We review this week’s new cinema releases, including INTERSTELLAR, SAY WHEN and THE SKELETON TWINS…
Directed by Christopher Nolan. Starring Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley, Jessica Chastain, Matt Damon, Mackenzie Foy, Casey Affleck, Michael Caine, John Lithgow, Timothee Chalamet, Elyes Gabel, Topher Grace.
THE PLOT: It’s the end of the world as we know, and, with dust permanently in the air, people are learning to adapt – whilst the smart people come up with a plan. Like moving to another planet. Former pilot and engineer Cooper (McConaughey) just wants to live the simple life, deep in that darkness on the edge of town, out among the no-longer-endless cornfields, raising his kids – the Scout-like, 10-year-old Murph (Foy, a likeable Anna Paquin) and her older, teasing brother (Chalamet) – with a little help from his pop (Lithgow), their mother having passed away. Out in these fields of broken dreams, Cooper is determined to fill his children with magic and wonder, and certainly Murph is always curious, always questioning. So, when the seemingly alive library in her bedroom leaves co-ordinates in the fallen dust, Cooper and Murph are soon pulling up to a high-security fence in the middle of nowhere. And that’s when things start going a little 2001-shaped…
THE VERDICT: Attempting to be Malick for the Multiplexes once again, Christopher Nolan bites off way more than he can chew here. Once again. Which leaves him closer to being Bay With A Beret. Still, once you get past the jeans-and-white-t-shirt everyman messiah mush, and all that Americana mourning, Interstellar finally gets truly interesting when we head up into space, thanks largely to all the usual cabin fever crazy that tends to go on when you’re so very, very far from the nearest garda station.
After, oh, about 8 hours in a dusty Hicksville, it’s something of a relief when infinity and the great beyond beckons, taking us, mercifully, about million miles away. Give or take a year. Where Cooper and his crew first drop anchor, an hour can last seven years back on earth. Something we can, by that stage, all relate to.
Truth be told, Interstellar isn’t a light galaxy away from being WALL-E in dungarees, only the coy & the Kubrick hit-ratio is flipped. Here, they get the post-apocalypse-designed-by-Normal-Rockwell all wrong and the Kafkaesque cosmos collapse audaciously right.
Still, as impressive as the last hour of this 3-hour movie might be, by the time the world’s no.1 Mathew McConaughey impersonator, Matt Damon, pops up, Interstellar has already started to eat itself. This Russian Doll of a movie buckles under the weight of Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s highly portentious script. These guys make the Wachowski brothers seem pithy and precise.
Review by Paul Byrne
SAY WHEN (USA/15A/99mins)
Directed by Lynn Shelton. Starring Kiera Knightley, Chloe Grace Moretz, Sam Rockwell, Ellie Kemper.
THE PLOT: Kiera Knightley stars as Megan, a woman in her late 20s who never managed to get her life together. With her many of her friends getting married and starting families, Megan begins to wonder whether the life she has made is truly one that she wants. When her boyfriend proposes, Megan fakes a trip to a career seminar to get some space. Lacking a place to stay, she crashes on the couch of her new friend Annika (Moretz), who just so happens to be at the age where Megan’s emotional development was stifled.
THE VERDICT: Kiera Knightley is making great role choices of late, and SAY WHEN is no exception; the film gives Knightley a chance to move away from the tightly wound characters she has become notorious for playing. Knightley plays Megan as a woman coasting through life and happy enough to do it, although she is unsure when all the pressure on her to conform began. Her friends are moving in different directions, and she is happy to be carried along by life, until her boyfriend proposes. Knightley makes Megan an incredibly likeable character, and even though she can often behave like a petulant child, it is easy for the audience to relate to her, and the factors that have contributed to her stymied life.
Chloe Grace Moretz actually plays a character who is close to her age, who behaves like a 17 year old should – obsessed with boys and Prom – rather than some of the more mature characters she has played in the past. This is a welcome change for the actress, and it is gratifying to see her take a more relaxed role. Sam Rockwell shines in the film, and many of the comedic moments come from him and his interactions with Megan and Annika. Rockwell makes Craig gentle and endearing, and he – along with Knightley – forms the heart of the film. The rest of the cast is made up of Ellie Kemper on brilliantly bitchy form, Jeff Garlin, and Mark Webber.
Andrea Seigel’s screenplay is one of warmth and tragicomedy. We are never invited to judge Megan for where she has ended up in her life, but asked to trust that she has found herself here, and is as bewildered as everyone else. The characters are well formed and are people that the audience could well recognise from their own lives. The trouble is that the film is largely predictable and, although it is a nice journey to go on, it is hardly one filled with mystery or surprise. Director Lynn Shelton’s previous film – YOUR SISTER’S SISTER – was one that took many unexpected and complicated turns, but the ending of SAY WHEN can be seen a mile off, and little is done to disguise the film’s destination. That said, Shelton directs capably, and injects the film with warmth and comedy.
SAY WHEN is an endearing film about finally deciding not to coast through life. The performances from the central trio are warm and engaging and, although the film errs on the side of predictable, the emotional payoff is still there.
Review by Brogen Hayes
THE SKELETON TWINS (USA/15A/93mins)
Directed by Craig Johnson. Starring Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Luke Wilson.
THE PLOT: Twins Milo (Bill Hader) and Maggie (Kristen Wiig) have not seen one another in many years, but when Milo attempts suicide, the call from the hospital interrupts Maggie’s own attempt at death. The twins reconnect and, over time, begin to realise what drove them apart in the first place.
THE VERDICT: Bill Hader does a wonderful job as Milo; a gay man struggling with depression after the end of his relationship. Hader makes Milo a man who hides his demons under humour, and his shady one-liners are often hilarious. Kristen Wiig plays a more subdued role than we are used to seeing, but does well with the role. She is as quiet as Milo is outgoing, and although she seems to be the twin who has her life together, it soon becomes clear that all is not what it seems. The chemistry between the two leads is lovely, and speaks to years of shared sibling experience. Of course it helps that these two leads worked together on SNL, and they translate this relationship onto the screen.
Luke Wilson plays Maggie’s husband Lance and strikes a careful balance in the character, between caring and annoying. It’s a difficult line, but Wilson walks it well. Ty Burrell plays Rich, a seemingly straight man who Milo had an affair with years before, and who was the catalyst for a lot of tension between Milo and his sister.
Writers Mark Heyman and Craig Johnson allow the secrets of the family to be revealed slowly, so the audience understand where the tension comes from, and the past that the twins have shared. The comedic moments – such as the twins lip-synching Starship’s Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now, and their mother’s seeming inability to live in the real world – are warm and funny, but it is also obvious that this is used by the characters to cover up the tragedy in their lives and their relationship. The quiet, private moments are well scripted and subtle, but there are times when the large, decisive moments feel a little over written and more than a little convenient.
As director, Craig Johnson does his job capably, and focuses on Wiig and Hader at the centre of the film. Neither one is allowed to swamp the other, instead complimenting and encouraging one another. Hader does play up the camp factor slightly, but never enough to be offending, or anything other than believable. Wiig’s despondence about her life feels real and well created.
In all, THE SKELETON TWINS is a carefully constructed family dramedy that brings tears and laughter in almost equal measure. Wiig and Hader are wonderful together and, although some of the scenes are over written and others are a little contrived, this film about family and the affect we have on one another is sweet and warm.
Review by Brogen Hayes
OUT OF HERE (Ireland/15A/80mins)
Directed by Donal Foreman. Starring Fionn Wilson, Daniel Bergin, Jack Shepherd, Aoife Duffin.
THE PLOT: Ciaran (Fionn Watson) returns home to Dublin after a year of travelling the world to find that finding his place at home may be harder than going away in the first place.
THE VERDICT: OUT OF HERE marks director Donal Foreman’s first feature length film, although he has produced short films in the past. The story is an interesting one; all too often we hear of young Irish men and women leaving the country for pastures new, but we rarely hear about what happens to them when they come back. Returning home, and finding a new place to belong, is the focus of Foreman’s film.
OUT OF HERE lacks a traditional narrative structure, and instead feels as though it is made up of scenes that fit together under a theme. Ciaran returns home to find that although everything has changed, nothing has changed and as he wanders through the city that he used to call home, we wander with him. Trying to reconnect with friends, family and the girl he left behind preoccupies Ciaran’s time, but as time goes on it becomes clear that no matter how much he tries to deny it, he has changed and perhaps it is time for him to find a new way to belong.
Although it may seem to the contrary, Foreman’s film is actually a love letter to Dublin; the city is beautifully shot and at once feels familiar and utterly strange, as though we were viewing it through the eyes of someone who has been away. Shots linger and show us the city from a different angle. Although there is a strong feeling of anti-climax at coming home to a recession bound country there is never truly a feeling of despair and Ciaran constantly tries to find a way to belong again. Lead actor Fionn Walton – who had a role in WHAT RICHARD DID – captures the mood and feeling of a character who is trying to come to terms with returning to a familiar home, only to find it odd even as he falls back in with old friends and situations.
Although the rambling nature of the film works for it in one sense, this is also the film’s downfall; there is comment to be made here on the nature of return and finding ‘home’ again – a powerful theme that constantly recurs in literature and film – but the lack of explicit explanation means that Fionn and his actions sometimes feel selfish, as though he is as unwilling to change as his friends are to allow him.
Overall, however, OUT OF HERE is a film that deals with Irish people returning home to a country that is struggling as much as it was when they left; an idea that has been touched on all too little. Foreman’s film shows Dublin at it’s best through lingering shots and unexpected angles on the city. The message may get a little lost, but the mood of the film lasts through an engaging performance from Walton.
Review by Brogen Hayes