Visually, Jason Bourne is a mess. The reteaming of Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass in a new chapter of the beloved action franchise is incredibly hard to watch. Shot digitally in extreme closeup for most of its two hour running time, we weave and jolt in and out of endless action scenes seemingly intended to obfuscate. Surely its not so the jagged, shattered glass look is a questionable choice and its strange that it got through the daily rushes, let along editing processes. The story’s ambitious, the action intense, the globe-trotting a real treat. And Damon has never looked so buff. It’s dense with several plots and endless chase scenes with head spinning, metal twisting, and eye and ear-popping series of explosions, plotwise and actual. Damon has little to say, around 25 lines by one observer’s estimate, as runs a gauntlet of dangerous enemies and unfriendly governments, agencies and individuals. The Americans want him back in the spy business; otherwise, they want him dead, as revelations of massive hacks that threaten world safety emerge. A Mark Zuckerberg-esque character has a fix in and he’s starting to regret it, while calls for extreme global surveillance of everyone, all the time, threaten human liberties. Alicia Vikander has her virtual eyes on Bourne in ways that will make you shiver. So there’s lots of meat on the bones. But it’s undercut by the look, we see strobes of arms moving, not actual arms moving, and I started looking at the ceiling when a vehicle speeds down the Las Vegas Strip upending dozens of cars. Just too hard on the eyes. When dozens of cars are being upended in Vegas by a runaway tank, it gets a bit headachy. It’s misleading because you can’t see things properly and that’s never a plus in a film. That tight camera was all nose hairs, with no visual context.
Bad Moms is joyously, unashamedly and raucously radical. Just imagine doting moms suddenly on strike, out pleasure-seeking while the kids starve, wear dirty clothes, wait at school for the ride that never comes and husbands are flummoxed, failing to understand it is a cry for help. How many mothers have been bored with motherhood, felt resentful that they are assigned to one job, raising kids, feeling isolated and stuck? All of you? Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn did too, feeling less than their own expectations of themselves and mindful that their partners are zero help. So they do what any discontented populace does – rebel! Bring it on, ladies – alcohol in the morning, flirting with strangers in bars, rampaging through grocery stores and PTA meetings in fits of understandable, chain-busting pique. Sure the other mothers will judge them. Husbands will be at their wits end. Because all, y’all, “normal”s not working. These women want to be themselves again and this film takes them on that journey of rediscovery. It’s a love letter to moms that happens to be coarse, brash, boozy, loaded with expletives and bad behaviour. It’s naughty wish fulfillment and the capable actresses never lose our empathy. Jon Lucas, the director toned things down several notches from the Hangover movies but still takes plenty of risks. It’s for anyone who’s said “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”.
At the other end of the tone spectrum is Woody Allen’s Café Society, an amusing, mostly gentle and shimmering confection of a love story set in Hollywood’s thirties Golden Age. Studio bosses ran the town, stars and starlets sprang up like gilded mushrooms, agencies got rich overnight and cinema established itself as one of the biggest and most influential businesses in America. It was a time of optimism and golden dreams and Allen is clearly nostalgic for this era and place he never knew. Allen’s trademark wit and sophistication almost always works for me, plus there was an added sense of magic and hope that made the film’s rough, even deadly moments workable. Jesse Eisenberg is a Brooklyn dreamer, in Hollywood to find work and he finds it, in his uncle’s (Steve Carrell) prestigious agency. He falls for his uncle’s secretary played by Kristen Stewart who actually emotes, laughs and uses facial expressions who is in an affair with his uncle. The glamourous poolside parties, studio access and success fail to bring him happiness without her so he heads home to work for his gangster brother and of course she shows up in his canteen. Blake Lively plays a supporting role and provides solid window dressing. Allen’s warm, familiar cinematic universe is a great place to be these days. He’s created a fantasy world of sorts; in a time and place none of us knew but wish we did. Café Society is a frothy, fizzy drink of lemonade on a scorching day.
Indignation is a quality period piece based on Phillip Roth’s novel. Gifted young actor Logan Lerman is an intellectually superior Jewish teen from the Bronx attending college in the Midwest on scholarship, one of only four Jews on campus. His difficulties living with roommates, his father’s deteriorating mental health, forced chapel attendance and failed romance with the “campus slut” have the weight of a Greek tragedy. Its ponderous sadness is broken by an hilarious exchange with the Dean (Tracy Letts) that is completely worth the price of admission. But this is no comedy; it’s a provocative coming-of-age story about an unusually gifted person trying to be true to his idea of himself while being forced to dilute his brand by dealing with lesser individuals. The pace is slow, but we get used to its leisurely rhythms and begin to identify with him. It’s intensely rewarding thanks to the superb screenplay, the performances and the universal questions raised about fitting in and standing firm. The film has great pedigree via director James Schamus who produced Brokeback Mountain, Dallas Buyers Club and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. He’s a professor, writer and observer trying his hand at directing for the first time here.
LINE OF DUTY
Just binge-watched an extraordinary English police drama that appears to end after its third season and it’s a doozy. It’s set in Derbyshire, England police station and concerns an entire elite unit, following events and characters over three seasons. Line of Duty features two main plot lines, and has more twists than Chubby Checker. The writing is some of the best on television and further proof that we are in a television Golden Age. A senior female officer was the only officer left standing following an ambush that freed a dangerous drug dealer. Prior to that event, she acted “too big for her britches” and was brutalised by sexist male officers in plain sight inside the station. No one lifted a finger to help. We follow her through a bitter fight for justice and watch her harden into a monster.
The second thread concerns an historic child sexual abuse case that comes to light, which may involve politicians and high ranking police officers who happen to be Free Masons. This raises the hackles of an idealistic but naive new Detective on the squad whose investigations are blocked from inside. He doesn’t know his partner is undercover investigating him. The story moves violently in this direction, then that, and intriguing shards of information come slowly. The plot unwinds in tiny increments and then waves of revelations, and you can’t believe what you’re witnessing, it seems so outrageous. Its revelations about human behaviour are terrifyingly authentic.