Ah yes, the lavish movie that appears to be built around winning one actor their Oscar. There’s one every year. Usually a period piece. Darkest Hour fits that bill to a T.
Directed by Joe Wright, Gary Oldman plays Winston Churchill in a film that follows his first days as Prime Minister of England during WWII. I’d heard it described as a sorta unofficial companion piece to Dunkirk earlier this year, and it’s true. You see that same story told from the other side, though it’s not the sole focus of the film.
I’m not particularly fond of period pieces or war films, at least not generally speaking. They hafta have something really special, and for me this didn’t quite do that. Oldman is fantastic, and he deserves the inevitable Oscar nomination (my heart is elsewhere for the win, but we’ll discuss much later). However, his performance only took me so far in enjoying the film. My lack of history knowledge had me lost in some of the details, and as a result, the impact of specific scenes and speeches didn’t quite work for me.
It was interesting seeing Wright’s approach to this film. (Also interesting was his Q&A after my screening.) I love him for his beautifully stylish films. This was far more subtle and subdued. I don’t think I would have appreciated that with another director. He did sneak in a few nice flourishes that felt very him that I very much enjoyed.
I also really liked the supporting cast. Kristen Scott Thomas was a powerhouse as the Mrs. Churchill, and I would have liked to see more involvement from her. Then there was Ben Mendelsohn as King George VI (who we saw played by Colin Firth in The King’s Speech). The size of his role was right for this film, but I’d love to see it expanded in a further piece. Lily James was a surprise for me. I don’t typically care for her, but as our sort of audience surrogate (being introduced into the world as we are), I liked her. She had a charisma and grace about her that was quite fitting.
Anyways, the long as short is that this might not be a film for the casual movie goer. However, it is one for Oscar enthusiasts and history buffs. We see a lot of those this time of year.
Darkest Hour – \m/ \m/ \m/
I don’t think I’ve once said the title of this movie right. I can’t wrap my head around it. Things I also can’t wrap my head around? This movie as a whole. I couldn’t get a good read on it from the trailer, but I figured Denzel’s the man so I’d give it a shot anyways. The film itself was just as unfocused..
Denzel is a lawyer in a small, two man law firm. When the other man falls ill, he soon finds himself out of a job. Things happen and then he’s working at a big time law firm, and he does some stuff of questionable ethics and I really don’t know what this is meant to be about.
Really, it was all over the place. I couldn’t keep the timelines straight. I couldn’t figure out his motivations. I couldn’t tell what the point of the whole thing was supposed to be. Denzel was acting as hard as he could, but it wasn’t enough to counter a weak screenplay and direction.
At least Collin Farrell is pretty.
Roman J Israel, Esq – \m/ \n
Heh, so there’ve been multiple times in the past two weeks that I’ve forgotten all about this movie. That isn’t to say it was bad or I didn’t enjoy it. Quite the opposite really. It’s just that in such a rich movie season, this one got kinda lost.
Wonder is about a little boy, played by Jacob Tremblay, who has had a serious of medical issues that have ultimately resulted in some rather obvious facial disfigurement. Because of that, he’s been home-schooled all his life. But now that he’s about to start fifth grade, it’s decided that it’s time for him to go to public school and try to navigate the harsh world of junior high.
It sounds overly sappy, and it kinda was. But it was also effective. For me, it definitely triggered a lot of uncomfortable bullying memories. There was a point where the kids finally stood up against the bullies, and the audience burst into applause, and I nearly burst into tears. It stirred up so much for me.
The film doesn’t just focus on our wonderful boy. Some segments are told from the perspective of other characters. I really liked the storyline about the older sister, who often found herself ignored by the rest of her family that catered to her little brother. We don’t get that angle very often. Some of the other side stories felt a little incomplete though. I think it might have worked better if she was the only B story.
My favorite character tho was Daveed Diggs’ teacher. Yeah a lot of that is because I’m a Hamil-fan with a crush, but I love the charisma he brought, and I loved what his character stood for. I just wish we had more of him.
This was nice and heartwarming. I feel like it was well done, it just didn’t stick with me too long after.
Wonder – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n
Right so remember the awesome friend who got me into an early SAG screening? We actually made it a double feature with a super early advance screening.
Aaron Sorkin makes his (long overdue) directorial debut with his adaptation of Molly Bloom’s autobiography. Bloom, played by Jessica Chastain, went from being a near Olympic skier to the woman behind the most exclusive poker games in LA and later NYC.
This is a case of people doing what they’re good at to the best degree possible. Sorkin’s screenplay is a sharp as ever, and I can’t believe it took him so long to step into the director’s chair as well. It just makes so much sense, and it added a sense of cohesion to the film, like we got a complete vision.
Also at the top of their game, Jessica Chastain. She has become the go to lady for powerful and strong women, and this role is no exception. And this time, it’s really all about her. I love how Chastain makes an effort to seek out these kinda roles, and I wish they weren’t such a rarity in the industry. But when they come along, she’s got them covered.
Overall, I found the movie so fascinating. It’s an interesting story and Sorkin moves it along nicely. Oh also, Idris Elba’s pretty great as Molly’s lawyer.
Molly’s Game – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/
Perk of living in LA: there’s lots of really cool advance screenings (granted, it’s not so advance by the time I post this). Perk of having awesome friends: a buddy that’s a SAG member could get me into said screenings. Bonus perk: Actor and director Q&A after the film. Yup, was mere feet away from the gorgeous and charismatic Armie Hammer *swoon*
The story of Call Me By Your Name is quite simple. A young American man is spending a few weeks in Italy, finishing up some school projects. He befriends and soon engages in a romantic relationship with the son of his host family. No big drama, no psychotic villain, just a sweet romantic film.
Wait, what? Dawn’s into a romantic film? This one yeah. For some reason, I tend to get really into LGBTQ love stories on film far more than their straight counterparts. So that was reason number one. All bets are off when it comes to whether or not I’ll like these stories. Perhaps they’re more thought out and careful. Perhaps they’re more escapist for me. Perhaps there’s some other psychological issues going on. Who knows. The other reason this one really worked was the chemistry between our two leads (Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet) was palpable.
I honestly don’t know when I last felt such intense emotion radiating from a film, but it was something to experience. Some of it was luck in how the two actors were able to relate to each other, but I credit a lot of it to Chalamet’s performance. He had these expressions that would make you feel what he felt, and it was overpowering and beautiful.
The movie does take a little while to get going. It’s moody and atmospheric from the start, but the narrative action plays out slowly. It was a bit problematic for me at first, but the payoff was so worthwhile.
The film is beautiful in that there is no repercussions for their sexuality, no great villain keeping them apart. It’s just a celebration of their love. Oh and the parents are so wonderfully supportive. A speech from the father towards the end of the film nearly brought me to tears. And before you start to question the age difference, Hammer is actually older than the character, and the age of consent for the younger character in Italy is lower than here. So it’s all good. That shouldn’t even been a thing. Again, it’s simply an exquisitely told love story. Nothing more, nothing less.
Call Me By Your Name – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n