“This is the worst possible parenting I can imagine.”
An idiosyncratic Australian indie, Babyteeth takes a familiar subgenre with a seriously ill teenage child, but treats the traditional formula with almost perverse contempt. Milla begins the film by bringing home a 23-year-old drug addict, leaving her parents with a dilemma between protecting and supporting their daughter. All four central characters are deeply flawed but we empathise with each of them (sometimes alternatingly) as they are trying desperately hard not to hurt one another. Ben Mendelsohn and Essie Davis are perfectly paired as parents faltering under the weight of their child’s illness, though it is Eliza Scanlen’s powerful performance as the chaotic Milla that carries the film. In a story filled with poor decisions, hers are ultimately the most understandable as — like any teen — she prioritises living over surviving. Shannon Murphy has delivered one of the most arresting directorial debuts in recent years, rich with emotion without becoming cloying, whilst the handheld camerawork provides an intimate perspective without becoming voyeuristic.
Those words during a fight late in the film ring like a challenge to detractors who feel threatened by female-led blockbusters. What Captain Marvel ably proves is what most already knew — that the Marvel superhero formula works just as well with a female lead — making it maddening that it has taken until the penultimate film of the decade-long three-phase MCU project to release one. Unfortunately fatigue is setting in with that formula and, where Black Panther shook things up by raising the bar for social and cultural exploration in a comicbook movie, Captain Marvel is largely content to play it safe in a sea of 90s nostalgia. The musical choices from the era are notable, with female fronted acts like Garbage and No Doubt setting a fun and rebellious tone to match Danvers’ own. Brie Larsen is great, though hamstrung slightly by an origin story which has Danvers slowly piecing together her memories so that her personality does not really crystallise until late in the film. The classic superhero action is fun as ever despite virtually non-existent stakes once her incredible powers are fully unleashed.
“This is the OASIS. It’s a place where the limits of reality are your own imagination. You can do anything, go anywhere.”
On one hand, Ready Player One is a better adaptation than it has any right to be; on the other, it is unsurprising that a book I described as “80s nostalgia-flavoured candy floss” has produced a film with little substance or residual impact. The virtual world of the Oasis is impressively realised in a sharply vibrant way. By contrast the real world is shot with an intentionally muted, softer look that makes it actively less engaging. The greater struggle, though, is that there is little logical coherence to ground those parts of the story. Similarly, both 80s and modern pop/gaming culture references are thrown at the screen haphazardly in the hope that name recognition is enough. Even Wreck-It Ralph engaged with the characters it picked. The initial world-building and the first challenge are engaging, but my interest largely fell away until the film’s closing. I’m glad I saw this spectacle in a cinema; I doubt I ever need to see it again.