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Posts Tagged ‘Elle Fanning’

Nicole Kidman, Colin Farreell

“THE BEGUILED” My rating: C+

93 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Riding a tsunami of high expectations (she’s only the second woman to be named best director at Cannes), Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled” is poised to become the Second Coming of feminist cinema.

Except that it isn’t. Not even close.

It’s not a bad movie. “The Beguiled” (based on the same novel as the 1971 Don Siegel/Clint Eastwood version) is fiercely atmospheric and slyly subversive. It’s been well acted and the physical production is impressive.

But it’s emotionally remote and something of a bore.  Don Siegel may have been a pulp filmmaker, but his melodramatic instincts were fun, at least.

Coppola’s screenplay offers some new dialogue but the plot arc is mostly faithful to the earlier movie and the novel.

During the Civil War, a handful of teachers and students at a Virginia boarding school for women discover a wounded Union soldier, Corporal McBurney (Colin Farrell). They sew up his mangled leg, intending to turn him over to the rebel home guard when he’s healed.

But the presence of a potent male sets off yearnings among the residents. Among them is the outwardly formidable headmistress (Nicole Kidman), a lonely teacher (Kirsten Dunst), a spoiled teen on the cusp of sexuality (Elle Fanning), and even a small girl (Oona Laurence) looking for a playmate.

The canny bluebelly works the situation, becoming to each woman or girl just what she requires in this testosterone-starved environment.

Those looking for a fresh feminist twist to the material will be disappointed.  There’s less about women’s theory here than about the dark corners of the human psyche: sexual fear and repression, jealousy, revenge, exploitation. (more…)

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Greta Gerwig, Annette Bening, Elle Fanning

Lucas Jade Zumann, Greta Gerwig, Annette Bening, Elle Fanning

“20th CENTURY WOMEN” My rating: B

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

In his 2011 film “Beginners,” writer/director Mike Mills presented a fictionalized portrait of his father, who at age 75 announced that he had cancer and, by the way, was gay, too.

With “20th Century Women” he does a similar service for his mother, delivering a funny and emotionally substantive look at an unconventional household of feminists in the mid-20th century.

Much as Christopher Plummer won a supporting actor Oscar as the father in “Beginners,” Annette Bening is gaining awards buzz as the divorced matriarch in “20th Century Women.”

Set in the ’70s, the film centers on 55-year-old Dorothea (Bening) and her 15-year-old son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann).

Dorothea is a curious case, a chain-smoking, mildly eccentric traditionalist in her personal life but a low-key crusader when it comes to social issues. (That conflict is reflected in the musical soundtrack, which pits the likable Talking Heads against the snarling punk of the Germs and Suicide.)

Dorothea lives in a big crumbling house undergoing perennial restoration. She’s got a hunky, laid-back boarder, William (Billy Crudup), who serves as carpenter, mason and auto mechanic.

There’s another renter, the henna-headed Abbie (Greta Gerwig), a blend of punk and hippie sensibilities who is undergoing a cancer scare.

And then there’s the young beauty Julie (Elle Fanning). Two years older than Jamie, she uses his bedroom as her refuge from an unhappy home life and a series of apparently joyless sexual couplings. At night she often enters through his second story window, scrambling up the construction scaffolding that surrounds the house.

Jamie is desperately in love with Julie (so are those of us watching the movie), but she keeps it platonic. She needs a friend and sounding board, not another young dude who wants to paw her. (“It was so much easier before you got so horny,” she sighs.) (more…)

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Elle Fanning, Alice Englert

Elle Fanning, Alice Englert

“GINGER & ROSA”  My rating: B- (Opening April 5 at the Glenwood at Red Bridge)

90 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

When confronted by someone of fierce political and social commitment – particularly if their bent is way to the left – I always wonder  if  they’re really that dedicated to the cause or whether the cause fills some desperate void in their life.

You don’t have to wonder for too long in Sally Potter’s “Ginger & Rosa,” a film about an impressionable and innocent London teen who converts her anger and anxiety over personal betrayals into a righteous anti-nuke crusade.

The girls of the title are among the first of Britain’s post-war baby boomers. It’s 1962 and Ginger (Elle Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert, daughter of director Jane Campion) are coming of age beneath the threat of nuclear annihilation.

On one level they’re just regular kids who listen to rock ‘n’ roll, giggle conspiratorially, dream about boys and shrink their new blue jeans by wearing them into the bathtub.

On another level, though, the two young friends are nascent radical activists, terrified of dying in a radioactive mushroom cloud and determined to do something about it.

(more…)

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“SUPER 8” My rating: B-

112 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

J.J. Abrams’ highly-anticipated “Super 8” is a riff on all those Spielberg-inspired films from the ‘80s in which suburban kids got sucked into other-worldly adventures.

“Goonies” is a big influence here. So is “E.T.,” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and a half-dozen other titles.

As a work of homage, “Super 8” will have you tabulating references to all those movies. It makes for a diverting parlor game.

The film itself is a mixed bag. The first half is excellent, with Abrams and a spectacular cast of young performers delivering several strikingly original sequences.

And then “Super 8” becomes a movie we’ve already seen way too many times. It’s not awful, just discouragingly familiar.

(more…)

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