Thursday 17 August 2017

Review - Snatched: intentionally ridiculous and funny in places

Cert: 15A; Now showing

Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer take to the road in 'Snatched'
Goldie Hawn and Amy Schumer take to the road in 'Snatched'

Unless they're actually falling for each other during filming, real-life couples can make rather lacklustre on-screen couples. Something similar seems to apply to friendship, for apparently Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn became firm friends during Snatched, but their on-screen bonding is not great.

However, the film - which, from the trailer and the gals' Graham Norton Show appearance, I feared might be terrible - is not bad at all. Although not all of the jokes land, it is far from being an embarrassing failure and there are some very good lines and scenes. Also, I do like Schumer and admire her unselfconscious commitment to the joke. 

Schumer did not write this, but Katie (Ghostbusters) Dippold who did, is known to collaborate with her actors and the great opening scene is very Schumeresque, as her character Emily Middleton plans a trip to Ecuador with her boyfriend. The next scene, also good, is her getting dumped.

The result is that Emily and her adventure-averse mother Linda (Hawn) go on the trip together. Linda would rather hang with two fellow fear merchants (Joan Cusack and Wanda Sykes) but handsome James (Tom Bateman) persuades Emily to take Linda on a sightseeing trip that ends in the disaster everyone but Emily foresaw.

They spend the rest of the film trying to get through the Amazon, with the dubious long-distance help of brother-son Klingon-speaking, agoraphobic, nowhere-near-as-funny-as-he-should-have-been, Jeffrey (Ike Barinholtz). It would have helped if, in her first film in 15 years, Goldie had been a bit less determinedly likeable. However, overall it's short, intentionally ridiculous and funny in places. Not hilarious. ★★★ Aine O'Connor

Inversion

Cert: Club; Now showing

The title of this Iranian film refers to a meteorological effect, thermal inversion, caused by pollution. Tehran's poor air quality is a defining issue and a metaphor for the oppression of women in Behnam Behzadi's understated but effective film.

Niloofar (Sahar Dolatshahi) is a very attractive, unmarried thirtysomething, youngest child of an elderly mother (Shirin Yazdanbakhsh).

Because she has no husband and children, Niloofar lives with and cares for her mother. The poor air quality sees the already ailing older woman hospitalised, the recommendation after which is that she must move away from Tehran, and that Niloofar must go too.

Niloofar, however, has her own business and, although her family don't know it yet, a burgeoning romance. The notion that she might have her own life is totally subjugated to the fact that she is unmarried - her older sister and brother, who are married, feel thus empowered to make decisions on her behalf. Their mother is far more understanding but decisions, with ulterior motives, are made and implemented without consideration for either woman's wishes.

Niloofar stands up for herself, taking a broader look at people who make assumptions about what is right for her. She comes to her own decision in an ending that might feel wishy-washy, but as well as being about women's rights, and smog, this is a film about the importance of choice and respect. It is, in ways, like a short, Iranian fable. ★★★ Aine O'Connor

I Am Not Madame Bovary

Cert: Club; IFI May 26

The Chinese version of Madame Bovary is Pan Jinlian. The title of Feng Xiaogang's film is certainly accurate, our heroine Lian (Fan Bingbing) is more Don Quixote than poster girl for perfidious femininity, but an accusation that she is like Pan Jinlian is the motivation for most of the film. Filled with Chinese stars, this is a long, slow burning, often funny, modern fable.

Lian and her husband Qin (Li Zonghan) staged a divorce in order to get a property reserved for single people. The plan was to remarry after six months. However, Qin married someone else and we meet Lian angry and seeking recognition of his treachery from a local court. She has no success but decides she will stop her quest only if Qin will admit his wrongdoing. Instead, he calls her Pan Jinlian and Lian's cause is refuelled. Despite endless dismissals, this solitary peasant woman takes her claim to Beijing, becoming a major source of angst to petty and not-so-petty officials, all of whom try to diminish her on the basis of gender and class. It is not Lian who comes out looking foolish. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor

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