Thursday, September 29, 2016


Ever since he debuted with 2004's cultishly adored Napoleon Dynamite, Jared Hess has been cranking out broad comedies about loveable losers whose ineptitude is magnified to the point of absurdity. As in his other films, the humor in Masterminds often curdles into reverse-snobbish condescension toward its too-dumb-to-live characters. But this one spends more time than its predecessors in a comic sweet spot, thanks to a gifted cast that milks moments of inspired slapstick, goofiness, and pathos from a script whose thin, generic arc seems engineered to encourage improv.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

A Nos Amours

We first see Suzanne (Sandrine Bonnaire, in her first starring role) rehearsing the main part in a summer camp play. Though the screenplay doesn’t belabor the point, the play is the story of a young woman who, taught by her embittered elders to mistrust love, abandons her soulmate to live unhappily ever after. That, in a nutshell, is Suzanne’s story and the narrative arc of A Nos Amours, a brilliant work of fatalistic realism that views even its youthful love scenes through a scrim of melancholy. Bonaire is mesmerizing as a strong willed young woman whose instincts are continually undermined by her borderline incestuous father and brother and her neurotically resentful mother.

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Dressmaker

In Jocelyn Moorhouse's The Dressmaker, the first words we hear from childhood bully magnet turned fashion plate Tilly (Kate Winslet) come after she steps off a bus into her one-horse hometown, lights a cigarette, and coolly surveys the fa├žades on a street that brings to mind the set for a 1950s western. “I'm back, you bastards,” she hisses. After that brashly meta opener, you might expect a smartly constructed Tarantino-style black comedy of retribution, but the film fails to deliver on that promise, devolving instead into a dispiriting tonal mishmash of mean-spirited revenge fantasy, girl-power romantic fantasy, and comedy so broad it tips into caricature.