Saturday 19 October 2019

Film of the week: Gloria Bell

Cert: 15A; Selected cinemas

Julianne Moore can imbue any project with a uniquely gold-plated quality
Julianne Moore can imbue any project with a uniquely gold-plated quality
Halston
Papi Chulo

Gloria (Julianne Moore) is 12 years divorced and making the most of the autumn of her years. When not at her mundane office job, she is either trying to be useful for her two adult children (Michael Cera and Caren Pistorius) while at night she embraces her passion for disco dancing in a local LA club.

One night, she locks eyes across the dance floor with Arnold (John Turturro), an adventure park owner who is finding his feet a year on from a divorce. The pair quickly hit it off and a passionate love affair ensues, but a major pothole presents itself in front of them, namely Arnold's devotion to his two useless adult daughters.

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Gloria (the 2013 film of which this is an English-language remake), along with Disobedience and Oscar-winner A Fantastic Woman, are ample evidence that Chile's Sebastian Lelio is a writer-director intent on illuminating portraiture that is mounted within a feminine frame. By re-shooting Gloria himself - following a meeting with Moore, the pair agreed to the project on the back of gushing mutual appreciation - he gets another opportunity to open a portal into the life of a character generally out-of-shot in Hollywood-land.

Like almost everything that she turns up in, Moore's presence and inhabitation of her character are so potent that it can almost feel like the rest of the film is a side-act to her. The 58-year-old is now in a highly select club of screen actors who can imbue any project with a uniquely gold-plated quality.

Elsewhere, there is much to recommend, from its softened hues and visual flair, to the aching tenderness that it treats its subject with and the wry slashes of wit, cynicism and absurdity that come through. Unfortunate things befall Gloria, but she is never painted as a pitiful figure.

Unsurprisingly, the soundtrack is littered with staples from the era of disco and soft-rock, and the film might be the most striking example since 12 Years A Slave of music's value to the ears of the beleaguered. ★★★★ Hilary A White

 

Late Night

Cert: 15A; Now showing 

From Larry Sanders to 30 Rock, the world of the late-night talk show is an often-mined source of comedy. So Nisha Ganatra and Mindy Kaling, who directed and wrote (Kaling also stars) this latest talk-show inspired offering needed to bring something new to the table. They do but they don't, and the result, while enjoyable, is not memorable.

Katherine Newbury (Emma Thompson) is an English talk show host in America. The only woman in the very white male field, she is complacent, self-important and a cow. When she is told by her boss (Amy Ryan) that this season will be her last, Newbury turns to her team of writers to up her game. In desperation she finds herself even listening to the new writer, Molly (Kaling) much to the annoyance of the long-standing all-male team.

It raises all the issues, racism, ageism, sexism, with a light touch. There are laughs and although not that convincing as a bitch, Thompson gives depth to the role and there is good support from John Lithgow, Hugh Dancy and Denis O'Hare. It's just all a bit too nice and neat to pack a punch, but it is entirely watchable. ★★★ Aine O'Connor

 

Papi Chulo

Cert: 15A; Now showing

2019-06-09_ent_50901763_I2.JPG
Papi Chulo
 

Following The Stag (2013) and Handsome Devil (2016), John Butler's first foray into filmmaking Stateside is an unassumingly complex take on the buddy film that shows the Dublin writer-director moving into tonally interesting territory.

Sean (Will & Grace's Matt Bomer) is a burnt-out weatherman whose immaculate facade is punctured during an on-air meltdown. He attends to DIY while recuperating at home and ends up hiring Ernesto (Alejandro Patino). But Sean's loneliness corrupts the transaction, and he begins to utilise Ernesto for companionship as a recent trauma quakes. Things come to a head.

Look behind the sunny facade and themes of exploitation and a divided society materialise, and it is these shady borders that mark Papi Chulo out for distinction. Bomer and Patino establish a chemistry all of their own. ★★★★ Hilary A White

 

X-Men: Dark Phoenix

Cert: 12A; Now showing

If you doubted the X-Men franchise's feminist credentials, just look at the conviction of Raven (Jennifer Lawrence) as she calls for the team to be renamed 'X-Women' as the female heroes keep saving their male colleagues from peril. Take that, patriarchy!

It's one of many lame moments in this dull Marvel series that has been entirely left behind and shown up for all its inadequacy by the runaway success of Disney's infinitely more inventive Marvel Cinematic Universe.

While rescuing astronauts, Jean Grey (Sophie Turner) is exposed to a mysterious galactic smog that zaps inside her and brings about cosmic powers on a vast scale. Mixed with abandonment issues and hormonal angst, our heroes have quite a loose canon on their hands.

Writer-director Simon Kinberg doles out all the usual X-Men-isms - Prof X (James McAvoy) pleading for clemency, Michael Fassbender's gurning baddie Magneto, a CGI climax of inane bish-bash-bosh - but is unable to conjure up the promised darkness of the title. Even Jessica Chastain's icy alien nasty can't stir up intrigue, which is when you know things are bad. ★★ Hilary A White

 

Halston

Club Cert; Now showing IFI

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Halston
 

The first I heard of Halston was a line in the Sister Sledge song, He's The Greatest Dancer. It was a mark of how well-known the American designer had become since creating the famous pillbox hat that Jackie Kennedy wore for her husband's inauguration.

Following his documentaries on Dior and Diana Vreeland, Frederic Tcheng continues his fashion exploration with this typically well-researched piece. It is as much about business as fashion, because Halston's designs were exquisite but his self-promotion was also skilled. We're used to it now, but it was new in the 1980s. However, it was also an early example of large companies eating small ones, the beginning of so much power lying in so few hands. I didn't feel I got a big sense of Halston the man, but the overview of his work, and the time, is beautiful and interesting. ★★★★ Aine O'Connor

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