REVIEW: The Iron Lady

The Iron Lady
Directed by: Phyllida Lloyd
Written by: Abi Morgan (screenplay)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Alexandra Roach and Iain Glen

It’s no surprise at all that Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Margaret Thatcher is amazingly conceived and executed, worthy of any acting trophy that exists.  Everything from the posture to the voice and especially those trademark darting eyes are in full force in a movie that unfortunately fails to capture the true gravity of its subject.

Phyllida Lloyd, whose credentials include the much-maligned screen adaptation of Mamma Mia!, brings a typical biopic aesthetic to The Iron Lady.  Every character fits in its appropriate place and blends in with the environment unless they aren’t supposed to.  Abi Morgan’s screenplay, the biggest thing to blame for this film’s mediocrity, often extenuates Thatcher’s struggle to be taken seriously as a female politician.  Everything else is glossed over.

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REVIEW: Vincere

Vincere
Directed by: Marco Bellocchio
Written by: Marco Bellocchio & Daniela Ceselli (screenplay)
Starring: Giovanna Mezzogiorno, Filippo Timi, Corrado Invernizzi, and Michela Cescon

Benito Mussolini and the exploits of Fascist Italy are criminally underfilmed in the annals of WWII films when compared to Hitler’s Nazi regime.  Because Mussolini took a back seat, his atrocities appear to somehow be less atrocious in the eyes of history and film.  Vincere, an astounding Italian film from Marco Bellocchio, does not show us his direct rule, but rather slims its focus on his horrendous treatment of his first wife, Ida Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno).

Dalser falls in love with him from the moment she sees him challenge God in a crowded forum.  It’s the beginning of his revolution, when he still had time for love between the killing.  This isn’t a movie about Mussolini, though.  This movie is about Ida, who he abandons for another woman after he goes to war.  He leaves a son and a woman scorned behind.

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REVIEW: Another Year

Another Year
Directed by: Mike Leigh
Written by: Mike Leigh (screenplay)
Starring: Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville, Ruth Sheen, and Oliver Maltman

Ordinary life is delicate business, or so Mike Leigh wants you to think in his latest film.  Another Year and its cast of aging characters are both intimately familiar and lived in, and yet like nothing you’ve ever seen.  Leigh shows us happiness at its most stable and misery at its most crippling, usually in the same scene.

He does this chiefly through Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen), a happily married couple who are used to each other and the joke that their names often bring out in people.  Their life together, though, is something they take seriously.  Using their house as a kind of fortress from sadness, Leigh takes us through a year in their lives and the lives of those closest to them.  We begin in spring and end in winter; life to death.  It sounds more dramatic than it is.

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BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: The Fighter

The Fighter
Directed by: David O. Russell
Written by: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, & Eric Johnson
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Melissa Leo

Micky Ward is trapped.  Trapped by his overbearing mother, his drug-addicted has-been of a brother, and the endless cliches of boxing movies.  Fortunately, with the help of an extraordinarily assembled cast of actors and a director (David O. Russell, a name to remember) with a fairly unique vision, The Fighter kind of comes out on top.

Horribly titled to be sure, this film tells the semi-true story of an underdog boxer (Mark Wahlberg).  Blah, blah, blah, you’ve heard it all before. The biggest success of this movie is that Russell is almost in as much of a rush to get past the fight scenes and into the juicy human drama as the rest of us are.  There’s a big story to be told here outside the ring, and when it stays outside the movie is a potent, fully alive drama.

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BEST PICTURE NOMINEE: Winter’s Bone

Winter’s Bone
Directed by: Debra Granik
Written by: Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini (screenplay), Daniel Woodrell (novel)
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, John Hawkes, Dale Dickey

In the realm of regional specific tales of mortality, Winter’s Bone is endowed with the element that puts it in the caliber of every other movie in this subgenre: hollowness.

Just like the dryness in Frozen River or the arid feeling in No Country for Old Men, the film holds an empty feeling that results from holding itself to the conventions of convention-bucking indie cinema. The conventions rely on being as minimalistic and realistic as possible, which is indeed interesting and brave, but results in a complete lack of tension, which is key for a character based thriller.

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REVIEW: The King’s Speech

The King’s Speech
Directed by: Tom Hooper
Written by: David Seidler (screenplay)
Starring: Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush, Helena Bonham Carter, and Michael Gambon

For many, public speaking is a terrifying undertaking by itself.  When you add on the everyday concerns of an English monarch- mounting war, daddy issues, a debilitating speech impediment- it definitely doesn’t help.  The King’s Speech surrounds itself with a plethora of talented British character actors, many straight off the Harry Potter set, and has a go at the story of the stuttering King George VI (Colin Firth).  In the end unfortunately, it cannot escape what it really is: a cooly calculated period drama bred like a racehorse for Oscar season.

The set-up in and of itself sounds like something you’d hear from many of the nominees for Best Picture.  Prior to World War II, we follow the Duke of York as he becomes King of England and tackles a stutter that has plagued him his entire life.  He does this with the help of an eccentric teacher (Geoffrey Rush) and a devoted wife (Helena Bonham Carter.)  I can almost see a half-drunk celebrity reading that synopsis come Oscar night.

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REVIEW: The Fighter

The Fighter
Directed by: David O. Russell
Written by: Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, & Eric Johnson
Starring: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Melissa Leo

Micky Ward is trapped.  Trapped by his overbearing mother, his drug-addicted has-been of a brother, and the endless cliches of boxing movies.  Fortunately, with the help of an extraordinarily assembled cast of actors and a director (David O. Russell, a name to remember) with a fairly unique vision, The Fighter kind of comes out on top.

Horribly titled to be sure, this film tells the semi-true story of an underdog boxer (Mark Wahlberg).  Blah, blah, blah, you’ve heard it all before. The biggest success of this movie is that Russell is almost in as much of a rush to get past the fight scenes and into the juicy human drama as the rest of us are.  There’s a big story to be told here outside the ring, and when it stays outside the movie is a potent, fully alive drama.

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