Tag Archives: Harvey Weinstein

Film Clips

29 Nov

‘Strange World’ (2022)

Props to Disney for stepping it up and putting a mainstream face on inclusion. In this animated adventure into the unknown, not only is the family at the center interracial, but the teen son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) is gay. On the planet of Avalonia, the Clades are famous: Grandpa Jaeger (Dennis Quaid) is a legendary explorer with a statue in the village square – he’s also been missing for 25 years – and pop Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal) has his own monument for discovering and harnessing a plant called pando that provides sustenance and a source of power for airships – think “Avatar” (2009). The pando supply is dying, which has something to do with a big hole that just opened up in the mountain, so Searcher reluctantly joins a military detachment to explore the phenom and hopefully save the planet. Ethan, who can’t land his crush and is bored working on the family pando farm, wants to get out and be like grandpa; even though told not to go, Ethan ends up in the mix, as does mom (Gabrielle Union), an ace pilot, and the family’s three-legged dog. In the hands of veteran animators Don Hall and Qui Nguyen, who collaborated on “Raya and the Last Dragon” (2021), “Strange World” channels such classic adventure fare as “Journey to the Center of the Earth” (1959) and “Fantastic Voyage” (1966). It checks all the Disney boxes, though the degree of genuine conflict, even across the generations, feels a bit subdued despite the envelop being pushed.

‘She Said’ (2022)

In a just twist, disgraced multiple-Oscar-winning producer Harvey Weinstein becomes the central subject of a dramatization about two New York Times reporters who investigated his sexual misconduct and helped ignite the #MeToo movement. We meet can-do Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) reporting on allegations that Donald Trump assaulted multiple women (that “grab ’em” tape with Billy Bush was fresh at the time), which gets no traction; later she teams with Jodi Kantor (Zoe Kazan) to dig into Rose McGowan’s cataclysmic accusations against Weinstein. Both are mothers with young daughters and feel the urgency to break the story; there’s also pressure from Rowan Farrow poking around over at The New Yorker. The paper chase for the truth comes mostly down to getting victims to go on the record, and that proves challenging because of airtight settlement gag orders. Big-name stars wronged by Weinstein including McGowan (heard only by phone and voiced by Keilly McQuail) and Gwyneth Paltrow stay mostly out of frame, but Ashley Judd, playing herself, steps to the fore in more ways than one. Supporting players Patricia Clarkson and Andre Braugher as the dutiful Times editors overseeing the effort and Jennifer Ehle and Angela Yeoh as victims add to the rich ensemble. Like Kitty Green’s astute 2020 fictional take on the evils of all things Weinstein, “The Assistant,” Harvey also remains mostly off-screen – you never see his face – but is often heard and always felt as a bellowing bull through the phone, bullying, berating and denying. Director Maria Schrader and writer Rebecca Lenkiewicz make sure the focus is on the victims who were silenced by an omnipotent megalomaniac who commanded a squad of legal wranglers to cover his crimes. They now get to have their harrowing ordeals heard.

The Assistant

7 Feb

‘The Assistant’: Movie producer has a system, and it’s entirely too simple to become part of it

The Assistant (2019) - IMDb

Much of the action takes place in a generically dull office where Jane (Julia Garner, so good in “Ozark”) lands as the new hire in a pool of three who staff the mogul’s gateway to heaven and hell. The film, aptly low-fi, possesses the same absurd nihilistic texture that made Neil LaBute’s blistering 1997 tale of office-sanctioned misogyny, “In the Company of Men,” so riveting. The only way we experience Jane’s boss is through muffled barbs from the earpiece of her phone, murmurs and inaudible loud shouts from behind the door and a few emails that come to Jane after she’s shared too much information about his whereabouts (which is usually a hotel room with an aspiring actress) to his suspecting wife. The response to such angry emails is always along the lines of “I’m sorry … I won’t let you down again,” with phrasing provided by two male counterparts who vary in their support of Jane but regularly dump menial duties down the ladder and onto her desk.

There’s not a lot of movement in “The Assistant.” Comely young women waltz in and out, the wife continues to make loaded inquiries and we hardly leave the confines of that outer office. Garner, who’s stock is clearly on the rise, tucks Jane’s appalled humiliation just under the surface as her assistant comes to a slow understanding of having to balance career aspirations with male-dominated office culture. Push comes to shove when Jane sets up a young waitress from Boise (Makenzie Leigh) in a posh hotel room – and later at the empty desk across the way to be the next “new” assistant. No longer able to rationalize away the odious events, Jane grabs an impromptu meeting with the head of HR (Matthew Macfadyen, from “Succession”). It’s a telling encounter that Green, as screenwriter with knives out, carves with masterful gamesmanship.

In the end, “The Assistant” isn’t didactic; nor does it wave the #MeToo flag. It doesn’t have to. Green, whose short CV holds mostly documentaries such as “Casting JonBenet” (2017) – about the slain 6-year-old beauty princess – embraces a cinéma vérité style. In long shots, we observe as if a fly on the wall. In one scene as Jane washes dishes in the corporate kitchenette, two women in heavy conversation about a project ignore her as she listens attentively while trying to appear disinterested; when done with their chatter, the women dump their dishes on Jane without acknowledging her. As with “Bombshell” last year, the power dynamics in “The Assistant” are chilling. In the former we know how that went for Roger Ailes; we’ll find out about that movie guy soon enough.