Saturday, 5 December 2015

Review: Nurse

Year: 2014 (U.K Release 2015)
Director: Doug Aarniokoski
Screenplay: Doug Aarniokoski, David Loughery
Starring: Paz de la Huerta, Katrina Bowden, Corbin Bleu

Synopsis is here:

“Trash has given us an appetite for art.”
Infamous film critic Pauline Kael was the writer who was smart enough to inform us that “Movies are so rarely great art that if we cannot appreciate great trash we have very little reason to be interested in them.”

A part of me disagrees with this. For me, as ignorant as I am to combat Kael when talking about art (I’m still naive enough to believe that great art often lies in the eye of the beholder), there’s a canny kernel of truth that lies in the words of one her most well-known pieces of writing. We must sift through the trash to find the gems. We most search through crap to find a golden “truth”. Or something like that.

Unfortunately, Nurse is bog standard trash. C-movie garbage that strives to be B-movie gold. There’s not much to be found from it. The film looks it has the ingredients to be a piece of cult entertainment, but the elements aren’t stirred right. Its lead actress Paz de la Huerta has sought to sue the filmmakers for loss of earnings due to the film's poor quality. What should we make of that?

Such an act, screams significance. A film like Nurse that wishes to play on the exploitation curve only really needs to highlight de la Huetra’s own. Nurse never fully embraces its trashiness. Its body count and pert bottoms never wink hard enough at the audience. Paz de la Huerta’s should be embracing her inner Eva Green for her role as psychotic necrophiliac; Abby. Instead, she displaces her energies and sleepwalks drearily through scenes with none of the OTT mania that would make her part enjoyable to watch. There’s seems to be a distinct lack of energy in getting the best out of Katrina Bowden, who may not be a go to A-list actress, but has a lot more presence than what is shown here.

None of Nurse feels like the fault of the cast. The apathetic nature of the film seems to come from the source material. Nurse’s weak screenplay never feels subversive. If it did then at least it could make light of the film’s glaring discrepancies. Director Doug Aarniokoski; a veteran of television, does very little work on the pace of the script either. At 84 minutes, Nurse manages to ensure that it’s one of the more laborious chores of cinema I’ve had to watch this year.

With its blood, boob and bums, there may be one or two fans of Nurse who will have differing thoughts about Nurse. I however, found very little to enjoy from its anemic attempts at titillation. There’s little to no diamonds to be found within this bit of rough. It did however manage to get me to watch the film twice, to see if I missed something. Just in case. I guess that’s something.

Review: Carol

Year: 2015
Director Todd Haynes
Screenplay: Phyllis Nagy
Starring: Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler 

Synopsis is here:

After watching Carol, I gave myself a day or two to let the film linger.  It’s a film that likes to settle within the recesses of the mind. Its story is deceptively simple at the surface, yet the emotional connections run deep throughout. Much has already been said about the film main relationship between the elegant Carol (Cate Blanchett at her most graceful) and Therese (Rooney Mara captures doe eyed innocence in a bottle). However, director Todd Haynes’ command of the plot and its characters is so robust that I had felt involved with even the secondary characters. There’s a texture in the film that runs deeper than the luxurious fashions on display. 

While conversing with a friend, she mentioned that her mother found such a connection to be lacking. I wonder if this is due to Carol’s sexual orientation. I don’t say this as a negative. Far from it. The beauty of Carol with its subtle glances and sly smiles is just how often it pushes its heterosexual characters to the side. This must be by design. To show that while many within the film may not understand the connections taking place, they are still not things to be judged. Carol isn’t a queer text about gay rights or equality per say, but it does seem to suggest that roses growing out of the concrete needn’t be plucked. A less pretentious (and clearer) interpretation would be to say that this is a struggle for these two individuals rather than a universal one.  

Haynes' depiction of this blossoming relationship and their yearning is dutiful and precise. Once the roots are planted, the branches get tangled with everyone. The ever dependable Kyle Chandler’s heart bleeds as Harge; the heterosexual husband who struggles to grasp this new reality through anger and his own needs. A brief moments from old flame Abby (a wonderfully understated Sarah Paulson) hints not only at understanding, but heartache. Smaller supporting roles also excel. Never sounding like soundboards of a previous era, or knowing totems of this one. Haynes has entertained with this era before for his beautiful melodrama pastiche Far from Heaven (2002), but this seems far from the more broadly drawn and colourful characters from his previous venture. For me, Carol often reminded me of the isolated characters who feature in the painting by Edward Hopper. It’s doubtful that Hopper is an influence, yet Haynes’ direction and blocking of characters along with cinematographer Edward Lachman’s framing, makes nearly every person we meet feel like Hopper’s figures. Almost consumed by the industrial world around them.

It’s no surprise that when the films action shifts from city to country, the characters seem to feel less suffocated by their surroundings and in turn, their societal trappings. Carol’s beauty lies in its small subtleties. Trying on new fragrances. A quiet drive with someone you admire. The small token gesture of a gift, or an admiration of talent. These moments can seem so typical of a romantic drama. However, the softness and slightly alien aspect of an all-female romance within such a bygone era and the shifts of tensions within the relationship dynamics makes Carol stand apart from more universal films of a similar nature. Looking back at the film’s final outcome, the final moments are both heartening and fretful. There’s elements of rejection we ignore due to what we observe on the screen. Even at that moment the film’s closure lays a shade of ambiguity that a more universal romance could perhaps ignore for surface pleasures. I found that the excellence of Carol lies in its ability to sow such seeds. It’s only after leaving the screen did the film’s deeper resonances strike me. For that I am thankful.