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mother!


Kingsman: The Golden Circle

September 21, 2017

mother! (** ½) R

Darren Aronofsky’s first film after a three year layoff, mother!, is the type of unruly beast that launches great discussions and stirs deep emotions. For days after seeing it I couldn’t stop thinking about it, which is usually the harbinger of a good film. And yet I can’t quite bring myself to recommend the film wholeheartedly in spite of being tempted to take in a second viewing. You may find yourself thinking about it for days afterward but it’s such an unrelentingly bleak film during its final section that it feels a bit like being kicked repeatedly in the face. Yes it stirs emotions but the question remains as to whether those reactions are just visceral or perhaps something a bit deeper. After careful consideration I’m going with the former.

In terms of filmmaking mother! is skillfully made to be sure. It’s the sort of thing that doesn’t conform to normally accepted storytelling tropes which is usually enough to win over my affections. Mainstream audiences who’ve grown accustomed to star Jennifer Lawrence’s turns in easy to digest projects such as The Hunger Games franchise will certainly be shocked at the paces that Lawrence is put through during the unspooling of this film. And that’s where the film becomes problematic for me at times. Aronofsky’s insistence on marching to the beat of his own creative vision at all costs proved to be a bit much for me. 

Lawrence in mother!

The character played by Lawrence is only referred to as Mother. No character names are specifically given to any of the remaining characters. Other characters in the film are simply to referred to as Him, Man, Woman, Oldest Son, etc. Yes, it’s that kind of movie.

Mother is a subservient housewife who is married to Man (Javier Bardem). They live in a refurbished house in a very remote area where Man, a once successful poet, struggles with writer’s block. Man apparently lost his first wife in a fire, which is alluded to from time to time. Mother wants a child but Man is so self absorbed that he isn’t really interested in what Mother might want. He constantly invites unwanted guests into the house, much to the consternation of Mother. The first of these unwanted guests, Him, is played by Ed Harris. He claims that he mistook the couple’s house for a bed and breakfast. He is soon joined by his wife, Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer) and their two sons (Domhnall and Briain Gleeson) in quick succession, which tests the patience of Mother who just wants some peace and quiet. Man decides to push his luck and fill the house with guests until Mother reaches the breaking point. From there on out, the film goes into overdrive, venturing into territory that few have gone to in recent memory.

While I admired the craftsmanship of Aronofsky’s vision I’m still not sure that the film has as much depth as it would like to think that it has. One can find certain metaphors within the film but I’m not sure that’s what Aronofsky is after. As an exercise in style it works but on other levels I’m not so sure.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (***) R

If there’s one reason to recommend the sequel Kingsman: The Golden Circle, it would be Elton John. Yes, that Elton John, in what is going to come up on my year-end list as one of the most inspired moments of casting in any film I’ve seen in many a moon. I can’t imagine anyone who won’t find themselves tickled pink at the sight of the musical icon, decked out in an outfit made of feathers in a scene during the film’s climax, gracefully flying through the air in slow motion as he dispatches a villain or two. Come to think of it, if you don’t think that’s funny then I’ll say no more in the interests of politeness and decorum. Suffice it to say that most of the audience I was with during the pre release screening laughed out loud and for good reason.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle is, like most sequels, a bit of a comedown from the giddy highs and freshness found in the initial 2014 entry, Kingsman: The Secret Service. Based on a graphic novel and, like the latest entry, directed by Matthew Vaughn, Kingsman number one was like a breath of fresh air, a spy film that didn’t take itself too seriously and had loads of humor to spare. The second helping of Kingsman may not break any new ground and it definitely wears out its welcome long before it reaches the finish line. Still it manages to remain funny enough and inventive enough to have won over this film reviewer.

Eggsy, the spy in training from the original Kingsman, capably brought to life by Taren Egerton, is the center of this film as well. Kingsman number two opens with Eggsy and the failed spy trainee from the first entry, Charlie (Edward Holfcroft), pummeling each other in a taxi as it speeds along. That sequence sets the tone for things to come and, at the very least, rivals the action set pieces found in the original film.

Egerton, Firth & Pedro Pascal in Kingsman: TGC

Charlie, it seems, has now defected to the dark side and is working for drug lord, Poppy (Julianne Moore), who runs her operation on a remote island which has been retrofitted to resemble a typical small town from the 1950s. Poppy, incidentally, has kidnapped the aforementioned Sir Elton, forcing him to perform in nightly concerts for her amusement, one of the film’s other Elton centric gags. Poppy finds a willing business partner in the drug trade in the form of the US president (Bruce Greenwood).   

When Eggsy and his comrades find themselves displaced, they team up with an American gang of spies (Halle Berry, Channing Tatum, Jeff Bridges), based in Kentucky, in an effort to defeat Poppy and her schemes.

Kingsman: The Golden Circle, like too many films in this day and age, suffers from overlength and an inability to quit while ahead. Still, there are enough laughs and great action sequences to forgive it for its cinematic transgressions.

Both films are playing at press time in Hickory and around the area.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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