What's on at East Dulwich Picturehouse - Silver Screen
Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, J. K. Simmons. USA 2017. 128 mins.
A tribute to the Hollywood musical but with a story embedded in present-day Los Angeles life. Mia (Stone), aspiring actress working in a coffee shop on the Warner Brothers studio backlot, falls for jazz pianist Sebastian (Gosling). Both give effortless performances with stunning song-and-dance routines and remarkable piano playing from Gosling. The transition from musical numbers to powerful narrative is seamless, and bravura one-take shots will draw comparisons to the cinematography of Birdman.
Director: Theodore Melfi.
Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monáe. USA 2016. 127 mins.
Without three gifted mathematicians, America might not have put its first man into space in 1961. That they were also female and black in a country where racial segregation still had a sour normalcy only adds piquancy to the story.
Theodore Melfi’s biopic Hidden Figures tells the uplifting tale of how these women helped make history. Played with great, often wry gusto by Taraji P. Henson (The Karate Kid), Octavia Spencer (Fruitvale Station) and pop star Janelle Monáe, the trio are plucked from numeric drudgery by a NASA systems boss (Kevin Costner) to help meet a timetable accelerated by presidential decree. As if things weren’t already challenging enough, the women also face the routine prejudice of their work colleagues.
Hidden Figures deftly avoids clichéd melodrama to celebrate amazing achievements in a society in the throes of change.
Director: Barry Jenkins.
Starring: Alex Hibbert, Naomie Harris, Trevante Rhodes, Ashton Sanders. USA 2016. 111 mins.
Ambitious in so many ways, Moonlight is the story of an African-American gay man growing up in a USA that is perhaps even more intolerant than ever. In only his second feature after the brilliant but undervalued Medicine For Melancholy, writer-director Barry Jenkins successfully employs three different actors to portray the same character at three different ages.
Charismatic newcomer Alex Hibbert plays the young, naive schoolboy living with his emotionally unreliable addict mother (Harris, Our Kind Of Traitor); Ashton Sanders (Straight Outta Compton) is the bullied teenager fully discovering his sexuality; and American football star Trevante Rhodes gives a breakout performance as the confident drug-dealing adult, a tribute to the role model who helped him endure his difficult upbringing. Never less than riveting, Moonlight is already being showered with richly deserved awards.
Director: Mike Mills.
Starring: Annette Bening, Elle Fanning, Alia Shawkat, Greta Gerwig. USA 2016. 118 mins.
Writer-director Mike Mills (Beginners, Thumbsucker) draws from the well of personal experience for this Oscar-tipped tale of a boy growing up in 1970s California. Single mum Dorothea (Bening) wants to do right by her teenage son, Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann). To this end she turns to two very different women, punk photographer Abbie (Gerwig) and 16-year-old rebel Julie (Fanning), in the hope that they can teach him about life, love and freedom.
Denzel Washington and Viola Davis both won Tony Awards for their performances in the stage version of August Wilson’s passionately acted drama.
This film adaptation is Washington’s third feature outing as director, and his deep understanding of the issues at the heart of a still racially divided America underpins a story which is primarily about difficult family relationships.
Canny, hard-nosed blue-collar worker Troy (Washington) and stoical Rose (Davis) are the parents of three variously troubled boys in 1950s Pittsburgh. The tone is set early on when teenager Cory (Jovan Adepo) asks his dad, “How come you never liked me?” and Troy replies, “What law is there saying I got to like you?” There’s much wit and affection in all the characters, but ultimately it’s a film about secrets and buried emotions.
Director: Kenneth Lonergan.
Starring: Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges. USA 2016. 137 mins.
Casey Affleck, Michelle Williams and Kyle Chandler star in this critically acclaimed drama from writer-director Kenneth Lonergan (You Can Count On Me, Margaret) about a man’s painful home-town return. Casey Affleck gives a career-defining performance as Lee Chandler, a reclusive handyman who returns to his Massachusetts seaside home town after the sudden death of his beloved older brother. Finding he has been appointed legal guardian of his teenage nephew, he is forced to deal with a past that has separated him from his wife (Williams) and the community where he was born and raised.
Manchester By The Sea is heavily tipped for success in the awards season. In only his third feature in 16 years, Lonergan proves himself a master of detail. Heart-wrenching and emotionally powerful, this is brilliant, intense filmmaking of the very highest order.