Gerwig flies high with her first film
(out of 4) Starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lucas Hedges, Timothée Chalamet, Lois Smith and Beanie Feldstein. Written and directed by Greta Gerwig. Opens Friday at the Varsity. 94 minutes. 14A Any number of coming-of-age films are brought to mind by actor Greta Gerwig’s charming debut as solo writer/director.
But the delightful and insightful Lady Bird achieves flight in its own unique way.
People doubted Gerwig’s filmmaking ambitions, since she’s best known as the loveably daffy star of such modern amusements as Frances Ha and Mistress America. She went ahead anyway and made one of the funniest and most heartfelt movies of 2017, a film that gets inside the outsider feeling of growing up.
It’s no accident that Saoirse Ronan’s title rebel in Lady Bird, a Gerwig-inspired character, chooses Stephen Sondheim’s “Everybody Says Don’t” as her cheeky audition for a high school musical.
Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson feels under siege, not just from her dyed red hair, her stubborn adolescent acne and her misfortune of living with her cash-strapped family in Sacramento, Calif., in 2002.
Her frazzled mom (Laurie Metcalf ), annoying older brother (Jordan Rodrigues) and inquiring school principal (Lois Smith) are all on her case. Only her dad (Tracy Letts) seems to be on Lady Bird’s side — and he’s fighting a bad case of depression, humbled by unemployment and embarrassed by his perceived failings as a breadwinner. Mom has to work double shifts as a psych ward nurse.
Lady Bird also has the pesky problems of an affordable college to choose and virginity she’s eager to lose, the latter with the assistance of her shy boyfriend Danny (Lucas Hedges) — or is she really more interested in the inscrutable slacker Kyle (Timothée Chalamet)?
Ronan is a riot as the wilful Lady Bird, a kid trying hard to turn “nope” into hope. She’s sure to court Best Actress consideration, one of many potential kudos for this 2017 highlight.
Picture, directing and screenwriting honours beckon for Gerwig and possibly supporting-actress nominations for Metcalf and Smith, the two mother figures in Lady Bird’s life, who always mean well even if they don’t always deliver on it.
There’s much hidden love, too, in how Gerwig’s keen eye manages to make her hometown look good, better than Lady Bird would ever admit. Peter Howell Almost all of us know something about Jane Goodall and her pioneering work studying chimpanzees in the wild.
Brett Morgen’s documentary adds to that knowledge in ways that make her life and legacy even more extraordinary and inspiring.
It helps immeasurably that Morgen has access to more than 100 hours of “rediscovered” footage shot by Hugo van Lawick, a nature photographer who chronicled her adventures.
Van Lawick, who later became Goodall’s husband, was one of the top in his craft in the world and his work is sublime.
Morgen sets the story up nicely with some textual preamble, including the fact that Goodall, at the age of 26 and with no university degree or training, came to Gombe in the early 1960s at the behest of legendary anthropologist Louis Leakey.
There’s also a recent interview with Goodall that knits together the threads of her eventful life and what a rich life it has been, filled with highs and lows, tragedy and triumph.
Goodall has left her mark on the world, and this documentary engagingly celebrates that legacy. Bruce DeMara Serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer was such a notorious monster, it seems preposterous and even offensive to imagine a film depicting his early days as a teen misfit.
He violated, killed and consumed 17 men over a 13-year killing spree, which ended in 1991 with his arrest and subsequent conviction and death in prison at the hands of another inmate. Why should we feel sorry for him?
The strength of writer/director Marc Meyers’ film, which stars former Disney star Ross Lynch as the creepily vacant killer-to-be, is that it seeks not to excuse Dahmer but rather to illuminate his sociopathy.
Here we see a lonely kid, later diagnosed with multiple psychiatric disorders, growing up in a broken home with an alcoholic and bipolar mother (Anne Heche) and a concerned but distant father (Dallas Roberts).
Dahmer tries to find friendship at school by being the “champion spazz” who fakes seizures for attention. All he finds is more loneliness and, ultimately, a life sicker than any horror writer could ever imagine. PH Extreme cold meets the deep freeze of bureaucracy and cross-cultural hostilities as a rookie FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) and a veteran hunter (Jeremy Renner) investigate a teen girl’s murder on a remote Wyoming Indian reservation.
Sicario screenwriter Sheridan, also the pen behind Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water, makes his auspicious directorial debut in a drama where the chill of environmental and attitudinal circumstances cuts to the bone.
Olsen and Renner make a great pair — she’s a talented but citified FBI agent from Las Vegas, he’s a damaged veteran woodlands tracker — but the best scene belongs to Graham Greene, as Indigenous lawman Ben.
“This isn’t the land of backup,” Ben tells Olsen. “This is the land of ‘You’re on your own.’ ”
Wind River is a flinty saga in which a strong female character enters a treacherous domain where men outnumber women and think they rule the roost.
Extras include deleted scene and a making-of video gallery. PH If the James Bond franchise people ever get creative and cast a female 007, Charlize Theron will have to be high on their list of possible candidates.
Atomic Blonde, her spy-versus-spy thriller, will be her audition tape, much as the uneven Layer Cake was for Daniel Craig, the current 007. This is both a good and bad thing.
Set in the Berlin of1989, in the tense days and hours before the Wall’s rupture, Atomic Blonde is less of a coherent movie experience and more of a show reel of Theron’s awesome abilities as an action star — which is not a surprise, given her badass turns in Mad Max: Fury Road and this past summer’s The Fate of the Furious.
Theron’s latest actioner takes her furious skills to the madder max, in her role of MI6 super spy Lorraine Broughton. She’s tasked with retrieving a missing MacGuffin that could “extend the Cold War another 40 years.” This is indeed a hands-on assignment, as Broughton demonstrates to any man or woman foolish enough to try to stop her.
Extras include deleted/extended scenes and making-of featurettes. PH
Actress Saoirse Ronan is a riot as a wilful teen in Lady Bird, a film about a young woman trying to hard to turn “nope” into hope, Peter Howell writes.
My Friend Dahmer (out of 4) Starring Ross Lynch, Anne Heche, Dallas Roberts and Vincent Kartheiser. Written and directed by Marc Meyers. Opens Friday at Scotiabank Theatre. 107 minutes. 14A
Jane (out of 4) Documentary on celebrated simian researcher Jane Goodall, written and directed by Brett Morgen. Opens Friday at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. 90 minutes. STC
Atomic Blonde (DVD) (out of 4) Starring Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella, John Goodman, Toby Jones and Til Schweiger. Directed by David Leitch. Out Nov. 14 on DVD. 115 minutes. 18A