Posts Tagged ‘Ellen Burstyn’

Damaging Boundaries

The Tale

Director: Jennifer Fox

Cast: Laura Dern, Ellen Burstyn, Common, Jason Ritter, Elizabeth Debicki, Frances Conroy, Isabelle Nelisse, John Heard

Spoiler Alert Valid until airing on M-Net on Monday 6th August 2018

Please note that this is a Made for TV film and will not be released in commercial cinemas.

Documentary filmmaker Jennifer Fox creates a searing autobiographical film called The Tale which had its South African premiere at the Durban International Film Festival DIFF 2018 https://www.durbanfilmfest.co.za/.

The Tale features a superb performance by Emmy and Golden Globe winner Laura Dern (Big Little Lies) who plays a fictionalized version of director Jennifer Fox who has to confront strange and uncomfortable memories of her past as a young girl, when her mother played by Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore) discovers a story she wrote when she was thirteen about an illicit affair that she had with a creepy gym coach, 40 year old divorcee Bill played with suitably skin-crawling detail by Jason Ritter.

As the narrative of The Tale unwinds through a series of carefully constructed flashbacks, Jennifer is forced to confront the fact that while she was doing horse riding on a farm in the Carolina’s with the strict Mrs G, crisply played by The Night Manager star Elizabeth Debicki (The Great Gatsby) she was not only groomed for child abuse but becoming the victim.

The Tale confronts in horrific detail the strange and bizarre almost Lolita like affair that Bill initiates  with the young Jennifer expertly played by Isabelle Nelisse in many scenes that would be deeply disturbing to sensitive viewers.

Released by HBO films, The Tale is a made for Television film. Director Jennifer Fox beautifully reveals to audiences the nature of memory and the action taken by the grown-up Jennifer to confront her abuser. This significant film is a harrowing and brave account of child abuse which is especially pertinent in the era of the #MeToo Campaign.

Anchored by nuanced performances by both Dern who is nominated again at the 2018 Emmy Awards and Ellen Burstyn, The Tale is highly recommended viewing and intelligently explores the elusive nature of forgotten childhood memories which frequently blur the lines of morality and shows that any form of abuse damages boundaries both psychologically and sexually.

The Tale won Best Screenplay at DIFF 2018 and is also nominated for Best Limited Series or TV Movie at the Primetime Emmy Awards which is taking place in September 2018. The Tale will be aired on the South African subscription channel M-Net on Monday 6th August 2018.

The Tale gets a film rating of 8 out of 10.

 

 

 

Immune to the Ravages of Time

The Age of Adaline

age_of_adaline

Director: Lee Toland Krieger

Cast: Blake Lively, Harrison Ford, Michiel Huisman, Kathy Baker, Ellen Burstyn, Amanda Crew, Mark Ghanime, Peter J. Gray

Set in San Francisco, The Age of Adaline gives Blake Lively a chance to play her hand at romance after being seen in Oliver Stone’s film Savages. It’s also the first major commercial film for rising Dutch star Michiel Huisman who has become famous for his sexy appearances in HBO’s Game of Thrones and Nashville.

Huisman and Lively make a beautiful couple onscreen even if there is no real tangible chemistry between them. It also does not help that The Age of Adaline is trying to emulate David Fincher’s Oscar nominated film about aging The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which while beautifully shot was really a homage to New Orleans.

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In this rather sepia light, director Lee Toland Krieger’s romantic drama The Age of Adaline is a homage to probably the most romantic city in America, San Francisco, as the film beautifully captures some wonderful aerial shots of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay. Early on in the film due to a unique scientific accident, the heroine Adaline Bowman discovers quite extraordinarily that she is immune to the ravages of time.

The ageless Adaline due to her gorgeous appearance is forced to change her identity every ten years which is going swimmingly well until she meets a tall dark handsome stranger Ellis Jones, sensitively played by Huisman, who let’s face it, like Lively, looks stunning onscreen.

The determined Ellis Jones encourages Adaline to come home with him one weekend to meet his parents and celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. In an entirely contrived and almost implausible Danielle Steele sort of way, upon their arrival at the upstate home of Ellis’s parents, his father suitably played by Harrison Ford (Regarding Henry, Star Wars) recognizes Adaline as the girl he once fell in love with back in the early 1960’s in England.

In the hands of a more skilled director, The Age of Adaline would have become a very intriguing romantic drama, but unfortunately the central contrivance of the entire narrative is so glaringly obvious that only for the sake of vanity could this film conclude with a happy ending. Vanity and memory are two themes that the film explores in depth.

Nevertheless, despite the plot shortages on both sides of the San Francisco Bay, The Age of Adaline is a stunning film to watch and will appeal to all lovers of romance and those that enjoyed such films as the quirky Richard Curtis comedy About Time and of course The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Unfortunately, such talented actresses as Oscar winner Ellen Burstyn (Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Requiem for a Dream) and Kathy Baker (Jacknife, The Cider House Rules, Saving Mr Banks) are wasted in this foggy romantic drama, which is as vague as the sighting of a comet near earth in the distant future.

The Age of Adaline had two gorgeous stars, plus an A-List megastar like Ford but unfortunately while beautiful to watch, lacked a firmer direction, which is a pity since the film did not fulfill its complete potential.

The Lazarus Missions

Interstellar

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Director: Christopher Nolan

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, Wes Bentley, Ellen Burstyn, David Oyelowo, Topher Grace, Timothee Chalamet

Memento meets Gravity in director Christopher Nolan’s epic space opera, Interstellar, a convoluted time travel astrophysical fantasy about a NASA astronaut who gets caught up in a mission to travel to an alternative Galaxy in a bid to save the remaining humanity on earth from a dwindling supply of oxygen.

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Assembling an all star cast is what director Nolan does best at insuring that his films have credibility as a blockbuster and with a range of stars, yet unlike Inception or The Prestige, his earlier films which dealt with dreams and magic, Interstellar tends to emulate the great director Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece: 2001: A Space Odyssey, yet falls short of its celestial aspirations, by not being a touch more sinister.

In parts, Interstellar is brilliant and ambitious, wonderfully scored with atmospheric music by Hans Zimmer and incredibly shot with those signature spiralling shots that Nolan is so fond of. However, Interstellar suffers from two shortcomings, taking the films weighty significance too seriously and secondly a serious lack of editing. The first and last sections of Interstellar weighs down the brilliance and absolute clarity of the middle section.

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With McConaughey fresh from his Oscar win on Dallas Buyers Club coupled with Hathaway fresh from her win in Les Miserables it seems like a perfect casting choice, but it’s flawed by its very contrivance. The part which does stand out so brilliantly is that of Murphy superbly played by the underrated Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain as Cooper’s grownup and embittered daughter who is hell bent in following in her father’s footsteps and traveling beyond the black hole to discover the reason for the earth’s imminent demise. Watch out for cameo appearances by Ellen Burstyn, Wes Bentley and David Oyelowo.

Fellow Oscar nominee Casey Affleck is also good as the stubborn yet stoical brother of Murphy in a part which is severely underwritten along with that of Oscar winner Michael Caine as Professor Brand who plays Hathaway’s enigmatic father, a scientist who masterminds the space exploration from the outset knowing that the intended consequences of such a doomed mission are dire and certainly revelatory at best.

Interstellar ‘s post-structural narrative gets more blurred, the further the astronauts travel through a celestial wormhole, around a vast system known as Gargantuan, soon realizing that their mission much like their own destiny is doomed to fail, resulting in a multitude of Lazarus missions.

The only subversive element is a rescued astronaut Mann, wonderfully played by Matt Damon, found on a frozen wasteland of a planet which seems to be the only alternative to the dust clad environment of a doomed earth, who is wily in his attempts to escape his icy predicament.

With a script by Jonathan Nolan, Interstellar suffers from too little said and not enough explained, while most of the narrative rests on some remarkably clever visual clues which only make sense in the last section of the film, which resembles a pastiche of Inception mixed with an unquantifiable mystical factor.

The cast with a threadbare script had little else to work on besides their own doomed destinies and the terrors of space. Thus there is loads of human anguish thrown in along with some stunning visuals, but at nearly three hours long Interstellar could have been expertly edited to make a more concise tale of 21st century doomed space exploration. Besides Anne Hathaway just doesn’t cut it as an astronaut and should stick to period dramas, where at least the claustrophobia is explained by historical context and not subliminal infinity.

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As an avid fan of Christopher Nolan films and trust me I loved The Dark Knight Trilogy and Inception, I personally found Interstellar fascinating yet an ultimately flawed and slightly contrived piece of cinema crippled by its unendurable length, without enough plot twists to generate sufficient audience excitement. Like Inception, Interstellar will certainly be open to discussion.

 

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