Posts Tagged ‘Dermot Mulroney’

In the Hands of a Stranger

The Mountain Between Us

Director: Hany Abu-Assad

Cast: Kate Winslet, Idris Elba, Beau Bridges, Dermot Mulroney

Based upon the novel by Charles Martin, The Mountain Between Us tentatively explores the strained relationship between two strangers who are stranded together on a remote mountain near the Rockies as their two seater plane crashes en route to Denver Colorado from Idaho.

Directed by Hany Abu-Assad who brought such strong films including the Oscar Nominated Foreign Language film Paradise Now and Omar to the international cinema audiences, The Mountain Between Us is held together literally by strong performances by Oscar winner Kate Winslet (The Reader) and Idris Elba (Prometheus, Pacific Rim) who play Alex and Ben.

Alex is trying to get to New York to marry her fiancée Mark briefly played by Dermot Mulroney (Truth, August: Osage County and Stoker), while Ben, a neurosurgeon, is planning on being in New York to perform an operation on a boy with a brain tumour.

As the trailer suggests, things go horribly wrong and Alex and Ben are left stranded on an icy mountain in the Rockies with only themselves to depend upon. At their wits end and with no hint of rescue insight they manage to assist each other in escaping the mountain for safer ground and search for any form of human habitation.

Naturally as their flight to safety becomes increasingly more perilous they began to not only trust each other but also gradually fall in love, despite being complete strangers.

Which goes to show that at the core of human relationships is a basic desire for survival. That desire outstrips any prejudice and preconceived notions of who is best equipped to survive, something which director Abu-Assad took great pains to reveal to the audience.

The Mountain Between Us could have been a brilliant film, but unfortunately it does get weighed down by its own emotional intensity which is a too heavy  and long winded considering that there really are two actors in the entire film.

Swift editing and some effective character backstory would have made Alex and Ben’s fight for survival more fascinating and pertinent. 1 hour and 52 minutes is way too long for two people and a dog to be stranded on a mountain.

The film gets a rating of 7 out of 10 and is recommended for audiences that enjoy romantic disaster films which are rare to say the least.

 

Oklahoma’s Malevolent Matriarch

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August: Osage County

Director: John Wells

Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, Julianne Nicholson, Ewan McGregor, Dermot Mulroney, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin, Sam Shepard

The Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tracy Letts, August: Osage County comes to the big screen with a stunning ensemble cast headed by the incomparable and superb Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady, Devil Wears Prada) as the pill popping matriarch of the Oklahoma based Weston family, who all gather together when Violet Weston, a malevolent matriarch played by Streep alerts her clan to the sudden and inexplicable disappearance of her heavy drinking poet husband, Bev Weston, a brief appearance by Sam Shepard. Oscar winner Julia Roberts plays the feisty eldest daughter Barbara who drags her straitlaced husband Bill Fordham played by Ewan McGregor and their teenage daughter Jean played by Little Miss Sunshine star Abigail Breslin.

Incidentally the playwright Tracy Letts is also an actor who recently appeared on the Award winning show Homeland. His take on an all female dysfunctional family in his award winning play is both perceptive and wonderfully written with Streep and Roberts savouring some of the best lines like – “Bitch, eat your Fish!”

August: Osage County takes themes of addiction, inter-generational communication along with family secrets and rivalry to new heights as the entire Weston clan gather, but the plot is really anchored by the fierce exchanges between a disorientated Violet and her outspoken daughter Barbara, in a career best performance by Julia Roberts. Streep earned her 18th Oscar nomination in 2014 for her almost tragic yet bitter performance of Violet Weston, a woman who clearly has not had an easy life on the mid-Western plans and has to cope with all the hardships including bringing up three daughters and an inebriated poet as a husband.

Julia Roberts (Erin Brokovich, Eat, Pray, Love) also earned a 2014 Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her brilliant performance as Barbara, a woman whose marriage is failing and is battling to cope with a rebellious teenage daughter, an uncooperative cheating husband and a matriarchal and incredibly demanding mother. The onscreen tension between Violet and Barbara is beautifully played out against the vast Oklahoma plains, with the landscape providing an emotional resonance to all the familial conflict that the Weston gathering produces where everyone’s own miserable secrets, faults and deceptions soon come to light amidst the hottest month of summer: August.

Director John Wells interweaves the chaotic scenes at the Weston mansion in rural Oklahoma with gorgeous shots of the mid-Western plains, giving a sense that these characters are grappling with not only their own turmoil but their unique identities apart from those prescribed by being part of a larger family group. And what a family it is.

Violet Weston’s two other daughters are the pacifying Ivy played by Julianne Nicholson and the free-spirited youngest Karen, played by Oscar nominee Juliette Lewis (Cape Fear) both of whom have to heed the dominance of their mother and eldest sister, along with the bitter rivalry which ensues.

As with all plays that are turned into film adaptation, much like the four character play Doubt, August: Osage County drives its narrative purely through an electrifying and barbed script, with Streep and Roberts delivering some vicious one-liners. The rest of the cast including Chris Cooper as Uncle Charlie and Margo Martindale, Benedict Cumberbatch (12 Years a Slave) and Dermot Mulroney provide a theatrical sounding board for the predominantly female driven story of rivalry, deception and loneliness.

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What elevates August: Ossage County out of pure melodrama, although some aspects of the plot are questionable, is the groundbreaking and utterly absorbing performance of Streep and Roberts as mother and daughter Violet and Barbara fighting each other and their own apparent faults significant in the touching scene when they are both wondering aimlessly through an Oklahoma hayfield. This onscreen rivalry ironically is a reversal of Streep’s performance opposite Shirley Maclaine as Hollywood daughter and mother in the 1990 film about drug addiction, Postcards from the Edge based upon the best selling novel by Carrie Fisher of Star Wars fame.

August: Osage County is a compelling family drama, at times hysterical, at times poignant but a wonderful and incisive examination of a complex family dynamic which forces each member to  come to grips with their own flaws whilst becoming aware of a collective sense of misery, loss and impending loneliness. This film is a master class in ensemble acting and highly recommended viewing.

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