Tag: Christian Slater

The Public

tpBreakfast Clubber, Emilio Estevez, is causing more trouble in the library, this time jumping over the counter and playing a rogue librarian rather than a rogue student.

The Public focusses on an extraordinary day in the life of the Cincinnati Public Library during a particularly harsh winter. With an ever-growing number of homeless, many who shelter there during the day, the library’s resources are stretched to breaking point. When a number of them refuse to spend another freezing night outside, they hunker down for the night, ironically in the social sciences section. As a standoff between the homeless (plus a sympathetic librarian) and the authorities plays out you’d be forgiven for thinking that this story should have “based on true events” in its opening credits. It doesn’t. But this gives Estevez, who writes, directs and stars as the beleaguered librarian, plenty of wriggle-room to explore a plethora of social issues. Unfortunately, this also proves to be one of the film’s many problems.

Not least of its shortcomings are Baldwin and Slater who chime in with very utilitarian roles; Baldwin, a police negotiator and Slater a Trump-esque Mayoral candidate provide the callous face of right-wing politics. Both flesh out the film’s political stance but also bring a swathe of needless subplots that are left unresolved. There is an unsavoury whiff of “white saviour” keeping the capitalist menace at bay and when one homeless man says “They’re looking at us like a bunch of crazy angry n*ggers. It’s up to you to prove them wrong Mr. Goodson (Estevez)” the film makes clear who it thinks the power brokers are.

Furthermore, for a film about social issues, active female representation is disappointingly sparse. I’m fairly certain the homeless also include women, yet the only women here are a love interest (played by Taylor Schilling), a catty TV reporter and a passive library assistant. The noticeable lack of feminine agency might be an innocent oversight but the film feels so much the poorer for it.

Finally, there is inauthenticity to the dialogue which feels obvious, agenda-pushing and entirely at odds with the film’s candid style of cinematography. Despite Estevez using this film to comment on a dizzying array of social issues (class, race, poverty, addiction, politics, the economy, the environment), it barely scratches the surface of most of them. It’s clear that Estevez is well-meaning but ultimately, The Public is a movie that lacks any genuine depth.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.

The Wife

thewife.jpgBehind every great man, there is an even greater woman pissed off she’s not getting the recognition she deserves; which in a nutshell sums up Meg Wolitzer’s provocative novel. Adapted for the screen by Jane Anderson (Olive Kitteridge), The Wife pits the forces of traditional marital dynamics against a lop-sided distribution of talent.

When American author and Nobel laureate nominee Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) learns of his impending award, he gleefully prepares a jaunt to Stockholm, family in tow. His wife Joan (Glen Close), also a talented writer, has long since packed away her typewriter in order to fan the flames of Joe’s successful career. On the eve of what was to be a celebration of his literary work, Joan confronts the widening cracks in their marriage; cracks that threaten to expose the secret they both hide.

Unsurprisingly, the film’s success hinges mainly on the role of its protagonist. Glen Close applies her breadth of experience to deliver a superb performance that encapsulates a heady mixture of humility and rage in the face of a hidden injustice. The film’s plot twist is not too difficult to decipher, although The Wife excels through the immutable pace at which it is delivered.  It is the kind of steadfast reveal that will have you second guessing if what you think is happening, will actually come to pass.

Glen Close is wonderfully (and perhaps ironically) supported by Jonathan Pryce whose desperate desire to be adored shows a narcissist at the peak of his consumption.  These brilliant performances work well in tandem with Swedish director Björn Runge’s crisp story-telling. His measured cinematic style exposes the undercurrent of inequality and proceeds to calmly grill it under a white-hot spotlight.

Runge credits his audience with enough wits to dig below the film’s gentle nature to ascribe meaning.  And dig you should, because beneath its amiable (and at times quite hilarious) surface is a film that packs the pin-sharp discomfort of feminine rage. It’s the kind of movie that operates as a parable of our times.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.