Gil Mansergh’s Cinema Toast
New Releases For the Week of 9/15/17
Viceroy’s House (NR)
Starring: Hugh Bonneville, Gillian Anderson, Manish Dayal, Denzil Smith, Neerj Kabi, Om Puri, Michael Gambon, Simon Callow
Directed by: Gurinder Chada
Viceroy’s House takes place in and around the official domicile of England’s last British Viceroy just before India’s borders were shifted to create the Muslim country of Pakistan. Opening as comfortably as an Upstairs/Downstairs reset in India by Merchant/Ivory, it is, instead, a very personal tale of historic (and violent) sea-change written, directed, and produced by Gurinder Chada with input from Prince Charles. (This is because the Viceroy was Lord Louis Mountbatten, AKA Prince Charles’ Great-Uncle, and the Prince wanted things “portrayed completely”). Chada also drew on the stories told to her by her own family about living through this tumultuous time-period. Wisely, she chooses to focus on the lives of individuals to present her movie on an easily assimilated “human scale.”
3 and 1/2 pieces of classic three-part drama toast
Directed by: Peter Bratt
Delores Huerta and Cesar Chavez co-founded the United Farm Workers union (UFW), and Peter Bratt’s intent is have his documentary make Delores’ name as recognizable as Cesar’s. It was Delores who coined the Si, Se Pueda (Yes, We Can) slogan, Delores who was with presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy on the night of his assassination, Delores who suffered 3 broken ribs when beaten by the San Francisco police, Delores who planned the successful farm-workers march to Sacramento and the nation-wide grape boycott and it was Delores who was passed over for UFW presidency when Cesar died. Delores also had 11 children, several of whom are quite candid about how she was an absent mother, who “really didn’t belong to us.” Skillfully made, Bratt’s film succeeds in removing the bushel basket shading the brightness that was Delores Huerta.
3 and 1/2 pieces of Delores Huerta toast
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dominhall Gleason, Brian Gleeson
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Those of us who attended Sunday School will quickly understand that Mother is a Biblical allegory. A dewy-eyed young wife lives with her self-obsessed poet husband in a rambling and very isolated country house. They couple is joined by two older “houseguests” named Adam (complete with a wound on his side where a rib might have been removed), and Eve, who are free to wander anywhere in the house except the poet’s forbidden study. Needless to say, they go into the study where Eve accidentally breaks the poet’s “Fire Crystal.” Cast out by the poet, the now lustful older couple start having sex. Their grown sons appear at the door, and one kills the other in a fight over their Adam’s will. A wake follows and the house fills up with dozens of guests who, despite being warned, knock the rickety bathroom sink off the wall and flood the house. Then Aronofsky begins throwing in bits from the New Testament, History Channel timelines, and Hieronymous Bosch’s worst nightmares, until it reaches its vomit-inducing final notes.
1 and 1/2 pieces of manipulative and exploitive filmmaking toast
American Assassin (R)
Starring: Dylan O’Brien, Michael Keaton, Sanaa Lathan, Taylor Kitsch
Director: Michael Cuesta
The fact that this movie will attract audiences is very unsettling. Mitch Rapp is a young man who loses everyone he cares about in a terrorist attack and then poses as an American jihadist to infiltrate the terrorist organization. The CIA discovers Mitch and sends him to a training camp for assassins where they systematically erase any kindness and empathy Mitch had left. This devolves into a bloody physical and psychological mayhem where even the woman “thrown in to prove the hero is heterosexual” ends up getting waterboarded and tortured by Mitch.
1/2 piece of a do we really need another movie about psychopathic murderers? toast
The Fencer (NR)
Starring: Mart Avandi, Ursula Ratasepp, Lllisa Kippel, Hendrik Toompere
Directed by: Klaus Haro
This Finnish film tells the Cold-War era story of an Estonian patriot forced to flee Leningrad and hide in a tiny town. Despite his “big-city” ways, he is hired as an athletic instructor at the local school, and establishes a fencing team that begins winning tournaments. Then the team is invited to a fencing meet in Leningrad, where the teacher is at risk of being arrested.
1 and 1/2 pieces of not really that interesting toast
Starring: Emmanuelle Devos, Nathalie Baye, David Clavel, Olivier Chantreaux
Directed by: Frederic Mermoud
When the hired investigator tells Diane that there are only four large moka-colored automobiles in the French town of Evian, she is sure that one of them struck and killed her teenaged son. This grief-stricken mother has become obsessed with uncovering who was behind the wheel in that hit-and-run accident. She takes a ferry across Lake Geneva to confront the owners of those four cars, and quickly decides who is guilty. On the ferry, she arranges to get a gun, with the intent of extracting revenge. The story is less of a whodunit than a psychological portrait of the main characters, and I won’t spoil things by telling you that Beethoven plays a major part in the film’s satisfying conclusion.
3 pieces of French hit-and-run retribution toast