Talking Movies: Judy, Dolemite Is My Name and Deep End

Spling reviews Judy, Dolemite Is My Name and Deep End as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.

TRANSCRIPT

Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…

This week, we’re talking about two Hollywood biopics and a local surf romance drama.

Starting off with a film now on circuit…

JUDY

Legendary performer Judy Garland arrives in London in the winter of 1968 to perform a series of sold-out concerts.

Director: Rupert Goold

Stars: Renée Zellweger, Jessie Buckley and Finn Wittrock

– focusing on her residency at a UK theatre, much like Stan & Ollie, this biographical character portrait explores the actress and singer’s later life and career
– in some ways a haunting echo of her most famous song, Over the Rainbow, flashbacks reveal some of her early trials as an actress
– while these moments certainly shaped her career, they have a universality to them as many actresses will be able to attest to, even now
– struggling to get her act together quite literally, the bittersweet biopic is haunting and has a melancholy to it
– while it makes a fascinating overview and retrospective, it really is Renée Zellweger’s transformative performance that carries the day
– through carefully calibrated make-up, styling and wardrobe she is able to embody Garland’s character wholeheartedly
– almost unrecognisable, the mannerisms, speech pattern and even singing make it easy to see why she won a Golden Globe and could easily see her way to an Oscar
– authentic mis-en-scene transports you to the era while Zellweger’s immersive performance is captivating
– unfortunately, the cinematic experience is somewhat frustrating owing to its specific areas of brilliance
– while the lead performance is quite spectacular and the production design is manicured, it’s surprisingly sluggish and even dull at times
– mirroring Jackie, the Jackie Kennedy biopic with Natalie Portman, the quality of the ingredients don’t add up to the promise of the trailer

A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer
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Moving on to a film now streaming on Netflix…

DOLEMITE IS MY NAME

Rudy Ray Moore surprises everyone as with his hilarious, obscene, kung-fu fighting alter ego, Dolemite.

Director: Craig Brewer

Stars: Eddie Murphy, Keegan-Michael Key and Wesley Snipes

– While Netflix has had a middling effect with many low-budget film releases, it’s afforded some filmmakers the opportunity to be niche and self-indulgent
– this has enabled the likes of Roma and more recently Dolemite Is My Name, a biopic starring none other than Eddie Murphy as Rudy Ray Moore
– perfectly cast as the blaxploitation cult figure, he delivers a performance that plays to his wheelhouse
– full of energy, attitude and infectious charm, he brings much of his trademark flair to a role that’s difficult to imagine anyone else playing
– dressing like a pimp, regarded as the Godfather of Rap and cursing as if his life depended on it, it’s easy to see how this film isn’t for everyone
– much like the central figure himself, he developed a cult appeal through his specific brand of stand-up comedy, transitioning to film
– similar to A Futile and Stupid Gesture, the National Lampoon origin story, it’s a wild ride through a very specific time in pop culture
– unpacking a legacy and exploring Moore’s far-reaching influence, both films have a self-deprecating swagger, irreverence and wink-wink charm
– brandishing a choice selection of expletives, knowingly offensive and revelling in lowbrow entertainment quite purposefully, it’s good to go in forewarned
– a pottymouthed sendup of the age in which it was unleashed, the movie within a movie angle does have a playful appeal and satirical edge
– it’s probably too edgy for most, but makes a fitting, well-acted, larger-than-life and even hilarious biopic if you can handle it

A solid 7 on the splingometer!
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And finally, a local film now streaming on Showmax…

DEEP END

Sunitha aspires for what is not expected of her. She has to dig deep with a new resolve and confidence to overcome familiar cliches and introduce new lifestyle choices in a traditional community.

Director: Eubulus Timothy

Stars: Greg Kriek, Suraya Santos and Carishma Basday

– This local sports romance drama is set on Durban’s picturesque Golden Mile beachfront
– essentially a blend of Bend it like Beckham and Blue Crush, the film grapples with tradition, family, love and self-determination
– journeying with a young Indian girl who decides to pick up surfing, the multifaceted story has appeal as it cuts through a cross-section of rich themes
– unfortunately, while touching on a number of interpersonal conflicts, it ironically remains quite superficial, lacking the necessary character focus and nuance to sell the drama
– the seaside romance has potential, yet it feels like there are too many competing strands to the scattershot story
– the pacing is fleeting, never quite settling into each scene, keeping things upbeat but lightweight
– while promising and featuring a beautiful cast, it’s ultimately underwhelming, trying to tick the boxes in a hurried fashion
– Deep End has a promising ensemble, features some good moments but is uneven and underdeveloped as a screenplay
– you get the impression it was meant to work as a comedy with side commentators but it’s too self-conscious and this doesn’t pan out
– the storytelling could have been more focussed, the characters could have had more weight and there could have been more finesse in the handling
– it’s not offensively bad, but feels like a shell of the movie it could have become

A flimsy 4 on the splingometer
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So just to wrap up…

JUDY… Zellweger’s brilliant performance guides this aloof, slow-moving yet beautifully-mounted and haunting biopic… A satisfactory 6!

DOLEMITE IS MY NAME… Murphy’s infectious and funny energy powers this crude, bizarre and edgy behind-the-scenes legend… A solid 7!

DEEP END… a good cast, beautiful setting and intriguing premise are undermined by a predictable and scattershot surf romance screenplay… A flimsy 4!

For more movie reviews, interviews and previous Talking Movies podcasts visit splingmovies.com.

And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!

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