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Posts Tagged ‘Janet McTeer’

Alia Shawkat

“PAINT IT BLACK” My rating: C+

94 minutes | MPAA rating: R

With a title like “Paint It Black” you don’t expect a barrel of monkeys, nor do you get one with actress Amber Tamblyn’s directing debut.

Indeed, “Paint It Black” is a self-consciously artsy downer; not even a last-shot glimmer of hope is likely to rouse audiences out of their glum funk.

Which is not to say the film is terrible.  It’s got some terrific acting and creative visuals. But it lacks the emotional substance to make us care.

Current indie “it” girl Alia Shawkat stars as Josie, an artist’s model, black-out alcoholic and punk music groupie in pre-cell phone ’80s Los Angeles.

Early in the film (the screenplay is by Ed Dougherty and Tamblyn, adapting Janet Fitch’s novel) Josie receives news that her boyfriend Michael, who disappeared some time earlier, has committed suicide in a cheap hotel room.

In flashbacks we see how they met (she posed for nude studies in the class where he was an art student).  Their relationship, depicted in silent (save for music) snippets scattered throughout the film, is presented using Hallmark card visual shorthand (we see them discovering a junked upright piano, painting it together in their living room, spooning in bed etc.) .

They seem happy enough, though what a late-night carouser like Josie sees in the squeaky-clean Michael (Rhys Wakefield) is a mystery. Truth is, because he has only a few words of dialogue in the entire film, we get almost no sense of his personality.

Which makes Josie’s post-mortem obsession with Michael all the more unfathomable.

Turns out Josie isn’t the only one with Michaelmania.  His mother Meredith (the great Janet McTeer), a famous concert pianist, is also driven to the edges of madness by her grief and fury at having had to share her boy with this other woman.

The meeting of the two women is memorable — at Michael’s funeral Meredith tries to strangle Josie in front of the casket and a mortuary full of shocked mourners. Later Meredith raids the apartment where Josie and Michael lived, stealing all of his drawings, journals and personal effects.  Josie retaliates by sneaking into Meredith’s hilltop mansion and stealing back as much of the loot as she can carry.

We’re poised to see the story become a possibly violent test of wills between two women. But it never gets that far.

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Jai Courtney, Lily James

“THE EXCEPTION” My rating: B-  

107 minutes | MPAA rating: R

At 88 years of age, Christopher Plummer just keeps getting better.

In “The Exception” he portrays an historic figure — Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany — and pretty much mops up the floor with actors half his age.

The premise of David Leveaux’s directing debut finds a young German officer — Capt. Stefan Brandt (Jai Courtney) — assigned to the thankless task of heading the household guard for Wilhelm II (Plummer), who has lived in exile in the Netherlands since abdicating the German throne two decades earlier after losing World War I.

Though the Nazi hierarchy has little use for the old man, Wilhelm still is regarded by some members of the German public as a beloved figurehead.  It would be a p.r. black eye should he be lost to an assassin or kidnapped by the Allies and spirited off to England. Brandt’s presence is meant to prevent that.

For the young officer — who was wounded in the invasion of Poland — the assignment is a bit of an insult. Wilhelm and his wife, Princess Hermine (Janet McTeer), live as high as they can on the cash Hitler’s henchmen provide, all the while dreaming of restoring the monarchy and once again wearing the crown.  Brandt is expected to tolerate their pretensions without encouraging them.

There’s one bright spot in this assignment. The Kaiser has a new housemaid, Mieke (Lily James), who catches the Captain’s eye.  Before long they are having a grand old time despite Hermine’s rule against copulation among members of the staff.

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Glenn Close as Albert Nobbs

“ALBERT NOBBS”  My rating: B (Opens Jan. 27)

113 minutes | MPAA rating: R

There’s so much interesting stuff going on in “Albert Nobbs” that it’s hard to know where to begin.

First, of course, there are the Oscar-nominated performances by Glenn Close (best actress) and Janet McTeer (supporting actress). What makes it doubly intriguing is that both play women disguised as men.

Then there’s the true but semi-fantastical premise of the screenplay by Close and John Banville, which springs from the fact that in Victorian Ireland (and elsewhere around the world during various epochs), certain women to simply survive or to realize their ambitions have opted to go through life as males, never letting society know of their secret.

And finally there’s the man behind the camera, Rodrigo Garcia, who has given us two wonderful and criminally underappreciated masterpieces of independent cinema (“Nine Lives,” “Mother and Child”) and produced (and, frequently, directed) the HBO  series “In Treatment” about a psychotherapist and his patients.

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