Short Term 12
All the distributors roll out their big hits on Boxing Day with so much trumpeting that it’s impossible not to know everything about them. Which makes this one so remarkable. It comes from out of nowhere.
Rolling Stone called Brie Larson “a revelation” in it and she is too, in a heartbreaking performance as Grace, an idealistic young supervisor in a foster home facility for disturbed teens. You could say that about all the cast, especially her partner (work and bed) Mason (John Gallagher Jr). Barely a wrong note is struck as these two go about the near impossible task of making a difference in the often tragic lives of at-risk kids while dealing (or rather not dealing) with their own demons. If you aren’t bawling your eyes out by the half way mark, you probably aren’t human.
Yes, writer/director Destin Cretton’s script feels a little manipulative, but with such a powerfully raw film, I don’t care. I’ll call it now – this is the Boxing Day movie. It may even be the year’s best. Just go, knowing as little as possible, and be blown away.
M15+ at Dendy Newtown from Dec 26.
• Thanks to Madman Entertainment we have double in-season passes to give away. For details of how to win see our Giveaways page.
The Gilded Cage
Writer/director Ruben Alves’ French/Portuguese hit comedy The Gilded Cage recently won the People’s Choice Award for Best Film at the European Film Awards in Berlin. That’s no mean feat, for it was up against some stiff competition (notably crowdpleasing Belgium weepie The Broken Circle Breakdown – do look for that one next year). But it’s easy to see why Europeans were so charmed.
The film tells the story of a loving, hardworking married Parisian couple Maria (Rita Blanco) and José (Joaquim de Almeida) whose long-held dream of returning to their native Portugal finally comes true after an unexpected inheritance – only to be secretly undermined by their friends and neighbours.
The comedy of errors plot and the broad class and ethnic stereotypes (salt-of-the-earth working class, huffily pretentious bourgeoisie, etc) are familiar enough, but what makes this work so well is that we laugh with all these people, not at them (Aussie filmmakers, take note).
A feel-good ending is inevitable, but just how Alves pulls it off (quite unexpectedly, right at the last minute) is pretty damn clever!
M15+ on now
• Thanks to Palace Films we have five double in-season passes to give away. For details of how to win see our Giveaways page.
The Railway Man
After 2011’s startlingly original Burning Man, it was hard to guess where Jonathan Teplitzky would go next. Certainly not to Burma and back into our troublesome history with Japan in what turns out to be a fairly conventional tale of heroism, guilt and redemption. Nor is it easy to understand how the troubled character Eric played by Colin Firth could charm his way into the pants of Patti (Nicole Kidman).
When they meet he’s so obviously an obsessive nutter (he memorises train timetables) and she’s… well, our Nic (just lovely). Later, she has little to do except look worried as he gets much worse, but the back story, involving Eric’s traumatic past as a POW on the Burma railway, never quite gels. It’s based on a book and real life events, so it should, but the film’s structure feels awkward.
That it works on any level is due to those two stars, who, literally, act their pants off… Bless them.
CTC from Dec 26.
DVD – Tiny Furniture
Here’s your Christmas present for fans of HBO’s Girls. Lena Dunham, the everygirl geek and creator of the cult-hit series didn’t just come from nowhere – first there was 2010’s Tiny Furniture. Which (and this can hardly be surprising) seems scarily autobiographical.
She stars as Aura, a less than perfectly shaped graduate with a useless film theory degree who returns home to New York to live with her mother (her real mother Laurie Simmons, and sister (her real sister Grace Dunham) in their upscale BoHo studio apartment. She has no job, no boyfriend, no prospects other than a job in hospitality and not a lot happens – the perfectly typical inner west hipster life! But then something does happen…
It’s the dialogue (Dunhan’s own) that cuts it here, its twisty, wry, off-kilter, and often with a killer punch we don’t see coming. And it’s very funny.
Available now on DVD, Blu-ray and digital.
• Reviews – Russell Edwards