Despite the rise of LGBTQ+ films in recent years, films that revolve around young lesbians remain hard one to come by. This is why Desiree Akhavan’s second feature “The Miseducation of Cameron Post” has been one of the films I was most excited to see this year after it premiered at Sundance, where it won the Grand Jury Prize. It’s a film that perfectly balances comedy and drama; it is funny without being incongruous and is tragic without being exploitative.
Jennifer Lawrence, the Hollywood sweetheart of this decade, is stumbling. Not in her performances, let’s be clear—Ms. Jennifer has proven herself time and time again to be a formidable actress—yet her choice in movies has led her down a path of box office disappointments and critical flops. To put the star’s recent struggles in perspective, let’s consider one of her films that’s so bad, and was so quickly buried, barely anyone has seen it. Before there was Red Sparrow, mother! and Passengers, there was Serena.
The little-known 2014 film—which stars Lawrence alongside permanent love interest Bradley Cooper—barely made it to distribution, pulling box office earnings of under half a million dollars worldwide. How could a movie starring two A-listers, one at the peak of their it-girl moment, go so wrong?
In all fairness, Serena starts off just fine. As one might expect of a Depression-era period piece about the North Carolina timber industry—if ever there were such a genre—the film begins with the camera lovingly gliding over wooded, misty mountains. The landscape is beautiful, even breathtakingly so, and has an eeriness and personality to it that gestures towards drama to come. How exciting! Perhaps the opening credits seem like could have been produced on iMovie, but that’s part of the charm, right?
The opening visuals of Aaron Katz’s neo-noir mystery, Gemini, are palm trees turned upside-down, silhouetted by the blue aura of the twilight skies. Accompanied by the electronic synth score, it sets the stage for an edgy, mysterious and sexy 90 minutes. It starts out strong, but as Gemini moves along and unwinds itself, it becomes apparent that it doesn’t have very much to say. The screenplay lacked control over the tonal consistency and failed to capture any meaningful level of depth that the gorgeous Nicolas Winding Refn inspired visuals and hypnotic score could not do much to save this film from being a slog.
Gemini begins with Jill (Lola Kirke), a personal assistant for Heather (Zoë Kravitz), one of the most famous actresses in Hollywood going through a rough patch of partying and avoiding her responsibilities. In the prologue of the film, Jill helps Heather avoid reshoots, encounter an invasive fan, avoid paparazzi and drives Heather to a karaoke night with her secret girlfriend. This first act is as interesting and compelling as the film gets. Introducing us to a number of different faces and establishing their direct relationships with Heather, the film allows us to take a look into the celebrity culture of L.A. and makes us feel for Heather’s lack of privacy through the way she interacts with other characters. Although expositional for the murder mystery to unfold, the first act does a lot to give us context for Jill and Heather as friends and foreshadows a seductive darkness of L.A. nightlife.
The rise of iPhone films is upon us and despite what some might think (eg: real films are shot on film!), it is a good rise. Sean Baker’s “Tangerine” led the way and Steven Soderbergh is one of the directors to follow. It’s a method that will inspire young and financially limited filmmakers and as one myself, I am delighted by it. Shot secretly and in ten days, “Unsane” tells the story of Sawyer Valentini (played by the gorgeous, talented, showstopping, my celebrity crush-ahem- Claire Foy), who is involuntarily committed to a mental institution. As if that wasn’t enough, she is forced to face her greatest fear there, her stalker David (Joshua Leonard). But *drum rolls* is it really him, or just her imagination?
(Rachel² in Disobedience)
Since it’s premiere at TIFF, “Disobedience” has been one of the films I’m most excited to see. After all, it’s not everyday that you see Rachel Weisz spitting into Rachel McAdams’ mouth in an Orthodox Jewish drama. By the director of this year’s Best Foreign Picture winner “A Fantastic Woman” Sebastián Lelio, “Disobedience” tells the story of two women’s desire for each other and their struggle of being who they are in a domineering Orthodox Jewish community. Ronit (Weisz), a photographer who lives a secular life in New York, returns to her community in London after the death of her father who is a rabbi. Upon her return she finds out her two childhood friends Esti (McAdams) and Dovid (Alessandro Nivola) got married and the sparks from her old relationship with Esti are still there. Ronit and Esti’s rediscovery of their desire becomes a problem for the community and Dovid, who is to take Ronit’s father’s place as rabbi. The film opens with rabbi’s speech on free will which shortly becomes his last words and one of the main themes of the film. Despite some flaws, “Disobedience” is a great film about empowerment and complex relationship between one’s self and community with wonderful performances by Rachel² and Nivola.
Three months into 2018, and it is clear that it is on its way of becoming the year of unexpectedly fresh studio surprises. From the clever comedies of Game Night and Blockers to the romantic Love, Simon and the meditative sci-fi film Annihilation. John Krasinski’s addition to these first quarter gems is a nerve-wracking, experimental horror flick A Quiet Place. Despite the grievances I have with the film, I felt that first and foremost it was mainly about bringing the audience together and having them actively invested in the film. In short, A Quiet Place more than succeeds on so many levels, and while experiences may vary depending on how respectful your audience is, my viewing of the film was an engaging, interactive time at the movies.
This is a review of season two, episode one (“Chapter Nine”).
Marking the return of television’s weirdest superhero show, a familiar voice that sounds a lot like Jon Hamm announces itself over a black screen. “There is a maze in the desert carved from sand and rock,” he says. “A vast labyrinth of pathways and corridors — a hundred miles long, a thousand miles wide, full of twists and dead ends. Picture it. A puzzle you walk, and at the end of this maze is a prize, just waiting to be discovered. All you have to do is find your way through.”
This is a metaphor for madness, he eventually explains. The maze is in your mind and it is inescapable and all-consuming. But it is also an apt descriptor for Legion itself — the show is its own conundrum. Taking place from the perspective of David Haller (Dan Stevens), an incredibly powerful mutant who mistook his abilities for schizophrenia, Noah Hawley’s mind-melter goes to some audaciously trippy places. When you think one of your many, many questions will be answered, the story takes a 180 and leaves you hanging with even more questions to ponder over. It has an unreliable narrator, no one is trustworthy, and you can never even be certain that what you’re seeing is real. With all of that in mind, this show shouldn’t work — but season two’s first episode builds on the brazen visual bravado of season one to create the most uniquely mesmerising show on television.