Saw two movies back to back with young woman at the center of both and thought I should probably write about it jointly.
First up is Drake Doremus’ ‘Endings Beginnings’ starring Shalaine Woodley as a young woman who finds herself in relationship with two men – whoa re best friends. I wish there was more nuance to the story but there isn’t. She just can’t choose between the two, or refuses to. I don’t even know what the point, too, because in the film, the two men, played Jamie Dornan and Sebastian Stan look alike so I find it hard to discern the difference between the two. When she gets pregnant later on in the film, my first thought was: well. it’s fine because she is sleeping with both and either one could be the father and it will not matter. The three actors are all good, so you can kind of see where each is coming from, but in the end it’s seem like rich white girl problem. They are all good to look at so you don’t mind everything that’s going on but when you finish you know there wasn’t much substance there.
Sally ‘Potter’s ‘The Roads Not Taken’ has Elle Fanning as a young woman taking care of her father (played by Javier Bardem) who is a writer suffering from early dementia. But Bardem plays the character as too much like a cliche that he has lost all dinity. Poor Fanning has to lug him round through his dentist and doctor appointments, and both are medical professionals who have the worst bedside manners. there are flashes of his life – Salma Hayek plays his first wife and their son dies, and Laura Linney gets one scene as Fanning’s mother. But the film is dead on arrival, nothing can make it rise from the dead.
I was drawn to ‘Everybody Knows’ because of its Director, the Iranian Asghar Faradi. I liked two of his earlier work: ‘A Separation,’ and ‘The Salesman.’ This is his first film in Spanish, and I know he did a French language one before, though I have not seen it. ‘Everybody Knows’ (Spanish title: Todos Lo Saben) is a kidnapping thriller movie, but it is also, and more, a melodrama. If you came looking for an edge-of-your-seat thriller, you probably will be disappointed. I had to re-callibrate my expectations myself, but once I settled in that this is a slow-burning kind-of-sexy Spanish story, I was fine.
And it stars two of the biggest films of Spanish cinema – Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem, and they both sizzle here. Cruz plays Laura, whose daughter gets kidnapped. I kind of knew that something was going to happen tot he daughter the way it was set up. Irene (Carla Campra) is beautiful and luminous in the early scenes you just want to tell her “you in danger gurl,” and the party scenes aren’t over yet and she is gone. The story’s focus moves into the peeling of the layers of the relationships of the people left behind, that the kidnapping at some point would hardly matter. I thought at times that the pacing slowed, but then I got that it needed to slow so we can fully know all the other characters. I was always a little lukewarm about Cruz but she is great here, giving a pained performance that never gets to ‘too much.’ And Bardem is wonderful, an empty slate in the beginning that becomes more and more complicated as the story evolves. I know that the buzz on this was fairly negative coming out of Cannes, but I liked it enough. It probably would end up as a lesser Farhad, but a lesser Farhad is a solid effort.