Movies: The Sense of an Ending, Beauty and the Beast and Personal Shopper

 

The Sense of an Ending

The Sense of an Ending has many of my favorite British actors.  Jim Broadbent stars as Tony Webster a divorced retiree who lives a quiet existence.  He is on good terms with his ex-wife (Harriet Walter) and his daughter played by Michelle Dockery but there are hints that he hasn’t always been a great guy. Tony receives a letter saying that something has been left to him by the mother of a girlfriend from his youth.  We see flashbacks to his former girlfriend Veronica and her brother and mother as we start to see the story of his life being pieced together.

It turns out that the thing that he was left, is a diary of a fellow student who dated Veronica and committed suicide shortly thereafter.  Tony goes in pursuit of what is rightfully his but comes up against a stalwart Veronica, played by Charlotte Rampling, who is not willing to give up the diary to him.  The movie kicks into high gear once Rampling is introduced and the back and forth between the past and present intensifies.

In this low-key psychological thriller, we uncover deep secrets as the dualing themes of the cruelty of youth and how our memories become unpredictable as we age, collide.  Tony has clearly altered some of his memories to blot out his questionable actions. Jim Broadbent is excellent as Tony and captures his complex personality perfectly.  Rampling is Rampling and you can’t take your eyes off her.  Dockery and Walter are also very good.  The Sense of an Ending reminds me somewhat of Atonement having some of the same themes but not quite as dark.

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast is a perfectly pleasant way to spend a couple of hours.  While Emma Watson’s singing is fine, she is clearly an Actress who can sing rather than a singer.  The same for Dan Stephans although he only has one song and that one sounds digitally altered.  Luke Evans who plays Gaston, however, has pipes and he nails his performance. Audra McDonald in a brief role delivers a stunning aria.

There are some new songs in this version of the classic but it is the old ones that you will be humming leaving the theate including Belle, Be Our Guest and Gaston.  There are also wonderful cameos by Stanley Tucci, Emma Thompson, Ewan McGregor and Ian McKellen.  This film version with live actors is in capable hands with Watson.  It is a big ask to have her star in such a blockbuster but she succeeds admirably.  You won’t be disappointed if you spend a few bucks and see this film.

Personal Shopper

I have seen most of Kristin Stewart’s performances from Twilight to Personal Shopper and I think this is my favorite performance of hers.  In my opinion,  she is even better in this one than Clouds of Sils Marie for which she won the Cesar – the French equivalent of an Oscar.  Nowhere in this performance did I see those peculiar little facial twerks that seemed to plague her for most of her career.  She is great in this film which is a good thing as the camera never leaves her.

Stewart plays Maureen Cartwright who lies in Paris and is a personal shopper for Kyra, a celebrity of some sort.  Maureen’s twin brother has recently died of a heart ailment that she too suffers from.  Both he and his sister are mediums and Maureen goes to his house to try and contact her dead brother.  They had made a pact that they would contact each other from the beyond if one died.  There are clearly paranormal creatures at work as Maureen continues to try and contact her brother.  That is the ghost story part of Shopper.

Then there is the murder mystery plotline.  Maureen starts getting texts from an unknown person (or spirit) that get progressively creepier. The texts get her to  go to Kyra’s apartment and try on her clothes in an erotic sequence.  Later, Maureen returns to the apartment to find that Kyra has been murdered.  Stewart is mesmerizing in this very weird (but good weird) film that has been seen by about fifteen people in the USA.  It isn’t playing in very many places but I highly recommend it.

 

Movies: Our Bridget returns

Bridget Jones’s Baby 

For those of a certain age, this return to Bridget Jone’s struggle to find love and a career in her thirties/forties is a fun-filled two hours and a nice way to complete the journey, which began in “Bridget Jones’s Diary”. It is hard to believe that 15 years have passed since we met this quirky, overweight British girl with no talent for public speaking (and of course there was an opportunity for her to attempt a speech or two again in this sequel) and on a constant quest for love. While I am a huge fan of the original movie, the second film in the series (“Bridget Jones: the Edge of Reason”) was one of the duds of this century so it was with some trepidation that I returned to view this closing chapter in the Bridget Jones story. I say closing because the movie ended like it is going to be the last and even if another book was to be written, I can’t see these actors joining up again

I love all the depressing foreign and independent movies that are my normal fare but amidst all of them, it is great to see an old fashioned Rom Com. The film is an homage as well as a farewell to our Bridget and while many of the jokes were a bit tired, the audience was howling out loud throughout much of the movie. Renee Zellwelger has this character down pat. Her comedic timing is excellent. Colin Firth is Colin Firth and he is charming. While I loved Patrick Dempsey on Grey’s Anatomy, he seems to be somewhat of a lightweight in this film and not at the level of the other actors or Hugh Grant who he basically replaced. His character was fairly mushy as well which probably says more about the writers. Emma Thompson was a brilliant addition and every line and facial expression perfect. While I missed Bridget’s trio of best friends who were relegated to the background in this film, a couple of new additions were great. Sarah Solemani as her news anchor was wonderful as was the make-up artist Joanna Scanlan.   I didn’t get enough of the extraordinary Jim Broadbent but one can’t have everything – at least he will be on next season’s Game of Thrones!

For the millennial, this Bridget Jones’s film is going to look tired and silly compared to some of the brilliant offerings on TV about similar 30 something characters trying to make their way through life and love (see Catastrophe for example).   And I’d add that if you didn’t see the original Bridget Jones, I’d skip this new one as I don’t think you’ll have the love for this character to carry you through some of the movie. For the rest of us, it was great and Bridget can now be retired.