Quick takes on 5 films

Kate Winslet is a great actress, unfortunately her talents are wasted in The Dressmaker. This film can’t decide what kind of movie it wants to be, at various times a quicky comedy and at others a fairly serious drama. Kate’s character, Tilly, moves back to the backwater Australian town where she grew up. The inhabitants are all a bit off the rocker, including her mom Molly who seems to be the craziest. We learn that Tilly was sent away as a girl for having killed a boy, but she doesn’t remember doing it, and knows something else was up. She spends the movie trying to get the town to like her again, trying to bring her mom back from the edge, and trying to unravel the mystery of her past. Parts of the film were fun in a Wes Anderson-like style, others just a little too far out there. Kate’s performance is great as always.

Talk about a snooze fest. In French film Things to Come, literally nothing happens. It is the “story” of a woman for whom life hits a bunch of snags, but without an overarching plot, it might as well have been reality tv. Nathalie (renowned actress Isabelle Huppert) seems to have it all as a philosphy teacher who writes her own highly regarded textbooks, with a successful husband and two well-rounded adult children. In short order though, her mentally ill mother gets worse and then dies, her husband leaves her for a younger woman, and her books, while highly thought of in inner circles, are changed and later cancelled due to slumping sales. Unfortunately there is no “aha” moment at the end. Nathalie may finally accept her new life, but the viewer just wonders why they wasted 2 hours.

Split as a film is really just so-so, and isn’t the return to force for M Night Shyamalan that you may have heard. However, it is worth seeing for James McAvoy’s performace. In it, three teenage girls are kidnapped by Kevin, who we quickly learn houses 23 distinct personalities in his head. The film is mostly about the disease he carries around with him, with each “person” vying for control of the body they share. The “thrilling” scenes unfortunately follow the same pattern as every Shyamalan movie to date, right down to some of the same camera angles, but McAvoy is brilliant. The changes in his face, demeanor, and body language come in rapid succession towards the end of the film as the battle inside him rages. I was a McAvoy fan before this, but Split really shows off his skill.

I’m sure Paterson is brilliant. All the critics say it is brilliant, and it is highly rated among average film watchers as well, but it isn’t a very accessible film. Paterson is both a man and the city in which he lives. He is a city bus driver, but more important than all, he is a poet. He finds poetry all around him in his mundane, day-to-day life, and writes it all down in the notebook he carries with him. His life seems very dull except for his vibrant wife, who encourages Paterson’s writing, and he in turns indulges her eccentricities. That is this film in a nutshell. No big plot, nothing really happens, the movie is just a week in this man’s life. If you sit back and watch it comfortably, taking it all in in the same way Paterson takes in his day-to-day’s, its impact will warm and encompass you, but you’ve got to be in the mood for contemplation to really get the most from it.

The Founder is one of those well-directed, well-written, well-acted historical dramas that feels more like a documentary than a movie. The story of the beginning of the McDonald’s chain and focusing on businessman Ray Kroc (played by Michael Keaton), it shows how Kroc took the original McDonald brothers’ idea and turned it into an international success. It’s a good movie, interesting and as I said, well done in all aspects, but it isn’t the kind of film that leaves a lasting impression or one you’d probably want to watch again. Keaton does a great job of playing the ruthless entreprenuer who will do anything to advance the business and his profits, yet still remaining fairly likable to others (and viewers) right up to the very end.

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