Tuesday, January 5, 2021

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Love and Crime: 2020, Day Fourteen

Continuing from where we left off September 2nd, here are five films from 2020...

The Assistant
dir/scr: Kitty Green
pr: P. Jennifer Dana / Kitty Green / Ross Jacobson / Scott Macaulay / James Schamus
cin: Michael Latham

Over the course of a day, a young female assistant to a powerhouse film exec grows increasingly uneasy as whispers and evidence of sexual misconduct mount. Mounts tension through the banality of daily duties, some of them gendered (when our protag asks why she has to handle the boss's wife, her male cohorts give her a "duh" gesture), some distressingly designed to have her as a decoy (as when she squires a very young "new hire" to a hotel meeting with the boss), some calculated to flatter her (even handling car arrangements leads to the driver telling her the boss thinks she's great, has a bright future, just be a team player). Julia Garner's a terrific conduit through which to witness and process peripheral horrors; Matthew Macfadyen dully monstrous as an enabling, belittling HR director. It'd make for a great double feature with The House of the Devil!

The Boys in the Band
dir: Joe Mantello
pr: Joe Mantello / Ned Martel / Alexis Martin Woodall / Ryan Murphy / David Stone
scr: Mart Crowley and Ned Martel
cin: Bill Pope

Didn't we do this already? Recreates, with some adjustments, the set from the original film. Mostly resists opening up, except for regrettable flashbacks that all-caps emphasizes dialogue that is better left to the performers to develop; the flashbacks just undercut the impact. Otherwise, what can one say? It's just as good as the original, but in different ways. It deals with race, femme behavior, and the politics of both more complexly, I think, than the original; that's not due to any dialogue adjustments, but to the cast finding new, refreshing notes to play. Robin de Jesus and Michael Benjamin Washington especially dig deeper than their OG counterparts; Andrew Rannells and Jim Parsons find strong, different takes; Matt Bomer, Charlie Carver and Tuc Watkins give sturdy recreations. Maybe it's me, I can't imagine liking one version and not the other. Both great! On Netflix.

Enola Holmes
dir: Harry Bradbeer
pr: Millie Bobby Brown / Paige Brown / Alex Garcia / Ali Mendes / Mary Parent
scr: Jack Thorne
cin: Giles Nuttgens

Enola, much younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft, ventures off alone in search of their mother. Shades of Suffragette, as Helena Bonham-Carter plays the absent momma whose trail leads to radical women's rights groups in the heart of Victorian London. I don't watch Stranger Things, I hear good things, so this was my introduction to Millie Bobby Brown's abilities as a performer, and wow! Not just a star with must-watch magnetism, but a canny performer who gives a certain air of, I don't know, I guess you'd call it self-conscious confidence? Also love the age-appropriate and uncompromised! chemistry she shares with Louis Partridge. Design elements are all a hoot, the costumes and sets and all that. Oh, and yes, the mystery elements, love them, love a romp that also manages to discuss 19th-century politics and imperial fears of shifting dynamics. Love that! On Netflix.

Love, Guaranteed
dir: Mark Steven Johnson
pr: Rachael Leigh Cook / Margret H. Huddleston / Stephanie Slack / Dan Spilo
scr: Elizabeth Hackett & Hilary Galanoy
cin: JosĂ© David Montero

A single attorney represents a single man suing a dating app for false advertising. Predictable in the great tradition of a Hallmark Channel rom-com. It's cute! Rachael Leigh Cook is a pip, fun screwball energy, great chemistry with Damon Wayans, Jr. A nice movie, a good time. On Netflix.

dir/scr: Christopher Nolan
pr: Christopher Nolan / Emma Thomas
cin: Hoyte Van Hoytema

I don't know, some kind of agent gets involved in some time-fuckery with a Russian arms dealer at the center of some...stuff. No matter how often they explain the mechanics - and they do it very often - it rarely sounds like anything more than the most passionate stoner talking in circles. Ah, but first and foremost, this a movie selling a feeling, a vibe. I'm talking whoa-ho visuals: practical effects ground the seamless blending of different time elements, not just backwards runners but exploded-unexploded-re-exploded rubble. I'm talking sonic grooves: Ludwig Göransson's pulsing score and the often unintelligibly loud sound mix transport one to late nights at the club, an awesome headspace to be in when things are suddenly flipping, turning, spinning, thrusting forward and backward, keeping you focused with that head-nodding beat. Immaculately-tailored costumes, Kenneth Branagh giving one of the best performances of his career...there's a lot to like, even amidst the wooden exposition and vague characters running through plot mechanics!

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