Posts Tagged ‘Jane Fonda’

Fifty Shades of Gorgeous

Book Club

Director: Bill Holderman

Cast: Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen, Andy Garcia, Craig T. Nelson, Don Johnson, Richard Dreyfuss, Alicia Silverstone

Screenwriter Bill Holderman who assisted Michael Arndt in the cinematic adaptation of Bill Bryson’s novel A Walk in the Woods, shows his adept hand at directing in the star studded Book Club featuring some legendary Hollywood stars including Oscar winners Jane Fonda (Coming Home, Klute) and Diane Keaton (Annie Hall) along with Candice Bergen (Gandhi, Rules Don’t Apply) and Oscar winner Mary Steenburgen (Melvin and Howard).

The four female leads play lifelong friends who form a Book Club based on their mutual love for Erica Jong’s scandalous seminal feminist novel Fear of Flying published in 1973 which controversially delved into female sexuality. Over forty years later, the four friends played by these wonderful and still radiant stars, reunite and discuss the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy.

In an ironic twist of casting, Don Johnson, father of Dakota Johnson who stars in the Fifty Shades Trilogy is featured as Jane Fonda’s character Vivian’s love interest Arthur, as he attempts to repeatedly woo the wealthy Californian hotelier.

Certainly, Book Cub is aimed at a particular demographic and age group, but what is so refreshing to see is that all these actresses appearing together onscreen in another female driven narrative comedy which is an older, yet quite different version of the all-female cast of the recent Oceans 8 film.

Set mainly in California and Arizona, Book Club is surprisingly enjoyable (even if you are not a wealthy American woman over the age of 70) but it is important that these films continue to be made as it allows older actresses to dazzle viewers onscreen.

And speaking of dazzling, Jane Fonda at 80 years old looks absolutely gorgeous and truly holds her own in this sparkling film as does Diane Keaton as she creates perfect onscreen chemistry in the scenes with her macho pilot Mitchell played by Andy Garcia (The Godfather Part III, Kill the Messenger).

As the Book Club ladies, over bottles of Chardonnay, reassess their love lives in the light of literary stimulation courtesy of Fifty Shades of Grey, Book Club remains a charming, whimsical film about finding or reigniting love in the evening of one’s life.

All the leading ladies look more like Fifty Shades of Gorgeous and certainly Book Club is highly recommended as a 21st century re-examination of female sexuality framed by a contemporary social movement which is increasingly dominating pop culture – the MeToo Movement, making this film all the more relevant.

Book Club receives a film rating of 7 out of 10 and audiences should see it to witness the fabulous Jane Fonda shine onscreen again like she did in Paolo Sorrentino’s superb 2015 film Youth.

 

Horror or Desire

Youth

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Director: Paolo Sorrentino

Cast: Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Nate Dern, Ed Stoppard, Tom Lipinski, Alex Beckett, Alex Macqueen

Italian director Paolo Sorrentino first caught my attention with the visually impressive film, This Must be the Place about an aging rocker who leaves England and travels across America. The film starred Sean Penn. Then Sorrentino made the beautiful La Dolce Vita inspired masterpiece, The Great Beauty set in Rome about an aging playboy who reflects on his life of indulgence and decadence.

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Now, Sorrentino returns with another visually impressive film Youth starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and Jane Fonda. Youth is film as art.

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A sublime and intriguing cinematic meditation on both the horrors and concealed desires of aging. It is a superb film, especially the last third of the film, which is so visually arresting and gorgeous it will be difficult for viewers not to be moved.

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Set mainly in a luxurious Swiss Spa resort which naturally focuses on well-being, health and vitality, Youth centres on the uncomplicated friendship between two aging celebrities, Fred Ballinger, superbly played by Oscar winner Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules) and film director Mick Boyle also brilliantly played by Harvey Keitel (Casino, The Piano).

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Oscar winner Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener) also stars as Ballinger petulant but continuously sad daughter and assistant, who happens to be married to Boyle’s son.

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Paul Dano (There will be Blood) appears as a hip Hollywood actor who is experimenting with his next major onscreen role. He finally decides to choose Desire over Horror.

The repartee between Keitel and Caine is superb, punctuated by some fantastically crafted scenes on aging bodies recuperating under the guidance of the Swiss. Ballinger is also constantly being pestered by the Queen of England’s emissary to conduct a concert of one of his most prolific works, Simple Songs, which was created as a sign of his complicated love for his wife.

Youth is a beautiful film, wonderfully shot, taking full advantage of the pristine Swiss countryside and surrounding mountain ranges. What is even more captivating in the film, is Michael Caine’s droll and almost nonchalant performance as the reluctant composer who is being enticed at every turn to come out of semi-retirement.

Caine’s performance is phenomenal considering how few well-written roles there are in Hollywood for actors over the age of seventy in this youth obsessed digitized contemporary culture that currently influence Western cinema. Which brings us to the second most captivating scene in the film, the mind-blowing moment between Harvey Keitel and screen legend and icon, Jane Fonda (Barbarella, The China Syndrome, The Butler). In such a brief scene, Fonda is sizzling and absolutely defines the film.

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Fonda plays Brenda Morrell a high maintenance Hollywood diva who unexpectedly arrives at the Swiss resort to break some startling news to her director Mick Boyle. This scene is cinematically brilliant in that it occurs just after Ballinger and Boyle are drooling over the voluptuous Miss Universe as she takes a dip in the same swimming pool they are in.

Youth is a cinematic feast, a gorgeous and rich meditation on the wonders and horrors of grow old gracefully. Aesthetically challenging, Youth is highly recommended viewing and worth a visit for a discerning audience who like their films to be inventive, invigorating and poignant.

 

 

Taking off the White Gloves

The Butler

The butler

 

Director: Lee Daniels

Starring: Forest Whitaker, David Oyelowo, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Vanessa Redgrave, Robin Williams, Liev Schreiber, Alan Rickman, John Cusack, Alex Pettyfer, James Marsden, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr, Lenny Kravitz, Minka Kelly, Mariah Carey.

The Oscar nominated director of Precious, Lee Daniels assembles an all star cast in the elegant and brutal chronicle of the American Civil Rights Movement from the Georgia cotton picking days of 1926 to the historic election of Barack Obama as the first African American president of the United States in 2008.

With a screenplay by Danny Strong based on Wil Haygood’s article “A Butler Well Served by this ElectionThe Butler follows the life of Cecil Gaines, a loyal and trusted African American butler to seven American presidents from Dwight D. Eisenhower (played by Robin Williams) in 1957 to Ronald Reagan (played by Alan Rickman) in 1986 at the White House and features a staggeringly Oscar worthy performance by Forest Whitaker, Oscar winner for the extraordinary film The Last King of Scotland, whose sturdy and nuanced performance makes this historical film a must see. Alongside Whitaker portrayal of Gaines, is another wonderful performance by Talk Show Queen Oprah Winfrey as his hard drinking wife Gloria Gaines who along with her husband has to live through the turbulent sixties and seventies watching helplessly as one son Louis Gaines brilliantly portrayed by David Oyelowo gets involved in the civil rights movement in the Deep South whilst their youngest son Charlie joins up to fight in Vietnam.

During the Butler’s time at the White House he serves a range of American Presidents from JFK (played by James Marsden) to Nixon during the Watergate scandal, from Lyndon B. Johnson (played by Liev Schreiber) during the Vietnam War through to Ronald Reagan and his vetoing of sanctions against Apartheid South Africa in the mid 1980’s.

Whilst Daniels film is a clear tribute to the huge impact made by the American civil rights movement, the viewer at times will feel like they are watching a History Channel documentary. Yet despite the racial politics, at the heart of The Butler is the equally tumultuous yet tender relationship between Cecil Gaines and his family. Gaines employed as a White House Butler cannot jeopardize his job employed in service at the iconic seat of American power where ironically there is no room for politics. He cannot participate himself in the increasingly active American civil rights movement of the sixties, whilst his son Louis gets politically involved as he attends Fisk University in Tennessee.

From Gandhi inspired sits ins at segregated restaurants in Alabama to Freedom Bus rides through Klu Klux Klan riddled Mississippi, Louis finds his own identity as a civil rights activist only stopping short of joining the increasingly militant Black Panther movement which plagued the Nixon Administration in the early 1970’s. Gloria Gaines, wonderfully played by Winfrey has to manage two sons, an absent husband and an increasingly reckless lifestyle whilst adjusting to the ever changing race relations in contemporary American society.

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The Butler takes off the white gloves in examining the contentious issue of America’s history of race relations. Director Daniels expertly splices scenes of a brutal attack by white students on members of the civil rights movement at a Tennessee diner with images of Cecil Gaines and his fellow butlers Carter Wilson played by Cuba Gooding Jr and James Holloway played by Lenny Kravitz laying an immaculate table for White House state dinners, reminiscent of Merchant Ivory’s superb period drama Remains of the Day about the crumbling of the British class system in the late 1930’s prior to the outbreak of World War II.

What really makes The Butler so utterly absorbing is Forest Whitaker’s powerful performance as Cecil Gaines who whilst in service humbly retains only one constant request of equal wages from his White House employers. The rest of the star studded cast including veteran actors Vanessa Redgrave (Howard’s End) and Jane Fonda (On Golden Pond) really only have very brief scenes. John Cusack stands out as a troubled hard drinking Nixon in the wake of the Watergate scandal in 1972.

For lovers of period dramas with an expansive historical context, The Butler is recommended viewing. Director Lee Daniels expertly manages a huge and contentious time span of American history along with an impressive ensemble cast while extracting superb performances by Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey and David Oyelowo, making The Butler like his previously provocative film Precious a firm Oscar favourite.  A highly recommended and masterful piece of cinema.

 

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