Still in the midst of catching up on end of the year fare (saw a whopping six movies previously missed in the last few days alone!), there’s only a trio of flicks up for dissection this week. (The Edge of Seventeen and Nocturnal Animals were not made available to yours truly, but thankfully covered by my fellow website cohorts!) So keeping a few indie nuggets alive are a dramatic doc, a strange thriller and a revenge flick that’s not standard stuff. Check out the Encapsulated Movie Reviews of Peter And The Farm, The Similars and Elle below!
PETER AND THE FARM
What’s most surprising about this slice of life doc besides its bold leading everyman is the fact that the crew determined to simply be a flies on the wall nevertheless get pulled into their subjects chaotic world for better or for worse. A surly and sullen gent who has run the Mile Hill Farm in Vermont for a good part of his life, Peter Dunning is one charismatic and caustic character. Having been through three wives, the ire of four children whom he doesn’t speak to and even lost limbs to the almighty farm he both loves and hates, Peter is a man with a good amount of history and back baggage and the sharing of his saga unapologetically here makes for a spirited, yet seemingly sad doc. (He even talks to the filmmakers about filming his possible suicide.) Colorful, candid and at times cathartic, Peter and his farm have some interesting stories to tell indeed.
Taking a page from the creepy Polanski playbook, The Similars has some seriously unsettling moments. A Twilight Zone style story that takes place on a single night inside a rundown remote bus station involving a gathering of total strangers (no spoilers here!), Director Isaac Ezban lays on the layers of suspense. From the almost dim overall muted color palate to the satisfying Bernard Herrmann sounding score, Ezban definitely makes the most out of his little tall tale. There are some tropes that are a little too obvious (he has a Rod Sterling style narrator doing audio bookends!) and at times ham-fisted (the crazy lady in the corner is a bit of an obvious caricature!), but there’s more than enough creepy to keep The Similars from being too film familiar.
(Sony Pictures Classics)
With both maverick Dutch filmmaker Paul Verhoeven and the subject of revenge headlining the new film Elle, one would expect a match made in heaven. But within the tale of Isabelle Huppert’s raped and seeking vengeance business woman something gets seriously lost in the translation and the end result is unfortunately a movie mess. Verhoeven’s work here is chaotic and utterly unfocused, leaving Elle fully unsure of what kind of film it wants to be. And while Huppert makes a decent turn as the confident Elle, with so many odd story twists and strange style turns it was unclear if her character was actually out seeking justice or merely happening upon it. Far from the powerful and driven work one has come to expect from the visionary man behind Robocop and Black Book, Elle is a gal whose house is in serious cinematic disarray.