Puzzle (15) – Pronunciation: A real charmer
American animals (15) – Verdict: Mis authorized crime barber
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (15) – Judgment: sensitive and moving
Sometimes a film is so quiet and boring and at the same time so full of tenderness and charm that you eventually get up and cheer when such an exhibitionism does not really contradict what you have just seen.
Instead, you just sit there, smile and dab your finger in the corner of your eye. Puzzle is so & # 39; n film. The star Kelly Macdonald, the beautiful Scottish actress whose talent to give a sweet, unheard of example of what the Americans call housewives, was acknowledged years ago by the Coen brothers.
Her appearance as Carla Jean, the meek, loving, frightened wife of Josh Brolin's ill-fated Llewelyn Moss in the masterpiece of the Coens & No Country For Old Men 2007, was one of the many pleasures of that great movie. .
Puzzle is so & # 39; n film. The star Kelly Macdonald, the beautiful Scottish actress whose talent to give a sweet, unheard of example of what the Americans call housewives, was recognized years ago by the Coen brothers
But in Puzzle, Macdonald's superb performance as a modest, non-assertive, devout Catholic housewife is the most important pleasure; all other virtues of the image radiate from it. She plays Agnes, who is both cherished by her British New England family and completely taken for granted.
In the beginning someone celebrates a birthday. Agnes ceremonially wears a cake in the room, but in fact is the birthday of her. She has made the cake, bought the candles, lit them and now she blows them out, a very cautious point of interest.
Her purpose in life, except attending Bible meetings, is to care for her husband Louie (David Denman), who runs an auto repair shop, and their two teenage sons, Ziggy (Bubba Weiler) and Gabe (Austin Abrams). She sees it like that, and she too.
In the beginning her homely dullness and her gray background, even the clothes she wears, suggest a period piece, a story about the America of the small town that may have been placed in the early fifties.
We only learn that this is the present because one of the gifts from Agnes is a smartphone. She does not welcome it – such as carrying a small alien robot in your bag, "she says – but is delighted to receive a challenging puzzle of 1,000 pieces, which she completes in no time , then separate and do again. It is a map of the world, an irony that we have not lost, even if it is on her; Agnes is the daughter of Hungarian immigrants, but can hardly be less worldly.
The short train journey to New York is a daring adventure for Agnes. But she does it, because only there, in a store called Puzzle Mania, she can find more puzzles as she has just completed.
She also finds an ad, "Champion Desperately Seeking Puzzle Partner," and digs even deeper into reserves of boldness that she did not know she had, replies.
This leads her to a rich, lonely Robert, a man who is as urban while she is provincial, played with quirky, enchanting charisma by Irrfan Khan. The unlikely duo starts practicing for a doubles match in the National Jigsaw Puzzle Championships.
If they win, they go to the world championships in Belgium. They seem to have a chance, because Agnes in particular has a genius for competitive puzzling that leaves even Robert agog.
But whatever this means, she has to explain to her husband in one way or another why she is no longer reliably home every afternoon, prepares his food and stops his socks.
A lesser drama would make him a demanding brute. But Louie is a decent bay that worships his wife, although preferably on his own terms. She is his puzzle, and perhaps that is the meaning of the title of the film, because actually jigsaw puzzles are irrelevant, although a wonderfully healthy story.
Agnes could have shown a rare talent for juggling or mental arithmetic, and the synopsis in one line would still be the same: a middle-aged woman who looked beyond the narrow horizons seemed to have charted life for her.
Moreover, as she grows in confidence, she begins to take charge of relationships with the men in her life – Louie, her boys, even Robert. She learns to be assertive with more than just puzzle pieces.
Of course, this kind of personal growth is not exactly an original cinematic territory – in fact, Puzzle is directly inspired by an Argentinian film from 2009. But nothing about it feels distracted or predictable. Hats off for director Marc Turtletaub, who has really shaped the play by Oren Moverman and Polly Mann into a beautiful, sensitive, moving film.
The Miseducation by Cameron Post
The Miseducation of Cameron Post also deals with the ordeals of a group of American youths, although they are hardly the architects of their own misery.
Cameron Post (the excellent Chloe Grace Moretz) plays a lesbian teen who has been picked up at a corrective religious school, called God & # 39; s Promise, so that she can be & # 39; Healed & # 39; of her attraction to the same sex.
This is not in 1893, but in 1993.
Desiree Akhavan's film, based on the novel by Emily M. Danforth of the same name, has clear echoes from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest.
In particular, Jennifer Ehle plays the client, Dr. Lydia Marsh, as a slightly more humane version of Nurse Ratched in the classic by Milos Forman from 1975.
She and her well-meaning brother Rick (John Gallagher Jr.), who must overcome homosexual impulses, try to convince their young charges that they are particularly vulnerable to & # 39; evil & # 39 ;.
Fortunately, the film itself is much less preacher than it is. It is sensitive, moving and beautifully acted.
Barry Keoghan, the gifted, 25-year-old Irish actor whose own background story is as dramatic as many films – he was 12 when his mother died of a heroin overdose and was brought up in 13 foster families – is rightly a central stage after a number of prominent support roll.
In American animals, the true story of a precious book rider, he excels as Spencer Reinhard, the high school student who worked out a plan in 2004 to steal an almost unaffordable first edition of John James Audubon's 19th century study The Birds Of America, from the library to the bizarre named Transylvania University in Kentucky.
It is more of a fantasy than a real scheme, at least until Spencer joins forces with the stubborn Warren Lipka (Evan Peters), for whom a robbery offers the perfect interruption of an unhappy domestic life.
Once they have recruited two additional accomplices, they have the manpower, but not necessarily the nous, to perform such a bold theft.
The first writer-director Bart Layton unfolds events with a distinctly comical edge, referring to Reservoir Dogs and even Jaws, which makes his film both extremely watchable and thoroughly insincere.
The robbery was not at a distance funny for librarian Betty Jean Gooch (Ann Dowd), target of the gang of four before & # 39; neutralizing & # 39 ;.
The real miscreants appear everywhere with their happy, direct-to-camera reminiscences, blurring the line between serious crimes and comic capers.
But if you have no objection to being portrayed as fascinating rather than misguided, there is plenty to enjoy, including a great soundtrack (The Doors, Small Faces, Ramones, Donovan).
Going Gaga about a stunning big screen debut
There has been the usual cocktail of treats and disappointments at the Venice Film Festival, the 75th edition of which ends this weekend.
But in the years that I have come to this venerable jamboree, I can not remember any excitement that greeted Lady Gaga's arrival on the red carpet.
So it was daring from director Bradley Cooper to cast the pop superstar in his remake of A Star Is Born.
She had never performed in a feature film before and it could require a challenging leap of the imagination to believe in her as an unknown rank that is suddenly in the spotlight.
But she absolutely does the job, and apparently uses her own early run-ins with both failure and fame.
Moreover, you can almost see the electric sparks flying between her and Cooper, as the soaked alcoholic lover whose own musical career is gradually overshadowed by hers.
I was skeptical about whether Lady Gaga could ever really belong in the shining company of Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand, who all played the same part on the big screen. But she does, unequivocally.
A Star Is Born is one of the out-of-competition films of Venice, but of those who compete for the big prizes, I loved The Sisters Brothers, the convincing and obscure comic novel by director Jacques Audiard about Patrick deWitt's novel .
Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly play Charlie and Eli, sizzling murderers in 1850 Oregon, sent by their sinister paymaster to kill a prospector named Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed), but not before he reveals his secret for finding of gold.
Jake Gyllenhaal also shines, as a detective hired to deliver Warm to the brothers, but it is Reilly who steals the film from the bigger names around him. He's just great as good-hearted Eli, in a story that hooked me from the beginning to the end.
Another pair of brothers, Joel and Ethan Coen, brought us The Ballad Of Buster Scruggs, also a western, and also great. It is conceived for Netflix as a TV series, which is evident because it is divided into six separate stories.
If you are the kind of person who values a fleshy novel over a very good collection of short stories, you can object to the format. On the other hand, we get six bursts of Coen creativity for the price of one.
And the film starts gloriously, with Tim Blake Nelson as the titular Scruggs, a roaming troubadour even faster on the draw than he is with a lyrical rhythm. If I were to choose a winner of the prestigious Golden Lion prize from the festival, it would probably be Roma, Alfonso Cuaron's long-winded but fascinating semi-autobiographical film about a middle-class family and their loyal servant, based in Mexico City. 1970 and recorded in black and white.
But I also liked First Man, the biopic of Neil Armstrong and The Favorite, placed in the awful court of Queen Anne, both discussed here last week.
And it was impossible not to admire July 22, Paul Greengrass's rather business but undeniably powerful drama about the 2011 massacre by the Norwegian right-wing extremist Anders Breivik.