For a film about early onset Alzheimer's, this is a remarkably wry, honest and even hopeful drama, anchored by another staggeringly sensitive performance by Julianne Moore. Writing-directing team Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland are known for their observant depictions of human interaction (see Quinceañera), and they fill the screen with sharp dialogue and earthy emotions that make this much more than another movie about a disease. Instead, it's about how people can transcend what life throws at them, even if it knocks them down.
Moore stars as Alice, a New York linguistics professor who has just turned 50 when she starts noticing that she's forgetting words and getting lost. Her doctor gives her the tough diagnosis, and she uses her dry wit and sharp intellect to face the future with her steady husband John (Alec Baldwin) and their three grown children: married and pregnant Anna (Kate Bosworth), aspiring actress Lydia (Kristen Stewart) and free-spirit Tom (Hunter Parrish). The hardest thing to learn is that the disease is familial, and that she has passed it to at least one of her children. So while she can, Alice makes a contingency plan for the future as she watches her family members each react in a different way.
No, this isn't a light and breezy movie. But the filmmakers balance the moments of gut-wrenching emotion with smart humour ("Sorry, I forgot - I have Alzheimer's!") and bracing honesty ("I wish I had cancer!"). Moore is uncannily raw in the role, subtly revealing Alice's transformation in ways we barely notice until we're reminded what she used to be like. Even more powerful is her own awareness of what's happening. Opposite her, Baldwin has terrific camaraderie and an unexpected warmth, while both Bosworth and Stewart get a chance to dig much deeper as actors than they usually do. And what makes the film special is the way Alice's interaction with each character is uniquely individualistic.
Continue reading: Still Alice Review
Kalin kicks things of in New York, not long after young Antony's birth and right in step with the early disintegration of the Baekeland marriage. Barbara (Julianne Moore) dotes on both her cold genius husband Brooks (Stephen Dillane), the grandson of the Bakelite plastics magnate Leo Baekeland, and little Antony with equal aplomb. By Antony's fourteenth birthday, the Baekelands are discovering naked teens in their son's bed and settling their disputes with carnal bouts in hotel rooms. By Antony's 21st, Brooks has left Barbara for Blanca (Elena Anaya), who's also been with Antony.
Continue reading: Savage Grace Review
Hunt is April Epner, a 39-year-old schoolteacher, married to Ben (Matthew Broderick), the puffy, neighborhood schlub. April is childless and longs for "a baby that is really hers." Being an adopted daughter in a close-knit Jewish family (she envies Ben Shenkman's Freddy, the biological family brother), she wants the biological connection of a birth child. As the film begins, her mother Trudy (Lynn Cohen) is in the hospital, her father has died, and April's comfortable world is about to explode. Things go awry from the get-go when April, obsessed with getting pregnant, greets Ben at home with a nightie under her coat, eager for a surprise tumble. But Ben tops her by announcing his decision to leave their months old marriage. Things continue falling apart -- April juggling the death of Trudy, having an affair with the embittered, divorced Frank (Colin Firth), and -- to top it all off -- the sudden appearance of April's biological mother, Bernice Graves, a brassy, unpretentious loudmouth and local talk-show hostess, played by Bette Midler (who else?).
Continue reading: Then She Found Me Review
Whether she knew it or not, Bettie Page was breaking a lot of taboos when she started posing in bondage films and photos (maybe she knew but just decided to not care?). Current trends in modeling, including Dita Von Teese and Suicide Girls, often cite Page as an inspiration for their work. In Von Teese there is a certain comparison, but Suicide Girls, whether they like it or not, are not celebrating taboo. If anything, they are destroying taboo and making everything normal, even the strange and macabre. The trick with Page was that she didn't really see it as a bad thing; she never had it in her mind to exploit the idea of "the bad girl." Whether this was on director Mary Harron's mind when she opted to take on the life story of Bettie Page is up for debate.
Raised in Tennessee to a strict, religious family and a father with a fondness for bathing suit areas, Bettie Page (Gretchen Mol) is set to become a teacher at college when she marries an army man and promptly leaves him when he hits her. After being sexually assaulted by a group of men, she makes her way to New York City to become an actress. The moment of fate comes when an off-duty police officer and amateur photog decides to take her picture. Soon enough, she's being sought out by famous photographers like Bunny Yeager (Sarah Paulson) and specialty photography siblings Irving and Paula Klaw (Chris Bauer and Lili Taylor, respectively). Her friends, mostly male, are astonished by her nonchalant attitude towards nudity and bondage. She just sees it as "silly pictures," but the Senate, led by Senator Estes Kefauver (David Strathairn, absolutely wasted), thinks it's warping the youth of America. Mostly, Bettie just wants to make a nice, God-fearing life for herself with a man who doesn't judge her.
Continue reading: The Notorious Bettie Page Review
Many scenes, like the above, though thoroughly bleak and depressing, exemplify why The Grey Zone is such a beautiful film. Based on true events as told in the book Auschwitz: a Doctor's Eyewitness Account, the film chronicles the struggles faced by these Sonderkommando as they plan and eventually execute a fatal uprising that destroys two crematoriums inside the Auschwitz II-Birkenau death camp.
Continue reading: The Grey Zone Review
Completed before American Beauty, this artificial little movie resembles it in every way possible, mainly because it examines the very same set of stereotypes about malfunctioning wealthy suburbanites. Vincent (Vincent Kartheiser), a sallow loner, follows Roseanne everywhere with his camera. Given the privilege to provide voice-over for most of the film, we hope that he is the voice of wisdom, or at least revelation in the story. Far from it: His philosophy is one of a self-possessed New Age spiritual guru who is convinced he can save Roseanne from hell she is living in. What Ricky was able to see with his lens in American Beauty revealed the hidden layers of human behavior. Vincent, by comparison, as well as the whole ensemble of characters in Crime + Punishment, goes through the plot's twists and turns without a single coherent thought in his head.
Continue reading: Crime Punishment In Suburbia Review
Camp's story centers on three young performers attending Camp Ovation: The sincere but unconfident Ellen (Joanna Chilcoat), the cross-dressing Michael (Robin De Jesus) whose homosexuality ires his parents, and the charming yet arrogant hunk Vlad (Daniel Letterle). Vlad has a winning smile and a straight-boy bravado that everybody else at Camp Ovation lacks, which makes him the subject of a half-dozen crushes. But there's work to be done: The assembled kids have to put on a new production every two weeks, managed by Bert (Don Dixon), a washed-out alcoholic whose stage successes are years behind him.
Continue reading: Camp Review
It shames flashy movies like The Matrix sequels, which adopt surface style and frenetic movement but lack sheer, sumptuous vision. Altman's movie isn't just a pretty sheen ("I hate pretty!" snaps Malcolm McDowell as the head of the ballet company), it's a full audio-visual experience. For all the limbs blown apart in Matrix Revolutions it's got nothing on the Company dancers bandaging their bruised heels and toes, or the horrifying moment when a tendon snaps during a rehearsal. It's something we can respond to, relate to. It's emotion pictures, corresponding to the vibrant, emotive images of the dance.
Continue reading: The Company Review
Ethan Hawke (Training Day) courageously attempts to capture the essence of what makes this landmark so addictive in his directorial debut, Chelsea Walls. A collage of character plotlines that only barely intersect, Chelsea is a unique and respectable experiment in its focus on an inanimate object as its central character. Backed by a score that appropriately feels as if it were written while observing the production, Hawke creates an environment easily accessible to both New Yorkers and the non-initiated.
Continue reading: Chelsea Walls Review
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