Seventh Son

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DIR: Sergey Bodrov • WRI: Charles Leavitt, Steven Knight •  PRO: Basil Iwanyk, Thomas Tull, Lionel Wigram • DOP: Newton Thomas Sigel • ED: Jim Page, Paul Rubell • MUS: Marco Beltrami • DES: Dante Ferretti • CAST: Ben Barnes, Julianne Moore, Jeff Bridges

“What goes around, comes around” is one of those vague truisms that only truly applies in two contexts: pass-the-parcel and pop culture. The past decade alone has proven true for the latter, with the superhero genre having completed a full cycle from matinee fluff to box-office heavyweight – a certain be-cowled billionaire proving particularly symbolic of a shift from camp four-colour fun towards the grounded and gritty.

Even now, however, there is evidence of a return to nostalgia – just as Marvel’s ever-expanding cinematic universe begins to court the more colourful aspects of its comic-book ancestry, Matthew Vaughn was all-too-happy to provide a similar tonic to a spy genre replete with Bournes and Bonds in the form of last month’s Kingsmen: The Secret Service.

So with Game of Thrones as the undisputed and unrelenting lord of television and most big-screen releases little more than copycats coasting in the wake of LOTR’s box-office success (its own sequel trilogy the greatest offender among them), the fantasy genre is set for a director to come along and breathe new life with a (semi-) original property that drags traditional fantasy kicking and screaming into the internet age.

And traditional Seventh Son certainly is.

John Ward (Ben Barnes) is the seventh son of a seventh son, and thus born to fight the forces of darkness besieging a medieval world where dragons, witches and shapeshifters are very much more than stories. With an old evil newly-awakened, he is sought out by Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges), last of the Seventh Sons and in the market for a new apprentice after his last protégé fell to head witch Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore).

The fun brand of fantasy here owes less to Tolkien than it does to Dungeons & Dragons, where monsters are ranked by classes and the apple-pie American accent is standard, the British lilt reserved only for those of sinister intent. The other trappings, however, are pure fantasy – McGuffins masquerading as jewellery abound, and the quest aspect is but another iteration of the original conservative allegory of eliminating any outside forces which might attempt to change the world we live in – there would genuinely be more pathos in watching an order of Seventh Sons passively resist their doom in the form of increasing urbanization and smaller family sizes it fosters.

An engaging story can win out above all, but when the imagination is so starved in that regard the mind turns itself towards picking flaws that might have otherwise gone happily unnoticed. It’s hard to escape the idea that Seventh Sons would have been better off evoking the trappings of traditional fantasy without chaining itself to the most restrictive of them; each enemy is just another jingoistic stand-in for a sinister ethnic other, so that the plot essentially boils to white men whacking minorities with sticks. Watching the news is free, thanks.

As for the cast, no amount of gravitas can override this much unintentional ham. Julianne Moore channels a brand of camp better suited to a Hocus Pocus sequel and though Jeff Bridges fares better by going with the flow and opting for an accent somewhere between Bane and bronchitis, I’d have much preferred to see the film he thought he was making.

Ruairí Moore

 

12A (See IFCO for details)
102 minutes

Seventh Son is released 27th March 2015

Seventh Son – Official Website

 

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Still Alice

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DIR/WRI:  Richard Glatzer, Wash Westmoreland •  PRO: James Brown, Emilie Georges, Pamela Koffler, Lex Lutzus • DOP: Denis Lenoir ED: Nicolas Chaudeurge • MUS: Ilan Eshkeri • DES: Tommaso Ortino • CAST: Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth, Alec Baldwin, Julianne Moore, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth

During the introduction of one of her lectures, linguistics professor Alice Howland (Julianne Moore) is suddenly unable to remember, of all things, the term lexicon. Soon she starts to show further problems, she gets lost while she is jogging, she introduces herself to her son’s girlfriend despite the fact that he had already introduced them moments earlier. She becomes worried about these lapses in memory and is soon diagnosed as suffering from an early onset of Alzheimer’s, despite only having recently turned fifty. While she makes attempts to manage her symptoms, her condition soon worsens, leaving her family to try and adjust to her care.

Naturally, all attention for this film will be centred on Julianne Moore’s subtle and studied performance, which leads to the question of whether or not this performance overshadows the film as whole. While it is certainly true that Moore’s performance is in itself a lot better than the film that surrounds it, I believe it would be unfair to dismiss the film along those lines. What the writers/directors Richard Glazer and Wash Westmoreland, adapting the story from a bestselling novel by Lisa Genova, are aiming to do is to depict Alice’s condition from her own point of view and to have more of a focus on how much of an impact the disease has on her life rather than the effect it has on the people around her.

There is a very personal reason why the directors would want to depict Alice’s condition in this way as in 2011 Glazer was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, an incurable disease that weakens the body by wasting the muscles. This fact is the most felt in a scene where Alice delivers a speech at the Alzheimer’s Association where she describes just how awful it feels to lose your memories and to lose control over yourself. The film’s sensitive handling of its subject matter shows this personal reticence. While it does lapse into overt sentimentality at times, it never feels emotively exploitative, as perhaps it could have been, mainly thanks to the director’s understanding of her condition and of Moore’s fantastic lead performance.

While there is much to admire about Glazer and Westmoreland’s approach to the subject matter, there still is the problem that the film is not as good as its main actress. Part of this stems from it visual style, which is quite unremarkable and where the only technique used to signify Alice’s experiences, the use of shallow or out of focus, is gradually dispensed with as the film goes on. This lack of visual imagination offers us no insight on what Alice is going through, making us more reliant on Julianne Moore’s skills to fill in those gaps. The film’s use of language symbolism is a bit on the nose as well, from Alice’s profession to the scrabble like game she plays on her phone.

For all these problems, what makes the film work as well as it does is largely in part down to the stunning central performance by Julianne Moore. While the timeframe that the film explores shows us Alice from when the earliest signs of her disease through her rapid decline, Moore shows us glimpses of the kind of person Alice used to be, which allows us to recognise just how much her mind is deteriorating. It is not a show-off performance full of large gestures and dramatic outbursts, but rather more reliant on subtle movements, both physically and emotionally. The scene that showcases just how convincing Moore is in her character comes when Alice, whose condition at this point has worsened significantly, discovers a video message that she had made while her condition was somewhat manageable on her laptop. The difference between these two versions of Alice, one with some sense of control while the other is meek and confused, is extraordinary, showing Moore’s talent, building the character but then slowly dismantling it, leaving someone who is recognisable while at the same time completely different from what they where before.

While Moore’s performance makes the film,  she does have some great support, most notably from Kristen Stewart as her youngest daughter, a wannabe actress and the only member of the family who attempts to try and understand Alice’s condition rather than cope with it, the respectful approach taken by Glazer and Westmoreland, though understandable, seems only to highlight the film’s flaws rather than its strengths. Still, its intention is undoubtedly sincere, and what it lacks in inventiveness it makes up for in heart.

Patrick Townsend

12A (See IFCO for details)
100 minutes

Still Alice is released 6th March 2015

Still Alice  – Official Website

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Maps to the Stars

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DIRDavid Cronenberg  WRI: Bruce Wagner  PRO: Saïd Ben Saïd, Martin Katz, Michel Merkt  DOP: Peter Suschitzky  ED: Ronald Sanders  DES: Carol Spier  MUS: Howard Shore  CAST: Julianne Moore, Mia Wasikowska, Olivia Williams, Sarah Gadon, John Cusack, Robert Pattinson 

David Cronenberg has built his career on shock, but what happens when he chooses a subject that not only is unable to shock audiences, but is also so mundane that it is available to us through a simple finger tip to our phones? The subject matter of which I speak is the sordid social fabric of Tinseltown, Hollywood, U.S.A., which Cronenberg and screenwriter Bruce Wagner tackle in Maps to the Stars.

Well, they don’t exactly tackle this notion of Hollywood lifestyle as much as they give us a glimpse of what we already know via the constant bombardment of social media and sleaze journalism. Maps delves into the nooks and crannies of Hollywood and some of its unsavory characters. A society where status, age and looks are constantly scrutinized, where movie stars refer to their maids as “chore whores” and everybody hides under a mound of drugs.

Yes, it does sound like a delightful scandalous romp of excess and maniacal nihilism, and it possibly could have been some odd twenty years ago, however, this generation’s savvy cynicism preempts this sort of behavior. We are living in an age, where celebrities’ personal lives are on display 24/7 for the universe to criticize. The Justin Biebers, Lindsay Lohan’s and Kanye Kardashian’s of this world have already been crucified on a daily basis. With all this in mind, one might find Maps to the Stars a tad stale and its characters are all too easy to hate. The audience should have to work and debate in a satire of this magnitude, not enter the theatre knowing whom the scumbag is then leaving with the same opinion in tact.

However, Maps to the Stars is not your regular classical narrative structure. It’s a surreal feature that attempts to portray the nightmare disguised by the glitz and glamour of the business. The question isn’t “is it surreal?” The question is “is it surreal enough?”. We get the sense that Maps to the Stars doesn’t quite know what it is. It possesses a strong sense of realism through its great performances and violence, but it throws in a ghost or two to hint a supernatural element. The most stylistic audacious movie of this kind of genre was David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive, which was complete other world of mind-fuckery in itself. At the end of Mulholland Drive you couldn’t fathom what the hell actually happened, but you enjoyed the ride nonetheless. However, with Maps to the Stars you might not have entirely understood what went on, but you didn’t really care either.

Some may argue that with today’s online social paparazzi, a movie like this may seem redundant. It’s true that our post modern, nonchalant barriers are hard to penetrate, but maybe if we are shown the flipside of the coin, a celebrity superstar’s POV of the TMZ parasites and abuse from trolls hiding behind the comfort of their computer screens. We’re not good; we just know how to hide.

Cronenberg’s incredible vision and creativity is on a higher plateau than this. His gift has always been producing original and wild fictional worlds that no one but he could invent. With Maps to the Stars he has given us a film we can just swipe to the side like another tabloid story hurdling down the endless information highway.

Cormac O’Meara

18 (See IFCO for details)

111 minutes

Maps to the Stars is released 26th September 2014

Maps to the Stars – Official Website

 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fwxmnyoofPs
 

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Cinema Review: Non-Stop

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DIR: Jaume Collet-Serra • WRI: John W. Richardson, Christopher Roach • Ryan Engle PRO: Alex Heineman, Andrew Rona, Joel Silver • DOP: Flavio Martínez Labiano • ED: Jim May • MUS: John Ottman • DES: Alec Hammond  • CAST: Liam Neeson, Julianne Moore, Michelle Dockery, Scoot McNairy, Lupita Nyong’o

 

In Non-Stop, Liam Neeson plays Bill Marks, an Irish-American air marshal with a dark past and a drinking problem. (Standard – one wonders if it’s possible to get a career in the defensive forces without a tragic history.) While on board a long-haul New York/London flight, he receives a series of taunting texts from a mysterious stranger threatening to murder a passenger every 20 minutes unless $150 million is deposited in a bank account. His aggressive approach to preventing this puts him at odds with the passengers, crew, and TSA; and when the bank account is revealed to be in his own name, Marks is branded a hijacker. Stripped of his badge and gun (‘duty-free’?) and unsure who to trust, Marks must clear his name and get the passengers back on side before the real threat comes to an explosive climax.

Certain stylistic features of this film work very well. The appearance of speech bubbles on screen to show a text message is a device becoming popular since its use in such television series as Sherlock and House of Cards. Director Jaume Collet-Serra takes this further, projecting the flickering screen of a shattered phone and highlighted auto-fills as Marks types (though unfortunately for the film’s humour content, no auto-correct slip-ups), validating the use of text messages as a form of narrative delivery within a film. Similarly, the claustrophobic setting of the plane is well-captured – probably no doubt helped by Neeson’s hulking frame dominating the tiny space.

The film deals in some potentially rich themes here, too, with the gradual turn against Marks by everyone else involved with the flight. The difference between a state of hijacking and a state of emergency, and the threat to civil liberties through deference and compliance to perceived authority, is ripe for exploration. Unfortunately it’s treated with all the intelligence and subtlety as a fire extinguisher to the back of the head.

In terms of its plot, it would be unfair to call Non-Stop a Non-Starter – the initial premise is intriguing, menacing, and vaguely Hitchcockian in its ambitions. Call it ‘Strangers on a Plane.’ Yet somewhere along the line the low-key approach is completely abandoned in favour of toilet-based kung-fu, a sophisticated bomb concealed in cocaine, and television news channels streaming live onboard, asking of possible-hijacker Marks, ‘how do we know he’s NOT IRA?’ A certain suspension of disbelief is always required with any action caper, but halfway through it seems that the film is aware of this audience pre-disposition and shamelessly takes advantage.

With that in mind, those who enjoy Neeson’s latter-day action movie superstar mode will doubtless find much to enjoy here, with a number of well-choreographed fight scenes at 30,000 feet causing plenty of turbulence. Neeson is a great action star – his broad build, stern Roman features, and emotional range are perfectly suited to this genre. Along with fighting three men at once, he acts the hell out of looking at a phone, and has great chemistry with co-star Julianne Moore. He may be trying to save 150 people on board the plane, but Non-Stop takes a narrative nosedive in its third act that not even Liam Neeson can put right. The resolution to the whodunnit feels like a cheat, as does the motivation given for compromising the plane. The descent into cliché gathers so much speed that it crashes horribly close to parody; and the cheerful Hollywood ending fails to reconcile a number of loose ends about Marks’ no-doubt partially-disturbed mental state that doesn’t convince me he’ll come out the other side of this journey any better off. (Especially considering current exchange rates.)

A great mystery it’s not, and the frenzied, preposterous conclusion might be more ‘non, stop’ than ‘non-stop,’ but fans of Liam Neeson hunting, finding, and killing his man will certainly get more than enough of that. Fasten your seat-belts, it’s a bumpy ride.

Stacy Grouden

12A (See IFCO for details)
106  mins

Non-Stop is released on 28th February 2014

Non-Stop – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Carrie

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DIR: Kimberly Peirce  • WRI: Lawrence D. Cohen, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa • PRO: Kevin Misher • DOP: Steve Yedlin • ED: Lee Percy, Nancy Richardson •  DES: Carol Spier •  MUS: Marco Beltrami • CAST: Chloë Grace Moretz, Julianne Moore, Judy Greer, Ansel Elgort

There is no doubt that I was incredibly sceptical about the idea of a Carrie remake. Brian De Palma’s 1976 film adaptation of Carrie – originally a novel by Stephen King – is a personal favourite. Undoubtedly creepy, the film – like many old horror classics – is perhaps made more pleasurable for a contemporary audience because of its camp qualities, owing to the time that has elapsed since it first appeared on screen. By today’s standards, immersed as we are in the horror generated by big-budget CGI affairs, De Palma’s Carrie seems quaint, and therefore – in my opinion – all the more enjoyable.

Although faithful to the narrative, director Kimberley Peirce (Boys Don’t Cry, Stop-Loss) spins Carrie in a slightly different direction which has equal potential to please or irritate audiences. The horror aspect of the original film is stripped away, and in its place we have the story of teen bullying and high-school politics. While Carrie has – at its most basic level – always been a story about bullying, this film takes it a step further. By focusing on how bullying is perpetuated through the use of social media, Carrie resonates poignantly with today’s society in which many teens are victims of assaults mediated by online outlets. If you think that the original film’s famous shower scene is uncomfortable viewing, just add a smart-phone and it takes on a whole new level of vicious realism. By contemporising the film in this way, Carrie is made fresher and more appealing for a younger audience, although its infidelity to the horror conventions deployed in the original will not please old-school Carrie fans.

Chloë Grace Moretz – no stranger to the odd remake (think 2010’s Let Me In) – plays the protagonist. While certainly not as creepy and delightfully off-putting as Sissy Spacek’s depiction of Carrie, Moretz – with her wide-eyed innocence and youthful face – works extremely well in the role of a high-school teenager. Although technically just as pretty as the other girls, Moretz’s body language signifies the awkwardness of those in-between years, and a scene which takes place in a swimming pool at the beginning of the film poignantly encapsulates the alienating experience that outsiders like Carrie encounter in school.

However, the depiction of Carrie’s deranged mother Margaret White is disappointing. While the casting is perfect (who doesn’t love Julianne Moore?) it is a pity that although the film succeeds at modernising the characters and scenarios in Carrie, Margaret White remains relatively unchanged. While it is imperative that she is a creepy and sinister figure (as this is a large part of the story), it seems a shame that there is less of a creative re-imagining of her character than there is with the rest of the cast. Indeed, the film differentiates itself from the original by fleshing out high-school girls Sue Snell (Gabriella Wilde) and Chris Hargensen (Portia Doubleday), which gives the film an interesting depth. Unfortunately, and despite her acting abilities, Moore’s dialogue seems to stem from the script of the original film, which ultimately feels disorientating in a context whereby there is an obvious attempt to breathe new life into something old.

2013’s Carrie works on a different level to its 1976 counterpart – as teen fare devoid of the horror and hysteria of the original – and will therefore make the story more accessible for a generation raised on Instagram. Whether that’s a good thing is perhaps debatable. Fans of the original will probably not be too impressed, but unfortunately this is somewhat inevitable when one chooses to remake an already much-loved film. They may not be laughing at you anymore Carrie. Arguably, they’ll be crying.

Heather Browning

16  (See IFCO for details)

99  mins

Carrie is released on 29th November 2013

Carrie – Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcgOVzR9dHE

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Cinema Review: Don Jon

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DIR/WRI: Joseph Gordon-Levitt  PRO: Ram Bergman   DOP: Thomas Kloss   ED: Lauren Zuckerman   MUS: Nathan Johnson DES: Meghan C. Rogers CAST: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson, Julianne Moore, Tony Danza

Joseph Gordon-Levitt has enjoyed a great reputation as one of the most respected actors of this generation after his performances in films such as Brick, 50/50 and Inception. Now, one of American cinema’s brightest and most talented young faces has made the big transition to writing and directing. Don Jon, which he also stars in, is in fact his feature film directorial debut. But is that really what the draw of the film is? Let’s be honest, the thing that is most likely to attract people’s attentions is the fact that it is built around the concept of pornography and fits perfectly among the many other works representing American cinema’s childish fixation with sexual taboos. Unfortunately, there is no exception here. Childishness is once again the order of the day.

This is the story of a man whose friends call him Don Jon. He has earned his name through his reputation as a heartbreaker. Every night he goes out to a club, he brings a girl back to his flat. Yet, no matter how much sex he has in the course of a week, he still cannot get over the fact that he simply finds pornography better than the real thing. In fact, his inability to enjoy real sexual encounters leads him to rush to the computer after each session to look for a clip that will really be able to get him off.

In its best moments, Don Jon resembles the earlier works of Martin Scorsese. This is not only because its stints at black comedy seem to be on the same humorous wavelength as The King of Comedy, but also because of its representation of religion as a source of purifying source of penance and guilt. This is something Scorsese has always been concerned with, and shows prominently in the character of Jon who confesses his sin every week and recites his prayers as he works out.

We could also draw parallels between Jon and Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver or a mixture of Charlie and Johnny Boy from Mean Streets, yet more than anyone else he seems to resemble this generation’s version of Tony Manero. He is a heartbreaker after all, and while he does not dance, he seems to have an incredible magnetic charm that he uses to easily attract the opposite sex. However, much like Saturday Night Fever’s central figure, Jon has found his match with a girl who apparently loves to drive him crazy. Barbara becomes his ultimate object of desire. Scarlett Johansson, featured here in one of her most fun roles, plays this devilish temptress. Her irresistible beauty fits the femme fatale description perfectly and her lively fun performance is among the best things in the film.

The film does have its fair share of one-liners and funny gags. What it simply lacks is a rewarding depth of any kind. The film not only lacks the tension of the aforementioned films by Scorsese and the painful honesty of Shame by Steve McQueen, but even the tenderness of a romantic comedy like The 40 Year Old Virgin. On top of that, it is never quite certain whether the lead character’s obsession with porn is that unhealthy – neither does he ever really feel like he is spiritually troubled by it. His confessions are as casual as routine check-ups to the doctor.

Even the characters seem to be all too detached from reality. It’s tiring to see yet another film that chooses to ignore the times’ financial condition, and it is all too easy to once again overlook the fact that there is no way Jon can afford to live an easy life in his own apartment apparently working as a bartender and studying in college. Even Esther, a troubled but positive older woman who attends the same course as Jon and for some unknown reason wants to become his friend, brings little believable emotional depth to the table despite Julianne Moore’s good-natured performance. Incidentally, Moore is also among the only main actors in the film who is not forcing an accent…

Don Jon is quite simply a well-packaged comedy, which predictably develops into a conventionally structured film. It is a cartoonish representation of reality, perhaps as genuine as the porn clips the lead character adores. Even the style of the film is over zealous and its uses of flash frames and slow motion are part of a tried and tested suit that has been worn repeatedly. The screenplay is not very impressive either. Its conclusions are bigoted and its characters nothing short of stereotypical. Of course, there is room to grow, and even Don Jon has interesting elements that show Gordon-Levitt has potential talent behind the camera. Perhaps all he has to be is more daring rather than simply provocative.

Matt Micucci

18  (See IFCO for details)

90 mins

Don Jon is released on 15th November 2013

 

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Cinema Review: What Maisie Knew

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DIR: Scott McGehee, David Siegel • WRI: Nancy Doyne, Carroll Cartwright •  PRO: Daniel Crown, Daniela Taplin Lundberg , William Teitler, Charles Weinstock • DOP: Giles Nuttgens • ED: Madeleine Gavin • DES: Kelly McGehee • CAST: Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan, Alexander Skarsgård, Joanna Vanderham
 

What Maisie Knew is based on the 1897 Henry James novel of the same name. The story details the divorce of two supremely selfish people through the eyes of their young daughter. Directors David Siegel and Scott McGehee update the story for the screen.Set in contemporary Manhattan, we meet Maisie, an innocent young girl made lonely by the divorce and arguments of struggling artist parents Susanna (Julianne Moore) and Beale (Steve Coogan). Maisie’s saving grace comes in the odd form of instant stepparents Lincoln (Alexander Skarsgård) and Margo (Joanna Vanderham).The story is a slow burner as we simply follow Maisie throughout her daily routines. It is a masterful use of the “show, don’t tell” ideology as Maisie is a quiet presence throughout. This is a simple film without any of the usual tricks. What makes this movie special is that we are positioned entirely in Maisie’s viewpoint.  Events escalate, leaving us wondering why we are missing out on major moments. This might be frustrating if it weren’t for the fact that we are alongside Maisie. We don’t see and experience the adult changes in the story because Maisie doesn’t, we are positioned as a childish bystander on the periphery in the same way that she is.The standout performance here is that of our tiny protagonist. Onata Aprile is a revelation as Maisie. Whilst Onata might technically be too young to truly understand the nuances of the story she tells, it doesn’t show. Her performance betrays a talent far beyond her years.Alexander Skarsgård’s Lincoln seems almost as lost in the adult world as Maisie yet he is utterly spellbinding with her. We find ourselves entirely trusting that Maisie is safe with him even if his ignorance at the beginning does threaten to get her knocked down. Joanna Vanderham’s Margo is charming enough but it seems as though she holds something back. Whilst Skarsgård throws himself entirely into the role of Lincoln, visually embodying his nervous fish-out-of-water status, Vanderham sometimes seems static. We witness her love for Maisie, yet there is something business-like about her attitude that prevents us from fully falling in love with her character. It seems as though Margo cannot let go of her ‘nanny’ status and adopt a more natural maternal role.

Julianne Moore gives a good performance as self-centered mother Susanna, who consistently finds herself in court demanding custody of a child she abandons at any opportunity. Unfortunately her apparent aging rock star status is contrived and utterly impossible to believe. Moore does shine with Susanna’s single moment of clarity in which she sees herself through her daughter’s eyes. This is one of the film’s most powerful moments. It is just a shame that the rest of Moore’s performance is peppered with strained references to her implausible musical prowess. Steve Coogan has some funny moments as self-absorbed Beale but is largely an absent figure for us in the same way he is an absent father figure for Maisie

What Maisie Knew is not a spectacle; it is an introverted film that is in danger of slipping by largely unnoticed. Heart-warming from beginning to an ending that on paper might seem implausible or even legally questionable but somehow works. What Maisie Knew might just be the most heartfelt and genuine movie of the year with some stellar performances.

Ciara O’Brien

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details) 

98 mins
What Maisie Knew is released on 23rd August 2013

What Maisie Knew – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Crazy, Stupid Love

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DIR: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa • WRI: Dan Fogelman • PRO: Steve Carell, Denise Di Novi • DOP: Andrew Dunn • ED: Lee Haxall • DES: William Arnold • CAST: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore

Billed with the over-wordy description of ‘romantic comedy-drama’, this is a film that is thus hard to categorise. Most ad campaigns have focused on the comedy aspect – especially Ryan Gosling, an erstwhile ‘serious’ actor, hamming it up as a successful lothario. However, overemphasis on the comedy element belies the real undercurrent of dramatic acting that Crazy, Stupid, Love actually showcases. Cal and Emily Weaver’s long-standing marriage fractures due to infidelity and boredom, allowing Julianne Moore and Steve Carell to deliver truly adult performances of devastation and confusion. In the concurrent storyline, Ryan Gosling’s philandering Jacob is discovered to have a fatal weakness, exploited by Emma Stone’s beautifully naive Hannah.

That’s not to say that there are not some stand-out comic moments, often provided by supporting characters which include Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon. More often than not, though, the laugh-out-loud scenes are orchestrated by young Robbie (Jonah Bobo), playing a teenager refusing to give up on love despite his parents break-up. The romance and the drama do, however, overtake the comedy, and a better description of the movie – though looking less fantastic on posters – would be the even more wordy ‘romantic drama with comedic moments’. Steve Carell has, a lá Will Ferrell, basically been playing himself in every movie – down on his luck, but kind hearted…the eternal loser who eventually makes good, and Crazy, Stupid, Love is no exception. For both Moore and Gosling, the drama comes easy, and their presence onscreen is always guaranteed to draw you into their world. For Carell and Stone, however, the drama comes less flowingly – for actors used to exercising their comedic chops on a regular basis, it takes some reigning in to stop scenes from becoming hammy and clichéd. It is to both actors’ credit, however, that they manage to do so with the least amount of fuss, and allow their characters to simply ‘be’.

It’s not a perfect movie, but solid performances mean that it is consistently entertaining, and has a sweetness about it that will ensure a smile. There are some nice twists and turns, some very funny moments, but mostly this is a romance that borrows from drama and comedy to fluff up what is, essentially, an age-old tale. Don’t go expecting either Superbad or The Notebook, and you might be pleasantly surprised to find that you quite like this middle-ground between the two.

Sarah Griffin

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details)
Crazy, Stupid Love is released on 23rd September 2011

Crazy, Stupid Love– Official Website

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eK68Y3oMEk8

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