Sunday 25 August 2019

Movie reviews: The Florida Project, Professor Marsden and The Wonder Women, No Stone Unturned

The Florida Project *****

Professor Marsden and The Wonder Women ***

N o Stone Unturned ***

Good Will: Willem Defoe is brilliant in The Florida Project
Good Will: Willem Defoe is brilliant in The Florida Project
Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

I thought Tangerine, Sean Baker's low-budget 2015 film charting the adventures of an LA transgender prostitute, was a work of near genius. He's done even better with The Florida Project, a grimly poetic drama set in one of America's so-called welfare hotels that huddles in the shade of a Disney resort. Six-year-old girl Moonee (Brooklynn Prince) and her friends run wild through the corridors of an old motel run with quiet competence by its long-suffering manager, Bobby (a brilliant Willem Dafoe).

Moonee and her little gang laugh, curse and rain spit on parked cars. They know no better and are unaware they're part of a forgotten American underclass. Moonee's mother, Halley (Bria Vinaite), an unemployed stripper, must find a new way of paying the rent and poor Moonee's precarious little world is about to come tumbling in on top of her.

The Florida Project is not a sentimental film and never fetishises its protagonists' poverty. It's oddly beautiful though, lingering over the sun-dappled highlights of a childhood that's about to go bad. A brilliant climax juxtaposes the real lives of America's poor with the shimmering towers of Disney World, a make-believe land where children are cherished, not neglected and despised.

Professor Marsden And The Wonder Women (16, 108 mins)

"On Paradise Island, we play many binding games," Wonder Woman told a lassoed captive in an early edition of the 1940s comic. Those initial episodes had kinky undertones and were based on a very complex private life. Professor Marston And The Wonder Women tells that story, and what a tale it is.

William Moulton Marston (Luke Evans) was a distinguished Harvard psychology professor with a deep interest in the impulses towards domination and submission he believed underlay all human affairs. His wife, Elizabeth Holloway Marston (Rebecca Hall), was equally clever, but her academic advancement was blocked because of her gender.

They are happily enough married, but the professor has a wandering eye and when his gaze falls on a beautiful student called Olive (Bella Heathcote), she fears she may be about to lose him. But William, the generous soul, wants both of them: Olive and Elizabeth are attracted to each other as well as him, and so a menage-a-trois seems the obvious solution. Not so obvious in 1920s America, where a dim view was taken of this extended Marston household. William lost his job and was inspired by his love of both women to combine them into a perfect one, a warrior princess who became the star of the bestselling comic book.

But when the professor's enthusiasm for bondage leaked into his work, he and his women became pariahs.

All very interesting, no doubt, but this film tells its story in stilted fits and starts, and is oddly tasteful and decorous in its treatment of what one presumes was a human triangle born of deep passion.

No Stone Unturned (15A, 111 mins)

On the night of June 18, 1994, in Loughinisland, Co Down, a group of men were watching the Republic of Ireland face Italy in the World Cup when UVF gunmen burst into O'Toole's Bar and opened fire, killing six and injuring five. As families of the victims explain in Alex Gibney's worthy but problematic documentary, Loughinisland had been unaffected by the Troubles to that late point.

Gibney's film honours the persistence of those families who have campaigned with great dignity for over two decades to see justice done. The resulting RUC investigation was either incompetent or wilfully obtuse and No Stone Unturned airs the widely believed view that the killers were protected because of their connections to law enforcement.

The film even names the probable killers, but a good deal of the information it reveals is already in the public domain and its grasp of the wider northern conflict seems shaky at times.

Irish Independent

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