Tag: Margot Robbie

Bombshell

bs1Verdict: Packs plenty of gun powder but doesn’t quite go off with a bang.

Director Jay Roach has gingerly tiptoed through the thorny but serious topic of sexual harassment in his latest film, the provocatively titled Bombshell. It’s a bold move for a director better known for the comedic contrivances of Austin Powers, but his latest certainly isn’t for laughs and plays out more like a politically explosive revenge film.

News anchor Gretchen Carlson (Kidman) kicks off a lawsuit against her boss (Fox Network bigwig Roger Ailes, played by a very slimy John Lithgow) for unfair demotion. The revelation that Ailes sexually harassed her is met with a ground-swell of cautious support, among them news anchor Megyn Kelly (Theron) and Kayla Pospisil (Robbie), that fast becomes a triple barrelled powder-keg of feminine rage planted deep within the bowels of Fox Network’s male-dominated ivory tower.

You’ll forgive Bombshell for the diversity drought—the Fox building, where this tale is predominantly set, is presented as a hotbed of white, conservative ambition. Cleverly, the sexual harassment case plays out to the backdrop of the Trump’s election campaign in which the film screams “see who you’ve let run the free world?!”. It’s fairly obvious where Bombshell’s political sentiments lie.

Unfortunately, Bombshell’s fever-pitched witch hunt does pay undue attention towards its more mechanical “cloak-and-dagger” plot points and timidly shies away from fully fleshing out its female characters. One notable scene in which a disconsolate Kayla (Robbie) weeps down the phone to her friend searching for reassurance, unfortunately, loses vital impact—well-acted, yes, but we just don’t know enough about her to care. As it stands we are held strangely at arm’s length which hints to screenwriter Charles Randolph’s (The Big Short) penchant for punchy political satire rather than deeply personal stories. Perhaps also a product of men telling women’s stories, but far be it from me to make that call.

Despite these grumbles Bombshell still offers engaging viewing thanks in part to Roach’s kinetic film-making but mostly due to the solid acting from the triumvirate of female A-listers who seem to get the most from Randolph’s pallid characterisations. It’s a well-intended film that enthusiastically nods towards the #metoo movement but never fully arrives at the point where feminine ambition intersects with moral fortitude.

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

Peter Rabbit

peterrabbitIn a modern-day take on Beatrix Potter’s beloved leporine tale of the same name, director Will Gluck has drummed up a warren of talent that would be the envy of any studio. James Cordon, Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Daisy Ridley and Elizabeth Debicki, among others, all chip in to flesh out this story about a cheeky (and very cute) anthropomorphised rabbit and his battle for a vegetable patch.

Confident to a fault, Peter (Cordon) observes Old Mr McGregor’s (Sam Neill) vegetable patch with envious eyes until his rebellious nature gets the better of him.  It doesn’t take long for the rascally rabbit to persuade his friends and siblings to join his march on foreign soil, but when Old Mr McGregor is replaced by the even more ruthless Thomas (Gleeson), the stakes are raised.  Add a love interest to the mix (the very affable Rose Byrne) and you have a complex cocktail of romance, ownership, and vengeance which becomes as cute and charming as it is volatile.

There’s plenty of slapstick action to keep the young ones giggling (and some good gags for the oldies as well) but the carrots are planted rather shallow here and any semblance of plot-depth cough and splutter with mixed results.  Quite charming in parts and yet annoyingly episodic, the film attempts addressing issues such as “ownership”—the vegetable patch providing the film with a weak allegory about “living together” and “sharing” to which recent contemporaries, such as the superb Paddington, handled with far more heart. Instead, Peter Rabbit becomes surprisingly spiteful in parts, to the point where you’re not too sure who you’re supposed to be rooting for and I suspect some of the young‘uns might find the film’s complex moral compass a little disorientating.

Peter Rabbit’s attempt to appeal to the widest possible audience is understandable when you consider the generational appeal of the source material. However, it can’t quite contain all it surveys and the result is a rollercoaster ride of good and bad, making the whole experience rather flat. Call me a vegetable patch fence-sitter but the dust is still settling on this one.
See more of my NZME reviews
 
See more of my NZME reviews here.

I, Tonya

itonyaIt seems the perfect time for Tonya Harding’s story to finally surface onto the big screen.  In the current age of relativism, this personal truth of Harding’s life is to be taken at face value. Right from the opening credits I, Tonya makes clear its intentions as an “irony free, wildly contradictory, totally true” account of Tonya’s story. In fact, the truth may never be known, not by us at least. But in Tonya’s own words “there’s no such thing as truth. I mean it’s bullsh*t. Everyone has their own truth and life just does whatever the f*ck it wants.” … which perfectly sums up this film’s sassy tone.

Most will already know the events surrounding the infamous scandal of Olympic ice-skaters Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan.  But less is known about the events leading up to the incident.  Physically abused from a young age by her mother and later in life by her husband, Tonya’s rough start moulded her into a belligerent, naive, self-confessed redneck that didn’t give an inch. Her side of the story is presented through mockumentary-style interviews with the key players, including Tonya (Margot Robbie), her husband Jeff Gillooly (Sebastian Stan) and Harding’s mother LaVona Golden (Allison Janney)—all who clarify events leading up to the “planned” kneecapping of rival skater Nancy Kerrigan. The incident made headlines around the world and defined the careers of the two Olympic ice-skaters.

Director Craig Gillespie’s (Lars and the Real Girl) visually charged approach is perfectly partnered with Steven Rogers’ punch-and-duck screenplay, resulting in a film that ebbs and flows effortlessly throughout. And although at times it relies too heavily on its emotive soundtrack, it packs enough kinetic wallop and alluring fourth-wall breaking (which at times includes us, the media frenzied public, complicit in her abuse), to keep you engaged.

It’s difficult to know how the real events behind closed doors actually played out, but one thing’s for sure; I, Tonya presents Harding’s “truth” as a feisty tale of dark humour and tragedy that proves to be an absorbing romp from start to finish.

Read the full review for the NZ Herald here.