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Posts Tagged ‘Saoirse Ronan’

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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Saoirse Ronan, Billy Howe

“ON CHESIL BEACH” My rating: C+ 

110 minutes | MPAA rating: R

No film with Saoirse Ronan can be easily dismissed. Nonetheless, many will find “On Chesil Beach” a long haul.

Directed by Dominic Cooke and adapted by Ian McEwan from his 2007 novel, this is a story of lost love.  More specifically, it’s about two young people utterly unprepared for the intimacies of married life who are driven apart by sexual dysfunction.

That may sound intriguing…and on the printed page it was.  The problem is that McEwan’s novel is a deep psychological study of two individuals, and deep psychology is not one of the things the movies do particularly well.

We can see the outside, but we’re not privy to what’s happening on the inside. And despite McEwan’s use of extensive flashbacks to depict the young lovers’ courtship and backgrounds, the whole enterprise feels like it’s unfolding at an emotional arm’s length.

Florence (Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) check into a seaside hotel for their honeymoon. They’re nervous…this is the big night, after all.  The time is the early ’60s and these two virgins are both eager and terrified.

In a series of flashbacks we see how they met and fell in love.

Edward is working class, a bit impetuous and keyed into the burgeoning pop culture of the day. His family history is far from storybook; his mother (Anne-Marie Duff) suffered a head injury when struck by a train and now devotes herself to making art in the nude.

Florence’s background is a pure 180 from Edward’s. She comes from the upper crust, plays violin in a string quartet, and married Edward despite the disdain of her snooty/pompous parents (Emily Watson, Samuel West).

He thinks Chuck Berry is awesome.  She thinks Chuck Berry is “quite, well, merry.” (That early exchange, initially amusing, carries grim portents for the couple’s compatibility.)

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Saoirse Ronan

“LADY BIRD” My rating: B+ 

93 minutes | MPAA rating: R

That Saoirse Ronan gives an Oscar-worthy performance in “Lady Bird” is expected. She is, after all, perhaps the greatest actress of her young generation. (Exhibit One: “Brooklyn.”)

What’s really surprising about this funny/furious coming-of-age yarn is the voice behind the camera.  “Lady Bird” is the first feature soley written and directed by Greta Gerwig, the actress known as indie filmdom’s go-to gal for slightly ditzy heroines (“Greenberg,” “Frances Ha,” “Mistress America”).

Gerwig gives us not only a first-rate dramedy about a young woman’s growth from cranky teen to independent woman, but also the most incendiary mother/daughter movie relationship since “Terms of Endearment.”

Combining savage wordplay, satiric insights into adolescent life and a genuine sense of family dynamics, “Lady Bird” is simultaneously familiar and fiercely original.

Christine (Saoirse Ronan) is a high school senior (the year is 2002) and  pissed off about nearly everything. Her general dissatisfaction may be behind her decision to change her name to Lady Bird…or to at least demand that her parents, friends and teachers call her  that. A new name may lead to a new life, right?

In the film’s first scene Lady Bird and her mother Marion (Laurie Metcalf) are reduced to tears while driving down the highway listening to a book tape of The Grapes of Wrath.  It’s a rare moment when mom and daughter are on the same page; seconds later Lady Bird’s temper flares and she impulsively bails from the moving car. (She will spend much of the movie with a cast on one hand.)

The source of the argument is college.  The two are returning from a scouting trip to regional universities, but Lady Bird has her heart set on something back east, a place with “real culture, like New York…or Connecticut.” Marion, a glum financial harpie, warns that there isn’t any money for an Ivy League education.  A small state college the next town over will have to do.

This is the film’s central conflict: a smart, ambitious and somewhat spoiled adolescent versus her penny-pinching, essentially joyless parent.  (Lady Bird’s dad, played by Tracy Letts, is a laid-back  noncombatant who offers moral support to both mother and daughter but not much else, having been downsized from his tech job.)

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James Booth as Armand Roulin

“LOVING VINCENT” My rating: B

93 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

“Loving Vincent” is work of adoring fanaticism, an investigation into Vincent Van Gogh’s death through animation that mimics his dynamic and instantly recognizable style of painting.

Van Gogh’s portrait of the real Armand Roulin

It is, we’re told, “the world’s first fully painted feature film” in which each  of the movie’s 60,000-plus frames have been rendered in oil by a crew of more than 100 artists.

What directors Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welshman have accomplished here is, from a visual point of view, spectacularly mesmerizing.

As a narrative their film (co-scripted with Jack Dehnel) has some issues, but ultimately it works its way under the viewer’s skin.

Unfolding a year after Vincent’s death in the small French town of Auvers-sur-Oise, the story centers on Armand Roulin (James Booth).  Armand is a dedicated drinker and brawler living in Arles, where the artist often lived and painted during his last years. (Vincent actually did a portrait of Armand, and  throughout the movie the young man wears then bright yellow jacket in which he posed.)

This handsome ne’er-do-well is sent on a mission by his father, the local postmaster (Chris O’Dowd).  The elder Roulin has in his possession a letter written by Vincent to his brother Theo but never sent.  Now the old man dispatches Armand off to Paris to deliver the letter to its intended recipient.

Alas, he discovers that Theo died not long after his brother.  Hoping to locate Theo’s widow, Armand travels to Auvers, along the way collecting information about Vincent from those who crossed his path.  (Vincent, played by Robert Gulaczyk, is seen only in black-and-white flashbacks painted to resemble charcoal drawings.)

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Ralph Fiennes in Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel"

Ralph Fiennes in Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel”

“THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL”  My rating: B (Opens wide on March 21)

100 minutes | MPAA rating: R

Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a whopper of a shaggy dog story – or more accurately, it’s a series of shaggy dog stories that fit neatly inside one another like one of those painted Russian dolls.

The film’s yarn-within-a-yarn structure and a delightfully nutty perf from leading man Ralph Fiennes are the main attractions here. I had hoped that “Grand Budapest…” would scale the same emotional heights as Anderson’s last effort, the captivating “Moonrise Kingdom.”

It doesn’t. But there’s still plenty to relish here.

Describing the film requires a flow chart. But here goes:

In the present in a former Eastern Bloc country, a young woman visits the grave of a dead author and begins reading his book The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Suddenly we’re face to face with the writer (Tom Wilkinson), who is sitting at the desk in his study. After a few introductory comments and a brusque cuffing of a small boy who is proving a distraction, the author begins telling us the plot of his novel.

Now we’re in the 1990s in the formerly sumptuous but now dog-eared Grand Budapest hotel in the Eastern European alps. Staying there is a Young Writer (Jude Law) who befriends the mysterious Mr. Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham). An aged empresario who owns several of Europe’s most luxurious hotels, Moustafa keeps the Grand Budapest running for nostalgic reasons.

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