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Posts Tagged ‘Carey Mulligan’

Carey Mulligan, Ed Oxenbould, JakeGyllenhaal

“WILDLIFE”  My rating: B+

114 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

In “Wildlife,” the  mesmerizing directorial debut of actor Paul Dano, people — adults, anyway — are perplexing creatures.

A father loses his job at a country club and instead of launching a job search abandons his family for immensely dangerous and low-paying work fighting forest fires. The bitter mother flips almost overnight from June Cleaver domesticity to provocative sexuality.

These near-radical personality changes are hard to fathom — until you realize that Dano’s film (co-written with actress Zoe Kazan from Richard Ford’s novel) centers on the perceptions of the couple’s 14-year-old son. Seen through the kid’s bewildered and traumatized eyes, even the slightest change in familial surroundings registers like an earthquake.

Set in the early 1950s, the film begins with Jerry Brinson (Jake Gyllenhaal) losing his job as the golf pro in a small Montana town.  His wife Jeanette (Carey Mulligan), who never wanted to move there in the first place, does her best to beef up Jerry’s battered ego and even rejoins the workforce, teaching adult swim classes at the local Y.

All this is tremendously worrying for their 14-year-old son, Joe (a spectacularly good Ed Oxenbould). It’s hard seeing your once-upbeat dad sinking into depression and ennui. And while Mom seems to be enjoying her new economic independence, even that has a downside. She’s not at home all that much.

But Joe’s a good kid and, to help prop up the family’s failing fortunes, signs on as an assistant at the local photographic portrait studio.

Jerry’s decision to join a firefighting crew battling the stubborn blaze — which has burned for weeks in a nearby mountain range, threatening the town not only with flames but lung-congesting smoke — comes as a shock to Jeanette and Joe.  People are getting burned up fighting the conflagration.

“What kind of man leaves his wife and child in such a lonely place?” Jeanette seethes. The poetic theatricality of that line of dialogue (would your average wife phrase it in just that way?) suggests it has been refliltered through Joe’s tormented imagination and memory.

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Brendan Gleeson, Carey Mulligan

Brendan Gleeson, Carey Mulligan

“SUFFRAGETTE” My rating: B

106 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

A sad lesson of history is that power is rarely shared without a fight.

In “Suffragette” the terrific Carey Mulligan plays a London woman who goes from placid wife, mother and laundress to bomb-tossing terrorist. Her goal: voting rights for women.

Set almost exactly 100 years ago, “Suffragette” takes place at a time when the suffrage movement had hit a wall.  For decades British women had been peaceably seeking equality with their menfolk. They had petitioned their representatives. They’d demonstrated in an orderly fashion. And it had gotten them nowhere.

(The movie’s opening moments are filled with the voices of men pontificating on why women are too emotional and intellectually underachieving to be given a place at the political table. A woman, we’re told, should be happy to have her interests seen to by her husband, father, or brothers.)

In the character of Maud Watts (Mulligan), Abi Morgan’s screenplay gives us a lens through which we experience much of women’s struggle for equality.

As the picture starts Maud is living in more-or-less happy fashion with her husband Sonny (Ben Whishaw) and their son George (Adam Michael Dodd, who has a crying scene to match Jackie Coogan’s in Charlie Chaplin’s “The Kid”). Both adults work at the same laundry, a place of sweat and billowing steam where the owner sexually preys on the younger girls. They are not-quite impoverished but fairly content.

Maud is first exposed to the women’s movement when she witnesses a cadre of suffragettes heaving stones through store windows while chanting “Votes for women!” A co-worker (Anne-Marie Duff) begins talking up the movement and its leader, Emmeline Pankhurst (Meryl Streep in what amounts to a cameo role). At the last minute a reluctant Maud is recruited to describe conditions at the laundry before a parliamentary committee. She hopes for the best.

The best doesn’t happen. Peaceful rallies are broken up by club-wielding coppers. Mrs. Pankhurst goes underground, emerging publicly just long enough to make a stinging attack upon the authorities before vanishing once again.

Maud finds herself quickly becoming radicalized. She plots with other women at a pharmacy run by Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter), whose knowledge of chemistry makes her an ideal bomb maker. Soon Maud is dropping sputtering explosive packages into public mailboxes and cutting telephone lines.

Meanwhile Maud’s activities and subsequent stays in jail — which include a hunger strike and forced feedings — alienate Sonny, who prevents her from seeing her son. (And, as it turns out, does much worse than that.)

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far_from_the_madding_crowd_carey_mulligan_tom_sturridge_1“FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD”  My rating: B (Opening wide on May 15)

119 minutes  | MPAA rating: PG-13

Like the 1874 novel on which it is based, the latest screen adaptation of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd has so many melodramatic plot twists that it’s almost laughable.

Yet we don’t laugh. Romance, tragedy and social insight percolate throughout this story of a woman who revels in and suffers because of her stubborn independence.

The success of the book — and any film based on it — lies in Hardy’s ahead-of-his-times feminism, his depiction of subtle psychological states, and the beauty of his language (or visual style, in the case of a movie).

With Carey Mulligan as the strong-willed Bathsheba Everdene and a supporting cast of mostly-solid players, the new “Far from the Madding Crowd” nicely balances those elements.

But a warning: Those who fondly recall John Schlesinger’s 1967 version with Julie Christie may find the approach of director Thomas Vinterberg and screenwriter David Nichols too muted and subdued.

The earlier film had big dramatic moments and oozed a pastoral passion eagerly embraced by its major stars (Christie, Peter Finch, Alan Bates, Terence Stamp). But the Danish Vinterberg, a founder of Scandinavia’s austere Dogme 95 film movement, aims for low-keyed realism rather than high drama.

We first encounter Bathsheba on horseback. She is riding in the proper sidesaddle fashion, but when she’s sure nobody is watching Bathsheba  throws a leg over the big beast and takes off on  a glorious gallop — man-style.

That scene and her encounter with a neighboring shepherd, Gabriel Oak (Matthias Schoenaerts), establish her as a woman with big aspirations even if she has no idea of  how to achieve them.

When after just one encounter Oaks asks her to marry him, Bathsheeba turns him down.

“I would hate to be some man’s property,” she says, adding, “You would grow to despise me.”

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inside llewyn 2“INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS” My rating: B+ (Opening Dec. 20 at the Glenwood Arts)

105 minutes | MPAA rating: R

I freakin’ love “Inside Llewyn Davis,” the Coens’ moody, bitterly funny, dead-on accurate recreation of the early ’60s New York folk scene.

I love it despite the fact that it’s a downer — similar in mood to “Barton Fink” — and that its protagonist is a talented but selfish sphincter.  I love its atmosphere, I love the music.

Of course, the main character is a dick, and I might  love the film even more if it showed even a teeny bit of heart, but then it wouldn’t be a Coen Brothers movie.

We meet our titular protagonist, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac), playing and singing in Greenwich Village’s Gaslight club in 1961. Llewyn (pronounced Lew-In) is performing a traditional song called “Hang Me Oh Hang Me,” and he’s really, really good.

Of course he’s also a folkie purist, a snob, and an artiste whose uncompromising vision pretty much rules out anything like commercial success. He’s like a perverse King Midas — everything he touches turns to crap.

The film follows Llewyn as he drifts around the city during a cold snap. Wearing nothing but a threadbare sports coat and a muffler, his touseled hair blowing in the frigid breeze, our man could almost be a character out of Dickens. (Clearly, the Coens have  studied the cover of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” LP.)

He’s got no home so he crashes where he can. He spends a night with a Columbia University professor and his wife, and inadvertently lets the couple’s big orange cat escape. Locked out of the apartment, Llewyn has no option but to carry the feline about on his chilly perambulations.

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Michael Fassbender

“SHAME” My rating: B (Opening Jan 20)

101 minutes | MPAA rating: NC-17

The words “sex addict” are never uttered in Steve McQueen’s “Shame.”

This isn’t one of those social-problem films where a shrink swoops in to explain our hero’s condition and tell us how with therapy and the support of loved ones a sufferer’s life can be turned around.

We’re not even all that sure that Brandon Sullivan, the film’s protagonist, wants to turn his life around.

When we first meet Brandon (Brit actor Michael Fassbender) he’s lying in his bed after a sexual encounter. We hardly get a glimpse of his partner, who is dressing to leave. In fact, she doesn’t matter. Certainly not to Brandon.

As he gets up to walk to the bathroom we take him all in — stark naked from head to toe.  It’s blatantly in-your-face, with Fassbender’s pendulous manhood advancing directly toward us.

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Ryan Gosling as The Driver

“DRIVE”  My rating: B- (Opens wide on Sept. 16)

100 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There are parts of “Drive” that I absolutely loved.

There were others that made me shake my head in disbelief.

Talk about leaving a film with mixed feelings!

“Drive” cements my suspicion that Ryan Gosling is an absolutely great actor.

And it introduces to mainstream American audiences Nicolas Winding Refn, a Danish filmmaker of tremendous talent.

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