Many actors decide at some point in their careers to venture behind the camera, but there are very few who do it with great success. The Canadian Sarah Polley is one such exception. After building a solid acting career, working both in indie productions such as The Sweet Hereafter and blockbusters like Dawn of the Dead, she made her debut as director in 2006 with the haunting Away from Her about a marriage devastated by Alzheimer's disease. Now, the public can check out her latest, Take this Waltz, which we highlight among the week’s premieres.
Those not up for Polley’s high-voltage intimacy might opt for Alex Cross, a thriller that visits most cop- and serial-killer-movie clichés, or horror flick The Last House on the Street, which, if nothing else, offers a performance by one of the best young actresses working today – Jennifer Lawrence.
Read on for our (pre-review) synopses of these and other premieres.
It's a shame that the unfortunate Brazilian title ignores the film’s original name, which is an homage to a beautiful song of the same name by Leonard Cohen (present in the soundtrack, of course), in turn inspired by a Federico García Lorca poem. The question at hand here is whether the main character, Margot, will accept her neighbour's invitation to 'take this waltz'.
Margot has a quiet life, perhaps too quiet, with her husband Lou. Daniel recognises this and the two begin an amorous relationship, or rather a romantic one that never comes to fruition, but grows more and more present and, it seems, unavoidable. Margot must decide: stay with her husband or leave and embark on an intense and uncertain relationship with Daniel.
Polley does not need much, early on, to suggest relationship inertia: Margot puts something in the oven to bake and crouches beside it, as if she had nowhere to go; in the background, blurred, the figure of a man approaching a window seems to peer out of it. It’s not just any filmmaker who can visually contextualize a situation and state of mind with this much subtlety. The entire film contains moments such as these.
It is as if the filmmaker remains just close enough (though never excessively, nor too distant) to each character so that we understand them, and above all, care about them. As for Margot’s dilemma, for example, it would be terrible if she made a determined choice, but it would also be terrible if she did not. Soon, and quite beautifully, it becomes clear that for the director and screenwriter, what is most important is remaining in motion. She and her character know that in not stopping, they always run the 'risk' of colliding with each other. And this is 'the waltz' for which the film is named.
Dir. Sarah Polley, Canada, Spain, Japan, 2011. Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman, Jennifer Podemski, Vanessa Coelho. 116 min.
Jennifer Lawrence left everyone mesmerized with her Oscar-nominated performance in Winter’s Bone as well as the blockbuster Hunger Games. This new film is a routine tale of terror that provides maybe four or five good scares. In the house referenced by the film’s title, a girl is killed by her own parents. Her brother, the sole survivor of the tragedy, still lives there. Lawrence moves into the neighborhood, befriends the boy, and of course things start to unravel.
Dir. Mark Tonderai, USA, Canada, 2012. Jennifer Lawrence, Max Thieriot, Elizabeth Shue, Eva Link. 101 min.
Speaking of actresses who also direct, Angelina Jolie (after the documentary A Place in Time) has decided to take on a drama feature with a script written by none other than herself. The film is about a Serb and a Bosnian Muslim who meet just before the outbreak of the Balkan War. The conflict erupts, they are on opposite sides, but love may conquer all – even good cinema.
Dir. Angelina Jolie, USA, 2011. Zana Marjanovic, Goran Kostic, Rade Serbedzija, Vanessa Glodjo. 127 min.
Alex Cross, a psychologist and detective, is the protagonist of a bestselling series by James Patterson; literary trash that has now become cinematic trash. With Cross previously played by Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider, the result was actually not so bad. But, now, the jumble of clichés has become obscene. The presence of Matthew Fox as a particularly heinous serial killer ('Picasso') doesn't help. It’s all just noise, pompous phrases that mean nothing, and yet more noise.
Dir. Rob Cohen, USA, 2012. Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Rachel Nichols, Carmen Ejogo, Giancarlo Esposito, Edward Burns. 101 min.
An award-winner at the Sundance Festival and the Emmy Awards, this documentary is as informative as it is rich in human material, given the attention and care with which Lee Hirsch accompanies and is willing to listen to the people involved.
Dir. Lee Hirsch, USA, 2012. 98 min.
'High School the Musical' goes to university. A freshman accepts the invitation to join a group of singers. There is a love interest. There are schemes. There is a great competition. There is no Mayan apocalypse, unfortunately.
Dir. Jason Moore, USA, 2012. Anna Kendrick, Skylar Astin, Brittany Snow, Bem Platt, Anna Camp. 112 min.
Produced by Luis Puenzo (director and Oscar winner of Best Foreign Language Film for The Official Story), the film is about the Argentine dictatorship. The story, as the title indicates, focuses on a boy forced to adopt a new identity along with his family members to escape the military crackdown in 1979. It's the kind of historically accurate film that Brazilians have never been able to make about their own dictatorial period. Based on true events.
Dir. Benjamín Ávila, Argentina, Spain, Brazil, 2011. Teo Gutiérrez Romero, Natalia Oreiro, Ernesto Alterio, César Troncoso, Cristina Banegas. 112 min.
A documentary about the four-decades-long professional and personal relationship between actress Liv Ullmann and film director Ingmar Bergman. Together, they made masterpieces like Persona, Cries and Whispers, Autumn Sonata and Scenes from a Marriage.
Dir. Dheeraj Akolkar, Norway, United Kingdom, India, 2012.
Three friends are asked to be the bridesmaids at the wedding of an overweight friend who they used to ridicule back in their old school days. Drunkenness, misunderstandings, accidents, a ripped wedding dress and things of that sort. Some people will find it funny. In any event, it seems fairly harmless.
Dir. Leslye Headland, USA, 2012. Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fischer, Lizzy Caplan, Rebel Wilson. 87 min.