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Posts Tagged ‘Sally Hawkins’

Sally Hawkins, Doug Jones

“THE SHAPE OF WATER” My rating: B+

122 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Blend the whimsey of “Amelie” with the sci-fi fantasy of “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” wrap it all up in Cold War paranoia, and you’ve got Guillermo del Toro’s “The Shape of Water,” an interspecies love story that will leave you swooning.

Horror and beauty are never far apart in del Toro’s cinema; what’s noteworthy about this picture is that the horror is generated not by the fantastic creature at its heart but by human fear and loathing. This time around we’re the monsters.

Set in early ’60s Baltimore, where it’s always raining and everything is tinted bottom-of-the-sea green, “The Shape of Water” opens with Elisa ( Sally Hawkins) awakening from a watery dream and getting ready for work. Elisa is mute and communicates through sign language (we get subtitles); she works the night shift mopping floors at a top-secret government research station that looks and feels like a giant concrete mausoleum.

Michael Shannon

The scientific staff is all agog over their new acquisition, an amphibious creature captured in a river in South American, where the natives worshipped him as a god. The current condition of this beautiful/disquieting creation (that’s frequent del Toro collaborator Doug Jones under the spectacular prosthetics developed by Legacy Effects) is anything but god-like; he’s in chains and is the subject of the sadistic cattle-prod attentions of Strickland (Michael Shannon), a malevolent CIA type who can’t wait to vivisect this new species.

Using her passkey to gain entrance to the creature’s prison, the empathetic Elisa brings hard-boiled eggs and a portable phonograph player with a collection of jazz LPs. This frog/man may not be able to speak, but he digs eggs and music.

Elisa soon discovers that the captive is not a mindless beast; before long they’re conversing in sign language. And and as her affections for this scaly  newcomer deepen, Elisa hatches a plan to spirit the amphibian man out of the lab before he can be vivisected. He can live in her claw-footed bathtub.

She is abetted in this quest by her co-worker, the mop-swinging Zelda (Octavia Spencer),  by her neighbor Giles (Richard Jenkins), a mild-mannered commercial artist, and by one of the scientific eggheads, Hoffstetler (Michael Stuhlbarg), who wants to preserve this great discovery at any cost. (more…)

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Sally Hawkins

“MAUDIE” My rating: B 

115 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Simultaneously a biopic about an eccentric outsider artist and a politically incorrect love story, “Maudie” isn’t exactly warm and fuzzy.

Director Aisling Walsh’s study of Nova Scotia painter Maud Lewis  — the Canadian equivalent of Grandma Moses — is both inspiring and troubling.

Inspiring because the naive Maud overcame crippling arthritis to develop her primitive yet poetic visual style, and troubling because of her marriage to a man who, at least early in their relationship, was guilty of both physical and psychological abuse.

Good thing, then, that Walsh and screenwriter Sherry White have for their stars the terrific Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke, whose performances transcend our usual notions of marital right and wrong.

When we first meet Maud (Hawkins) in the late 1930s, she is a prisoner of her domineering aunt and her indifferent older brother.  Thanks to the arthritis from which she has suffered most of her life, the thirtysomething Maud moves slowly and clumsily; her unimpressive physical presence leads many to assume she’s mentally incapacitated as well.

Hardly.  Though poorly educated, Maud has a biting wit and fierce sense of self.  When she learns that crusty local bachelor Everett Lewis (Hawke) is advertising for a housekeeper, she declares herself a free woman and goes after the job.

Basically she ends up working for room and board for a laborer who was reared in an orphanage, has minimal people skills and is often ruled by his volcanic temper. She puts up with his cruelty because she has nowhere else to go…and because she realizes she’s smart enough to manipulate this angry ignoramus, eventually marrying him.

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Jesse Eisenberg and...Jesse Eisenberg in "Double"

Jesse Eisenberg and…Jesse Eisenberg in “The Double”

“THE DOUBLE” My rating: C+ (Opening July 4 at the Screenland Crown Center)

93 minutes | MPAA rating: R)

 

Though it is based on a novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky, one could be forgiven for thinking “The Double” is an adaptation of Franz Kafka.

Richard Ayoade’s film gives us a hapless protagonist trapped in a web of illogical but rigid social and political rules. This poor schlub finds himself living in a nightmare from which he cannot awaken.

The problem is that for me dramatizations of Kafka never really work.  They may be well acted, imaginatively mounted, and they may deal with important human issues. But what seems subversive and insightful on the printed page always comes off as a bit silly and, worse, boring when brought to the screen. Kafka-ish yarns are always about an Everyman…and Everymen aren’t all that interesting.

Once in a blue moon a director takes a Kafkaesque situation and makes it both funny and compelling — Terry Gilliam’s “Brazil,” for example.

“The Double” works about half the time, thanks to its depiction of a glum alternative world and a bravura double performance from Jesse Eisenberg. But it can’t quite make it over the hump.

Eisenberg is best known for playing dweebs in films like “Zombieland” and “Wonderland” and — let’s face it — “The Social Network.” Here gets to play not only a disaffected dweeb but also his lookalike tormentor. Two characters that are polar opposites.

And, yes, the kid can act. He’s so good here I wish I liked the movie more.

Simon (Eisenberg) lives in a grungy, ill-lit metropolis in which technology seems to have peaked around 1935.  He’s employed by some sort of government agency ruled by the Colonel (James Fox), a paternalistic Big Brotherish figure in a white uniform. Exactly what this agency does is never made clear, but it must be important since it has a high degree of security. When he leaves his ID at home, Simon has a hard time convincing anyone at work that he’s been coming there for years.  He’s that forgettable.

Our man yearns for success but is totally lacking in the qualities that might bring it. He’s got no self-assurance, creativity, or charisma.

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