Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

Archive for the tag “Kate Winslet”

Steve Jobs

Yes, there was another Steve Jobs movie recently, but memories of Ashton Kutcher’s well-intentioned rendition of the famously polarising tech wizard faded as quickly as that film failed to deliver what audiences had hoped for.

You see, we’ve all read the magazine profiles or heard the folklore, and legend has it Jobs was the antithesis of the charitable, even-tempered Bill Gates. But goodness doesn’t (necessarily) genius maketh, and Danny Boyle’s often excoriating fictionalisation of three of Jobs’ major product launches delights with its terrific performances, while Aaron Sorkin’s (The West Wing, The Social Network) motor-mouthed script dishes a lot of dirt.

As Jobs, Michael Fassbender yet again morphs entirely credibly into his character despite looking all the while like Fassbender (not a criticism, more an awestruck observation), while Kate Winslet (nominated alongside Fassbender for the film’s only Oscars) is sensational as his right-hand woman, Joanna Hoffman. With an effortlessly strong supporting cast spitting Sorkin’s lines, Boyle still saw fit to ratchet up the orchestral soundtrack and in some scenes this feels unnecessarily bombastic, but there’s no denying he has a flair for making tech-talk exciting.

Narratively, the film takes a lot of liberties with the truth, and if one is to be disappointed at all, it’s that much of the gossip on screen didn’t actually happen. How this sits with Jobs’ family and colleagues one can only speculate, but for Joe iPhone User, it still feels like a fascinating, compelling exposé.

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The Dressmaker

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, November 2015

A word of warning – The Dressmaker is all at once elegant and beautiful, over-the-top and mannered, and a lot of fun. But it’s probably not what you’re expecting from a film set in the Australian outback of the 1950s, starring Kate Winslet and Hugo Weaving. So gird your loins.

The opening titles create a stunning set-up which looks and sounds like the love child of True Detective and a Leone western. Indeed, the first line out of Winslet’s mouth sets the blackly comedic tone, following a familiar stranger-comes-to-town shot whereby shoes step off a train and a bag hits the dust. Only in this fabulous pastiche the hero carries a Singer sewing machine instead of a gun – although her choice of instrument is tuned to cause just as much havoc.

With a pitch-perfect Aussie accent, Winslet is intoxicating as Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage, returning to the very small town from which she was evicted as a child, to care for her mother and solve a personal mystery while avoiding the ghastly townsfolk. The only person who’ll give her the time of day is old schoolmate Teddy who has grown up into the terribly handsome Liam Hemsworth. The plot slips between noir and pantomime, with aesthetically stunning production design and a dark sense of humour. This tone may discombobulate some audiences, but once you ease into the theatricality of it all, you can’t look away.

Based on the bestselling novel by Rosalie Ham, the plot moves apace through farce and tragedy thanks to tight script-work by director Jocelyn Moorhouse (whose husband, P.J. Hogan of Muriel’s Wedding fame, also contributed). And there’s plenty of story to get through, with a luxurious amount of screen time for each of the terrific supporting cast – from a delightfully odd Weaving to an embittered Kerry Fox and the brilliantly shape-shifting Sarah Snook (Predestination).

While some of the old-fashioned prejudices and stereotypes may jar and certain farcical moments may test the audience’s goodwill, The Dressmaker is as fresh and energetic as any film you’ve seen this year.

 

Insurgent

Those who have read the bestselling Young Adult trilogy and seen the first Divergent film will not need me to recommend they see this one. However, those who missed all the fuss would be advised to rent it before heading to the cinema for the sequel.

Tris Prior (Shailene Woodley) is back, hair shorn and feisty attitude intact, as she and her fellow Divergents live in hiding from the evil Queen of the Erudites, Jeanine (Kate Winslet, not pregnant this time and taking the opportunity to wear very tight dresses in every shot). Leaving aside whether “Jeanine” is a good name for a baddie, Winslet is all blue steel, here machinating the downfall of everybody deemed a threat to the “happy” post-apocalyptic world of the factions.

Robert Schwentke takes the reins of this second film, and is already slated to direct Part 1 of Allegiant (yep – as is the Hollywood way with YA trilogies, they’re splitting the final book into two parts and will milk audiences for every last cent. Here’s hoping that goes better than The Hunger Games). His action movie experience includes RED and is borne out here in the well-paced narrative, with economical dialogue (albeit sadly spared of laughs) and well-executed, if mentally unchallenging, “simulations”, which look part-Inception, part-Matrix.

Trivia nerds will appreciate Woodley’s unsuspecting ménage à quatre as she spends her screen time with previous love interests from The Spectacular Now, The Fault in our Stars and her Divergent squeeze, the lovely Theo James.

More homicidal but less exciting than the first film, Insurgent serves as the reasonably nutritious meat in the sandwich, leaving us genuinely curious about how it’s all going to end.

Labor Day

Pitch two of the greatest actors of their generation into an ethical pickle during a hot, sticky holiday weekend in 1987, and you have one of the best films of the year so far. (Yes, it’s only January, but by October you’ll be longing for some quality, so get it while you can.)  

Kate Winslet delivers the flawless performance we’ve now come to expect following Revolutionary Road, The Reader and Little Children, as a paralytically deserted single mom raising her doting son in smalltown America. Virtually housebound, the townsfolk silently accept Adele’s oddity as she relies on young Henry (a superbly mature Gattlin Griffith from Changeling) to play Man of the House now his dad has left. Their insular world is disrupted one summer’s day when an escaped convict (Josh Brolin) charismatically forces his way into the emotional voids each is nursing.  

Adapted by Joyce Maynard (To Die For) from her own novel and directed by Jason Reitman (responsible for such indie beauties as Up in the Air and Thank You For Smoking), this is a beautiful, gentle, beguiling film which also manages to be enormously gripping. Tiny fragments of back story are shown economically through silent scenes in which relative newcomer Tom Lipinski is perfectly cast as the younger Brolin, while the central narrative pushes forward, so rich in detail and atmosphere it feels like it covers far more than a Labor weekend of time.  

Central to the film’s wonder are the performances. Brolin (let’s cite No Country for Old Men rather than the disappointing Gangster Squad) is impeccable – a crim of uncertain provenance who knows how to make the best peach pie, instructing the shell-shocked Adele: “If the phone rings when you’re making a crust, you just let ’em call you back”. The couple’s chemistry is either a testament to their acting prowess or simply one reason why both are such big stars, but no less intoxicating for its inevitability. As Adele sheds the ill-fitting clothes and straggly hair and blossoms under his hothouse attentions, Brolin’s Frank rapidly becomes the poster boy for Stockholm syndrome.  

Tense, romantic and perfectly pitched, this simple tale focuses on high quality drama over tricksy plotting or dazzling camerawork. Plus it has the best pie recipe you’ll ever see.

Carnage

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 15th April 2012

Two couples meet in the middle-class bohemia of a New York apartment to discuss a violent incident between their two school-aged sons.

Whether Zachary was “armed” with a stick, or had been “provoked” by Ethan into losing his cool, this argument is the catalyst for an afternoon of accusation, retribution and attempted reconciliation (though not strictly in that order).

Adapted from an award-winning play by playwright Yasmina Reza and director Roman Polanski, the action happens over a crisply articulated 80 minutes, principally in one room. The audience’s engagement in such a relatively static piece of cinema will depend entirely on its appreciation of the spiky dialogue, amusing performances and its tolerance for the insufferable characters.

And it’s the headline cast that should have you at “hello”. Three Oscar winners (Foster, Winslet and Waltz – we don’t even need their first names) and a nominee (it’s only a matter of time before John C Reilly’s buffoonish talents are rewarded) perform this chamber piece.

As any parent would, they start off civil and personable, discussing unrest in Africa and nodding in agreement that “culture can be such a powerful source for peace”, before gradually revealing themselves, warts, wrinkles and all to be as obnoxious as anyone you’re likely to meet on the PTA. Soon we have Foster wailing “I am an advocate for civilised behaviour!” while Christoph Waltz’s mobile phone rings off the hook and his uptight investment banker wife (Winslet) shoots him evil looks.

It does go on a bit at times, rather like the end of a drunken party when people ramble and you glance longingly at the door, but to its credit the pace is kept high and the terrific performances maintain momentum (Waltz is the standout in the company of brilliance).

Carnage is as mannered and theatrical as a one-room, cinematic adaptation of a stage play is bound to be, and no less enjoyable for it.

Contagion

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star Times, 13th November 2011

Forget zombies, aliens or supernatural beings, fomites – that is, inanimate objects capable of carrying infection – are the new instrument of fear, spreading end-of-the-world-panic in a matter of days, as the planet’s population risks being swiftly decimated by a mysterious virus.

Director Steven Soderbergh has a knack for fun and wit (see Oceans Eleven et al), but arguably a better talent for the serious, as evidenced in his Oscar-winning film Traffic, which dealt with the various effects of drug crime on different milieus of North America and Mexico. And so here, when one of Hollywood’s biggest stars is killed off in the opening scenes, you know his film means business.

A businesswoman returns from a trip to Hong Kong, and immediately falls gravely ill. Meanwhile, people in Tokyo, Canton and Chicago are sweating and coughing on public buses, touching doorknobs, handrails and passers-by.  Before you can say “Marie Curie”, Epidemic Intelligence Service officer Kate Winslet (excellent as always) and Laurence Fishburne are joining forces to track the origin of the virus and prevent its spread. Calling in the WHO (personified by the increasingly ubiquitous Marion Cotillard), the various strands of the story pick up pace to mirror the rate of infection.

The boffins are great (principally the fascinated but emotionally remote Jennifer Ehle) and even the science they teach us is enlivened by such phrases as “the wrong pig met the wrong bat”. The “conspiracy” strand, however, while necessary as a realistic depiction of how the online world responds to outbreaks and dramas of all sorts, is undermined by Jude Law’s dodgy tooth and even dodgier Australian accent, as his blogger improbably meets US officials in rainy public parks to convince them that “12 million unique visitors” to his website think his is a voice worth listening to.

As with all Soderbergh’s work, the film is beautifully lit, shifting between a lush colour palette and the greys of illness and death. It’s well acted and largely compelling (it’s always reassuring to have Matt Damon steering you through troubled waters), but, despite this, somehow doesn’t quite capture the desperation of the situation.

Using the same notion of universal applicability as A Nightmare on Elm Street (which posited that anyone who fell asleep might be murdered in repose), Contagion‘s effect on the cinema-going masses may be proven by an increase in diagnosed cases of OCD and sales of hand sanitiser.

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