Rapid Movie Reviews: January 2023
A brief rundown of the films I caught in theaters this past month...
Babylon - Damien Chazelle's manic ode to Hollywood excess in the late 1920s is both dazzling and divisive (not to mention a daunting task for your attention span). Brad Pitt is perfectly cast as a leading man feeling the pressures of a changing industry while drifting into irrelevance. Margot Robbie, while adequately great, spent most of her screen time at an 11 with a performance that bordered on being one-note. In conclusion: needed more Jean Smart.
M3GAN - With a dash more camp and two cups of additional blood, Blumhouse's latest cash cow could've been a truly iconic horror entry. The fact that Universal pushed for a re-edit to change its rating to PG-13 after the killer doll's dance moves went viral on TikTok is unfortunate. A 2025 sequel is on the books – so is an unrated cut, which sounds promising – so naturally I will be eating it all up.
Skinamarink - If I wanted to stare at several grainy, minute-long shots of ceilings and the corner of a couch while deciphering muffled audio, I would've dug out my family's home videos from the 90s. This extremely lo-fi approach to found-footage that isn't really found-footage has been generously (or accidentally?) labeled as "experimental," but it comes off more like a pretentious film student's failed, unfinished attempt to get his foot in the door at any major studio that will have him.
The Whale - Brendan Fraser gives a fine performance, but the treatment of his character, a grieving and dying professor homebound and haunted by memories and regrets, is cruel – both by director Darren Aronofsky and the supporting characters, most notably Sadie Sink as his estranged daughter, who is irredeemable. The film's cold and cynical tone fails to do any kind of uplifting or take a deeper look at the psychology of our protagonist. While it attempts to humanize a disabled individual, it sometimes portrays him through a lens that comes off more like a carnival barker soliciting you to gawk at a grotesque circus freak.
Women Talking - Writer-director Sarah Polley's excellent meditation on abuse, speech, masculinity, and community is a gripping study. The Mennonite colony these battered women plan to leave behind is a microcosm for America itself, in unity as in division. The ensemble is a murderers' row of acting talent, including Jessie Buckley, Clare Foy, and Ben Whishaw.