Movie Reviews: Black Swan, I Love You Phillip Morris &The King's Speech
Oscar season is upon us, with serious contenders being released during these last weeks of qualifying time. If only they were all as good as the studio marketing teams make them out to be. Still, there is one shining light in this bunch.
Two were marketed heavily toward the gay audience: Black Swan for its thriller (or is it camp?) value, and I Love You Phillip Morris for its gay sex. Then there's The King's Speech, an import that will seemingly do well among the art-house-loving LGBT audience. But will these qualities make them hits among the gays or the Academy?
Grab a glass of wine, a bowl of popcorn, and find out.
There is no other way to say it: Black Swan is the biggest piece of crap I have seen all year. There is not one single pleasurable moment in this over-the- top farrago about a ballerina who is slowly going nuts (or is she?) during her preparations for her starring role. I am not really surprised that I loathed this film so much with the director being Darren Aronofsky, whose previous works include Pi, Requiem For A Dream and The Wrestler. (We will forget his flop, The Fountain.) Each of these films was so overwrought and over-acted that the word "subtlety" must not be a word that Delirious Darren knows.
While the sledge hammer approach is the Aronofsky credo, Hollywood rewards these ghastly starring performances, like Ellen Burstyn in Dream and Mickey Rourke in Wrestler, with Oscar nominations. That means the filmmaker keeps getting permission to make this junk.
Black Swan stars Natalie Portman as the crazed ballerina. She's opposite Mila Kunis as the All Above Eve rival dancer and veteran Barbara Hershey as the crazed mother. You notice that everyone here is crazed? Portman is a good actress but her performance starts on one key and never changes. (Of course she will also be rewarded with an Oscar nomination.) Hershey comes on as the mother from hell in scene one and she never varies her performance from that point on. She makes Jackie Weaver in Animal Kingdom look like the mother of the year. French star Vincent Cassel (Mesrine) plays the controlling ballet director Thomas, and to put it kindly he should have stayed in France.
Everything in this movie is risible and none of the characters bear any living resemblance to a real human being. All of this would not be so bad if the film wasn't so damn boring. About twenty minutes into the film I was praying for it to end. A film being over-the-top is only good when it is entertaining, and trust me this film makes a point of being anything but. From the insanity of The Red Shoes to the more calm moments of The Turning Point, ballet movies all have driven characters, but there are no characters in Black Swan— just scripted gargoyles pretending to be characters.
I Love You Phillip Morris
This long-delayed gay movie starring Jim Carrey has finally been released in the United States after playing abroad for the past six month. The true story of a Texas conman named Steven Russell who found love in prison with a fellow inmate is treated as high comedy. With its daring sex scenes, thrilling prison escapes, and maniacal Jim Carrey humor this film is entertaining to the max. Co-starring Ewan McGregor as the quiet object of Russell's obsession, this film almost succeeds as something more than a broad gay farce.
The strength and the weakness of the film is Carrey, himself. In his manic comedic moments, Carrey is brilliant. Staging accidents for insurance money (such as a hilarious scene on an escalator) or breaking out of prison in elaborate ways, Carrey is at the top of his game. But where he and the film falters is in his depiction of real affection for McGregor's Phillip Morris. Carrey's "love scenes" are just not very convincing. McGregor brings a touching vulnerability to his character and you believe in his love, but the failure of Carrey to portray his character's love robs this film of being more than a frantic, fast-paced and very funny series of Saturday Night Live sketches.
The King's Speech
This stately British film about the present Queen's father and his stuttering problems during his formative years, is the kind of film that gets beau-coup Oscar nominations and wins awards. The Queen did it a few years ago and this film will probably also reap a number of awards. Being a well made, brilliantly acted, well scripted film may seem old fashioned these days, but just having a coherent story and a pedigreed British cast should not keep you from seeing The King's Speech.
First and foremost there is Colin Firth as the future King George VI, who is only an abdication away from being the King of England in the late 1930s. Helena Bonham Carter plays his wife, the future queen Elizabeth, who finds an unconventional Australian speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) to help her husband. None of this sounds very interesting, but played out in the tumultuous thirties with Hitler and war on the horizon, it makes for an exceptional film.
Excellent supporting work by Guy Pearce as King Edward VIII, who renounces his throne for the woman he loves (the ghastly, twice-married American Wallis Simpson), and Claire Bloom as the imperious, cold Queen Mary (mother of both boys), The King's Speech succeeds mostly due to the wonderful performances from Rush and, especially, Firth. Firth lost an Oscar last year for a performance that many thought he deserved. This year might be very different as First captures every facet of this neurotic monarch's journey from bumbling pretender to esteemed wartime leader. The King's Speech might not be the most daring movie of the year but it will seem like a classic after seeing incoherent trash like Black Swan.