Posts Tagged ‘Chloe Sevigny’

Transactional Dynamics

Beatriz at Dinner

Director: Miguel Arteta

Cast: Salma Hayek, John Lithgow, Connie Britton, Jay Duplass, Chloe Sevigny, Amy Landecker, David Warshofsky

Puerto Rican director Miguel Arteta directs Oscar nominee Salma Hayek (Frida) in an insightful comedy of manners Beatriz at Dinner which also stars Connie Britton, Chloe Sevigny and John Lithgow.

It is so refreshing to see Salma Hayek take on a more unconventional role in an arthouse film which had its premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival http://www.sundance.org/festivals/sundance-film-festival/

Beatriz is a struggling massage therapist, a Mexican immigrant to a California who also works at a Cancer centre in Santa Monica. Beatriz loves animals and is deeply distressed when her goat dies, supposedly killed by a neighbour. After spending most of the day at the Cancer centre she has one last appointment: at the home of a wealthy woman Kathy’s whose plush and spacious residence in a gated community overlooking the Pacific in Newport Beach, California, which proves to be Beatriz’s emotional untangling.

Connie Britton from the hit TV show Nashville plays sickly sweet Kathy who initially treats Beatriz as one of her special paid friends even though she is essentially her Mexican massage therapist.

Things go haywire when Beatriz’s old car fades on her and she is left stranded at this gorgeous home where Kathy insists she must stay for a very glamorous dinner party. Caterers have been brought in, the Mexican maid is ready to answer the door and the well-heeled guests include ruthless property developer Doug Strutt wonderfully played with that obnoxious temperament by Oscar nominee John Lithgow (Terms of Endearment).

Among the other guests are Alex played by Jay Duplass and his fabulous wife Shannon played with the cool American chic by Oscar nominee Chloe Sevigny (Boys Don’t Cry).

Kathy’s husband Grant is hosting Doug Strutt to celebrate the ground breaking of a massive property development. As the evening progresses, Beatriz, a cat among the pigeons, sets everyone’s affluent artificiality on edge when she begins questioning their extravagant lifestyles and dubious moral choices.

The scenes between Salma Hayek and John Lithgow are particularly illuminating and form the backbone of a razor sharp film about class and socio-political transactional dynamics. About them and us.

About Beatriz realizing that in corporate America, ruled by a Trump presidency, there exists ruthless businessmen who will stop at nothing to obtain obscene wealth despite the environmental impact of building commercial resorts and hotels in poverty-stricken paradises like Guatemala and parts of Mexico, which have absolutely no benefit to the indigenous communities.

Salma Hayek is sensational in Beatriz at Dinner a return to her dazzling ability to portray eccentric characters like she did as the title role of Frida, director Julie Taymor’s colourful film about the acclaimed Mexican artist and revolutionary Frida Kahlo. Salma Hayek definitely needs to make more arthouse films whereby her unique acting abilities can really shine through.

Beatriz at Dinner is a wonderfully poignant film, a gentle reminder that when seated at a dinner table everyone’s true identity is revealed especially after a three course meal coupled with several glasses of Californian chardonnay.

Despite the contrived plot device of a broken down car, Beatriz at Dinner is an insightful portrayal of contemporary America and receives a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

 

 

Notorious Norway

The Snowman

Director: Tomas Alfredson

Cast: Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chloe Sevigny, Val Kilmer, J. K. Simmons, James D’Arcy, Toby Jones, Jonas Karlsson, Jakob Oftebro, David Dencik

Norwegian novelist Jo Nesbo’s thriller The Snowman is brought to cinematic life by Iranian screenwriter Hossein Amini and co-written by Peter Staughan. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy director Tomas Alfredson brings this bleak Norwegian thriller to the big screen with a constantly icy landscape concerning a ruthless and psychopathic serial killer who kills his victims every time the snow begins falling, which in a Scandinavian winter, would be consistently often.

Assembling an international cast including Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave, Steve Jobs) as hard-drinking detective Harry Hole opposite art house actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, the muse of Danish auteur Lars von Trier who starred in such films as Anti-Christ and Nymphomaniac as his ex-girlfriend Rakel, personally I had high hopes for this thriller being a captivating cinematic experience. My criticism is that in The Snowman, the character relationships were not clearly defined, which made navigating this thriller virtually impossible.

Having not read the Jo Nesbo novel, I found this film version slightly lacklustre especially in the slow moving first half. Despite a refreshing change of watching an entire film shot in Norway, The Snowman didn’t quite pack the same verve as David Fincher’s utterly compelling film version of Stieg Larsson’s blockbuster thriller The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Rebecca Ferguson who appeared in Life and Florence Foster Jenkins also stars as co-detective Kathrine Bratt who is harbouring secrets of her own especially as she tries to entice Norwegian businessman Arve Stop played by Oscar winner J. K. Simmons (Whiplash) into a honey trap, since he has a peculiar penchant for photographing beautiful girls. Rarely seen actor Val Kilmer (Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Heat and Pollock) makes a welcome comeback as Gert Rafto a Bergen based detective following a similar murder case years earlier.

While The Snowman’s narrative visibility is as convoluted as the blurry icy landscape of Oslo and Bergen, the acting comes off as flat and uninspired. Which is a great pity considering the film’s acting talent.

Fassbender does a reasonably good job of bringing some dimension to Harry Hole, the lonely but observant detective, however one gets the sense that he fully was committed to the role as he was in director Justin Kurzel’s Macbeth.

Perhaps the reason for my lukewarm response to this supposedly icy thriller was that I had a nightmarish cinematic experience coupled with expectations that director Tomas Alfredson would make an equally impressive film as his gripping adaptation of John le Carre’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

The Snowman for all its gripping plot-twists, peppered with gruesome murders, gets a film rating of 6.5 out of 10.

 

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