The Iron Claw
Sean Durkin’s biopic about the Von Erich wrestling dynasty features stellar performances in a script that can’t quite find its footing.
In 2008, Mickey Rourke made a surprise and stunning comeback in Aronofsky’s The Wrestler. His once pretty-boy face distorted from years of drugs and plastic surgery suddenly felt tailor-made for the role of Randy “The Ram” Robinson — a wrestler on the outs, clinging to the only thing he knows while the rest of his life crumbles around him. 2023's The Iron Claw offers us a similar story, right down to the comeback for its lead.
Zac Efron may be fortunate enough not to have a tawdry past to overcome like Rourke, but he’s never really found his footing since leaving his teen heartthrob days behind. That said, thanks to complications from a broken jawbone, his face is radically different from the one we knew in High School Musical, even sparking gossip of plastic surgery gone wrong (another insult often lobbed at Rourke, though in his case it’s certainly true). But just like Rourke, his new jawline perfectly suits him in The Iron Claw, which may finally prove to be his breakthrough role as an adult, dramatic actor. Continue Reading →
Bradley Cooper pays respectful homage to Leonard Bernstein in this lavish passion project.
The problem inherent to most biopics is one of balance. Err too far on the side of worshipful and you get nonsense like Oliver Stone’s The Doors. Or you could swing in the other direction and you end up with an “oops, all warts” camp disaster like Mommie Dearest. Most linger somewhere in the middle, at a respectful distance, so that they’re ultimately kind of boring, and offer nothing new or particularly insightful about its subject matter.
Bradley Cooper’s Maestro, about the life of legendary composer Leonard Bernstein, isn’t boring. It’s too visually dazzling for that. It does not, however, leave one feeling like they’ve really gotten to know more about Bernstein other than he was a complicated, workaholic genius who struggled with his sexuality, which is all information that could be gleaned from his Wikipedia page. But it sure is lovely spending time in his world for a little while. Continue Reading →
The Color Purple
Blitz Bazawule's adaptation of the Alice Walker classic (and the Broadway musical) is a more joyful, celebratory film than its predecessor.
The Color Purple has taken on a musicality ever since Steven Spielberg and Quincy Jones adapted Alice Walker’s 1983 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel for the screen. When the first film was released in 1985, Spielberg already referred to it as a “musical.” In a behind-the-scenes interview about the film's musicality included in Warner Bros’ sumptuous new 4K release, Walker, Spielberg, and Jones conduct us through the “diverse places” that music appears in the original film. There are rail work songs, African dance, juke joint blues, and revival gospel; all tonally matched together in a near seamless “immersion” of sound.
In an age where nearly every popular and cult film gets a Broadway adaptation, The Color Purple is a particular no-brainer. Celie’s journey of self-discovery through systematic abuses and struggles at the turn of the twentieth century lends itself to the kind of emotional bigness a musical requires. With music by the legendary Brenda Russell and the late queer songwriting icon Allee Willis, The Color Purple: The Musical also showcases a diverse range of musical styles and modes, especially those well suited for the stage, like swing and Greek chorus. Continue Reading →
The Zone of Interest
Jonathan Glazer's first feature in 10 years is a near-unclassifiable work of patience and intentional distance from its historical horrors.
What am I to say here? What can I say?
I feel as if I’m to say nothing at all. My mind has gone and I feel sick, and while that’s due to the film in question, another degree of it comes from a deeper truth. I feel wrong in my reaction to it; it can’t help but feel inadequate. The Zone of Interest has leveled me like few things ever have, but that’s not the point. That’s not its point. Continue Reading →
Yorgos Lanthimos directs a sumptuous adult fairy tale featuring Emma Stone at her very best.
Here’s the thing about Yorgos Lanthimos: you’re either on board with him, or you’re not. Even in The Favourite, arguably his most accessible film, there’s a sort of joyful grotesqueness to it, leaving the audience laughing and wincing simultaneously. His latest offering, Poor Things, is his most visually dazzling film yet, with moments of stunning beauty and bittersweet insight, but still isn’t afraid to test the audience’s sensibilities. It’s a film about what it means to be alive, every little disgusting aspect of it.
Based on Alasdair Gray’s novel of the same name, Poor Things opens in dreary black and white London, where eccentric scientist Godwin Baxter (Willem Dafoe) is overseeing an experiment that’s both miraculous and horrifying. Baxter, whose face looks like it was carved into several pieces and then put back together the wrong way, has brought a woman back to life after she committed suicide. The woman, whom he’s renamed Bella (Emma Stone, with a magnificent pair of eyebrows), initially has the mind of a toddler, but she’s learning and maturing at an astonishing rate. Bella refers to Godwin as “God,” and so far knows no one and nothing else but him and their home together. Continue Reading →