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Posts Tagged ‘Mare Winningham’

Mark Ruffalo

“DARK WATERS” My rating: B+ (Opens wide on Dec. 6)

126 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

If in the New  Year America’s landfills are suddenly overflowing with discarded cooking paraphernalia you can blame “Dark Waters,” Todd Haynes’ fact-based examination of how DuPont, in developing Teflon, pretty much poisoned the world.

This legal procedural follows a decade long effort by Robert Bilott, an attorney whose firm counts DuPont as one of its major clients, to determine why first the cattle and later the people living around Parkersburg, West Virginia, began exhibiting bizarre birth defects, horrendous tumors and unexpectedly high death rates.

This isn’t the first time that Haynes have gone off on an environmental tangent. in 1995’s “Safe” he examined the plight of a woman who is literally allergic to just about aspect in modern life. But “Dark Waters” is unique in that it is the most straightforward, unambiguously non-artsy film in a directorial career marked by titles like “Far from Heaven,” “Velvet Goldmine” and “I’m Not There.”

In fact, the artsiest thing in the movie is its gray/blue palette…surely the sun sometimes shines in West Virginia?

Bilott, played with quiet intensity by Mark Ruffalo, is a big-city lawyer whose job is to defend chemical companies.  Then he’s approached by farmer Wilbur Tennant (Bill Camp), an acquaintance of his grandma, who demands that the high-priced attorney investigate the death of more than 100 of his cows after they drank from a stream on his land.

The Tennant property  abuts a decades-old DuPont waste storage facility; almost from the get-go Bilott (and those of us in the audience) knows where this is going. The problem is proving it.

Matthew Michael Carnahan and Mario Correa’s screenplay (adapted from Nathaniel Rich’s magazine article) simultaneously focuses on Billot’s long search for answers and his personal journey, using what’s he’s learned representing chemical giants to go after them.

At the same time his singleminded devotion to the case threatens his marriage to Sarah (Anne Hathaway) and his job at a big Cincinnati law firm, where the partners (led by Tim Robbins)  only give him leave to pursue the Dupont matter in the hopes of getting a piece of a massive settlement.

(more…)

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Annette Bening

“THE SEAGULL” My rating:B-

98 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

There’s nothing particularly wrong with the new movie version of Anton Chekhov’s “The Seagull”…save that it is a movie.

Call me old-fashioned, but I believe Chekhov was meant to be seen on the stage, where the only thing between the audience and the storytellers is air.  By its very technological nature, film has a way of distancing us from the immediacy of Chekhov’s characters.

That said, this “Seagull,” directed by Michael Mayer and featuring an impressively strong cast, will serve as an introduction — a  limited introduction that hints at the greatness revealed when one views this play in the flesh.

Set on a wooded Russian estate at the turn of the last century, Chekhov’s tale studies a handful of individuals engaged in a round robin of romantic frustration.

Irina (Annette Bening) is a famous stage actress whose current lover, Boris, is a rising literary star a couple of decades her junior.  Vain, pompous and absolutely terrified of aging, Irina is nearly undone by Boris’ obvious attraction to Nina (Saoirse Ronan), the fresh-faced daughter of a nearby landowner who has her own thespian ambitions.

Nina, meanwhile, is loved by Irina’s neurotic son Konstantin (Billy Howle), an aspiring playwright and short story writer so sensitive that he appears to be in a constant state of depression or anger.

Konstantin is worshipped from afar by Masha (Elisabeth Moss), who wears black because “I’m in mourning for my life” (she’s a real barrel of monkeys) and nips steadily from a tiny flask.

Masha is loved by Mikhail (Michael Zegen), an impoverished local school teacher.

Then there’s the good-hearted Doctor Dorn (John Tenney), who has long carried a torch for Irina; he’s the unattainable love object of the housekeeper Polina (Mare Winningham).

In other words, just about everyone in sight is in love with someone who doesn’t return the sentiment.

There are other characters blessedly free of the these romantic entanglements, especially Irina’s aging bachelor brother Sorin (Brian Dennehy) and the chatty estate foreman Shamrayev (Glenn Flesher). (more…)

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