Hello NEON Friends,
Today was a long one. I saw 4 films that had me buzzing to three different venues around town – so there wasn’t much time for food and other such nonsense.
First off was DISOBEDIENCE by director Sebastian Lelio. This quietly stirring film from the UK stars Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams, and the story centers around a woman who is returning to her Orthodox Jewish home after the death of her father. It’s immediately clear that she is now an outsider, but even more tension seems to exist between her and two old friends. The way in which this film reveals itself is quite lovely, but I feel like the pace might be a bit too slow for many who might initially be attracted to casting alone.
Next up was UNICORN STORE – the feature-length directorial debut from Brie Larson. Larson introduced the film and she is one of the most gracious and sincere artists I’ve encountered (she thanked the projectionists, the sound people and everyone behind the scenes). Because her mother couldn’t attend the screening, she took a picture of the audience (and I captured this sweet moment below). The film is about a young woman who doesn’t make it at art school and moves back in with her parents. She suffers from a certain woman-child issues…still wanting everything sprinkled with glitter and painted with rainbows. When she finally lands a job, she receives an invitation to come to a secret store where a man offers her the ability to buy a unicorn. This film certainly had fans in the audience…and it is very competently done (cinematography is nice, editing is solid, etc.) – but the story is relatively hokey and I couldn’t buy into it. The sentiment of continuing to believe in magic and resisting to fit the mold is sweet, but I just couldn’t help but think “grow up.”
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI, the new film from Martin McDonagh (IN BRUGES) was my next film. Frances McDormand is incredible in the rather rough film about a woman who is trying to get the police to get more involved in finding the person(s) who raped and murdered her daughter. With a tone not unlike some Coen Brothers material, this script is excellent (though many of these unlikable Southern characters use language that really makes me wince) and I think audiences will really embrace this film. McDonagh, McDormand and Sam Rockwell were in attendance, and the Q&A was superb.
My final film for the day was one of the best films I’ve seen so far – THE SHAPE OF WATER from director Guillermo del Toro. This fairy tale for adults will almost certainly receive a lot of Award Recognition this year. Set in the 60’s, the story follows a mute cleaning lady who stumbles upon a government secret – an underwater creature with whom she begins to feel an attachment. This really wonderful film is almost of hybrid of CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and AMELIE…a fantastical romance that is very much for adults. There are a couple scenes in the movie that are set in an old cinema…and the setting was actually the the old theatre where I saw the film. The crowd went nuts – it was a magical moment. Del Toro, Sally Hawkins Octavia Spencer, Richard Jenkins and Michael Shannon were all there for a Q&A that was incredibly special. Hawkins is sheer magic – and should certainly be nominated for her performance.
It ended up being a very late night, and I’ve got at least 5 films scheduled for tomorrow.
Thanks so much for reading,