The One I Love

The new film, The One I Love, starring Elisabeth Moss and Mark Duplass opened on Friday, August 22nd. I actually saw this film back in April at the Sarasota Film Festival. At that time, the film was so new that there wasn’t even a film poster available. As long as I am looking backwards – there was no trailer available back then either. I had to illustrate the review with stills that I pulled from the one available clip. But now that the film is officially released complete with a film poster and a trailer…

… I’ve decided to reprint the review, with two pieces of new information. At the time (April 13th, 2014) that I watched this film and reviewed it, I had not seen even one episode of Mad Men. Adding to that fact, I must also admit that I hadn’t watched very much of The West Wing. But  for all of the past 11 days, I have been playing catch-up or said another way, I’ve been immersed, for the last 11 days, in watching the Mad Men series. As of this morning, I am at Season 6, Episode 7.  This morning, as I was driving to Morton’s, a food emporium here in Sarasota, I heard a brief interview with Elisabeth Moss on the radio, and it was in this interview that I learned that in The West Wing, Moss had played the daughter of President Bartlet. She appeared in 25 episodes over the 7 seasons the TWW ran.

Seeing that Moss was born in 1982, making her 32, that means that almost half of her life has been spent on just these two TV series. Now that I’ve seen Moss as Peggy Olsen in Mad Men, her performance in The One I Love is seen in a different light. But I digress. Forthwith, here is the review as published on April 13th, 2014.

The Closing Night Feature Film at the 2014 Sarasota Film Festival was The One I Love. Directed by first-timer Charlie McDowell, and written by feature film first timer Justin Lader, the film is basically a two-hander starring Elisabeth Moss (Top of the Lake, Mad Men, Darling Companion) and Mark Duplass (The Mindy Project, Zero Dark Thirty, Darling Companion & Your Sister’s Sister). Acting vet Ted Danson has a small role as a marriage therapist.

Now this is a very, very new film. There’s not a poster, nor a trailer to be found. But there is a clip out there. Prior to Sarasota, the film has screened only at Sundance this past January. Further festivals on the horizon include Newport Beach, Tribeca, Montclair, and San Francisco. So the film makers will be on the move.

By the way, all the images that you’ll see in this review, with the exception of the one above this line, and the newly minted film poster – are stills pulled from the clip.

ZZZ - ZZZZ -This man spent the night on the sofa

ZZZ – ZZZZ -This man spent the night on the sofa

Continue reading

Advertisements

The One I Love – Day Nine at the Sarasota Film Festival

The Closing Night Feature Film at the 2014 Sarasota Film Festival was The One I Love. Directed by first-timer Charlie McDowell, and written by feature film first timer Justin Lader, the film is basically a two-hander starring Elisabeth Moss (Top of the Lake, Mad Men, Darling Companion) and Mark Duplass (The Mindy Project, Zero Dark Thirty, Darling Companion & Your Sister’s Sister). Acting vet Ted Danson has a small role as a marriage therapist.

Now this is a very, very new film. There’s not a poster, nor a trailer to be found. But there is a clip out there. Prior to Sarasota, the film has screened only at Sundance this past January. Further festivals on the horizon include Newport Beach, Tribeca, Montclair, and San Francisco. So the film makers will be on the move.

By the way, all the images that you’ll see in this review, with the exception of the two above this line – are stills pulled from the clip.

ZZZ - ZZZZ -This man spent the night on the sofa

ZZZ – ZZZZ -This man spent the night on the sofa

Here’s the skinny. Moss as Sophia, and Duplass as Ethan, play thirty-somethings. They’ve been married long enough for Ethan to have strayed, and so their marriage is on the rocks, at a crossroad, about to hemorrhage, or burst at the seams. Pick one or all of the above as all apply. So they’ve chosen to consult with a marriage counselor, played by Danson.

Danson elects to send them off on a weekend retreat – away from their familiar surroundings, a place where they can just concentrate on finding the spark they once had. Or as Streisand and Redford once called it – The Way We Were. But this new film isn’t anything like that one. It all takes place over one weekend. Years don’t fly by. There’s just one brief flashback and it basically opens the film.

Good Morning, handsome

Good Morning, handsome

So off they go, to an unnamed in the film, location which turns out to be up in the hills above Ojai, California. You won’t find that fact on IMDB, but McDowell, Lader, and Moss were on hand at the SFF for a post-screening Q & A, and that’s how I know. More on the Q & A later.

Suffice it to say, things go smoothly for a while. It’s a lovely home – fully stocked, fully equipped, and it even has its own separate guest house which is slightly smaller than the main house, but as fully loaded as it needs to be. They have the whole place to themselves.

Continue reading

The 2014 Sarasota Film Festival Begins Tomorrow

SFF 2014 - 3

I’ve just returned from picking up my press credentials and screening passes for the 16th Annual Sarasota Film Festival April 4th – 13th, 2014. The tagline for this year’s festival is One Festival – Infinite Possibilities. Let’s have a look at a few of the films I will be covering:

Opening Night, April 4th at the Van Wezel Performing Arts HallLast Days in Vietnam

A documentary directed by Rory Kennedy, the daughter of Robert and Ethel Kennedy. As the final weeks of the Vietnam War were winding down chaotically, the North Vietnamese Army was closing in on Saigon, and the U.S. government remained in Congressional gridlock.

With the clock ticking and the city under fire, American soldiers and diplomats on the ground, were facing a moral quandary: whether to obey White House orders to evacuate U.S. citizens only–or to risk treason and save the lives of as many South Vietnamese citizens as they can. LAST DAYS IN VIETNAM is an unforgettable story of heroism and compromise in the face of impossible odds, a film that is at once profoundly moving and an indispensable chronicle of the end of the Vietnam War. 

Rory Kennedy was only seven years old at the time the events happened.

Saturday April 5th – Dom Hemingway

Dom Hemingway stars Jude Law as a crook who kept his mouth shut while doing 12 years in a British jail. Now he wants to collect his cut.

Is the new version of Alfie, a role made famous by Michael Caine nearly 50 years ago (1966). Or is it more like Law as a loud mouthed hooligan?

Monday April 7th – Coherence

On the night of an astrological anomaly, eight friends at a dinner party experience a troubling chain of reality bending events.

Part cerebral sci-fi and part relationship drama, Coherence is a tightly focused, intimately shot film that quickly ratchets up with tension and mystery. Might we have a new version of The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoise? Or Close Encounters of the Third Kind – or something else? Check out the trailer:

Tuesday April 8th – Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter

A lonely Japanese woman becomes convinced that a satchel of money buried and lost in a fictional film (Fargo), is in fact, real. With a crudely drawn treasure map and limited preparation, she escapes her structured life in Tokyo and embarks on a foolhardy quest across the frozen tundra of Minnesota in search of her mythical fortune.

The film stars Rinko Kikuchi who has appeared in Pacific Rim, The Brothers Bloom, 47 Ronin, and Norwegian Wood.

Wednesday April 9th – Words and Pictures

An art instructor and an English teacher form a rivalry that ends up with a competition at their school in which students decide whether words or pictures are more important. A witty romance-com edy with Clive Owen as the English teacher and Juliette Binoche as the art instructor. Let the battle begin… but check out the trailer first:

Continue reading

Top of the Lake Closes Its Run: Did It Work for You?

Now that Top of the Lake, the seven episode dramatic series has finished its run on the Sundance Channel – I’m left with more questions in the ‘post resolution aftermath’ than I had before the series ended. Whether or not this was the intent of the series creators Jane Campion and Gerard Lee is a question I can’t answer.

Though the questions of what happened to Tui did get resolved, there’s a whole slew of other head-scratchers for we viewers to ponder. Reader FD and I are going to sit down to discuss the show, and with no specific agenda in mind – we will just see where our talks take us.

***** MAJOR SPOILER WARNINGS GOING FORWARD*****

JMM: In the last three minutes there a number of questions left unanswered. The first one is what actually happened at Al’s house, 2) what was Robin rinsing out in the lake (was it Al’s blood?), and 3) GJ walks off as the show ends. Without specifically tackling those questions, were you happy with the way the show ended?

FD: I was impressed by the cinematography and the cast, particularly Elizabeth Moss (Robin), Holly Hunter (GJ) and Peter Mullan (Matt), but I was unimpressed with the plot and the editing. Even though I guessed who the villain was early on, each episode made less sense to me than the previous one. And like you, I have a shipping container full of unanswered questions.

Here’s a few of them: 1)Were Robin and Johnno really related or was Al also lying about their DNA test? 2) Why did Matt whip himself repeatedly at his mother’s grave site? 3) Why didn’t Matt suspect Al might have been involved with Tui getting pregnant? 4) Why did Matt try to shoot Tui’s baby if it wasn’t his? 5) Why did GJ decide to go to Reykjavik? (to get as far away from this story as possible?) I could list a lot more questions, but, my biggest question is: What was Ms. Campion thinking? Didn’t she notice any of these loopholes?

JMM: To respond about the five questions you just listed: 1) Matt told Robin that he was her father making Johnno her half-brother. Johnno said that was a Matt mind game. Then Al told Johnno that Matt wasn’t his father – making it even more of a puzzle. 2) I have no idea about why Matt whipped himself – guilt I suppose. Because surely he had so much to be guilty about. 3) & 4) Not sure about either of these – need an explanation. 5) GJ was all about money – at least in the closing episode. Seems like that was tossed in as an after-thought. However it all seemed so extraneous. And what was the point of her leaving – especially as the closing image.

Tui intercepts GJ, but moment later, GJ will walk off anyway as the closing shot

Tui intercepts GJ, but moments later, GJ will walk off anyway as the closing shot

Maybe it was all symbolic – NZ: bottom of the world, Iceland: top of the world. Maybe GJ was a stylization of Campion herself – you know, in it for the money. Big emphasis on the maybe. So the key element must be the program Al was running to rehabilitate the kids – because it was clearly something else entirely at least below the surface.

FD: I don’t think there’s a way to perfectly explain this story. Some things were purposely left ambiguous. Other aspects seem to have been inadequately tied up at the climax. But, here’s my quick attempt to summarize. 1) Al was involved in child porn/prostitution, which paid for his two million dollar home. 2) Al also ran a training program for the local kids getting them employment at the cafe/restaurant. April Stephens was a child sex victim who became a murder victim when she knew too much. Al investigated and declared Stephens’ death a suicide. Bob Platt saw the videos made at Al’s house (the terrible thing his wife talked about) and wound up dead (this could have been done by Matt when he dragged him behind his boat but Al’s investigation failed so he may have been involved in the second murder). When Tui disappeared, Al made Wolfie his third victim (scapegoat for Tui’s disappearance/pregnancy).

Tui said “no one” got her pregnant because she was drugged and didn’t remember any sexual encounter (this is supported by Tui later saying she didn’t know how the baby got insider her). This is the basic plot line, but there were many subplots and diversions, most of which undermined the central story’s power. Before we discuss these, do you buy my analysis?

Continue reading

Top of the Lake: Episode Three – Where are the Tigers?

Top of the Lake 01-03

In the first two episodes of the Sundance Channel’s new series Top of the Lake, we met the characters:

Tui Mitcham – a 12 year old girl who tried to kill herself as the series began. She’s both pregnant and missing.

Robin Griffin – a brave detective with a specialization in sex crimes called in as a consultant in the search for Tui Mitchell. She’s tough – but she carries secrets.

Detective Sergeant Al Parker – Robin’s boss and mentor. He’s a policeman who appears to be a gentleman whereas his associates appear to include some lowlifes working as cops.

Matt Mitcham – Tui’s father. He’s more than violent. He’s the show’s main source of power, mayhem, and menace. We never know what to expect from him.

GJ – In The Matrix, the Oracle was embodied by a nondescript woman in a house dress. GJ may lack otherworldly powers – but she still conducts herself as an Oracle. She runs the New Age compound for women at Paradise.

Our discussion with reader FD continues;

JMM: I detected a distinct change in direction in Episode Three. The first two episodes got the story going, introduced the settings, the characters, and gave us the mystery of Tui’s disappearance. But this time – I think the story didn’t quite go forward as much as the three lead characters: Robin, Al, and Matt – were given a whole lot more depth. Does this seem accurate to you, or is your take on the episode different?

FD: Yes, I thought this episode drifted far too much. It seems like most cable series lack appropriate pacing (this was also true of The Killing which ran 20 episodes over two years!).

Episode 3 was a cavalcade of Campion characters, but there was far too much time spent on sex and drugs while the mystery engine was left idling. I also thought the investigation turned up too many obvious red herrings. Did you think maybe someone was being framed?

JMM: Not quite. One of the red herrings from last week, the Austrian barkeeper Wolfie, can no longer be considered a suspect in the disappearance of Tui. I do believe he’s going to be blamed, but I don’t think that will fly.

Who else can be considered a possible candidate/suspect in Tui’s disappearance?

FD: Hold it! Tui may have left on her own. We’re not sure Tui’s dead yet, are we? So far, we have no reason to assume that.

JMM: No one said she was dead. I was referencing the red herrings.

FD: Okay the red herrings – We do know that Platte’s dead. We do know there was a hanging. And we were shown the graves of some dead animals. Clearly, with Tui still unaccounted for, these events were red herrings, so no surprises there. On the other hand, I was surprised by Robin’s sexual encounters (I’m about to get married – I don’t want to fall in love).

JMM: The first time with Johnno, in the ladies room in the bar, she was surprised and passive, and the second time, she just wanted it.

FD: But, the best part of last night’s episode was Holly Hunter’s performance as GJ. Totally original! She’s so good, I’m sorry she has to compete against so many other unusual character types. GJ is riveting. The others, not so much.

Continue reading

Top of the Lake: The New Series on the Sundance Channel

top-of-the-lake-posterSo where is Tui?

That’s the big question surrounding the brand new mini-series called Top of the Lake which premiered with two episodes on the Sundance Channel on March 18th. But it is hardly the only question nor the only mystery. Merely, it is the one on the surface. As we learn, the show is less about solving mysteries as it is about finding the truths.

Written by Academy Award winner Jane Campion and Gerard Lee, with Campion also sharing the directing duties along with Garth Davis, the series is set in the wilds of New Zealand; specifically,  we find ourselves in a small town called Queenstown.

We first encounter the lake when a young girl, one Tui Mitcham, purposely enters the lake with intent of killing herself. Only because she was spotted by the local school mistress and pulled out of the water, is why she is still with us.

After her rescue from the lake, Tui is taken back to the school, and is looked over by the school nurse. We learn that she’s okay and isn’t suffering from any hypothermia from her brief immersion, and that she’s just 12 years old, which seems a tad young for a suicide. We also learn that Tui is nearly 5 months pregnant.

Which prompts an investigation of statutory rape.

The local cops can’t get anything out of Tui in their interviews, so a former resident of the town, Robin Griffin, now a police detective specializing in cases of sexual assault in Sydney, Australia, but presently in the area visiting her ailing Mom, is called in as a consultant. Two things become immediately clear – Robin, played by Elisabeth Moss, is a no-nonsense, can-do cop, and that she is able to form at least a preliminary bond with Tui.

All of the above, seems like a proper way to introduce the series which will run for 7 episodes. This also seems like a good place  to begin a discussion. My discussion partner today will be reader fd, a frequent visitor and a person who often offers comments on this blog. PLEASE NOTE THERE ARE A FEW SPOILERS AHEAD WHICH I WILL WARN YOU ABOUT.

JMM: I’ve just set the stage for you by introducing Top of the Lake. Admittedly, I’ve just touched on the top of the story, so now I’ll ask you for your initial impressions.

fd: It looks like this series will require some patience on my part. Initially, the setting and story reminded me of The Killing, a previously broadcast AMC mystery series that I greatly enjoyed.

But, as soon as the opening sequence ended, I began to lose my bearings. I realized we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Or the Pacific Northwest region where The Killing was filmed.

This was New Zealand! The land looks beautifully moody, but the inhabitants we come across make the Mad Max gang look conservative. Everyone appears quirky. Difficult to read. And potentially sinister.

This is good stuff, but it quickly took me out of my comfort zone. There are so many strange characters. What were your impressions of the main characters, Tui, Robin, GJ and her flighty friends and the ultra heavy Mitcham men? Were you disoriented by the first episode or did it hook you from the start?

JMM: Not disoriented, but rather concerned. Tui was closed off, Robin was capable, even more than capable, but working in an atmosphere which required the Southern Lake cops to make a radical adjustment – this was not the kind of woman that they were used to. GJ represented a number of themes – chief of which was Earth Mother but in a different mind-set as was said by one the lakeside ladies., who were all characters, or should I say ‘unusual’.

As for the Mitcham men folk – yup, they were scary, and that’s being kind.

I also found the policeman Al Parker, to be one of the few normal folks – although obviously he could very well have a sinister side – but his accent was somewhat difficult to understand. And yes – I was hooked immediately as we were looking not only at a culture clash – but a bloody one as well.

Continue reading