Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!
We watched Emma Thompson’s tour de force performance in the just-released (on Hulu) story of a middle-aged woman who has never experienced an orgasm and hires a sex worker to meet with her and teach her about sex for pleasure, since her own 31-year marriage, while relatively happy, was not particularly satisfying in the bedroom. She has two children: a “boring” son and a bohemian daughter, both grown.
Much of the discussion of Thompson’s performance in “Good Luck To You, Leo Grande” in the “New York Times” was about how she should be able to be nominated for an Oscar, but, because the film went straight to Hulu without a theatrical showing, she is not.
Emma has one scene at film’s end where she is completely starkers and acknowledged that it was the hardest scene she has ever had to play. In fact, the cast (which is mainly Emma Thompson and Daryl McCormack as the young gigolo who opens new worlds to the somewhat repressed middle-aged ex-teacher) is great. The part was written especially for Thompson by writer Katy Brand and was directed by Sophie Hyde.
It is a bit slow-moving and looks like it could have been a play (most of the action takes place in a hotel room), but it is well-done.
And, while we’re on the subject of Hulu, be sure to take in Jeff Bridges’ new mini series, “The Old Man.”
Bridges plays a former CIA officer, who’s living off the grid, and finds himself on the run from people who want to kill him. There are two Doberman Pinschers in the cast and Amy Brenneman shows up playing a woman who(m) Bridges rents a home from and to whom he becomes close. There are also some flashback scenes involving the dead wife of the CIA officer and John Lithgow has a relationship with Bridges’ character of Dan Chase.
We’ve only seen two of the episodes, but the dark tone of the mini-series and the non-stop action from “the old man” marks it as one we will return to and enjoy.
Cruella De Vil, the big budget Disney picture starring Emma Stone and Emma Thompson, debuted on May 28th and screams “Sequel” from the moment the last scene fades. Director Craig Gillespie has pulled out all the fashion stops on this one, and it shows.
In the last 23 hours, the Hollywood Reporter has confirmed those sequel suspicions, with these remarks:
“We are very pleased with Cruella’s box office success, in conjunction with its strong Disney+ Premier Access performance to date,” a Disney spokesperson said in a statement. “The film has been incredibly well received by audiences around the world, with a 97% Audience Score on Rotten Tomatoes, in addition to A’s in every demographic from CinemaScore on opening weekend, ranking it among the most popular of our live-action re-imaginings. We look forward to a long run as audiences continue to enjoy this fantastic film.”
Everything I had read about the performances (Top Notch), the soundtrack (great), and the costuming (exceptionally great) was confirmed. There is even an acceptable backstory for how Cruella got so cruel, crafted by Dana Fox, Tony McNamara, Aline Brosh McKenna, Kelly Marsel and Steve Zissin. My remark to my companion, as we left the theater, was that it was obvious there would be a sequel that would pick up where this film left off. And I was right.
Cruella is a 2021 American crime comedy film based on the character Cruella de Vil from Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians and Walt Disney‘s 1961 animated film adaptation.
Unlike other films that have spun off from animated beginnings, this one seems to have more interest in developing sympathy for the devil that Cruella becomes (one of the many soundtrack choices from the Rolling Stones that isheard throughout the action). Audiences didn’t prefer the film versions of Disney offerings like “The Lion King” to the Disney animated pictures, but this one may be the exception to that rule. That song, by the way (“Sympathy forthe Devil) released on November 1st, 1968, is but one of the many 70s punk songs like “These Boots Are Made for Walkin,’” “Time of the Season,” “Whole Lotta’ Love,” “Should I Stay Or Should I Go,” and on and on. The music is a large part of the success of the film.
COSTUMING & SETS
So are the fashions and with a $200 million budget, you see some over-the-top fashions. “Screen Rant” reports that the film is far pricier than most Disney re-imagined fare. Cruella’s production budget is reportedly $200 million, making it a very expensive endeavor. That price tag is higher than other Disney live-action re-imaginings like Aladdin ($183 million), Beauty and the Beast ($160 million), and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil ($185 million). Cruella’s budget is more in line with what one would expect from a tentpole comic book adaptation. Disney’s upcoming Black Widow also cost around $200 million to make.”
So, we have established that the soundtrack and costuming and make-up will scream “Oscar” in March.
What about the acting?
ACTING: Competent, as one would expect from the two Emmas (Stone and Thompson). Also doing good work are the supporting players, namely Joel Fry as Jasper and Paul Walter Hauser as Horace, with a stylish turn from John McRea as Artie and Billie Gadson as the 5-year-old Estella/Cruella. Mark Strong also has a pivotal role as John the valet, a role that reminds of something Stanley Tucci would play.
Set in 1970s London amidst the emergence of the punk rock movement, Cruella traces the trajectory of Estella (Stone), and the tragedies and ecstasies that mark her formative years. Her mother, Catherine (Emily Beecham) plays a seminal role in shaping her worldview. Despite being a loving and nurturing presence, Catherine often encourages Estella to “fit in” in order to stay out of trouble. Estella is viewed as somewhat different for her beautiful, black-and-white ombré hair and her rebellious nature. As Estella defends herself in talking about the mother/daughter relationship, “It wasn’t her I was challenging; it was the world.”
As the film progresses, our heroine (Emma Stone) declares, “I want to make art, and I want to make trouble.” At first, she is constrained by her loving mother (Emily Beecham) from realizing her full potential in either field. The pair then begin a journey to London, where Estella hopes to become a fashion designer.
Derailed along the way by circumstances beyond their control (“Happy accidents can change the whole course of your life…Happy may not be the right word.”), Estella ends up living and working in an abandoned building, alongside a couple of childhood grifters straight out of a Dickens novel, Jasper (Joel Fry) and Horace (Paul Walter Hauser).
One of the fast friends, Jasper (Joel Fry) submits an application for Estella to work at the Liberty House Fashion Firm that she so admires. That opens the door to frustration, followed by eventual fame and fortune when the Baroness (Emma Thompson)—THE arbiter of fashion in the swinging 70s scene— sees Estella’s potential and hires her to be her assistant, ripping off her originality and vision at every turn while lording it over the rest of society.
Using fantastic settings like the Tower of London (yes, THAT Tower of London) doesn’t hurt the film at all. Gorgeous mansions and even more gorgeous gowns are a treat for the eye.
As the plot thickens, Estella realizes, “I’m not sweet Estella, try as I might. I’m Cruella. Born bad and a little bit mad.” She adds, “People do need a villain to believe in, so I’m happy to fit the bill.”
We’ll be seeing a lot more of Cruella in future films, and I hope the films are as entertaining as this one was.
“Pirate Radio” (also known as “The Boat That Rocked”), written and directed by Richard Curtis, is the true story of a pirate radio boat operating on frequency 203 in the North Sea off the coast of England, a floating radio station that broadcast rock and roll to England, in defiance of the government. Ninety-three per cent of the British public liked the music, but the authority in charge, assisted by a character named “Twatt,” is determined to pass a new law, called the Marine Offenses Act, to outlaw the format and the station.
Cast as the man who is determined to stomp out the affront to civilization that rock and roll represents is Kenneth Branagh as Sir Alistair Dormandy. (Branagh’s ex-wife, Emma Thompson, also has a small cameo as the glamorous Charlotte, mother of Young Carl, played by Tom Sturridge.)
The log line for the movie is “1 boat. 8 DJ’s. No morals.”
Philip Seymour Hoffman plays The Count, an American DJ whose prominence at the station is challenged by the reappearance of popular disc jockey Gavin Cavanagh, played by Rhys Ifans, whom fans will remember as Hugh Grant’s kooky side-kick in “Notting Hill.”
Also recognizable from “Flight of the Conchords” is the actor playing Angus, Rhys Darby, who provides some—but not all—of the comic relief. The funny lines are numerous, so Angus is only a tiny part of the overall humor.
It’s a bit disconcerting to view Rhys Ifans (formerly seen primarily in comic roles such as the Brit who attached helium balloons to a lawn chair to go airborne) as an irresistible chick magnet who says things like “This is Gavin, tweaking the nation’s nipples.”
One of my favorite lines from the movie was Philip Seymour Hoffman declaring “Why am I so fat?” while challenging Gavin Cavanagh to a “chicken” contest involving mast-climbing, a contest designed to punish Cavanagh for an offense to fellow DJ Simon (Chris O’Dowd). When Gavin (Ifans) first returns to the floating radio station, he character says (to Hoffman), “You’re the Count: what does that make me? The King?” To which Hoffman responds, “Or the Joker.”
Oh, it’s on!
The film has a subplot (which is a bit like a Maury Povich episode), involving determining which member of the ship may (or may not) have fathered Young Carl. There is still more humor from a character called Thick (misspelled on his cabin door as “Thikc”) Kevin (Tom Brooke).
The soundtrack for the film is outstanding. It was supervised by Nick Angel and features songs like “My Generation” from “The Who.” There’s also a bit part played by January Jones as Elenore. (Jones plays Betsy on “Mad Men.”)
It’s a film you might miss, because it doesn’t have the huge advertising budget of “2012,” but it is going to be infinitely more satisfying and way funnier.