‘Adore’ Follows Uncharted Path; ‘Blue Jasmine’ Another Allen Knockout

adoreMOVIE REVIEW – ‘ADORE’

Movie Info

Set in an Australian seaside town of otherworldly beauty and shot in lush 35mm Cinemascope, ADORE establishes an aura of fable as it follows two women’s plunge into uncharted waters. Watts and Wright fearlessly engage with both the physical and psychological components of the story, capturing the complex emotions and powerful desires driving their characters. Strong performances from relative newcomers Xavier Samuel (THE TWILIGHT SAGA: ECLIPSE) and James Frecheville (ANIMAL KINGDOM) complement Watts and Wright’s and add another layer of intricacy to the story. Under the precise gaze of Fontaine’s camera, ADORE radiates with intoxicating sensuality while exploring the intricacies of love, family, morality and passion.

R, 1 hr. 19 min.

‘Adore’

By Tim Grierson
www.screendaily.com

A thoughtful, sexy, mature and (most importantly) non-judgmental examination of potentially tawdry material, Two Mothers charts the emotional havoc unleashed when two very close female friends begin relationships with each other’s grown son. Buoyed by nuanced, muted performances from Naomi Watts and Robin Wright, the English-language debut from French director Anne Fontaine (Coco Before Chanel) is at heart about the unfathomable mysteries of human desire, in the process delivering a romantic drama in which sadness and joy are never far apart.

Watts and Wright are both superb playing women who didn’t ask to fall in love with each other’s son but who quickly try to rationalise the situation once it takes hold.
After its Sundance screening, Two Mothers will open in France through Gaumont, and internationally the star presence of Watts (and, to a lesser degree, Wright) will help spur sales. The salacious subject matter may also attract business, although Fontaine’s handling of the material veers toward the intellectual and heartfelt rather than to the trashy or sleazy.

Two Mothers has been adapted by Christopher Hampton from Doris Lessing’s novel The Grandmothers, which is said to be inspired by true events. In the film, Lil (Watts) and Roz (Wright) are lifelong, inseparable friends who each have a son: Ian (Xavier Samuel) and Tom (James Frecheville), respectively. With Roz’s husband (Ben Mendelsohn) growing ever so distant, Ian begins to act on his feelings for her, which she, to her surprise, reciprocates. Blindsided by their affair, Tom pursues Lil, and soon the four of them try to normalise these two unusual romantic relationships.

Rather than dwelling on the shock of these affairs, Fontaine calmly investigates the emotional repercussions, illustrating how none of the four characters can extricate him or herself from the relationships. Early on, she quickly and convincingly establishes the bond between the two women and their sons, showing how easily their platonic feelings for one another could eventually drift toward romantic stirrings. Subtly, Two Mothers questions whether Lil and Roz’s deep friendship — outsiders sometimes wonder if they’re lesbians — might have been partly to blame for these ill-advised romantic pursuits. (Sharing their sons is just another way to share a part of their lives.)

Watts and Wright are both superb playing women who didn’t ask to fall in love with each other’s son but who quickly try to rationalise the situation once it takes hold. There will be those who find their actions’ unconscionable, but the strength of these actresses’ performances is how persuasively they reveal Lil and Roz’s guilt, concern, and exhilaration in equal measure. Rather than condemning these women, Two Mothers goes beneath the surface to show the emptiness and longing that have pushed Lil and Roz toward such a romantic entanglement. The leads make their characters strongly empathetic in an understated way, even when they seem to have ensured their own heartbreak.

The two sons are impossibly strapping young men, but as played by Samuel and Frecheville, they’re also infused with deep feelings and soulfulness. (Fontaine gives each couple a few erotic scenes that pulsate with sensuality.) Considering that Roz’s husband isn’t around that much and Lil’s died years ago, these four characters seem to have no one else in their life to fulfil their emotional needs. It is, to be sure, a somewhat farfetched premise. (Don’t Ian and Tom know anyone their age?) But Fontaine suspends our disbelief enough so that she and her excellent cast can sketch out over the span of years an incredibly complex love story in which there are no tidy happy endings — merely resolutions that are bittersweet but, especially in retrospect, also inevitable.

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blue jasmineMOVIE REVIEW – ‘BLUE JASMINE’

Movie Info

A New York housewife struggles through a life crisis.

PG-13, 1 hr. 38 min.

Comedy

Directed By: Woody Allen

Written By: Woody Allen

Cate Blanchett is the main attraction in Woody Allen’s comic drama about a privileged woman’s fall from grace.

 

By Rene Rodriguez | rrodriguez@MiamiHerald.com
At the start of Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, the elegant and refined Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is coming undone — she’s a babbling, panicky, Xanax-popping mess. Jasmine has flown from New York to San Francisco to visit her sister Ginger (Sally Hawkins). She claims she’s flat broke even though she flew first class (“You know me. I splurge from habit.”) and needs a place to stay while she reinvents her life.

In periodic flashbacks, we start to understand what’s ailing Jasmine. Her husband, Hal (Alec Baldwin), was a wealthy financier who operated a Madoff-style scheme, stole millions of dollars from his clients and was sent to prison. Jasmine, who claims to have had no idea what Hal was up to, lost everything that defined her — the fancy Hamptons getaway, the sprawling Fifth Avenue penthouse, the social status, the philanthropic causes. She lost her son Danny (Alden Ehrenreich), who was so humiliated by his father’s arrest that he quit college and left home in a fury.

Jasmine even lost her mind. Pursued by persistent whispers that she must have known about her husband’s shady dealings, she flees to the West Coast in the throes of a nervous breakdown. She’s horrified by her sister’s working-class lifestyle, starts drinking too much and passes judgment on everyone she meets. Eventually, reality starts to settle in: A pampered trophy wife for much of her life, Jasmine realizes she has no marketable skills or job experience. She doesn’t even know how to use a computer.

Jasmine’s disruptive intrusion into the lives of her sister and her boyfriend (Bobby Cannavale), her manic delusions and her arrogant sense of entitlement are all evocative of A Streetcar Named Desire (Tennessee Williams was an obvious inspiration here). And Blanchett, who previously played Blanche DuBois onstage to great acclaim, attacks the role of Jasmine with a feral intensity. This troubled woman has disdain and snobbery engrained in her genes: When she’s forced to take a job as a receptionist at a dentist’s office, her humiliation is palpable (Allen turns the screws by making the dentist, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, a leering creep). When she meets a suave, rich widower (Peter Sarsgaard) who aspires to run for political office, she sees a way out of her unstable situation. Her new beau promises glamour, wealth, travel. So what if she must lie about every aspect of her life to keep him from running away?

Blue Jasmine, which is easily Allen’s best and most powerful movie since 2005’s Match Point, is filled with terrific performances, including Hawkins as the sweet-natured Ginger, a woman raising two kids who works at a grocery store and is content with the simplicity of her life, until hurricane Jasmine blows in, upending everything. In a small but critical role, Andrew Dice Clay is a revelation as Ginger’s blue-collar ex-husband, rocking a Members Only jacket to Jasmine’s silent disgust and punching holes through the affected pomposity of the privileged in a blunt but honest manner.

But the movie belongs to Blanchett. She’s both sympathetic and repellent as a woman who can no longer live in denial, but who can’t handle reality, either. It drives her insane. Blue Jasmine has a funny, comical tone during its first half, but a darker mood gradually takes over the film, building to a haunting, troubling resolution. Although the bulk of his work has concentrated on wealthy Upper East Siders, Allen has always portrayed himself as an outsider to that culture, and he’s never been more critical or disdainful of the disparity between classes than he is in Blue Jasmine. Just when it seemed like Allen was going to settle for cranking out a comic bauble every year for the rest of his career, he comes up with a vital and vibrant knockout of a movie. In other words, Woody’s back – again – and he’s in peak form.

Cast: Cate Blanchett, Alec Baldwin, Sally Hawkins, Bobby Cannavale, Peter Sarsgaard, Andrew Dice Clay, Louis C.K., Michael Stuhlbarg, Alden Ehrenreich

 

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