Two or three weeks ago I tapped out a little riff in praise of Michael Shannon. He’s always the guy to watch no matter what the role is, and sometimes he’ll steal films outright. He made Freeheld his own by portraying the compassionate cop partner of the cancer-afflicted Julianne Moore; ditto 99 Homes by playing a chilly but curiously vulnerable real-estate eviction agent. I said that Shannon is the guy, the master of that thing he always does, and that he doesn’t have to be nominated for Best Supporting Actor this year — he’s fine — but he should be. Because he scored twice.
I sat down with Shannon at the offices of IDPR today and kicked it all around. We talked about 25 minutes. A breeze to shoot the shit with. Mostly because I really respect him, I suppose, and also because I get along with guys with Irish names. Very matter of fact, no hedging or sidestepping. Shannon has this vibe or attitude that seems to say “go ahead, bring it up, I don’t care.” And he asks you questions half the time.
I spoke with Suffragette director Sarah Gavron and screenwriter Abi Morgan because I wanted to do something besides write about how affecting and well-made their film is. Sappy as this sounds I felt obliged to do something for an experience that had really gotten to me. And then I saw Suffragette for the second time last night at the Academy premiere, and it sank in like it did five or six weeks ago in Telluride. No diminishment.
What’s with the 79% Rotten Tomatoes verdict? Suffragette is too stirring, too important, too well captured for any “well, yes but” responses. I was speaking to an older guy at last night’s after-party who shrugged and said “well, yes but a bit too much like a longform British TV drama.” No, not accurate. It’s a movie that lays it down and brings it home in 106 minutes. It pays tribute to rebels and tells the hard truth about what it costs to push back.
Suffragette is about the civil disobedience phase of the England’s women’s suffrage movement of 1912 and ’13, and much…actually most of it is about the hurt and the bruising.
It focuses on a group of five or six women (Helena Bonham Carter‘s Edith Ellyn, Natalie Press‘s Emily Davison, Anne-Marie Duff‘s Violet Miller, Romola Garai‘s Alice Haughton) but mostly on Carey Mulligan‘s Maud Watts, an exhausted and all-but-drained mother and factory worker who gradually “sees” and succumbs. Somewhat like Thomas Becket, she gradually falls for the honor of rebellion.
From “Mad’s Glorious Anti-Smoking Campaign,” a 6.26.14 New Yorker piece by David Margolick: “In the early to mid-nineteen-sixties, both before and after the Surgeon General issued his famous report on the dangers of tobacco, Mad magazine took on the industry more than any ‘respectable’ magazine. Free from any dependency on advertising, Mad could be fearless, and it was. Its campaign of ridicule was unrelenting.
“The magazine attacked not just the tobacco giants but the folks on Madison Avenue who hawked the poisonous products — many of whom, it noted, were too smart to smoke themselves. Fifty years later, many who read Mad devotedly still remember the crusade. The ads closely resembled the real ones that ran on television and in magazines. There was the one for ‘Marble Row’ funeral directors, showing horses grazing in a graveyard. ‘You Get a Plot You Like,’ it declared. Or the ad promising that ‘Likely Strife separates the men from the boys…but not from the doctors.’
Initially posted on 5.28.09: “The only people I know in real life who smoke are (a) young and courting a kind of contrarian identity, (b) older with vaguely self-destructive attitudes, and in some cases beset by addiction problems, (c) serious “party” people with unmistakable self-destructive compulsions and tendencies, and (d) life’s chronic losers — riffraff, low-lifes, scuzzballs.
“The point is that all the above associations seem to kick in every time sometime lights up in a film, and it’s gotten so that I don’t want to watch characters in movies smoke at all. Unless it’s a period film or unless they look extremely cool doing it (a la Robert Mitchum in Out of the Past or Jean Paul Belmondo in Breathless), but very few actors have that ability.
Nobody fully respects a guy who, when faced with a momentous career decision, ponders and frets and dithers and says “I don’t know if I’m ready,” etc. I don’t care what tragedy has befallen you or how gut-punched you feel. A person wanting to be president has to have the stomach to push through all that and do the hard thing regardless. In the end Joe Biden‘s Irish-heartbreak emotions won out, and on a personal level that’s fine. But if he had decided to run, people would be wondering “what if Joe’s going through a difficult emotional time when the next major crisis hits? Does he have the steel for this job?”
The apparently troubled Jane Got A Gun will open in the U.S. next February. Two and two-thirds years ago (mid-March of 2013) director Lynn Ramsey quit the film and was quickly replaced by Gavin O’Connor (Warrior, Pride and Glory, Miracle). O’Connor is a good director but the vibes aren’t right. Wiki boilerplate: Pic was set to be distributed in the U.S. by Relativity Media on 8.29.14, but then Relativity cancelled that on 4.10.14, switching the opening to a 2.20.15 release, which was then shifted to 9.4.15. And then Relativity sold the film to the Weinstein Co. amid their filing for bankruptcy. Pic opens in France on 11.25.
On top of which there’s my Joel Edgerton problem — i.e., whatever he’s in, I’ve learned that I probably won’t like it. The last full-bore Edgerton performance I’ve been down with was in Animal Kingdom. (He was fine in Zero Dark Thirty but that was barely more than a muscle cameo.) I didn’t like him in Black Mass or The Gift. I didn’t like him as Ramses in Exodus: Gods and Kings or as Tom Buchanan in The Great Gatsby. He’s marginally more tolerable than Ben Mendelsohn but that’s not saying much.
Jane Got A Gun is basically Edgerton and Natalie Portman up against a passel of bad guys, including Ewan McGregor.
Yup, that’s right — not a single mention of the Miracle Mop. This is so not a Miracle Mop movie. Running its own game, walking in the rain. And clearly not in it for the laughs. Speaking as a small business owner I know all about JLaw’s tough-it-out, stand-up-for-yourself attitude, and as much as I hate to say this I’m presuming the film will strike a chord with conservatives…right? David O. Russell takes no prisoners. That said, I don’t know what to expect any more. Well, I do and I don’t. I know that Joy test-screened last night at the Pasadena Arclight, and that one attendee (said to be an acute contrarian) has called it “a mess.” HE to Acute Contrarian: Shut up. More to the point, are you actually saying it doesn’t do the usual this-happens-and-then-that-happens “everything’s gonna be okay” backrub thing with a red ribbon tied in a bow? Maybe the Pasadena version was different than the one that screened in Manhattan Beach? My mind is flying back to that tweet about three editors having taken a whack at it. There’s nothing wrong with tossing lettuce leaves, re-scrambling the eggs, searching for clear light.