Tag: Ethan Hawke

Maudie

maudThis small but delightful film is not going to threaten Taika’s superhero behemoth for box-office takings anytime soon, but it’s good to see that there is room in the spring release schedule for something at the other end of the spectrum.

Maudie is a gently observational piece that takes a slice of Canadian rural life and lets a discordant zephyr blow through its fields. Set in Marshalltown, Nova Scotia, the titular Maud, played by Sally Hawkins (Happy Go Lucky, Paddington) suffers a life-long form of arthritis. Through dogged determination, she pursues a passion for painting whilst holding down a job as a housekeeper for the gruff and bad-tempered loner, Everitt (Ethan Hawke). They are an ill-fitting couple that, as Maud quips, are like “a pair of odd socks”. Yet through their differences, they find a commonality that extends to a curiously touching relationship.

Despite the demands of what is a very physical performance, Hawkins displays a wonderful ability to convey emotion through subtle expression. Thankfully, her skills are not lost on Director Aisling Walsh, who elevates this further by letting the camera sit with her performance for long periods. Walsh’s kinetic restraint only serves to enhance this character-driven film allowing their relationship to subtly bristle with drama and the occasional smile. With such a focus on its two protagonists, it is a relief that the chemistry between Hawkins and Hawke (clearly a casting director who likes birds of prey) is one that successfully elevates the film rather than lowers it.

The film is occasionally framed with painterly qualities that mimic her artwork, but on the whole, the visual style is dialled right back and seems to eschew the need to create visual drama where it’s undue. And despite being a little too coy in parts, Maudie is a warm and inviting film that gives Maud Lewis’s true story the telling it deserves.

 

You can see my published reviews here.

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The Magnificent Seven

mag7_620x310I regretfully admit that I have not yet seen the 1960 version of The Magnificent Seven (which was originally based on Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Japanese classic, Seven Samurai). In fact, the whole western genre is a bit of a blind spot for me. However, the positive is that I can look at Antoine Fuqua’s (Training DayThe Equalizer) remake with fresh eyes rather than compare it to the original. Apparently I’m in good company – the film’s star, Denzel Washington, citing similar reasoning, didn’t see the original either.

The plot is relatively simple. Set in 1879, Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard) and his gang roll into town and demand the townsfolk sell their land to him at a cut price. He gives them three weeks to comply before he comes back and takes the town by force. Emma Cullen (Haley Bennett) and her friend Teddy Q (Luke Grimes) head out to a nearby town to enlist help. There they find Warrant Officer Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), who in turn, enlists six other guns for hire (Chris Pratt and Ethan Hawke among them). Together they nut out a battle plan before Bogue and his heavies return. You can imagine what happens next.

So, how do we justify this remake? Why now? Was there something new and fresh to be told, or was it simply a commercial cash grab? I can see the thinking – conjure up a familiar but compelling plot worthy of recycling, add some heavy hitting actors, and we might just have a hit on our hands. This rationale is fine, but if you’re deciding not to tread on new ground then it puts a heavy onus on “entertainment”.

Here, unfortunately entertainment took a back seat to box ticking. Variation of ethnicities and backgrounds – tick. Stage it like the original classic – tick. Ensure a big finale – tick. Get big name actors – tick. All boxes were checked successfully, yet this film still felt vacuous. The variation of ethnicities felt like they were meeting quotas, with little opportunity given to explore their rich backgrounds. The result left me with a seven that was more “meh”gnificent than magnificent. The staging was so drawn-out and overemphasised it felt too heavy-handed. The long and overcooked finale was a path of violence that left a town so devastated it was barely recognisable. I had to ask myself what the point was. Perhaps Fuqua was angling for a cynical view of violence as a tool to solve disputes. Who knows? Moreover, who cares … I certainly didn’t.

Star rating: 2/5

See the published review here.