Review of reviews: Film
Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (R)
A fashion Svengali meets his match.
The new Daniel Day-Lewis movie is “a feast for anyone who loves the movies,” said Ty Burr in The Boston Globe. “A thing of beauty with darkness at its center,” it is set in a world of 1950s haute-couture finery but is “foremost a drama of two iron-willed people vying for survival and calling it love.” Day-Lewis has come up with one of his most “fascinatingly idiosyncratic” creations in Reynolds Woodcock, a revered London dressmaker whose devotion to his art fuels a need for dictatorial control over each woman in his string of muses. But his latest conquest will not be easily cowed, establishing a fiery battle of egos, said A.O. Scott in The New York Times. As Alma, Vicky Krieps is every bit Day-Lewis’ equal, and the pair’s twisty conflict proves “thrilling to watch: funny, wrenching, and full of large and small surprises.” The movie “allows certain storylines to dangle awkwardly,” such as the ritual Woodcock makes of sewing a secret talisman into each gown, said Christopher Orr in TheAtlantic.com. But the meticulous Day-Lewis has found a perfect role for the movie he vows will be his last. Is it, or will the 60-year-old actor choose to return one day? “Anyone who cares at all about cinema should pray for the latter.”
Mom and Dad
Directed by Brian Taylor (R)
A murderous hysteria grips parents everywhere.
Grindhouse cinema is apparently alive and well, said Benjamin Lee in TheGuardian.com. “Dirty and violent and best enjoyed with a steady supply of alcohol,” Brian Taylor’s nutty new B-movie “joyfully upends” one of the bedrocks of civilization by inventing a pandemic that infects parents with an uncontrollable urge to kill their offspring. When in the opening scene a mother leaves her baby in a car just before it’s smashed to bits by a train, “it’s a very clear message that for the next 83 minutes, anything goes.” Selma Blair and Nicolas Cage play the suburban couple who become the tale’s main monsters, and once Cage starts running around with a sledgehammer, his gonzo screen persona reaches “operatic” intensity, said Ben Croll in IndieWire.com. In fact, his unhinged style “feels grafted into the DNA of the film,” which somehow apes the actor’s odd cadences and volatility. Blair, for her part, easily manages a rapid transformation from motherly to monstrous, “running amok like a cat on piano keys, yet hitting each note perfectly,” said Dennis Harvey in Variety. “Mom and Dad isn’t the kind of movie they give acting awards to—but in a just world, it would be.”
Directed by Babak Najafi (R)
An assassin takes in a boy she’s orphaned.
“Proud Mary could’ve been an enjoyable guilty pleasure,” said Devan Coggan in Entertainment Weekly. Like a blaxploitation flick from the 1970s, the movie casts Taraji P. Henson as a mob-tied assassin, and Henson quickly proves she “has the swagger, charm, and ferocity to make one hell of an action star.” Sadly, “baffling directorial choices” and a “stale script” hold the movie back. Though marketed as a retro action thriller, Proud Mary is actually “a staid family drama, and an incredibly boring one at that,” said Katie Walsh in the Los Angeles Times. Mary feels guilty for having left a boy orphaned, so she scoops him off the street and spends most of the rest of the movie in serious discussions with either the kid (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) or other mob figures. We don’t get enough of the good stuff—Mary sporting platinum wigs, brandishing guns, or burning rubber in her Maserati. Still, it’s a shame Sony worked to bury this “sloppily made but entertaining” film, said Alissa Wilkinson in Vox.com. “Henson is just the greatest,” and judging by the cheers that erupted in my theater whenever she did her thing, her audience appeal is “bigger than Hollywood thinks it is.”
Laurie Sparham/Focus Features, Momentum Pictures, Dana Starbard ■