list.co.uk/ﬁ lm Reviews | FILM
MUSICAL COMEDY RICKI AND THE FLASH (12A) 101min ●●●●● BIOPIC – DRAMA LIFE (15) 111min ●●●●●
COMEDY IRRATIONAL MAN (12A) 95min ●●●●●
Meryl Streep is a blast in a film from writer Diablo Cody (Juno) about an unrepentant rock chick who, decades earlier, left her family to pursue her dream of stardom. It never happened but Ricki still rocks out a suburban LA bar every weekend with bandmates The Flash, while struggling to survive on her cashier pay cheque. When her wealthy ex-husband Pete (Kevin Kline) rings with dramatic news, she nervously returns home to face the music.
It’s fun but slight, with too many musical numbers and too little incident. There’s magic between Streep and Kline, a brilliant dinner-table meltdown and a catty confrontation between Ricki and Pete’s second wife (Audra McDonald). But there isn’t enough for the high-calibre cast to work with. What a shame McDonald doesn’t get to sing; she’s only a Broadway megastar, with a record number of Tonys to prove it. And the disdain that greets Ricki on her quest for redemption is preposterous; Indianapolis is a rock’n’roll city, not the village that time forgot. You expect more texture from Cody and director Jonathan Demme. Still, there are some laughs and the climax is sweetly joyous. (Angie Errigo) ■ General release from Fri 4 Sep.
Anton Corbijn sets himself a tricky task with his fourth feature, taking on that icon of disaffection James Dean – who shone so brightly during his short spell in the spotlight – with the former photographer approaching events from a personal angle. Life depicts the capricious Dean (an impressive Dane DeHaan) in the run-up to the release of his big break, East of Eden. When he meets prickly snapper Dennis Stock (Robert Pattinson) at a party, Stock sees his potential, envisaging him as the subject of a Life magazine spread. In keeping with Dean’s distinctive screen persona, DeHaan is effeminate, mischievous and edgy; he plays him as if a ghost already, a spirit guide to the visibly-in-crisis Stock. Life spends enough time away from Hollywood not to get bogged down in a series of distracting impersonations. Unfortunately it purports to be about the process of finding one’s artistic ‘voice’, yet neglects to explore the conceit. It also suffers from a floundering focus; uncertain of who it wants its protagonist to be it plumps for Stock for the most part, but is unable to tear itself away from Dean in the closing moments. (Emma Simmonds) ■ General release from Fri 25 Sep.
Looking at Woody Allen’s recent record, he’s alternated precisely between critical hits and misses: Midnight in Paris and Blue Jasmine were excellent; To Rome with Love and last year’s Magic in the Moonlight were pretty hideous. Using that rationale, Irrational Man should fall into the former category. If only it were that simple. Allen’s latest is a campus tale set in a leafy Rhode Island college. Joaquin Phoenix plays Abe, a boozy, maudlin philosophy professor who still has a way with the ladies, sleeping with Parker Posey’s married lecturer and attracting the attention of student Jill (Emma Stone), but depression clouds his reasoning. Until, that is, he and Jill overhear a conversation about a corrupt judge, inspiring Abe to take direct action.
Allen has conjured up one of his more interesting plots, wrestling with the notion of theory versus practice; but in execution, the film never quite gels. Phoenix doesn’t seem comfortable here, while Stone and a wayward Posey grapple with flimsy characters. Indeed, too much of the film feels one- note – like a cursory sketch rather than a developed idea. After Allen’s good / bad films of late, file this one under indifferent. (James Mottram) ■ General release from Fri 11 Sep.
SHAKESPEARE MACBETH (TBC) 113min ●●●●●
The list of those who have attempted to leave their distinctive imprint on ‘the Scottish play’ stretches from Orson Welles to Roman Polanski, via a notoriously ill-judged stage collaboration between director Bryan Forbes and Peter O’Toole. Snowtown director Justin Kurzel displays little sense of feeling intimidated by the hand of history as his Macbeth strides into view with a swagger worthy of an ambitious, untamed force of nature. Significantly trimming the text, Kurzel’s briskly paced
adaptation places the emphasis on brutal, bloody conflict in which the spectre of death informs every act and consequence. He offers old-fashioned spectacle through the prism of a modern psychological understanding of trauma, whether it stems from the horrors of battle or the grief of a lost child. The death of an infant is front and centre from the start, and a prime motivation for the blood lust that follows.
The tone is as savage and inhospitable as the atmospheric
Scottish locations. This is a Macbeth of mud and guts, mist and murk, in which the oppressive crimson of fresh-spilt blood becomes the dominant colour employed by cinematographer Adam Arkapaw (Animal Kingdom). It is a production of primal energy in which dialogue is often hard to catch and there seems an almost indecent haste to rush through the most famous speeches and return to the battlefield.
An impressive cast includes Sean Harris as Macduff and Jack Reynor as a callow Malcolm, but Kurzel’s approach seems to leave Marion Cotillard’s Lady Macbeth short-changed. She is outshone by Michael Fassbender’s warrior King, who has all the fury and impact of Al Pacino in his prime. This Macbeth has a raw, haunting power that is hard to deny. (Allan Hunter) ■ General release from Fri 2 Oct.
3 Sep–5 Nov 2015 THE LIST 61