Posts Tagged ‘Max Casella’

History, Identity, Beauty

Jackie

Director: Pablo Larrain

Cast: Natalie Portman, Peter Sarsgaard, Greta Gerwig, Billy Crudup, Richard E. Grant, John Hurt, John Carroll Lynch, Caspar Phillipson, Beth Grant, Max Casella

Producer Darren Aronofsky and Chilean director Pablo Larrain bring an exquisite and heart wrenching portrait of Jackie Kennedy just moments after her husband President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas on the 22nd November 1963 in Jackie.

Oscar winner Natalie Portman (Black Swan) is sublime as Jackie and considering that she is in virtually every frame of the film, shot in mostly extreme close up, Portman delivers a poignant portrait of Jackie as she is suddenly stripped of her position as first lady while also dealing with suddenly becoming a young widow to two small children, John and Caroline Kennedy.

Simultaneously, Larrain explores the mythical concepts of History, Identity and Beauty as Jackie has to boldly deal with the aftermath of an assassination and the claustrophobia of grief intertwined with state politics and diplomacy.

Jackie has to decide what type of funeral she would like for John F. Kennedy and amidst the security concerns following her husband’s dramatic assassination, she opts for a full length funeral parade, which symbolically become the most watched event on American Television in the early 1960’s.

Screenwriter Noah Oppenheimer’s seductive script pulls viewers into the traumatic world of Jackie Kennedy, deconstructing the myth of a debutante stripped of her power, yet ironically her glamour and poise managed to embed itself in the American psyche for decades after her role as the First Lady of the United States.

Jackie is a stunning, visually dazzling historical portrait of a very specific moment in American history, the aftermath of one of the most pivotal assassinations, which irreparably changed the course of American politics and society redefining the 1960’s as a tumultuous decade. Cleverly what the film does not do is delve into any conspiracy theories surrounding the infamous assassination, but exclusively focuses on how Jackie deals with the funeral and subsequent interviews afterwards.

Audiences should look out for strong supporting roles by Peter Sarsgaard (Blue Jasmine) as Bobbie Kennedy, Greta Gerwig as loyal assistant Nancy Tuckerman and John Hurt as unnamed priest who Jackie confides in. Incidentally Jackie was one of Hurt’s last films before he died in 2017.

The costumes by Madeline Fontaine, which she won a 2017 BAFTA Award for, are gorgeous clearly recreating the iconic style of Jackie Kennedy and the production design by Jean Rabasse (The City of Lost Children, Delicatessen) is equally fitting.

What makes Jackie so inspiring is the unconventional approach of Larrain’s direction as he inter cuts scenes of the massive funeral march in Washington DC with the graphic violence of the actual assassination in the backseat of a convertible sedan speeding along a Dallas highway, blood stains on Jackie’s pink Chanel suit.

Like director Barry Jenkins’s Oscar winning film Moonlight, Jackie intensely captures the audience’s attention and never let’s go, anchored by a brilliant performance by Natalie Portman who in my opinion should have won the Academy Award for Best Actress at the 2017 Oscars, although perhaps the odds were stacked in favour of Emma Stone winning for La La Land.

Gorgeous, riveting and emotionally draining, Jackie is a vivid and intricate tour de force of an iconic figure who used her widowhood to become more famous, made all the more touching by the scenes with her two very young children.

My film rating for Jackie is 9.5 out of 10. Having directed an exceptionally vivid film, director Pablo Larrain is a talent to watch out for.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_John_F._Kennedy

 

 

A Fallen World

Live By Night

Director: Ben Affleck

Cast: Ben Affleck, Sienna Miller, Chris Messina, Chris Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Remo Girone, Titus Welliver, Max Casella, Clark Gregg, Anthony Michael Hall

Oscar winner Ben Affleck (Argo, Good Will Hunting) approaches another passion project with the cinematic adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s riveting gangster novel Live By Night about the rise of Irish mobster Joe Coughlin.

Set in Prohibition era America in the mid 1920’s, Live By Night features Affleck as the main character as well as him adapting the screenplay and directing the film version. To his credit, Affleck assembles a fine cast including an unrecognizable Sienna Miller as the gangster’s moll with a strong Irish accent, Emma Gould who Coughlin first meets in Boston.

Also in the cast are Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges) as Coughlin’s father Thomas who happens to be Boston police chief, Oscar winner Chris Cooper (Adaptation) as Tampa police chief Figgis, Elle Fanning (Trumbo, Maleficent) in a stand out role as a recovering heroin addict Loretta Figgis and Zoe Saldana as Cuban beauty Graciela whom Coughlin eventually falls in love with after he moves to Tampa, Florida after fleeing Boston.

If viewers have not read Lehane’s book they might find the film version of Live By Night drawn out with a screenplay which delivers but doesn’t elevate the film to such genre classics as The Untouchables, Casino or even Goodfella’s.

Whilst the gorgeous period production design of Live By Night can be applauded as well as some stunning sequences in Florida, where after the initial gloom of Boston, the film definitely brightens to show a much more diverse and fascinating world in the deep South, the overall effect of Live By Night is laboured but not exhilarating.

Personally I loved the film, but I had read the novel so knew ahead what was install.

Ben Affleck’s ambitious plans to write, direct and star in a big screen adaptation of the novel might fall short, although his effort in doing so is admirable. What does elevate Live By Night are the superb supporting cast including Sienna Miller who after Burnt and Foxcatcher has an ability to disappear into any screen role and certainly is one of the most underrated actresses in Hollywood. Fanning as a bible preaching morally conflicted young woman comes across as sacrificial, yet her performance is brilliant despite the minimal screen time.

The best scenes in the film are between Affleck and Chris Messina who is wonderful as Coughlin’s best friend and crime partner, the wise cracking Dion Bartolo, a role which he played against type. It is refreshing to watch Zoe Saldana (Guardians of the Galaxy) play in a period film as the gorgeous Cuban business woman Graciela although her role in the film is not as detailed as it is in the novel.

What Affleck does successfully is portraying America as a Fallen World, where as prohibition ends, there is nothing left except repression, bigotry and violence. Live By Night is a gritty, stylish and violent gangster film similar to Gangster Squad but not as brilliant as Bugsy or Public Enemies.

Audiences should only see Live By Night if they are ardent fans of gangster films, a genre which is difficult to get right at the best of times. Despite Affleck’s talent as a director, he is no Martin Scorsese or Brian de Palma. Although his evocative visual efforts should be commended.

Recommended viewing for those that enjoyed Gangster Squad.

 

The Unravelling Socialite

blue_jasmine_ver2

Blue Jasmine

Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Bobby Cannavale, Sally Hawkins, Michael Stuhlbarg, Peter Sarsgaard, Alec Baldwin, Andrew Dice Clay, Max Casella

Oscar winner Cate Blanchett (The Aviator) gives a tour-de-force performance as the lead character in Woody Allen’s brilliant new American drama Blue Jasmine. Audiences get introduced to Jasmine French a blue-eyed blond hair designer clad Park Avenue socialite as she flies first class to San Francisco to stay with her sister Ginger. Jasmine is all Xanax-popping, Vodka drinking glamour but underneath all the loquaciousness is a woman who has clearly unravelled from a series of financial and social setbacks. Director Allen gradually peals back the layers of Jasmine through a series of flashbacks to her former life in Manhattan and New York where she shared a sumptuous marriage with her shady hedge fund manager cheating husband Hal played by Alec Baldwin and an event which has caused Jasmine to lose everything from her social status to her mind as she clearly flees the East Coast to seek refuge with her non-biological sister Ginger wonderfully played by British actress Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky, Great Expectations) in Northern California.

The contrast between Jasmine and Ginger soon becomes apparent in their diverse taste of men amongst other things. Where Jasmine is clearly drawn to the smooth talking affluent alpha males who will shower her with gifts so as long as she does not need to care about anything embodied by the slimy Hal  (Alec Baldwin), Ginger on a far reduced significant living standard is clearly drawn to the more working class, emotional men from her ex husband Augie played by Andrew Dice Clay and to her new more passionate boyfriend a car mechanic named Chili in a superb performance by Bobby Cannavale (from Boardwalk Empire fame).

Jasmine that has lost everything financially while still retaining her designer wardrobe and always attempts to look glamorous as she clearly delusional realizes that her life has irrevocably changed forever. Soon she is forced to take a job as a receptionist in a dentist surgery in San Francisco with an amorous dentist played by Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) while attempting to improve her computer literacy skills. Her down to earth impoverished sister Ginger carries an affair with Chili as she works in a suburban grocery store.

Director Woody Allen shows a very incisive portrayal of two women, one constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown while the other is happy to pursue an elusive yet sustainable dream of survival and happiness. Blue Jasmine clearly belongs to Cate Blanchett as she is almost in every scene of the film and this is a new collaboration between Allen and Blanchett which has proved to be quite masterful, a legendary film director who has rediscovered a more sophisticated and brilliant muse who tackles the flawed but vulnerable Jasmine.

vicky_cristina_barcelonaAfter the recent success of Woody Allen’s European films, mainly Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Midnight in Paris and Matchpoint, the famous and hugely talented director turns back to his first love Manhattan, but viewed through an angle of San Francisco, an oblique and poignant point of view that is almost showing signs of a farewell. What makes Blue Jasmine so masterful is Blanchett’s wonderfully poignant portrayal of the unravelling of a socialite, a performance that is Oscar worthy to say the least, not to mention absolutely riveting. Blue Jasmine is Woody Allen at his best directing one of the most talented actresses of the 21st century, Cate Blanchett, who I was fortunate to see years ago in a London West End production of David Hare’s play Plenty.

A highly recommended film, Blue Jasmine is sure to garner both Blanchett and Hawkins much praise and attention at the imminent 2014 awards season.

Film Directors & Festivals
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