Full Review: JT LEROY (USA/UK/Canada 2018)

JT LeRoy Poster
Trailer

A young woman named Savannah Knoop spends six years pretending to be the celebrated author JT LeRoy, the made-up literary persona of her sister-in-law.

Director:

Justin Kelly

Writers:

Justin KellySavannah Knoop (memoir) | 1 more credit »

The film opens with Savannah (Kristen Stewart) being fetched from the airport by her brother-in-law.  Slowly but surely the film introduces its characters including Laura Albert.

Laura Albert (Laura Dern) writes tough, insightful fiction under a pseudonym, JT LeRoy.  The full name of the pseudonym is Jeremy Terminator Leroy, which incidentally is also the original title of the film that served as the Closing Night Gala last last year’s Toronto International Film Festival.

JT is not just a pen name but a whole persona, a teenage boy from West Virginia living a dangerous life as a truck stop sex worker.  Laura was born in Brooklyn a generation earlier, and grew up in New York’s punk scene.  Writing books such as The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things as JT gives her complete freedom to explore the darker regions of human experience. Readers and the media apparently love it so much that they begin to demand JT in person.  

As journalists press for interviews with JT, turmoil mounts with Laura’s husband Geoffrey (Jim Sturgess) and sister-in-law Savannah (Kristen Stewart).  Partly from desperation, partly for kicks, they conspire to have Savannah don a wig and sunglasses, adjust her voice, and become the teenage boy author.   

This is supposed to be inspired by a true story that is satin San Francisco in 2001.  Despite everything being based on a true story, Kelly’s film is extremely dull.  He makes no attempt to make the events authentic or to make Savannah believable as JT.   Whenever she appears as JT, she mumbles all along and the media and everyone takes it in from Cannes to Paris to the U.S.  

Laura Dern (daughter of Bruce Dern) has proved herself an excellent actress in films like BLUE VELVET and CITIZEN RUTH.   She appears in this film as a free spirited bohemian author filling everyone and forcing her sister and husband to do what she wants.  Her character (and therefore her) is extremely annoying.  The last straw is when Laura pretends to be an obnoxious Brit, complete with outrageous British accent.  As expected, all these things lead nowhere.  Stewart, spotting short hair looking like a lesbian that she really is in life goes through the film mumbling and trying to look cool.  Jim Sturges is wasted as Laura’s husband.

Worst of all is the pretentious bit at the film’s end where Laura preaches to the audience that everyone has to be the person he or she is.

There is nothing really wrong with the film JT LEROY.  But if you would not mind spending 2 hours in a theatre watching annoying characters doing annoying things trying to be cool when in fact they are not, then this film might be for you.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DC-6gwt822M&feature=youtu.be

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Film Review: LIZZIE (USA 2017) ***1/2

Lizzie Poster
Trailer

A psychological thriller based on the infamous 1892 murders of the Borden family.

Writer:

Bryce Kass

The name LIZZIE will sound familiar to many.  Even to kids, LIZZIE is a well-repeated nursery rhythm containing more sinister connotations.  LIZZIE is also the first name of Lizzie Borden who was accused but acquitted of the vicious hatchet murders of her stepmother and father.  The incident occurred in Fall River, Massachusetts in 1892.

Why would this dated biography be of interest to today’s audiences?  For one, Lizzie is alleged to be a lesbian and the script by Bryce Kass re-imagines Lizzie to be guilty of the heinous crime.  Lizzie is also highly abused by the male gender in a time where gay relationships were disallowed.  One scene has her uncle grabbing her by the throat threatening her. 

The film is bookended with the ghastly murder of a man hacked to death.  The guilt falls on the daughter Lizzie which the film sets to prove committed the deed despite her acquittal.

The film goes back 6 months with the arrival of a female at a three story house, obviously owned by a wealthy family.  The female is revealed to be Brigitte Sullivan (Kristen Stewart), a single Irish woman, who has come to live with the family and work as a live-in maid.  Lizzie, of the film title, is living with her wealthy father (Jamey Sheridan), stepmother (Fiona Shaw) and sister (Kim Dickens).  Her father is up to no good, while her stepmother silently enables.  Worst still, it seems that her uncle (Denis O’Hare) may end up controlling her inheritance.  Socially isolated, with her comings and goings strictly monitored, Lizzie finds solace in her pet pigeons. 

Brigitte works hard.  The patriarch of the family recognizes Brigitte’s hard work but his visits to her room prove him to be a sex abuser.  At the same time, Lizzie and Brigitte start an affair.

The script ups the angst with the father becoming more abusive towards Lizzie.  Lizzie also suffers from fits.

The film benefits from the creation of claustrophobia of the prison of the family home.  Lizzie is discouraged from going out and if allowed, must return by midnight.  The camera is quick to always show the high walls as if acting like imprisoning barriers.  When Lizzie does get to go out, she is attacked by society as the Borden family are cheap and disliked large house renters, still using candle light instead of the new electricity of the times.  The audience is made to feel that Lizzie has no way to escape psychically and emotionally.  Which drives her towards the act.

Whereas in real life Lizzie was acquitted for the fact that the jury could not imagine a woman performing such a violent act, the film shows otherwise with Lizzie hacking her father to death with repeated blows, and in the nude with blood splattered all over her body.  This shows director Macneill over-confident that he has convinced his audience believe that Lizzie is so desperate that she has nothing to lose (she would otherwise lose her inheritance as well as love for Brigitte) but to commit gruesome murder.

Performances are top-notch with Stewart getting away with her Irish accent. But the main star of the film is Noah Greenberg lush cinematography that captures the period atmosphere of the times and the claustrophobic imprisonment of the girls.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-QJ81-k6w8

TIFF 2018 Review: JEREMIAH TERMINATOR LEROY (USA/UK/Canada 2018) **

Movie Reviews of films that will be playing at TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) in 2018. Go to TIFF 2018 Movie Reviews and read reviews of films showing at the festival.

A young woman named Savannah Knoop spends six years pretending to be the celebrated author JT LeRoy, the made-up literary persona of her sister-in-law.

Director:

Justin Kelly

Writers:

Justin KellySavannah Knoop (memoir) | 1 more credit »

Laura Albert (Laura Dern) writes tough, insightful fiction under a pseudonym, JT LeRoy. Her JT is not just a pen name but a whole persona, a teenage boy from West Virginia living a dangerous life as a truck stop sex worker.  Laura was born in Brooklyn a generation earlier, and grew up in New York’s punk scene.  Writing books such as The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things as JT gives her complete freedom to explore the darker regions of human experience. Readers and the media love it so much that they begin to demand JT in person.  

As journalists press for interviews with JT, turmoil mounts with Laura’s husband Geoffrey (Jim Sturgess) and sister-in-law Savannah (Kristen Stewart).  Partly from desperation, partly for kicks, they conspire to have Savannah don a wig and sunglasses, adjust her voice, and become the teenage boy author.   Despite everything being based on a true story, Kelly’s film is extremely dull.  He makes no attempt to make the events authentic or to make Savannah believable as JT.  Whenever she appears as JT, she mumbles all along and the media and everyone takes it in from Cannes to Paris to the U.S. 

 Worst of all is the pretentious bit at the film’s end where Laura preaches to the audience that everyone has to be the person he or she is.

Film Review: CERTAIN WOMEN (USA 2016) ***

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

certain_womenThe lives of three women intersect in small-town America, where each is imperfectly blazing a trail.

Director: Kelly Reichardt
Writers: Kelly Reichardt (screenplay), Maile Meloy (based on stories by)
Stars: Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern

Review by Gilbert Seah

 
CERTAIN WOMEN tells three different stories about women, the common thread that the stories, among another things are set in Montana. Unlike films with many stories, writer/director Kelly Reichardt (WENDY AND LUCY, OLDJOY, MEEK’S CUTOFF) does not intercut the stories into one narrative but rather tells each story on its own, one after another. The advantage of this strategy (and the one I prefer) is that the continuity of each story is un-compromised.

The first story involves a female lawyer, Laura (Laura Dern) defusing a hostage situation and calming her disgruntled client (Jared Harris). The second has a married couple (Michelle Williams and James Le Gros) breaking ground on a new home but exposing marital fissures when they try to persuade an elderly man to sell his stockpile of sandstone. The third and final story is of a ranch hand (Lily Gladstone) forming an attachment to a young lawyer (Kristen Stewart), who inadvertently finds herself teaching a twice-weekly adult education class, four hours from her home. These are independent women whose lives finally intersect in a powerful way. These stories are based on short stories from Maile Meloy’s collection Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It.

Reichardt ’s films have a strong feminine content. This is not a bad thing if done right. Reichardt demonstrates the feminine content in a clever subtle as evident in the first story. The first story begins with the female lawyer, Laura after a lunch time love-making in a rented room. The two are never shown together. She is seen in the bedroom while he is the bathroom. When he enters the bedroom, his figure is shown in the mirror. Never once do the male and female appear on he same side of the screen. The male and female are distinct, they have different roles in each story and Reichardt emphasizes the female roles.

Often in films with a strong female content by a female director, the male characters are depicted as silly or spineless. Thankfully, this is not the case in CERTAIN WOMEN. If the males have to answer to the female, there is a least a legitimate reason. In the first story, the lawyer’s client (Jared Harris) has made an error and has suffered severe mental, physical and financial loss. When he breaks down crying (a crying male is too often used in a female director’s film to show that they too have sensitivity), it illustrates at least, a credible state of affairs.

The female characters are all involved with the typical male roles in society. Laura Dern is a lawyer, who ends up as a hostage negotiator. Michelle Williams makes the family decisions especially on the construction of their new house to buy sandstones from an elderly gentleman. The husband admits too, to the old gent in on scene that she is the boss.

Women films are strong this month with the release of both CERTAIN WOMEN at TIFF Bell Lightbox and the Hollywood comedy SNATCHED on Mother’s Day

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1_Lznehy2-s

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Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month:http://www.wildsoundfestival.com

Movie Review: PERSONAL SHOPPER (France 2016) ***

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

personal_shopper.jpgDirector: Olivier Assayas
Writers: Olivier Assayas (dialogue), Olivier Assayas (screenplay)
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Lars Eidinger, Sigrid Bouaz

Review by Gilbert Seah

 After the modest box-office success of CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA, director Oliver Assayas (IRMA VEP, CLEAN) and actress Kristen Stewart reunite with a moody ghost story called PERSONAL SHOPPER. The title character, Maureen is as the title implies, a personal shopper for a wealthy German model and designer, Kyra (Nora Von Waltstätten). Maureen also has a ghostly encounter from her recently dead brother who she was quite close with.
The closeness is explained in two reasons – necessary to convince the audience why she is so determined to have a spiritual encounter with him. One is that he is her twin. Second is that the both suffer from the same health issue, though someone could live till a hundred with it. What happened to the brother is explained by the doctor as a rarity. But Maureen cannot indulge in any excessive physical activity.

Within the first 15 minutes of the film’s running time, the only thing established is that Stewart plays a personal shopper and that she has had one ghost encounter. The audience is obvious primed for a slow haul of a movie. Not much has happened except that Stewart has been walking around, mucking around and just looking at dresses for Kyra. The dresses are very glamorous, for those who like to look at dresses. Maureen is forbidden to wear the dresses. But she does, even masturbating in one of the sexier ones.

PERSONAL SHOPPER works off Maureen’s character with a few side incidents. Maureen rides along on a scooter, has a few ghostly encounters (though not fully explained who the apparitions are), runs errands and has an uncomfortable encounter with a stalker on her mobile phone. The film contains a loose narrative but a strong presence in Kristen Stewart’s character. Assayas is in playful mood here milking the most out of his actress.

One side incident involving a murder is done Hitchcock style. Maureen discovers a brutal murder just as in the scene in Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS when the first attack of the birds was discovered.

As a ghost story, the ghost appears as an apparition similar to old ghost films with dust stirred up with blurred figures. The seance scene also looks typical of those in early ghost stories.

In the end, one eventually asks whether this light hearted ghost story is any fun. Well it might be for director Assayas and his star, but it might be too much of a slow and long haul for others. Assayas leaves his film with an open ending that might have some audiences dissatisfied. But on the same hand, PERSONAL SHOPPER is not a film that lends to a Hollywood ending. Having one would have destroyed the entire atmosphere of the film Assayas had so carefully created.

The film is shot in English, with some French and German spoken (and an elaborate German song) with a moody setting in both Paris and London. Interesting but not great!

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hghXP4F3Qs

 

_________

Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month:http://www.wildsoundfestival.com

Happy Birthday: Kristen Stewart

kristenstewart.jpgHappy Birthday Kristen Stewart

Born: Kristen Jaymes Stewart
April 9, 1990 in Los Angeles, California, USA

Read reviews of the best of her work:

PANIC ROOMPanic Room
2002
dir. David Fincher
Starring
Jodie Foster
Stewart

SPEAKSpeak
2004
dir. Jessica Sharzar
Cast
Stewart
Michael Angarano

FIERCE PEOPLEFierce People
2005
dir. Griffin Dunne
Cast
Diane Lane
Donald Sutherland

IN THE LAND OF WOMENIn the Land of Woman
2007
dir. Jon Kasdan
Starring
Elena Anaya
Adam Brody

INTO THE WILDInto the Wild
2007
dir. Penn
starring
Emile Hirsch
Hal Holbrook

TwilightTwilight
2008
dir. Catherine Hardwicke
Starring
Stewart
Robert Pattinson

JUMPERJumper
2008
dir. Doug Liman
Starring
Hayden Christensen
Samuel L. Jackson

What Just HappenedWhat Just Happened
2008
dir. Barry Levinson<brStarring
Robert DeNiro
Sean Penn
Bruce Willis

ADVENTURELAND Movie PosterAdventureland
dir. Greg Mottola
Starring
Jesse Eisenberg

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse  The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
dir. David Slade
Cast:
Kristen Stewart
Robert Pattinson

NEW MOON TWILGHT 2 Movie PosterTwilight 2: New Moon
dir. Chris Weitz
Stars:
Stewart
Robert Pattinson
Taylor Lautner

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse  The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
dir. Jimmy Hayward

MOVIE POSTERTHE TWILIGHT SAGA BREAKING DAWN PART 1
dir. Bill Condon
Stars:
Kristen Stewart
Robert Pattinson

MOVIE POSTERSNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN
dir. Rupert Sanders
Stars:
Kristen Stewart
Chris Hemsworth

MOVIE POSTERTHE TWILIGHT SAGA: BREAKING DAWN PART 2
dir. Bill Condon

movie reviewsZATHURA: A SPACE ADVENTURE
2005
dir. Jon Favreau
Stars:
Jonah Bobo
Josh Hutcherson