Spling reviews Hillbilly Elegy, The Invisible Man and Red Joan 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 coming-of-age drama, a sci-fi horror thriller and an espionage romance drama.
Starting off with a film on Netflix…
A Yale law student drawn back to his hometown grapples with family history, Appalachian values and the American dream.
Director: Ron Howard
Stars: Amy Adams, Glenn Close and Owen Asztalos
– Ron Howard is one of Hollywood’s most underrated directors, whose adaptation of a memoir about a young man’s growing pains comes at a contentious time for American politics.
– Hillbilly Elegy is a blend of Boyhood, The Glass Castle and Stronger…
– Boyhood comes through in the slice-of-life drama, The Glass Castle’s dysfunction and rambling spirit shines through while Stronger is experienced in the perseverance and triumph of adversity in spite of a rough upbringing.
– Hillbilly Elegy isn’t appealing from the outset but Howard’s brilliant storytelling connects you to its universal message about self-determination, accepting responsibility for oneself and keeping focus in spite of difficult circumstances.
– Immersing us in the world of a man from an impoverished community in Kentucky, Howard offers a great deal of empathy subverting the typically derogatory take on the rust belt for a more respectable and humane slant.
– The drama dips into melodrama from time to time yet is compelled by excellent performances all-round.
– Close makes another great argument as to why she deserves a golden statuette, Adams is almost unrecognisable as a cautionary tale and young Asztalos deserves special recognition for a well-balanced and compelling turn.
– Violence, coarse language, drug use and dysfunction are frequent in Hillbilly Elegy, which doesn’t shy away from representing many of the social issues these people endure.
– While it could have become a political pawn, Howard is more interested in the story’s universal message of hope and connecting this with greater social concerns.
– There’s a simplicity to the film-making, but it’s elegantly crafted, mesmerisingly edited and has a fluidity to the flashbacks.
– It could be accused of being “Oscar bait” but it’s an emotive, inspiring, beautifully crafted and well-acted melodrama.
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
Moving on to a movie now on Showmax…
THE INVISIBLE MAN
A woman works to prove that she is being hunted by her deceased husband.
Writer-Director: Leigh Whannell
Stars: Elisabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Harriet Dyer
– The idea of an invisible man seems like it could only play to comedy or horror, a concept that can easily find unintentional laughs if not handled with care.
– The Invisible Man is a great example of a horror, blending a substantial soundtrack with pristine visuals and a strong lead performance.
– Grappling with the idea of unhealthy relationships, abuse and toxicity, this film explores these timely themes through the medium of horror.
– It Follows created a smart, cool and sleek visual aesthetic and original soundtrack that has been an inspiration.
– You can see some of its influence at play in The Invisible Man, which toys with the idea of relentless pursuit and slow-creeping near-invisible forces.
– Cleverly using the idea of invisibility, the filmmakers have used visual effects conversely to create suspense.
– Sparsely scripted, creating the illusion of minimal visual effects and crafting an eerie atmosphere through empty yet beautiful visuals, The Invisible Man is both artful and entertaining.
– Elisabeth Moss is the glue that holds everything together, portraying a fearful, fragile yet resilient woman through a convincing and determined performance.
– Immersive sound, striking visuals and many clever sequences make this a gripping, suspenseful and enjoyable film.
– Using the element of surprise it keeps you off-balance and is quite dexterous in the way it handles the psychological drama.
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
And finally another film streaming on Showmax…
The story of Joan Stanley, who was exposed as the K.G.B.’s longest-serving British spy.
Director: Trevor Nunn
Stars: Judi Dench, Sophie Cookson and Stephen Campbell Moore
– Dame Judi Dench is a national treasure, which is what gives Red Joan a curious slant in her playing a traitor.
– While it eventually becomes a clever casting decision, being primed as the lead makes you feel somewhat cheated as an audience.
– Predominantly involved in an interrogation scene, Red Joan uses flashbacks extensively to tell the story of how Joan became involved with the KGB disseminating secrets at a time when nuclear war seemed imminent.
– Playing like an espionage romance, the drama settles into her university studies and relationships as she became more integral in the behind-the-scenes research.
– Offering some subtle commentary on gender politics and justice over the passage of time, this is a finely-crafted and elegant film.
– It’s biggest problem is that it’s a bit too safe, struggling to ratchet up the suspense and the stakes.
– This can be attributed to the fact that we know the outcome already, yet one doesn’t truly feel the weight and severity of Joan’s predicament, which seems rather innocuous.
– Perhaps having a slow-creeping investigation leading to Joan’s eventual arrest would have offered more excitement than a flat-footed interrogation.
– Still, it’s compelled by solid performances and fine production values, resulting in an entertaining and mostly satisfying film experience.
A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!
So just to wrap up…
HILLBILLY ELEGY… strong performances and deft storytelling anchor this emotional and inspiring slice-of-life memoir… A solid 7!
THE INVISIBLE MAN… an excellent lead performance, immersive soundtrack and elegant visuals compel this sleek psychological sci-fi horror thriller… A solid 7!
RED JOAN… solid performances and a curious true story underpin this finely-crafted and entertaining yet safe espionage romance drama… A satisfactory 6!
For more movie reviews, previous Talking Movies podcasts and upcoming Bingeing with Spling watch parties visit splingmovies.com.
And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!