Petite Maman

Posted in Drama, Fantasy, Foreign with tags on April 21, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Céline Sciamma’s follow-up to Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a wistful ode to childhood. Petite Maman — which means “little mother ” — tells the story of an 8-year-old girl who has just lost her beloved grandmother (Margo Abascal). Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) joins her parents (Nina Meurisse and Stéphane Varupenne) in the painful endeavor of cleaning out her mother’s childhood home in the countryside. Mom is deeply disturbed by the process and leaves that night without saying goodbye. The next morning Nelly goes off to play in the forest and happens upon another girl her own age. The stranger’s name is Marion (Gabrielle Sanz) and she’s building a fort made of branches in the woods.

The less said about the narrative the better. Many reviews have spoiled the central conceit of the film. That’s a shame because the mystery is one of the film’s greatest charms. What exactly this meditative reflection is trying to say is ambiguous and open to interpretation. Nothing is explained. The bonds of family, specifically between mothers and daughters, is certainly a theme. Director Sciamma has cited Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki as an influence. A French movie told from the naive perspective of a child also recalls René Clément’s 1952 masterpiece Forbidden Games.

The story is slight and it unfolds at a languid pace. Whether Sciamma’s vague meditation approaches the depth of its influences is open for discussion. Your mileage may vary. Nevertheless, the bewitching yarn does manage to captivate in a mere 72 minutes. That’s saying something these days when films double this length routinely do not. It is in the quiet moments of solitude that the atmosphere can resonate as intensely as pages of dialogue. Sometimes the most profound ideas aren’t overtly expressed but rather felt with the heart. The otherworldly fantasy mines the evocative mood of a fairy tale. A tender devotion to the characters shines through, elevating the fable with warmth and poignancy.

Petite Maman opens in select US theaters on April 22 and goes wider on April 29.

01-22-22

Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore

Posted in Adventure, Family, Fantasy, Science Fiction with tags on April 18, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

So if you’ve completely divested from the Wizarding World, you have my respect. Nevertheless, you’ll need a primer for this review. The Secrets of Dumbledore is part three of the Fantastic Beasts franchise, which is a spin-off/prequel to the Harry Potter movies. If you’ve seen the other two, it remains a convoluted saga that requires a lot of work to keep track of what’s going on. That’s a warning if you’re not a dedicated fan of this stuff. You must see the other entries first to understand this one. Or better yet, skip all three entirely and watch a satisfying fantasy. Anyway, the positive news is that this entry improves upon the last.

We’re three episodes into this joyless series and I still have no idea what this overarching drama is even trying to say or why. It appears to be a political allegory condemning fascist ideology. Fun! If I can boil this account down to its basic essence, it’s good vs. evil in the form of an honest wizard named Dumbledore (Jude Law) against the malevolent wizard Grindelwald (Mads Mikkelsen). The two made an unbreakable oath never to harm each other a long time ago. The upcoming reveal of the Supreme Mugwump is approaching. A fawn called a Qilin will bow to the leader that is most pure of heart. Grindelwald is manipulating the process and he must be stopped. Dumbledore assembles a team to curtail Grindelwald’s nefarious plans.

Side note: I would be remiss if I didn’t at least acknowledge that actor Mads Mikkelsen has taken over the role originally played by Johnny Depp. It’s like when Dick Sargent replaced Dick York in TV’s Bewitched in 1969 and no one acknowledged on screen that this was a different actor. The reasons for the decision are different though. Mikkelsen’s emotionless performance may be adequate but it isn’t an improvement. Bowing to the court of public opinion is so much more important than artistic merit.

What the feature has going for it is a nice-looking fantasy adventure with great production design and visual effects. There’s a section where Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) goes to rescue his brother Theseus (Callum Turne). He has to mimic the moves of these little scorpion critters. I was mildly amused by that. There are engaging moments here and there. Yet once again there are too many characters. An aggregation of returning individuals includes actors Eddie Redmayne, Jude Law, Ezra Miller, Katherine Waterston, Alison Sudol, Callum Turner, and Fiona Glascott. However, the MVP award goes to Dan Fogler as the non-magic Jacob Kowalski. It is a testament to his ability to turn a minor character into a fascinating personality. He seizes focus as the charismatic spice in a bland stew. Meanwhile the episodic nature of the plot sort of plods along without a strong story or compelling focus.

Nonetheless, The Secrets of Dumbledore is a vast upgrade over its predecessor. The Crimes of Grindelwald came out four years ago. I couldn’t even begin to recall what happened. It was such an ordeal, I probably blocked it out to be quite honest. So before I went to see this, I forced myself to do a significant amount of research on the internet to reacquaint myself with the lore. I even read the plot synopsis of the current release on Wikipedia. Going to see this felt more like a homework assignment than actual entertainment. However, doing that preparation did make my experience more enjoyable. I give this film a pass. If you have the base knowledge to enjoy this flick, then consider it worthy of your time. If you aren’t, steer clear.

04-15-22

Apollo 10 1⁄2: A Space Age Childhood

Posted in Adventure, Animation, Drama with tags on April 14, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood is Richard Linklater’s warm reflection on growing up in 1969. 10 1/2-year-old Stanley (voiced by Milo Coy) is a boy living in Houston, Texas right before the Apollo 11 Moon landing. He’s the youngest of six children — three boys and three girls. So that would be “Bobby” if you’re a Brady Bunch fan. The saga includes a fanciful tale of a fourth-grader who imagines himself to be the first person to land on the Moon because the engineers accidentally made a capsule too small.

Apollo 10 1/2 is Linklater’s most accomplished delve into rotoscope animation yet. He utilized the technique before in both Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly. The style is used to create animated sequences by tracing over live-action footage frame by frame. The nostalgic trip through the late 1960s relies heavily on voice-over from past collaborator Jack Black (School of Rock, Bernie) as the adult Stanley. As the events of his childhood play out, his reflective narration recalls The Wonder Years. The nostalgia is heavy and deep.

Few people recreate an era like Richard Linklater. I’m talking about masterful movies like Dazed and Confused, Boyhood, and Everybody Wants Some!! I have one brother. My household of four was a far less complicated structure than the family of eight depicted here. Additionally, Linklater’s birth predates my own by a decade. Nevertheless, his lovingly recreated memoir is realized with such authentic detail that I identified with his recollections in a uniquely personal way. From a father employed by NASA (My father worked for NASA Ames Research Center) to a mother who recycled paper bags from the grocery store as trash bags for the kitchen, I felt the parallels to my own suburban but frugal upbringing. Incidentally, our protagonist humorously notes that the last idea is a smart one so long as the garbage isn’t wet.

Apollo 10 1/2 depicts a simpler time. The minutia brought back a ton of memories, though the chronicle does tend to drift. It lacks the propulsive thrust of a strong narrative. The leisurely account should captivate adults more than kids. However, it emphasizes that a compelling depiction of our childhood need not incorporate the biggest news stories of the day. Sometimes it’s the vivid but inconsequential details that resonate. The best moments aren’t the events surrounding the moon landing itself, but when Linklater offers pop culture touchstones in this personal coming-of-age story. The mere listing of his favorite TV shows or the board games he enjoyed playing, will resound with anyone who lived back then. It was perhaps the last generation when parents let their offspring run wild and free throughout the neighborhood. No one thought twice if a group of kids should be traveling in the back flatbed of a pickup truck — sans seatbelts — or riding a bike without a helmet. It may not have been prudent, but we had a glorious time. Somehow we survived. I felt a connection to my own experience.

Streaming on Netflix since April 1.

04-10-22

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Posted in Action, Adventure, Comedy, Family with tags on April 10, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Sonic the Hedgehog was a winning story in 2020 because it was overflowing with heart. At its core, it detailed a friendship forged between a little blue alien and a local sheriff named Tom (James Marsden). It was derivative of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and obviously nowhere near as good, but it did manage to extract some of the same warmth. The account felt sincere. I was pleasantly surprised. Add a goofily inspired performance from Jim Carey as the central villain and I was singing its praises. In contrast, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a cash grab lacking the goodwill, sincerity, and heart of its predecessor.

The chronicle begins when Jim Carrey’s Dr. Robotnik escapes his exile from a mushroom world. This allows the actor to call the fungi planet from which he escapes a “piece of shiitake.” That mildly vulgar play on words was funnier when I heard it in Spy Kids. Regardless, Carey was enough of a villain to sustain the original story — a refreshingly simple fish out of water tale. Adding more characters rarely equals a better movie but filmmakers often rely on it when making sequels. Carey gets an evil ally in the form of a computer-generated short-beaked echidna called Knuckles. Voiced in a low register by Idris Elba, he’s looking for the all-powerful Master Emerald. This is the MacGuffin — the object that everybody wants.

Sonic has been attempting to fight crime on Earth as a superhero. He has been failing miserably. A two-tailed fox appropriately named Tails from yet another distant planet is a good guy. He is imbued with a high-pitched voice by Colleen O’Shaughnessey. Tails has been watching over Sonic and arrives on Earth to warn our hero about the malevolent foes out to get him. These fantastical beasts from outer space occupy the central focus. Why have just one fully CGI star when you can have three? The loneliness of Sonic’s unique existence was a compelling quality in the first film. Sadly that distinction is absent from this overcrowded sequel.

The chemistry between the human James Marsden and the cartoon Sonic is what made the original so delightful. That’s gone. Here the trio of animated personalities mostly interact with each other. Watching three computerized entities zip around the screen in frenetic pre-programmed action sequences in a crushing bore. Carrey attempts to give another larger-than-life performance. Unfortunately, he’s buried underneath a technology-laden tsunami of CGI characters. I’ve watched the skills of talented gamers up on a TV screen that offered more emotional context. Meanwhile the humans — Tom and his wife Maddie (Tika Sumpter) – are relegated to the background as they head off to Hawaii for the wedding of Maddie’s sister Rachel (Natasha Rothwell) to handsome Randall (Shemar Moore). The screenplay goes off on a convoluted tangent to explain the incredulity of their relationship.

If I can say anything nice, it’s that the picture wears its mediocrity on its sleeve. I’m not saying it was intentional, but it is obvious. Some productions often lull you into a sense of ease with a promising beginning. Then do an about-face and surprise you somewhere at the midway point with ineptitude. It’s immediately apparent that Sonic 2 is a slapdash effort right from the start. The chaotic events zip back and forth on a globetrotting affair to various locales without a reason or care. The opening 30-40 minutes could be excised entirely and not have any effect on the proper plot. To be honest you could eliminate developments from almost any part of the film and it wouldn’t matter. The story exists to feature beloved characters that audiences came to see in a random series of events.

Whenever the action subsides, the soundtrack kicks in. More often than not it’s some late 80s, early 90s hip hop jam. “It’s Tricky” (Run-DMC), “Here Comes the Hotstepper” (Ini Kamoze), “This Is How We Do It” (Montell Jordan), and “You Know How We Do It” (Ice Cube) overwhelm at various points. “Uptown Funk” featuring Bruno Mars isn’t from that era, but it caps off a scene that features Sonic and Tails in a remote Russian bar. The locals challenge them to a dance-off. As a fan of musicals, my hopes were somewhat piqued, but the number is such a pedestrian display of choreography and music my enthusiasm dissipated as quickly as a lost life. Computer technology will never replace Gene Kelly.

Longer! Faster! Louder! More! Anything but better. When critics talk of sequelitis, this soulless piece of product is what they’re talking about. My theater was filled with children that were more content to run about the auditorium than watch what was up on the screen. Were they distracted because the rudimentary requirements of entertainment were not being met? I suspect the patience-testing length of over two hours was the real culprit. 90 minutes is the sweet spot for family entertainment. I was pleasantly surprised by the first film. This however is the FX-laden eyesore I feared the original would be. Nevertheless, it had a successful opening weekend debut. The mood on social media asserts that Sonic 2 delivers the requisite enjoyment to devotees of the SEGA games. I don’t play the Sonic the Hedgehog video game so that doesn’t include me. However dear readers, I will offer if you have young kids that are begging you to see this, then by all means take them. Just be prepared that they will probably enjoy the movie a lot more than you do.

04-07-22

Everything Everywhere All at Once

Posted in Action, Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Martial Arts with tags on April 7, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The owner of a laundromat undergoes a fiscal audit. With Tax Day arriving on Monday, April 18, Everything Everywhere All at Once couldn’t have been released at a more appropriate time. Although my simplification of the plot doesn’t even begin to convey the ensuing mashup of science fiction, fantasy, comedy, and martial arts in this genre-defying picture. Directed by the duo of Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (Swiss Army Man) their second feature is like Alice in Wonderland on steroids.

Michelle Yeoh is Evelyn Wang, a middle-aged, Chinese American matriarch who runs the aforementioned laundromat in Simi Valley with her husband Waymond (Ke Huy Quan). Their daughter Joy (Stephanie Hsu) has been dating her girlfriend Becky (Tallie Medel) for three years now. Her mother hasn’t accepted their relationship. Evelyn is also organizing a Chinese New Year party. Her equally critical father affectionally known as Gong Gong has just arrived from China to attend her little shindig. Meanwhile, her husband is planning to serve her with divorce papers. Needless to say, tensions are high. Evelyn has a lot on her plate. The tale is set in motion when Evelyn and Waymond meet with a tax auditor (an amusingly frumpy-looking Jaime Lee Curtis) working for the IRS.

During their chaotic meeting, Waymond starts acting weird. He privately informs Evelyn that alternate realities concurrently exist. There are many parallel worlds, each one based on whatever decision a person makes. At this point, I have to admit the prospect of yet another production that employs the concept of a multiverse did not excite me. It’s been so heavily exploited by Marvel as of late. Despite my reservations, it becomes a refreshingly goofy construct that — gosh darn it — I embraced. Evelyn is the key to ending a conflict that is raging across infinite dimensions. An evil being known as the Jobu Tupaki (also played by Stephanie Hsu) is seeking to kill and destroy everything. Evelyn is the only one who can stop her.

Everything Everywhere must be seen to be believed. Mere words cannot do it justice. Nevertheless, I will try. This jumping across from one universe to another requires that a person (first wearing a Bluetooth headset) perform some unconventional maneuvers. These actions include eating chapstick, purposefully giving yourself paper cuts, photocopying your rear end, or doing an unspeakable act with a trophy. Once one propels their consciousness into a different dimension, the individual will acquire the memories and special skills of that version of themselves. Does that make sense? It is a little confusing, but a film review shouldn’t ruin the surprises in a flick you haven’t seen. There are websites to explicate all the gobbledygook afterward. The production’s ability to creatively detail various worlds is an impressive spectacle that few movies attempt. Editor Paul Rogers manages to assemble the Daniels’ frenetic vision into a mostly coherent narrative. Everything Everywhere is a wildly inventive, uniquely intense — and at times — bewildering story.

Holding it all together is the emotional dynamic of this captivating family. Evelyn & Waymond & Joy & Gong Gong are a memorable clan portrayed by an appealing cast. Legendary action queen Michelle Yeoh is front and center as the multiverse hopping protagonist. In assorted iterations, she plays a master chef, an international movie star (not unlike herself), and a woman with hot dogs for fingers. She is a dismissive and demanding personality. Conversely, her husband Waymond is gentle and kind. I didn’t realize Short Round (Indiana Jones) / Data (The Goonies) would be playing the dad. Seeing Ke Huy Quan again was an absolute joy. James Hong (Blade Runner, Big Trouble in Little China) as the aging grandfather is also a delight. The 93-year-old actor hasn’t stopped working since the 1950s. Talk about prolific! Stephanie Hsu (TV’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel) — a newcomer by comparison — finds the nuance in a character with contrasting personalities.

Everything Everywhere keeps the insanity dialed to 11 for the duration of the picture. The action is a pure sensory overload that is both exhilarating and exhausting. The cosmic bombast bludgeons the viewer into submission without a rest. That is, not until near the end when a quiet moment features a silent conversation between two rocks with googly eyes. But even that dialogue with subtitles is such a bizarre sight that it still feels like the zaniness hasn’t subsided. This treatise on existential despair builds to a rather nihilistic moral: Nothing matters. However, there is a caveat. If we show love and kindness to others, then perhaps anything is possible. The sentimental idea is a touching resolution that offers some hope. Is that a tear? I think maybe this family will make it together after all.

04-05-22

Morbius

Posted in Action, Adventure, Horror, Superhero with tags on April 4, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The idea that each new superhero release must be a crucial component of some grand interconnected universe, is a bit wearying at this point. Morbius is indeed a meager slice of a larger pie that includes the Venom flicks. So far the three pictures are the cinematic manifestation of Sony’s rights to Spider-Man. Despite Morbius’ attempt at worldbuilding, its aspirations are low. The straightforward tale is just a monster movie at heart. Its undemanding nature is ironically a strength.

The story is extremely basic. Michael Morbius is a doctor who suffers from a rare blood disease. Michael’s colleague is Martine Bancroft (Adria Arjona) and she predictably becomes his girlfriend. In his quest to cure his condition, he accidentally turns himself into a vampire who craves blood. Now Morbius is constantly torn between his human and monster states. He gets special powers whenever he transforms. Extra-sensory hearing is one ability. It bizarrely converts his ears into what looks like the gills of a mushroom. “Mad scientist cursed by a beastly alter ego” is a familiar trope. The same idea afflicted The Incredible Hulk and his alter ego Bruce Banner for example. There’s even a moment where Morbius utters the line “Don’t make me hungry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m hungry.” Sometimes a joke is so eye-rollingly bad it ends up being good. Granted the chronicle is cobbled from the details of other better films. Morbius’ deep fascination with vampire bats even recalls Batman.

Morbius has idiosyncrasies that amuse, sometimes unintentionally. Coming off of his flamboyant but enjoyable achievement as Paolo in House of Gucci, Jared Leto surprisingly underplays the role with a quiet intensity. With his neatly trimmed beard and long locks parted in the center, he suggests a Jesus-like figure in his well-groomed appearance. He is an odd personality. He arrogantly refuses the Nobel prize because his groundbreaking work may have saved millions of lives, but it didn’t improve his own. Well, that’s a stupid decision. His incongruous reference to The Notebook when a character gets sentimental is also comic. Speaking of whom, Matt Smith does the scenery-chewing as Morbius’s surrogate brother. Milo suffers from the same illness. Smith invigorates the silly drama with a goofy performance. His little dance as he’s getting dressed is an amusing interlude.

Morbius is not great for a variety of reasons. The saga frequently relies on wonky computer special effects. It culminates in the type of generic battle that blights even the best superhero installments. An end-credits sequence renders the film we just watched as a prelude to a sequel. I’m not looking forward to more chapters. However, if you can disregard that annoyance, the film is an uncomplicated piece of entertainment. It demands so little. At 104 minutes it unfolds in a blip — an antidote to bloated epics marred by their distended runtimes. Comic book obsessives usually don’t uplift a shorter account as better. Perhaps my unfamiliarity with the material helped. While the narrative is derivative, it’s pleasant as a creature feature. Morbius is not an experience that requires you dash to the nearest theater, but it is fitfully diverting.

03-31-22

Fast Film Reviews on talkSPORT radio

Posted in Podcast with tags on April 3, 2022 by Mark Hobin

On Sunday, February 13th I was on talkSPORT radio to discuss two movies available in theaters. PARALLEL MOTHERS starring Penélope Cruz in an Oscar-nominated performance and DEATH ON THE NILE, that weekend’s #1 film. My segment begins 7 minutes into the 2:30 – 3:00 section (about 23 minutes from the end). Click below to listen.

Source: The world’s biggest sports radio station | talkSPORT

Fast Film Reviews on talkSPORT radio

Posted in Podcast with tags on April 3, 2022 by Mark Hobin

On Sunday, February, 6th, I discussed streaming options on talkSPORT radio. On digital platforms, you can rent AMERICAN UNDERDOG the biopic about NFL quarterback Kurt Warner. On Netflix, OZARK is back in its 4th season and also popular TV mini-series THE WOMAN IN THE HOUSE ACROSS THE STREET… which is a parody of thriller films. My segment begins 7 minutes into the 2:30 – 3:00 section (about 23 minutes from the end). Click below to listen.

Source: The world’s biggest sports radio station | talkSPORT

The Lost City

Posted in Action, Adventure, Comedy with tags on March 31, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Have you ever seen an ad for a movie that makes it look utterly generic, but the reviews drop and they’re favorable? Then it opens at the box office and it’s a big hit as well. Suddenly you wonder if you incorrectly judged a book by its cover. So you go see it but it turns out to be even more bland and hackneyed than you suspected. That’s my experience with The Lost City. I need to trust my gut.

The Lost City squanders a promising beginning. Loretta Sage is an intellectual who just so happens to write successful romance novels. Her books feature a fictional star named Dash. Alan Caprison (Channing Tatum) is a model who poses as the leading man on the cover. At the behest of her publicist (Da’Vine Joy Randolph) and social media manager (Patti Harrison), Loretta and Alan make an appearance before a crowd of fans. The throng is a lot more excited to see “Dash.” He appears as a Fabio-styled celebrity with long blond hair that turns out to be a wig. That scene is amusing. Unfortunately, the expo doesn’t go well and she leaves in a huff. However, she’s kidnapped in a black SUV and brought to meet an eccentric billionaire named Abigail Fairfax (Daniel Radcliffe). He wants Loretta’s help in translating an artifact to acquire hidden treasure on a mysterious island. She refuses but he employs chloroform and takes her there anyways. After Loretta goes missing, Alan calls his old buddy Jack Trainer (Brad Pitt), a highly-skilled yoga instructor. The two meet on the island and attempt to rescue her.

I could continue but the elaborate setup is just an excuse for a sloppy episodic adventure that isn’t funny. The Lost City is a cheap remix of better movies. The blueprint is Romancing the Stone with a healthy dose of Indiana Jones thrown in. God forgive me for even mentioning those classics in the same breath. This mess is a poor imitation. In another case of “too many cooks,” this dud of a screenplay is credited to a whopping five individuals. The material co-written by directors and brothers Adam and Aaron Nee with Oren Uziel and Dana Fox, from a story conceived by Seth Gordon, made me chuckle maybe two or three times.

Even the most talented actor can’t breathe life into bad material. The various situations are convoluted and stupid. That’s OK. If the dialogue is well written, they don’t have to make sense. See Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar for proof. Sandra Bullock, Channing Tatum, Daniel Radcliffe, and Brad Pitt mug and exaggerate their lines as best they can. A slew of assorted predicaments fail to extract laughs no matter how hard they try. The humor is broad and forced. Witnessing Sandra Bullock peel leaches off what is supposedly Channing Tatum’s naked backside is not her finest hour. Pitt’s dignity remains intact as the too-good-to-be-true action hero personality. I enjoyed the chronicle whenever he was on screen. Sadly his limited presence is reduced to a glorified cameo. The main stars do their best but watching Tatum play dumb while Bullock acts annoyed is not enough to form the basis of an entire picture. This expedition to find the Lost City turned out to be a crushing bore. They should’ve been on a quest to find a decent script.

03-29-22

Deep Water

Posted in Drama, Mystery, Thriller with tags on March 29, 2022 by Mark Hobin

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

A new release starring erstwhile lovers Ben Affleck and Ana de Armas based on a 1957 novel by Patricia Highsmith (Strangers on a Train, The Talented Mr. Ripley) and helmed by provocateur Adrian Lyne would have been a big deal in a previous era. Yet on March 18, this went straight to streaming on Hulu. There’s a reason for that. Adult movie fare isn’t doing so well in theaters at the moment. Oh and frankly, it’s not all that good. But that doesn’t mean it lacks entertainment value.

Director Adrien Lyne earned a flashy reputation in the 80s & 90s for glossy dramas that were sexy and stylish. Flashdance, Fatal Attraction and Indecent Proposal were some of his best known. However, the last time he made a film, was way back in 2002. Unfaithful featured an Oscar-nominated performance by Diane Lane. She was outstanding to be sure, but I also credit Adrien Lyne for being the director in charge of that production. The promise of his first picture in 20 years is something to celebrate. If only it delivered the captivating heights of his previous work.

Deep Water is a limp drama about a couple living in the fictional Louisiana town of Little Wesley. It concerns a husband named Vic Van Allen, (Ben Affleck) in an unconventional marriage to his wife Melinda (Ana de Armas). She has affairs with various men. Instead of sneaking around behind his back, she flaunts them much to his discomfort. It’s the odd back and forth of the feuding twosome that compels your attention. However, the story is a head-scratcher. At first, it appears they’ve agreed to an open marriage. But when Vic threatens the guest (Brendan C. Miller) that Melinda invites to a party, it’s clear Vic isn’t happy with what his wife is doing. Although that doesn’t stop her. It’s implied that perhaps Melinda savors his jealousy. Martin McRae — the last guy that romanced his wife — goes missing and Vic claims to be responsible. Or is he kidding? Melinda is unfazed by the possibility that Vic is a murderer. “I’m the one you kill for.” she coos. It isn’t long before she’s off openly flirting with a different man (Jacob Elordi) and then another (Finn Wittrock).

Deep Water occasionally recalls what made Lyne’s earlier output so irresistible. The milieu is sleek and polished. As photographed by cinematographer Eigil Bryld, the living spaces are exquisitely opulent. They live in a palatial suburban mansion that would be right at home on the pages of Architectural Digest. The bathrooms are the size of a bedroom. A grand pool at the center of a party shimmers with an incandescent glow. The atmosphere is seductive. It hints that something sinister is always brewing. But the attempt to achieve the provocative excitement of his past work goes unfulfilled and an abrupt ending is supremely unsatisfying.

Deep Water is not good. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the mischievous tone that pervades the account. Melinda has this lusty appetite that straddles the line between insatiable and ridiculous. Conversely, Vic inexplicably vacillates between bouts of being enraged and aroused. The developments elicit laughter and campy elements inform the plot. Their precocious six-year-old daughter steals every scene she is in. The suggestion is the dissimilar pair stay together for her sake. Her bratty behavior is an annoying delight. “Alexa, play ‘Old MacDonald’ again” she chirps despite her mother’s protestations. Meanwhile, Vic keeps snails as pets and that’s a bizarre addition to the story. Ben Affleck broods with the same intensity as Nick Dunne, his role in Gone Girl. His character is a most perplexing personality. I could never quite figure out what motivates this highly confused individual. In the absence of a clear motive or credible passion, I simply reveled in the absurdity of it all.

03-25-22