Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Jackie (2017)

Spoiler!  Her husband gets shot.

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“Jackie” tells the story of the spiralling grief, loss and anger of Jackie Kennedy driven by the assassination of JFK in Dallas in November 1963. Hopping backwards and forwards in flashback, the film centres on the first interview given by Jackie (Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”) to a ‘Time’ journalist (Billy Crudup, “Watchmen”, “Spotlight”).

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The scoop of a lifetime. The journalist (Sarsgaard) visits Jackie at home for an emotional encounter.

Through this interview we flashback to see Jackie as the young First Lady engaged in recording a TV special for a tour of the White House: nervous, unsure of herself and with a ‘baby girl’ voice. This contrasts with her demeanour in the interview which – although subject to emotional outburst and grief – is assured, confident and above all extremely assertive. We live the film through Jackie’s eyes as she experiences the arrival in Dallas, the traumatic events of November 22nd in Dealey Plaza, the return home to Washington and the complicated arrangement of the President’s funeral. 

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A fateful arrival in Dallas. Jackie with JFK (Caspar Phillipson).

This is an acting tour de force for Natalie Portman, who is astonishingly emotional as the grief-stricken ex-first lady. She nails this role utterly and completely. Having already won the Golden Globe for an actress in a dramatic role, you would be a foolish man to bet against her not taking the Oscar. (I know I said just the other week that I though Emma Stone should get it for “La La Land” – as another Golden Globe winner, for the Comedy/Musical category – and a large part of my heart would still really like to see Stone win it…. But excellent as that performance was, this is a far more challenging role.)

In a key supporting role is Peter Sarsgaard (“The Magnificent Seven”) as Bobby Kennedy (although his lookalike is not one of the best:  that accolade I would give to Gaspard Koenig, in an un-speaking role, as the young Ted Kennedy).

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A dangerous walk. Koenig’s Ted Kennedy is on the right.

Also providing interesting support as Jackie’s priest is John Hurt (“Alien”, “Dr Who”) and, as Jackie’s close friend, the artist Bill Walton, is Richard E Grant (“Withnail and I”, who as he grows older is looking more and more like Geoffrey Rush – I was sure it was him!).      

Director Pablo Larraín (whose previous work I am not familiar with) automatically assumes that EVERYONE has the background history to understand the narrative without further explanation: perhaps as this happened 54 years ago, this is a bit of a presumption for younger viewers? Naturally for people of my advanced years, these events are as burned into our collective psyches as the images in the Zapruder film.

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“Not another Camelot” – In happier times, Jackie transfixed by a recital

While the film focuses predominantly, and brilliantly, on Jackie’s mental state, the film does gently question (via an outburst from Bobby) as to what JFK actually achieved in his all too short presidency – ‘Will he be remembered for resolving the Cuban missile crisis:  something he originally created?’ rants Bobby. In reality, JFK is remembered in history for this assassination and the lost potential for what he might have done. I would have liked the script to have delved a little bit further into that collective soul-searching.

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That terrible moment when the water runs cold and you still have a head full of shampoo…

This is a very sombre movie in tone, from the bleak opening, with a soundtrack of sonorous strings, to the bleak weather-swept scenes at Arlington cemetery. The cinematography (by Stéphane Fontaine, “Rust and Bone”) cleverly contrasts between the vibrant hues of Jackie’s “Camelot” to the washed-out blueish tones of the post-assassination events. If you don’t feel depressed going into this film, you probably will be coming out!  But the journey is a satisfying one nonetheless, and the script by Noah Oppenheim – in a SIGNIFICANT departure from his previous teen-flick screenplays for “Allegiant” and “The Maze Runner” – is both tight and thought-provoking.  

Overall, a recommended watch which comes with a prediction:  “And the Oscar goes to… Natalie Portman”.

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Only in America…. JFK Jnr gets given a toy gun on his 3rd birthday three days after the assassination.

Finally, note that for those of a squeamish disposition, there is a very graphic depiction of the assassination from Jackie’s point-of-view….  but this is not until nearly the end of the film, so you are reasonably safe until then!

Also as a final general whinge, could directors PLEASE place an embargo on the logos of more than two production companies coming up at the start of a film?  This has about six of them and is farcical, aping the (very amusing) parody in “Family Guy” (as shown here).

Fad Rating: FFFFf.

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Posted in Film Review

One Mann’s Movies Film Review: Allegiant (2016)

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Shailene Woodley is one of my favourite young actresses.  Ever since she did that dramatic ‘crying-underwater’ scene in “The Descendents” she’s been someone to watch.  And, while it was another “Hunger Games” wannabe – “Divergent” was a good story, well acted and with good visual effects. 

Unfortunately the series has progressively gone downhill: “Insurgent” was poor but coherent; and now “Allegiant” is both poor and mind-numbing.

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Superman and Batman had done the usual with the city’s skyscrapers, but glazing contractor Four has time for one last snog before getting back to work.

After the revelations at the end of “Insurgent” Tris (Shailene Woodley), Four (Theo James), Christina (Zoë Kravitz), Peter (Miles Teller), Caleb (Ansel Elgort) and Tori (Maggie Q) defy Chicago leader Evelyn (Naomi Watts) and make a dash for escape beyond the Chicago walls to find those living beyond in the alleged wilderness. There they meet ‘Pure’ leader David (the ever-busy Jeff Daniels) and his acolytes. According to David, Tris is key to the world’s recovery.  But can he be trusted?  

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Tris and Four were keen on practising safe sex, but it was difficult to see how the extra safe condoms were ever going to work.

It is telling that every screenwriter in this series has been different, and this time Noah Oppenheim (from the similar “Maze Runner”) with Adam Cooper and Bill Collage (from “Exodus: God and Kings”) have the pen, but do little positive with it. Much of the dialog clunks onto the ground much like the leaden transports featured in the film. And some of the plot points are obvious beyond belief. No real spoilers here, but when one of the lead characters gets shot it was so blindingly obvious that it was about to happen that I audibly groaned with disbelief that the writers had so little respect for the audience.

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The dynamic team O’Haring it out of Chicago (geddit?).

As another example of bone-headed writing a nerve gas used in the film is so much heavier than air that it sits on the floor for minutes at a time. How will they ever escape in Chicago?  (Erm – climb up to a second floor perhaps?). Presumably everyone was OK since they only got a small dose… so were just ‘a bit’ brain damaged?  

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Miles Teller as the ever-reliable Peter.

The special effects are pretty ropey in places. Some of the green screen work (an early shot with Miles Teller in particular) is really poor. Just about nothing looks real.

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They’d been walking down Weston-Super-Mare beach for three days now but had still not reached the sea.

The director is Robert Schwentke (“Insurgent”; “Flightplan”; “The Time Traveller’s Wife”) but this doesn’t extend his reputation (apart from presumably with the studios, since poor as it is it’ll no doubt still attract an audience).

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Eyes down gents for a gratuitous cleavage shot. Fans of the shapely Woodley will be pleased to hear she has her own Ursula Andress/Dr No detox scene to enjoy.

Shailene Woodley does herself credit with the material she has and has chemistry with the hunk of the piece, Oxford-born Theo James. But she is far better than this stuff. Unfortunately, this series doesn’t end as a trilogy: she will be back again as Tris is “Ascendent” in 2017. But before then she has a starring role in Oliver Stone’s Edward Snowden biopic, so hopefully can prove herself there.

Fad Rating: FF.