Movie reviews: Game Night (4 stars), A Fantastic Woman (5 stars), The Ice King (4 stars)
Paul Whitington reviews this week's other big releases: Game Night, A Fantastic Woman, and The Ice King
Game Night (15A, 100mins) - 4 stars
Studio comedies have been so bad for so long that when a halfway decent one comes along, we critics tend to get overexcited. But Game Night is a little better than decent, and handles its commendably silly premise with real skill and charm.
Jason Bateman and Rachel McAdams are Max and Annie, a married couple who bonded over their love of table quizzes and charades. They love winning and every week meet up with a group of friends for game night.
Max's biggest competition has always been his elder brother, Brooks (Kyle Chandler), a high-flying international investor who swaggers into town and decides he will throw the next game night. Max is deflated when he turns up at his brother's imposing glass-fronted McMansion and finds out what's in store. For Brooks has arranged a kind of murder mystery evening, in which actors will play cops and villains, and the players must solve an imaginary crime.
When the hoodlums arrive, however, they seem frighteningly real, and Max and Annie soon begin to suspect that the felony under way might just be real. Bateman is a peerless po-faced straight man and pulls splendidly eloquent faces as this fare unfolds, while Rachel McAdams displays a rarely used flair for silliness: the scene where they try to extract a bullet from Max's arm without throwing up is priceless. They're abetted by a fine supporting cast and Sharon Horgan is wonderful playing a game night débutante who has more common sense than the rest of them put together.
Read Chris Wasser's review here: Game Night movie review: 'Full of twists and comes with some genuinely comical one-liners'
A Fantastic Woman (No Cert, 104mins) - 5 stars
I loved Chilean director Sebastian Lelio's last film, Gloria, the story of a respectable middle-aged woman who refuses to behave as she's expected to, but A Fantastic Woman is even better.
Marina (Daniela Vega) is a Santiago waitress and aspiring singer who's dating Orlando (Francisco Reyes), a kindly man 30 years her senior. They're deeply in love and planning their future together when Orlando has an aneurysm and dies. Consumed by grief, Marina is trying to get her head around this loss when the police turn up and treat her with contempt and suspicion.
Marina is transgender and although the investigating officer insists she's on her side, she really isn't. Things get worse when Orlando's ex-wife, Sonya, and son Bruno turn up. "I don't know what I'm seeing," Sonya says, while Bruno exclaims, "I don't know what you are." Marina will be a handy scapegoat for Orlando's passing and Bruno's hatred soon turns to violence.
Emotional, poetic, intensely moving, A Fantastic Woman is beautifully directed and photographed, has Hitchcockian undertones and finds memorable ways of visually evoking Marina's isolation and bravery. Lelio's film is on the shortlist for the Best Foreign Language Oscar - it ought to be a shoe-in.
The Ice King (No Cert, IFI, 89mins) - 4 stars
The name John Curry won't mean much to anyone under 40, but in the 1970s he revolutionised ice-skating with a sublime infusion of artistry and balletic grace. He became a hero in Britain after winning a gold medal at the Winter Olympics in 1976, but was subsequently pilloried in the media after casually and almost accidentally admitting he was gay.
This made him a hero to many and Curry would later fulfil his dream of creating an ice-skating company that performed stage shows around the world. But he struggled with depression, had a ruthless perfectionist streak that made him hard to live with and was unlucky to come of age just before the advent of Aids.
John Erskine's absorbing documentary The Ice King explores Curry's short but hectic life using archive footage and interviews. His grace on the ice still makes one gasp, but he only took to it because his father wouldn't allow him do ballet, which was 'unmanly'. His creativity would not be thwarted.