There are four new films out on dvd this month, all of which won critical approval. But, as my grandson reminds me, what do we critics know?
1. MOONLIGHT KINGDOM, directed by that master of quirky Wes Anderson (RUSHMORE, THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS), presents a Romeo and Juliet story where off-beat tweens fall in love and bring their whole island home into panic and eventual harmony. The style of the film is detailed and beautifully but artificially colored, as in a fairy tale. The cast includes newcomers as the tweens and a bevy of Anderson types: Bruce Willis as a sensitive cop, Bill Murray as a detached and often drunk dad, and Ed Norton as an inept but charming scout master who finally saves the day. If you liked films like RUSHMORE, this should be a treat.
2. THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES, directed by Lauren Greenfield, is a documentary about David A. Siegal and his wife who aspire to build their own palace based on Louis IV's Versailles. Siegal's fortune was based on luxury time-share resorts. When the filming began, the Siegals were building the largest mansion in America near Orlando, Florida. Jackie Siegal tours us through her mansion and her life, both of which are gaudy and bigger than life. As we watch we feel like doing the superiority dance. How can these people live this corruption of the American dream? How can they have such poor taste? You really have to see the film to believe the excess. Yet as the dream turns sour after the financial crash, we actually feel some sympathy for these folks, especially the children. But, not that much!
ON THE OTHER HAND....
1. TAKE THIS WALTZ, directed by Sarah Polley, stars the engaging Michelle Williams as a young Canadian wife who loves her sweet husband, an appealing Seth Rogen, but is attracted to a free spirited and sexy man who just happens to live across the street. This film is vapid and filled with longing looks and fuzzy, sunlit photography that even the Hallmark Channel seems zippy in comparison.
2. MY SISTER'S SISTER, directed by Lynn Shelton, is another relationship story that falters quickly. Jack(Mark Duplass), who is still grieving his brother's death, takes a quick vacation offered by his platonic friend Iris (Emily Blunt). He thinks he will be alone but discovers Iris's sister Hannah (Rosemary de Witt) has arrived. As they get drunk together, their animosity turns into into lust. The next morning Iris arrives and Jack and Hannah desperately try to keep their tryst a secret. That's the movie, folks, except for one annoying factor....the language. I stopped counting the f words at 50, and this in the first half hour. The plot is thin, the wit is witless, and the language is blue to black.
My opinion on these last two is not shared by many. Rolling Stone loved MY SISTER'S SISTER, and NPR was high on both. Okay, I'm a fuddy-duddy, but I like stories with a plot and a purpose and dialogue that is meaningful, witty, and heartfelt. These two just don't measure up.