Written November 2 (published: November 13 2015)
“Steve Jobs” – Danny Boyle, US
AFTER a somewhat uncharacteristically sluggish start, Danny Boyle’s direction and Aaron Sorkin’s slick script do the hard work of telling Steve Job’s life in three very distinct acts. In fact, it is not about Jobs really, but about Apple, the company he created to become what it is today: iconic, awash with cash, and a cultural and technological barometer of our times.
Whilst it’s eminently watchable and absorbing after those first centreless 20 minutes or so, and does a tremendous job of bringing to life Jobs and all the associated characters – there are gaps and it remains a tad unsatisfactory. Not least this is Lisa Jobs’ story – the daughter Steve J, denied but later came to protect and support. Sorkin in interviews has stated that talking to Lisa allowed him to centre a movie around her. Jobs was complex, clever, strategic, and a dreamer and difficult to please sometimes. We get some of it but not all – there may be more movies on Jobs to come and they may actually do a better job (sorry for the pun) on what actually inspired him – because we don’t get it here, despite the entertaining and enjoyable riff an excellent Michael Fassbinder and an unrecognisable Kate Winslet, and great support in Seth Rogen and Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlberg, all deliver.
ACV rating: *** 1/2
“Brooklyn” – John Crowley, US
ANYONE not familiar with the great Irish writer Colm Tóibín should be after watching this. Well assembled by director John Crowley and lovingly rendered by a fine ensemble cast which includes a sparkly Julie Walters as a housekeeper and matriarch and led by the young Saoirse, this is not for those of delicate sentimental dispositions.
Ronan is Ellis Lacey, a bright young gal’ from small town Ireland, who makes the journey across the pond to make a new life for herself in the Big Apple. It’s an immigrant story and told for once through the eyes of a young woman.
In the US she falls in love, becomes a woman and looks set to embark successfully on motherhood and a career. An unexpected event brings her back to an old and familiar world. For a time, she is seduced by home comforts and another suitable boy. On the face of it, it might not look of much interest to those who search out stories of diversity.
Yet Tóibín and much celebrated novelist Nick Hornby, as a screenwriter in this, show that settling in one country and leaving behind another are fraught with difficulties and tests, and that future generations have it far easier.
“Black Mass” – Scott Cooper, US
HUNG on the hefty film shoulders of almost everyone’s favourite actor, Johnny Depp – this is a fairly traditional gangster flick.It’s well done undoubtedly – with Depp putting in a very solid shift but perhaps the real star is supporting presence, Joel Edgerton.
The two are supposed to be arch adversaries – Depp plays Irish American hoodlum James ‘Whitey’ Bulger and Edgerton is John Connolly of similar stock – but chasing him as the cop in that part of Boston in the early 1970s. The two grew up in the same district and Bulger looked out for Connolly and he is extremely loyal in return, so much so that the cop’s judgement is affected. It’s based on a real story. We won’t spoil it for you but if you imagine corruption and murky deals only go in poor, developing countries, this will open your eyes. Connolly wasn’t actually dealt with by law enforcement until much, much later…
There are some twists and turns and Benedict Cumberbatch makes an appearance as Billy Bulger, Whitey’s brother, unusual in that he chooses to be a politician and a very successful one too and plays a blind eye to what his awful brother is really up to.
It’s an absorbing ride but offers little that is original or truly arresting (in cinematic terms) – except we’ve not seen too much of the Irish – as opposed to the Italian/Sicilian origin gangster.
If you like the genre or Depp, you won’t be disappointed but for the rest of us, while this is very watchable, it isn’t something that will stay with you.
ACV rating: ***
“Trumbo” – Jay Roach US
THOSE legions of Bryan Cranston fans might scratch their heads at this. Walter White’s transformation from chemistry teacher with a dangerous line in narcotics in the global hit TV series, “Breaking Bad”, to urbane, witty and slightly lefty Hollywood screenwriter Dalton Trumbo might seem a step too far.
But Cranston is superb, aided by a script that reeks of old Hollywood and cigarette tar: intelligent, funny, entertaining and with serious points to boot.
A writer’s life, unless it’s full of sex, drugs and rock n’roll (and that’s why they’re writers…joke…) is hardly the stuff of legends but Trumbo was blacklisted and vilified for his political leanings, along with many other talented screenwriters who probably believed in no more than a welfare state and a somewhat less uneven distribution of wealth – but were cast out as hardline communist revolutionaries aiding a foreign power.
The joy of this is that it is a very fine story and ably told without a hammer or a sickle – just decent characters, good acting, with among others, a fine Helen Mirren and a typically rumbustious John Goodman, and a neat script. Catch it if you like the sort of well-rounded movie Hollywood abandoned many years ago.
ACV rating: ****
“Suffragette” – Sarah Gavron, UK
DARE we criticise it? There’s little wrong with “Suffragette” as a film. Everything works and the lovely Carey Mulligan pulls off innocence and then wizened gender warrior with aplomb and the end is very fine, even powerful, especially as the roll call of when countries gave women the vote comes up in the closing credits: Switzerland 1971 and Saudi Arabia, still working on it.
Articulating the theme that the personal is the political is effective and does pack a punch and the all women-team who made this film possible should be proud and commended. The ensuing row though about t-shirts emblazoned ‘rather be a rebel than a slave’ left a bad taste and as broadcaster and author Anita Anand has pointed out, this was a film that left non-white suffragettes out completely. Her own book charts the amazing contribution of Princess Sophia, one of the daughters of the deposed Maharajah of Punjab, Prince Duleep Singh. While that deserves its own film (apparently a TV drama is in the offing), “Suffragette” remains a useful reminder that we all still have much to do for the noble cause of sexual equality.
ACV rating: ***