Miss Sloane

Miss Sloane

Miss Sloane John Madden, dir. Jonathan Perera, script Starring: Jessica Chastain (Elizabeth Sloane), Mark Strong (Rodolfo Schmidt), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Esme Manucharian), Alison Pill (Jane Molloy), Michael Stuhlbarg (Pat Connors), Jake Lacy (Forde), Sam Waterson (George Dupont), John Lithgow (Senator Sperling) One of the sad things about the Oscar season is the lack of celebration for some worthy films and performers. Take Miss Sloane. It’s a political thriller about Washington insiders manipulating events in order to get legislation passed for corporations that can afford to pay for high-powered lobbyists. With Trump elected, a film critiquing the American system will hardly be as attractive for audiences as would a country (and world!) preparing for a Clinton White House. One could easily make a case that a film like Miss Sloane, with witty dialogue and razor sharp observations about power brokers, could hardly be more out of favour than at the present moment. At the centre of Miss Sloane is the titular character, a brilliant and apparently heartless lobbyist, who is played to perfection by Jessica Chastain. Snapping off her lines with aplomb, Chastain plays a complete control freak, dominating her team of lobbyists, who are enthralled (and sometimes appalled) by her I.Q., hard work, and absolute devotion to whatever project she is tackling. Chastain’s Sloane is so devoted to her work that she refuses to have a boyfriend, paying for an escort service to take care of her physical needs. That’s devotion! Structured in classic thriller style, we first see Sloane in front of a Senatorial investigation committee, where she is combating charges of fraud. Her real crime, we discover in...
Jackie

Jackie

Jackie Pablo Larrain, dir. Noah Oppenheim, script Starring: Natalie Portman (Jackie), Peter Sarsgaard (Bobby Kennedy), Greta Gerwig (Nancy Tuckerman), Billy Crudup (Theodore H. White), John Hurt (Father Richard McSorley), Richard E. Grant (William Walton), John Carroll Lynch (LBJ) Natalie Portman appears to be a lock for an Oscar nomination thanks to her riveting performance as Jacqueline Kennedy in Jackie. There’s no doubt that she’s the reason that audiences will flock to the film this December. Portman is absolutely compelling as the widow of the recently assassinated President Kennedy. As the press and the public observed at the time of the President’s death, nothing became Jackie as well as did her dignified comportment during that historic week in late November, 1963 when she had to bring her husband back to Washington D.C. from Dallas and participate in the ceremonial burial of the President. Portman captures Jackie’s demeanour throughout that fraught and timeless period. Pablo Larrain’s film is structured around Jackie’s first lengthy interview after the assassination, which was with Life magazine’s Washington correspondent Theodore H. White. A Kennedy insider, who had written the best selling The Making of the President 1960, White was charged with the task of printing Jackie’s version of her years in the White House. As Jackie recounts her famous story, the film pirouettes through the past, offering key events of the Kennedy presidency—including shocking moments of assassination itself. Jacqueline Kennedy was often a cipher to the public. Her patrician cool made her admirable but also impossible for most Americans to understand. Jackie’s acclaimed televised tour of the White House, in which she showed off her renovations...
Theatre of Life

Theatre of Life

Theatre of Life Feature documentary directed by Peter Svatek Starring: Massimo Bottura, Stefi and Marco, Fatou, Fawaz, Giorgio Massimo Bottura is one of the top chefs in the world and a man with a social conscience. At Milan’s Expo ’15, he decided to do something positive about food waste and homelessness. The master chef, whose renowned Osteria Francescana is consistently in the top five list of best restaurants in the world persuaded local authorities in Milan to fund his “Food for Soul” project. With the help of local artisans, chefs, the local church and other social activists, he created Refettorio Ambrosiano, a beautiful soup kitchen, which fed new immigrants, former drug addicts, political refugees, homeless and physically and social disabled people. Peter Svatek, a Montreal-based filmmaker heard of the project and with the help of the National Film Board of Canada and a Quebec production company, made a lovely doc about Massimo’s project. Theatre of Life is filled with Bottura’s wisdom and enthusiasm but Svatek is careful to also capture some of the colourful denizens of the Refettorio: the former drug addict and fascinating figure, Giorgio; refugees Christiana (Nigeria) and Fatou (Senegal); Jordanian-Italian Fawaz; and the feisty couple Stefi and Marco. Theatre of Life is a film with charm, passion, great food and a social conscience. Best of all, it’s real: Massimo and his Refettorio movement worked its wonders in Brazil during the Olympics and will soon be spreading to other cities. This is a film that is worth seeing about a movement worth supporting. Written by Marc Glassman Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series...
Things to Come (L’avenir)

Things to Come (L’avenir)

Things to Come (L’avenir) Mia Hansen-Love, director and script Starring: Isabelle Huppert (Nathalie), Andre Marcon (Heinz), Roman Kolinka (Fabien), Edith Scob (Yvette), Sara Le Picard (Chloé) Forget about the title of French director Mia Hansen-Love’s new film L’avenir (Things to Come). The big question should be: is it Isabelle Huppert’s year right now? The acclaimed actress, who is being touted for multiple awards for her performance in the erotic thriller Elle (which was reviewed favourably here two weeks ago) is back in another superb starring role. Here Huppert is Nathalie, a philosophy professor, whose self-satisfied bourgeois life slowly falls apart. Her husband leaves her for a younger woman and the publishers of her formerly successful books drop her. Worst of all, Nathalie’s relationship with her mother Yvette goes badly awry. When the delusional and suicidal older woman finally does die, even Nathalie abandons her sangfroid for a moment, perhaps realizing that their endless fighting was a masquerade for the love she felt for her mother. Yet, against all logic, Nathalie remains successful: still teaching, becoming a grandmother, keeping up an interesting friendship with her best former student. She refuses to lose. Huppert’s role in Things to Come bears some resemblance to the more salacious one in Elle. In both, she’s remarkably cool. Even when she’s raped in Elle or loses her husband in Things to Come, she doesn’t get upset. In fact, she reverses expectations throughout both films. Rather than play a victim, Huppert asserts her authority even in dire circumstances, always remaining in control of herself and the majority of the scenes she’s in. Things to Come won’t...
Rules Don’t Apply

Rules Don’t Apply

Rules Don’t Apply Warren Beatty, director and writer Starring: Warren Beatty (Howard Hughes), Lily Collins (Maria Mabrey), Alden Ehrenreich (Frank Forbes), Matthew Broderick (Levar Mathis), Alec Baldwin (Robert Maheu), Haley Bennett (Mamie Murphy), Candice Bergen (Nadine Henly), Dabney Coleman (Raymond Holliday), Steve Coogan (Col. Nigel Briggs) Ed Harris (Mr. Bransford), Martin Sheen (Noah Dietrich), Paul Sorvino (Vernon Scott), Taissa Farmiga (Sarah Bransford), Amy Madigan (Mrs. Bransford) There’s something marvelously macabre about Warren Beatty playing Howard Hughes. The notoriously eccentric millionaire had already destroyed RKO Pictures, the studio that had produced Citizen Kane and the Astaire-Rogers musicals and launched Robert Mitchum’s career, when the rising young Beatty discovered that Hughes was investigating his activities. This was the early ‘60s; Beatty never found out why Howard Hughes was interested in him. Now Beatty is the eccentric Hollywood legend, making a film because he still has the power to do so. In Rules Don’t Apply—a title that fits him and Hughes to a “t”—he not only casts himself as the older Hollywood legend, he decides to make him a figure in a romantic comedy. While Beatty nominally takes the lead, much of the romance in Rules Don’t Apply revolves around a much younger duo, Lily Collins a Hughes starlet, Maria Mabrey and Alden Ehrenreich as Frank Forbes, a chauffeur working for the great man who eventually becomes his personal assistant. Thrown together as a chauffeur and starlet, their paths continue to be entangled as both move up Hughes’ crazy hierarchy. Rules Don’t Apply shuttles back and forth between recycling old tales of how the increasingly crazy Hughes ran down RKO and the...
Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea Kenneth Lonergan, director and writer Starring: Casey Affleck (Lee), Michelle Williams (Randi), Lucas Hedges (Patrick, Joe’s son), Kyle Chandler (Joe, Lee’s brother), Gretchen Mol (Elise), Kara Hayward (Silvie), Matthew Broderick (Rodney) Watching the tough but compassionate drama Manchester by the Sea, with its emphasis on working class people trying to achieve equanimity in their lives, it’s hard not to think that Canadian filmmakers should take note of the tone and pacing of this beautifully wrought film. The setting and time of the year also contributes to the sense that this could be a Canadian production. Manchester by the Sea is a small town in New England and most of the story takes place in a very snowy winter. The men spend evenings drinking in bars, watching hockey games after work. Sound familiar? In the film, Casey Affleck plays Lee Chandler, who is working as a janitor in Quincy, Massachusetts (very near Boston) when he receives a call from his New England hometown, Manchester by the Sea. His brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) has died and, quite quickly, Lee discovers that he’s been named the guardian of his teenaged nephew Patrick. It’s a role that clearly makes him uncomfortable. In fact, he nearly panics when he hears it. Affleck’s performance and Kenneth Lonergan’s writing and direction set up audience expectations. We realise that something terrible has happened to turn Lee into someone with dead eyes, wound up so tight that his only release comes when he provokes barroom fights. If Manchester by the Sea was only about Lee and his silent suffering, it would be a very...