FILM NEWS: MAR. 5-11 | Cinema Clips | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

FILM NEWS: MAR. 5-11 

New This Week, Special Screenings, and Current Releases

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NEW THIS WEEK

Beneath Us
[not yet reviewed]
Undocumented day laborers are hired by a wealthy couple, and find themselves trapped in a horrifying nightmare. Opens March 6 at Megaplex Valley Fair. (R)

Emma. 3.5 stars
Before smartphones and Instagram, there were influencers—and they could be as shallow, overconfident and pejorative as they are today. This new adaptation of Jane Austen's novel brings that sort of modern frisson to the tale of a rich young woman (Anya Taylor-Joy) who amuses herself by interfering in the romantic lives of those around her. Taylor-Joy's Emma is a queen bee with more sting than previous depictions of the character; there's real bite, too, in Johnny Flynn's Mr. Knightley, the family friend who acts (reluctantly) as Emma's conscience. A recurring visual motif by director Autumn de Wilde, of schoolgirls in blood-red cloaks fluttering through Emma's village of Highbury, is a vivid splash of color amid the soft hues of the movie's palette, evoking The Handmaid's Tale in this story's suggestion of women's highest achievements as marriage and baby-making. Yes, there's light entertainment to be had here, including Bill Nighy being Bill Nighy as Emma's widower father. But Austen's wisdom about men, women, life and love takes on a sly, penetrating zing. While comedy of manners might seem like fluff and nonsense, it was—and remains—deadly serious, too. (PG)—MaryAnn Johanson

Greed 2.5 stars
Writer-director Michael Winterbottom goes after the rich and decadent in this satire, with his usual muse Steve Coogan—once again at his obnoxious finest—as a fashion mogul celebrating his 60th birthday on the Greek island Mykonos. He's known as the king of high-street fashion, but also for building a clothing empire through buying up and dissolving businesses, avoiding taxes and rounding up material on-the-cheap from Sri Lankan sweatshops. For a movie whose sole intention is to stick it to the 1%, I kinda wish this film was more balls-to-the-wall with it. Winterbottom (who co-wrote with Veep/The Thick of It writer Sean Gray) has basically crafted a rapid-fire, burlesque farce, complete with serious subplots—like the one involving refugees residing on the beach—that are mostly there for finger-wagging social commentary. It's almost like he's been watching the dizzying, Oscar-nominated satires Adam McKay has been doing lately, and decided to do a more posh, British version of them. I will say the movie has a savage climax, where Winterbottom truly does an on-the-nose representation of Jean-Jacques Rousseau's classic line about eating the rich. Opens March 6 at Broadway Centre Cinemas. (R)—Craig D. Lindsey

Onward 2 stars
See review on p. TK. Opens March 6 at theaters valleywide. (PG)

Ordinary Love 3.5 stars
Joan (Lesley Manville) and Tom (Liam Neeson) have a married relationship the likes of which we don't see often onscreen: They bicker gently, tease mercilessly and radiate an intense love for each other that manifests in every mundane interaction, every routine conversation. They have weathered profound challenges. So when Joan finds a lump in her breast, they are ready. We take this new challenge with them, in all its nitty-gritty intimacy. It's not the medical stuff that is intimate; there is no damaged flesh on view, no gory surgeries, barely even a needle. No, it's an emotional roller coaster the couple are on, one that is beautifully observed and achingly honest—funny, moving, hopeful and buoyant. American audiences will be shocked—and jealous!—to note that none of their anxiety has to do with medical bills for Joan's yearlong treatment. Because they live in Northern Ireland and are covered by the NHS, it's all free at the point of service. Oh, they have a financial complaint: They have to pay for parking at the hospital, even though Joan is a patient. Can you imagine! Opens March 6 at theaters valleywide. (R)—MAJ

The Way Back
[not yet reviewed]

A troubled ex-high school basketball star (Ben Affleck) returns to his alma mater to become the coach. Opens March 6 at theaters valleywide. (R)

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

Little Women
At Park City Film Series, March 6-7, 8 p.m. & March 8, 6 p.m. (PG)

Tumbleweeds Film Festival
See p. TK. At Main Library, March 6-8 & March 13-15, times vary. (NR)

CURRENT RELEASES

The Assistant 3.5 stars
Yes, it's partly a #MeToo story with a thinly-disguised swipe at Harvey Weinstein—but writer-director Kitty Green has actually tackled something thornier. It's structured as a single working day in the life of Jane (Julia Garner), just five weeks into her job as assistant to a film production company chairman when she begins to suspect he might be a sexual predator. That component of the story takes a while to emerge, leaving deceptively mundane events that establish the environment as one predicated on who has power—on display most horrifyingly when Jane tries to report her suspicions to human resources. Garner delivers a terrific, subtle performance, even though Jane never gets a big showpiece scene as either victim or hero. The Assistant explores the kind of manipulation that makes good people keep their heads down and their mouths shut. (R)—Scott Renshaw

The Call of the Wild 2.5 stars
Veteran animation director Chris Sanders makes his first live-action feature with this adaptation of Jack London's story about Buck, a house dog who's kidnapped from his California home and sold to be a work dog in Alaska during the years of the Klondike Gold Rush. Along the way, Buck serves various masters—including emotionally wounded loner Harrison Ford—and there are plenty of alternately charming and PG-rating-appropriate-harrowing adventures along the way. But while Sanders (Lilo & Stitch) understands creating a bond between an isolated protagonist and a non-human friend, it's constantly distracting watching Buck—along with various other dogs, wolves, bears, etc.—directed to behave with computer-generated anthropomorphic specificity. It's not bad, exactly, certainly not when Ford ultimately becomes the central human character. But because Buck never for a moment seems like a real dog, it's just ... weird. (PG)—SR

Downhill 2.5 stars
Nat Faxon and Jim Rash take a different tonal approach when adapting Ruben Östlund's 2014 Swedish drama Force Majeure—one that sucks a lot of what was compelling about the original from its bones. On a family ski vacation, Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) and Pete (Will Ferrell) face a frightening moment—but the primary threat turns out not to be to their lives, but to the family's perception of Pete, as his reaction changes everyone's sense of who he is. Faxon and Rash fashion this story into primarily a dark comedy of manners, leaning into Louis-Dreyfus' mastery of incredulous reaction takes. But this approach blunts the idea of how a single moment can break a relationship. The stakes are lowered to make it easier to swallow; instead of something as caustic as acid, Downhill only offers a tart splash of vinegar. (R)—SR

The Invisible Man 3.5 stars
A horror film might deliver a solid metaphorical exploration of a hot-button issue, but to get an audience to pay attention, it also needs to deliver the genre goods. Writer-director Leigh Whannell follows Cecilia (Elisabeth Moss), who is told that her abusive ex-boyfriend, optics technology entrepreneur Adrian (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), has committed suicide—but she begins to believe that he's stalking her invisibly. There's potent material here exploring PTSD, gaslighting and victim-blaming, and Moss makes it all resonate with a ferocious performance. But it never feels like a lecture thanks to Whannell's thrilling direction, which makes remarkable use of the empty parts of his framing and ominous off-screen space. If the final act's overt violence proves less engrossing than the slow build-up, it nonetheless asks you to look the horror of such abuse right in its very-visible face. (R)—SR

The Lodge 1.5 stars
Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala (Goodnight Mommy) send siblings Aidan (Jaeden Martell) and Mia (Lia McHugh) on a reluctant holiday getaway with their father's fiancée, Grace (Riley Keough), who are then snowed in while dad (Richard Armitage) is away. Some offenses are mundane but avoidable, like including footage of a much better movie about people stuck together in a snowy isolated locale (Carpenter's The Thing). Some are personal, like my disdain for children in peril as a narrative crutch. Some indicate lazy writing, like setting up eventual payoffs in ways that lack sufficient backstory to pack an emotional punch. And others are icky and irresponsible, like using childhood trauma and mental illness as plot points without any real desire to take them seriously. The atmosphere is at times effectively moody but rarely genuinely scary, leaving little more than that ignominious checklist. (R)—SR

The Photograph 3 stars
Since it seems Tyler Perry will never make decent movies for and about black people, let's look to promising talents like Canadian writer-director Stella Meghie, who's been quietly making sophisticated, soulful, black-and-proud films like this romantic drama. Issa Rae plays a career gal learning about the past of her late photographer mother (Chante Adams), with the help of a journalist (hella-dashing Lakeith Stanfield) who's writing a story on her mom—and who also becomes smitten with her. Thanks to Meghie and cinematographer Mark Schwartzbard making sure melanin skin tones stay glowing, Rae and Stanfield are officially the sexiest on-screen pair at the movies right now. Some naysayers might complain that it's too bougie for its own good, but considering how it's so rare for a movie to characterize African-Americans as regular-ass people, I'll take bougie over bullshit any day. (PG-13)—CDL

Seberg 2.5 stars
Actress Jean Seberg (Kristen Stewart) did have a tragically fascinating life, but while this movie bears her name, its most interesting components lie elsewhere. Circa 1968-71, we follow French New Wave icon Seberg doing more film work in Los Angeles, becoming connected with black activist Hakim Jamal (Anthony Mackie), and subsequently becoming a target of FBI investigations of "subversives." Stewart's unique blend of flintiness and emotional fragility works well for Seberg's growing paranoia, but the screenplay never provides the foundation for Seberg's political conscience. Meanwhile, a secondary plot about the FBI agent (Jack O'Connell) assigned to surveil Seberg becomes fascinating in foregrounding the era's conservative backlash against social movements. For all the screen time spent on Seberg—after all, it's her name in the title—there's another story that keeps letting you know it might belong at center stage. (R)—SR

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 stars
The Sega video-game character (voiced by Ben Schwartz) here becomes a super-fast alien exiled on earth, trying to hide himself from humans in rural Montana—until kindly local sheriff Tom Wachowski (James Marsden) and the sinister Doctor Robotnik (Jim Carrey) become aware of his existence. The plot becomes a buddy-comedy road trip to retrieve Sonic's lost dimension-hopping gold rings, and there's a nice chemistry in what becomes a simple "there's no place like home" narrative. Carrey is in vintage form as the narcissistic villain, having as much fun with his plastic physicality than we've seen in years. Sure, you're gonna get your obligatory fart joke, and the action is a little rote at times. But there's a lot more to like here than we ever could have expected after last year's nightmare-fuel first trailer. (PG)—SR

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