SIGNIS jurors start their work in three important film festivals in France, Switzerland and Italy
Melbourne, November, 14th, 2017 (Peter Malone). Below, find reviews done by Peter Malone on the films:
- BAD MOMS 2
- BELKO EXPERIMENT, The
- BLADE RUNNER 2049
- BRAD’S STATUS
- FOREIGNER, The
- FRITZ LANG (Screening at German Cinema Melbourne 2017)
- GOOD TIME
- HAPPY DEATH DAY
- HOME AGAIN
BAD MOMS 2
US, 2017, 104 minutes, Colour.
Mila Kunis, Kristin Bell, Kathryn Hahn, Cheryl Hines, Christine Baranski, Susan Sarandon, Justin Hartley, Peter Gallagher, Wanda Sykes, Cade Mansfield Cooksey.
Directed by Jon Lucas, Scott Moore.
A year earlier, Bad Moms seems to have touched the funnybone of the wide audience, characters, oddball situations, plenty of vulgar touches, but quite funny in its way. It was obviously popular because, within a year, here is a sequel.
Once again, this one seems to touch the funnybone, the characters, even more oddball situations, and, of course, plenty of vulgar touches. But, again, quite funny in its way and destined to be very popular. It would not be surprising to see the Bad Moms in the future – though Bad Dads is promised.
The same team of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (amongst others, the three Hangover films) are responsible. In the three moms, they created three quite different characters, Mila Kunis as Amy is in the centre, exasperated at home, divorce, bringing up the children, and fond of a friendly neighbour, Jay Hernandez, who has a daughter. Then there is Kiki, Kristin Bell, a nice, more simple mother, loving her children and her devoted husband, wary of letting her hair down. On the other hand, there is the brash and boisterous Carla, Kathryn Hahn, blunt in manner and language, not afraid of a drink, daring the other mothers to come out of themselves. And they did.
So, what are the filmmakers to do for a sequel? They had a very bright idea: introduce the mothers of the moms. And they employed a very good cast to portray these dominant and intruding (well not all of them) mothers.
Each of the mothers has very a strongly delineated character and we welcome their appearances. To that extent, they steal the show.
And who are they? Even dominating the dominating mothers is Christine Baranksi as Amy’s mother. She can steal any film or television show in which she appears. She is Ruth who behaves ruthlessly. A formidable presence, dragging along her dominated but genial husband, Peter Gallagher, taking over the house, taking over Christmas – but, we look forward to her humiliation; but, we hope, something of a conversion. On the other hand, there is Cheryl Hines as Kiki’s emotionally dominating mother, utlrasweet, insinuating herself into every aspect of her best friend/daughter’s life – with an amusing therapist sequence with Wanda Sykes. We look forward to her process of unclinging.
As might be expected, Carla’s mother is the opposite, an absent mother, a gambler, often stoned, but making an impression because she is played by Susan Sarandon. We look forward to seeing whether she can settle down.
It is Christmas – and Jesus himself might be well-exasperated at the pressures of all aspects of commercialised Christmas and expectations (though there is scene at Midnight Mass and Kiki’s mother does mention that it is Jesus’ birth). We share with the mums and moms together in crisis over the five days to Christmas, Ruth organising everyone, the three mothers sharing a drink to escape and entangling with Santa Claus, as well as some Santa Claus strippers, one of whom, Ty (Justin Hartley), a fairly simple soul, who sees into the depths of Carla.
Mess, mayhem, exasperated swearing, jokes about sex and marriage, a bit of female ogling, but somehow or other it comes together much better than we might have anticipated.
THE BELKO EXPERIMENT
US/Colombia, 2017, 88 minutes, Colour.
John J. Gallagher Jr, Tony Goldwyn, Adria Arjona, John C. McGinley, Melonie Diaz, Owein, Sean Gunn, Brent Sexton, Gregg Henry, Michael Rooker, Rusty Schwimmer.
Directed by Greg McLean.
This is a very grim film.
Centuries ago, in exclusive language times, there was the phrase “Man’s inhumanity to man”. This is very much the theme of the Belko Experiment.
It can be noted first that this is a film directed by Greg McLean. He is not a foreigner to grim stories and grim treatment. He had notable success with Wolf Creek and its sequel and then a television series. He also made Jungle in Colombia. And this film was also made in that Latin American country. The screenplay was written by James Gunn, writer and director of Guardians of the Galaxy films.
Belko is an international company with a high-rise office building out in the middle of almost-nowhere in Colombia. It has a monolithic look and, soon into the film, metal shutters rise to cover all the windows and encase it in a kind of armour. Security is very high, even questioning some of the executives as they arrive for work one morning. There are about 60 people who work in the building, a company which helps place American workers in Latin American firms.
The day starts conventionally enough, people arriving, the genial man at the security desk, some rivalries in work, touch of romance, a leering co-worker, the CEO and his spacious office.
This film runs for 90 minutes and almost immediately a voice comes over the intercom setting the agenda for the day, the windows all being closed and shuttered. It has echoes of such films as Battle Royale, the Japanese film where schoolchildren were pitted against each other, sent out into the wilderness to survive and to survive by killing others. In fact, this was one of the key premises of the very popular Hunger Games series, the transferring of gladiatorial combat to the death into a future society.
An intercom voice announces that half the population of the building must be killed by the other half.
At first, people think it is a prank, and take little notice. But, in fact, Belko has inserted tabs into the back of the neck of each employee, allegedly for insurance security in a land of abductions. However, the powers that be can trigger those tabs, explosives, ‘n will – and they do.
As might be expected, there is mayhem within the group, and the question of who will take charge. There is the CEO, played by Tony Goldwyn, a family man who becomes more and more bent on survival and control. There is the leering man, played by John C.McGinley, pragmatic and cruel. On the other hand there is Mike, John J.Gallagher Jr, clearly one of the good guys, romantically involved with a fellow worker, who uses his brains as well is his goodwill to help others.
The body count is very high – that is the point of the story. And, there are gory moments and the audience beginning to feel desperate with the rising horror and cruelty.
There are some heroic people, especially the security guard who refuses the key to the weapons room. Most of the workers are Americans but there are some locals, men and women – but, ultimately, when the mysterious voice announces that there is to be only one survivor, and tabs start being pushed, the death is indiscriminate, except for a buildup to a confrontation between the CEO and Mike.
The audience presumes that the company is conducting a “social sciences” experiment, with the mysterious voice and the range of cameras observing the gladiatorial behaviour.
While something of this is revealed at the end, there are some more confronting images, along Big Brother lines, which means that the whole perspective of the film is deeply pessimistic.
Efficiently filmed, striking as well as horrifying, and, to repeat, deeply pessimistic about human nature.
BLADE RUNNER 2049
US, 2017, 163 minutes, Colour.
Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Robin Wright, Ana de Armas, Dave Bautista, Mark Arnold, Wood Harris, Sylvia Hoeks, Edward James Olmos, Jarrod Leto, Hiam Abbas, Sean Young.
Directed by Dennis Villeneuve.
Although not immediately so popular in its time, Ridley Scott’s version of the Philip K.Dick story, Blade Runner (1982), it has become an increasingly popular cult science fiction film, dramatising Dick’s vision of a possible future.
It is a very brave director who would take on a sequel. Dennis Villeneuve has proven his talent as a director with his Oscar-nominated Incendies, as well as Prisoners, Sicario and Arrival. He seems eminently qualified to take up the challenge and critics were generally in favour of his work. However, many of the bloggers were not so enthusiastic. In fact, box office has been disappointing.
Villeneuve would have been criticised if his sequel was much the same as the original. However, he has been more than criticised because many say that it is not sufficiently like the original. They find it too slow, too reflective…
While there is action, it is a very long film. And the screenplay offers a lot of reflection about human nature, humanity, robotics, the replicants, their place in society, authorities and authoritarianism, commercial control, ruthlessness… Plenty to think about during the duration of the film.
In 2049, the replicants are superior to the old models, many of whom are being sought and destroyed. And, in the background, there is a rebel group waiting for revolution.
The new replicant is K, Ryan Gosling. When sent on a mission to destroy an old replicant, he uncovers some secrets which may or may not involve himself, his origins. There is a story of a replicant actually giving birth and the mystery of who the child was and where the child is.
This sets K on a mission, not quite authorised by his control, Madam (Robin Wright). K lives in the city, very reminiscent of the visuals of the original film) and has a holographic companion, Joi, Ana de Armas. He also becomes entangled with a woman of the street, Mackenzie Davis, which leads to some bizarre explorations of intimacy and sexuality, but also to the revolution.
The film explains how entrepreneur, Wallace (Jared Leto) has taken over replicant business from the the old Tyrell manufacturing company. His assistant, Luv (Sylvia Hoek) is reminiscent of the old-style tough replicants, a loyal assistant but a propensity for violence and martial arts skills. Clearly, there will be a buildup to a confrontation.
But K goes out into the polluted area to find the hero of the past, Deckard. So, here is Harrison Ford again, appearing at the middle of the film, but immediately taking command with his strong presence and personality. The mansion in which he lives is intriguing, grand but decaying, the gambling palace, memories of the 20th century (including holograms of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Frank Sinatra).
This means that Deckard and K go on their mission, to find the mysterious child, to understand what happened, to a buildup to battles between Deckard, K and Luv.
There is enough material here to lead to a sequel – and one might hope that those who appreciated this film will be offer enough support for the making of the sequel.
US, 2017, 104 minutes, Colour.
Ben Stiller, Austin Abrams, Jenna Fisher, Michael Sheen, Jemaine Clement, Luke Wilson, Shazi Raja, Luisa Lee, Mike White, Xavier Grobet.
Directed by Mike White.
There is a lot going for this film. It is definitely a film about “men’s business”, which is not to say that women will not be very interested.
It is specifically geared towards middle-aged men. However, younger men will be interested to see what might be in the future for them. Older men might appreciate looking back at how they have handled their middle-age.
Brad is played by Ben Stiller, approaching 50, his 17-year-old son about to go to college. He lives in Sacramento, is head of a non-profit organisation which gives advice to charities. His wife is very contented with her life, her love for her husband, love for and pride for her son, and has a satisfying job working for the government.
But Brad is full of discontent – not only do we see him in his restless state, his voice-over frequently tells us and describes why this is the case. He feels that his life has eluded him.
As we see him restless during the night, unable to sleep, preoccupied about finances and position, wondering when his wife’s parents will die soon and bequeaths them some money (and her appropriate response to his nocturnal meanderings and suggestions is a justified “shut up”).
Actually, his son Troy, a calmly sincere performance by Austin Abrams, is ready to go to college, quietly eager, skilled at music performance and composition. He does not share his father’s neuroticism. Off they fly to the East Coast, for interviews at Harvard and Tufts. The tone is set by Brad’s tantrum at the airport trying to get an upgrade and trying all kinds of manoeuvres, unsuccessfully.
Most of the problem is in his comparing himself with four friends from the past, with whom he went to Tufts during college. Their lives visualised on screen, at least as Brad imagines them. There is tycoon Willie (Jemaine Clement), wealthy, retired at 40, living a life of luxury on Maui. There is Jason (Luke Wilson), a successful businessman, with a family, and his own luxury Playing. And there is Craig (Michael Sheen), advisor to politicians, a television celebrity along with his wife. There is Nick (Mike White who wrote the screenplay and directed), an increasingly successful Hollywood director who is able to marry his producer partner, Xavier. This is the success that irks Brad, continually pressing him to wallow in his self-destructive misery.
Brad follows Troy to his interviews, boasting to any parent willing or unwilling to listen, finds that there has been a mistake with the date which doesn’t seem to faze Truly at all but sends Brad into a funding frenzy calling his friends to pull some strings, even though he has not seen them for years (and discovers that he is not been invited to their various functions).
We know that Brad is going to have to learn some lessons but we don’t know how. One interesting episode occurs when Troy joins up with some fellow students and they go out for a drink, Brad discovering that one of them is very earnest, social justice minded, interested in hearing his ideas on non-profit organisations. He makes a huge faux pas in answering one of her questions by saying that the best advice he can give is to make money!
After Troy’s interviews, he meets up with Craig for dinner at a fashionable restaurant – and, of course, is placed at the table next to the exit to the kitchen then moved when Craig arrives and the waitress is all attention and upgrades them to a classier table.
So, what is Brad to do? He is helped by his son who worries that his father is having a nervous breakdown. He is also helped by listening to musicians playing Dvorak’s humoresque.
The screenplay is intelligent, witty, often stimulating even as we are exasperated with Brad’s self-pity. And the ending is sufficiently open-ended to offer us great pleasure in speculating what might happen to Brad and to Troy.
US/UK/China, 2017, 114 minutes, Colour.
Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Orla Brady, Lia Williams, Charlie Murphy, Rufus Jones, Dermot
Crowley, Michael McElhatton, Ray Feely.
Directed by Martin Campbell.
The Foreigner is a fairly generic title. It depends on which country you are in and who is coming into the country. In this particular case it is both the UK and Northern Ireland and the person coming in (although he has lived there for 30 years) is Chinese. In fact, The Novel on Which This Film Is Based, by Stephen Leather, is called The Chinaman.
And, The Chinaman is Jackie Chan. The screenplay indicates that he is age 61, as he was when the film was made. But that does not mean that he has lost all his agility. While he might not have the martial arts movements of years gone by, he can still put up a fairly good fight – and his past training, as we find out, is in surveillance tactics, tracking tactics, trapping tactics.
When we look at the cast list, we see it is Jackie Chan versus Pierce Brosnan.
We find out the situation at the opening of the film, Jackie Chan’s Mr Quan picking up his daughter from a London school and a sudden explosion, an IRA bomb. This means that we are back in the stories of the 20th century, updated for the 21st-century. Mr Quan’s daughter is killed. What he quietly grieves, he becomes intent on righting the wrongs, on unmasking the killers, on wreaking justice.
This means that he has to confront the UK government, the UK police – who, while momentarily sympathetic, see him as a nuisance and something of a crank. So, off he goes to Belfast, to confront a deputy minister there, Pierce Brosnan, who also tends to dismiss him, declaring that he does not know who detonated the bombs.
What is a grieving father, an outsider, foreigner, to do?
This is where the plot becomes explosive, literally. Mr Quan is an expert at using fairly ordinary materials to create bombs and sets off a few, to the deputy minister’s detriment and fear. This is especially the case when he retreats to his country house and there is a huge explosion. The minister has quite a number of aides, more along the thuggish lines and diplomats, but have no chance against Mr Kwon and his fighting abilities.
There is also diplomacy. The minister sent his nephew secretly to make deals with the London police, has contact with government minister.
It all builds up to a confrontation when there is a second bomb explosion of a London Bridge, a bus being destroyed with many deaths. And there are a number of twists involving old IRA stalwarts, betrayals, twisting of information.
Clearly, there is going to be a confrontation between Mr Quan and the IRA cell. And, this does happen, Mr Quan being very shrewd as well as being very active – and, really, able to solve all the problems single-handed.
This is a kind of story that Jack Higgins used to write many decades ago, the IRA, the British, individuals who have courage and a knack for solving problems with brawn and brains. director Martin Campbell has directed two James Bond films, one with Pierce Brosnan, as well as some significant television series, including Edge of Darkness.
A contemporary entertainment in the old vein.
Germany, 2016, 104 minutes, Colour.
Heino Ferch, Thomas Thieme, Samuel Finzi, Johanna Gastdorf, Lisa Friederich.
Directed by Gordian Maugg.
Fritz Lang is considered one of the 20th century’s foremost film directors. His films in Germany include Metropolis and M. His films in the United States ranged over many genres, especially dark thrillers and some westerns. He died in 1976 in Hollywood, aged 85.
Lang’s life was also interesting. A Jewish mother who converted to Catholicism. Pioneer in writing and directing films during the 1920s, some silent classics. Goebbels approved of him and in 1933 offered him a leading role in the German film industry. Lang decided to leave Germany and moved to the United States. His wife and collaborator, Thea von Harbou, divorced him and remained in Germany, writing for the Nazi regime. It is said that he was very difficult to work with.
While the title of this film is Fritz Lang, it is a fiction, based on facts but doing speculative interpretations of his character and of his filmmaking.
One of the significant features of the film is that it is filmed in black and white, framed in the traditional box form of the silent era so that the filmmakers are able to incorporate a great deal of actual footage of Berlin and Düsseldorf around 1930, providing an authentic background to the action. This enables them to incorporate footage from some of Lang’s films, especially Metropolis and Woman on the Moon. By the end of the film, it is also in able to incorporate footage from Lang’s first sound film, M, which is the particular subject of this film.
Lang had focused on issues of German mythology as well as on futuristic interpretations of humans and machines. He was wary of silent films but realised he had to move with the times. He was intrigued by some newspaper headlines of a serial killer in the city of Düsseldorf. This film explores his fascination with the crimes and the criminal, going to Düsseldorf, making contact with the police chief and getting permission to go to the crime scenes and eventually interview the killer who has confessed to his wife and is apprehended. (He was executed soon after the release of Lang’s film, M.)
Lang seems to have a morbid interest in the crime and the criminal, going to locations, walking the streets, imagining the state of mind of the killer, the vicious attacks on women, the screenplay seeming to suggest that psychologically he sometimes identifies with the killer. The audience has seen him in relationship to his wife, his sexual activity, flashbacks to his first wife, Lisa, who nursed him after injuries in World War I but who killed herself after discovering his relationship with writer Thea von Harbou. In a film within a film, this episode is dramatised by different actors. Lang was not a particularly nice man at all.
Lang was a genius in his area, reminding the audience that a genius does not necessarily have to be a nice or a good person.
By the end of the film, Lang and Thea von Harbou have prepared a screenplay to meet producers demands, there are glimpses of the filming of it, actors, sets, action. Peter Lorre was the star of the film and, at the end, there are very significant, even graphic, sequences from the original Incorporated here.
An intriguing film in terms of its content, the portrait of an artist, his genius and flaws, personal relationships and obsessions, and his strengths as a filmmaker. And, in its black and white photography, incorporating of documentary footage and films, it is also intriguing in its visual style.
US, 2017, 109 minutes, Colour.
Gerard Butler, Jim Sturgess, Abbie Cornish, Alexandra Maria Lara, Daniel Wu, Eugenio Derbez, Andy Garcia, Ed Harris, Robert Sheehan, Richard Schiff, Mare Winningham, Zazie Beetz.
Directed by Dean Devlin.
There is always an audience for a disaster movie. Ever since such films as The Poseidon Adventure in the 1970s brought widescreen misadventures, on ships, at airports, on flights, in towering Infernos, rollercoasters, audiences have relished the opportunities for identification with characters in perilous situations.
The star of this film is Gerard Butler who previously had appeared in Olympus has Fallen and London has Fallen. He has always save the day, even saving the American president in peril. Perhaps the writers of this film have had more than an eye on the Has Fallen franchise because once again there is an American president and this film might have been called ‘Earth has Fallen’.
This is the future although the sequences on Earth look fairly familiar.
17 nations have combined to create an extraordinary space station, Dutch Boy, which will be able to control any crisis on Earth, especially those caused by climate change. The person behind the whole project is Jake Lawson (Gerard Butler, who might have been the better choice to portray Jack Reacher!). But, he is one of those individualistic heroes and falls foul of the Washington bureaucracy who sack him. The new man in charge is Jake’s younger brother, Max (Jim Sturgess), more the bookish and bureaucratic type. He is in a relationship with a Secret Service agent (Abbie Cornish proving that any female officer is more than the equivalent of a male officer).
Things begin to go wrong. An isolated village in Afghanistan is frozen. A lot of Hong Kong is destroyed by rising temperatures and ensuing fire. For the record, other cities which we see being destroyed include Tokyo, Moscow and Red Square, the freezing of the beachfront in Rio, a tsunami overwhelming Dubai, storms in Mumbai… For audiences with a penchant for seeing cities destroyed, Geostorm should be high on the list.
Needless to say, who has to go back to rectify everything on Dutch Boy but Jake, with Max supervising him. While Geostorm is something of a Space Odyssey of the 21st century, it is not any HAL computer that is the villain. The villain is an ambitious human – and our options are the US president, Andy Garcia, or the Secretary of State, Ed Harris.
And there is a mercenary agent on Dutch Boy and some rogue activity in the space station. Which means that Jake has a lot to do, discovering the virus that is infecting files, unmasking the villain on the space station, checking with Max as to who is the villain on Earth – with the culmination at a Florida Democratic Presidential Election rally.
If you want to see an enormous space station exploding, here it is.
But, with the new head of the space station, Alexandra Maria Lara, Jake is able to save the day.
It might be much as you would expect, though probably more spectacularly so, plenty of special effects and action, entertaining in its way.
US, 2017, 101 minutes, Colour.
Robert Pattinson, Benny Safdi, Talia Webster, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Barkhad Abdi, Peter Verby, Rose Gregorio, Eric Paykert.
Directed by Benny Safdi, Josh Safdi.
The title of the film is Good Time, it might be described as Hard Going.
This is the New York streets and many commentators have remembered Martin Scorsese’s 1974 film Mean Streets, the characters who lived there, young characters, difficult pasts, uncertain futures.
The film opens by the audience introducing us to one of two brothers, Nick (played by the co-director, Benny Safdie). He is rather slow-witted, is in a session with a sympathetic therapist who is showing him cards, making him do word association games but with comparatively little success except the revelation that he had thrown a pan at his grandmother. Before anything further can happen, his brother, Connie (a very effective and different Robert Pattinson) intrudes into the office, making demands on the therapist, taking his brother to exclamations of “shame” from the therapist.
Connie is desperate to help his brother. But why he would choose to get guns and masks and the both of them go into a bank for robbery, handing over a note, writing directions and then writing back, demanding even more money and making their escape but seemingly unaware that there would be a dye in the money bag that would cause the car to crash and their being covered with red paint. Connie has to hide the money, get rid of the paint but his plan is thwarted when police come after them and Nick runs away, only to be arrested, taken to a police station, put in a cell.
What is Connie to do? Disguise himself and his hair? Certainly. Recover some of the money? Go to a bail bondsman and make very impatient demands on him to try to organise Nick’s immediate release. He also goes to his girlfriend, Corey (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and wants to use her credit card to get the extra $10,000 for the bail. Her mother has shrewdly stopped the card.
Connie then attempts to recover Nick but ends up, mistakenly, with a drug dealer, Ray. This leads to a dramatic flashback on Ray’s part, falling foul a taxi driver and leaping from the car, injuring himself. Then a connection with the drug dealer and a young girl, Connie then trying to hide what remains of the money in a theme park.
Again, in these mean streets, with characters so very limited in mental ability, things go badly again, he and the dealer bashing the security guard, disguising themselves in his coat and, taking his car, going to his apartment to arrange for the sale of some drugs.
These characters are ill-fated. Police chases, falls from buildings, inept attempts at rescue…
A final close-up of Connie. What future? But some hope with Nick as the therapist introduces him to group work, some men and women who are introduced to a psychological game, asking, if they identify with the theme presented to them, they cross the floor. This activates their minds, even Nick’s so that…
HAPPY DEATH DAY
US, 2017, 94 minutes, Colour.
Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews, Charles Aitken.
Directed by Christopher Landon.
How many times can the director kill off the leading lady? There was hullaballoo in 1960 when Janet Leigh was killed off so early in Hitchcock’s Psycho. In Happy Death Day, I think the heroine mentions she has been killed 16 times. 16 times you may ask – but, fairly soon into the film movie buffs will be thinking Groundhog Day. Hence the at-least 16 times.
In fairness to the writer and the director and their “borrowing” the main idea behind Groundhog Day, they do make amusing references to it at the end, the noble boyfriend telling the many-times surviving heroine about the original film. She has never heard of it. He tries Bill Murray. Never heard of him. He tries Ghostbusters. Never heard of it. Shame on her!!!
For the first 10 minutes or more, many audiences hearts will sink. Those were very fond of fraternity and sorority raucous comedies will feel they are unfamiliar ground, so why not another one! And our heroine, Tree (short for Teresa), Jessica Rothe, is one of those presumptuously arrogant, knock-everyone-out-of-the-way-types, immediately dislikeable. How are we going to survive the film? Well, mainly by her not surviving her particular Groundhog Day murders but her waking up every morning, her birthday in fact, her death day in greater fact!
Actually, the film does improve as it goes on. And the filmmakers do employ some ingenuity in highlighting what happens to Tree, waking up in a strange fraternity room with Carter (an agreeable Israel Broussard), his friend arriving with a lewd comment, her fears, racing away, literally knocking people out of her way, encountering a would-be boyfriend, and then the comments by the other women at the sorority. And a cupcake with one candle on it from her roommate, Lori, which first time round she throws into the garbage. Tree is that kind of person.
The whole point of Groundhog Day is the fact that the person re-living the day and has the opportunity to learn, to alter (at least for the rest of the day), and for Tree to work out who might be killing her. Actually, it is somebody in a mask – but, unlike the mask in Halloween and in the Scream movies, this is a cheerful mask, for supporters of a football team, chubby, bucktoothed. But, by the end of the film, it is sinister nonetheless.
On one of the days, Carter does his best and, unbeknownst to himself, Tree takes quite a shine to him. On some of her days, her injuries take her to hospital where she discovers that a maniac killer is present under police guard.
There are some twists as the scenario goes on, Tree testing out potential suspects, the encounter with the killer, and, just when you thought it was all over, the real killer appears!
Interestingly, the screenwriter gives Tree quite a lengthy speech, spoken to Carter, about realising how selfish she is, not supporting her father because of her grief for her dead mother, rude to everyone about her, as she says: not a nice person. So, there you have a horror film with a highly explicit moral which you can’t disagree with!
US, 2017, 97 minutes, Colour.
Reese Witherspoon, Michael Sheen, Nat Wolff, Candice Bergen, Pico Alexander, Jon Rudnitsky, Lake Bell, Eden Grace Redfield, Lola Flanery.
Directed by Hallie Meyers-Shyer.
This is a variation on the popular American romantic comedy. Actually, rather later in the film, the clue is given about the central character, Alice, Reese Witherspoon, and the three young men who live in her guesthouse and are wanting to make a film. As they go to see a producer, they actually say that one of them has a brain, and the second a heart, and the third, the nerve. Fans of The Wizard of Oz will know the reference instantly.
But, Alice, is not on an easy yellow brick road. As the film opens, she is looking resignedly in her bathroom mirror. It is her 40th birthday. It turns out that she has separated from her music industry husband, Michael Sheen, has two daughters, one of whom tends to be depressed, the other not. The audience is given a resume of her very successful film director father, his films, his many marriages, the house that he built in LA to which Alice and the children are now returning.
The three young men, Harry (Pico Alexander), the producer who thinks he is God’s gift to everyone (the nerve); Teddy (Nat Wolff), the earnest actor (the heart); and screenwriter George (Jon Rudnitsky) who is the brain but really has the most heart.
They cannot pay for their hotel room but a chance encounter with Alice at her 40th birthday party, drinks and dancing, leads to them going home with her, her mother (Candice Bergen) turning up the next morning, being charmed by their flattery because she was the star of her husband’s films, she invites them to stay.
There is a caustic interlude when Alice goes for an interview for a job in room decoration but finds her prospective employer, Lake Bell, presumptuously arrogant – they later have a rather public falling out at a restaurant.
Harry wants to charm Alice but stands her up. She is rescued by George. Teddy’s action will be when Alice’s husband, Austin, decides to come to Los Angeles to see what is happening and they have a punch-up.
The three men, all in their mid-20s, are a hit with the two daughters, especially George since the older girl is preparing a little play for presentation at the school – an event which provides something of a climax for the film.
In the meantime, the three go to discuss their prospective film with a typical Hollywood producer who wants to amplify the modest script, sex it up et cetera – and, as you would expect them to, they walk out on him. George meanwhile has been commissioned to write a TV script and Teddy has an audition.
A happy outcome with the school play and what better than to see Alice and the girls, her mother, her former husband and the three men all sitting around the table and enjoying one another’s company.