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Posts Tagged ‘Sigourney Weaver’

Sigourney Weaver, Kevin Kline

“THE GOOD HOUSE” My rating: B(In theaters)

114 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“The Good House” is a prime example of cinematic bait and switch…you get sucked into thinking it’s one kind of movie and along the way it becomes something quite different.

That’s the sort of thing that might alienate moviegoers. Except that “The Good House” features Sigourney Weaver in one of her more seductive performances. Who says there are no good roles for women of a certain age?

Weaver plays Hildy Good, a divorced grandmother with her own residential real estate biz in a picturesque seaside New England burg where her family roots go back 300 years (she has descended from one of the Salem witches).

Almost immediately the screenplay (by Thomas Bezucha, Wallace Wolodarsky and director Maya Forbes) lets us in on Hildy’s inner life. While her work requires her to exhibit a gift for schmoozing, our leading lady is in fact a font of sharp-tongued snarkiness who often speaks directly to the audience to diss and dish dirt on her fellow citizens.

Hildy’s outward show of bon homie and civic uprightness and her inner sarcasm provides much of the flim;s dramatic juice. Sardonicism on this level is bracing; when it comes from an older woman it’s damn near celebratory. Not to mention laugh-out-loud funny.

A good chunk of “The Good House” is devoted to a character study of Hildy as she copes with her struggling business (a former assistant has broken away and is now beating Hildy at her own game), a long-ago high school squeeze (Kevin Kline) who over decades has become a blue-collar millionaire (he’s a scuzzy-looking coot who owns a fleet of snow plows, garbage trucks and home renovation vans) and her children and grandchildren.

The film’s real subject sort of sneaks its way in. Hildy, you see, likes her wine. She tells herself (and those of us watching) that she’s totally in control of her intake and that the hand-wringing of her family and friends is just so much do-gooder excess.

Basically “The God House” is about her gradual realization that she’s a first-class alcoholic. At that point the film isn’t so amusing any more.

Now this hardly breaks new cinematic ground; the film works because Weaver is so entertaining and because the ranks of her fellow townspeople have been filled with the likes of Morena Baccarin, Rob Delaney, Kathryn Erbe, Beverly D’Angelo and David Rasche.

All that talent helps compensate for some narrative choices that smack of cheap melodrama. The late-in-life romance with Kline’s character works well enough, but some other subplots involving a neighbor’s autistic child and an extramarital affair being conducted by the local psychiatrist feel underdeveloped and superfluous.

The further the film strays from its central theme — a woman coming to grips with the lies she’s been telling herself — the less effective it becomes.

| Robert W. Butler

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The cast of “Call My Agent!”

“CALL MY AGENT!” My rating: B  (Netflix)

“Call My Agent!” unfolds in a Paris agency representing the cream of French film and television talent.

The gimmick of this French comedy series is that every episode features a guest star, a real-life legend — we’re talking Juliette Binoche, Christopher Lambert, Sigourney Weaver, Jean Dujarden, Isabelle Huppert, Jean Reno —  playing spoiled, temperamental, insecure, misbehaving versions of themselves.

But the real subject of Fanny Herrero’s 24-episode (over four seasons) creation is lying.

The ever-scrambling agents who populate the ASK offices are forever lying to their clients, to their loved ones and to each other.  It’s a requirement of the job, rarely done in malice, and often to protect the fragile feelings of the pampered stars to whom they owe their livings.

But be assured that no lie — no matter how creative or outrageous — remains unexposed for long.

Here’s the thing: despite their problematic relationship with the truth, the characters here quickly win us over.  Herrero and her co-creators have given us personalities that we quickly glom onto. They’re witty and driven and creative, and it’s a thrill to be around them.

Moreover, the series does a terrific job of exploring these different personalities over four seasons. Characters who at first seem mere background figures will at some point emerge as the center of their own episodes and story arcs.

There are too many interesting figures here to explore them all, but here’s a thumbnail analysis of the most important:

Andrea Martel (played by Camille Cottin):  This cutthroat agent and predatory lesbian has to re-evalute her existence when she finds herself pregnant after an impetuous three-way.

Mathias Barneville (Thibault de Montalembert): The head of ASK is sauve and cultured.  Except that in the first episode he gets an unexpected complication — the arrival of Camille (Fanny Sidney), the twenty-something lovechild of his long-ago extramarital affair.  He gives his daughter a job (she’s the most principled person on site) but struggles to keep his wife ignorant of his infidelity.

Ariette Azemar (Liliane Rovere):  The grande dame of the outfit, who’s seen and heard just about everything.  She’s constantly accompanied by her lapdog Jean Gabin (and if you appreciate that bit of name dropping, you’ll love just about everything about this series). (more…)

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Lewis McDougall

Lewis MacDougall

“A MONSTER CALLS” My rating: B- 

108 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

The makers of “A Monster Calls” work so hard to avoid anything resembling sentimental manipulation that the film runs the risk of being emotionally bland.

Blending psychological insight, fantastic images and the most painful of human conditions, this Spanish/U.K. production is nothing if not ambitious.

In describing how a 12-year-old British boy copes with the looming death of his single mother, this film from Spanish director J.A. Bayona wades into some serious territory. But despite a late-breaking emotional crescendo that will have all but the coolest viewers reaching for a hankie, I found much of the film to be curiously detached.

Conor (Lewis McDougall) — described early on as “too old to be a kid, too young to be a man” — has some of the usual adolescent problems, including a trio of schoolyard thugs who revel in beating him up every day.

Things are no better at home where his loving Mum (Felicity Jones) is sinking into chemo-misery while his brittle granny (Sigourney Weaver, attempting but not really mastering an English accent) exudes about as much warmth and sympathy as a prickly pear.

Small wonder that Conor finds refuge in his own imagination. “You’re always off in your own little dream world,” observes one of his classroom tormentors. “What’s there that’s so interesting?”

A lot actually. Every night Conor is visited by a monster, a giant tree creature that uproots itself from a hilltop churchyard and comes stomping to his bedroom window.

(more…)

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