20th Century Women
Mike Mills' "20th Centruy Women" feels like an achingly real memoir about adolescence told not through the subject's eyes, but through the prism of the people around him whose voices and perspectives are given equal traction. At first, the film feels ragged and episodic, but it slowly gels into a magnificent ensemble full of life, fragility and casual wisdom. The beauty resides in its raggedness. Even though the women of the title (Annette Benning, Greta Gerwig and Elle Fanning) are given moments of resplendence in the way they shuffle, dance, worry, react and interact with each other, Mills' screenplay and direction belie a gentle touch on everyone involved. It's also a film that understands the textures of an era in the way he flashes black and white photos to subliminally relay faces and images. And, just like a great novel, there's pain and reality in the way each person interjects their fate in voiceover, explaining future and past in one tumultuous gesture. It not only emphasizes the tangential nature of life, but breathes humanity in the present.
Part of my lukewarm appreciation for Peter Berg's "Patriot's Day" is for the film it could have been.... i.e. overtly sentimental and browbeating. It does go there for stretches, but for the most part, it remains a cool and measured procedural complete with investigative dead-ends and jurisdictional confrontations that lend a credibility. It does suffer some missteps, such as the seemingly amplified Watertown shootout that not only manages to flip exploding cars, but turn J.K. Simmons into a Rambo-style hero. Still, there's enough intelligent moments wedged in between the forced beginning and almost insufferable memorialized finale to make this worth it.
A.k.a. The Great American Fast Food Heist. John Lee Hancock's "The Founder" continues Michael Keaton's recent surge of great roles, portraying Ray Kroc, the ultimate owner of the McDonald's fast food chain after fast-talking, hustling and out maneuvering the original owner brothers (Nick Offerman and John Caroll Lynch) and building an empire. There's very little sympathy and even less moralizing about Kroc here, which makes "The Founder" a dry, detached experience about the expansion of corporate America just when American families where coming out of their shells and exploring modernized attractions of the country. It's a good film, complete with the asshole standing at the top of the mountain with not only an empire, but a stolen wife (Linda Cardellini), unrepentant and basking in his own shadow. Too big to fail indeed.
I probably spend more time talking about "Jackie" because its the better film of the two, but Pablo Larrain's companion pieces deserve each other. Full review at Dallas Film Now.