Kelly Reichardt’s Women consists of three short stories by writer Maile Meloy. In the first, Laura Dern plays Laura, a lawyer whose angry male client (Jared Harris) won’t accept her advice. Next, Gina (Michelle Williams) and her husband, Ryan (James Le Gros), who — as we saw in the first story — is having an affair with Laura, decide to build a weekender close to the home of an elderly recluse (Rene Auberjonois). The third story features Lily Gladstone as Jamie, a lonely girl who runs a horse farm entirely on her own. She becomes attracted to Beth (Kristen Stewart), who teaches a class on student rights at a nearby adult education centre.
Berlin Syndrome (MA15+) Clara (Teresa Palmer) meets the friendly Andi (Max Riemelt), an English teacher, and, after some hesitation, accompanies him to his apartment for sex. But next morning, when he goes to work, she finds herself locked in. She thinks it was a mistake, but it wasn’t. Max proves to be, for reasons not adequately explained, determined to keep her a prisoner. This is hardly a new plot but director Cate Shortland, working from a book by Melanie Joosten, handles the establishing scenes pretty well. Berlin Syndrome’s basic theme, of a controlling man seeking dominance over a woman, is always a hot topic. Unfortunately, at about the midway point the film loses steam and then drags on. As a result, the essential tension is dissipated and subplots add little to the drama.
Raw (R18+) A shy, virginal vegetarian (Garance Marillier) is transformed into a flesh-eating nympho zombie during her stay at a residential veterinarian college in this ludicrous and childishly provocative so-called thriller. Some may claim the film is about a young woman discovering herself, but the writer-director’s obvious delight in shock for shock’s sake constitutes a major turn-off, no matter how efficiently made or well acted the film may be.
The Popular Mechanicals The popular mechanicals are the six artisans who give a daffy royal command performance for the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Charles Mayer (below right, with Tim Overton) as Bottom is an interestingly restrained version of Shakespeare’s enthusiastic egoist. As Ralph Mowldie, Bottom’s celebrity replacement, Mayer is extravagantly histrionic, with a velvet cloak concealing his stash of wine casks.There are Bottom jokes, poo jokes, giggles and japes. The Popular Mechanicals captures the bawdy spirit of the Elizabethan entertainments and skits known as jigs. But in its faithful depiction of the camaraderie between the artisans, the splendid staging of Pyramus and Thisbe, and in highlighting the paradoxical poetry of Bottom’s dream, this durable play (and pleasurable new production) reminds us that, from humble origins, these characters can emerge glorious and triumphant. Wharf 2 Theatre, The Wharf, 4 Hickson Road, Sydney. Today, 2.15pm and 7.30pm. Tickets: $44$55. Bookings: (02) 9250 1777. Big Fish Big Fish is based on Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel and Tim Burton’s 2003 film of the same name. Director Tyron Parke’s indie production stars Phillip Lowe as travelling salesman Edward Bloom, whose tall stories have kept his friends and family entertained for years until his son starts to search for the truth behind them. The production also features Adam Rennie, Kirby Burgess and Katrina Retallick. Hayes Theatre, 19 Greenknowe Avenue, Sydney. Today, 2pm and 7.30pm. Tickets: $59. Bookings: (02) 8065 7337. Until May 14. Guru of Chai