Spling reviews The Mystery of Marilyn Monroe: The Unheard Tapes, Hearts and Bones and An American Pickle 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 celebrity documentary, a coming-of-age psychodrama and a comedy drama.
Starting off with a documentary now on Netflix…
THE MYSTERY OF MARILYN MONROE: THE UNHEARD TAPES
This documentary explores the mystery surrounding the death of movie icon Marilyn Monroe.
Director: Emma Cooper
– Marilyn Monroe was the quintessential it-girl of Hollywood, whose film star looks, magnetism and evanescent aura made her a sex symbol and celebrity alluring to both men and women.
– The Unheard Tapes comes to us from author, Tony Summers, who formed something of an obsession around Monroe culminating in the biography, Goddess.
– Summers interviewed many of Monroe’s inner circle in an attempt to extract the essence of the star who was whisked away to soon, and partly to re-examine the incongruities around her passing.
– Using stock footage of Hollywood, reenactments of phone conversations, photographs and recordings of Monroe, we piece together the zeitgeist of the age as well as her substantial media following and overwhelming popularity.
– This documentary is truly eye-opening for those unfamiliar with Monroe’s childhood, behind-the-scenes romance with the Kennedys and untimely passing.
– The film brings her career to life, attempts to comprehend her allure and enigma and conjures up an atmospheric, haunting and elegant tribute to an actor who was only starting to spread her wings.
– An intriguing, mysterious celebrity profile, the audiotapes make for a nostalgic throwback, hearing from insiders, private detectives and Hollywood directors who collaborated with Monroe such as Billie Wilder and John Huston.
– It’s a little distracting having actors lip sync the words but does add to the mystique and thin veil of illusion over Tinseltown.
– While the evidence is purely based on testimony, it offers fresh insights on Hollywood and politics in the ’50s and early ’60s making this chronicle’s scattershot examination of Monroe’s life story a strength and weakness.
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
Moving on to a film now on Showmax…
HEARTS AND BONES
A taxi driver appeals to a war photographer to exclude photographs of a massacre in his home village when he learns of his upcoming exhibition.
Director: Ben Lawrence
Stars: Hugo Weaving, Andrew Luri and Hayley McElhinney
– Weaving is best known for playing Agent Smith in The Matrix and Elron in Lord of the Rings, using his unique features to tap into otherworldly and fantasy dimensions, yet his international status helps him secure some of his best work back home in Australia.
– The country may not have the best reputation for welcoming immigrants or refugees, which makes Hearts and Bones even more powerful in its sociopolitical commentary.
– Grappling with the PTSD experienced by a war zone photographer and a taxi driver whose paths cross, the themes move from what is sacred to deeper issues affecting those dislocated by atrocities.
– It’s a strong match for Weaving, who tries to overcome the news that he may be a father as he navigates the challenges experienced by a man also coming to terms with his dark past.
– Loosely reminiscent of The Bang Bang Club, the story comes to focus on the immigrant experience whilst touching on the nature of journalistic photography.
– While it seems like a straightforward cross-cultural drama, the film cleverly builds suspense with several twists, maintaining a slow boiling psychological pressure cooker environment.
– There’s plenty of intense drama, but this is tempered by lighter and more optimistic moments surrounding the promise of new life and a community choir.
– Hearts and Bones works best when Weaving and Luri are on the seesaw, making some powerful statements in a textured, thoughtful and timely drama.
A solid 7 on the splingometer!
And finally a movie on Showmax…
AN AMERICAN PICKLE
An immigrant worker at a pickle factory is accidentally preserved for 100 years and wakes up in modern-day Brooklyn.
Director: Brandon Trost
Stars: Seth Rogen, Sarah Snook and Seth Rogen
– An American Pickle is the kind of vehicle you would usually expect the star Sacha Baron Cohen, an outlandish fish-out-of-water comedy and timely spoof of the modern age.
– Seth Rogen is not out of place in this fun jaunt, playing two characters and often sharing a scene with himself, yet its much more gentle than we’ve come to expect from the stoner comedy regular.
– It’s quite refreshing for Rogen to be restrained, but unfortunately this impacts the overall effect, trading outrageous humour for ambling amusement.
– An American Pickle doesn’t shy away from edgy comedy, leveraging old world culture and values to lampoon today’s insular society and ridicule archaic outlooks.
– While time travel or accidental “pickling” comes into play, it’s a story device and set up not unlike California Man’s take on a cryogenically-preserved early man.
– What’s most impressive about An American Pickle is its agility when it comes to housing two of Rogen’s performances on screen simultaneously.
– Keeping one foot on the ground, it’s a far cry from the multi-character comedy paradigms of Mike Myers who is best known for Austin Powers.
– This is an entertaining and fun satirical comedy that pokes fun at the here and now with a gentle political undercurrent around the toil and history of the United States.
– It’s only crime is that it’s middling, not as provocative as Borat or as sharp-witted as 50/50, coming to land in the breezy terrain of The Guilt Trip and Long Shot.
A satisfactory 6 on the splingometer!
So just to wrap up…
THE MYSTERY OF MARILYN MONROE: THE UNHEARD TAPES… while a bit elusive, this documentary is a haunting, iconic and smoldering celebrity chronicle of the intersection between old and new Hollywood… A solid 7!
HEARTS AND BONES… fine co-lead performances bolster important themes in this powerful, suspenseful and timely coming-of-age psychological drama… A solid 7!
AN AMERICAN PICKLE… a lightly amusing and fun fish-out-of-water comedy drama with an intriguing old versus new match up… A satisfactory 6!
For more movie reviews and previous Talking Movies podcasts visit splingmovies.com.
And remember, Don’t WING it, SPL!NG it!