Posts Tagged ‘Gabriel Basso’

American Melancholy

Hillbilly Elegy

Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Basso, Haley Bennett, Freida Pinto, Owen Asztalos

This film is only available on Netflix

Frost/ Nixon and Rush director Ron Howard brings to life J. D. Vance’s autobiographical tale Hillbilly Elegy to the screen featuring superb performances by Oscar nominees Amy Adams (The Fighter, American Hustle, Vice) and the wonderfully talented Glenn Close (The Wife, Dangerous Liaisons, Albert Nobbs) as mother and daughter. Amy Adams plays the troubled mother Bev, a nurse in Ohio who has a heroin addiction and is trying to keep her young family together, namely her daughter Lindsay played by Haley Bennett (Rules Don’t Apply, The Girl on the Train) and J. D. played by the talented Gabriel Basso (Super 8, The Whole Truth).

Glenn Close plays Bev’s mother and grandmother to her two children, the matriarchal Mamaw who ultimately steps in to raise the young J.D. when he is a boy, the younger version brilliantly played by Owen Asztalos who holds his own in some heart wrenching scenes between Amy Adams and Glenn Close.

The adult J. D. has completed law school at Yale in Connecticut and is about to be interviewed for his first legal appointment as a junior attorney at law. Before he gets to that interview in the prestigious and affluent environment of Yale in Connecticut he has to head back to Middleton in Ohio to deal with his mother Bev, expertly played by Amy Adams who has had a relapse on heroin.

J. D. doesn’t come from a wealthy family but through his grandmother’s encouragement, he studied hard, worked to pay the bills and got into law school. He was determined to escape the trap of cyclic poverty that his mother and grandmother had been trapped in.

His beautiful girlfriend Usha is back home in Connecticut awaiting for his return and is played by Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto. J. D. has kept the divide between affluent Connecticut and his Hillbilly past very distinctive by not sharing his violent upbringing in Jackson, Kentucky or Middleton, Ohio with Usha.

Hillbilly Elegy is told through a series of childhood flashbacks to a younger J. D. as he had to deal with his mother’s erratic behaviour, which provides some brilliant scenes between Owen Asztalos and experienced Hollywood actresses Glenn Close and Amy Adams.

What makes Glenn Close’s performance as the chain smoking Hillbilly matriarch so brilliant is that she is playing it against type, a struggling grandmother who gets meals on wheels and barely has enough cash to feed her grandson.

Close’s performance is astounding, a far cry from her lavish and equally superb performances in The Wife, as Sunny von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune and her breakout performance as the scheming Marquise de Merteuil in the Oscar winning French drama Dangerous Liaisons. Glenn Close has never won an Oscar and she deserves to win for this supporting performance in Hillbilly Elegy.

Hillbilly Elegy is a melancholic look back at one man’s struggle to lift himself out of poverty and the immense impression his mother and grandmother made on his life and how he overcome his dire circumstances to rise up and join the professional classes while never dismissing his impoverished heritage.

Hillbilly Elegy gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is recommended viewing for those that love a good family drama.

Louisiana Legality

The Whole Truth

Director: Courtney Hunt

Cast: Keanu Reeves, Renee Zellweger, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, James Belushi, Gabriel Basso, Jim Klock, Christopher Berry, Ritchie Montgomery

The technique of a voice over in a film normally endears the audience to that particular person or characters point of view.

The voice over is effectively used in director Courtney Hunt Louisiana Legal thriller The Whole Truth starring Keanu Reeves (John Wick, The Devil’s Advocate and Dangerous Liaisons) as hotshot defence attorney Richard Ramsey who is called upon to defend the son of a murder victim, Mike Lassiter played by Gabriel Basso (Super 8). The murder victim is the misogynistic Louisiana lawyer Boone Lassiter played with relish by James Belushi who audiences glimpse in a series of carefully timed flashbacks.

The voice and the character’s viewpoint belongs to Ramsey so immediately audience’s perceptions of guilt and innocence are framed through his skewed and cynical viewpoint.

To add some diversity to an otherwise bland white middle class legal drama is British star Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Concussion) appearance as Ramsay’s second chair Janelle Brady who is suspicious of the entire legal process, not least of all Ramsay’s close relationship with the defendant’s mother the sultry yet seemingly innocent Loretta Lassiter played with sufficient mystery by Oscar winner Renee Zellweger (Cold Mountain) who is back on the big screen after a hiatus.

Zellweger who has undergone a significant transformation as an actress since her performances in Chicago, Nurse Betty and her recent hits with the Bridget Jones trilogy, plays the battered Southern belle to perfection. While the screen chemistry between Reeves and Zellweger is questionable, The Whole Truth is hardly Body Heat or Basic Instinct, then the film’s startling narrative was never intended to be sexually provocative.

Frozen River director Courtney Hunt is determined to explore all the legal technicalities of a murder trial including undercutting the testimony of eye witnesses and shifting the validity of a clear timeline of events which lead to the horrible Boone Lassiter being stabbed in the heart in the marital bedroom, indicative of a serious crime of passion. It is refreshing to see so many female directors making interesting films these days and The Whole Truth is certainly entertaining with its complex portrayal of Louisiana legalities.

The Whole Truth is a fascinating courtroom drama, with sufficient amounts of twists and allegations to keep fans of legal thrillers guessing right up to the last frame. However, the film does not elevate itself into the realm of a truly remarkable thriller such as Richard Marquand’s The Jagged Edge with Glenn Close and Jeff Bridges or Primal Fear featuring an Oscar worthy turn by Edward Norton as the accused altar boy Aaron.

In the case of Louisiana versus Mike Lassiter, Keanu Reeves’s voice over as the slimy lawyer Richard Ramsey lulls audiences into a false sense of justice.

The Whole Truth gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 elevated by a notable performance by Gabriel Basso as the illustrative accused Mike Lassiter. Fans of courtroom dramas will certainly enjoy this American thriller set in St Bernard’s Parish near New Orleans.

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