Lil' Movie Reviews:
HEREDITARY, FIRST REFORMED, THE RIDER & DISOBEDIENCE
Written by Dan Sinclair
Written & directed by Ari Aster
Look, I’m not here to bash any movie (or creative people of any type), because I know how much work goes into making art, but goddamn, I really wanted to love this film, and instead I left feeling pissed off/ripped off.
First, let me say the nice stuff-- brilliant acting all around, it looked pretty and there were a few semi-creepy sequences.
Next, let me say I am so fucking sick and tired of gimmicky, manipulative writing. Don’t worry, no spoilers here. I will speak in general terms. But let me say to potential writers everyone: even if modern day audiences seem to fall for it more than ever, leaving out pertinent information is NOT the same thing as creating tension. It’s bullshit. It’s bush league. It’s a fucking cop-out, and you can do better.
My mentor Jeanne Leiby used to have a term called “wind chiming.” It came from a movie trope where two characters are about to have sex, and instead of showing the passionate confrontation that the story had been building to, the camera pans to wind chimes outside the window that blow in the wind. FUCK YOU. If you have worthwhile characters that the audience has invested in, and these characters are about to come to a head--- show that shit! Don’t skip over it, withhold all information that would’ve happened in that scene, only to throw it back in our faces an hour later and shout, “Ha! Gotcha!” FUCK YOU.
This happened in a very, very important scene in HEREDITARY. And when this confrontation was glossed over, I couldn’t stop thinking about what the fuck happened? What did they say?! What did they do?! And then when they finally (kind of) reveal what happened (but not even really), I almost shouted out loud, “WHY THE FUCK DID IT TAKE SO GODDAMN LONG TO SAY THAT?! THIS MOVIE FEELS LIKE IT’S FIVE GODDAMN HOURS LONG, MOVING AT THE PACE OF A DEAD SNAIL FARTING OUT A SHIT LOG OF MOLASSES, AND IT TOOK YOU THAT LONG TO SAY THIS?!”
And then I realized HEREDITARY had been doing this the WHOLE FUCKING MOVIE! It might as well just have been called WIND CHIMES: THE MOVIE. The movie would go on and on, something slightly creepy would happen, we’d wind chime from that moment to 20 minutes later or the next day, then it would go on and on again, and then a character (usually Toni Collete) would spit out a monologue of exposition, and it would go on, rinse, repeat.
But even after all that, I accepted it was a gimmicky-style script and kept watching to hope to at least get me to an ending with a payoff so big it would make me forget all the bad... but no. The third act was every horror movie scary moment cliche from all your favorites rolled into one. My eyes rolled so hard, so many times, I had to spit them out of my mouth and stick them back in my sockets upon exit of the theater.
Sure, HEREDITARY had its “oh, shit!” moments, all usually delivered in dialogue by the-possibly-Academy-award-nominated-for-this-role Toni Collete (yeah, she’s that good) or acted out brilliantly by a telephone pole, but ultimately its gimmicks wear thin and prove to be its undoing, leaving the viewer pissed off and wanting his money back. Luckily, he used his Movie Pass, so it’s all good.
Written & directed by Paul Schrader
There’s a lot of interesting things going on in Paul Schrader’s FIRST REFORMED, but perhaps its undoing lies in its attempt to get just a little too fresh with a subject matter that has explored time and time again in the cinema world. That makes sense, right? Sure it does, Dan. Sure it does.
First off, Ethan Hawke’s performance is quite possibly the best of his career as Reverend Toller, a priest caught not only in moral struggle with his faith, but also with a physical struggle with his own mortality. Just, wow, Ethan. Wow. Good job, buddy.
But to explain my opening statement a little more clearly, let’s talk about the environment for a second, shall we? We care about the environment, right? All of us, at least to a certain degree have some sort of stake in planet earth surviving our lifetimes, yes? Yes. Yes, we do.
Well, do we like to watch movies preach (see what I did there?) about saving the planet? No. No, we don’t.
In the world of cinema, good causes often come off corny/cheesy/I-don’t-want-to-think-about-that-right-now-I’m-trying-to-watch-a-fucking-movie-y for most of us; especially while watching something as gritty and dark as FIRST REFORMED seems to be aiming for. Not to say Schrader doesn’t do the best job possible placing the subject matter in this crisis-of-faith film, it just doesn’t matter. We hear certain things and our eyes roll involuntarily and immediately.
As good as the rest of the film is, it’s just too hard to shake the activist stigma in order for me to recommend this film. But don’t worry, the ending just would’ve pissed you the fuck off anyway, so really you should be thanking me.
Written & directed by Chloe Zhao
This may be the best movie no one sees this year.
Chloe Zhao’s THE RIDER features real people playing themselves in a fictionalized version of their lives... and it’s not terrible! Admittedly, it takes a little getting used to at first. I didn’t know these were the actual people going into the movie, but within the first five/ten minutes, I could at the very least tell these were not the most experienced actors in the world, so I adjusted my brain accordingly, and ended up seeing one of the most moving, powerful, and depressing films I’ve seen in quite some time.
Seriously, I could never sit through this film again. And it’s not because of the acting, because actually for non-actors, they’re really not too bad; especially the lead, Brady Jandreau. And it’s definitely not because of the craft, because Zhao is at the top of her game both from a storytelling and cinematographic standpoint. It’s simply because it’s that fucking heavy.
As a viewer, I felt like I was on a ride, as well. Perhaps I was the rider? Because even though horses scare me to the point I would never sit on top of one, let alone ride a bucking one in a rodeo, I could easily relate to someone losing the one thing that they loved, and then struggle with what life was supposed to mean after that.
Do yourself a favor and watch this movie when you can. I certainly won’t ask you to watch it twice.
Directed by Sebastian Lelio
Written by Lelio, Rebecca Lenkiewicz;
based on the novel by Naomi Alderman
At first glance, DISOBEDIENCE may not seem like a film for everyone, but I’m willing to bet that if you give it a chance and take the time to understand it, you’ll find it pretty relatable no matter who you are.
Also, what film is really for everyone anyway? Aside from FREDDY GOT FINGERED, of course.
Sure, DISOBEDIENCE is a lesbian love story that takes place in an Orthodox Jewish community in London, but... Shit. I just lost half the audience that even bothered to take a look at this review. Well, that’s only one person, anyway, so fuck that guy.
Anyway, “rebelling against society telling you what to do” is where I’m going with this. Everybody at some point in their life felt the pressure to conform to some sort of norm set by others, and has either fought against it or just put their head down and did as told-- every-fucking-body. And while there could have been any number of great reasons for either choice, wouldn’t love be the strongest reason for most people? Let me rephrase-- wouldn’t love for Rachel McAdams be the strongest reason for most people?
Super strong performances from not only Rachel McAdams-- who is fantastic, by the way-- but also her counterpart Rachel Weisz and Alessandro Nivola, who plays their childhood friend now married to McAdams character.