Film Review: WILDLIFE (USA 2018) *** Directed by Paul Dano

Wildlife Poster
Trailer

A teenage boy must deal with his mother’s complicated response after his father temporarily abandons them to take a menial and dangerous job.

Director:

Paul Dano

Writers:

Paul Dano (screenplay by), Zoe Kazan (screenplay by) | 1 more credit »

Paul Dano, in his early 30’s  is an excellent actor who has been seen in a diverse range of films from COWBOYS AND ALIENS to 12 YEARS A SLAVE.  He has delivered outstanding performances in his films, the best of which is with Daniel Day Lewis, holding his own with the multiple Oscar Winner in P.T. Anderson’s THERE WILL BE BLOOD in which a troubled teen learns of life.

Having proven his active chops, Dano has now taken on directorial reins in a new film again centring on a troubled teen.  Dano also co-wrote the script with his partner Zoe Kazan, this giving the film a female point of view.  It is familiarity that Dano has dealt with and it is of no surprise that the actor he has chosen to play the 14-year old protagonist, Joe looks somewhat like a younger version of himself.

The film is set in 1960, Montana.  Jeannette (Carey Mulligan) and Jerry Brinson (Jake Gyllenhaal) have recently moved to Great Falls, Montana with their teenage son Joe (Ed Oxenbould).  Tensions build after Jerry is fired from a low esteemed job as a golf pro at a country club.  He is offered his old job back but refuses out of pride, and instead of looking for work, he sleeps in his car and watches the local firefighting efforts against a forest fire raging in nearby mountains.  To support the family as Jerry looks for a job, Jeannette takes a job as a swimming instructor, while Joe works at a local photography studio.  One day, Jerry decides to take a low-paying job fighting the forest fire, which upsets Jeannette and worries Joe.  Jeannette speaks openly about her strained marriage with Jerry to Joe, and the stress of the situation takes a minor toll on Joe’s school life.  

While Jerry is away, Jeannette becomes romantically involved with one of her students, Warren Miller (Bill Camp), a rich older man who owns an automobile dealership.  Fireworks begin when Jerry returns and Jeannette announces that she is moving out – all this inferno of and to Joe’s dismay.

WILDLIFE s a simply told family drama but one told with conviction.  The mountains and icy landscape look stunning in  the background, reflecting the loneliness of people in  the vast surroundings.  Dana connects the audience with both points of view, that of the mother and the father but it is the story of the young son.   “I surprised myself and had a good time.  Did you?”  asks the mother to Joe and one point int he film, illustrating how the film looks from the woman’s point of view and then when there is no answer from the son, switches perspective back to the son.

The desperation of the mother is what propels the family woes.  She tells Joe after Joe catches her making out with Miller.  “He wants to make it better.  Maybe you got a better plan.  I wish I was dead.”

It is a common story of father leaving home to get a decent job while mother becomes restless.  There is really nothing Joe can do.  He wants to keep the family together, but all he can do is to say how each misses the other.

Dana keeps his film on track as Joe’s coming-of-age passage as he is forced to navigate the complex dynamics of adult relationships and figure out what to make of the woman who used to be just Mom.   A well paced family drama with real characters from Paul Dana. 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q77YXl_ujBM

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Film Review: MUDBOUND (USA 2017) ***

Mudbound Poster
Trailer

Two men return home from World War II to work on a farm in rural Mississippi, where they struggle to deal with racism and adjusting to life after war.

Director:

Dee Rees

Writers:

Virgil Williams (screenplay by), Dee Rees (screenplay by) |1 more credit »

MUDBOUND, a Netflix original movie, is understandably a difficult film to be made for general audiences dealing with racial tensions, mixed relationships and the Ku Klax Klan.  Despite complaints about Netflix movies not being ‘real’ movies distributed in theatres, in Netflix defence – it is thanks to them that difficult films like these, worthy and gut wrenching get made.  MUDBOUND is a film about class, friendship and the fight against ‘the land’.  The characters are pitted against a landscape of mud, with the elements of nature working against them.  Just as they are about to succeed, the characters are pulled back into the mire.  Hence the film is entitled MUDBOUND, and also perhaps it is a metaphor used too often in the story.

The film is narrated by a few of the story’s characters but mostly by Laura McAllan (Carey Mulligan).  The story follows two families, one white, the McAllans, newly arrived from Memphis to his new farm in the Mississippi Delta.  The other, the Jacksons are coloured folk, sharecroppers who have worked the land for generations, but struggling to make a living.  Laura’s husband is Henry (Jason Clarke), a decent man, though stuck in his racist ways and they have two daughters.  The father-in-law is a racist pig.  The Jacksons are Hap (Rob Morgan), Florence (singer Mary J. Blige) and children.

The film setting is just after World War II.  The end of the war sees the return of Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedlund) and Ronsel Jackson (Jason Mitchell).  The war allows the race barrier to be broken between the two war heroes but their friendship is not tolerated by the town, especially the father-in-law.  When it is discovered that Ronsel bears a son with a white woman (a German during the war), he is brutalized by the Ku Klax Klan.

Based on the novel by Hillary Jordan, and written for the screen by director Rees and Virgil Williams, the plot follow multiple stories divided between the two families.  Rees’ film flows smoothly with each story transitioning into another without the feeling of Rees acting like a cop directing traffic.

The film’s most unsettling scenes involve Hap Jackson’s infected leg, shown with all the pus and sores and the other the sudden appearance of the Ku Klax Klan.  Ronsel’s beating is also not easy to watch.  Rees gets her point across.  For a film about families working the land, Rees should have included more scenes depicting the hardship of toiling – though a few token ones are included.  The same goes for the war segments with one or two scenes in the tank and in the fighter jets.

The only trouble with MUDBOUND is the lack of one central character.  As the story divides between Laura, her husband, Ronsel, Florence Jackson and Jamie, the film loses its impact.  Still, MUDBOUND has nary a dull moment and gets its message that friendship and tolerance will save the day.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAZWhFI9lLQ

Happy Birthday: Carey Mulligan

careymulligan.jpgHappy Birthday actor Carey Mulligan

Born: Carey Hannah Mulligan
May 28, 1985 in Westminster, London, England, UK

Married to : Marcus Mumford (21 April 2012 – present) (1 child)

Read reviews of the best of the actor:

WALL STREET 2WALL STREET 2
dir. Oliver Stone
Stars:
Shia LaBeouf
Michael Douglas

AN EDUCATIONAn Education
2009
dir. Lone Scherfig
stars
Carey Mulligan
Peter Sarsgaard

NEVER LET ME GONEVER LET ME GO
dir. Mark Romanek
Stars:
Keira Knightley
Carey Mulligan

BROTHERS Movie PosterBrothers
dir. Jim Sheridan
Stars:
Jake Gyllenhaal
Portman
Tobey Maguire

Pride and PrejudicePride & Prejudice
2005
dir. Joe Wright
Starring
Keira Knightley
Judi Dench

MOVIE POSTERDRIVE
dir. Nicolas Winding Refn
Stars:
Ryan Gosling
Carey Mulligan

PUBLIC ENEMIES Movie PosterPublic Enemies
2009
dir. Michael Mann
Starring
Johnny Depp
Christian Bale

MOVIE POSTERSHAME
dir. Steve McQueen
Stars:
Michael Fassbender
Carey Mulligan

MOVIE POSTERINSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS
2013
dir. Ethan Coen
Joel Coen
Stars:
Oscar Issac

MOVIE POSTERTHE GREAT GATSBY
dir. Baz Luhrmann

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