Marc Turtletaub

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Loving Review

Excellent

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America, it's also a remarkably involving true story about a couple tenaciously holding on to each other in the middle of a storm of oppression. By taking such a personal approach, writer-director Jeff Nichols grounds the movie in authenticity, eliciting fine performances from the entire cast, with especially notable turns from Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton.

It's 1958, and cross-racial marriage is illegal in Virginia. So Richard Loving (Edgerton) takes his pregnant black girlfriend Mildred (Negga) across the state line to Washington D.C. to get married. When they return to the family farm, they're immediately arrested and exiled to Washington, where they start a family. But Mildred longs to raise their three children back in their rural hometown, with their extended families around them. When Richard consults a civil-liberties lawyer (Nick Kroll), he finds that there may be some legal hope for them if they are willing to take on the system. This requires the help of a constitutional expert (Jon Bass) and the tenacity to stand up to a century of ingrained prejudice.

The film is written and directed with a sharp attention to detail, which means including some facts that are rather messy. This sometimes leaves scenes feeling unfinished, but the point is that real life isn't as tidy as it is in the movies. This also means that the film never tries to build a melodramatic sense of momentum, remaining intimate and somewhat reticent, echoing Richard and Mildred's personalities. Many of the biggest scenes take place off camera, while we are instead watching these steely, softspoken people who changed American law by quietly remaining true to their love for each other. Both Negga and Edgerton deliver subtle, wrenching performances as everyday people who express their strong views mainly in telling glances and touches that say more than words ever could.

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Safety Not Guaranteed Review


Essential

With a low budget but a lot of imagination and talent, director Trevorrow and writer Connolly create a deceptively simple comedy that's one of the most entertaining films of the year. It's so cleverly written that every moment of the film is hugely engaging, and it's so perfectly played by its cast that we can't help but fall for the likeable, flawed characters.

Set in Washington state, the story centres on Darius (Plaza), a sardonic Seattle magazine intern whose life derailed when she was 14, after her mother's death. So her interest is piqued when she hears about a classified ad asking for an assistant on a time travel mission ("Bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed"). She accompanies arrogant journalist Jeff (Johnson) and fellow intern Arnau (Soni) to a seaside town to write up the story for the magazine, but once they track down the ad's author Kenneth (Duplass), nothing goes as expected.

Each of these three magazine reporters has a full-bodied story, expertly set within the larger investigation of whether Kenneth is nuts or not. All of these characters are caught between their past and the present, exploring who they once were, who they are and who they want to be, which makes them easy to identify with even as they do some amusingly silly things. And the filmmakers cleverly refuse to play into our expectations, keeping us guessing about where the movie is heading. So each scene bristles with possibility, and each twist and turn of the plot and side-plots is both thrilling and hilarious. 

Continue reading: Safety Not Guaranteed Review

Sherrybaby Review


Good
It struck me while watching Sherrybaby that one of Maggie Gyllenhaal's greatest strengths as an actress is an ability to cross class lines effortlessly and often. There are some great, versatile actresses -- Nicole Kidman, perhaps -- who nonetheless don't seem qualified to play someone like Sherry Swanson (Gyllenhaal), a young recovering drug addict just out of prison, longing with needy desperation to begin mothering her young daughter Alexis (Ryan Simpkins).

Yes, Charlize Theron uglied herself up for Monster and Halle Berry went working-class for Monster's Ball. But Sherrybaby isn't Monster Mommy; it's a quiet, painful little portrait with little of the inherent sympathy (or showier ugliness) of those other roles. More to the point, while Theron and Berry rocked the Oscar-friendly reverse-makeover, Gyllenhaal looks more or less as she usually does: moony face, sad eyes, feathery voice. The only physical transformation involves a blond dye-job, trashy heels, and a lot more screen time for her breasts.

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Marc Turtletaub Movies

Loving Movie Review

Loving Movie Review

While this film tackles a huge issue in the history of race relations in America,...

Safety Not Guaranteed Movie Review

Safety Not Guaranteed Movie Review

With a low budget but a lot of imagination and talent, director Trevorrow and writer...

Sherrybaby Movie Review

Sherrybaby Movie Review

It struck me while watching Sherrybaby that one of Maggie Gyllenhaal's greatest strengths as an...

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