Sunday, September 15, 2019

Movie Roundup 9/15 (Hustlers, Mission: Impossible - Fallout, American Psycho and The Goldfinch)

Hustlers (2019) directed by Lorene Scafaria- I did not intend to see this movie opening weekend, or really at all until it streams somewhere. I had a vague sense that people were saying that it was Jennifer Lopez’s best performance since Out Of Sight. Then I heard an interview with Scafaria on The Ringer’s Big Picture podcast. It reminded me that I had seen and really enjoyed Scafaria’s debut, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Other than the typical hollywood hard to believe the age gap between the romantic leads, that film was excellent. It played fair with the tropes of both romantic comedies and apocalyptic movies. The ending was the only one that could satisfy both genres without cheating, and I suspect that ending was why it got mixed reviews.

The interview also revealed that Scafaria had written the script, but was not originally slated to direct; it was offered to Scorsese first. This makes a lot of sense as it is essentially telling a story about women in the Goodfellas/Wolf of Wall Street greed is good until it catches up style. I decided to see it, but made the mistake of watching the trailer first. It made it seem like something it wasn’t; more salacious for one. I’m glad I went despite the trailer.

It would have been interesting to see Scorsese’s take on the material, but I’m very glad that Scafaria got to direct. The movie is very much in conversation with his movies. It is similar to them in the sense that it is about predatory capitalism and lives spinning out of control because of their own greed. It also shows how much of that world excludes women. None of this is preachy, though. The central relationship between Lopez’s character and Contance Wu’s is very well done. There are only a handful of 2019 movies I’ve seen (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Us, Deadwood, Ready or Not) that I like as well or more than this.

Highly Recommended.

Mission: Impossible - Fallout (2019) directed by Christopher McQuarrie

This is still the best pure action movie since Mad Max: Fury Road. Better spy stuff than any Bond movie since Casino Royale, and better chase scenes than any of the Fast and Furious movies I’ve seen.

Highly Recommended

American Psycho (2000) directed by Mary Harron - This is an incredibly well executed horror/psychological thriller that doesn’t work for me much more than it did when I saw it several years ago. I like the critique of conformity and the financial world. There are several line deliveries and scenes that really work (“Jean are you fulfilled… I mean in your life?”). I understand that the characterization of the finance guys is supposed to be hollow and inhuman, but it still didn’t work, for me at least. It’s clearly meant to critique the world it portrays and its nihilism, but ultimately seems to slip into that nihilism itself. I understand that to some extent this is the point, and that a lot of people love this movie, but I didn’t.


The Goldfinch (2019) directed by John Crowley

This has gotten terrible reviews and seems to have flopped, but I really loved it. I don’t know how much of that is my affection for the book, which is a masterpiece, or how much of that is going in with low expectations, but it largely worked for me. They didn’t quite convey the importance the titular painting had in the book. Having read the book earlier this year, I was able to fill that in to the point that I almost didn’t notice it. Not sure how that aspect would play to someone who hadn’t read it.

The cinematography is great, but with Roger Deakins, that’s to be expected. The movie also managed to convey the books seediness inside a Fitzgerald-esque world, or at least the feel of it. Having finally read Patricia Highsmith last year, I can say that the book reads like Dickens by way of Highsmith. The basic plot is that a boy whose mother dies in a terrorist attack on a museum, survives that attack. He steals a painting as he’s leaving. That painting becomes a totem to him and provides the impetus for much of the action of the book. There is a huge cast of characters in the book, most of which make it to the screen. The boy grows up, and gets sucked into both crime and high society.

Again, it could be just because the book is so fresh in my head, but I don’t understand the hate this movie has gotten. It’s a very good, if not perfect, adaptation.

I’d also like to plug the book. It's a perfect blend of pretentious literary fiction and pulp. After Middlemarch (I'm only a third of the way through, but I'm calling it) and Wise Children, and maybe Generation Loss, it's the best novel I read for the first time this year).

Highly recommended.

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