While difficult, it is essential when reviewing a film to evaluate it within the context of the era. To choose a relatively inoffensive hypothetical, if a movie made before 1980 refers to bipolar disorder as “manic depression,” you shouldn’t ding it for the outdated terminology. After all, at that moment, that was the proper parlance. Still, it’s not easy, especially when our understanding of an issue has changed significantly in the years since. This reviewer, for instance, struggled mightily to judge William Friedkin’s 1994 directorial effort Blue Chips on its own era-specific merits. Continue Reading →
Forty years on, Adrian Lyne's tale of welding, dancing, dreaming, and cold-shoulder sweaters still leaves us all feeling like maniacs.
Personally, the notion of referring to films as "guilty pleasures" has always struck me as slightly absurd—if a movie can touch, thrill, amuse, arouse or otherwise entertain you in some way, don't feel guilty about it.
So when I say that I've been a huge fan of Flashdance since its original release in 1983 (and can confirm, via the new 40th anniversary 4K UHD release from Paramount Home Video, that I still adore it), I feel absolutely no guilt or shame. Sure, the film is as preposterous a concoction as has ever been placed before a camera, assembled in such a calculating manner that you practically hear the gears grinding away in the background. But every time I've watched it over the years—and that's a lot—I find myself falling under its goofy spell once more. Continue Reading →
Shirley Jackson's story is brought to sumptuous Gothic life thanks to Josephine Decker and a typically-great Elisabeth Moss performance.
If you caught Elisabeth Moss in Her Smell last year, you saw an unhinged performance, one bursting with rage, drug-induced confusion, and lots of screaming. Her role as a rockstar in flux should have garnered her more awards attention, but the film underperformed at the box office regardless of (mostly) critical acclaim. Director Josephine Decker’s new film should give Moss another chance at an Oscar nomination, portraying horror writer Shirley Jackson in Shirley.
Though the logline and summary indicate a biopic, Shirley ends up being much closer to a drama with tinges of horror laced throughout its 107-minute runtime. Based on a novel by Susan Scarf Merrell with a screenplay by Sarah Gubbins, Shirley follows the writer and her husband Stanley Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg) as they take a young couple into their uncleanly home, professor-in-training Fred (Logan Lerman) and pregnant Rose (Odessa Young). With the men spending the majority of their time at the local university, Shirley and Rose begin growing closer, as the former struggles to write her next novel.
As much about writing as it is about marriage, Decker’s film explores these interconnecting relationships with ease, creating tension when there is none, and pointing out frustration when it’s plain as day to see. Shirley rarely leaves the house, and enlists Rose as housekeeper-turned-apprentice, as the author starts writing a novel about a local, missing college girl. Continue Reading →