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Tag: Natalie Portman

QuickView: May December (2023)

“I want to find a character who is difficult, on the surface, to understand.”


With an actress visiting a once-infamous family to learn details that will help her portray the mother, there is an argument for going into May December blind to the story. I won’t spoil anything that is not apparent within the first 20 minutes of the film. Gracie and Jae Yoo’s infamy arises from the fact he was a child when their relationship began but they have stayed together and raised a family. By approaching their relationship from the back — as their children are about to leave for university — rather than from the start, the script has a broader canvas and an ability to wrong-foot the audience. Our perspective is largely Elizabeth’s as she investigates and gradually develops a fuller perspective by speaking to more family and locals, the score matching this mysterious tone with insistent strings and enquiring piano. The central performances from Natalie Portman, Julianne Moore and Charles Melton are nuanced and emotionally compelling, particularly in the parallels drawn between the leading women — both are manipulative, Gracie in her desire to control the narrative and Elizabeth in her search for acting inspiration. There are missteps, like the late “revelation” of a lie that ought to have been clear, but overall Todd Haynes weaves an excellent tapestry of ambiguity that leaves the audience uncomfortable as we evaluate the relationship before us.


QuickView: Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)

“Kids, get your popcorn out. Let me tell you the story of the Space Viking, Thor Odinson.”


Thor: Ragnarok was a vibrant breath of fresh air in the stiffly solemn world of Thor movies. With Taika Waititi returning to direct, Love and Thunder maintains this approach to colourful, fast-paced storytelling (with entire planets apparently ending up on the cutting-room floor). Its themes hew closely to its title, Thor grappling with the idea of Jane taking up the mantle of Mighty Thor serving as a metaphor for navigating friendship with exes (and axes). Natalie Portman was vocal about the misuse of Jane Foster in the early Thor films, but this script provides the character with agency, as well as emotional and comedic range. By contrast the Guardians of the Galaxy play a surprisingly perfunctory role at the start of the film, primarily for Quill to nudge Thor toward finding a family of his own. Like Multiverse of Madness, the film suffers from another single-minded villain, despite the God Butcher’s moving introduction showing the root of his Kratos-like rage. At its strongest, Love and Thunder‘s visual effects take us to some fantastic locations, from the gilded opulence of Omnipotence City to the desaturated Shadow Realm with Sin City splashes of colour, whilst the action is set to a couple of suitably electrifying Guns n’ Roses songs. The result is lightweight family entertainment that underscores the MCU Phase 4’s lack of direction with a half dozen standalone movies and countless hours of Disney+ TV shows not building toward any visible greater purpose.


MCU Phase 4: Black Widow | Shang Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings | Eternals | Spider-man: No Way Home | Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness | Thor: Love and Thunder | Black Panther: Wakanda Forever

QuickView: Jackie (2016)

Jackie poster

“I lost track somewhere — what was real, what was performance.”

Jackie Kennedy

Jackie is an unusual biopic that seeks to present the woman through a narrow period of just a few weeks, focused almost exclusively on the assassination of JFK and the immediate aftermath, with occasional flashbacks going only so far as her time in the White House. Those hoping for a broader look at her life will be disappointed. Given the private nature of most scenes, it is evident that most of the script is highly speculative which makes it all the stranger that Jackie often struggles to delve beneath its subject’s iconic surface, with emotional resonance coming mostly from Peter Sarsgaard’s portrayal of the supportive, grieving Bobby Kennedy. The film does pose incisive questions about Jackie’s motivations following the assassination: a kind perspective is that she was preserving JFK’s legacy but a less generous one is that, as a student of history, she was seeking to craft that legacy for her husband and for herself. If nothing else she had certainly become a Kennedy.


QuickView: Annihilation (2018)

“As a psychologist, I think you’re confusing suicide with self-destruction. Almost none of us commit suicide, and almost all of us self-destruct.”

Dr Ventress

Another thoughtful science fiction story from Alex Garland, Annihilation has much in common with Monsters, featuring a group of humans journeying through the “shimmer”, an area abandoned following an extraterrestrial impact. Garland’s unwillingness to compromise is to be praised, particularly with a female team of scientists filling most of cast, but unfortunately he fails to produce characters of more than sketches. Nevertheless, the narrative has a surprisingly effective payoff and the film offers something to muse regarding the beauty and fragility of DNA.


V For Vendetta (2006)

director: James McTeigue
starring: Natalie Portman, Hugo Weaving, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt
running time: 132 mins
rating: 15

V For VendettaA Catholic who lights fireworks on the 5th of November, blissfully unaware of the irony, is not wrong, merely telling. V’s continual references to Guy Fawkes, not least in his masked visage, undoubtedly flew over the heads of most American viewers and may have been largely a distraction. Yet even in the UK we have largely forgotten him, as the film itself points out. Resurrecting the figure as an icon, V For Vendetta is based loosely upon a comicbook by Alan Moore (who, as usual, has distanced himself from the project), translated by the Wachowskis into a near future that more closely parallels our own timeline.

While the former USA is in chaos, 2020 England is held together by a totalitarian government who control the people through media domination and force. We see events through the eyes of Evey Hammond [Natalie Portman] who is rescued by a terrorist known only as V [Hugo Weaving]. She is at first impressed by his “orchestrated” explosive demolition of the Old Bailey to the sound of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, then horrified by his violent attacks against government figures, until finally she comes to understand V himself. The film is about the idea, while the story she tells is about the man.

V's vendettaThe film’s most chilling line is the high chancellor’s enraged cry, “I want them to remember why they need us!” as he feels his vice-like grip over the population beginning to slip. The idea that control of population, largely through fear, is paramount provides a vision that could easily be applied to more than one western government. Yet although our perspective leads us to side with V from the start, room is given for us to question his actions and even the state in which he leaves things. Weaving does well in giving a masked character a little personality, though most of the acting is decent but unremarkable. It is really a film of impressive moments, climaxing with the fantastic domino montage, but even together they are not significant enough to warrant revisiting.

Tell us the identity of codename VThe fault lies largely with the Wachowskis’ script. While the story unfolds wonderfully, like the Matrix sequels it is plagued by the fact that the writing is never quite as clever as it thinks it is. Aside from the initial alliterative v-filled vernacular of V’s first verbose vocalisation (err, sorry) little of the dialogue is worth commenting upon. Its aggressive palette of reds and blacks is not as stylised as a Superhero movie, but we edge towards easy Nazi imagery instead of the more indirect 1984. It is grounded by its real-world setting, giving the ideas voiced more gravitas than in a fantasy one. The media parallels drawn are eerily accurate, but the political side is soporifically blunt. It might be viewed as a bold statement in this respect, and is certainly enjoyable and engaging in its storytelling, but it lacks the clarity to leave you thinking for very long once the credits roll. Nevertheless as a wake-up call, reminding people to pay attention to where our nations and our governments are headed, it may just do its job.

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rating: 2.5/4

"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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