Content / trigger warning: Blonde contains flashing and strobing effect imagery that may be triggering to those with photosensitivity.
Blonde is rated NC-17 for some sexual content. It contains frightening and intense images involving abuse, assault, and abortion. These topics are briefly discussed in the review below.
Blonde isn’t the feel-good biopic you’re looking for. Nor is it a sentimental tear-jerker. Andrew Dominik’s 2-hour and 46-minute adaptation of the Joyce Carol Oates novel is difficult, depressing, and demanding. It’s the kind of movie that made me tell my parents, “Don’t watch it, you won’t like it” (although the MPAA rating alone would have been enough to turn them away). But as I watched, I also felt that I, as a critic, wasn’t supposed to like it. With so many unconventional stylistic elements at play and so much controversial content, I felt like the only “correct” review I could give would be to call the movie problematic and pretentious. However, that review wouldn’t be genuine. There are certain shots, sequences, scenes, and techniques in Blonde that really don’t work — and yet, I found myself completely engaged with the film, not wanting it to end. It wasn’t until the JFK blowjob scene when a male critic in the audience burst out laughing (to my extreme annoyance, as I was sympathizing with Marilyn’s perspective and admiring what the scene had to say about sexual power dynamics) that I figured out what Blonde was doing right. It was making me aware of myself as a woman, as a critic, as a movie lover, and as a human. Blonde gave me one of the most powerful and visceral experiences I’ve had at the movies in a long time. For that reason, I don’t want to focus on all the little things that didn’t work. Instead, I want to focus on a few big things that it got right. After all, any movie that makes you more aware of yourself has to be doing something right.
One of the scariest things about cults is that they can form right under our noses. Cult leaders need to psychologically isolate their followers in order to maintain control, but they don’t have to keep everyone on a remote island in order to do so. Still, perhaps the best way to illustrate the intense psychological control that cult leaders achieve is to tell a story about a cult that’s geographically isolated from the real world. Perhaps the best way to demonstrate how a deeply disturbed man could earn the trust and respect of a whole community of devout followers is to confine that man and his followers to a remote location that seems to exist in a universe of its own. In Nikias Chryssos’s A Pure Place, a sickeningly imaginative film that he wrote with Lars Henning Jung, the entire population of a remote Greek island is under the spell of a charming and charismatic leader named Fust (Sam Louwyck). This deeply disturbed (but powerful) man is utterly obsessed with cleanliness, and he’s positioned himself as a savior who will lead the people to a pure place that’s free from man’s worst enemy: dirt. In addition to following Fust, the community also worships Hygeia, the Greek goddess of cleanliness. The cult is intense and otherworldly, so separated from the real world that Fust’s twisted desires have become the only law. The one thing connecting this mysterious island to the outside world is the product that Fust’s followers make in his factory: soap.
Part Expressionist Melodrama and Part Campy Horror, “The Attachment Diaries (El Apego)” Sends Mixed Messages About Trauma and Mental Health Issues [Chattanooga Film Festival]
Content/trigger warning: The Attachment Diaries deals with sexual assault, self-harm, mental illness, and abortion. These subjects are also briefly discussed in the review below.
The Attachment Diaries is a difficult movie for two reasons. First, it focuses on a handful of difficult topics (including abortion, which has just become more relevant than ever in the United States), and it presents those topics in a blunt and, at times, irreverent way. Second, it’s difficult because it asks us to think about imperfect people in imperfect situations. The film appeals to very raw and carnal emotions, asking viewers to indulge in the thoughts and feelings that we aren’t supposed to think and feel. It’s a good thing that The Attachment Diaries is so masterfully shot, because it may take several viewings to make sense of it.
Human Factors is a French / German drama written and directed by Ronny Trocker. After its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in 2021, it was described by critics as an “utterly intelligent thriller” and a “deviously constructed puzzle film [that] plays cat and mouse…with the viewer.” But these descriptions are deceptive. Human Factors doesn’t belong in the same category as psychological thrillers like Psycho (1960), The Sixth Sense (1999), A Beautiful Mind (2001), and Get Out (2017), all of which are fairly easy to follow even as they set the stage for groundbreaking plot twists. Unlike those films, Human Factors is not easy to follow. It’s less playfully deceptive than it is confusing, and it doesn’t play “cat and mouse” with us so much as it doubles back on itself to ensure that we’re paying attention. This is not to say that Human Factors is a bad movie. On the contrary, it’s well-written, wonderfully acted, and masterfully put together. But since it has been described as a psychological thriller, it’s important to let viewers know what they’re really in for. If you watch Human Factors expecting something like Shutter Island (2010) or Fight Club (1999), you’re going to be disappointed.
As Writer, Director, Editor, and Lead Actress in “Maybe Someday,” Michelle Ehlen Tells an Honest Story About Breaking Up and Moving On
Maybe someday I’ll take a vacation. Maybe someday I’ll reconnect with my best friend from high school. Everyone has their “maybe someday” — and for Jay (Michelle Ehlen), the subject of the feature film Maybe Someday, her wish for the future is to restore her relationship with her wife, Lily (Jeneen Robinson). But Jay knows that before she can make things work with her wife, she has to take some time to herself. So, she packs up a duffle bag and makes plans to move, at least temporarily, to Los Angeles, where she’ll focus on her photography career. On the way, she decides to visit her best friend from her teen years, Jess (Shaela Cook), and ends up staying with Jess for a while as she finds her emotional bearings. The majority of Maybe Someday takes place during this extended visit. As Jay confronts formative moments from her past and grapples with heartbreak, she also befriends a very unlikely sidekick, Tommy (Charlie Steers), a wannabe standup comedian who complicates the gay best friend stereotype. All the while, Jay holds out hope that her “maybe someday” wish will happen sooner rather than later.
A House Divided: As Various Viewpoints Fight for Dominance in “House of Gucci,” Lady Gaga’s Immersive Performance Is Lost in the Shuffle
Money. Family. Power. Betrayal. Scandal. Murder. When the trailer for House of Gucci dropped in the summer of 2021, it promised all this and more. The ambitious film was set to bring one of the most infamous scandals in the history of fashion to life, complete with all the glitz, glam, and drama that only Hollywood can achieve. And if the subject matter alone wasn’t enough, the all-star cast garnered immediate attention from the masses. The ensemble would be led by none other than Lady Gaga, with supporting roles filled by Adam Driver, Jeremy Irons, Jared Leto, Salma Hayek, and crime-drama veteran, Al Pacino. To top it all off, Ridley Scott would direct. The theatrical release came and went in November, and you can now watch the Gucci drama unfold from the comfort of your home on Blu-ray, DVD, or digital. But does House of Gucci live up to expectations? What’s behind all the decadent style that’s so evident in the trailer? Does every second of the two-hour, thirty-eight-minute movie captivate and dazzle audiences as much as the trailer did? It’s a tall order to fill. House of Gucci needed more than a luxurious production design to tell the story of Patrizia Reggiani, an ambitious woman who married into the Gucci family and later coordinated the murder of her ex-husband, Maurizio.
If you want to avoid a horror-movie situation, it’s probably best to stay away from isolated cabins in the dead of winter. Stephen King was certainly onto something when he set The Shining and Misery in snowed-in Colorado abodes. The strange, frigid silence of a snowstorm is the perfect backdrop for stories about isolation and hopelessness. That’s why director Damien Power was so drawn to No Exit, a novel by Taylor Adams, which also takes place during a blizzard in Colorado. In Power’s film adaptation of the book, which premieres February 25, 2022, on Hulu, Power makes the most of the snowy, isolated setting. He creates the ideal setup for the heroine, Darby (Havana Rose Liu), to undergo intense physical and psychological distress.
This Valentine’s Day, Do Something Different (Or, Stay in and Watch a Warm and Familiar Rom-Com That Will Melt Your Heart)
Heartwarming romantic comedy Marry Me will hit theaters just in time for Valentine’s Day. The flick stars rom-com veterans Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson, along with comedian Sarah Silverman, singer-songwriter Maluma, and the impressive young Chloe Coleman. Based on the graphic novel by Bobby Crosby, the movie is about an unlikely romance between popstar Kat Valdez (Lopez) and divorced math teacher Charlie Gilbert (Wilson). Kat is all set to marry a fellow performer named Bastian (Maluma), and their wedding will be the event of the decade. They plan to tie the knot during an extravagant concert with hundreds of fans watching in person and millions more streaming the ceremony in countries all over the world. But after a last-minute hiccup, Kat is left questioning everything. As she steps out in front of the crowd with ice-cold feet, she realizes that if she wants something different, she has to do something different. And that’s when she notices Charlie’s face in the crowd. In a moment of desperation, Kat points to Charlie and says, “I’ll marry you.”
Adam McKay’s “Don’t Look Up” Defines Apocalyptic Anxiety for Post-Trump America in a COVID-Era World. No Nuance Needed.
Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) begins her morning like any other. She makes a cup of tea, curses at herself as she prepares her jam and toast, pops in her earbuds, and plants herself in the observatory at Michigan State. But as she looks out at the stars, she notices something strange, out of place, and beautiful: a comet, fierce and fiery, making its way across the solar system. For a brief moment, Kate experiences the joy of genuine discovery. She’s soon joined in the observatory by her fellow PhD candidates and their mentor, astronomy professor Randall Mindy (Leonardo DiCaprio). But after conducting a few calculations, Kate and Randall come to a stomach-churning realization about the comet.
In the Style of Teen Classics Like “The Breakfast Club” and “Dead Poets Society,” Daigo Matsui’s “Remain in Twilight” Appeals to Our Restless Youthful Spirits With Wit and Sincerity [Fantasia International Film Festival]
It’s not every day we get the chance to chat with a loved one who has passed on. Skeptics would say that we never get that opportunity. If you’ve lost someone important to you, you’ve probably at least imagined having one last conversation with them, whether you believe in the afterlife or not. Imagining that conversation can provide a sense of comfort and closure that unexpected death does not grant us. But if you did get the chance to spend a day with someone you’ve lost, would it really be enough time to get the closure you need? Writer/director Daigo Matsui builds an elaborate fantasy based on that very question in his latest feature film, Remain in Twilight, which screened at the 2021 Fantasia International Film Festival. Based on Matsui’s play of the same name, the film provides a funny, sincere, and powerful take on grief and mortality.
"Our embodied spectator, possibly perverse in her fantasies and diverse in her experience, possesses agency...finally, she must now be held accountable for it."