New York Stories – Girl Most Likely / Blackfish / Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine

By Glenn Dunks
July 31, 2013

There’s a wide world of cinema out there, and Quickflix’s Glenn Dunks is on the ground in New York City bringing you the titles that will soon be seen in Australian cinemas, and eventually available on home entertainment.

The Manhattan Report: Opening weekend for a Woody Allen movie in New York is something else. Akin to a big film festival premiere, there is a sense of madness. I attended a sold out 10:40pm session of Blue Jasmine (reviewed below) with people from all walks of life there to see the picture that had suddenly found itself as the talk of the town. I suspect most were there for Cate Blanchett given the buzz that has many (rightfully) calling her an Oscar shoo-in. Perhaps the only thing that got more laughs than Blanchett’s deliciously cruel taunts was the trailer for Anne Fontaine’s upcoming Australian flick Adore. “What is Naomi Watts doing?” asked one patron. I don’t know, but it looks ridiculous and I can’t wait!

Girl Most Likely

Girl Most Likely: For the majority of Girl Most Likely’s runtime, directors Robert Puccini and Shari Springer Berman keep things at a fairly tepid level. The laughs are consistent if never uproarious as Kristen Wiig and Annette Bening try to elevate the material beyond its meagre ambitions. It’s in the third act where things take a turn for the utterly surreal and – I’m not being hyperbolic here, folks – the final 20 minutes is some of the strangest cinema I have ever witnessed. Did I just not get it? Is there anything to get? What did I just see? I was so blindsided by shock, I still don’t even know.

Wiig stars as Imogene (a less-identifiable variation on her sadsack from Bridesmaids). Having just lost her boyfriend, her job, and her fabulous New York apartment, she attempts suicide, and is forced to move back home with her Jersey Shore-esque mother (Bening). While trying to get her life back in order she falls for Lee (Glee favourite Darren Criss) and his knowledge of Backstreet Boys lyrics, discovers dark secrets, and learns to accept her family. It’s all terribly familiar and quirky with laughs coming from the cast’s determination rather than Michelle Morgan’s screenplay. Nothing, however, can disguise the baffling final act. It’s certainly memorable, but for all the wrong reasons. (No local release date at this time.)

3/5

Blackfish

Blackfish: How do you solve a problem like SeaWorld? If you’re Gabriela Cowperthwaite, you direct a documentary indicting the theme park’s operators for their wanton negligence in not just the deaths of three people, but the continued abuse of orcas (aka blackfish). Cowperthwaite takes aim at SeaWorld’s calculated efforts to mislead and hide historical facts about their practices when dealing with these beautiful creatures in its American water parks and beyond. Its mission is similar to that of Oscar-winning eco-doc The Cove, and would make a curious companion to Jacques Audiard’s Rust & Bone. All it needed was more “Firework” by Katy Perry, obviously.

Tilikum, a 5,400kg orca captured off the coast of Iceland, is the centre of the film; it follows how a history of captive abuse led to three deaths, including that of respected SeaWorld Orlando trainer Dawn Brancheau. The secrecy surrounding that 2010 tragedy forms the backbone of Cowperthwaite’s engaging documentary; inarguably an important and illuminating one that will hopefully lead to positive action against the torturous conditions that killer whales face in captivity. As a piece of filmmaking it’s traditionally assembled, but the topic and access to disturbing video footage makes for a potent and powerful indictment. (Playing the 2013 Melbourne International Film Festival.)

4/5

Blue Jasmine

Blue Jasmine: Speaking of sad, sociopathic women, Woody Allen has a new feature! Blue Jasmine is a rare Allen effort that puts the focus on one central character, rather than a bustling ensemble. As the titular Jasmine, Cate Blanchett – who is exceptional – has been gifted one of the great characters in the Allen lexicon: a manic alcoholic who wields sharp-tongued barbs as weapons, delivers intoxicated monologues, and flirts between various states of mental anguish. If Blue Jasmine were 3D, she’d be emerging out of the screen to rip shreds off the audience.

Allen has repurposed A Streetcar Named Desire into the tale of a barely disguised Ruth Madoff who descends into madness upon the financial collapse of her rich husband’s empire. Moving in with her less well-off sister (a divine Sally Hawkins), she becomes empowered to better her life while passive aggressively destroying the lives of those around her. It’s a marvellously wicked screenplay by Allen, and its criss-crossing structure builds to a surprisingly cadence. It’s his strongest work since Match Point. (It arrives in Australian cinemas September 5, 2013.)

4.5/5

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