Katherine Times Wed 13 Dec 2017
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]WEEKENDER Wednesday December 13, 2017KATHERINETIMES12 katherinetimes.com.au MOVIES & ENTERTAINMENT Eric Bana and Rooney Mara shine in adaptation The Secret Scripture I M, 108 minutes Review by SANDRA HALL R OSE Clears first mistake is to look a man in the eye. In1939 in Irelands County Sligo, young women dont do this if they want to keep the gossips quiet. And the gossips matter especially if theyve come across the concept of nymphomania, which can be classified as a certifiable neurosis in this time and place. So Rose (Rooney Mara) soon finds herself in trouble since the young man who catches her eye turns out to be the local priest whos enjoying his own flirtation with disaster by going without his dog collar. The Secret Scripture is a highly streamlined adaptation of Sebastian Barrys 2008 Man Booker finalist. The tailoring has been done by writer-director Jim Sheridan, an old campaigner against Irelands injustices. Sheridan has pared down the novels digressions and compressing it into a neat narrative combining the virtues of a detective story with a cautionary tale about the damage done when politics get personal. World War II has been declared but in theory, the Republic of Ireland remains neutral. However, the IRAs extreme nationalism has it siding against the British, and its not long before Rose is caught in the middle of the factions. The story is told in flashback so we already know the worst. Played by a dignified but distracted Vanessa Redgrave, Rose is old when we first meet her, having spent the past 50 years in a mental hospital, accused of killing her newborn baby. Now the hospital is closing and her mental health is being re-assessed by Dr Stephen Grene (Eric Bana), who is reading her diaries and becoming increasingly inclined to believe her claim that she is innocent. The hospital superintendent played by sharp-faced Adrian Dunbar, whos always bad news has given him only two days to complete his evaluation. So its a quick plunge into the past with Mara exuding such a concentration of understated glamour and assurance that you can see why half the young men in the village are in thrall to her even though shes done nothing more than her job, waiting tables in her aunts cafe. The most dangerous of her admirers is the priest, Father Gaunt (Theo James from the Divergent series), handsome, arrogant and so careless of both their reputations that hes taken to stalking her. And the one she grows to love is Michael McNulty (Jack Reynor), whos placed himself in the IRAs firing line by enlisting in the RAF as a fighter pilot. The local IRA thugs form a sneaky, misogynistic chorus of haters looking for an excuse to do her harm and because you know she cant win, its sometimes a relief to escape into the present, where she has at least two allies. Grene is helped by a sympathetic nurse (Susan Lynch), who has been looking after Rose and has long been curious about her. We dont learn much about Grene but Bana invests him with a quiet intensity, relieved by a couple of revealing moments of uninhibitedness. The ending is unashamedly sentimental but Rose, you feel, has earned that much. Wonder Wheel J II PG, 101 MINUTES Review by PAUL BYRNES A GLIMPSE OF WOODYS BILE POISONOUS: Kate Winslets Ginny is the butt of Woody Allens poison pen. T HE decline of a great artist is no fun to watch. Woody Allen seems to be running on empty now, situating his stories in cliched versions of the past, slapping together character and situations with little care or passion, except as bile and bitterness take him. Hes 82 and the only thing that seems to interest him is getting square largely with women. Wonder Wheel doesnt even have that vestige of humour. Its just nasty, but with a central performance by Kate Winslet that almost saves it from banality. I said almost. She plays Ginny, a fading red-headed beauty who could once have had a career on stage and screen. Now she lives in a cramped apartment behind a shooting gallery at Coney Island, where her husband Humpty (James Belushi) sells tickets to the merry-go-round. Hes a decent if simple man when she can keep him off the sauce. Sure, he beats her kid from an earlier marriage but the boy Richie (Jack Gore) is a thief and a firebug. The pressure mounts when his 25-year-old daughter Carolina (Juno Temple) shows up with a suitcase and a sob story. She has run away from her gangster husband, the guy Humpty warned her not to marry. She tells him shes a marked woman. Theyre gonna kill me, Dad, because I talked to the cops. The movie is set in the 1950s and soaked in red, the way the last one, Cafe Society, was dipped in beige. The great Vittorio Storaro shot both movies, and one wonders what he and Woody were aiming for: a sort of hyper-realism perhaps, not to be confused with reality. Wonder Wheel seems coloured like a garish Coney Island postcard the richness of Kodachrome but with the red dialled up to 11. That matches the narration, by a summer lifeguard whos really a writer looking for his own melodrama. Mickey (Justin Timberlake) is about to become the beef in this films stew. Ginny falls for him, hard. They leap into each others arms under the boardwalk, down on the sand. Tawdry but torrid. The recreation of Coney Island leads us to think we might be in for something diverting a stylised romantic drama with quirky locations like Francis Ford Coppolas One from the Heart, only with more jokes. Alas, no. There are no jokes, unless you count the casting of Steve Schirripa and Tony Sirico from The Sopranos, again playing wise guys. In fact, its a filmed play, shot mostly in the one cramped apartment set above the Coney Island shooting gallery, whose pings and clangs we hear in the background. Woody knows its a play. Even the dialogue is fashioned to sound theatrical. Winslets character, too, is a deliberate evocation of a Tennessee Williams-style character and here we get to the nub of the problem. The hatred and shame, the fear and loathing that Williams poured into his female characters came directly from his upbringing and his own bitter heart. Blanche DuBois (A Streetcar Named Desire) and Amanda Wingfield (The Glass Menagerie) were monstrous creations, but there was a kind of love between writer and character, as there needs to be. They were his monsters. Ginny is Woodys version of monstrous femininity too, but I couldnt feel the love. Shes a compendium of needs and insecurities who turns darker and nastier as the play progresses, the butt of Woodys poison pen. Winslet gives her everything, without fear of looking bad, and she pulls off a couple of astonishing scenes but its as if shes working alone. Allen is notorious for his lack of direction with actors and here it shows, as it did in Cafe Society. Why does he want to do a substandard version of Tennessee Williams anyway? Why not try for a return to the once-high standards of Woody Allen?
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