Tag Archives: Fargo

Blow the Man Down

22 Mar

‘Blow the Man Down’: Sisters in a small town share secrets, but small town outdoes them

 

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“Blow the Man Down” is something of a noirish whodunnit set in a sleepy little fishing village in Maine by the name of Easter Cove. In look and feel Easter Cove has the small-town intimacy that buoyed “Manchester by the Sea” (2016), but the plot that unfurls upon its docks, dark country roads and placid bays is something else, far darker and more akin to a Coen brothers offering – say “Blood Simple” (1984) or “Fargo” (1996).

The movie begins with the funeral of Mary Margaret Connolly, whom we quickly learn has left her two daughters with a meager fish market, the house they grew up in and a mountain of debt. Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor of “Homeland”), the sassier, redheaded younger of the two, had to drop out of college to help care for her mother, while Pris (Sophie Lowe), the dutiful one, pretty much lives up to her overtly wholesome name. Later that night, to drown her miseries, Mary Beth takes up a stool at the local watering hole and ends up throwing back a few pints with a dubious yet good-looking ruffian named Gorski (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). The two share a few snorts of coke, a car crash into a cherished town landmark – and then there’s the discovery of human hair and blood in the trunk of an old beater as the evening takes some very fateful turns. After it all, there are two bodies floating in the harbor, with Mary Beth and Pris both victims as well as in power to provide the police with details, though the police in this case are totally out in left field and no one is interested in them solving the crimes, let alone the fact that the police chief (Skipp Sudduth) is corrupt and on the take. A critical bag of cash and scrimshaw knife bob around as well.

The film, directed by the first-time tandem of Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy, is driven by the kind of female outside-the-law energy that propelled “Thelma and Louise” (1991) and is further embossed by the women dominating the ensemble beyond the Connollys (Saylor and Lowe form a palpable sisterhood invaluable to the film’s success). That includes the intimidating Enid Nora Devlin (Margo Martindale, so perfectly unassuming at first), who runs the Oceanview Inn, your classic New England quaint spot that’s a veneer for bordello operations, and a moralistic trio of harpies (June Squibb of “Nebraska,” Marceline Hugot and Annette O’Toole) at odds with Enid and all having something to do with the Connolly matriarch back in the day. Not to mention, the most at stake in the ever-shifting tides of Easter Cove is Alexis (Gayle Rankin), one of Enid’s girls who’s always looking over her shoulder – and with just cause. The score by Jordan Dykstra and Brian McOmber is sets the mood well, and there’s a reoccurring chorus of fisherman singing sea shanties that comment on the action. It’s a worthy little thriller that hits some swells of credibility here and there, but overall the ebb and flow holds us captive.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri

18 Nov

 

Director Martin McDonagh, a playwright best known for such dark comedies as “The Pillowman” and “The Cripple of Inishmaan,” put film audiences on pleasurable, if uneasy, heel with his cinematic crossovers “In Bruges” (2008) and “Seven Psychopaths” (2012). Humor amid violent doings – the graphicness of which you couldn’t make happen in the center of a stage – was the takeaway from those first two films; Tarantino meets the Coen brothers is in the ballpark, and what a glorious one it is. But McDonagh’s vision and style is something of its own, and it operates on its own bloody terms. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is more of the same, and a bit of a feminist anthem that arrives coincidentally, and poetically, as entertainment heavies including Harvey Weinstein and Louis C.K. are eviscerated for lewd and criminal sexual behavior.

As if a Coen influence was not enough, the film stars Frances McDormand, who ruled the roost in the brothers’ masterworks “Blood Simple” (1984) and “Fargo” (1996), for which she won an Oscar. (She’s also married to Joel Coen). Here McDormand plays Mildred Hayes, a steely eyed woman who’s responsible for the three billboards of the film’s overly long title – and something of a bother to the town. Against blood-red backdrops the billboards say “Still No Arrests?”; “How Come, Chief Willoughby?”; and “Raped While Dying.” They concern the death of Mildred’s daughter, which has gone unsolved for months. Mildred blames the town’s beloved sheriff, Willoughby (Woody Harrelson, able to keep pace admirably with McDormand). Continue reading

Suburbicon

29 Oct

 

https://player.vimeo.com/video/227269516

The “Suburbicon” of the title is a 1950s housing development and community in sprawling suburbia that’s practically a closed socioeconomic ecosystem, like the towering apartment complex in Ben Wheatley’s near-futuristic “High Rise” (2015). There, the elite lived at the penthouse level while the servicing class made do in the shabby confines below; here it’s a mass-marketed commercial ideal where all are on an equal plane and essentially have the same humble abode. It’s an endless sea of sameness, a sleepy Ozzie & Harriet existence, until the Meyers, an African-American family, buy a lot. The all-white town meeting that erupts to discuss “what to do” casts uneasy shades of the recent Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.

Oddly and wastefully (if not irresponsibly, given the issues of race today), the black folk next door become a mere distraction for the plot’s main thread of self-interest, murder and money – and it’s a silly one, at that. Based on a Coen brothers script and directed by George Clooney, who seems to lose more footing as director with each outing, the film angles to be a dark comedy in the vein of “Miller’s Crossing” and “Fargo” but lacks the wit and whimsy of either. What it is, is a beat-up, welded-together jalopy, angry and mean in its quest for recognition, but that’s a hard feat when the only likable characters in your crew are a family under duress for their skin color and a young boy (Noah Jupe), who’s not sure if his aunt and father have inside information on a home invasion that accidentally killed his crippled mother. (Trust me, I’m not giving anything away. There’s little in the film that will surprise you).

For such a stylishly tepid affair (it does look great) Clooney has assembled an impressive cast. Dad, Gardner Lodge, is played by a portly Matt Damon, and mom and her sister are played by the ravishing Julianne Moore, who gets a scene where she gets to sip iced tea with herself. The film even boasts ubiquitous scene stealer Oscar Isaac, who crops up as a fast-talking insurance adjuster. He’s in it so briefly it almost seems criminal, considering he’s the liveliest thing in the film besides a pair of bungling hit men (Glenn Fleshler and Alex Hassell), who seem ripped lazily from an early draft of “Fargo.” Continue reading