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Posts Tagged ‘Rooney Mara’

Joaquin Phoenix

“DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT”  My rating: B

114 minutes | MPAA rating: R

In “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot”  a seemingly hopeless alcoholic turns his life around after a car crash leaves him a quadriplegic.

Is it churlish of me to admit that I actually prefer the first part of the film — the drunken, obnoxious, grotesquely guzzling part — over the uplifting recovery-through-AA second half?

Gus Van Sant’s latest feature is the fact-based story of John Callahan, who with the one hand he could still partly control drew some of the blackest, funniest cartoons ever printed. The film’s title, in fact, is the caption of one of his scandalous creations:  A posse of cowboys on horseback come across an empty wheelchair  in the desert. “Don’t worry,” says the sheriff in charge, “he won’t get far on foot.”

Callahan, who died in 2010  at age 51, is portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix as a reprehensible asshole who — perhaps because of his traumatic infirmity — slowly discovers his own humanity and self-worth.

Certainly his pre-accident life was nothing to be proud of.  A native of the Portland area, Callahan worked manual labor and spent every recreational hour sucking down the booze. The film suggests that at least part of his problem was that he was abandoned as a child by his mother — evidently an unmarried Roman Catholic girl who gave up her baby to the nuns.  It was a betrayal that Callahan never got over…or perhaps he was just looking for an excuse for his destructive behavior.

He was also sexually abused as a child, although the film makes no mention of that.

Without actually showing the crash, Van Sant and his co-writers (Jack Gibson and William Andrew Eatman, adapting Callahan’s memoir) depict a day of furious barhopping by Callahan and his newfound drinking buddy Dexter (Jack Black). Rarely has unfettered, dedicated, puke-your-guts-out boozing been captured with such gleeful intensity. It’s appalling, certainly, but also weirdly attractive.

Callahan wakes up in an ER where an not-particularly-sympathetic MD gives him the bad news. He’ll probably never feel anything below the neck.

After months of rehab Callahan is introduced to a motorized wheelchair…which means he can now drive himself  to the liquor store and pick up where he left off.  Granted, it’s frustrating trying to rest a bottle in the elbow of one arm while using your only mobile hand to twist off the cap…but a guy’s gotta do what a guy’s gotta do.

There’s a manic, almost Keystone Kops intensity to Callahan’s use of  his motorized wheelchair, which he drives at daredevil velocity, weaving in and out of street traffic. Now and then he overturns this mini-dune buggy and must be lifted back into the seat by a passerby. Even after getting clean, it’s obvious that he needs  some sort of addiction…now speed has replaced alcohol as his drug of choice.

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“A GHOST STORY”  My rating: B+

93 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Your typical ghost movie is about humans terrorized by the supernatural.

But “A Ghost Story” turns that tradition inside out by taking the point of view of a silent, mournful spirit that clings to its earthly home hoping for, well, who knows what?

David Lowery’s film will be hailed as profound and damned as pretentious — sometimes in the same breath. Love it or loathe it, we’ve not seen anything quite like it.

Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara (they also starred in Lowery’s 2013 rural noir ballad “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”) play a couple living in a rather shabby tract home on a sparsely populated street that’s not quite rural and not quite suburban.

We never learn their names, though the film’s credits identify the characters as “C” and “M.”

The scruffy C is a musician who spends his days at a piano recording complex songs with various layers of sound. The two seem content enough right up to the point where he is killed in a traffic collision at the end of their driveway.

In the hospital morgue M identifies his body, which is then covered with a sheet. The camera lingers on the lifeless form for a full minute — at which point the corpse sits upright, still shrouded, and shuffles through the hospital.

Some audience members may break out in laughter. The ghost looks exactly like that cheapest of Halloween costumes, a white sheet with eye holes cut out. (Though looking into those holes we see nothing but black.)

Returning to his former home, the voiceless spirit observes M as she puts her life back together. We lose all sense of time — days, weeks or months pass in a series of silent scenes. When M begins dating, the ghost shows its displeasure by making a few books fly off the shelf.

It should be noted at this point that while we see Affleck at the beginning and end of the film, for the most part he’s covered from head to toe. In fact, there’s no way of knowing if he’s actually the performer under the sheet. That said, the body language astoundingly evokes the ghost’s thoughts and emotions. It may be one of the great physical performances ever captured on film. (more…)

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Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett

Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett

“CAROL” My rating: B+ 

118 minutes | MPAA rating: R

You could describe “Carol” as a lesbian love story.

More accurately, it’s a love story in which the two main characters are women.

That’s an important difference.

The latest from adventurous indie auteur Todd Haynes is one of his most accessible works, a haunting and quietly erotic tale of love that, far from being forbidden, holds the promise of fulfillment.

Adapted by Haynes from Patricia Highsmith’s 1952 novel The Price of Salt, the film features Oscar-grabbing performances from Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara and perhaps the most realistic evocation of the early 1950s I’ve ever seen in a movie (including movies made in the early 1950s, which somehow seem fantastically unreal).

Therese (Mara) is a quiet young woman who seems to be waiting for something to happen.  Certainly she doesn’t expect much from her job selling toys in a big Manhattan department store during the Christmas season.  She thinks maybe she’d like to try her hand at photography.

Nor does she sense much of a future with Richard (Jake Lacy), the boyfriend who wants to travel with her to France. The two are yet to consummate their relationship (remember, it’s the early 1950s).

Then one day the glamorous, well-heeled Carol (Blanchett) comes into the story to buy a present for her young daughter. The customer and the sales clerk strike up a conversation. Carol leaves her fancy gloves behind and Therese has them delivered to Carol’s posh home in the Jersey ‘burbs.

For this act of kindness Therese receives an invitation to tea. Her fascination with this beautiful and cultured older woman becomes a crush.

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Joaquinn Phoenix

Joaquin Phoenix…isolated, but not for long

“HER” My rating: A- (Opens wide on Jan. 10)

120 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The sentient computer — the mechanical brain that becomes self aware — has been with us for many years now (perhaps most famously in the person of “2001’s” HAL 9000). But writer/director Spike Jonze’s “Her” pushes that idea in new and wonderful directions.

Along the way it becomes the best film of 2013.

In the near future — so near you can’t categorize the film as science fiction — a computer operating system is developed that so perfectly imitates human thought and emotion as to make the iPhone’s Siri seem like a grunting Neanderthal.

Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) is a lonely romantic.  Lonely because he and his wife (Rooney Mara) are divorcing — though Tehodore cannot bring himself to sign the papers.  Romantic because his day job is writing heartfelt letters  to strangers.

He works for a company that, for a fee, will compose personal letters to family members, dearly beloveds, friends and acquaintances. Apparently in this near future most personal written correspondence is limited to texting abbreviatons and emoticons. Some folks will pay big bucks for a well-written, sincere and “handwritten” letter (actually, a computer provides the appropriate font and coughs it out of a laser printer).

Theodore is a master of this old-fashioned form of communication — which only makes his sterile personal life all the more ironic.

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Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck

Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck

“AIN’T THEM BODIES SAINTS” My rating: C+ (Opening August 30 at the Tivoli and the Rio)

96 minutes| MPAA rating: R

Like its title, “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” tries too damn hard.

The difference between effectiveness and affectation is often a matter of degree, and for my money David Lowery’s Sundance hit  always lays things on just a little too thick.

Or perhaps not thick enough.

In this norish crime drama/romance Lowery apparently is trying to channel Terernce Malick, particularly the early Malick of “Badlands” and “Days of Heaven,” both of which took the form of dreamlike folk ballads. 

Like virtually all Malick movies, “Ain’t Them Bodies…” relies on voiceover narration by one of the characters (in this case a prison escapee played by Casey Affleck).  And the film unfolds in a classic small American town so frozen in time (old trucks, flower print dresses, denim work shirts, cowboy boots) that I was taken aback late in the story when one character produced a cell phone. Like a Malick effort, the movie has been photographed (by Bradford Young) so as to discover the beauty in human faces,  brown Texas landscapes, and even old buildings losing their peeling paint. (more…)

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Rooney Mara...depressed

Rooney Mara…depressed

“SIDE EFFECTS” My rating: B

105 minutes | MPAA rating: R

For more than half its running time, Steven Soderbergh’s “Side Effects” keeps us guessing as to just what sort of movie it is.

It begins with a handsome young man, Martin (current “it” guy Channing Tatum), being released from prison.

So maybe it’s a gritty film about Martin trying to rebuild his life after years in stir?

But then we get to know his wife, Emily (the marvelous Rooney Mara, late of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”),  an emotionally fragile individual coming apart at the seams. No sooner is her husband back home than she attempts suicide by driving her car into a wall.

So maybe it’s a hard-hitting film about depression?

Emily and Martin visit a shrink, Dr. Banks (Jude Law), who puts her on a powerful new antidepressant (he’s also a paid consultant for the drug’s manufacturer). Then Emily begins having bizarre sleepwalking episodes and does something really horrible and criminal.

So maybe it’s a socially-conscious film about our prevalent drug culture and an industry that tries to peddle dangerous side effects-heavy pharmaceuticals as if they were soda pop?

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“THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO” My rating: B (Opens wide Dec. 21)

158 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Like a lot of movie fans, I greeted with a big dose of cynicism the news that Hollywood was remaking the Swedish thriller “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”

That film, which introduced to the world actress Nomi Rapace as the gloriously twisted investigator/hacker Lisbeth Salander, was more than adequate. Why remake it for a bunch of ignoramuses too thick to read subtitles?

Well, I was wrong. The American “Girl…” is the equal of the Swedish version in most regards, and in its technical production vastly superior. That’s because it was directed by David Fincher (“Fight Club,” “The Social Network,” “Zodiac”), an exacting filmmaker who composes and lights every scene for maximum visual impact. (Don’t forget, the three Swedish films based on Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Trilogy were made for television and suffered somewhat from limited production values.)

The tale remains essentially the same (with some minor variations) and the overall effect — a queasy blend of serial killer thriller, unrepentant male piggishness and offbeat relationship flick — very similar to the original. (more…)

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