Tag Archives: Kristin Scott Thomas

[Review] – The Woman in the Fifth

27 Jun

Title: The Woman in the Fifth
Year: 2012
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Writer: Pawel Pawlikowski, based on the novel by Douglas Kennedy
Starring: Ethan Hawke, Kristin Scott Thomas, Joanna Kulig
MPAA Rating: R, some sexual content, language and violent images
Runtime: 85 min
IMDb Rating: 5.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 62%
Metacritic: 57

Tom Ricks is a writer who goes from America to Paris in order to be closer to his young daughter, who’s living with his estranged ex-wife, maybe get their loves back, start over again, you know how those things go. Suffice it to say things don’t go just as he planned: his wife slams the door in his face, he falls asleep on a bus and when he wakes up his luggage and most of his cash is gone, which means he’s pretty much broke and must accept a job as a kind of night guard in a small room with a video camera; if someone calls up he must ask what they want, and if they say a certain name he’ll push a button. A quiet and lonely job that, he hopes, will have inspiration for his new novel strike all the quicker.

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[Review] – Bel Ami

18 Jun

Title: Bel Ami
Year: 2012
Directors: Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod
Writer: Rachel Bennette, based on the novel by Guy de Maupassant
Starring: Robert Pattinson, Uma Thurman, Kristin Scott Thomas, Christina Ricci, Colm Meaney
MPAA Rating: R, some strong sexuality, nudity and brief language
Runtime: 102 min
IMDb Rating: 5.4
Rotten Tomatoes: 30%
Metacritic: 41

While on break from shooting Twilight movies, Robert Pattinson still made films that tended to his status as a heartthrob in a way, and that the same girls that screamed their asses off for him as Edward Cullen would want to see. And while 2010’s Remember Me and last year’s Water for Elephants were decent (I gave them a B- and a B, respectively), I always wanted to see what Mr. Pattinson would do with his career when he hung up the fangs for good. And now that he’s done with the vampire franchise, with the last installment The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 due this November, he’s seemingly trying some far edgier material to distance himself from that sort of pigeon hole he had been boxed in.

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[Review] – Salmon Fishing In The Yemen

8 Apr

Title: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
Year: 2012
Director: Lasse Hallström
Writer: Simon Beaufoy, based on the novel by Paul Torday
Starring: Ewan McGregor, Emily Blunt, Kristin Scott Thomas, Amr Waked
MPAA Rating: PG-13, some violence and sexual content, and brief language
Runtime: 107 min
IMDb Rating: 7.0
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Metacritic: 60

Salmon Fishing in the Yemen has a pretty talented cast, which is what keeps this movie afloat and helps it from being another simply pleasant movie that, though with an unlikely story at its center, feels pretty generic. It stars Ewan McGregor as Dr. Alfred Jones, a tightly-wound Scottish fisheries expert who’s contacted by Harriet, the management consultant played by Emily Blunt, who’s been given the task of helping a sheik introduce salmon fishing to the Yemen Highlands, far away from where those fish can be found or subsist. The sheik, who owns a house in Scotland and thus knows of the sport, believes it’s a pastime that will bring lots of good things to Yemen.

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Sarah’s Key

21 Aug

Title: Sarah’s Key
Year: 
2011
Director: 
Gilles Paquet-Brenner
Writers: Serge Joncour and Gilles Paquet-Brenner, based on the novel by Tatiana de Rosnay
Starring: 
Kristin Scott Thomas, Mélusine Mayance, Niels Arestrup, Frédéric Pierrot
MPAA Rating: 
PG-13, thematic material including disturbing situations involving the Holocaust
Runtime: 
111 min
Major Awards: –

IMDb Rating: 
7.2
Rotten Tomatoes: 
73%

 

Kristin Scott Thomas is one of the very best actresses living today, it’s really as simple as that, the woman can act just insanely well and is right up there with the Streep’s and Blanchett’s and Winslet’s in my book. And even though she’s still very good in Sarah’s Key, I really didn’t fall in love all that much with the movie. I mean, it’s definitely a very decent flick, but I wanted something better for Ms. Scott Thomas to shine in. This is the adaptation of a novel by Tatiana de Rosnay, adapted by director Gilles Paquet-Brenner and co-writer Serge Joncour, and the script does a fine job of expanding the vision proposed in the novel, of dramatizing the events told there, but it doesn’t get to achieve a good balance between the two stories it tells.

One of those two stories, that are interconnected with one another, is of Ms. Scott Thomas’ character, Julia, a determined journalist who sent on a mission to dig up truths, even if what she starts uncovering begins to have harrowing effects on both her family life and herself. The other story is that of what Julia, has to investigate about, and it has to do with a Holocaust story, told through the eyes of a child that offers more than one moment for Mr. Paquet-Brenner to try and manipulate some tears out of our eyes. I didn’t think, however, that the balance between the two stories was handled correctly, I mean, as stand-alone pieces they were both quite good, but put together I just thought that it was an uncomfortable fit, and I think that the present-day story sort of diminished the impact that the more tragic story about the Holocaust could have had had it been left alone.

You see, the story has to do with Julia having to investigate the Vélodrome d’Hiver roundup of 1942, an event during which the French government aided the Nazis to arrest and deport thousands of Jews from the country. Julia starts becoming obsessed with the story she’s pursuing, the focus of which is tracking down a girl named Sarah, who protected her younger brother from that roundup by locking him inside a closet, even though the more she starts pursuing the subject the more her husband’s family starts pressuring her to stop doing so, as she’s starting to uncover some truths about them they’d rather she didn’t. This is all played alongside scenes of Sarah in her own timeline, trying to escape the Germans to go back to Paris and free her brother, the key the title refers to obviously being the one she needs to unlock the closet in which she got her brother into, and which stays with her through a series of harrowing events.

But really, this is all about Sarah’s story, because it’s by far the more interesting one to watch unravel, and the series of events she goes through to stay alive and to get to her brother are all pretty extraordinary to witness, and they are all played by Mr. Paquet-Brenner for melodramatic purposes, some of which work and some of which actually don’t. For instance, the parts of the story about the Vélodrome d’Hiver feel appropriately horrifying and are really well told, but once you turn the page you are expected to feel the same way about Julia being pregnant and her husband wanting her to terminate the unplanned pregnancy, and I mean, those fights are great because Ms. Scott Thomas is there to act it all out splendidly, but once you put it into comparison with Sarah’s story, as you’ll inevitably do, then you don’t get why it’s all there, just a distraction from a much bigger issue. You feel like it’s all done for some sort of cheap narrative momentum that will get Julia thinking about her baby just as she is learning about Sarah and all that she went through, and the film just didn’t work at all for me on those moments.

In the end, though, I just didn’t love Sarah’s Key all that much. I will recommend it because Ms. Scott Thomas was superb as she always effortlessly seems to be, speaking French as though it was her first language and doing her best at tackling a true grown-up drama, and you know she’s doing her best here, she’s being her usual excellent self as she tries to give Julia’s story the emotional weight required for it to be able to carry the whole movie. However, in the end, this is all about Sarah’s story, and no matter how gut-wrenching and absorbing the Holocaust scenes may be, they are let down by the balance they achieve with the present-day ones, no matter how impeccable Ms. Scott Thomas may be. Because they were just very conventionally written and directed that they feel horribly flat when compared to the other part of the film, and those scenes take away from the effectiveness of the whole piece, the artificial feel of the present-day scenes taking away from the impact achieved by the historical ones.

Grade: B

OscarWatch: Best Supporting Actress

21 Jan

Since the Academy Award nominations will be announced bright and early Tuesday morning (!) I thought I’d do seven OscarWatch posts for the main races: Screenplay (encompassing both Original and Adapted), Supporting Actor, Supporting Actress, Lead Actor, Lead Actress, Director and Picture.

In them I’ll detail my thoughts on the given race and how I think things are starting to shape up considering we have now seen most of the precursor awards and count with BAFTA and SAG nominations. I’ll give my personal Top 20, with a brief paragraph on each, for any given race and detail which I think will be the nominees for the Oscars come Tuesday. In this post I’ll tackle…

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS

I’ll give my Top 20 performances given by supporting actresses in 2010, my brief thoughts on each and then I’ll say how I think the Oscar nominations for the category will look once they’re announced on Tuesday.

As for the state of this race, I’ll actually go ahead and declare this one my favorite race this year, for the sheer number of women I think have a decent shot at the trophy. Melissa Leo seems like the favorite, but Amy Adams is my personal favorite and Helena Bonham Carter could also provide an upset. So yes, this one is the one I’m not sure how to predict just yet, and we’ll have to see how it evolves with the BAFTAs and SAGs.

Personal Top 20

  1. Amy Adams (for The Fighter) – My favorite supporting actress turn of the year is one from one of my favorite actresses around. The flashier role in the movie goes to her co-star (and awards season rival) Melissa Leo, who has been dominating the awards, but in a perfect world it would be Adams picking up that golden man come February.
  2. Mila Kunis (for Black Swan) – My favorite film of the year, and Mila Kunis has been getting some kudos for her role in it, hopefully the Oscars will grant her a nomination, too. If Natalie Portman’s role in the film was to be something, Mila Kunis’ role was to be the opposite of that something. And she did that wonderfully, feeling us with intrigue about her, with fascination about her confidence and demeanor, just a really well acted role.
  3. Melissa Leo (for The Fighter) – The ladies of The Fighter will end up sparring for this award. Melissa Leo is the odds-on favorite, being a fav amongst actors and having reaped through the precursors. And her performance is indeed pretty incendiary, as she gets to tear through some very beefy scenes.
  4. Jacki Weaver (for Animal Kingdom) – The fact that Jacki Weaver is getting this amazing movie noticed is reward enough in my opinion. But how she creates one of the most effective villains of the year in this film about the Australian underground crime is fascinating to watch.
  5. Barbara Hershey (for Black Swan) – Her performance in Black Swan is amazing, if I had to pick a lady out of this film to get a nod here it would be Mila Kunis, but in a perfect world they’d both make the cut. Her overbearing mother was just a spectacular creation from her.
  6. Helena Bonham Carter (for The King’s Speech) – The actors in The King’s Speech are all first-class, and Helena Bonham Carter is no exception, her performance is exquisite as everything she other does and will no doubt get her her second Oscar nomination.
  7. Elle Fanning (for Somewhere) – Every year there’s a child actress or actor trying to get in the supporting race, this year it seems that will be Hailee Steinfeld (though she may go Lead), but in my mind Elle Fanning is the one that should get all the kudos, she’s just adorable and strong and amazing here.
  8. Hailee Steinfeld (for True Grit) – As I said, the child performer of the year to me is Elle Fanning, but Hailee Steinfeld is literally right below her. She’s ferocious in True Grit, handling her own against Jeff Bridges throughout the entirety of the film. The thing with her is whether she’ll be deemed as Lead (like in the BAFTAs) or Supporting (like in the SAGs).
  9. Greta Gerwig (for Greenberg) – She was my favorite “find” of the year, an actress I saw for the first time in a great film and soon fell in love with her. And her performance is just as good as Ben Stiller’s in this one, and yet nobody seems to be noticing either of them.
  10. Keira Knightley (for Never Let Me Go) – Again, this is my pick for the most under-appreciated film of 2010, everyone here is amazing, and Keira Knightley is no exception, she’s just a very good actress and I can’t help but think an Oscar is firmly in her future.
  11. Marion Cotillard (for Inception) – The fantastic thing about Inception is just how much character development there is in the midst of all the mind-bending plot points we have to keep track of. Marion Cotillard plays an essential part in the film, and she’s marvelous as Mal.
  12. Rebecca Hall (for The Town) – As became apparent in the post I did for Best Supporting Actor, I think The Town is filled with spectacular performances across the board. And Rebecca Hall is one of the best in it, she dons a very convincing accent considering she’s British, and has a couple of heartbreaking moments in this one.
  13. Dianne Weist (for Rabbit Hole) – Nicole Kidman is the one that will get all the Rabbit Hole attention, as she should, but her scenes with Dianne Weist are the most dynamite, and it’s for a reason, here’s an actress who’s just terrific in anything she’s in, and knows how to totally own a part.
  14. Olivia Williams (for The Ghost Writer) – Olivia Williams is very very good in this one, and I’m guessing that if the film had been released later then she would have probably end up nominated. Some very good acting chops in display from her here.
  15. Kristin Scott Thomas (for Nowhere Boy) – Kristin Scott Thomas is one of those actresses that, when she’s at the top of her game, can go right ahead and steal a movie away from anyone. She does just that in Nowhere Boy, a remarkable little film that more people should have seen, she’s just splendid in it.
  16. Ruth Sheen (for Another Year) – Lesley Manville will get all the attention this film will get, acting-wise, but Ruth Sheen is just as amazing here, playing the woman who Manville’s character leans on all too much, and giving the film that ability to feel so relatable to us, much like all of Mike Leigh’s films.
  17. Michelle Williams (for Shutter Island) – This is just so that I can give a kudos to Michelle Williams, who I’ll always give as many kudos as I can to. No, but she’s seriously good here, another film that I feel as though it would have gotten much more awards love had it been released later on during the year.
  18. Sissy Spacek (for Get Low) – I’m a big fan of Get Low, and that is mostly because every actor in it is sincerely spectacular, and Sissy Spacek is a veteran of the screen, and she’s her usual impeccable self in this one, too.
  19. Miranda Richardson (for Made in Dagenham) – She just got the BAFTA nod, and while I think her performance in the film is delightful I wouldn’t count her as part of my Top 5, but still, this is a very good performance by a remarkably consistent actress, she just can’t do no wrong.
  20. Ellen Page (for Inception) – I was considering going for more conventional picks here, but I just love Ellen Page in anything she’s in, and I loved Inception, so I picked her. I know her performance wasn’t the most remarkable of the film, not by far, but I still think no one else could have played Ariadne this well, she’ll always be a favorite of mine.

How I Think the Oscar Nominations Will Look Like (in alphabetical order)

  • Amy Adams (for The Fighter)
  • Helena Bonham Carter (for The King’s Speech)
  • Mila Kunis (for Black Swan)
  • Melissa Leo (for The Fighter)
  • Hailee Steinfeld (for True Grit)

Here’s the thing with this hypothetical nominations outlook. It all depends on whether Hailee Steinfeld is voted as Lead or Supporting Actress, if she’s deemed as a Supporting one then I think she’ll definitely make the cut, and the fifth slot would be between Mila Kunis, who I picked here, and Jacki Weaver. If she’s voted as Lead then my guess is that both Ms. Kunis and Ms. Weaver will make the cut.

Nowhere Boy

9 Nov

Title: Nowhere Boy
Year: 2010
Director: Sam Taylor-Wood
Writer: Matt Greenhalgh, based on the memoir by Julia Baird
Starring: Aaron Johnson, Thomas Brodie Sangster, Kristin Scott Thomas, Anne-Marie Duff
MPAA Rating: R, language and a scene of sexuality
Runtime: 98 min
Major Awards:
IMDb Rating: 7.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%

 

This is not the definitive Beatles movie because it’s not about The Beatles, it’s about John Lennon, and at the early life of John Lennon at that. But, while this one may be shy of huge grandiose musical numbers, it is still a very intriguing film that, to me at least, was a tremendous success. A tremendous success because it was very skillfully directed by Sam Taylor-Wood, and because Aaron Johnson, her young fiancée, was unbelievable in the lead role, showing us he’s a talent to be reckoned with in years to come. Plus, Kristin Scott-Thomas is also in this one too, and she gives another one of her amazing performances.

I liked getting this side of Lennon’s story, I knew a bit of it from stuff I had read, but this is a more extensive outlook, and seeing how it’s based on the memoir of Julia Baird, Lennon’s half-sister, we could say this is reliable information we’re getting. And it really is great to take a peek into John Lennon’s childhood and teenage years, especially because Ms. Taylor-Wood’s direction is very intimate, very subdued, and it paves the way for Mr. Johnson to excel in the title role. Aaron Johnson we all know as the lead in this year’s Kick-Ass, and here he is giving, obviously, a very different sort of performance.

The way Mr. Johnson plays the young Lennon is pretty cool, he portrays him as this sort of confident, even arrogant at times, young man, but at his core remarkably vulnerable. Now, if you know a bit of Lennon’s history you know his mother, Julia (after which the song was written about), was young when she had him, and deemed herself unfit of raising a child, and so she gave him to her older sister, Mimi. Kristin Scott Thomas plays Mimi, and she plays her unbelievably well. Mimi’s a bit cold, but she loves John, and she raises him with that love that he takes for granted, and it Ms. Scott Thomas owns the role completely, its her performance alongside Mr. Johnson’s that elevate this film.

Because this film really is great, it tells the story of world icon, at a time before he was such a world icon. Sure, there’s Paul McCartney present in the story, and there is music present in the story, but it’s much more about John Lennon’s relationship with Julia. He doesn’t know who his mother is until later on in our tale, and he finds out that she lived real close to him, and, when he sees her at his uncle’s funeral, he just knows it’s her. And their relationship blossoms fast, they don’t know each other but they connect deeply from the get-go. She had him when she was twenty-six, and died by the time John was eighteen. Their relationship was short but it was really significant, you see how it could have shaped the song he wrote about her, you see how different she was from her older sister, not in a bad way, just different, more impulsive, more open to love. Which was of course the basis of the John Lennon we all know and worship.

I went into Nowhere Boy without really knowing what it was about. I mean, I knew it was about John Lennon, but I thought it would be more Beatles-centric, and I must say that I was thankful that it really wasn’t. Yes, there are a bit of musical moments that foreshadow what would come, and as I said Paul McCartney is a character here, and he introduces John to George Harrison, but this was all done in order to show John’s interests and his life more than it was done to tell us what would happen next.

If anything, the most Beatle-related thing we can get out of Nowhere Boy is precisely the thing that makes this a John Lennon film not about The Beatles. And that’s the relationship with his mother, the relationship with his aunt Mimi, and the emotional turmoil that transpired in between. I mean that in the way that, once you look into Lennon’s lyrics knowing all he went through in his formative years you might find something in there, if anything, we wouldn’t have the Julia song without this, and I love that song.

Now, about that song, you hear it once without knowing what it’s about and you might think it’s dedicated more to a lover than to a mother. And there are some undertones of that in John’s relationship with his mother actually, this may be because he didn’t meet her as his mother, he was raised by someone else. This may also be because the love she expressed wasn’t the maternal sort of love John had been used from the more brisk but equally loving Mimi, it was a more intimate sort of love, she introduces him to music, she’s a catalyst in his life. This is not to say that Ms. Taylor-Wood implies any sort of erotic relationship between John and Julia, because she doesn’t, but she didn’t shy away from those moments either, and they worked wonderfully.

I loved Nowhere Boy, I’m a Beatles fan, and John Lennon is my favorite Beatle by a mile, and one of my personal heroes. So it was great to see his childhood story, see what shaped him, see him seeing Elvis on screen and being so obviously moved and inspired. This is a fine film, really neatly directed, and that holds a very good performance by Anne-Marie Duff, who plays Julia, a typically amazing one by Kristin Scott Thomas, and a tremendous one by Aaron Johnson in the leading role, a guy who I will be watching very carefully in his next projects. He has some serious acting chops, and they help to make this one such a terrific film.

Grade: A-