Tag Archives: Jessica Chastain

The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby: Him & Her

I’ve written about The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby before, but I feel like it’s still one of those diamonds that flew under the radar and no one really saw. This is one of the most important films out there if you are interested in studying grief, the effects of loss, the healing passage of time and enduring love as themes in cinema. Heavy stuff, I know, but the film patiently leads you along and never throws histrionics or melodrama right in your face like some would. James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain give perhaps the performances of their careers as Conor and Eleanor, a couple dealing with the traumatic after effects of a recent miscarriage. Eleanor distances herself from everyone after a suicide attempt that just alienates her further and tries to find a new path, Conor misses her like crazy, throws himself into his work and gets a tad self destructive. Everyone deals with this sort of thing in their own way, and the film uses a nonjudgmental lens to observe how these two cope, revolve around each other and try to salvage the love that seemed brighter and stronger before the incident. ****NOW READ THIS PART VERY CAREFULLY!!**** Now that I’ve got your attention, this is incredibly important: there are in facet three radically different cuts of this film, each with their own sub heading after the title. Her is a feature length cut that focuses primarily on Chastain, her side of the story, and what she goes through, with brief appearances from McAvoy. The other side of that coin is another edit called Him, which does the same for McAvoy, and his side of the whole situation. This is a brilliant, very thoughtful tactic on the filmmaker’s part as it brings us closer to both characters, makes us genuinely feel the time going by through realistic pacing and lets the story flourish in a free flowing way that few films ever achieve. Now the third cut, no doubt assembled under studio duress for the lazy among us, is simply a truncated edit of both of these aforementioned versions, and all it succeeds in doing is making the uniqueness of the other two diminish, dulling the experience and turning something special into a pedestrian telling that’s just like every other flick out there. This third cut is unnecessary, pointless and should be ignored. The vitality of the material lies in the way the two cuts run parallel, how these two souls that were once together are now separated, and the energies we feel between them both together and apart. Others revolve around them too; William Hurt gives a small powerhouse as Eleanor’s loving father, Ciaran Hinds is equally as implosive as Conor’s supportive father, Isabelle Huppert is Eleanor’s mother, Viola Davis is excellent as a stern college professor who helps her through some of the tough times, Bill Hader is Conor’s best friend and business partner, and so on. They’re all wonderful but the core of it lies with the two of them, and their process from hurt, to grief, to losing each other and finding each other again, and it’s a brilliantly told story that you won’t want to miss.

-Nate Hill

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Amy Canaan Mann’s Texas Killing Fields

Whenever people say there isn’t enough gritty, messed up modern neo-noir (which there’s some truth to, but that’s another article) I like to dig up ones like Texas Killing Fields, an unforgivably overlooked crime drama from some years back that went by mostly unnoticed. Directed by Amy Canaan Mann, who is none other than Michael Mann’s daughter, and starring a talent trio of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Sam Worthington and Chloe Grace Moretz, it’s a dark-boned, nihilistic murder mystery set in the deepest south and populated by the kind of folks you’d actively avoid entire sections of the barroom to get away from. There’s a killer loose in the low income doldrums of Texas, as if they didn’t have it bad enough in life, and two scarily mismatched cops are on the case. Intrepid idealist Morgan sees the light in darkest corners, while faithless misanthrope Worthington adopts a hopeless, devil may cry attitude. Caught between them is a wayward teen girl (Moretz), a homeless sitting duck who wanders the byways, a prime target and unfortunate default bait for this monster to come skulking out of the shadows. This is a downbeat, chilling flick with scant rays of humanity here and there, but bleakness takes over the screen like the portentous clouds in the storm-swept skies of the rural Americas, bringing danger and decay in their wake. The suspect list is a mile long because of how many wicked character actors there are in the supporting cast, but the culprit is oddly obvious from the get go. This isn’t to say the narrative is weak or they failed at a whodunit, as one can scarcely say that was there intention at all. It’s less of a whodunit and more of a ‘dunit’, as every character has some evil to hide or stain on their soul, and when the killer is revealed, they’re just another in a long line of wayward beings out there. Sheryl ‘Laura Palmer’ Lee is great as Moretz’s destitute, promiscuous mother, Jason Clarke roars in for a terrifying cameo as a violent pimp with an otherworldly blond dye job, Stephen Graham is dangerously quiet as a psychopathic local yokel, Annabeth Gosh has a brief role and Jessica Chastain gives an early star-making turn as an out of state cop who reluctantly aids Jeffrey and Sam. Dread is the word that seems to be on both Mann and her cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh’s mind, as every shot is composed primarily of darkness, shadows and claustrophobic grain, giving the fields and flatlands of Texas a hellish, oppressive lacquer. Darkness is explored both literally and thematically, and more fervently than most mainstream films care to get, which may be one reason the film wasn’t well received at all, or at least by most. It knowingly plunges headlong into the eye of the hurricane surrounding the hopeless heart of humanity, without much light on the other side or any to guide it, but there’s a bravery in that that I respect. One of the best crime dramas in recent history, a film that should be brought up more in discussion and a treatise on how to make a lasting impression in a genre that sees entries fall through the cracks on the daily. Brilliant, searing stuff.

-Nate Hill

John Hillcoat’s Lawless 


John Hillcoat’s Lawless is the very definition of badass. Bathed in blood and moonshine, gilded by Nick Cave’s rustic, textured musical score and brought alive by vivid and varied performances from an eclectic, grizzled cast, it’s one of the most enjoyable gangster pictures to come along in recent years. It follows the rough and tumble Bondurant brothers, fabled bootleggers who defy prohibition and run their product all over the aptly named ‘wettest county in the world’, until the greedy and very corrupt arm of the law snakes its way into the territory. The eldest and toughest is Forrest, a grumbly, shambling Tom Hardy who’s something of a gentle giant, until the straight razor comes out and he’s not. Jason Clarke is Howard the booze hound, who has sour mash coursing through his veins and a temper to prove it, and Shia Leboeuf, somewhat miscast, does his best as the youngest of the three. The three of them run an idyllic little manufacturing and distribution ring spiralling out of their county into the nearby area, until trouble comes looking for them, in the form of a monster played by Guy Pearce. Now when I say monster, I mean it.. when the villain in your film is scarier than Gary ‘Scary’ Oldman’s roguish supporting work, you know you have one hell of an antagonist. Pearce, sporting a sour look and parted hair that Moses could lead his people through, is Charlie Rakes, some kind of government dispatched deputy whose sole purpose is to make out heroic trio’s lives exceedingly difficult. Cheerfully sadistic and ruthlessly corrupt, Rakes is a bona fide moustache twirling psychopath and Pearce milks the role for all it’s worth, as per usual in his case. Oldman does appear briefly but memorably as lively gangster Floyd Banner, a shark of a businessman with a fondness for tommy gun tantrums resulting in vehicular mayhem. The film walks a line between two distinct tones, which can be seen in the characteristics of the pair of older brothers: Hardy is laid back, laconic and ambles along at his own pace, which any film set in the south just has to have a bit of, whilst Clarke is volatile, fired up and hot blooded, also needed in crime fare. So you have a relaxed, violent, wistful piece with a mean streak that sneaks up on you more than a few times. Any Ozark tale wouldn’t be complete without a romantic flair, as Hardy is swept off his feet by mysterious, plucky Jessica Chastain and Lebeouf has an eye for a beautiful Amish girl played by Mia Wasikowska. The film looks visually magnificent, shot in broad, sturdy rural strokes by Benoit Delhomme, and strict, impressive attention to detail is paid throughout. While maybe not as gritty or mythic as it wants to be, or at least as far as Hillcoat’s previous work has been (The Proposition remains the stomach churning gold standard), it’s a full blown, R rated crime picture, something more than welcome in an age when the genre has had its blood somewhat watered down. Highly recommended. 

RIDLEY SCOTT’S THE MARTIAN — A REVIEW BY NICK CLEMENT

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With the solidly entertaining The Martian, Ridley Scott has made a two and a half hour movie about science, and for that, he should be commended; he’s going to get some kiddies in love with NASA and the space program. I love the fact that three years in a row we’ve gotten a big-budget, original idea space epic from three master filmmakers, all made without the notion to sell toys or become franchises. The fact that Scott’s entry into the outer-space sweepstakes is my least favorite out of the bunch (Interstellar and Gravity being the other two) takes nothing away from how enjoyable a piece of entertainment it is; Scott has found that rare sweet spot between art and commerce with this exquisitely designed trip to the Red Planet. The film is going to be a MASSIVE worldwide hit, which Scott could use at this point. Dariusz Wolski’s stunning cinematography and Janty Yates’ stylish space-suit costumes were some of my favorite aspects to the film. It’s also surprisingly funny – maybe too light considering the life or death stakes presented by the narrative – and that was the one big surprise about the entire thing. Scott is typically a serious with a capital S filmmaker, with only rare ventures into outright comedy (A Good Year) and a stab at black, gallows humor (Hannibal). Matchstick Men has its comedic moments, but that’s a drama first and foremost.

And while The Martian certainly has the requisite action and special effects and big-time money-shots that you’d expect from a lavishly appointed Scott picture, the film seems to be more happy at home in the smaller, more character based moments, and sort of obsessed with subverting the potential heaviness of a story that could have been made in a variety of ways. Matt Damon is never less than excellent in this film, displaying a warmth and humanity that was relatable to observe, with a star-studded supporting cast doing colorful background work both up in space and on the ground. But other than the humor, there was nothing surprising about The Martian, with all of it playing out exactly as I predicted, and while I can’t find too much to be displeased with, I wasn’t sent out of the theater soaring in the same way that I did with Interstellar and Gravity, which The Martian sort of feels like a curious hybrid of. And also, this thing where people are saying: “Ridley Scott is back” and “Wow, what a comeback!” – that’s pure horse-shit. Other than the turgid and wholly unnecessary Exodus, he hasn’t gone anywhere; he’s been here for years making one great movie after another. The Counselor came out two years ago and the film is a diamond-cut masterpiece. But back to The Martian – it’s Ridley Scott doing a four-quadrant family movie with just enough edge to still feel Sir Ridley-ish, and I’m glad it’ll make a ton of money so that maybe he can get another film like The Counselor made.

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