Review: Ted 2

Ted-2-Ted

DIR: Seth MacFarlane • WRI: Seth MacFarlane, Alec Sulkin, Wellesley Wild  • PRO: Jason Clark, John Jacobs, Seth MacFarlane, Scott Stuber • DOP: Michael Barrett • ED: Jeff Freeman • MUS: Walter Murphy • CAST: Seth MacFarlane, Liam Neeson, Mark Wahlberg, Amanda Seyfried

 

Every comedy needs a sequel. This much is true. Regardless of how one-note the comedic premise of a movie is, a joke is a joke, and should rightly have every last granule of life strained from it to take the maximum amount of profit from those only too content to spend money on seeing it.
 

Ted is no different. Ted is a cute teddy bear that sounds like Peter Griffin who constantly has filth seeping from his furry mouth. In and of itself alone, that is the alpha and omega of Comedy, the abso-laugh. It is hilarity defined. And, surely enough, Seth McFarlane’s comedic conveyer belt of a mind doesn’t fail to let us down here as the film opens. We find our cute cuddly curmudgeon being married to the tickelingly trashy Tammy-Lynn from the first movie. Does he take the bride? ‘You betchya f**kin’ ass I do’ says Ted. He’s in a church saying that! Outrageous. He’s a teddy bear.
 
As we cut to the opening titles, we are treated to Ted in an elaborate ballroom dancing number with a flurry of human dancers. There’s no jokes or comedic mis-steps involved here, per se. Indeed, there’s barely any discernible skill on show, it’s just a standard ballroom dancing scene. But as an idea, it is show-stoppingly hilarious. Close your eyes and imagine a teddy bear ballroom dancing. If you’re not smiling, you’re an idiot.

 

Some of the comedy in this movie is so cerebral I couldn’t quite figure out when I was meant to laugh. Like in the scene where Liam Neeson makes his cameo. He’s buying cereal at the store, and is dubious about purchasing it because it’s generally considered to be made for kids. There was a joke in there somewhere (and I fully intend on paying to see the movie again so I can understand it), but I laughed anyway because I saw Liam Neeson.

 

The best running joke from the movie is a testament to McFarlane’s forensic comedic eye as he notices that a certain appendage enjoys quite a prevalence on the internet. So, any time a Google search is invoked into the narrative, the characters are invariably directed to a particular website. When you see the film you’ll understand. And, of course, nothing makes anything funnier than some casual racial stereotyping.

 

It was also refreshing to see another comedy where all the best gags were included in the trailer. The only reason I went to see this movie was so I could witness Marky Mark being saturated in bodily fluid on the big screen. He is absolutely drenched in the stuff. Thank heavens that was in the trailer.  Name one Charlie Chaplin movie that has a main character drowned in bodily fluid. You can’t. Because even Chaplin could never think to do something that funny.

 

Scenes involving weed and people being high are also inherently funny. Ted 2 is full of them and is much the better for it. Amanda Seyfried smokes bongs (that way, we know we’re meant to like her), they smoke bongs in the library, in the park. If you see a bong in movie you actually have a civic duty to laugh. At one point, the characters are forced to spend the night in a field full of pot plants –  and then they actually get stoned on the pot plants. Who does that?! However, it isn’t until Amanda Seyfreid takes out a bong that is shaped like a certain piece of male genitalia that this movie comes into its own. It simply transcends wit.

 

I have untold affection for this film. I haven’t even got the time to go into the complex plot (Ted has to prove he’s human), because the amount of sheer comic gold that’s littered throughout. Ted 2 has reinvented the comedy genre for the better.

 

And if you haven’t realized I’m being sarcastic, then you would genuinely love Ted 2.
 

Shane Hennessy

16 (See IFCO for details)
115 minutes
 
Ted 2 is released 10th July 2015
 
Ted 2 – Official Website

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While We’re Young

DIR/WRI: Noah Baumbach •  PRO: Noah Baumbach, Eli Bush, Scott Rudin, Lila Yacoub • DOP: Sam Levy • ED: Jennifer Lame • MUS: James Murphy • DES: Adam Stockhausen • CAST: Amanda Seyfried, Naomi Watts, Ben Stiller

 

Noah Baumbach adapts to the human condition vision that has been demonstrated by filmmakers such as Woody Allen, Paul Mazurzky and Jean Luc Godard, but his work still has a sense of emergence and contemporary relevance that feels fresh.

 

A recurring theme within Baumbach’s last two films (Greenberg/Frances, Ha) was anxiety and a sense of identity crisis. Greenberg dealt with a middle-aged identity crisis, Frances, Ha a quarter-aged, with his latest, While We’re Young, he is dissecting both with sharp comedic commentary.

 

Stagnated in their mundane marriage, Josh (Stiller) and Cornelia (Watts) suffer from denial and bombarding pressure from their friends, who insist they must have children in order to drive their marriage forward. Josh, a documentarian, has spent ten years working on his never-ending and self-indulgent film that is so convoluted he can’t even describe it, in a sense of defeat he usually quips, “it’s really about America”. He’s too stubborn to get support from his father-in-law Leslie (Charles Grodin), who is a profound maverick within the documentary film world. The college where he lectures is his bank.

 

He meets Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried) after one of his lectures and immediately succumbs to their youthful charm and spontaneity. He soon figures that these two young hipsters (an aspiring documentarian and an organic ice cream entrepreneur) are the revelation him and his wife need to rejuvenate their lives.

 

The early stages of this ageless foursome are the film’s strongest comic observations. Baumbach portrays the contrasts of young and old in contemporary society. While Jamie and Darby adhere to the retro lifestyle of listening to vinyl, watching VHS and abstaining from Facebook, our elders, Josh and Cornelia, are constantly logged in and using the latest technology today has to offer. It’s an interesting examination of a generational culture reversal.

 

Josh and Cornelia stray from their mature friends and adapt to Jamie and Darby’s lifestyle, whether it’s hip-hop dance classes, hipster barbeques or Ayahuasca awakenings. After exhilarating highs come tremendous lows and paranoia. The fear of youth begins to possess Josh, as he grows more and more suspicious of Jamie’s intentions and authenticity as a documentarian.

 

A few lines from Henrik Ibsen’s The Master Builder that are shown to us at the beginning of the movie grow more intensely as Josh retreats from the fountain of youth when he sees Jamie for who he really is and the power he has. The anxiety of ageing creeps back into his consciousness.

 

However, Baumbach’s movie isn’t about people’s fear of the youth, but more about people’s anxiety about their personal identity and existence. Darby delivers the message of the movie by explaining to Josh that her and Jamie will grow old like everybody else, suggesting that all the generational pop culture iconography can’t prevent the inevitable. We all grow old we all die.

 

Undoubtedly, Woody Allen’s observational comedy rings throughout the movie. The climax between Josh and Jamie is reminiscent of Murders and Misdemeanors, but in the wider scope of things I was reminded of Midnight in Paris and its resolution. In this instance, Baumbach is focusing on age anxiety rather than Woody’s era anxiety, but the message is the same: we all fantasize about living in a different time, place or shoes, but at the end of the day we must adapt to our own lives and prosper.

 

Even though I’m whipping out big bad words such as anxiety, fear and death, don’t tie the noose quite yet. This movie is not a solemn glimpse into the abyss, but a perfectly, tightly knit comedy with a vibrant soundtrack that should reflect upon any audience, regardless of age.

 

Cormac O’Meara

 

 

12A (See IFCO for details)
96 minutes

While We’re Young is released 3rd April 2015

While We’re Young – Official Website

 

 

 

 

 

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Cinema Review: Lovelace

lovelace-clip-car620

 

DIR: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman • WRI: Andy Bellin • PRO: Heidi Jo Markel, Laura Rister, Jason Weinberg, Jim Young • DOP: Eric Alan Edwards • ED: Robert Dalva, Matt Landon • DES: William Arnold • CAST: Amanda Seyfried, James Franco, Peter Sarsgaard, Juno Temple

Lovelace tells the life story of the star of porn’s most successful theatrical release, Deep Throat. That film reportedly earned more than $600 million, while its lead, Linda Lovelace, earned a paltry $1,250.  Lovelace focuses on her relationship with tyrannical husband/manager Chuck Traynor, exposing the sinister side of the sex film industry.

Lovelace traces Linda’s development from naive, almost priggish young girl, through her brief stint as the porn industry’s megastar, to her decision to confess what it was really like. “Ordeal” was the name of her book, and her experiences are unpleasant. The film progresses first as a success story, hinting at something sinister, before going back and revealing unhappy going-ons behind the scenes.

The film notes that Lovelace’s appearance contrasts with the image expected in porn. She’s not the big-breasted blonde with a small waist. Her freckles receive much attention. Amanda Seyfried conveys Linda’s naivety and initial discomfort with her body. The film’s highlight perhaps comes in her scenes with Wes Bentley. Bentley plays a photographer, taking snapshots for the movie’s publicity posters. He encourages Linda to talk, and Seyfried shines in an emotional moment when she realises her own beauty.  (One notes that Wes Bentley played the character in American Beauty who found so much beauty in the world that he couldn’t take it, an incidental intertextual pleasure.)

Seyfried also excels in her scenes with Peter Sarsgaard, excellent as Chuck Traynor. In the film’s early scenes, he imbues Chuck with an unnerving carnality as he glares and flirts with Linda. His presence is overbearing from that start, so that Chuck’s later anger and violence are not all that surprising.

Supporting cast includes enjoyable, if slight, turns by Hank Azaria as Gerry Damiano, Deep Throat‘s director, and Chris Noth (Mr Big in Sex and the City), as Anthony Romano, the film’s financier. Sharon Stone is effective as Linda’s mother.  Chloë Sevigny (The Brown Bunny, more intertextuality) appears as feminist journalist, questioning Lovelace about how it feels to be “the poster girl for the sexual revolution”

Lovelace’s story has become a touchstone in debates concerning pornography. The narrative in Deep Throat addresses the problem that critics identify pornography as attempting to resolve: how to render visually female sexual pleasure. Linda’s character in that massively successful film, nowadays little seen, presents an independent woman seeking to satisfy her own sexual needs.  Her search takes her outside the confines of patriarchal marriage. It locates female sexual pleasure in the clitoris, which, for Linda in Deep Throat, is at the base of her throat. So, Deep Throat became celebrated because it was a “porno with a story”, and the story presented the sexual freedom of a woman in the era of sexual revolution.

The behind-the-scenes story reveals the coercion involved in the industry. It exposes whatever pleasure is to be derived from pornography as purely male. In one scene, Harry Reems (Adam Brody) climaxes too quickly when filming Linda’s first sex scene. The crew watching the scene being performed are entirely male and clearly enjoy watching Linda fellate Harry. The same scene later becomes more chilling with the tyrannical presence of Chuck, watching and making sure that Linda takes part and does what she’s told.

Andy Bellin’s script also characterises the traditional family as coercive and problematic for women.  When Linda turns to her mother for respite from Chuck’s beatings, her mother insists that she should “be a good wife, listen to him and obey him”. Linda endures further threats, violence and misery as a result of doing what’s expected of her.  It’s ironic then that Linda finds happiness as a mother and a wife, ultimately presenting a conservative message:  women should stick to their traditional roles. Of course, Chuck is not a role model husband, pimping his wife and expecting her to perform in porn films.

James Franco appears on the film’s fringes, playing Hugh Hefner. He recently worked with Travis Mathews on Interior. Leather Bar, a film that challenges the workings and apparent realism of pornography in a more cinematically sophisticated manner. Lovelace is itself in some ways pornographic. In a home movie clip, Seyfried’s Lovelace drops her denim shorts, to reveal her bottom in a teasing, sexual manner, whereas, in a similar clip, Sarsgaard’s Chuck “moons” playfully.  Male nudity is a joke; female nudity is charged with desire. In another scene, feeling uncomfortable with her appearance, Linda’s hair hides her breasts and she covers her midriff with her arms, while the men in her life, workers in the sex industry, encourage her to reveal. The film then exposes Seyfried’s breasts in a pornographic fashion, indulging in some of the pleasures that pornography promises.

Critics believe pornography is not art because it intends to arouse; it’s affective pleasures are sensations.  An appeal to rational or critical thinking makes something artistic. The appeal of Lovelace to the emotions, in its simplistic characterisation of Chuck Traynor as Svengali, becomes pornographic, in this sense, when Anthony Romano oversees Chuck’s beating, at which stage viewers will probably take delight in seeing this exploitative man getting what he deserves.

The production design, given its modest $10 million budget, is excellent, with groovy ’70s costumes.  Gladys Knight sings “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination” over the opening sequence, in which we cut from the light in a theatrical projection room to a shot of the sun shining through Linda’s car window. The use of classics ’70s tracks, such as Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” and George McCrae’s “Rock Your Baby”, give the film an uplifting feel that begins to seem out of place, as the horror of Linda’s story becomes apparent.

Epstein and Friedman, the film’s directors, have made excellent documentaries, including The Celluloid Closet, about homosexuality in the movies, and the Oscar-winning Common Threads Stories from the Quilt, the subject of which is the AIDS memorial quilt. Epstein also won an Oscar for The Times of Harvey MilkParagraph 175 told the story of persecution of gay men in Nazi Germany. Epstein and Friedman recently moved into fictional treatments of real people. Howl (2010) starred James Franco as Allen Ginsberg.

Inside Deep Throat was a well-received documentary that features interviews with the real Linda Lovelace, who died from injuries sustained in a car crash in 2002. It perhaps explains why Epstein and Friedman resort to a fictional telling of an important story, but the complexity of the debates that Deep Throat and Lovelace’s story provoke is lost in their simplistic film that’s made enjoyable by good performances and incidental pleasures.

John Moran

Rated 18 (see IFCO website for details) 

92 mins
Lovelace is released on 23rd August 2013

Lovelace – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Les Misérables

DIR: Tom Hooper • WRI: William Nicholson • PRO: Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward , Cameron Mackintosh • DOP: Danny Cohen • ED: Chris Dickens, Melanie Oliver  • DES: Eve Stewart • CAST: Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Eddie Redmaybe, Amanda Seyfried

Few films in recent memory have screamed Oscar®-bait more than Tom Hooper’s Les Misérables. When an Academy Award®-winning filmmaker takes one of the world’s most beloved musicals based on one of the most powerful novels ever written and casts it with cream-of-the-crop performers, including a former Oscar® host, an Oscar®-winning actor and two Oscar®-nominated actresses, how could it fail come February?

Well, with surprising ease, apparently. It takes quite a talent to so thoroughly slaughter this golden egg-laying musical goose, but Hooper has found a way. A masterful director of actors (check out The Damned United) who has been remarkably lucky with his script choices, never more so than for his multi-award-winning film The King’s Speech, Hooper has never been accused of having outstanding visual flair. Here, that lack of flair is downright unimaginative, and results in a lazily produced and bloated film that never manages to engage the eyes, even as it haunts and delights the ears.

Hooper’s misdirection has not been enough to block out the power of Victor Hugo’s story, or the arresting music and lyrics of Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg’s 1980 musical, and Les Mis retains a certain magic.

Tony Award-winning musical performer and Wolverine Hugh Jackman stars as Jean Valjean, a beleaguered Frenchman in post-Napoleonic France, starving and unable to find work due to his status as an ex-con; he has just served 19 years for stealing a single loaf of bread. Daring to start a new life, he breaks parole and creates a new identity for himself, within years becoming a successful factory owner and mayor of a provincial town. Valjean’s past catches up with him in the form of Javert (Russell Crowe), the foreman of his former chain gang, now a high-ranking police inspector who views Valjean as the one who got away, and someone whom the law must punish once more.

Valjean’s life on the run from Javert is complicated by his adoption of Cosette, a sweet urchin whose prostitute mother (Anne Hathaway) was unable to take care of her. Years later, as revolution stirs once more in the streets of Paris, Cosette (Amanda Seyfried) finds herself besmitten with a young rebel named Marius (Eddie Redmayne), and is soon dragged with her father into the political tumult, pursued ravenously by Javert.

Hugo’s themes of persecution and faith echo wonderfully in the film’s finer songs. Anne Hathaway sobs her way through ‘I Dreamed a Dream’, her hair shorn and her cheeks bloodied, having just sold her locks, teeth and body. Jackman belts out ‘Who am I? I’m Jean Valjean!’ as he decides to take responsibility for his actions in order to save another man. Samantha Barks, the only professional singer in the main cast, brings a mournful elegance to ‘On My Own’. Hooper’s insistence on using single-take close-ups throughout many of the numbers show off his actors’ talents well, but they are anything but cinematic, more akin to watching the big screen at a pop concert than a Hollywood musical. The only properly choreographed performance is ‘Master of the House’, a jaunty, nasty song that feels out of place in the midst of so much real drama.

Because of this, the musical numbers have no energy, and you would be forgiven for wishing Gene Kelly would burst onto the screen and roar ‘Gotta dance!’ If only. It is not until well into the third act that the medley ‘One More Day’ properly electrifies the film, followed swiftly by the show-stopping ‘Do You Hear the People Sing’; but it’s too little too late. As the rebels set up barricades in a Parisian cul-de-sac so fake it looks like Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley, it’s hard to care anymore about the young lovers’ plight, let alone the attempted revolution. When the film reaches its apparent climax, there are still 20 minutes to go, although the overwhelming finale just about makes up for that drag.

Hooper’s decision to have the actors’ singing recorded live on set results in some very affecting performances that hammer the emotions through the songs; although this doesn’t always facilitate their hitting the right notes. Jackman makes a believable Valjean, but the boy from Oz rarely flexes the vocals (and not once the dance moves) that made him a Broadway darling. Russell Crowe, a rock ’n’ roll singer in his spare time, scoops his voice repeatedly to reach the notes required, but the effect is more Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia! than Michael Crawford. Due as much to some of Hooper’s more incomprehensible directorial decisions as to the Gladiator star’s miscasting, Crowe only manages to capture a fragment of the obsessive, sadistic and homoerotic nature of Javert that Charles Laughton mastered in the role nearly 80 years ago.

And fragments are all this film is; pieces of a glorious story, with moments of fine acting and superb songs brought low by excessive Dutch tilts and face-hugging close-ups. Not since Carl Th. Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc have expensive sets been this lost, buried out of focus, behind the faces of a film’s stars.

Yet it’s still hard not to recommend Les Mis, on some level. The story is timeless and the music resplendent, and Jackman and particularly Hathaway deserve to have their performances seen and heard. The un-cinematic quality of Hooper’s interpretation may yet lead to it finding a more respecting audience on the small screen, where the careless photography and in-your-face close-ups can cause less offence.

It could be worse. It could be Nine.

David Neary

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)

157 mins

Les Misérables is released on 11th January2013

Les Misérables – Official Website

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Cinema Review: In Time

pop star

DIR/WRI: Andrew Niccol • PRO: Marc Abraham, Eric Newman, Andrew Niccol • DOP: Roger Deakins • ED: Zach Staenberg • DES: Alex McDowell • CAST: Justin Timberlake, Amanda Seyfried, Cillian Murphy, Olivia Wilde

Writer/director Andrew Niccol has tackled major subjects years before they became prominent in the media’s eye, be it cloning (Gattaca), reality shows (The Truman Show), or digitially created actors (S1m0ne). This time Niccol marries an old idea of everyone dying at the age of 25 (not unlike Logan’s Run) with the issue of imbalanced wealth distribution (which has been a hot topic for the last half decade), which makes this movie already feel, well, old.

In this alternate future, everyone stops aging at 25, and every second after that has to be earned, with your life expectancy viewable on your arm like a stopwatch that shows your constantly dwindling bank balance. Justin Timberlake is making a day-to-day living when a man with over a century on his arm gives him all his time, then promptly kills himself. Soon after, Timberlake’s mother (Olivia Wilde) dies when yet another price time hike empties her clock. This prompts Timberlake to go to where all the rich folk live and find out why some get to live potentially forever, while others are left to drop dead on the street. While there he is accused of murder, and goes on the run with spoilt rich kid Amanda Seyfried.

Due to the ‘Do Not Pass 25’ rule, Niccol is able to fill his cast with some very attractive faces (Timberlake, Seyfried, Wilde, not to mention Alex Pettyfer, Matt Bomer and Cillian Murphy), and they all do reasonably well with their roles, but the movie itself is a potentially brilliant 15-minute short stretched out into a mediocre 109-minute feature. Once the universe is established, everything else is just a sci-fi Bonnie & Clyde/Robin Hood mish-mash of chases and robbing from the rich and giving to the poor. So while this is by no means a bad film, it is an epic case of ‘what could have been’.

Rory Cashin

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
In Time is released on 4th November 2011

In Time – Official Website

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Letters to Juliet

Letters to Juliet

DIR: Gary Winick • WRI: Jose Rivera, Tim Sullivan • PRO: Ellen Barkin, Mark Canton, Eric Feig, Caroline Kaplan, Patrick Wachsburger • ED: Bill Pankow • DOP: Marco Pontecorvo • CAST: Amanda Seyfried, Vanessa Redgrave, Christopher Egan, Gael Garcia Bernal

The problem with gratuitously romantic films is that they often tend to alienate those audience members who have a lick of common sense! While there is nothing wrong with a film wearing its heart on its sleeve, it is quite something else to try to embrace an airy-fairy heroine with no sense of maturity whatsoever.

Sophie (Seyfried) is in her mid-20s, working as a fact-checker for The New Yorker magazine, living in Manhattan and engaged to gorgeous, passionate chef, Victor (Bernal). Victor is just weeks away from opening his own restaurant and is unfortunately rather busy in the run-up to his launch. When they go on holiday to Verona he drags her around beautiful vineyards and gourmet food tastings (very difficult to sympathise) and she moans and groans until they decide to do their own thing. Sophie visits Juliet Capulet’s house where women flock from all over the world to bring love letters which they leave on the wall outside. The plot thickens when Sophie meets the women who reply to the letters known as the Secretaries of Juliet. She soon joins in and becomes involved in a 50 year-old love story involving an elderly British lady (Redgrave) in search of her true love, much to the chagrin of her snooty grandson (Egan).

The plot is silly, but rather fun. The Tuscan countryside is incredibly beautiful which makes the film pleasant on the eye and the plot moves along at a good pace, never leaving the audience bored. However, it is very difficult to villainise the ‘unromantic’ fiancée who only seeks to live life with his feet on the ground. The term ‘true love’ is tossed around constantly but the fact is Sophie has no concept of working through problems or allowing her partner space during a stressful time. She has no time for his passion for food but gets in a strop when he doesn’t listen to her nonsense love stories.

This is a silly, fluffy film with a small amount of charm which comes in the form of the enchanting Amanda Seyfried. Her love interest (Christopher Egan) is thoroughly unlikeable and they certainly don’t have enough chemistry to suggest that she should give up her whole life to be with him. However, Vanessa Redgrave’s search for her long lost love proves infinitely more affecting, and this part of the story is sweet and seems to have more of a grown-up sensibility. Letters to Juliet will probably delight die-hard romantics but it is difficult not to be annoyed by its simplistic and downright naive view of what ‘true love’ really is?

Charlene Lydon

Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
Letters to Juliet
is released on 11th June 2010

Letters to Juliet – Official Website

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Chloe

Chloe

DIR: Atom Egoyan • WRI: Erin Cressida Wilson, Anne Fontaine • PRO: Jeffrey Clifford, Joe Medjuck, Ivan Reitman, Simone Urdl, Jennifer Weiss • DOP: Paul Sarossy • ED: Susan Shipton • DES: Susan Shipton • CAST: Julianne Moore, Liam Neeson, Amanda Seyfried

Chloe, the latest from Armenian/Canadian director Atom Egoyan follows hot on the heels of his previous offering, the mind-numbingly dull and pretentious treatise on terrorism, memory and truth which was Adoration. His latest, an erotic thriller, is more of a mainstream genre piece, and marks a return towards form for the man who gave us Exotica (1994) (shortlisted for the Palm D’Or) and The Sweet Hereafter (1997) which earned Egoyan a nomination for best director at the Oscars®.

Chloe tells the story of Catherine, a successful gynecologist played by the extremely bankable and reliable Julianne Moore, who, suspecting her music lecturer husband David (Liam Neeson) of infidelity, hires Chloe (Amanda Seyfried), a young escort to test David’s resolve against her seduction techniques. Catherine meets up surreptitiously with Chloe for updates on her husband’s alleged misadventures and seems initially reluctant to be regaled by the saucy details but is masochistically turned on by the lurid accounts, reminding her of her redundant sexual relations with her husband. Catherine’s relationship with Chloe is initially intended to be on purely business terms but develops uneasily as Chloe’s obsessive mental state is exposed and her motives, as well as Catherine’s, become questionable and increasingly disturbing.

The movie opens beautifully where the juxtaposition of the lavish and fetishistic dressing of Chloe and her sexy attire is set in stark contrast to her cool voiceover outlining the raison d’être for her choice of occupation, citing it as a necessary economic and social function. Egoyan then paints the picture of a seemingly successful upper middle class marriage expertly; all opera, fancy restaurants and dinner parties, but all is not well behind the sparkly champagne-tinged veneer as David misses his own surprise birthday party and Catherine intercepts an ambiguous photo message on his phone from one of his female students. Catherine is struggling to cope with a stagnant sexual life, her husband’s flirtations directed at younger women and her own perceived undesirability. She even seems jealous of her teenage son’s active sexual life as she reprimands him for sleeping with his girlfriend. She seems disillusioned with sex, describing an orgasm to a female patient who has never experienced one as simply ‘a series of muscle contractions’ – a reflection of her own frustrations. Egoyan tackles the issues of supposedly exclusive male infidelity, female suspicion and insecurities over the ageing process, weaving them together and fleshing them out in the suspense-laden narrative.

Neeson gives an assured performance as David, an ageing and egotistic lothario with a penchant for seedy flirtation, while Moore excels as the elegant but neurotic spouse (close to Desperate Housewife character Bree), despite veering towards haughty melodrama at times. Amanda Seyfried gives a confident performance as the Cherub-faced, titular character, a far cry from the all singing, all dancing blonde teenybopper of Mamma Mia. However, her performance as a black widow  lacks the bite of Glenn Close’s in Fatal Attraction or Sharon Stone’s Basic Instinct. While her childlike vulnerability and Lolitaesque sexuality is used to good effect as she expertly manipulates members of Catherine’s family, it ultimately stops her from seeming really threatening and dangerous. The main problems however, lie in the screenplay where it seems Egoyan ran out of steam when writing the third act. The film, although pieced together nicely until the last third, and shot beautifully with a lustrous score, peters out quite undramatically in its staid and clichéd climax – hardly the bunny boiler scene of Fatal Attraction. The accompanying denouement also seems hurried and unrealistic. The sex scenes are erotically charged, one standout scene in particular between two of the main characters, without giving too much away will surely rank highly on some Channel Four Top 100 countdown show in the near future, and is slightly reminiscent of a scene in David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr.

Chloe marks a significant thematic departure for the Armenian/Canadian auteur whose previous films have mainly explored issues of displacement and personal alienation and isolation in a technological age. Egoyan can’t help but expose his Luddite preoccupations however, in a scene where Chloe gives a CD to Catherine’s teenage son extolling to him the virtue of this antiquated but personalised medium over the alienating practice of MP3s and filesharing. Apart from this diversion, Chloe stays close to formulaic mainstream territory. It is an accomplished but flawed genre piece, an erotic melodrama when it should have been a thriller.

Brian Moran

Rated 16 (see IFCO for details)

Chloe is released 5th March 2010

Chloe– Official Website


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Jennifer’s Body

Jennifer's Body

DIR: Karyn Kusama • WRI: Diablo Cody • PRO: Daniel Dubiecki, Mason Novick, Jason Reitman • DOP: M. David Mullen • ED: Plummy Tucker • DES: Arvinder Grewal • CAST: Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, Johnny Simmons, Adam Brody

We meet Needy Lesnicky (Amanda Seyfried) in a mental hospital. She’s a violent prisoner, but, as she tells us, she wasn’t always that way. It was her best friend Jennifer (Megan Fox) who caused all the problems; she came back a bloody-hungry monster after going off singer Nikolai (Brody) and his band…

Much anticipated – at least by some – Jennifer’s Body stars sex-bomb-of-the-moment Megan Fox and is written by Diablo Cody, the colourful character who won an Oscar® for last year’s surprise indie hit Juno.

The buzz was that Cody had re-invented the horror genre, but sadly, the truth falls far shorter than that. It’s not that this isn’t a competent teen-horror movie (it is), but that Cody’s dialogue – the thing that got her the Academy Award® – doesn’t fit in with the horror story at all.

It’s a tonal problem overall really, and in aiming to be a satirical/black comedy about the horrors of High School life – a more contemporary Heathers, if you will – it not only makes Jennifer’s victims likeable people (and Jennifer herself is a nasty, vain bitch, even when she doesn’t have fangs), but the sight of students crying at candle-lit vigils for a dead friend is uncomfortably familiar.

There are some funny lines, but they seem so out of place and inappropriate. They’re not witty, off-the-cuff, comments you often get in horror films, they seem like someone inserted dialogue from a quirky indie film by mistake, and it totally jars.

Quirkiness is a fine line anyway, and here it’s begging too hard to be noticed: a character has a hook for a hand, a cute little sister swears – but so what? There are plot and logic holes too: if Needy is so nerdy, how come she has a boyfriend? How come Jennifer and Needy are friends anyway? Is Needy psychic?

Director Kasuma tries hard – the audience jumps at all the right moments – but bloody gore and talking ‘Cody’ just don’t mix (i.e. when a character is bleeding to death, Jennifer and Needy stop and talk about anorexia and being socially unpopular). It all just seems totally out of whack, and though Seyfried (last seen in Mamma Mia! believe it or not) is good – it’s really her character and story we follow, not Fox’s (who’s a little too Stepford-Wifey for me). No matter; the teenaged boys who saw the poster of her won’t care.

James Bartlett
(See biog here)

Rated 16 (see IFCO website for details)
Jennifer’s Body
is released on 6th Nov 2009

Jennifer’s Body – Official Website

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