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Posts Tagged ‘Gabriel Byrne’

Toni Collette

“HEREDITARY” My rating: B 

127 minutes | MPAA rating: R

No one expects world-class acting from a horror movie. So when you get precisely that, it comes on like a sucker punch.

“Hereditary” is a ghost story — I think — featuring Toni Collette in an emotional performance that will leave audiences limp and exhausted.

Writer/director  Ari Aster’s film is hard to pin down…it may be about ghosts, or it may be a psychological study of mental and spiritual anguish manifesting in very creepy ways.

As the film begins Annie Graham (Collette) is burying her mother, from whom she was estranged for years before finally taking in the old lady at death’s door. Annie isn’t sure whether to react with sobs or cartwheels…Mom was a notoriously difficult personality.  (In her eulogy, Annie says she’s gratified to see so many new faces…she didn’t know this many people cared about her mother. It’s the film’s first subtle clue that Mom had a secret life.)

In the wake of the funeral Annie and her family try to get back to normal.  Husband Steve  (Gabriel Byrne) is an understanding intellectual type. Son Peter (Alex Wolff) is a teen pothead. Daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) is something else again, an elfin misfit who, unlike other members of the family, really loved her grandma. In fact, she starts seeing apparitions of the dear departed.

One cannot say much about the plot of “Heredity” without ruining some major surprises.  Let’s just say that Grandma’s death is only the first tragedy to befall the clan; a far more traumatic one is yet to come.

And in the wake of that an emotionally shattered Annie finds herself turning first to a grief support group and then to a fellow mourner (the great Ann Dowd) who claims to have found a way to communicate with the dead.

Aster plays his cards very carefully,  dealing big plot points so matter of factly that it’s only in retrospect that we understand their importance.  There’s no big reveal until the end (and even then it’s a bit ambiguous); mostly he builds a nerve-wracking tension from small moments and observations. (Although there is a dramatic seance scene guaranteed to make every hair on your body stand up and salute.)

(more…)

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Jesse Eisenberg, Devin Druid

Jesse Eisenberg, Devin Druid

“LOUDER THAN BOMBS” My rating: B+

109 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Louder Than Bombs” is a sort of ghost story, though not of the white-sheet-bump-in-the-night variety.

The first American film from Norwegian auteur Joachim Trier is a quietly devastating study of a father and two sons cut adrift by the death — a suicide, it turns out — of their wife and mother, and how they are haunted by memories, doubts and uncertainties.

Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert, seen in flashbacks and dream sequences) was a photojournalist who specialized in war coverage, not so much of the fighting as of its human toll. Two years have passed since her late-night death in a car crash just miles from her suburban New York home.

Her husband, Gene (Gabriel Byrne), a former actor now a teacher, has tried to keep his boys on an even keel. The oldest, Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg) is a sociologist with his first university teaching appointment, a wife and a new baby girl.

The younger, Conrad (Devin Druid), is a brooding, uncommunicative loner who refuses to give his concerned father the time of day. It probably doesn’t help that Gene is on the faculty of Conrad’s high school, and thus always lurking just around the corner.

A gallery retrospective of Isabelle’s work is being planned by a journalist colleague  (David Strathairn), whose essay about his deceased friend specifically names her as a suicide.  While Jonah has long been aware of this, Conrad is still under the impression that her death was a random accident. Gene must find a way to tell him the truth.

There’s no shortage of pain in the screenplay by Trier and Eskil Vogt, but also a great deal of love. This achingly humanitarian work lacks a villain — in fact, all three men and the late Isabelle have their own flaws and frustrating facets. (more…)

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the 33 20053“THE 33” My rating: B-

120 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

The rescue in 2010 of 33 Chilean miners — buried alive for 69 days after the collapse of a gold and copper mine — is a story guaranteed to nurture hope and raise the spirits.

In fact, you’d have to be a stone not to be moved by a tale this dramatic.

And “The 33” does a pretty decent job of laying out a complicated yarn and seasoning it

with dramatic moments as it twists and turns toward an uplifting conclusion.

But it’s far from a great movie. The four-person screenwriting team and director Patricia Riggen (“Under the Same Moon”) struggle to get their arms around so many characters, so many plot threads. The film has no central character, and its dramatic impact is diffused.

Nevertheless, it does the job because we know that as unlikely as it seems, it’s a true tale.

We are introduced to the working stiffs at the San Jose Mine at a weekend party. One of the guys is an Elvis impersonator. Another is a graybeard preparing for retirement.

There’s a young husband whose wife is expecting their first baby. A lothario who openly juggles both a spouse and a mistress.

Of course our eyes are drawn to Mario (Antonio Banderas), a husband and father who oozes charisma and leadership.

The work gang foreman, Don Lucho (Lou Diamond Phillips), is charged with ensuring the safety of his crews but keeps getting the runaround from superiors who don’t want to sink any more money into a 100-year-old mine that’s almost played out.

There is, of course, a new kid (Tenoch Huerta), a Bolivian who gets teased by his Chilean co-workers. (After they’re buried alive, the men grimly joke that he’ll be the first consumed, since “Bolivians taste like chicken.”)

And we shouldn’t forget the hopeless alcoholic (Juan Pablo Raba), whose older sister (Juliette Binoche) will become a thorn in the side of the greedy mining corporation.

The problem facing director Riggen is obvious. There are too many personalities here to really develop any of them. Many of these fellows are “types” rather than real people.

And things get doubly complicated because while the miners are trapped 2,300 feet  down in 100-degree heat with dwindling resources (mostly a few cans of tuna), back on the surface there’s another conflict brewing. (more…)

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