Only a few indie outings covered this week, but the months ahead promise to be fruitful for smaller films for sure. But in the meantime tales of war woe, odd ghost stories, revenge plans and strong women with no affinity for the almighty all make up the subjects of the four flicks in this weeks edition of Encapsulated Movie Reviews. Check out the skinny on Frantz, Personal Shopper, Dig Two Graves and The Most Hated Woman In America below!
(Music Box Films)
Yet another fantastic flick ala Swimming Pool and Young & Beautiful French filmmaker François Ozon, that wonderfully combines complex nuanced characters with suspenseful story tension. Unfolding with the cinematic skill of Hitchcock at his finest, Ozon not only takes his time making bold twist and turns in a tale involving a young German widow and mysterious a French soldier who shows up claiming to know her late husband, but also uses the stark color palate of going from color to black and white to further hammer the raw emotions home. Rich in character, story and substance, Frantz boldly explores the flaws of folks and why we love them.
Writer/Director Olivier Assayas has a knack for the unsettling (just witness memorable moments in his previous outing Clouds of Sils Maria!) and his work comes together nicely in Personal Shopper. Not that the film isn’t without unessential asides (the whole element of Kristen Stewart’s character being a ‘clothing assistant’ to a famed celebrity may add an emotional crutch but still feels unneeded!) and Stewart’s own mumbling stuttering awkwardness (Assayas wisely infuses a lot of texting of dialogue to keep things smooth!), but the film is nevertheless rich in terrifying tone and full of great ghost story elements. Showing his sinister signature style is no fluke, Assayas feel like only a few films away from five-star greatness.
DIG TWO GRAVES
Loved the concept of this eerie troubled tale of past and present regrets and the toll it takes on everyone involved. Especially impressive are Samantha Isler as a young grieving sister, Troy Ruptash as the creepy and conniving Wyeth and the great Ted “Silence of the Lambs” Levine as a flawed lawman. The film does get a tad bogged down with over explaining it’s already complicated story and uses an initially clever jumping back and forth in time device a tad too much, but with a truly satisfying ending both graves here have their fare share of gold.
THE MOST HATED WOMAN IN AMERICA
Taking on the role of real life controversial activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, Melissa Leo turns in one damn fine piece of cranky character work here. In fact it’s her turn as the ‘most hated woman” who was famous for things like stopping the reciting of the Lord’s prayer in schools and starting up the “American Atheist” organization that makes this one a stand out. Unfortunately there’s also a big focus on the events that ended her life involving a lot of big name actors (see Juno Temple, Rory Cochrane, Josh Lucas and Adam Scott!) and a goofy kidnapping story that may be from real life events but feels inane and unneeded. But when hilarious historical milestones and Leo’s sassy gal come out to play is when Most Hated is a salacious cinematic slamdunk.