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Posts Tagged ‘Dakota Johnson’

St. Vincent, Carrie Brownstein

“THE NOWHERE INN”  My rating: C+ (VOD)

91 minutes | No MPAA rating

Movies don’t get much more meta than “The Nowhere Inn,” a life-imitates-art-imitates-life head scratcher from the dynamic duo of St. Vincent and Carrie Brownstein.

Basically this is a fictional film about the making of a documentary. Separating fact from fiction gets pretty sticky.

St. Vincent (real name: Annie Clark) is, of course, the pop star/avant garde performance artist who has collaborated with David Byrne and others. Here St. Vincent portrays herself as an artist on tour; her real-life friend Brownstein (also playing herself) signs on to make a documentary movie about the musician.

This setup — two friends making a documentary that will severely test their friendship — offers plenty of opportunities to comment on the madness of stardom, the artistic ego, and the pitfalls of mixing business with personal intimacy.

Initially St. Vincent is thrilled to have her old pal constantly at her elbow; Brownstein hopes the film they are making will provide validation with her ailing father (given her multi-hyphenate job description — actor/writer/director/musician/ comic — validation would seem the last thing she needs).

Dakota Johnson, St. Vincent

But things go wrong.  Turns out that St. Vincent is terminally boring — unceasingly pleasant, inoffensive, sweet-tempered.  So much so that Brownstein pushes her to act out a bit for the sake of the doc.

Careful what you wish for. St. Vincent goes off the deep end. At one point she invites Brownstein and her camera into the bedroom to record a carnal encounter with the singer’s new girlfriend (Dakota Johnson).  

“The Nowhere Inn” is a cool idea that, alas, quickly runs out of steam. Its tongue-in-cheek deadpan sardonicism is good for a couple of chuckles, then settles into a dulling sameness.

Thankfully director Bill Benz recorded several performances on one of St. Vincent’s recent tours, and the dynamism of those moments goes a long way toward redeeming the rest of the film.

| Robert W. Butler

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“THE PEANUT BUTTER FALCON” My rating: B

93 minutes | PG-13

So adept are the makers of “The Peanut Butter Falcon” at provoking laughter and tears that it may take a few hours for the rosy glow to wear off, at which point the viewer realizes he has fallen for a narrative con job.

But it’s such an effective con that most of us will shrug off any flickers of resentment in order to prolong the experience’s many satisfactions.

This feature debut from the writing/directing team of Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz opens in a retirement home where one resident stands out.

Zak (Zack Gottsagen) is 22-year-old with Downs syndrome.  Recently orphaned and deemed incapable of caring for himself, this unfortunate ward of the state (in this case, Georgia) has been warehoused among  dementia-plagued seniors.

Sounds grim, but the screenplay and direction immediately announce that it’s okay to laugh. Early on Zak elicits the cooperation of his fellow “inmates” to stage a jail break.  It’s short lived because even running at top speed Zak is hopelessly slow.

Meanwhile Tyler (Shia LaBeouf) mans a one-man fishing boat working the Outer Banks. He’s a bearded outcast not above raiding the crab pots of other fishermen; after starting a fire that destroys a rival’s precious equipment, Tyler finds himself on the lam.

“…Falcon” throws together  Zak — who has run away wearing only a pair of tidy whities and dreams of becoming a professional wrestler  — and the fugitive Tyler, who slowly warms to his new companion’s hilarious innocence.

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Matthias Schonhart, Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Ralph Fiennes

Matthias Schonhart, Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson, Ralph Fiennes

“A BIGGER SPLASH”  My rating: B 

125 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Among the many on-screen personas of Ralph Fiennes are terrifying mob boss, casually cruel concentration camp commander, serial killer and silky aristocrat.

But nothing he’s done has quite prepared us for the acting dervish on display in “A Bigger Splash.”

In Luca Guadagnino’s steamy and visually ravishing display of psychological noir, Fiennes plays Harry, a renowned music producer who unexpectedly drops in on his old flame, rock star Marianne (Guadagnino regular Tilda Swinton), and her paramour, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts).

Marianne and Paul are living in glorious isolation in a hilltop villa on the Sicilian island of Pantelleria, where they lounge about naked and make furious love in any and all rooms. Their choice of a retreat suggests they just want to be left alone, but neither can turn down Harry, a natural-born glad-handing speed freak who guzzles vino, pees where he likes, and is determined to be the life of the party.

For the music mogul was once Marianne’s lover and the force behind her international career. And as their relationship was winding down, Harry groomed Paul, a documentary filmmaker, to take his place in Marianne’s bed.

So suddenly the couple has as  a houseguest the motormouthed Harry, an interloper who seizes control of Marianne’s record collection, buzzing from one topic to another, erupting in rock ‘n’ roll survival stories and doing an insanely cool and ridiculously sinuous open-shirted dance to the Stones’ “Emotional Rescue.”

David Kajganich’s screenplay — an adaptation of the 1968 French film “The Swimming Pool” — centers on the question of just why Harry has shown up at this time.

For Marianne and Paul are extremely vulnerable. She’s had throat surgery to reverse the damage done by her larynx-shredding singing style. There’s no way of knowing if she’ll be able to resume her career; in the meantime she has been ordered not to speak above a whisper.

This prompts the irreverent Harry to ask Paul: “Does she write your name when she comes?”

 

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Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan

Dakota Johnson, Jamie Dornan

“FIFTY SHADES OF GREY” My rating: C+

125 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Great literature often defies cinematic adaptation. Bad novels, on the other hand, are right up Hollywood’s alley.

Those who take reading even halfway seriously agree that E.L. James’ best-selling Fifty Shades of Grey is wretched stuff.  A page-turner, perhaps. But wretched.

And yet the movie version — the first 45 minutes or so, anyway — is actually kinda fun, embracing a tongue-in-cheek (no pun intended) sensibility that finds unexpected humor in James’ heavy-panting tale of fabulous wealth and kinky sexual proclivities.

One only wishes that director Sam Taylor-Johnson (whose only previous feature was her young-John-Lennon biopic “Nowhere Boy”) had gone whole hog in slyly subverting the whole “Fifty Shades” phenomenon.

As it stands she’s taken a safe middle ground — nothing to outrage the novel’s loyal fans, but enough wryness that a non-believer can find the experience mildly amusing. And, thank heaven, the movie doesn’t force us to wade through James’ purple prose.

Credit for the film’s strong first half rests largely on Dakota Johnson (daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith), who plays college student Anastasia “Ana” Steele as an adorably dweeby girl-next-door.

She agrees to fill in for her ailing editor roomie for a newspaper interview with Christian Grey (former model Jamie Dornan), the 27-year-old billionaire industrialist. There’s a great deadpan comic moment when she pulls up to the Grey House in downtown Seattle, finds a parking spot right in front of the entrance (religions have been founded on less) and stares up at the phallic skyscraper with open-mouthed awe.

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