peteg's blog

Rebecca

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Over two nights. A highly-rated (#173 in the IMDB top-250) Hitchcock that's been on my list for ages, presumably due to Laurence Olivier. Joan Fontaine does well as the American ingenue struggling to navigate the upper-class England that he is so natural in. It's something of a psycho thriller with somewhat predictable twists by today's standards; perhaps it made the mould. They just throw their cigarettes anywhere! — and wonder why it all goes up in smoke.

Widows

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Opening day. 4pm, The Ritz, $10, cinema 5, five rows from the front (counting the three rows they just ripped out). Maybe six people and me. Presumably the first of what is the now-customary late burst of Oscar contenders.

I went in cold: it's a new Steve McQueen movie and that's enough, or should be. Colour me surprised to find a women-driven heist movie (I guess his second after 12 Years a Slave) co-written with Ms Gone Girl Gillian Flynn, sourced from the book by Lynda La Plante; the obvious interpolant is The Town.

Storywise it's Chicago in summer, hard currency is still a thing and the politics is as rotten as ever. Early events lead to the titular ladies doing what their men cannot, with some justice but more sadness. The plot has the expected twistiness but this is more a study in different lives. There are a couple of decent monologues, specifically Rev (Jon Michael Hill) Wheeler's speech on mediocrity that would have been just at home in Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman. The ending is slightly too clean. I came away thinking that the Green Line doesn't cut the city up quite so interestingly as the Red Line.

The cast is stellar, though Fassbender is missing. Viola Davis leads. Jacki Weaver plays Elizabeth Debicki's mum (the latter last seen in Breath in similar states of undress). Colin Farrell allows himself a small smile as father Robert Duvall goes completely over the top in one of their chats. Liam Neeson's character is something of a direct import from Batman. The Manning brothers were somehow very familiar; Daniel Kaluuya has an unforgettable face and killer death stare. Lukas Haas. Cynthia Erivo continues to rise. And so forth. The Hans Zimmer soundtrack is mostly serviceable, until the heist itself when it gets boringly intense. McQueen gets his usual excellence from cinematographer Sean Bobbitt with an excess of great framing and closeups. For all that, was there a point?

A. O. Scott. Anthony Lane. Both observe that Chicago is not used well. Sandra Hall. Benjamin Lee. Jason Di Rosso — sure, but some of it was really good! Dana Stevens.