Posts Tagged ‘best lead actress’

Two Blondes Go to a Movie: Doubt

February 10, 2009

Two Blondes review a movie and ramble about themselves.


JESSICA SAYS:

I had my doubts about whether or not this film would live up to the hype.  Get it?  ’Doubts?’  It’s a pun!  But I digress.  My mom saw this movie before I did and every time we’ve talked since she tells me how good she thought this movie was.  Now, Mom doesn’t have bad taste in movies, per se, but her taste is not necessarily the same as mine.  For instance, she enjoys watching made-for-TV-movies on Lifetime Television for Women.  I do not.  I enjoy Pulp Fiction.  There is not a single scene in that movie Mom would enjoy (violence + swearing + sex + drug use = a film Mom would never sit through).

It turns out Mom and I pretty much agree on this one.  I’m not ready to say it’s the best movie I’ve seen in years, as Mom did, but it is definitely worth seeing.  The hesitation I had going in to this film was that the previews made it seem so dour and bleak.  You have to be in the right mood to want to sit down and watch a story about sexual abuse allegations.  I now realize that this film isn’t really about sexual abuse.  It does deal with that, but the story has more to do with gossip, standing up to authority figures, and trusting your instincts, than abuse.

The acting performances in the movie all around are as good as you have been hearing.  What can I say about how great Meryl Streep is that hasn’t already been said?  She really is a force to be reckoned with and Amy Adams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Viola Davis all more than met the challenge.  I want to give John Patrick Shanley a huge amount of credit because this story and the way he tells it are fascinating.  The characters are constantly making twists and turns and as the audience, you never are quite sure who to believe until the end.  That is not an easy feat to pull off.

I was raised Catholic, but I didn’t go to Catholic school, so I can’t really speak as to what that experience is like.  The nuns in my parish didn’t seem as draconian as Streep’s Sister Aloysius, but they were certainly not to be messed with.  I remember Sister Ruth Ann specifically who told us in CCD (the Catholic version of Sunday school) that it was healthy to have a glass of wine each night and in fact sometimes she just drank straight from the bottle, since it was only her and Sister Rose. I said I was raised Catholic, not I am Catholic because I’m still working out whether or not I really want to be Catholic.  All the issues raised in the film about the Church are issues I struggle with internally, being Catholic.  To say the Church is patriarchal is a bit of an understatement.  It is the oldest of old boys clubs.  Why does the mere fact that she is a woman determine that Sister Aloysius is a subordinate to Father Flynn?  That’s only the tip of the iceberg of questions you’re left with at the end of Doubt (sexism, sexual abuse, the effects of progressive reform, racism, etc.).  Let’s just say, like Sister Aloysius, I too have my doubts.

I recommend seeing this movie and it is worth a full-price ticket.  Maybe you should plan a dinner or drinks afterwards with whoever you see it because you will want to discuss.

ALISON SAYS:

I’ll be honest, I thought I’d find Doubt boring.  I knew I loved Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams, but when I saw the trailers, it just looked like an overblown Oscar-baity drama with lots of boring outfits.  I was wrong, very wrong.  It’s great, truly great.  My grandmother, who NEVER goes to movies anymore, actually made her way to the theater to see this film and said it was really good.  My mom, who attended Catholic school with nuns as teachers, also saw the film and loved it.  It was interesting to me that two of the main women in my life both made the effort to go see a film where one of the main themes is that of womens’ powerlessness in the old days.

As always, Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman blow you away with their skills as actors and remind you again why they’ve had enduring careers.  Amy Adams is also fantastic and charming, continuing her streak of being the best thing to ever come out of dinner theater.  And then there’s Viola Davis as the mother of Donald, Mrs. Miller.  Her screen time is minuscule compared to Streep, Hoffman and Adams, but her performance was one of the most memorable of the film and haunts you long after watching it.

I just looked up the director, John Patrick Shanley, on IMDb and noticed the last thing he directed was Joe Versus The Volcano and he wrote Moonstruck.  What a varied career.  It also goes to show the Midas touch Scott Rudin has as a film producer, whatever that guy touches turns to Oscar gold.  I talked to Rudin on the phone a few times at an old job, and just his voice alone can put the fear of God in you.   Maybe that level of fear is it what it takes to continually create amazing, Oscar worthy films.

LA Viewers: If you’ve ever wanted to see the epitome of superb acting, go see this film in the theaters.

Translation for non-LA natives: Same goes for you.

Two Blondes Go to a Movie: Revolutionary Road

February 9, 2009

Two Blondes review a movie and mostly ramble about themselves:

revolutionary-road-poster-full1

ALISON SAYS:

If you’ve ever been someone who’s a little scared of the concept of marriage and life becoming stagnant and losing all meaning, don’t go see Revolutionary Road. It will only reinforce this fear. But the film will also reinforce your love and respect for Kate Winslet, Sam Mendes and for the costume designer on the film (her character had such great dresses). Kate Winslet rocks. There’s not much more to it. She’s beautiful, an incredible actress and has always chosen interesting roles (and even has comic chops, as exhibited on “Extras”). I can’t imagine though what it was like to make this film with your husband (for those who don’t already know this, the director, Sam Mendes, is her husband).

It was fun to see Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio reunited after all these years, and DiCaprio impressed me, at least in the second half of the film. During the first half, I never really forgot that I was watching Leo. He’s still too pretty to completely believe him as a grown-up, angry man. (Leo, go get a little rougher around the edges and those Oscars will roll in, I swear.) But during the later part of the film, I thought he had some great scenes that did show his depth as an actor and reminded me of some of my favorites of his past performances (Arnie in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Jim in The Basketball Diaries). There were scenes where he broke out of being Leo and we saw a desperate, broken man who doesn’t know how to save his wife or make her love him again.

While I was impressed by some of the performances and aspects of the film, and still think Sam Mendes deserves loads of acclaim, I can’t say I loved the film as a whole. It was interesting to be in this world, but I couldn’t help thinking “Mad Men” did it and does it better. On a sidenote: my mom also saw this film and was recollecting how during her childhood, some women on her street would dress up for their husbands when they were getting home from work.

LA Viewers: Go see a matinee.

Translation for non-LA natives: If you live in the suburbs and ever doubt some of your life choices, maybe pick something more upbeat.

JESSICA SAYS:

For once, a movie makes you glad you’re a singleton and not a smug married. The portrait of a marriage provided by Revolutionary Road is anything but appealing. Take this scene:

April Wheeler: So now I’m crazy because I don’t love you, right? Is that the point?

Frank Wheeler: No! Wrong! You’re not crazy, and you do love me. That’s the point, April.

April Wheeler: But I don’t. I hate you. You were just some boy who made me laugh at a party once, and now I loathe the sight of you. In fact, if you come any closer, if you touch me or anything, I think I’ll scream.

Doesn’t that warm, kind exchange make you want to run right out and get married? No? Let me tell you, that fight only gets worse from there.

It is uncomfortable to watch two people completely emotionally eviscerate each other the way Kate Winslet (April Wheeler) and Leonardo DiCaprio (Frank Wheeler) do in this picture, but it’s completely riveting too. Kudos to Richard Yates and Justin Haythe (or ‘granola to you,’ as one of my friends might say) for a fantastic script. Yates’ 1967 novel this film is based on has been added to my must-read list. This is one of those films where you can just see that every member of the small village of people it takes to make a major motion picture brought their A-game. (I can’t believe I just used the phrase ‘A-game.’) Production design, props, costume, it is all spot on authentic.

REVOLUTIONARY ROADBoth Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet deliver Oscar-worthy performances here and the fact that neither of them was even nominated is ridiculous. It’s just further proof that politics and money have more to do with who wins Academy Awards than the performances too often. Michael Shannon is only in a few scenes, but he is so good I wished he got his own film about a mental patient in the 1950s. His performance is one of only three nominations for Revolutionary Road, with costume and art direction. If I ruled the world, it would get nominations for Best Picture, Best Lead Actress, Best Lead Actor, and Best Director. Alas, I do not; otherwise we would all take flying cars to work.

This movie left me thinking about a lot of things which, I think, is one of the best things you can say about any piece of art. For instance, as a woman, I am very thankful I was born at a time when the possibilities for my life were not determined by the fact that I’m female. Also, I marvel at how well Sam Mendes seems to understand the American suburbs for someone who grew up in Reading, England. In this film, he shows the same stiflingly powerful push to conform the suburbs seem to have as he depicted in American Beauty, only this time we get to watch a woman futilely struggle against it.

My advice? Go see this movie soon.