Spling reviews Jojo Rabbit, Uncut Gems and Vice as broadcast on Talking Movies, Fine Music Radio. Listen to podcast.
Good morning – welcome to Talking Movies, I’m Spling…
This week, we’re talking about a World War II comedy, a gritty thriller and an edgy political satire.
Starting off with a film now on circuit…
A young boy in Hitler’s army finds out his mother is hiding a Jewish girl in their home.
Director: Taika Waititi
Stars: Roman Griffin Davis, Thomasin McKenzie and Scarlett Johansson
– Often compared with Life is Beautiful, Jojo Rabbit harnesses a counter-intuitive levity in its comedic treatment of Nazi Germany during World War II
– the war comedy drama also has similarities with Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom, representing a boy scout’s naive world with a playful sense of humour
– the adaptation may be criticised for making light of and trivialising the inherent racism and complict evil of the Third Reich, yet Jojo Rabbit isn’t trying to be an overarching reinterpretation but rather a focused character study of the dismantling of a brainwashed innocent
– taken from the perspective of a 10-year-old German boy, it’s clearly not aiming for documentary authenticity as we uncover a quirky wool-over-the-eyes version of the war in its latter stages
– casting a mostly comedic ensemble and taking on the tricky role of an imaginary Adolf Hitler himself, Waititi aims for madcap laughs with his incisive yet equally ridiculous take
– going way over the top with fairytale prejudice makes it easier to accept the comedy angle on the darkest days in human history
– filled with great character actors who truly shine with candid and campy swagger, the real focus is on the boy and his suspicions around his unlikely friendship with a Jewish girl
– through excellent performances from Davis, McKenzie, Rockwell and Johansson, the filmmaker’s able to carry the awkward comedy tone without losing the emotional undercurrent
– terrific performances, firm direction and brilliant writing make this a hilarious, haunting and razor-sharp piece of entertainment that will provoke thought and surprise audiences
An excellent 8 on the splingometer
Moving on to a film now streaming on Netflix…
A charismatic New York City jeweler risks everything in a high stakes bet that could spell the windfall of a lifetime.
Directors: Benny Safdie, Josh Safdie
Stars: Adam Sandler, Julia Fox and Eric Bogosian
– the Safdie brothers have a knack for peeling away the layers of typecast actors with their original, relentless and gritty indie-style filmmaking
– what they did for Robert Pattinson in Good Time is what they manage to achieve for Adam Sandler, giving him a platform to flex is dramatic acting muscle in an role that seemed written with him in mind
– we get right into the nitty-gritty of the jeweller’s predicament, venturing into his tense, stressful and high-stakes world as he tries to flog a precious stone
– trying to upsell celebrities, sporting icons, wheeling-and-dealing with pawnbrokers and staying one step ahead of merciless gangbangers, Uncut Gems is a perpetual pressure cooker man-on-the-run thriller
– using retro music, embracing a magpie appetite for all that shines and immersing us in the cutthroat lifestyle of a man gambling with almost every department of his life, it’s a high-risk high-return meltdown
– thanks to brilliant casting, most of the performances come across as a natural overflow as if plucked from the very inner city streets the film takes place on, adding realism and sense of dirty urgency
– the mesmerising visuals are often at odds with the grittiness giving Uncut Gems a sense of texture and style, employing a duality in which it’s garrishness has its own kind of finesse
– gripping, unsettling and full of spirit, it’s a strange brew, leveraging its sleazy undercurrent in a wonderfully compelling tale from the New York underground
– peppered with bad language and violence, it’s definitely not for sensitive viewers but is wholly original and surprisingly engaging with a steady stream of rich storytelling and creative film-making
An excellent 8 on the splingometer!
And finally a film now on rental…
The story of Dick Cheney, an unassuming bureaucratic Washington insider whose political career had a global impact.
Writer-Director: Adam McKay
Stars: Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Steve Carell
– Dick Cheney is a name that many will know, possibly owing to his unusual hunting accident
– while the man certainly carried an aura of comedy not unlike Chevy Chase, his legacy is anything but funny as evidenced by this satirical political biopic
– Adam McKay is probably best known for directing Anchorman, taking a much more serious subject with an edgier comedic slant and a more serious agenda in Vice
– detailing Cheney’s rise to power, political prowess, power plays and cutthroat diplomacy, it’s a fascinating behind-the-scenes tour of a man who spent most of his life as a second-in-command
– while the role of Vice-President would ordinarily be regarded as redundant or honorary, he used his office and sway to effect decisions and influence policies to get his way
– featuring an unrecognisable turn from Christian Bale who seems to shred every aspect of his persona and trademark performance style, it’s quite fascinating to see him in action
– moving at a clipped pace the editing is quite frenetic at times giving it a fairly choppy and discordant feel not unlike the business of news channels
– the political insinuations, gloves-off mentality and candid approach to covering the politician’s life story is quite damning and even sobering when you contemplate the influence the man wielded and the global repercussions still felt today
A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer
So just to wrap up…
JOJO RABBIT… a razorsharp screenplay, charming performances and inspired direction compel this hilarious and haunting war comedy drama… An excellent 8!
UNCUT GEMS… a surprisingly strong performance from Sandler underpins this original, gritty, urgent and unsettling thriller… An excellent 8!
VICE… frenetic pacing and editing undermine strong performances in this edgy polticial chronicle and satire …a satisfactory 6!
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