Dir. Park Chan-wook
(2013, R, 98 minutes)
Stoker opens with a setup very much like Alfred Hitchcock‘s Shadow of a Doubt, one of my favorite of his films, in which a teenage girl is suspicious after a mysterious uncle moves in. In this film, Mia Wasikowska plays the teen, India Stoker, and the uncle, Charlie, is played by Matthew Goode, an actor whose large, striking blue eyes have proven effective in roles both dashing (Match Point) and sinister (The Lookout).
India’s father has just died in a car accident. Her mother (Nicole Kidman) seems more concerned with the social obligations of mourning than with mourning itself. Charlie arrives, and India isn’t sure why; she’s never even heard of him.
Dir. Lee Daniels
(2012, R, 107 minutes)
The Paperboy is a sharp left turn for director Lee Daniels following the breakthrough success of Precious in 2009. It’s a lurid drama set in 1960s Florida, and he does a good job of capturing the swampy, sweaty atmosphere of its crime-riddled setting. It’s a bit reminiscent of John McNaughton‘s Wild Things, which was also a story of sex and corruption in a humid Florida locale, though that film had more of a high-gloss sheen.
Dir. Philip Kaufman
(2012, Not Rated, 154 min)
One of the hardest professions to capture on film is writing. Though its end result can be thrilling, its process can be quite boring to look at. Whether by typewriter, computer, pen and paper, or stone and chisel, there’s nothing interesting about watching a person write, and it’s only slightly more interesting to hear someone talk about writing. The best films have approached the process of writing creatively from the inside out: Stranger Than Fiction with its reality shaped by an author’s decisions, Adaptation with its story that transformed right along with the screenplay of its main character.
Dir. John Cameron Mitchell
(2010, PG-13, 91 min)
★ ★ ★ ½
Rabbit Hole is the kind of film that’s simply good without calling our attention to how it’s good. I was not focused on technique or style; I was absorbed by story and character. Written by David Lindsay-Abaire, based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, and directed by John Cameron Mitchell with tenderness that avoids sliding into mawkishness, it tells the story of Becca and Howie (Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart), a suburban married couple whose four-year-old son is killed in a car accident. Parents reeling from tragedy have been the theme of excellent films in recent years. To name a few: Snow Angels, Rachel Getting Married, and the great Secret Sunshine, which is currently in limited release. This film is worthy of their company.
Dir. Rob Marshall
(2009, PG-13, 119 min)
★ ★ ½
Nine is a watchable and intermittently satisfying film, but I’m not sure what it’s about. It’s based on the Broadway musical inspired by Federico Fellini’s famed semi-autobiographical film 8½. I saw 8½ a few years ago for a film class; I’m not sure I knew what it was about either.