Matt Damon and Anna Paquin in Kenneth Lonergan’s Margaret
I saw three terrific movies this weekend.
First up was the gay romance Weekend. It’s a very simple story about roughly 48 hours in the relationship between two men who meet each other at a bar. It throws the usual Hollywood fairytales about romance right out the window in favor of a much more intimate, real and compelling portrait of two people with a mutual attraction. It also de-glamorizes sex without de-eroticizing it. While it’s definitely directed at a gay audience, Weekend has a universal appeal that should engage people of any orientation.
Next up was Kenneth Lonergan’s long-in-coming Margaret. It’s almost impossible to talk about it without talking about its 6-year journey to theaters, but getting distracted by that is a disservice to what turns out to be a surprisingly excellent if maybe a bit overly ambitious film. Anna Paquin is wonderful as a high schooler who may be complicit in a tragedy but lacks the emotional maturity to deal with it. I think Lonergan’s intention is that she’s also supposed to be a stand-in for post-9/11 America, which is fine, but the movie’s real strength lies in the more personal, intimate aspects of the story. Because it’s told through the hyper-real, emotionally heightened perspective of a young woman of limited world experience, Margaret has a stylization that at times feels a little too precious, but it works if you give it a chance. It’s certainly much better than the aggregated critical response it’s gotten.
Finally I watched Jeff Nichols’ Take Shelter starring Michael Shannon. As a big fan of Nichols and Shannon’s Shotgun Stories, I’d been looking forward to this one since it debuted at Sundance to strong reviews in January. It did not disappoint. Like Shotgun, it’s a long, slow burn that probes ideas about masculinity in unexpected ways. It tells the story of a small-town, blue collar Ohio man obsessed with the notion of protecting his family and plagued by ominous nightmares that a storm is coming to threaten them all. Debilitated by fear, forced to face the fact this fear might be the signs of encroaching mental illness, and unable to articulate his feelings to the people who love him and count on him, he’s trapped in a downward spiral of inadequacy that threatens to destroy his whole world. Sound powerful enough for you?
On DVD, I’ve been going over some old Sam Peckinpah, inspired by the recent remake of Straw Dogs. Ride the High Country is pretty goddamn great. A nice, old fashioned Western with a strong dose of realism and grit courtesy of Mr. Peckinpah. Nice performances by aging Western stars Randolph Scott (his last film) and Joel McCrae. Sylvester Stallone only wishes his old-timer’s team up The Expendables was half this cool.
Next up was the rather surprising Major Dundee with Charlton Heston and Richard Harris. This was the 2005 “restored” version that more closely approximated Peckinpah’s original vision that had been compromised by studio interference. Though the film’s reputation has been burnished by this new version, I’m surprised it’s not even better still. This is a terrific picture, epic in scope but also emotionally grounded in its key characters.
That’s all from my end this weekend. Now it’s your turn. Anyone see anything worth talking about in the last week?
Filed under: The Watercooler