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Posts Tagged ‘michelle williams’

P.T. Barnum (Hugh Jackman) and his band of oddities

“THE GREATEST SHOWMAN” My rating: B-

105 minutes | MPAA rating: PG

The most memorable utterance attributed to P.T. Barnum — “There’s a sucker born every minute”  — appears nowhere in the original film musical “The Great Showman.”

This is understandable. The quote is thick with contempt/condescension for the everyday idiot.  Michael Gracey’s film, on the other hand, is all about openness and a childlike sense of wonder.

Ostensibly a biography of the 19th-century con man and entertainment entrepreneur, “The Greatest Showman” is a passion project from Aussie actor Hugh Jackman, who has long wanted to tackle the role. (Aside from subject matter, the film is in no way related to the fine 1980 Broadway musical “Barnum.”)

The real Barnum was a wart of a fellow and a self-proclaimed “humbugger,'” certainly not the dashing charmer we get in this production. But then “The Greatest Showman” has been conceived and executed not as history or actual biography but as a colorful commentary on dreaming big and embracing diversity.

The characters are paper thin and the historic details iffy (there appear to be electric lights in a house in the 1850s, the women’s costumes are all over the place).

But it is undeniably entertaining, especially in several of the musical numbers and in a garish presentational approach that reminds of Baz Luhrmann’s work on “Moulin Rouge,” with maybe a touch of Bob Fosse-inspired choreography thrown in for good measure.

Zendaya

We follow the rise of Jackman’s Barnum from struggling shipping company clerk to national prominence. He woos and wins a wealthy young woman (Michelle Williams), in the process alienating her family, who find his work very low class.

He buys a run-down museum in NYC and goes on a world-wide hunt to stock it with human and animal oddities. Before long Barnum can claim among his attractions the world’s smallest man, Tom Thumb, a bearded lady (Keala Settle), Siamese twins, the Dog Boy, the Tattooed Man and  a fellow with three legs.

Far from presenting Barnum as an exploiter of these unfortunates, the film depicts him as a father figure who creates an outcast clan whose members band together for mutual support in defiance of a cruel world.

(more…)

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Casey Affleck

Casey Affleck

“MANCHESTER BY THE SEA” My rating: A-

137 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Doesn’t life provide us with enough grief? Do we have to buy movie tickets to experience more of it on the big screen?

It’s an understandable sentiment … and completely wrong in the case of “Manchester by the Sea.”

Brilliantly written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan (“You Can Count on Me”) and featuring a major-league lead performance from the ever-surprising Casey Affleck, this riveting, soul-wrenching feature is about how we deal — or don’t — with grief.

Yeah, it’s heavy. It’s also unexpectedly funny, deeply moving and almost unbearably wise when it comes to the labyrinthine workings of the human heart.

We first encounter Lee Chandler (Affleck) on the job at a Boston-area apartment complex. In return for handyman chores — hauling trash, blowing out drains — he’s allowed to live in a monkish cellar room. Lee is a prickly sort who often rubs tenants the wrong way. At night he drinks until it’s time to instigate a barroom brawl.

Clearly, something’s eating at this guy.

When word arrives that Lee’s older brother, Joe, has died of a heart attack, he reluctantly returns to the Massachusetts fishing village of his youth to settle affairs. There Lee discovers that he has been named as the guardian of Joe’s 16-year-old son, Patrick (Lucas Hedges).

He’s totally unprepared.

Lonergan’s screenplay is a sort of psychological mystery that alternates scenes of Lee in the present — struggling with the horny teen for whom he is now responsible, encountering faces from his youth — with his troubled past, depicted in flashbacks that drift in and out without warning.

In these scenes from Lee’s earlier life we see him working a fishing boat with his brother (Kyle Chandler) and get glimpses of his home life with wife Randi (Michelle Williams) and three small kids.

He’s friendly, even borderline jolly.

Clearly something traumatic occurred between then and now. (more…)

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Michelle Williams as Marilyn Monroe

“MY WEEK WITH MARILYN” My rating: B- 

99 minutes | MPAA rating: R

An actress portraying Marilyn Monroe faces the same daunting obstacles as an actor playing Jesus.

No matter how good your performance, it pales in comparison to the real thing.

Michelle Williams, one of our finest young actresses, does a perfectly credible job as the  immortal blonde sex symbol in “My Week with Marilyn,” a melodrama unfolding during the filming of “The Prince and the Showgirl” in London in 1957.

But as good as Williams is, not once did I mistake her for Marilyn. It’s a passable impersonation, but no one will ever fill the screen the way Monroe did.

Simon Curtis’ feature directing debut  (after a long career in television)  is based on “The Prince, The Showgirl and Me” and “My Week with Marilyn,” Colin Clark’s memoirs about his experiences as a young production assistant on the film. (more…)

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MEEK’S CUTOFF”  My rating: B-

1:44 | Rated PG     

In her minimalist features “Old Joy” and “Wendy and Lucy,” filmmaker Kelly Reichardt quietly explored relationships among unremarkable individuals in contemporary America.

In “Meek’s Cutoff” she takes the same lightly-plotted approach with the members of a small wagon train slogging along the Oregon Trail in the 1840s.

“Meek’s,” which might be described as a proto-Western, is a daring change of pace, one that has a big payoff intellectually but less of one emotionally and narratively.

The three married couples that make up the tiny caravan are being led by Meek (more…)

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