Posts Tagged ‘Haley Bennett’

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.

Deconstructing Howard Hughes

Rules Don’t Apply

Director: Warren Beatty

Cast: Lily Collins, Warren Beatty, Alden Ehrenreich, Matthew Broderick, Candice Bergen, Annette Bening, Haley Bennett, Hart Bochner, Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, Alec Baldwin, Taissa Farmiga, Oliver Platt

Legendary actor Warren Beatty returns after an almost fifteen year screen absence with his Hollywood film Rules Don’t Apply as he deftly deconstructs the later years of Howard Hughes in Hollywood in the mid-1960’s.

If Martin Scorsese’s Oscar winning film The Aviator about reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes is the starting point then Rules Don’t Apply should be the bookmark on an extraordinary man whose legendary eccentricity almost exceeded his insurmountable wealth.

Unfortunately despite a handsome production design, Rules Don’t Apply should have garnered more critical acclaim than it got. The Warren Beatty film got released in the midst of Hollywood’s diversity debate and then to add to unwarranted attention Beatty and Bonnie and Clyde co-star Faye Dunaway got caught in one of the biggest live Television mix-up’s in Oscar history – the mistaken announcement of Best Picture at the 2017 Oscar Awards when they incorrectly announced that Damien Chazelle’s La La Land had won Best Picture when in fact Barry Jenkins’s film Moonlight walked away with the coveted trophy much to the world’s astonishment.

Personally I loved Rules Don’t Apply and have always been a fan of Warren Beatty’s work from his Robert Altman film McCabe and Mrs Miller opposite Julie Christie to his later work opposite his wife Annette Bening in Bugsy.

What really shines through in Rules Don’t Apply are the outstanding performances of the two young stars Lily Collins and Alden Ehrenreich who was so brilliant in the Coen brothers skit film Hail, Caesar!

Beatty’s performance as Howard Hughes is superb and he captures the idiosyncratic obsessive compulsive nature of the truly eccentric billionaire who invested his inherited Texan oil drilling wealth in films and aviation, even becoming acquiring a majority share in Trans World Airlines TWA. However, Hughes developed a severely debilitating obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) so aptly portrayed by both Beatty in Rules Don’t Apply and by Leonardo diCaprio in The Aviator. Howard Hughes’s OCD  caused his lifestyle to become increasingly erratic and reclusive.

Hughes’s continuous occupation with flying around the world, his bizarre womanizing and his globetrotting adventures are all perfectly captured in Rules Don’t Apply as the film’s action moves from California to Acapulco to Nicaragua and to London then back to Washington D. C.

With his immense wealth, Hughes hired dozens of would be starlets to come to L. A. and be in one of his films, all expenses paid including accommodation at lavish Hollywood Hills homes. Lily Collins plays Marla Mabry a pampered and conservative young girl who comes to Hollywood to be wooed by Hughes and star in one of his pictures. Her natural attraction for her dashing young chauffeur is clearly evident upon their first meeting. Alden Ehrenreich plays Frank Forbes, the young entrepreneurial chauffeur who immediately takes a fancy to the naive star-struck Marla.  Although both of these young people are living in the shadow of an eccentric billionaire who is supporting their stay in Los Angeles.

A bizarre love triangle develops between Marla, Frank and Howard Hughes, the latter being three times the age of the naïve young starlet who is seduced in a bungalow at the Beverley Hills Hilton after imbibing copious amounts of champagne.

Rules Don’t Apply has a fabulous and glamorous old fashioned charm which is conveyed throughout the film ably assisted with smooth direction by Beatty who also casts some veteran supporting actors including Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now), Candice Bergen (Gandhi) and an excellent performance by Matthew Broderick (The Producers).

This Hollywood biopic which deconstructs the eccentric Howard Hughes gets a rating of 9 out of 10.

Essentially, Rules Don’t Apply about an extraordinarily bizarre billionaire makes for fascinating viewing. Highly recommended especially if viewers have seen The Aviator.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Hughes

 

 

 

Off the Rails

The Girl on the Train

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Director: Tate Taylor

Cast: Emily Blunt, Haley Bennett, Rebecca Ferguson, Justin Theroux, Luke Evans, Edgar Ramirez, Laura Pepron, Allison Janney, Lisa Kudrow

The Help director Tate Taylor tackles the cinematic adaptation of Paula Hawkins shocking suburban thriller The Girl on the Train which had book clubs the world over guessing what really occurred.

Golden Globe nominee Emily Blunt plays the prying and lonely Rachel, a boozing thirtysomething woman who is recovering from her failed marriage to the malevolent Tom, played by the rakish Justin Theroux (Mulholland Drive).

As Rachel travels the trains between suburban New York and the city, she watches Megan Hipwell, wonderfully played by the gorgeous rising star Haley Bennett (The Magnificent Seven, The Equalizer) as she pouts from her sumptuous home while playing coy with her hunky husband, Scott played by Luke Evans.

The action of the novel takes place in suburban Oxford which is Americanized to suburban upstate New York in the film. Soon the plot begins to unravel as Megan through a series of flashbacks is portrayed as a mixed up bored housewife who appears to be having an affair with her dashing psycho therapist, played by Edgar Ramirez (Point Break, Zero Dark Thirty).

The manipulative Tom has moved on from the sad and pesky Rachel and is now living with the doll-faced Anna, played with an uncharacteristic blandness by Swedish star Rebecca Ferguson who was so brilliant in Florence Foster Jenkins and Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation.

Then the unthinkable happens in a seemingly ordinary suburb: the beautiful Megan goes missing and Rachel for her desire to get involved in a mystery besides the real reason she is sipping martinis all day, is soon embroiled in a dangerous murder where she can’t quite remember what really happened on that fateful night when Megan Hipwell disappeared.

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The Girl on The Train is a book club novel made into a Book club film, with a brilliant performance by Emily Blunt and suitably adequate performances by all three of the hunky male co-stars. However the best performance is certainly by Haley Bennett as the doomed but utterly sultry Megan Hipwell, who is the victim of a terrible crime.

Audiences should watch out for great supporting roles by Allison Janney as a tough cop and Lisa Kudrow as the woman who unlocks the real reason why Rachel and Tom’s marriage went off the rails.

The Girl on the Train is recommended viewing but audiences should be warned this film is not as gripping as the brilliant David Fincher suburban thriller Gone Girl, which featured an Oscar nominated performance by Rosamund Pike. Nevertheless this is an entertaining and watchable thriller saved by excellent performances by Emily Blunt and Haley Bennett.

 

 

Reclaiming the West

The Magnificent Seven

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Director:  Antoine Fuqua

Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pratt, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, Haley Bennett, Peter Sarsgaard, Manuel Garcia-Rulfo, Luke Grimes, Matt Bomer, Martin Sensmeier, Cam Gigandet

Antoine Fuqua gathers his favourite actors into his latest impressive film.

In Fuqua’s bespoke remake of John Sturgeon’s 1960 classic film The Magnificent Seven, as an African American film director he reclaims the Western genre in a bold step towards reimagining American Western mythology which will surely shape how cinema goers view the Western film genre.

Gone are the days of Western films primarily being made up of morally dubious cowboys mostly played by dashing European actors fighting savage Red Indians or each other in high noon stand offs.

Director Fuqua’s superb The Magnificent Seven is as diverse as Westerns come, showing that while perceptions of the American West have largely been Eurocentric, the real history of the American West was far more complex.

The setting is Rose Creek, California in 1879. A small dusty town a three day ride away from the Californian state capital Sacramento, at the height of the Gold Rush.

Rose Creek is being tormented by a malicious industrialist Bartholomew Bogue wonderfully played against type by character actor Peter Sarsgaard (Blue Jasmine), who not only burns down the moral centre of the town, the church, but casually kills some its town folk, much to the horror of the remaining witnesses.

Rose Creek’s town representative, a feisty widow Emma Cullen, played by rising star Haley Bennett enlists the help of sharp shooter Chisolm, expertly played by Oscar winner Denzel Washington (Training Day, Glory).

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Chisolm gathers a motley crew of cowboys and one red Indian, consisting of the heavy drinking Irishman Josh Faraday, comically played by Chris Pratt, sharp shooter Goodnight Robicheaux played by Ethan Hawke (Training Day, Before Sunrise), lonesome tracker Jack Horne played by Vincent D’Onofrio, Billy Rocks played by Korean star Byung-hun Lee, Vasquez, played by rising Mexican star Manual Garcia-Rulfo last seen in Cake opposite Jennifer Aniston and finally Native American actor Martin Sensmeier who plays Comanche Indian Red Harvest.

With the gang in tow and the town folk galvanized for action, audiences should expect the final gun battle of Rose creek to be thrilling. Fortunately this is where The Magnificent Seven delivers as the final act of the film is truly brilliant, with superb sound editing and haunting production design, Fuqua pays homage to the original version and to the genre as a whole while deftly reimagining Westerns as a more diverse and multi-cultural affair.

Not since the Coen brothers reworking of the Oscar nominated True Grit, have I enjoyed a Western as much. The Magnificent Seven does justice to its genre assisted by superb performances by Washington and Sarsgaard as opponents with a vicious score to settle.

Audiences that enjoyed James Mangold’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers True Grit, will love Antoine Fuqua’s The Magnificent Seven as he reclaims the Western genre and hopefully opens the doors for this much loved film genre to be bravely re-explored in the 21st century. This is a genre which desperately needs a Hollywood resurgence.

Now if only a director could tackle a film version of Cormac McCarthy’s brutal tale of the Mexican frontier wars in his gripping Western novel, Blood Meridian, then that would be a film worth seeing.

Mediterranean Avant-Garde

Lost in the White City

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Directors: Tanner King Barklow and Gil Kofman

Cast: Thomas Dekker, Haley Bennett, Bob Morley, Noni Geffen, Tawfeek Barhom

Co-directed by Tanner King Barklow (The Invisible War) and Israeli Gil Kofman, Lost in the White City is a fascinating film about a couple’s relationship which disintegrates during a Mediterranean summer in the capital of Tel Aviv. Lost in the White City had its South African premiere at the 5th Durban Gay and Lesbian Film Festival DGLFF

Lost in the White City stars rising Indie actor Thomas Dekker as the hard drinking self-obsessed experimental film maker Kyle and Haley Bennett (The Equalizer) as the gorgeous aspiring writer Eva, who as the film opens, it is evident that their relationship is compromised.

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Soon Kyle and Eva are swept into a precarious and intriguing Israeli environment where menace, seduction and danger are interlaced with a sultry awareness of each other’s more preferred sexual choices. Kyle’s sexual awakening comes in the form of the gorgeous and gregarious ex-soldier Avi ironically played by Australian actor Bob Morley.

There is a superb scene where Avi leads Kyle to a bombed out nightclub on the outskirts of Tel Aviv and Kyle shoots Avi naked in a semi-erotic pose for his Avant-Garde film, liking their coupling to that of German independent director Werner Herzog and actor Klaus Kinski.

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In this significant scene, the sexual tension between Kyle and Avi is palpable onscreen, something which is often masked by aggression and heavy drinking, as the boys hit the Tel Aviv nightclub scene.

Eva while browsing through a suburban bookshop meets Israeli-American writer Liam, played by Nony Geffen, who is the complete antithesis of the reckless, almost unfettered Kyle. Liam introduces Eva to a more sophisticated world of the intelligentsia and is invited to book launches and parties on yachts.

However, the film makers cleverly underscore both Kyle and Eva’s journeys of self-discovery and their own relationship crumbling with a disturbing sense of danger as with Tel Aviv there is always a massive security risk with an omniscient violence along with the continual threat of suicide bombings.

Lost in the White City follows the blooming of the sexual relationship between Kyle and Avi after a completely wild night partying, spliced with gorgeous shots of them on the beach in Tel Aviv as well as aerial shots of the “white city” in the heat of a Mediterranean summer.

Israeli cinematography Shahar Reznik paints Tel Aviv in a sumptuous glare of sunlight contrasting with the night sequences which are expertly filled with glamour, drugs and decadence, giving the audience a sense of the city being constantly under threat while its citizens dance the night away in complete hedonistic abandonment.

Comfort Of Strangers

Watching Lost in the White City, the audience is reminded of a similarly intriguing film about obsession framed by sinister intentions with director Paul Schrader’s The Comfort of Strangers set in Venice starring Rupert Everett and Helen Mirren.

Highly recommended viewing, gorgeously shot and definitely aimed at a more open-minded audience, Lost in the White City sensually explores the dangers of summer romances, sexuality and unrequited dreams.

 

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