|Annette Bening and Elle Fanning in "Ginger & Rosa"|
In this edition of the Film Round-Up, a solid array of movies. I'll be honest here. There are months where I feel I knock the reviews out of the park, and there are months where I barely get the ball out of the infield. This felt like the latter. I think part of it was exhaustion, another was having to see several movies in two days. The thoughts didn't get a chance to simmer like they should.
This is one of those times where the writing felt like a job. I apologize if the reviews are below par.
These reviews previously appeared in the March issue of ICON and are reprinted with permission.
Ginger & Rosa (Dir: Sally Potter). Starring: Elle Fanning, Alice Englert, Christina Hendricks, Alessandro Nivola, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt, Annette Bening, Jodhi May. In 1962 England, misfit teens Ginger (Fanning) and Rosa (Englert) are inseparable. Ginger is an aspiring, fatalistic poet worried about nuclear warfare. She latches onto Rosa’s brazenness, but what’s most noticeable is how their days have a boring poignancy. They are each other’s companions in the endless expanse of time that is growing up. That rapport is shattered when Ginger’s unbearably academic father (Nivola) moves out of the house and grows increasingly interested in Rosa, which leaves Ginger with her self-pitying mom (Hendricks) and two family friends (Platt, Spall). I’m not exactly a fan of Potter’s past work—the intellectual coldness of her films is hard to penetrate and even harder to appreciate. However in Ginger & Rosa, she has constructed a tender, original growing- up tale buoyed by terrific performances (including Fanning and Hendricks, surprisingly) and a refreshing lack of sentimentality. Haunting cinematography by Robbie Ryan. FYI: Englert is the daughter of director Jane Campion (The Piano). ***1/2 [R]
Lore (Dir: Cate Shortland). Starring: Saskia Rosendahl, Kai Malina, Nele Trebs, André Frid, Mika Seidel, Nick Holaschke, Ursina Lardi, Hans-Jochen Wagner. In the waning days of Nazi rule, 14-year-old Lore’s world falls apart. Her oafish Nazi officer father (Wagner) and mother (Lardi) are imprisoned, forcing Lore (Rosendahl) to care for her four younger siblings. With food and money dwindling and their safety compromised, she then has to escort them to their grandmother’s house through the war-torn countryside. A mysterious young refugee (Malina) comes to their rescue and tags along, an arrangement that stirs complicated feelings in Lore. The rare movie that trusts the audience to interpret the events on screen—a hard feat considering the swirl of drama involved—which allows for a refreshing, emotionally rewarding alternative to the war-is-hell genre. Instead, we see a girl’s innocence get peeled away layer by layer, thanks to Shortland’s artful restraint and Rosendahl’s gripping, artifice-free performance. In German with English subtitles, this was Australia’s official selection for the Academy Awards Best Foreign Language Film. ***1/2 [No rating at press time]
A Place at the Table (Dirs: Kristi Jacobson, Lori Silverbush). Jacobson and Silverbush’s documentary takes a measured, eloquent approach to examining an issue that affects a shockingly large number of Americans. Fifty million are food insecure, meaning they don’t know where their next meal is coming from. One in six don’t have enough to eat. A level-headed examination of the causes of the problem—the high cost of fruits and vegetables, the federal government allowing charity to handle the masses, the uselessness of food stamps—is coupled with a compassionate, humane look at people who know hunger on an intimate level. In Philadelphia, Barbie, a single, unemployed mother struggles to feed her two kids even after she lands regular employment. Meanwhile in rural Colorado, Rosie, a fifth-grader, and her family are part of a growing community that relies on food banks and free hot meals. Uses logic, facts, and compassion in equal doses to make its points. Terrific interviews ranging from Marion Nestle to actor Jeff Bridges, cofounder of the End Hunger Network. ***1/2 [PG]
Let Fury Have the Hour (Dir: Antonio D’Ambrosio). Director-writer-producer D’Ambrosio examines creative response as a way to deal with the conformity that started to waft over America and England in the 1950’s and culminated in Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher’s conservative reigns in the 1980’s. From a pop culture perspective that meant rap, punk rock, skate boarding, and artistic movements such as graffiti. D’Ambrosio’s intention is impressive, but the subject’s vastness is overwhelming and the connections dissolve when you start asking questions: Where do jazz and stand-up comedy and Beat poets fit along this spectrum? Why no mention of the Beatles, Elvis, and James Brown as the innovators behind these musical movements? How do these rebellious acts get into the mainstream without losing credibility, and thus impact? Let Fury Have the Hour comes across as a frequently intriguing, but ultimately incomplete, cultural history whose good intentions get lost amidst the constant pontificating and diversions. D’Ambrosio also wrote the book the movie is based on. Also available on demand.