Meewella | Critic

According to P

Tag: Allison Janney

QuickView: The Creator (2023)

“She looks like a little girl now, but she’s growing. Whoever has that kid, wins the war.”


Set in 2065, The Creator imagines a future where the West has banned use of AI following a nuclear attack and seeks to impose this decision on Asia, where robot “simulants” have been embraced. Gareth Edwards is brazen in drawing inspiration from a host of past science fiction films — most notably Blade Runner’s theme of hunted simulacra and whether they are alive (cheekily borrowing the line “more human than human”), along with Avatar’s military power viewing its might as right — yet he remixes these ideas into more than mere pastiche or homage, but a modern and thoughtful exploration of persisting fears regarding artificial intelligence. The Creator suggests that we are now conscious of our role in eradicating the neanderthals and are therefore fearful of the next threat like us. Edwards started out as a visual effects artist and the heavy use of VFX is not simply a flashy crutch but vital to the world building, using grounded, weathered technology to aid immersion as well as demonstrating the “othering” of the simulants in a similar way to District 9. The vast spaceship “Nomad” is an ever-present symbol in the sky of the West’s superior firepower and determination to eradicate the perceived threat — it is a clear metaphor for American colonial influence abroad, but it also makes for strange viewing just days after the Israel-Palestine conflict reignites, particularly with the film’s secondary theme of the harshness of war and destruction of innocence. Key to The Creator is the developing relationship between John David Washington as the conflicted hero and impressive newcomer Madeleine Yuna Voyles as the simulant child. Meanwhile Allison Janney provides a foe whose single-mindedness is understandable, contrasted with Ken Watanabe’s noble simulant guerrilla fighter. The Creator has an impressive sense of scale, aided by its numerous location shoots and a grandiose Hans Zimmer score. It is not without issues — the script is often clumsy with excessive expositional dialogue and reliance on contrivance to advance the story, but this is intelligent sci-fi that manages to create a world and tell a complete story within its 133-minute runtime. The result is the most satisfied I have felt when leaving a big budget sci-fi film for several years.


QuickView: The Way Way Back (2013)

“There’s a whole world out there for you, Duncan. Don’t settle. Not yet.”


The Way Way Back is a delight that has instantly earned a place amongst my favourite coming-of-age films, not because it breaks new ground but because it populates the familiar template with such well-realised characters that I am certain to rewatch it just to spend more time with them. This is perhaps more surprising from a pair of comedian writer-directors, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (Community‘s Dean Pelton), who let the humanity drive the humour rather than the other way round. Our sympathy for Duncan arises not from his adolescent awkwardness but the difficult family dynamic of this summer holiday, coping with his parents’ divorce and the distance he feels from his mother due to her overbearing new boyfriend Trent. Shot with a visual sheen of sun-drenched nostalgia, there is a sense of fortuitous absurdism in the ease with which Duncan is taken under the wing of workers at a water park and offered a job. Although the whole ensemble cast excels, Sam Rockwell’s performance as Owen is perhaps the key, acting as a counterpoint to Trent, immature but self-aware and unburdened by ego. The Way Way Back deserves praise for not seeking easy or fantastic resolutions to its more serious confrontation, leaving viewers with hopefulness rather than closure.


QuickView: I, Tonya (2017)

“There’s no such thing as truth.”

Tonya Harding

Tonya Harding is infamous in America as an Olympian figure skater whose rivalry with Nancy Kerrigan ended with the latter having her knee shattered in an attack. The film seeks to present Tonya’s side of the story, with a focus on the sport’s emphasis on image over athleticism (Tonya was the first woman to land a triple-axel in competition but was brash and from a poor background). Considerable focus is placed on the effect of domestic violence, at the hands of her mother (an exceptional supporting turn by Allison Janney) and then her partner. The film’s breezy tone makes for a more enjoyable experience, though arguably weakens its presentation of Tonya’s loneliness, yearning for affection. Given that the truth remains elusive, the film plays with its own unreliable perspective — “I never did this,” Tonya tells the camera, whilst cocking a shotgun and chasing her husband. The result, then, is conjecture but with substance.


"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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