What a nice companion to Dunkirk and The Crown, a view behind the scenes of what Churchill was going through in the days between his ascension to Prime Minister and the desperate evacuation of British troops from France. The portrait of Churchill doesn’t comport with the public view we’ve been given: here is generally disheveled, occasionally absentminded and generally out-of-touch with everyone around him. We are made to think that it was only through bucking-up by his wife, King George and his secretary (a wonderful Lily James) that he was able to find the resolution to lead his country – a not-quite-exhilarating take from a dramatic viewpoint. Nevertheless, it was hard not to shed tears when Churchill finds himself amid the common man on the tube and they show their English spirit. Best of all was the cynical look at the political process, something in too short supply, for me, in season 2 of The Crown.
After 25 minutes (!) of previews for movies we will never see, involving sci-fi or cartoon creatures and lots of noise and violence, we returned to the galaxy far, far away for a very tired story featuring very tired actors – e.g., Carrie Fisher and Mark Hammill – and the new generation, all of whom were apparently told to look earnest. An hour was all we could take. Intergalactic battle followed battle, none of which made any sense; the story lacked all novelty; and the acting, across the board, was embarrassing – even by Laura Dern, normally a favorite. The typical conflict involved scores, if not hundreds or thousands, of people dying, yet our stars inexplicably weren’t damaged. Or if they were, they quickly reattached their heads. I think you had to be part of the cult to follow, let alone enjoy, this film.
Martin McDonagh channels the Coen Brothers at their best – think Fargo and No Country for Old Men – in this small-town dramedy where the stakes are small but emotions are large. Every line of dialogue is fraught and measured, delivered to perfection by Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, Woody Harrelson and an equally adept supporting cast. I was smiling throughout in this movie about a teenage girl who was set on fire and raped, and the juxtaposition never seemed awkward. Similarly, McDormand’s character was sympathetic and unforgivable at almost one and the same time. Like No Country, we aren’t told how the story ends, which also seems fine. There is a puzzle, though: how come the figure who must have been the rapist is cleared by the DNA evidence? If he’s not the rapist, the coincidences are just too great. McDormand, of course, is great and deserves an Oscar nod: she captures the screen just by thinking.
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