We review this week’s new releases, including TRACKS and THE OTHER WOMAN
Directed by John Curran. Starring Mia Wasikowska, Adam Driver.
THE PLOT: In 1977, Robyn Davidson (Mia Wasikowska) decided to walk 2,000 miles across the Australian desert; from Alice Springs to the ocean. Robyn’s only companions over the six-month journey were to be four camels and her dog; the solitude was something she craved.
THE VERDICT: Robyn Davidson’s story is one that has inspired people around the world, since it was first published in The National Geographic Magazine in 1978. On her journey, photographer Rick Smolan – played in the film by Adam Driver – met up with Davidson along the way to document her journey for the magazine. It seems as though the film is rather faithful to the book, but what appears to be lacking is motivation.
Mia Wasikowska is perfectly fine in the role of Robyn Davidson, and her disdain for other people is clear throughout the film. What is not clear, however, is the reason why Robyn is so desperate to get away from other people. Wasikowska is more than able to command the screen on her own, but without a motivation as to why – one is offered but feels too thin to be true – Tracks turns into an incredible journey that is done for the sake of it. There is no shame in that, mind.
Adam Driver is great as the photographer who is fascinated with this solitary traveller, and his appearances punctuate the film. Roly Mintuma has a great role as the Aboriginal elder who guides Robyn through the sacred sites of Australia and, even though they don’t speak the same language, as Eddie gabbles away in his native tongue, he feels a constant support to Robyn, rather than someone who demands something from her.
Screenwriter Marion Nelson easily captured the emotion of a woman who craves solitude, but the script fails as it does not gave adequate reason for Robyn to start her voyage. As well as this, we almost always only see Robyn when she has someone with her, and as such, do not get an adequate picture of her life in the desert, alone. That said, however, there are plenty of emotional moments throughout the film, and Robyn comes across as a strong and brave woman who is willing to take on the world.
Director John Curran makes the Australian landscape look fantastic as he voyages with his character across the barren land. There is something charming about the caustic central character and, even though we do not always understand why she is going on her journey, we never really question her decision to do it. The film suffers slightly through a meandering tone and direction, but then isn’t that what the film is truly about?
In all, TRACKS is an interesting story of a determined and strong young woman. Choices may not be ever fully explained, but what emerges is a warm and engaging tale. The animals provide warmth and comfort, and the landscape provides challenges and a sense of true loneliness. Wasikowska shines in the role, and her caustic and gentle interactions with Driver are wonderful.
Review by Brogen Hayes
THE OTHER WOMAN (USA/12A/110mins)
Directed by Nick Cassavetes. Starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Upton, Leslie Mann, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.
THE PLOT: When Carly (Cameron Diaz) learns that her new, seemingly perfect boyfriend Mark (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is married, she forms an unlikely – and at first, unwanted – friendship with Mark’s wife Kate (Leslie Mann). When the two discover he has another woman on the go, the three team up to get their revenge.
THE VERDICT: Remember THE FIRST WIVES CLUB? The 1996 movie starring Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton, Bette Midler and Maggie Smith? Well, it seems as though the writer of THE OTHER WOMAN, Melissa Stack also remembers, because she, and director Nick Cassavetes have created a film that could easily be a remake of the 1996 Hugh Wilson film, albeit with considerably less charm.
Cameron Diaz plays the same aloof character she has played for some time now and, although she certainly has a talent for this kind of role, it has become tiresome. Yes, she looks good, yes, she does this well, but we have all seen this before. The same goes for Leslie Mann as Kate; the whiny, cryface that she has practiced so well in her career to date is in full effect here, and there is only so much of the usual Mann improv that the audience can stand before it grates.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau has made a career for himself playing the handsome cad, and again, there is nothing here to challenge or change his career choices so far. The only good thing is that it seems the crew of THE OTHER WOMAN felt Coster-Waldau needed to be got back for making Aksel Hennie languish in a poop filled outhouse in HEADHUNTERS, because there is no shortage of poop jokes at his expense in The Other Woman. Kate Upon turns up as an appropriately nicknamed character; ‘The Boobs’, and Nicki Minaj makes her first foray into live action acting, as Carly’s assistant Lydia. She’s fine.
Melissa Stack’s screenplay takes over an hour to truly kick in, and until that point we are bombarded with pretty people doing wrong and feeling fine about it, and less pretty people being wronged. The revenge is rather carefully orchestrated, and at least makes sense, but the final showdown is ridiculous to say the least. Oh, and there is more than one poop joke. Neither of them are funny.
Nick Cassavetes seems to have allowed his leading ladies to do whatever they feel comfortable with, and while Diaz and Mann are perfectly fine at what they do, there is very little new or entertaining here. By the time the women finally get their revenge, it is more a relief than a revelation, and Mark’s comeuppance turns to slapstick rather too quickly.
THE OTHER WOMAN is an unoriginal, uninspired and frankly, rather flat film about getting revenge when you have been wronged. The main stars do what they feel comfortable with, and the audience may find themselves wondering if THE OTHER WOMAN would have been a better use of our time if Mann and Cameron had stretched themselves and swapped roles. Probably not, but it’s an entertaining thought.
Review by Brogen Hayes
LIVING IN A CODED LAND
Directed by Pat Collins. Starring Conor Cruise O’Brien, Seamus Ennis, Seamus Heaney, Patrick O’Connor, Sean O’Faoloin.
THE PLOT: A collage of images, new and old, present-day interviews and archive studies from the vaults of RTE and the IFI, Living In A Coded Land is a little like being stuck in a snug with a bunch of Irish historians. And they’ve all got a story to tell about the midlands, and its role in shaping the Ireland of today. Flatcap philosophers abound, but these Paddies know what they’re talking about. “An antique land of fusion and transfusion,” opines one atop a high hill in County Westmeath, the “symbolic and literal centre” of Ireland. In Ireland, we’re all living in the mist of history, and quite a few of us are happy to go full David Brent on that history…
THE VERDICT: Once again taking the mildly abstract and meditative Malick approach to documentary filmmaking, Pat Collins (TIM ROBINSON: CONNEMARA, WHAT WE LEAVE IN OUR WAKE) explores the geographical, spiritual, political and historical centre of Ireland as he charts the midlands’ impact and importance. Amidst the talking heads and beautiful minds, a complex, multi-layered portrait is revealed, one full of contradictions, conflicting ideas, impressions, declarations, laments and battle-cries. Not that there’s much anger on display here. These are all calm and collect words of wisdom – or, at least, they are all delivered as such – about time, about change, about staying the same. ‘The wheel keeps turning, the dance goes on’ – that sort of thing.
A young and literally windswept Conor Cruise O’Brien reckons we’re all “products of our peculiar history, whether we like it or not”, and Collins – following up 2012’s Silence – does his best here to unravel some of that history. LIVING IN A CODED LAND is the sort of film that deserves your full concentration. I’m talking to you down the back, with the nachos.
Review by Paul Byrne