley, but it is refreshing for a film to be so wholeheartedly committed to its focus on a younger cast. Not once does It cut away to an authority figure or adult character; this is all about the kids and it is because of their brilliance that the film is worth checking out.

It is an uncommon occurrence in that it is a big-budget studio horror that doesn’t play it too safe; it is very gory in parts, has lots of swearing and the themes are heavy, especially surrounding Lillis’ character. It isn’t perfect – it is a little long and the jumps are signposted pretty clearly – but it has a little bit of something for everyone, whether that’s gooey monsters, young romance or the slavish period setting.

It is available in Australian cinemas from September 7 

Image courtesy of Roadshow Films 

Movie Review – Ali’s Wedding

Continuing a grand tradition of romantic comedies, Ali’s Wedding is heart-warming fun.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Michael Philp

There’s something distinctly comforting about Ali’s Wedding. Maybe it’s the adorable way its leads hold pinky fingers and share tentative kisses. Perhaps it’s the fact that it presents its themes of oppression and family with tenderness and understanding. Or it could just be that it recalls some of my favourite comedies like Bend it Like Beckham and Muriel’s Wedding. Regardless, I found it impossible not to fall in love.

Ali’s Wedding follows the titular Ali (Osamah Sami), the son of a local Muslim cleric, as he first fails his medical entrance exam and then proceeds to cover that up with hilariously disastrous consequences. As that lie spirals out of control, Ali also manages to fall in love with Dianne (Helana Sawires), get engaged to Yomna (Maha Wilson), and play the lead in his mosque’s annual musical. To its credit, the film manages to juggle all of those scenarios excellently, presenting them with a warmth and charm that invites the audience into its world.

And it’s quite remarkable how well the film does that. From its first frames, Ali’s Wedding is firing on all cylinders to endear itself to you. Even potentially horrific moments are depicted with such finesse that they feel necessary and appropriate. Like its characters, Ali’s Wedding takes those events and allows them to inform a kind and loving worldview. There is pain at the centre of this story, but the film always remembers to let a ray of light shine through as well.

That’s important too, considering the subtext of the film. All but one of its characters is a devout Muslim, and the film doesn’t shy away from the realities of that. Dianne’s father serves this purpose particularly well as she both respects and bristles at his hard-line views. Presenting a balanced portrayal of those beliefs is difficult, but the film’s empathetic approach goes a long way towards selling the conflict to outsiders. Like Bend it Like Beckham, Ali’s Wedding sees the humanity behind its authority figures. Dianne’s father isn’t an evil man, he’s just following his faith and trying to protect his only daughter.

The lead performances are a huge part of that humanity as well, contributing a lot to the heart of the film. Sami is sincere, bright-eyed, and adorably charming as Ali, while Sawires is just as wonderful in her portrayal of Dianne’s carefully constructed defensiveness. Together, their chemistry anchors the film amidst the colours and noise of the Muslim community.

There’s a scene towards the end of the film where Ali’s father tells him that he is and always will be loved, regardless of his mistakes and the pain he has caused. To me, that’s key to the appeal of the film. An array of bright colours and awkward humour can’t substitute for real heart, but Ali’s Wedding has all three in spades. Its warmth and tenderness are beautifully realised and help to entice the viewer into a world they may initially be wary of. It is part of a much larger history of Australian and British comedies – there are comparisons to be made with even The Castle – and it slots in perfectly next to some of the greats. With luck, we will continue to see its core talents for years to come.

Ali’s Wedding is available in Australian cinemas from August 31

Image courtesy of Madman Entertainment 

Movie Review – The Lovers

In his latest film, Azazel Jacobs explores the murky labyrinth of relationships.

⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Zachary Cruz-Tan

The Lovers starts with two affairs; one tenuous and volatile, the other filled with passion. The two perpetrators, husband and wife Michael (Tracy Letts) and Mary (Debra Winger), live in the same house, sleep in the same bed, but do not share in each other’s lives. They live in a marital dead zone, exchanging pleasantries and furtive glances, and have probably tried every remedy in the book to eliminate the chasm between them. Nothing has worked, and now they exploit the only remaining option: throwing their emotional resources into the arms of another.

This is the setup of Azazel Jacobs’ new film; written like a sitcom, but given the attention and care of a profound domestic drama. Michael and Mary are likeable enough, but chemistry between them has long since flown out the window. Michael is seeing a ballerina on the side (of course she’s a ballerina) and Mary is seeing Aiden Gillen. Neither knows the other is cheating, but their marriage has been so chaste for so long I suspect they’re wise to each other’s acts. The film complicates things a little with the arrival of their son Joel (Tyler Ross), who has come visiting from college with his new girlfriend (Jessica Sula).

The Lovers is a decent film with two great leads and a mishmash of supporting players. Melora Walters as the lithe ballerina Lucy is nothing but quirky, clingy and kinda ditzy. Gillen seems able to pressure Mary into leaving Michael and nothing else. Surely the main criteria for committing adultery is that your new partner must be more interesting than the one you’re cheating on, right? Both Lucy and Robert (Gillen) are so characteristically one-dimensional their only redeeming feature must be sex, and yet they seem about as sexual as rotting logs. So, are Michael and Mary simply cheating out of desperation? Who knows, really?

Like the best movies about difficult subjects, The Lovers treats romantic estrangement with maturity and compassion. Yes, occasionally it plays for laughs and develops ludicrous situations for its doomed couple, but it understands the simple truth that relationships, whether it’s keeping them together or apart, are never easy. And something as innocent as a mistaken morning kiss is enough to reopen Pandora’s box.

The Lovers is available in Australian cinemas from September 7 

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures 

Movie Review – The Dinner

And you thought your family dinners were awkward… Bon appétit!

⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ½
Corey Hogan

Paul Lohman (Steve Coogan), an excessively cynical former history teacher, and his more understanding wife Claire (Laura Linney) are invited to dinner at a fancy restaurant. They’re hosted by Paul’s older brother Stan (Richard Gere), a prominent politician on the eve of being elected governor, and his much younger wife Katelyn (Rebecca Hall). The aim of the evening is to discuss a number of ongoing family issues, but given the volatile and contemptuous nature of each of them, things get extremely heated and venomous…

The third adaptation of Herman Koch’s bestselling Dutch novel of the same name (and the first in English), Oren Moverman’s (The Messenger, Time Out of Mind) Americanised take on The Dinner can’t help but feel a little diluted by now. Luckily, its substance is so hefty it works well all over again in a new setting, and still manages to be as fascinating and thought-provoking as it is difficult viewing.

It’s best to pull up a seat at the table without much knowledge of why this dinner has been organised and what shit is about to go down; we’re introduced to the loathsome Lohmans just before they’re about to meet, and it immediately becomes apparent that we’re in for a hostile showdown.

Richard Gere may have top billing, and we certainly see his star power come out in the film’s second half, but really this position belongs to the hugely underrated Steve Coogan, who trades in his usual comedic self for a serious and smart performance that steers the story. Coogan’s Paul is not someone you’d want to be in the same room with for very long, but as unpleasant as he can be, it’s sometimes hard not to see the logic and reasoning behind his often negative assessments.

The women, too, hold their ground against the boys, with Laura Linney on point as usual. Most surprising is Rebecca Hall, who could have been written off as the ditzy trophy wife; instead, she’s mature and often more reasonable than her older kin, and probably the closest any of the characters come to being likeable. But she too, like the others, has you wishing she’d choke on her food at times.

The sparks fly thanks to each one of the characters having both feasible and debateable opinions, making it truly difficult to get behind any one of them, but delicious to watch as their clashing personalities explode against one another. It’s a feel-bad time, but if there’s one gripe it’s that it isn’t quite vicious enough; it all feels like it’s building to a truly dark and distressing event that doesn’t quite pay off, ending rather abruptly. Chances are you won’t like this film, but for once that’s the very reason you should see it.

The Dinner is available in Australian cinemas from September 7

Image courtesy of Icon Film Distribution