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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Eline Powell

Novitiate (2017)

Trust in God. Not the nuns. They’re a little mean.

Once she turns 17, Cathleen (Margaret Qualley) decides that it’s time to leave her old life behind and join the Catholic Church to become a nun. It’s a decision that her mother (Julianne Nicholson), who is agnostic, doesn’t quite understand or fully support, but she doesn’t have much of a say in the matter – Cathleen believes that she’s had a calling from Jesus and has fallen in love with him. Cathleen enters a Catholic convent as a postulant under the tutelage of the Reverend Mother (Melissa Leo), who is known for her passion and grace in the world of religion. While there, Cathleen meets fellow nuns who are doing their best to stick with it, even if the responsibilities and rules are quite demanding and not all that understandable. But specifically at this point in time, during the early-60’s, the Catholic Church itself was going through a bit of a change, what with the planned reforms of the Second Vatican Council, in which the Church would show a much more open and accepting image to all those who wanted to have faith in God. Most within the Church got behind these rules right away, whereas Reverend Mother doesn’t, fearing that it may change the community forever and for the worst.

Still looks like Andie Macdowell, in a nun outfit.

Novitiate doesn’t necessarily come off as a scathing indictment on the Catholic Church, or even faith in general, and it’s much better off for that. Writer/director Maggie Betts, making her directorial debut, seems to understand and respect those who actually fall in love with God, or whoever they praise, are willing to throw their whole lives completely away, and devote everything to prayer, abstinence, and spreading the good word of the Lord. While it may sound like a boring life to a normal layman, to those who are involved with the Church, it’s the greatest honor they can bestow and Betts doesn’t seem to be making fun of these people, as much as she easily could have.

Instead, she shows a certain sweetness to these people who devote their lives to God. But then again, she also realizes that there are a few bad apples who either, misinterpret the word of God and act out in heinous ways, or can’t keep up with their sacred notions and never seem to give up. Betts seems to be saying that while having God in your life can be a good thing, having it run your each and everyday life, isn’t, and it can drive people to pure insanity.

And as we all know, living in the world that we live in, this isn’t much of a stretch for Betts to make.

That said, Novitiate is an overall smart movie that doesn’t necessarily have an agenda, but shows us the Catholic Church during a transnational period, that they don’t even know or understand is quite as severe as it’s going to be. It’s not necessarily a stylish, or fully exciting movie – there’s a lot of walking, praying, sitting in silence, crying, and hushed-tones – but the movie creates a certain uneasiness just by doing this, that it’s easy to get compelled by. The movie is deathly serious and understated, therefore, never quite goes overboard or as insane as you’d expect it to be with some of these religious types, and it feels a lot more realistic for that. It’s less of a sympathetic-portrait of the Catholic Church, and much more of a humane one, where we see all the good, as well as the bad, within it.

Uh oh. Someone’s talking during prayers.

The only pure instances in which the movie goes slightly a bit overboard is with Melissa Leo’s performance as Reverend Mother, but it still works. Leo’s presence here is a little shocking because you can always tell that she’s about to crack loose, but because she’s a nun and has to set a good example for the fellow nuns out there, she has to stay cool, calm, and collected. There are instances in which we see Leo lose all control and it’s scary, but not in the horror movie kind-of-way – it just seems like a person slowly losing grips with her own form of reality, and coming to terms with the all-too real one.

It’s a scary and powerful performance, and from Leo, I wouldn’t expect much different.

Everybody else is quite good in this supporting-cast, but really, it’s Margaret Qualley who remains the heart and soul of the whole project. As Cathleen, Qualley gives us a sad, somewhat scared character who keeps to herself, but is so in love with God and the Jesus, she can’t hold it all in. Through Cathleen, we see just how one can misinterpret The Word and it’s Qualley that keeps us on-edge, not knowing whether she’s going to crack and lose all control, or if she’s going to stay her meek and mild self. Through it all, we still sympathize with her; we know that she means well and even if she is throwing her life away, it’s her life to throw away. We just want her to realize that there’s more to life than the Church and to stand outside, in the real world, if only for a bit.

Consensus: Slow and a little languid, Novitiate surely follows its own pace, but is also a well-acted and compelling look at the Catholic Church, that’s neither judging, nor entirely sympathetic. Just honest and realistic.

7.5 / 10

“God? You spoke to Madonna. Why can’t you speak to me?”

Photos Courtesy of: Sony Pictures Classic

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Quartet (2012)

Sing it loud and sing it proud, just don’t have a heart attack.

Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, and Billy Connolly are retired opera singers who annually put on a concert to celebrate Verdi’s birthday, however the arrival of Jean (Maggie Smith) disrupts the equilibrium.

With the release of this flick and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, 2012 was the year for the oldies to go out to the movies, and have just as much fun as all us little pieces of craps did with our major blockbusters and swirling epics. However, seeing both movies now, I’ve come to realize that maybe the best way to treat our elders with respect, would be to give them better movies. I mean, after all, they deserve the best of the best, don’t they?

Movies like these, where the old-fellers take center-stage and act in all of their senior-glory just bother the hell out of me. It’s not that I don’t have love or respect for my elders, but it seems like all of these movies treat the subjects all of the same, and Dustin Hoffman is no different. This is Hoffman’s directorial debut and at age 75, the guy may seem a bit late to the game and it sort of shows. I’m glad that the guy took the back-seat in this movie and allowed his story to practically, tell-itself, but this to me felt like it just moved at the same, exact-pace that it’s subjects were: slow and tiring.

There’s nothing wrong with a movie that’s all about taking it’s darndest time to get it’s footing and tell it’s story, but this one just moved at such a slow-pace, I was actually falling asleep. Yeah, maybe the fact that it was a 10 a.m. screening and the fact that I had roughly around 5-hours of sleep may have nailed it in for me, but none the less, there was just nothing here in this movie that really kept me going. It’s just a bunch of old people, acting old, being old, and all being played to the tune of “cute”. I get that these older-peeps are a tad goofy in their later-days, but does every damn action they make or word that comes out of their mouth have to be so damn cute and practically played for laughs!!?!? I mean, hell, I’m 19-years-of-age and I can tell you, in all honesty, that half of the shit I say in life is as funny, if not more humorous than what any of these geezers have to say, but since I’m not older and losing my touch with reality, it just doesn’t quite hit the same marks as it does for them.

Oh, they are so surprised, but the OLDER, British-way.

Oh, they are so surprised, but the OLDER, British-way.

Not only does that fact pertain to this movie, but in real-life as well and it bothered me that the first-hour or so of this movie was just played for laughs, and rarely ever was there a serious sub-plot to come around. Actually, the film did seem like it was working on some sort of sub-plot where the old-folks home was running into a bit of problems of folding under, but they were scrapped as soon as Smith’s character rears her ugly head on in-here, and was a bit of a bummer. The idea of having a sub-plot where a bunch of old folks have to battle-it-out for their living-space to stay alive and well, may not be the newest or coolest thing on the street, but it probably would have added ten-times more interest to the whole movie. Or at least, more interest than Hoffman’s direction seemed to have.

Maybe getting on Hoffman’s case all this much is giving him a bad-rap because even though the guy doesn’t do anything revolutionary with this material, he still doesn’t do anything bad with it, either. It just feels like it could have been directed by anybody, myself included. I don’t know if that’s a hit on Hoffman’s direction or not, but if there was more of an effort on the dude’s part, I feel like this material would have been elevated a great deal and probably wouldn’t have been so boring. Maybe “boring” is a bit of a brutal word, and you could easily state that this just isn’t the type of material that was meant for my young, unappreciative mind, but still: I know what I like and I know what I appreciate with movies, and this movie just did not have that “it factor” to really keep me alive and well. I could easily make a joke about that relating to this movie, but I think I’ve bashed this movie a bit too much as it is.

If there is any type of silver lining located in this movie in any place, anywhere at all; it’s the marvelous cast that Hoffman has on-display here for our-eyes-only. Billy Connolly is a wild old man who constantly finds himself flirting with the fellow nurses, and even going so far as to ask the gardeners if they have any weed stashed-on them. If anybody in this flick has the right comedic-bone in the right part of their body, it’s Connolly as the guy continued to have me laugh, even if his character was a bit of a cliche to have in a movie like this. The old guy that still lives by his boner, is always a joy to watch in any movie, and Connolly actually makes the most out of it, especially with a script that seems to be relying on that aspect the most, just for comedy’s sake.

Tom Courtenay was great as the old man that still finds a way to keep in-touch with not just reality, but the current-society as well and finds many ways to obsess over both opera and hip-hop. Courtenay has a bit of an obvious character here, as well, but he’s very good at playing that type of older-man that’s more knowing of the world around him, what it is, what has passed him by, and how it is all changing, right in-front of his own eyes. He’s great in this role and easily the most likeable character of the whole bunch, especially when Maggie Smith comes into the story to wreck shit up in the old-folks home, as well as his insides.

"Uhhh, where am I?"

“Uhhh, where am I?”

Smith is, once again, playing that older, crankier-version of herself that is a fine-fit for an actress of her stature, but after awhile, it does get a tad old. That’s why it’s so great to see her as an actress when she turns the other cheek, and becomes a nicer-gal, even if the mean-streak is still there. I have to say, she didn’t have me laughing at her quite as much as I did in Hotel, but she still kept me happy with what she was doing on-screen and much like the rest of the cast here, had the script come alive. Pauline Collins is also a bunch of fun to watch as the more zanier lady of the home, and does whatever she can to get a laugh out of us, even if it just played-up because of her cuteness. However, in her case, I was willing to make an exception, mostly because she is a little bit of a cute, old lady. Nothing like my grams, though!

Consensus: The royal cast makes Quartet better as it trugs along, but it’s still slow, tired, dull, and pretty damn boring, especially if you’re a young d-bag like me that just wants life to move at a fast, quick pace where the party don’t stop, until everybody is passed-out. In this case, “passed-out”, usually means one thing: death.

5 / 10 = Rental!!

"Okay, here's the idea: just be cute."

“Okay, here’s the idea: just be cute.”