Tag Archives: Emma Stone

Maniac

Maniac (2018)

Jonah Hill, Emma Stone, a depressed computer, a series of mind-bending simulations and a seemingly predestined shared destiny – what’s not to love?

Honestly, not much. While everyone seemed to be tooting on about this when it first dropped on Netflix, I had a hard time getting past the first few episodes. But I wanted to give it a fair go, given its cast and I’m so glad I did.

I found it to be thoughtful, beautiful, funny and heartbreaking all at once. Like, honestly so profound in places that I thought my own heart might burst out of my chest and jump across the floor.

I don’t know how well I can describe it but Maniac focuses on Owen (Hill) and Annie (Stone), two quite damaged individuals who find themselves part of a new and potentially life-changing drug trial, run by Dr. Muramoto (Rome Kanda) and his colleague, Dr. Azumi Fujito (Sonoya Mizuno).

Both our protagonists have their own battle ahead. Owen Milgrim lives with severe mental health issues. He is also due to testify on behalf of his brother (Jesse Magnussen) in court, after he commits a felony. Increasingly, Owen disconnects from the world and from his family, struggling with suicidal notions.

Annie Landsberg grieves the death of her younger sister in a car accident and is driven to take extreme action to face what’s become of her life since. And so the two find themselves loosely acquainted, both test subjects in Muramoto’s lab. The tests are surreal and immersive, not to be discussed with the other patients but to be dissected at length after the fact.

When Muramoto drops dead suddenly, seemingly an addict of his own experimental drug (and the very pill the subjects have been taking prior to their simulations), Azumi calls in Dr. James Mantleray (Justin Theroux) to take his place. James it seems was one of the founders of the experiment, which is set to address and then fix all the misery of the world.

You didn’t think it would be that simple though, did you? Well of course it isn’t, as the project is plagued with issues. In fact, the only thing that seems sure in this whole trippy scenario (and all the wonderfully vivid simulations) is that Owen and Annie will find themselves together, their lives somehow entwined. Which isn’t supposed to happen.

The rest is up to you but it’s a Technicolor study of loss and life and love and mental anguish. Of accepting your limitations, of taking a leap of faith – of not being ‘normal’ and doing it all anyway. I adored it and by the last episode I actually felt deflated. Maniac has lit up this dreary week and engaged me fully. I want it back.

Have you seen Maniac? What did you think?

The Favourite

The Favourite (2018)

Is this the perfect movie? Maybe. It’s so gorgeous crafted with the brilliant performances that only certain actors can command. I haven’t stopped thinking about it and I can’t wait for my second viewing.

Yorgos Lanthimos (of The Lobster and The Killing of a Sacred Deer) gives us a gloriously bitchy examination of power and corruption, of sexuality as currency and of war between three complex women during the reign of Queen Anne.

Olivia Colman is our queen in every sense of the word. Her Queen Anne is a sickly woman, prone to crippling attacks of gout. She relies heavily on the counsel of her best friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz) who has a sharp mind for politics and pretty much runs the country on her behalf.

When Sarah’s cousin, former lady but now down-on-her-luck Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives asking for a job, Sarah takes a shine to her charm and sense of humour. Thus begins a war of feminine wiles as Abigail worms her way into the affections of Sarah and then the queen – and initiates her social climb from housemaid back to lady. While Sarah and Abigail’s relationship dynamic shifts dramatically, the perimeters of what they’re fighting for becomes less clear. Who will be the real winner here and what is the prize?

Honestly, this is just a very delicious character study and I loved it. It’s always good when the male characters (including Nicholas Hoult‘s dandy Harley) are side-lined in favour of flawed females and while it shouldn’t be such an event when this happens, it still is.

Every one of our trio is on her A-game, particularly Colman, who delivers a vulnerable, heartbreaking and often grotesque portrayal of a queen plagued by tragedy. Honestly, she’s receiving so much praise for her performance and it’s well deserved. The movie’s ending is honestly perfect and the woman is able to convey so much through a series of facial expressions.

I guess there’s the possibility that this could be considered over-stylised. It is a period piece after all with some stunning framing but I think of it as a dark comedy, a power struggle that just happens to be set in the early 1800s. The Favourite is probably the most accessible of Lanthimos’ films to date but it still has that quirky sense of humour of his other movies, all of which I’ve enjoyed.

I love this movie even though it is long and my bum went to sleep. A very good start to Oscar season and to 2019 in general.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Have you seen The Favourite? What do you think?

Birdman Review

Birdman post sourced via Google

Birdman post sourced via Google

I don’t get to the cinema even half as much as I would love to, or feel I should and this is something I would like to change in 2015. However, I am glad I got to see this as my first flick of the New Year. It sets the bar pretty high.

Birdman is really good. I’m not the best reviewer in the world but I do love film and well crafted, well acted pieces, which this certainly is.

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Michael Keaton (my favourite Batman, fact fans) plays washed-up actor, Riggan Thomson, once famous for playing the titular character in a trilogy of iconic Birdman films. Now he must put aside his ego and issues to make his new play, Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love a big success. Can he reclaim his past glory?

Well, I don’t know, can he? Does he? Only one way to find out.

I will say that I thought this film would be very different. In my head I was expecting something along similar lines to Paper Man (2009) (also starring Birdman’s Emma Stone) and/or Defendor (also 2009) but I realise that was just lazy presumption on my part.

Birdman is something else, in another league to those films, however much I enjoyed them. Shot in long, languid single takes and centred almost solely around one location, the theatre in which the play is being rehearsed (and then subsequently opens), it has a very production within another production feel.

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I now spend some time Googling what I mean by that, and I’ve got no examples beyond Black Swan (2010), which is funny as two people close to me have separately compared Birdman and, specifically, Thomson’s quest for redemption (and one more blast at recognition) with another Aronofsky flick, The Wrestler (2008). Which of course shares themes with Black Swan (which I adore).

There are big questions that arise from the climax of Birdman, as they did withbirdman-costume-birdman-new-trailer-dives-deep-into-a-washed-up-superhero-new-york-film-festival-2014-birdman-movie-review both those Aronofsky flicks that are interesting but are not something we can discuss here now.

I will say that both Glynn and I had different views on how it ended. Again, I can’t say what my view is, nor Glynn’s because: spoilers. But I liked the fact that it was left open to interpretation.

Stand outs for me were Keaton, who plays the erratic Thomson perfectly, mixing deep emotion with a quiet desperation. You just want him to do well I think and feel sorry when things look fraught or unlikely to pan out the way he wants. There are scenes that call on him to be very raw and he holds up wonderfully, staying likeable almost always. I like Riggan, even in his exchanges with his family when he’s being frustrating.

Birdman-EmmaStone-BigEyesI very much enjoyed Emma Stone, as Riggan’s daughter, Sam, who has just recently come out of rehab. Now working as her father’s assistant, she still carries the scars of early life without him around and displays a quiet anger for much of the film.

Forming a bond with Mike (Edward Norton), the intense new method actor called in to take over one of the main parts in the play, may in part be an act of rebellion but in fact the scenes between them are quite sweet and give Mike more depth, turning him into less of a caricature of a theatre actor, into a living man. That’s maybe down to the romantic in me because that’s not really saying much, he’s pretty dickish.

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Rumour has is that the character of Mike is a parody of Edward Norton himself, based on perception of him as an actor. I assume if this is true that he knows and plays up the character deliberately. If it is, then I like him a bit more now and he does play it well, Norton at his subtly maniacal best.

Other highlights (SPOILER ALERTS) are the scene in which Riggan accidentally gets locked out of the auditorium during an interval and inadvertently becomes the King of the Internet (a medium he has nothing but disdain for), and every scene featuring Lindsay Duncan as theatre critic Tabitha, who is resolutely out to destroy Riggan and his play.

I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I realise that I’ve hardly mentioned the surreal aspect of Birdman and especially the titular ‘character’ but believe me this has been deliberate. These elements are for you to discover and then ruminate upon yourself.

Let me know what you think if you see it!