FILM new releases
(18) 114 mins * 1" Anyone hoping that Holy Smoke represents a return to form for Piano director Jane Campion should prepare to be disappointed. For although Kate Winslet’s raw, uninhibited performance lives up to expectations, the film itself turns out to be a wretched mess.
Winslet courageously throws herself into the role of Ruth, a spirited young woman who falls under the spell of a guru in India, and then finds herself confronted by an American Exit Counsellor (Harvey Keitel) enlisted by her Australian family to lure her back home. Despite hrs assurances that he will turn her around in a matter of hours, their encounter in the desert turns into a gruelling psycho-sexual power struggle where the tables are continually turned.
There is a fascinating story to be told
The Hurricane (15) 140min a: it
An engaging and wholly Oscar-worthy turn from Denzel Washington isn't enough to salvage Norman Jewison’s controversial biopic of the boxer Rubin Carter, Even if you can get past John Hannah’s spectaCularly awful performance as one of Carter's Canadian supporters, this is a singularly uneven and unconvrncing version of true events.
As a flurry of recent press has revealed, the facts of Carter's triple murder case have been massaged into cinematic shape to the extent that gaping holes mar the film’s narrative, a cowardly tactic that simplifies and finally discredits its message about institutionalised racism in America. The nuts and bolts of the case are glossed over in favour of a fawning
26 THE US! 30 Mar-l3 Apr 2000
'7‘. ' . I i . . (i 1" I. o ' ‘ "‘7 0 _. 2% - r 'r \
A champion performance flawed by too much hero worship
'Winslet's raw. uninhibited performance lives up to expectations, the film itself turns out to be a wretched mess'
here. As co-written and directed by Campion, however, Holy Smoke only shows intermittent flashes of what might have been. Her attempts at comedy at the expense of Winslet’s cruelly caricatured family are both misplaced and mishandled, while the central characters are little more than ciphers whose actions are dictated more by plot than psychology. In fact, little in the film rings true — least of all Keitel's embarrassingly hammy performance.
Holy Smoke is packed with provocative ideas, but Campion’s failure to explore them and, more damagingly, her heavy-handed attempts at comedy, wipe out any interest the film might hold. Ultimately, the only winner is Winslet.
(Stephen Applebaum) I General release from Fri 7 Apr. See feature.
‘6 .' I
glorification of Carter, who is painted as a quasi-mythic martyr saint.
Good news for Denzel, who gets to morph beautifully from angry young man into noble sage; but inevitably the film’s dizzy infatuation with its subject results in an unbalanced and sentimental portrait. We find out a lot about Carter’s strength and dignity, but little about why exactly two juries convicted him. Details like alibis, witnesses and weapons are conveniently ignored or incompletely sketched. Nor is it clear why Carter's wife and child disappear from his life partway through the film, or why the fate of his co-accused, John Artis, is largely ignored. A courtroom drama requires facts, but this case is built on hero-worship alone. (Hannah McGill)
I General release from Fri 7 Apr. See preview
(12) 102 mins hunk
You can file this one under ’screen gem', but don't do that until you’ve seen Gavin O’Connor's wonderful American road movie, at the centre of which is a beautifully realised mother and daughter relationship. Mary Jo (Oscar nominee Janet McTeer) first got married when she was seventeen and she’s been running from one no good husband to another ever since. Years down the line she finds herself on the road once more, but her teenage daughter, Ava (Kimberly J. Brown), has had enough of their nomadic 1:1,,” existence. Question is: will mom ever ' if" change?
The story’s not particularly new, but where this kind of material has elsewhere been drowned in sentiment and cliche, Tumbleweeds feels fresh, real, vital. That’s partly down to O’Connor’s easy, even- handed direction, but the majority of the credit must go to McTeer who is mesmerising from start to finish. Her Mary Jo is a sassy, striking woman, who can’t do right by herself but never does wrong by her daughter nor her men. You find yourself rooting for her not to pick up another trucker in a roadhouse. Ultimately, Tumbleweeds derives its strength from the way in which McTeer and the rest of the cast play off each other so beautifully.
I Glasgow: GFT,‘ Edinburgh: Fi/mhouse from Fri 7 Apr.
(15) 82 mins ****
Big monster eating people in a lake in Maine. Local sheriff, game warden, scientist and hunter team up to kill it. Plenty of extras get munched. Doesn’t sound particularly appetising — we’ve seen it all before in laws, Alligator, Pirahna, etc — except Lake Placid has the smartest, funniest dialogue you're likely to hear all year.
Although directed by Steve Miner, who helmed the self-referential Halloween: H20, Lake Placid doesn’t rely on such Scream-style histrionics. Instead, it’s packed with hilarious one-liners such as: ’The sooner we catch this thing, Sheriff, the sooner you can get back to sleeping with your sister.’ The majority of the lines are such put downs spread among the central characters, and the superb cast — Brendan Gleeson, Bridget Fonda, Bill Pullman, Oliver Platt — do them all justice.
Credit must also go to producer/screenwriter Davrd E Kelley, best known for his television writing for Alley McBeal. Kelley doesn’t trouble hrrnself with genre innovation the way, say, John Sayles did with his socio-polrtrcal 'gators and man- eating fish, or Kevin Williamson did with the aforementioned postmodern cleverisms. Nope, Dave goes for cheap belly laughs and gets ’em every time. What joy. (Miles Fielder)
I General release from Fri 37 Mar. Lola And Bilidikid
(18) 90 mins 1% at
Lola (Gandi Mukli) is a Turkish drag queen in post-unification East Berlin. Disowned by his family, he’s loved by his brutish macho pimp of a boyfriend Bili (Erdal Yildiz) who wants him to get a sex change and move back to Turkey. Lola's life, however, IS hampered by a group of not-so-liberal German youths and the knowledge that the young brother he left at home is being alienated from the ghetto by his burgeoning homosexuality.
This film’s heart is bang in the right place, dealing as it does with the universal themes of race, culture, sexuality,
'Janet McTeer is mesmerising from start to finish'
No clever-arse Scream-style dialogue, just great one-liners
‘Lurches from cocksucking cliche to queerbashing plot contrivance'
immigration and poverty, in the same way the far superior Australian film Head
On did last year. It is such a shame that everything else about this movie is so wrong. Sloppily directed by Kutlug Ataman from his self-penned unconvrncing script, the film constantly lurches from cocksucking cliche (the German aristo and the immigrant oik) to queerbashing plot contrivance. No more or less than the sum parts of Almodovar at his worst (see Pepi, Luci, Born) and Gregg Araki at his most hysterical (see The Living End), Lola And Bilidikid is an unfortunate mess. (Paul Dale)
I Edinburgh: Fi/mhouse from Fri 7 Apr.