Donna Gigliotti

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Hidden Figures Review

Very Good

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that it's all a bit too warm and polished, or that it kind of ignores its side characters. The central events, which took place more than 55 years ago, touch on big issues that have a strong present-day relevance. And the acting is excellent from a gifted ensemble cast. So even if the filmmaking isn't very complex, the themes resonate strongly.

It's set in 1961 Virginia, where Nasa is losing the space race to the Russians. To get things moving, programme director Al (Kevin Costner) turns to Katherine (Taraji P. Henson), a mathematician who works with the black women in the "colored computer" room downstairs. In Mission Control, she proves her value as an ace number cruncher. Meanwhile, engineer Mary (Janelle Monae) struggles in a system that ignores her contributions, while Dorothy (Octavia Spencer) has been passed over for promotion despite the fact that she's the only person who can make any sense of the new computer system. So as the entire facility works to get a man into space, it's doubtful that the leaders will see that these women are vital to the project.

The fact that this story is so little-known kind of answers that question. But the film never takes a political approach, instead finding the humanity in the situation. Gentle humour abounds in the interaction between characters, and even the racial insults (such as requiring Katherine to sprint through the rain to use a designated restroom) are played for chuckles. Meanwhile, the script offers slight glances at their personal lives: Katherine is a single mother with three smart daughters and a sweet romantic interest (Mahershala Ali), and Mary's preacher husband (Aldis Hodge) helps her fight for the right to study in an all-white college. Spencer's Dorothy doesn't really get a subplot, but then she's the movie's scene-stealer, so she doesn't really need one.

Continue reading: Hidden Figures Review

Silver Linings Playbook Review


Excellent

Writer-director David O. Russell's out-of-control filmmaking style is perfectly suited to a romantic-comedy involving mental illness, and he infuses the film with a sparky unpredictability that's echoed in the perfectly graded performances of the entire cast. Cleverly, even though most of the characters are clinically unhinged, they're all likeable and easy to identify with.

Cooper stars as Pat, who has spent eight months in a mental hospital before his mother (Weaver) comes to take him home early. His dad (De Niro) isn't so sure it's a good idea, but everyone's happy to have him home. And since he finally accepts that he's bipolar, Pat is ready to get on with life. But it's not so easy. He's prevented from reuniting with his wife because of a restraining order, so he visits mutual friends (Stiles and Ortiz) instead. And they set him up with Tiffany (Lawrence), who's psychologically damaged in her own way. Recognising similar needs, they agree to help each other.

Yes, the film has a clear rom-com premise, but the characters are so unpredictable that we are never quite sure what they'll say or do next. And it's not like Pat and Tiffany are the only unstable people here: they're just the only ones with official diagnoses. All of which gives the actors almost too much colourful material to work with. Cooper is a likeable, charming presence at the centre, eliciting our sympathy even when he does something stupid. And Lawrence delivers a full-on performance that often takes our breath away with its clever layering.

Continue reading: Silver Linings Playbook Review

I Don't Know How She Does It Review


OK
There are plenty of skilled people behind this female-empowerment movie, but the film badly botches its core message. The script may reflect a certain reality about the sexes, but it also misses the point.

In Boston, Kate (Parker) has a loving husband, Richard (Kinnear), and two adorable children. Everyone watches her in wonder as she juggles her responsibilities as a wife, mother and high-powered investment banker. But the constant business trips are taking their toll, especially when she's required to work regularly in New York with investor Jack (Brosnan). It's a struggle, but Kate keeps everything running. The question is whether anyone is actually happy with the situation.

Continue reading: I Don't Know How She Does It Review

Two Lovers Review


Excellent
Joaquin Phoenix has a reputation for diving heartily into roles, and his starring turn in James Gray's Two Lovers is no exception. In the film's first scene, Phoenix's dive is literal: A Brooklyn kid plunging into the bay in an arresting setup that rings of despair and confusion. It's an appropriate introduction to Phoenix's delicate character development, a performance that buoys an impressive romantic drama.

And that's a genre we don't see too often anymore: romantic drama. Today's cinematic romances are usually steeped in light comedy (even decent ones like Definitely, Maybe) or predictable form posing as drama. But Two Lovers is hardcore drama, with desire at its center. Or more accurately, two desires.

Continue reading: Two Lovers Review

Shakespeare In Love Review


Extraordinary
Easily the best comedy of the year - and the best film of the year to star Joseph Fiennes and feature Queen Elizabeth as a major character - Shakespeare in Love gets a hands-down recommendation for all filmgoers.

The clever premise follows one William Shakespeare (Fiennes), stuck with writer's block while trying to pen "Romeo and Ethel, the Pirate's Daughter" and unable to get his own love life going to boot.

Continue reading: Shakespeare In Love Review

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Donna Gigliotti Movies

Hidden Figures Movie Review

Hidden Figures Movie Review

This film recounts such a great true story that we don't mind the fact that...

Silver Linings Playbook Movie Review

Silver Linings Playbook Movie Review

Writer-director David O. Russell's out-of-control filmmaking style is perfectly suited to a romantic-comedy involving mental...

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I Don't Know How She Does It Movie Review

I Don't Know How She Does It Movie Review

There are plenty of skilled people behind this female-empowerment movie, but the film badly botches...

Two Lovers Movie Review

Two Lovers Movie Review

Joaquin Phoenix has a reputation for diving heartily into roles, and his starring turn in...

Shakespeare in Love Movie Review

Shakespeare in Love Movie Review

Easily the best comedy of the year - and the best film of the year...

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