FILM | REVIEWS
CRIME DRAMA WHITE BOY RICK (15) 111min ●●●●●
Richie Merritt plays Rick Wershe, a teenage boy growing up in the bleak landscape of 1980’s Detroit. Rick’s father (a back-to- his-best Matthew McConaughey) dreams of setting up a chain of video stores, but uses his son to hustle local arms dealers. A visit from law-enforcement agent Alex Snyder (Jennifer Jason Leigh) provides Wershe Jr with the chance to deflect attention from his father by performing some low-level intelligence for the FBI.
White Boy Rick is a gangster film with an original slant; Rick is a non-violent character in a world where guns are part of domestic life. But the film falters in the closing stretches; Merritt served 30 years in jail, and the reasons are not clear here. There’s a sense of injustice, but the emphasis is on the sympathetic detail of Rick’s family life, never examining exactly how he fell foul of authorities.
Despite such issues, White Boy Rick often excels as a drama, with Meritt, McConaughey and Bel Powley (as Rich’s drug addict sister) all on great form, and Demange flipping nimbly between cold, empty streets and sweaty, colourful clubs. It’s an entertaining ride, but the lack of a knock-out punch lessens the impact of careful work all round. (Eddie Harrison) ■ General release from Fri 7 Dec.
BIOGRAPHICAL DRAMA BEAUTIFUL BOY (TBC) 112min ●●●●●
Belgian director Felix Van Groeningen makes a smooth, heartrending transition to English-language fare with Beautiful Boy, a true-life tale of a family torn apart by addiction that follows the never-ending cycle of rehab and relapse. Powerful core performances from Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet transform the film into a reckoning between father and son as they navigate the guilt, betrayal and loss that unfurl as the addiction takes hold. Guilt appears to have always been a defining element of the relationship between journalist David Sheff (Carell) and his son Nic (Chalamet). The younger Nic is a casualty of his parents’ divorce. The older Nic is a shining student with a brilliant future ahead of him. He is also a party animal whose fondness for experimentation begins to tip over from casual drug use to full- blown meth dependency.
Handsomely photographed but inevitably tending towards the repetitive, the film teases out the raw emotion in a story that can start to seem staid and formulaic. A pale, haunted Chalamet dominates, confirming his status as one of the best and brightest of his generation; he could well be heading back to the Oscars one year on from Call Me by Your Name. (Allan Hunter) ■ General release from Fri 18 Jan.
HISTORICAL COMEDY THE FAVOURITE (15) 119min ●●●●●
Brash, bawdy and utterly beguiling, The Favourite is something of a deceptive confection. While it may play as a broad period farce, underneath the pomp and powdered wigs it makes scathing commentary about the devastating nature of power struggles that remains blisteringly relevant in this Brexit/Trump age.
With early 18th-century England being ruled by the infantile, ineffectual Queen Anne (Olivia Colman), her closest confidante, Lady Sarah Marlborough (Rachel Weisz), expertly uses her influence to assume control. When Sarah’s charming young cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives in search of work, however, she soon captures the Queen’s attention and begins to usurp Sarah as favourite. In its depiction of the royal court, The Favourite eschews tightly-corseted, austere notions
of history to positively luxuriate in unfettered decadence. Yet director Yorgos Lanthimos is more concerned with exploring the dark corners of the palace, where secrets and lies are traded like currency. The film’s gender politics are deliciously pertinent. The intense battle of wits between these women is fought entirely by intelligence and cunning, yet both Sarah and Abigail know how to use their veneer of respectability – and, when it suits, femininity and sexuality – as both sword and shield. Only Queen Anne seems to be honest in her childlike responses; which, tellingly, leaves her open to being controlled like a puppet on a string.
As Anne, Olivia Colman puts in a commanding, often heartbreaking performance, nailing the comedy of the character but also the grief and heartache that informs her idiosyncrasies. Weisz and Stone are equally as stunning, never losing sight of the human instincts – love, security, survival – that fuel their outlandish behaviours. (Nikki Baughan) ■ General release from Tue 1 Jan.
BIOPIC COLETTE (TBC) 111min ●●●●●
Based on the life of bisexual French literary icon Colette, this biopic from Still Alice’s Wash Westmoreland is, at points, as frisky and fabulous as the woman herself. It takes us from Colette’s peaceful existence in the country to her wild days in Paris at the turn of the 19th century, following her marriage to Henry Gauthier-Villars (played here by Dominic West). Keira Knightley delivers a fantastic performance in the title role. Though the film can’t always keep up with her, it still has a cheeky likeability. West has fun with a role that is mostly a sideshow, twirling his
moustache and rubbing his belly as he manipulates his wife into becoming a ghost writer. It’s easy to get whisked up in Colette’s sexual revolution and watching Knightley flirt with anyone she takes a fancy to makes for gloriously entertaining viewing. With each personal change comes a brilliant new look, with costumes to die for from Andrea Flesch. In a film all about reinvention, it’s a shame Westmoreland doesn’t take heed from his courageous
protagonist and adopt a more adventurous approach. Still, when Colette takes flight it’s a pleasurable rite of passage about a woman striving for independence. (Katherine McLaughlin) ■ General release from Fri 25 Jan.
96 THE LIST 1 Nov 2018–31 Jan 2019