The Homesman (2014)

The Homesman (2014)When I first heard about The Homesman (2014) I was actually excited about it, then the more I heard I became more cautious towards this western (or not if you ask Tommy Lee Jones) as I read the reviews hoping that it could be better. Rare as it is to find a solid Western thats not a quasi something-or-other instead. We are getting a few this year but its not like the 1950’s when you couldn’t move for them. With this latest outing into 19th century America we have a feminist focus to the film, which is quite rare, which I can see where the Unforgiven (1992) comparison is made and finished. The DVD tries to sell it to me this is the best film since Eastwood’s last Western masterpiece and he made a few of them. This is not a masterpiece. I can find a number of flaws with this film which does have good intentions.

As Western lore would have it the male takes the lead out on the frontier, its just how the dime-novels and cinema has written it. There have been strong women out there, one being Mrs Jorgensen (Olive Carey from The Searchers (1956), however they are hard to come by and usually there as a thorn in the side of the men. We also have Meek’s Cutoff (2010) where the women have to take charge as they survive out on the trail. Progress is being made but very slowly after 120 years of male dominance we now have Mary Bee Cuddy (Hilary Swank) living the life alone on the frontier. Youth is not on her side, society is looking down upon her. A spinster is the life she has assumed as we find out early on as she tries to get married. You feel sorry for her, after all the effort she goes to, in the hopes of getting her a man. She just doesn’t know how to, which lets her down. Played with great strength by Swank who  bring a lot to the role. Assuming the male duties in life, she has to be a strong Christian character.

Which leads into the tone of the film which is quite strong for the most part, similar to that of True Grit (2010) using a richer language of the time. You are more immersed in the world for it. It’s a shame the set-design lets it down, all the buildings a well crafted and made, however they look just that well made, there’s no sense of time or ageing to them. As if they opening up a flat-pack box, assembled them before the finishing touches (or lack of) which for me is distracting against the landscape that really shimmers. You really are out there in the mid-west.

I mentioned earlier about the feminist leanings of the film which are refreshing, taking on both mental illness and the social position that a woman must or chooses to take in society. It doesn’t even have to be just about America, more the western world. The idea of knowing your place in the world is being blurred and questioned. Should a woman be a stay at home mum, or out there in the workplace being a success amongst the men. Should they be judged for that, all encompassed in Bee Cuddy living alone on her homestead and farm, She is more than a match for most women and is respected by men alike, not feared. Maybe part of that is down to the source material by Glendon Swarthout who allegories these ideas. Whilst mental illness is not treated as burden but as an illness that needs proper treatment, radical thinking for the 19th century. Seen in three women who are plagued with various disorders. Although these women Arabella Sours (Grace Gummer), Theoline Belknap (Miranda Otto) and Gro Svendsen (Sonja Richter) are secondary characters they do have ample screen time. We get to understand their suffering  whilst the main relationship is going on.

I’ve not even mentioned Tommy Lee Jones yet the director, screenwriter, produces and stars as George Briggs a man who we find being run out of his home and left for dead, seems pretty standard out in the Wild West. Saved by Bee Cuddy who takes pity on him, asking in return he helps on her journey across the Missouri River with 3 women who have “lost their minds” in hopes that they can be properly looked after. So this is a wagon trip, a lone trip with a man and 4 women. This is his way of saying thank you for being saved (or pushed into it). Briggs is a curmudgeonly guy who reluctantly takes up the job, faced with a tattered reputation. He is the brain of the outfit in terms of survival, he knows the wilderness better than Bee Cuddy who is more focused on the caring, her Christian duty to the suffering women.

It’s a real learning curve for Bee Cuddy who becomes more worldly, there’s a scene where we hear screaming from the wagon, she stops to go around to the back to shout at one of the women to stop screaming. One of the symptoms of certain conditions that she or no-one else fully understands. Her limits are being pushed, her faith is questioned on this journey. And then we hit a bump in the road, when we go back to her loneliness, asking for Briggs to marry her, which you don’t really see coming (well kind of). We see she wants a man in her life, even going further yo be with him. It’s handled sensitively until out of nowhere she’s written out. Leaving me with frustration, asking why did you do that. Why can’t we see her reach the end of the journey that she took up, it as her choice. Now its left up to Briggs (reluctantly again) to complete the journey. Not before a pointless stop at a hotel where we find owner Aloysius Duffy (James Spader) unwelcoming. It’s a real tangent that serves little purpose, unless its to say that not all of society is welcoming/understanding to mental illness. I would accept this if there were more random scenes, more offbeat like The Missouri Breaks (1976). It’s not though, and after the death of Bee Cuddy which I’m still trying to understand.

We do return on course (just about) to see the ladies into the care of Altha Carter (Meryl Streep) who is turning up in everything at the moment. Theres time for reflection now as Briggs comes to terms with what has just happened. It feels a bit wishy-washy for me, as he tries to mythologise Bee Cuddy to a girl who cares less. He does become more caring after the journey, so he has grown, yet remains the same as we leave him on a river barge. Left wondering why, why, why did that final act happen as it did. Is this a western, yes and know, it has the language, but not the real form to be a solid western? It does take place in that era, there are moment but not enough as we Jones is using the genre more as a period in history to explore two ideas both from the female perspective, which is rare today.

Meeting P.T. Anderson Update (25/5/15)

I have been really busy today editing 4 rather quick test video today using found footage from Hard Eight (1996) which I have noes almost exhausted, having an idea at the end which I will hopeful try next time just see how it plays out before moving onto Magnolia (1999)

The first two tests made use of the same footage, however I wanted to make use of an extra piece I found later in the film in hope of creating a more complete piece. Again removing the dialogue, I am getting the feeling that the method is tiring for me. I need to try something fresh after today.

The second was a more focused piece something I had not done before, splitting the conversation on-screen where I could. However I do feel the start of the test is redundant it was something I had to try, as if to see if I could do that. Having the scene broken into two channels almost your attention is divided between both images. This is something to look at further I believe.

The third video was back to the standard dialogue removal, this one was more fun and very quick as there wasn’t much to work with here. You have John (John C. Reilly) and Sydney (Philip Baker Hall) driving to Las Vegas, what was once a conversation filled scene becomes something far quieter. I think I have to choose more carefully as I have here where I remove dialogue to have any effect.

The final video has an awkward father-son dynamic working here, unable to get their words out, literally. A clear example that the idea can show fatigue if used in the wrong way.

I think the next step is to try one more test where I speed up the conversation by removing the gaps between the lines to see the effect it has on the scene. Before I move onto Magnolia which is now nagging me to look at taking a whole character arc and condensing it down to a short film, thats if it’s not been done before. Then I will take a look at Boogie Nights (1997) to see where I can manipulate the footage.

Enemy (2013)

Enemy (2013)It’s just coincidence that a few days ago I caught Face off (1997) admittedly there is no mad-cap scientific explanation in Enemy (2013) to account for the duplicity going on here. And yes there’s no body swapping. Instead you’ve got a tense thriller of identical men that has not just the Jake Gyllenhaal confused but the audience too. After an opening sequence of a secret meeting, naked women are objectified by ogling men, we camera only glances at this meeting, we see little of Gyllenhaal amongst these men. All we know is he is one. Setting the tone of this dark film, the look and the feel is laid out in this obscured moment we are allowed to forget as it lingers in the mind, what its connection, who is it connected to.

They say we have at least 6 doubles in the world, not that we would ever really meet them. One of mine was spotted in a geography book in high school (apparently). You don’t really expect to meet them, which history teacher Adam does when by chance he discovers his double, a bit part actor on a DVD whilst marking papers. The image takes a while to hit him, a presence he just can’t shake. An urge he cannot easily forget, taking stalker like proportions to satisfy his need to know more about this actor Anthony, living in Toronto. It does drawing comparisons with Alfred Hitchcock‘s Scottie in Vertigo (1958), of course not being so obsessive there do share that need to dig further to know more before both finally do meet.

Facing the reality of their reality is a hard task for Adam the more sensitive of the two who wants to back out when it becomes all too real. He wish came true before it turns into a nightmare. Gyllenhaal playing dual roles really is convincing, it doesn’t take much when all he needs to do is change his hair and clothes. Playing two sides of the same coin practically, twins separated at birth. Although thats not what Anthony’s mother (Isabella Rossellini) thinks, which is our first real sign that nothing is as we believe it to be. That the turning point from being straight forward, ok we have two men who are doubles right down to the facial hair. However doubt is put into our minds when she mentions something about one of the men’s career aspirations.

What could be nothing more than a strange coincidence is built upon by Anthony’s wife Helen (Sarah Gado) seeks out the double to see for herself who he is, the strength of his claim which is uncanny. Yet when the obvious switch occurs its not what we expect to happen. Everything is heightened, our expectations are not met, flipping everything into reverse as they assume each others lives. Not only are they being confused so are we, which makes this incredibly gripping to watch, you never really know what to expect. All squeezed into a short running time, its all the more fighters, left open at the end to interpretation, what really just happened here?

Meeting P.T. Anderson Update (24/5/15)

A very quick update, I’ve found plenty of footage from Hard Eight (1996) to get me going tomorrow, with a few ideas for new tests, some are similar idea, some are new which is exciting. I think I was jumping the gun a bit to move onto Magnolia (1999) so fast, also needing to checking if my ideas haven’t already been done. I don’t want to repeat an idea after all. I’ll get cracking tomorrow and will share the results with you.

Forty Guns (1957) Revisited

Forty Guns (1957)

Ever since I saw Forty Guns (1957) a few years ago I have not been able to shake that opening sequence of sheer madness and cinematic magic as the Bonnell brothers are stopped in their tracks by a stamped of Jessica Drummond (Barbara Stanwyck) and her men as they ride on by them, inviting you into a world that is anything but normal. Raising the dirt from the ground, leaving these three men in bewilderment at this spectacle that is only to continue as we enter into the cattle barons town.

It’s one of the few westerns that really made for the wide-screen, making full use of the format and pushing the visual boundaries of what you can do. Samuel Fuller is giving us a different brand of film-making, one that is all out there, taking your on a journey from different points of view and throwing in anything that comes into his head. You could say this is a movie that should only be shown on the big screen, no widescreen TV can really do it justice.

Forty Guns has nothing to do with the myth of conquest as such. It’s a myth within the myth where anything can happen. As we saw in the opening titles to the first showdown with cuts back and forth to elder brother Griff Bonnell (Barry Sullivan) who makes his mark after the marshall has been shot dead. You can see strong influences for Sergio Leone with the closeups that fill the screen, looking on at the audience, he’s coming for us, no, he’s coming for Jessica’s brother Brockie Drummond (John Ericson), and without a shot he’s down. There’s a new form of law in town, independent from that imposed by Drummond and her puppet Sheriff Ned Logan (Dean Jagger). These are the Earp’s or the of the town, complete with their own history, bringing law with them. A dying breed of man who everyone knows will be gone soon. Even Griff himself who follows in a long tradition of gunfighters who cannot stand still in a town for long.

Even thought Stanwyck was no stranger to the genre she is particularly strong in this masculine role. The men are referred to as guns not men, tools that she uses at work, those who she gives orders to on her ranch. It takes a really strong man to stand up to her, which we find in Sullivan. Also the rifle-makers daughter (Sandy Wirth) is a match for middle brother (Robert Dix), it’s a masculine position that makes her more attractive, not just at home or in the dancehall, working the gambling tables. Our view of her on the screen is still very masculine even looking down the barrel of a gun, a target that has to be caught and married. When he visits her one time, he is measured for a gun, much like a suit, a gun is still seen as an essential part of being a man. A made to measure tool for the man, by the woman, allowing him to get closer to her, or more the other way around. Acting as the secondary romance to that between Griff and Jessica which does come out of the blue, both strong characters who brought together by chance. 

Thats chance encounter being a tornado, a real personal touch by the director, another of those moments of spontaneity which bring these two characters together. Well forced I should say by the elements. You could say nothing make sense in this film, that was my original conclusion as it goes against tradition and the language of the genre to deliver a thrill-ride of a film. Throwing in these motifs in part to engage a declining audience and to make the genre fresh again. Acting as an antidote to the darker Anthony Mann westerns of the decade, with all the hallmarks of New-wave cinema, combining classical imagery with unconventional cinematography.

With the crooked sheriff, with have a cowardly lion who’s roar is soon quietened, living in the pocket of Jessica, before living in fear of her after the arrest of one of her men/guns. We see a loyalty to the landowner destroy him as the film progresses. There’s a lot going on for a film that has only an 80 minute running time, so much happens and you can’t really process it. This was a welcome and much anticipated revisit that has given me so much more. A powerful female figure in the west was factually rare, and on cinema even rarer. Stanwyck’s presence on-screen is softer, able able to retain that far better. She never loses authority of her, it’s just over what she has authority of than changes.

Meeting P.T. Anderson Update (23/5/15)

Once again I am taking advantage of the bank holiday to do as much as I possibly can. Following on from last weeks test video I had the idea to do the reverse of what I have been doing in the past four test videos, which was in essence removing the dialogue, leaving only silence or the space either side of the dialogue.

Using found footage from The Master (2012) once more I looked at the same sequence again and a tiny bit more that I found, leaving only but the dialogue. I was careful to leave a bit of silence in places incase I had to cross dissolves some of the clips together to make it look smoother. As I began to cut into the clip it became evident how much faster the conversation was going, however the longer you are confronted with that speed of deliver you feel watching at a job interview which goes break-neck speed without time think, hearing all of these questions. Once you get to the end you are relieve its over, it does take you more into the mindset of Quill (Joaquin Phoenix) who is being drilled and tested to his mental stability and his potential to join Dodds (Philip Seymour Hoffmangroup. It did remind me of the old Warner Brother style of film of fast paced deliver,  however there would be more of a chance to breathe.

Moving onto what would be the final test of the day, I looked at how a scene was broken up over the course of a montage, I wanted to cut one sequence that took place over the duration of that montage. I don’t think this has work as well as previous pieces. Maybe because its different from what I have done before. I’ve torn a montage apart and reassembled what is going on, removing the parts in-between, slowing down the film, or ignoring the rest of Quill’s journey. It does become a sequence in it’s own right which it wasn’t before. However I am thinking in the back of my mind that Magnolia (1999) is practically one carefully constructed montage really of different events that overlap. Would the same thing happen if I for example reconstructed Jason Robards characters journey to be one short film, what effect would that have on the rest of the film, you have minor roles for Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Tom CruiseHowever the interview sequence is something that could work well put together.

I decided not to look at the rest of my footage as those sequence as interesting as they are, work just being themselves, if I was to manipulate them I don’t believe I would be bringing anything new to the discussion. The more I look at just one of Paul Thomas Anderson‘s films I am starting to think of that trilogy, moving away from Hard Eight (1996) to Magnolia alone could be the way forward. Although a part of me still wants to take a look and see what I can find. Am i just jumping ahead or shouldI just follow my instincts on this. For now I think I’ll see how things go with Hard Eight just to see what happens then jump into Magnolia to see what happens there.


Cop Land (1997)

Cop Land (1997)Ok Cop Land (1997) is not the best title for a film, it sound primitive and thoughtless, something from the first draft of a scrip that thankfully changed to something with a better ring to it. However that’s not the case here, plus it doesn’t matter with a cast as good as this. Even with most of them in supporting roles behind Sylvester Stallone an actor I usually avoid, not really taking to his brand of macho films. I gave this film a chance based on the line-up not him so much. I came away surprised really as Stallone plays against type, a town Sheriff who is stuck in a position where he can’t progress to make a real difference to his community.

A community made by cops for cops to live in safety, with one of the lowest rates if crime in the state of New York, coincidence I think not. When you scratch beneath the surface of this suburban town you see cracks begin to show. After two black men are killed in a drive-by-shooting with Murray Babitch (Michael Rapaport) who thinks his career is over. Yet another case of racially motivated shooting by the police, thats all they need. Leave it to Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel) to clear up the mess and create a hero from the wreckage of the crime. You don’t expect this twist that turns the film upside down and invites internal police investigator Moe Tilden (Robert De Niro) who begins to stick his nose where it’s not wanted. Even though none of this happens on Freddy Heflin‘s (Stallone) patch he is drawn in slowly. 

I think the reason that this is Stallone isn’t throwing his weight as much as we have come to expect him to. He hardly throws a punch, only fires a few shots and spends most of his time in the community. Reflecting on his past, and the choices that have lead to his current position. It’s much a more about his emotions, we see him more depressed and down-trodden than anything else which is a refreshing change and something I can really buy into from him. Allowing the other actors to take up the weightier material as they all act as his conscience. As Tilden wants his help with his investigation into Donlan’s corruption. Whilst Donlan is trying to keep him quiet the more he pries into things he shouldn’t.

There’s a history of keeping quiet as we learn from Gary Figgis (Ray Liotta) who lost his partner and friend who is blames on Donlan. You could say this is a partial reunion of the Goodfellas (1990) cast which is further from the truth. All supposedly on the right side of the law this time. There is lot of shades of grey here, as they all fight crime but using their own rules. Donlan and Tildan act as Heflin’s conscience. It’s only when events escalate that Heflin s forced to act, the push over starts to stand up and investigate his colleagues, a dangerous move, whistle blowing your friends.

What makes this film memorable is that the system that is there to protect the public is protect itself from the outside world. Hiding the corruption in order to live a safer live, in the pockets of gangsters, the strong stand tall, able to fight crime whilst also committing their own. They believe they are above the law. Even with soft sheriff Heflin who takes his time to pick himself up and put a stop to it all. Filled with traditionally tough guy actors they all show flaws in their character. Personified by Stallone who does a role reversal of his screen persona to deliver a very different character which I can identify more with, an average cop who rises above it all. Set against the mid-nineties media landscape that keeps things in perspective for the audience, the bigger picture is painted opposite a character driven cop film that wants to give us something different and to an extent does.

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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Mad Max Fury Road (2015)It’s been years since I last saw one of the films from the Mad Max trilogy (1979-85) leaving me with a thirst for more on-screen violence from in the post-apocalyptic outback of Australia. George Miller and Mel Gibson creating a myth built on legendary characters. Ok the first outing Mad Max (1979) was made on a budget, it hash;t aged to well. With all the larger than life characters that were painted, the danger and Gibson a then unknown having loads of fun. The idea of a desolate future was being written. The next instalment we meet him in Mad Max: Road Wrarrior (1981) very much a changed man after witnessing the death of his family at the beginning of this apocalyptic future. A few years down the line we are in this world where anything goes, with even larger than life characters in all kinds of contraptions, spikes, spears and skulls on cars of all shapes and sizes from bygone days, pimped up cars, kitted out for the desert. We can see that life does go on, there is hope. Where the is hope this is also despair as factions of bikers and other gangs of petrol-heads are after all they can get as we find, more dangerous than the good guys, It’s all a giant play-ground for the male imagination, cars explosion and death and destruction to revell in on the big-screen. Before reaching new levels with the last part of the trilogy Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985) trying to be more commercial with the inclusion of even more kids and the bombastic Tina Turner as Aunty Entity leader of a group built on-fear and control. Modern society in the later two has clearly broken down, reverting back to a more primal state. It’s far beyond what we have in The Rover (2014).

Ok with a some context in place this latest instalment 30 years later or should I’d say Mad Max:Fury Road (2015) re-boot is more of an amalgamation of the three earlier films. With the past built into flashbacks the other two are built-in in terms of borrowing elements here and there to recreate that world for a new audience. I’m usually one to say on Facebook when I see a post that yet another classic is being remade or rebooted, I hang my head in shame or despair, why return to something that worked so well. Going back to the watering hole for more of the same instead of being original. However I have no doubts about this one thanks to George Miller being all over this film. Only he could deliver a fresh take on what makes Max tick, the cars the insane characters that roam the desert.

The reusing of the same elements has ensured that there is some continuity to the universe. We left Max last time as he sped off into the distance, the kids and any responsibility they believed he had to them. We had images of a ruined city and that theme tune that has done far better than the film. We find Max now still getting into scrapes, fighting to get free, now also afflicted by flashbacks, the guilt for leaving others to die. A haunted and complicated man of few words. Gibson’s Max had a few more. We do still retain the over-protectiveness for his car though, not much really changes. Held prisoner by Immorten Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrneruler of the Citadel a figure straight out of a H.R. Giger sketch who is held together by the best technology and fear that he can inspire. He probably has about as many lines as Tom Hardy who struggles to keep one accent for a single page of dialogue. He needs to really find and focus on who he is, with a voice that is all over the place, he’s Australian one minute, American the next, just make your mind up. Unlike the rebellious Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) who has left the faction on a routine delivery, made out to be the best of her kind, having proven herself to Immorten Joe. She’s fully formed and a deeper character,  Max we can’t get into, needing to rely on the flashbacks and the original trilogy to fill in the gaps. He does however fall into the Leone figure of the west more so that Gibson’s take on the role.

If you’ve see the previous films you’ll know what I mean when you see this film begin making you feel at home with what you know before cranking up the explosions which come at regular and welcome intervals as the Furiosa takes her truck of a detour away from it’s destination. We learn her true mission. Its not just a male dominated world, women still have a voice, something that has been lacking from the other three. Ok there were families and Entity but not on this scale. A rare action film that will definitely pass the Bechdel test.

It turns into a rescue and escape mission for Furiosa who you can see and had to fight for all she has in life. Harbouring 4 of Immorten Joe’s wives, reflecting the current state of immigration and refugees in the world today. The Although there isn’t the fear of crossing the channel and having someone break into your car and your lorry. There is still that core ideal of wanting a better life on a world that is no barren. Max is caught in the middle of all of this after being tied to a stake on his car part of a war party, driven by Nux (Nicholas Hoult) a glory hungry half life, one of the legions of loyal soldiers who will kill for Joe

This group of unlikely characters band together to get the promised land, this time the Green, which does sound like paradise. we do capture glimpses of such a life, hidden behind the guarded world of Citadel. If it wasn’t for the recession we may not have had another Mad Max, not to say we should have economic disasters to make films, it’s an interesting reflection of our times placed in a future where s*** has hit the fan big time and everyone is picking up after the fallout. The powerful have find ways to control the people whilst others band together. There’s a lot going on, I saw Mad Max in 3D which was perfect, given all the action, the crazy explosions, it feels too much then you end up wanting more. Its better than “mediocre” its marvellous. Can there be a sequel? I’m not sure, there is plenty of room to go to other tribes/factions, see how Max is thrown into it all. However it needs to break free of the past to be truly modern, build on what it has to be truly fresh.

Meeting P.T. Anderson Update (16/5/15)

Even though I’ve not been in the studio long today I have produced 4 very different test videos using footage from The Master (2012) as a form preparation for looking at the loose trilogy of Hard EightBoogie NightsMagnolia (1996/7/9) I am really wanting to working with Hard Eight more than ever now after seeing todays results, the relationship between male characters without dialogue is something new two me. Of course coming from a Western perspective which is a very masculine genre I have never really approached the dynamics beyond my reviews. Today I have started to work through the footage I sourced last weekend.

The first test looks at Freddie Quill (Joaquin Phoenix) and a doctor who is asking him questions, I have noticed a strange pattern in all of these videos, that Quill laughs in every test, which I have left in as it’s not exactly dialogue so I believe shouldn’t be removed. Which has become a rule for me, even though it requires using the vocal chords its not actually speech but an emotional reaction. The video itself is more about getting into the practice of removing dialogue so it’s not the smoothest, I have started to look at gestures that Quill does. I also noticed his mouth movements which I am sensitive off, so don’t want to emphasise

The second is a lot more fun as we find Quill working a department store photographer, here going out of his mind, playing with the lighting. I wanted to see how I could turn this into something about gestures. The removal of dialogue doesn’t detract from the scene, if anything it adds to it more so. I have taken liberties to speed up a small section for comic effect. I think it works well, and should be used elsewhere if the content allows.

The third is the first time that we find Quill and Lancaster Dodd (Philip Seymour Hoffman) in the same room. Its vert introductory for them both, we see them now eyeing each other up. Trying to figure each other out with just movements. Although you can see more what I have done.

The fourth and final is the one I am proudest of. You can feel tension between the two men. It’s a processing session that Dodd leads in order to better understand Quill who we can’t tell if he’s just enjoying the ride, being in Dodd’s group or really wants the help to sort his head out. This scene was intense, leading me to my next test that I will produce, being dialogue heavy. I have in essence created a negative video, the lack of dialogue here, to have a positive, wanting to pack in all the dialogue, the questions and answers with no break, it will go a lot faster too.

Ultimately I want to look at footage from clips such as this one below. I just feel I need to look at another before I get into the trilogy to see what is going on in each.  Until then it’s time to look at a later film of Paul Thomas Anderson

The Paperboy (2012)

The Paperboy (2012)Probably positioned at the beginning of the McConaseince which has seen him shake on that awful rom-com image to be taken seriously as an actor who finally picked up an Oscar for Dallas Buyers Club (2013). I seem to be picking up these film in the wrong order, still each one sees him on top form. We see him here in The Paperboy  (2012) a neo-film-noir in the early 1960’s as two journalist set out to prove a murderers innocence. A story that  not as cut and dry as we think it will be.

Told in retrospect not by a male characters but the ex-maid of the papers family Anita Chester (Macy Gray) to another reporter, trying themselves to get to the truth of the novel that the film is based upon. Slowly transitioning back to the murder of a sherif, gutted like an Alligator, brutal to say the least just the film gets going. Jumping forward to find a sexually and generally frustrated and obvious money draw to the film Jack Jansen (Zac Efron) who meets his brother Ward Jansen (Matthew McConaughey) and writing partner Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo) as they return home to investigate and hopefully free death-row prisoner Hillary Van Wetter (John Cusack) for Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman). It’s a strong line-up of actors on the face of it set in the Florida with hot temperatures, things are going to get a lot hotter around the collar for everyone.

You could say this is another Cape Fear (1962/1991) (kind of) that prods the underbelly of the disreputable members of society. It’s not just about lust that a man feels for a woman he can’t have because eventually they give in to these animal urges. It’s a film noir in the full sixties colour with a modern sensibility, which is an interesting twist, although it doesn’t always work. One of the characteristics of the genre is how confusing the strands of the narrative progresses which this film became in parts which again lost me at times. With a brother who was sexually confused, and another who was homosexual it was hard to tell who wanted what until its in your face, and brutally too. 

That event does leaves Ward very much a changed man as Jack comes into his own at this point, forcing him to grow up after what he has seen. The rest of the characters are compelling yet it feels there is too much over-acting than anything going on. They are all chewing up the scenery and having a good time sweating amongst themselves. It is fun when you’re not confused by the twist that brings us to the last act which feels too short to really bring closure, we are left in shock by what has happened, its immediate leaving you little time to think. It’s very much style of substance for me. You can see they are all having fun in these roles, the dark Deep-South comes alive once more, the slimy characters comes out from the cracks (or swamp) to creep us out.

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