Friday, May 11, 2018

Review: TULLY

Third-time mother to be, Marlo runs a ritual brush over her son's legs and arms as the credits roll. It's the quietest moment we'll see for a good swag of screen time as we are plunged into the daily noise, struggles and teetering of a young family. The boy is being gradually squeezed from the conventional school system for being "quirky". The girl is beginning to have confidence issues. With the new one due soon there only be more of this. At night Marlo goes up to bed and collapses beside her husband as he taps at a game console. Gen X married with children.

Resisting her brother's offer to pay for a night nanny once the baby comes she yet notices how orderly and peaceful his three-child house is when over there for dinner. She takes the post-it with the nanny's number. A few weeks later of constant mounting family and post-natal strain and she finds the note in her purse. That night the radiant and bright-eyed Tully appears at the door and, after a few points of establishment, sends Marlo off to bed. The next day the house is spotless and the morning after a long sleep holds the memory only of being gently woken to nurse the new addition.

The pair establish a quick rapport and Tully's spacy new-age ways allow Marlo a way back to the person she's had to suppress in favour of the parental altruism she has had to learn. Some rich dialogue later and we've got the makings of a charming girl-buddy movie. And that's what we get, for awhile. The rest is spoilers.

Director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody might well be offering this as a kind of touchpoint in their careers as the spectre of maturity looms over them as it does their characters here. Where Juno and Young Adult wrestled with questions of responsibility and many instances (not always centre screen) of denial of it, Tully offers a controlled scream at the inevitability of accepting it. Cody's script, laced with great one-liners, offers more measured reflection rather than youthful dazzle. Reitman frames it as it lifts from the grind of daily life to the moments of elation subtly, keeping to a sober (some might say drab) pallet which gives it a kind of Gen X art house functional look.

Charlize Theron drags us into the strained musculature of a veteran parent but keeps her head above the quicksand with an expert delivery of lines that a writer like Cody has saved for her. The film depends on this pendulum working and constantly. It must takes us through the exhausting montage of the new baby routines and white knuckle negotiations with her difficult son. But it must also allow us to accept the sense of healing that begins when her exchanges with the younger Tully develop and the emotional bruises come to light. For her part Mackenzie Davis must strike a balance between a kind of coddled youthful wisdom and vulnerability for this to happen. It's a thankless performance until the third act allows us perspective. Not to diminish the contribution of Ron Livingston and Mark Duplass who I could watch in anything but this really is Theron's and Davis' movie.

It's always a pleasure to be so surprised by a film that your reservations even half way through are dismissed by such good work. Well, work is what it is, work to run a family, work to deal with constant pressure, work to let one's own youth pass into its rooms serving as practical memory rather than lulling through nostalgia. But surprised I was, starting happily enough in front of a witty look at the trials of the first world but staying for the real dialogue and admitting the job it was doing.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Review: UNSANE

A male voice speaks to a woman of his admiration for her as we track slowly through an eerie midnight forest. With context silent we jump to a young woman several times smart: dressed for the office, sharp-minded and sarcastic as she icily devastates a client on the phone. Dismissing a colleague who has been listening we see her roll her chair to follow a man who has just walked through the office. Then she has a meeting with the boss who praises her work on a report before getting subtly sleazy with an invitation to join him at a conference. She heads off to an app date after work, lets him know that she's after a strict one nighter. They pash back at her place before she emotionally collapses, horrified at herself, and finds a place to hide as her bemused beau exits. The next day she goes to an interview about joining a victims of stalkers group which leaves her talking to herself in a reception area before handing a form in which results in her examination and incarceration in a mental health facility. I ran all that together as that's how it goes past in less than twenty minutes of screen time. We've got to know her fairly well but now we're wondering. She's just voluntarily sectioned herself. Huh?

This is a film too easy to spoil so I'll stop there. There is a lot of plot here but more there is a theme at play and on the rise. The tale is about the constant tension between safety and trust and the slippery nature of our perceptions when we are deemed beyond making reliable observations. The result involves us doing a lot of guessing but then when the story settles on one of the possibilities it goes well past the point of the twist scene. Anyone who wanted to congratulate themselves on getting it before time then has to negotiate with a third act that devalues that feat. There's plenty to get through after that and it's all development.

Which is strange: this is a film that presents itself as a taut thriller - is she crazy, are they scamming the insurance, is there a massive and ugly gaslighting going on? - for most of the the running time starts stretching out the issues while the plot is getting faster. I've a strong hunch that anyone demanding a stylish but standard genre movie is going to judge the third act poorly but they shouldn't.

Claire Foy gives a character who can be very hard to love and chooses to go for comprehension over sympathy. During the phase in which her character Sawyer is plummeting into instability she uses the futility of the struggle to bring us closer, even though we're starting to get a little sniffy at her antics. Josh Leonard keeps us at bay in a way that we might just put it down to writing. It's a thankless turn but ... well, you'll see. Jay Pharoah's Nate, a kind of updated Sam Fuller mean-streets sage has a similar job to Leonard in that he must risk losing us between his warmth and undeclared purpose. My one gripe with the casting is that the always welcome Juno Temple gets so little screen time. Her character is important but at times when Sawyer was getting irritating I could have used much more Violet.

It's worth noting that the score makes such determined use of monotone. Whether it's a drone on the bowed basses or electronic, or a single piano note clanging over a sparsely moving bass figure we are given the music of claustrophobia and futility. Not a soundtrack album to bring out for a dinner party but a well judged approach to film music.

Steven Soderberg has had a long career being known for movies that sport a recognisable by line but resist auteurist description. A few years back he very publicly retired from the cinema in preference for the long form of pay tv but then quietly popped back in with Side Effects and Logan Lucky. Anyone following his career might have made a lot of that but to me it really just seems like him doing what he wants, having earned the clout to do so. From his indy breakthrough in the 80s, Sex, Lies and Videotape he was written up the same portentous way that similar figures like Hal Hartley were, as the quirky voices of the neonewhollywood. But where Hartley kept consistent for most of his initial career (haemorrhaging fans with the experimental Flirt) Soderberg went big budget and then small budget, whacko and then generic, epic and intimate, Panavision and video (he is famously his own cinematographer). And here with this frenetic thriller he's just doing some of that all over again and gives us an hour an a half of good stuff. I remember noting the phrase that he was shooting lighting setups that would look warm on film but on digital video look as flat and cold as an old Dogme movie, ugly but intetntionally so. I've since learned that he shot it with a modified i-Phone. The aspect ratio is reported (IMDB) as a very odd 1.56:1. That's our Stevie, always a step ahead. But really ... a step ahead.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Review: THE DEATH OF STALIN

Radio Moscow, 1953. Historical figure, pianist Maria Yudina plays a Mozart concerto with an orchestra before a studio audience. The control room phone rings and the producer answers it. He is told to call back on a particular number in seventeen seconds. He fumbles the number, falling apart in front of the sound engineer. The caller was Stalin. The producer calls back at the right interval and is told to send the Secretary of All the Russias a recording of the performance. Of course, of course. Then, after hanging up, he asks if they did record the performance. A shake of the head. Right! we have to do it again. Stop everyone from leaving. Get the orchestra back. The Great Leader and Teacher wants a recording. And so they make one, waking a substitute conductor (who thinks it's the secret service) and grabbing passers by from the streets to make up the audience that got away.

This tale has appeared enough to be either mythology or cold, hard truth. I first read it in the discredited autobiography of Shostakovich, Testimony. The daily life of a Soviet citizen during the terror of Stalin involved a lot of what George Orwell had already called doublethink. Stalin got something that he asked for but was not exactly what he wanted. If he'd known he might equally have Gulaged the lot of them or let them stew as he smirked at their panic. Even the wavering truth value of the anecdote helps: it works whether it's fact or fiction. That is what we are in for with this film and it's both a strength and a weakness.

Stalin collapses in his office and is not checked by the sentries placed outside because their orders are only to keep others out. He is discovered by the only person allowed in (the maid with breakfast) and the rollcall of Party lights brings the quorum of the Central Committee to the room. We see political  relationships accelerate and know that we will have to follow some dangerous conversations, slips of the tongue, desperate saves, disasters of overreaching and so on. The old man is gone and the mess he left will need cleaning, so much cleaning that the carpet where he walked will be bleached to the floorboards.

If you are familiar with at least some of director/adaptor Armando Ianucci's work you'll know his strengths as a political satirist. And if you know the work you might be expecting a series of sharpshooting bullseyes drawing a lot of knowing laughter. That doesn't happen and at first it seems awkward but there's a scheme at work and it lets us settle in. At the start we seem expected to find the wisecracks of the political heavies funny but we notice that the violence under each jibe and wink is translatable as horrifying action. The NKVD headquarters clamour with pistol shots and fresh corpses tumble down staircases as a backdrop to conversations, feeling as much like street theatre as historical terror and there's a point to it. If the violence is too amped it bruises the comedy and if the comedy is too sharp it will diminish the effect of the violence. So both need to be reined in and are.

There's a scene in Life of Brian where Pontius Pilate is forced to threaten his soldiers with severe punishment when they keep laughing at his lisp. The tension is ramped when a joke name is revealed to be the real name of one of Pilate's friends. Pilate hones in on each guard who bites his lip or twists his mouth to keep from laughing and getting thrown in with the gladiators. It's a perfectly realised moment of power reduced to absurdity. The Death of Stalin is almost all this and the only way it can sustain is by dropping the need for the audience to pay each line with a laugh, creating a broader absurdity only enriched by the earnestness of the dialogue. We are being beckoned by the film to nudge into the whispering scrums and sense the danger of each utterance.

You don't get to do this without a cast that can handle it and, boy do we get one. Steve Buscemi's Kruschev seems the calm rational centre until he reveals a mass of anxieties. Simon Russell Beale's NKVD head Berrier is all bluster and blokey but creepily sinister all at once. Jeffery Tambor's Malenkov is a thanklessly sympathetic drawing of the second in command that a tyrant might choose as he would never pose a real threat but when power is handed him he will slowly disintegrate. His constant nerves delivered with each command make him both painful and funny to watch. Jason Isaacs bursts in as Marshall Zhukov, a laddish monster with a Yorkshire lilt. That's another thing: thank the Lord Harry they went with the actors' own accents rather than impose a kind of Rosseeyan splotz on everyone. This was done as well in the 70s tv movie Red Monarch where Stalin sounded Irish, Berrier Cockney etc. The dialogue isn't in Russian so instead of going halfway why not overlay an anglophone range. Kruschev's  wisecracking suits Steve Buscemi's New York sting to a T. If anyone sticks out the wrong way it is Michael Palin (who, incidentally, played Pilate in Life of Brian) as Molotov but this is largely due to the dialogue in which he is given Pythonesque lines. Perhaps I'm projecting that but it really did feel that way and put his character out of sorts with the others in a film that depends on the strength of its ensembles. 

Why Stalin? Well, if you want to look at what happens when an autocrat goes you're best off choosing one who didn't die in extreme crisis like Hitler or Mussolini as they were replaced by conquering armies. They could've gone for Franco or Peron but, really, they don't come much more intriguing that Stalin whose command encompassed the boundlessness of the USSR who was both hero to and tormentor of his people and whose tight paranoia left the question of his succession terrifyingly difficult. Also, his story is that of a culture that commanded its own reality, whose alternative facts were dogma until circumstance reversed them. And it's not just the current U.S. presidency. This film has been banned in Putin's Russia. See what I mean? It's funny but you're not laughing.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Review: A QUIET PLACE

When I was a kid I would clench my teeth during tense scenes because I thought I'd bite the tip of my tongue off at a sudden scare. In this film if you make a sound you will be torn to pieces by an alien monster and eaten. My tongue started pressing against my top row of teeth and stayed there for a little over ninety minutes.

The Abbotts are surviving the invasion of the sound-triggered monsters with an advantage. Their daughter, Regan, is near deaf and they already could communicate in sign language. We see the consequences of not keeping to this rule early and it's nasty. From that point the moments of relief or more procedural narrative feel surrounded by danger. We need no reminder of this in a film whose dialogue is almost entirely silent and whose human sound we are constantly measuring against nature's lest the balance be ruptured. This, apart from anything else, is one of the most suspenseful family dramas I've ever seen.

Well, it is about family. There's favouritism, adolescent rebellion, miscommunication and conciliation but this is woven into the constant sense of hazard that threatens violent death ... so it never gets soapy. It also never gets easy. There's the stress of survival and the frustration of information poverty about the situation. The farm where they live is surrounded by cornfields through which cut paths of silent white sand. At night they play board games with cloth pieces and when the chance for the occasional two step presents itself with a pair of shared earbuds. And there's a pregnancy near term. Oh, and an exposed nail on a step in the basement.

We are observing a delicate scale that shifts between how to survive and what for which is tough enough until you remove not just the customary means of communication but also the release that loud human noise can deliver at points of stress or grief or pain (remember that nail? Well, it gets worse than you think). The despair of rolling that boulder up the hill over and over is centre screen. Is it worth it?

If I seem to be struggling to describe this film it's probably because its themes are not intended to be more remarkable than the jeopardy stretching each scene to snapping point. This is a film about tension. It is resolutely not an undeclared silent film as sound is the medium of its threat but the stress impacting its characters and their responses is dependent entirely on the cast's ability to act as though in a silent film.

Husband and wife team on and off screen John Krasinski (who also directs) and Emily Blunt credibly bring real shared parenthood to the table. Their primary focus is the children and it's not a stretch to consider the origin of this story as the anxiety created by a baby crying in public. As to the children we are given an impressively troubled teenager in Millicent Simmonds who's emotively driven judgement can cast safety by the way and Noah Jupe, the sole good thing about Suburbicon, who might not stretch his young boy coping with a weirding world but fills it believably.

Perhaps the best thing to do here is an unfair comparison. The film Descent played on the notion of the fatality of sound and effectively wasted the opportunity to compel prospective scream queens to scream silently. Was it the premise at fault there? None of the characters had to be where they were (part of the point as they were the invaders but still) and came across as bodies for the count. Here everything about life is at stake and, when really questioned might not be worth the fight.

That and the fact that when I wasn't guarding my tongue against my own teeth I was gaping and shrinking from the screen for almost all of the ninety-six minutes I was in front of it. This is cinema.


Saturday, March 3, 2018

Review: GAME NIGHT

Max and Annie met at a pub game night and competed their way to instant love. He proposed by charade at a home game night and their bridal waltz was done as an arcade game. Annie's getting clucky but Max's sperm count is down. Could it have to do with his alpha male brother being in town? Well, when he (Brooks) turns up for the next home game night it's in Max's dream car and he proceeds to barge in and take over, squeezing Max into a social corner in the process but then invites everyone to his own. There won't be any board games at that as Brooks has engaged a professional service of extreme role play involving FBI agents, heavies, rough and tumble, with the promise that it won't always be easy to tell game from reality. What could go wrong?

After twenty minutes of telescoping what does go wrong we're into it as the comedy collides with the thriller it's invoking and the blend that this movie is going for starts churning. Does it work? Mostly. The three couples and Brooks have a particular thread each that pretty much determines their various successes in getting through the game/heavy situation and this can disturb the surface slickness with its own variation of success.

Max and Annie whose competition theme is at the genetic level, fuelled by the sibling rivalry works best as they are given the sharpest writing. Kevin and Michelle's ongoing guessing game about a youthful sexual incident, while it can momentarily amuse, gets repetitive and irritating. The lunky character Ryan and his ring-in Sarah are the least resolved can be winceable. Is Ryan really as stupid as his dialogue renders him? When it's convenient the he be, yes. Is Sarah hiding some secret purpose in sticking around (they even ask her directly about this at one point) or is her stated list of reasons really the real ones? Is the creepy neighbour, a permanently grieving and uniformed cop, really just content to be excluded by Max and Annie's transparent lies to keep him from joining their game nights? Does he have a bigger plan of his own? You'll be asking those very questions and more as you watch and perhaps a further one of how much more of a writing exercise is this film going to be?

There are real laughs, though, don't get me wrong. An early practical gag gets a brilliant one liner that serves as the first of a long procession of cinema history jokes (even the film's title does this in the same way that a character describes something as Eyes Wide Fight Club). There is a lot of disarmingly arch dialogue as the driving competition between characters is sustained. But when this falls short of its intended power, often due to poor judgement in some of the timing, the saving grace of the whole thing comes to the rescue: the cast. Jason Bateman, Rachel McAdams, Jesse Plemons et al. are all on game and manage to bring light to each creaky corner of lapse plotting or over stretched jokes (the self aware comment during the bribe scene comes across as one writer correcting another during an allnighter, rather than something more organic).

That said, this movie fulfils its poster promises. It takes the competition theme to reach for a life-lesson reconciliation through chaos that mixes reality with contrivance. What I was missing was the kind of edge that films of earlier times might have added. The Wars of the Roses, Little Murders or A New Leaf pushed a heightened competition into very dark territory, taking deals like romantic comedy to greatness with a mix of astute judgement and an eye for the forbidden in every joke. Here, we get a fun extension of a pub game night and a few tidy resolutions and even some convincing action sequences. Enjoy but enter with the bar set at a comfortable height. You'll laugh. You won't scream but you will laugh.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Review: Lady Bird

Seventeen is a shaky bridge. We cross it juggling friendships, sex, drugs and education and hope we can get to the other side before everything crumbles and collapses. Christine has given herself the name Lady Bird which she will take out of her small town to a big city University on the east coast and there to a dazzling creative life beyond. Well, that's the plan. When she tells her mother any of this she gets a blast of verbal violence so powerful it makes her leap out of a moving car.

At school she's left everything too late. It's her final year and her indifference to her studies has meant that her dreams of a scholarship are routinely dashed by everyone who has the figures. Her father is laid off so the money will not be there for the humblest of higher ed solutions. A flirtation with theatre performance leaves her flat and an attempt at upgrading her friendship circles to a higher social stratum has a queasy end. When losing her virginity is disappointing her beau consoles her by saying she has a lifetime of unremarkable sex to look forward to. Yes, she has to get out but that just seems to diminish daily.

I'll admit it took some convincing for me to buy a ticket to this one. The trailer looked iffy and the pedigree was dodgy but too many critical responses were intriguing rather than just glowing. I felt like I was the only person on earth who hated Frances Ha. That indulgence-begging grind swore me off its director for life and I winced to see its star in the cast lists of other films. Noah Baumbach and Greta Gerwig are life as well as creative partners. Baumbach is also a serial offender in my mind by his frequent collaborations with the dependably off-putting Wes Anderson. What I feared was that Lady Bird was going to be a cover version of that.

It wasn't just the critics. It was also Soairse Ronan. The veteran screen actor at twenty-five is consistently impressive. The only time (this might make me sound obsessive) she hasn't been was in Grand Budapest Hotel where she was really only decorative. But that wasn't her fault. Here she must make a difficult character appeal to us without asking for our indulgence. Lady Bird is always a daydream away from chaos but unlike Frances Halliday and her aggressive pointlessness her dangers are not unbelievably self destructive. This is a fine blend of assured and detailed performance, writing that stops short of self-consciousness and a consistent warmth guiding the helm. Few will agree with me but I see this as Gerwig's redemption.

This extends to pretty much all the characters who get more than two lines. The alpha chick of the school is not a cardboard bitch but a life system around a selfish and ridiculing teenage centre. Lady Bird's granite mooded mother does have the big heart that others claim for her. The nuns and priests of her Catholic school are as likely to be benign as severe. The sex and drugs and rock and roll of the teens plays with neither sernsationalism nor cuteness. The priest directing the school play like a football game isn't just quirky it's funny, genuinely belly-laughing funny. Seeing an airliner takeoff from the window rather than the ground brings us gently in to where we should be. It feels real. So far from the feared Frances Ha origins episode, the care and craft of Lady Bird gives us a recognisable experience.

I'm not nostalgic as a rule, preferring to gather the circumstances around a revisited life event if only to stop myself from art directing it to make it comfy. I don't think it was nostalgia here but I was frequently moved to ride along with Lady Bird as she understands how she's wasted her schooling, learning to drive, investing such gravity into the escape of university, getting to the cooler parties, having tough conversations with her parents (played so beautifully by Tracey Letts and Laurie Metcalf) and navigating that fraught last year of high school. A lot of films have tried to capture this. Some work efficiently (The Perks of Being a Wallflower) and others poison your life force (Rushmore) but this one, despite a protagonist of the other sex and over twenty years beyond my year twelve, is the first that really felt right, the first that felt exactly as I felt it.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Review: I, TONYA

Ok, young woman beats the odds, frees herself from an oppressive stage mother, survives the violence of a marriage and achieves athletic greatness. But the story doesn't end there. There was a crushing decline in performance and a public image that worked against her. And there was an infamous incident which implicated her in the serious injury of a rival which effectively aborted her career. She says that she went from being loved to being hated to being a punchline.

The ways into a historical story like this are many and the one chosen is by now one that borders on the cloyingly familiar: the mockumentary. To-camera testimony, action contradicted by voice-over by a whole cast of unreliable narrators, a strangely 70s-heavy jukebox source score, and a reliance on the unintentional comedy from rednecks bearing overblown witness or just sounding clueless as they evade personal responsibility. More on that later.

A bright pallette and a mix of staged interviews and sudden fourth wall breaks in dramatised scenes let you know that these filmmakers know their 90s and onward mockos like To Die For, American Hustle or Bernie. So do we but here, mercifully, we have some deviation. Not a hell of a lot but some and that is more than the usual.

The thread of Tonya Harding's career from childhood to Olympic competition is told with great energy and colour. The scenes in the rink of Harding in her most assured and adrenal context are thrilling. The encroachment of the various ugly edges of her life into this is also strong, waiting there in the dressing room and the corridors backstage. The precarious joints of her early marriage with its sudden, ugly violence is given a hand-held veracity. Every scene with her mother carries a dreadful weight. And through all of this the central strength of Harding develops to create a tough survivor.

But there are things that threaten the solidity of this core and they aren't pretty. The radio fodder on the soundtrack is 70s rather than 90s to suggest the kind of hits and memories that are good 'nuff fer rednecks. Elsewhere dramatic intros of things like Heart's Barracuda are used in lieu of scored music. This variously works and feels old hat. At its worst it sneers. And really, if you want to make a point about the cultural snobbery affecting the central character's career why risk expressing that snobbery? And what exactly is the point of a title card pleading that the film's sources include the "irony free" interviews of Harding and her husband Jeff Gillooly, if not to invite us to laugh on cue?

The middle act drags as it attempts explanation of the miscommunication between the players that led to the assault on Nancy Kerrigan and mires us in a fog of unreliable testimony. This is intentional but it is savoured until it is oppressive and energy sapping. It also burdens the running time.

This film could healthily lose a good thirty minutes. That's partly due to the mishandling of the central information miasma in the middle act but also partly due to a reluctance to murder a few darlings. Bobby Cannavale's role as tabloid tv reporter from the time adds nothing to the account that we don't already get from the well placed bites of contemporary media accounts. He does look very box-tickingly quirky and the proceedings would breathe a little better without his soliloquies.

But this is a film of performances and, boy, do we get performances. Margot Robbie gives a solid electric centre with her short fused rage which even in maturity seethes with resentment. She gives us, through this maelstrom, the genuine exhilaration of the athlete who can forget all of her life's pain in the awesome flowing of her talent. She seems to give her character the break that the filmmakers did not afford. Staring out of the screen, almost filling it, applying gaudy makeup for her Olympic performance we don't need the information to explain the tears she cannot resist. It is a striking moment of sheer cinema.

Alison Janney delivers everything that this role that was written for her demands. From a younger mother to the dead bark crone of the present day she pumps into what might have been a one note portrait, the anger and contempt of someone incapable of seeing past the hurdles and the setbacks of her life. Like a stage mum imagined by Edward Albee she rages, cuts, slashes and burns every sentient thing around her, claiming the empire of her personal space and rendering it inviolable. The tiny glints of pride in her daughter's successes Janney allows through are drily private. Along with Tonya, her toxic resentment of the universe she was given, hardens her every line. Unlike the CGI that Robbie needed to emulate her character's sporting prowess, Janney's interplay with a real parrot is quietly stunning.

The rest of the cast cannot compete with these performances, everyone does a fine job, sometimes against the material, but I will mention Paul Walter Hauser. His sustained grating turn as the often disturbingly delusional Shawn is saved from being one note by the sheer ugly mystery his mental workings must call home. Again, we get the rednecks card as he emits such bizarre garbage guaranteed for laughs until we think back and realise that it is these very warped notions that might have done most to motivate the violence on Nancy Kerrigan.

What survives the shortcomings of the filmmakers, however, is a commitment to the theme of blame placing and its corrosive power. In a way this is a kind of Amadeus for our times as we, the non-famous audience, witness the struggle of greatness to burst through only to be constantly nibbled the very mediocrity that everyone on screen and in front of must avoid simply in order to keep living. It is simple notions like this that allow the triumphs of this film to pass through its wall of avowed cleverness (I, Tonya, indeed!). Go for Margot and Alison. They will not disappoint.


PS - Why, oh why, do we still have to suffer big endnotes telling us that this one is happily married and that one never strangled another chicken? This was only interesting once, when done in American Graffiti, a work of fiction from the ground up. It's 2018 and there is Google!