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Chappaquiddick

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Chappaquiddick

Your interest in Chappaquiddick – or lack thereof – is likely to be determined by your age and your politics. The younger you are, the less likely you are to be emotionally involved. Director John Curran and writers Taylor Allen and Andrew Logan have made a fine film of a terrible story. They chose wisely to deal with things that were known and factual. No theories here.

Of the four sons of Rose and Joseph Kennedy, Joe Jr. was killed in Europe during WWII. John F. Kennedy became president in 1960 and brought a new generation into the political world. He died by a bullet in Dallas in 1962. His brother Robert was shot dead while running for President. Their supporters, I among them, reeled when Chappaquiddick unfolded.

Ted, the youngest brother, was elected to the senate and plunged into controversy when he drove a car off a narrow bridge in Chappaquiddick, MA that caused the drowning death of his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne (Kate Mara), a strong, bright campaign worker in the Kennedy organization. Now we have a movie that offers the first filmed interpretation of that accident. Whatever your political persuasion, you will see a weak man who never measured up to that major crisis. He left the scene while Mary Jo Kopechne struggled for breath as she drowned in the car whose doors she couldn’t open.

Director John Curran has done a fine job with a tough subject. He doesn’t pretend to know how Kennedy escaped from the car and left the scene while Kopechne drowned inside so he concentrates on the known facts. Kennedy escaped, left the scene, and waited far too long to report the accident while trying to figure out how to make it all go away.

It is enough to say that because of his family’s fame, he fell immediately into the public spotlight while one loyal family friend, Joe Gargan (an excellent Ed Helms), tried unsuccessfully to convince him to do the right things. Bruce Dern stuns as patriarch Joseph Kennedy stricken speechless by a stroke who still tries to control his son. The screen fills with an ugly bunch of former loyalists who want to take Kennedy’s place as a presidential candidate.

At the center of it all, actor Jason Clark creates Kennedy in a remarkable creation of a man without a moral center caught in a crisis of his own making. In a powerful, understated performance, Clark conveys the center rot of a spoiled man whose dark, selfish instincts and ambitions governed his own behavior after the accident.

The supporting cast does a fine job of creating a mob of former loyalists who suddenly tried to seize the opening Kennedy had planned to use to run for president. Many in the audience were joined in disgust. The man who followed his three brothers into politics failed as a human being when he drove off a bridge, left his friend in the car – and tried to erase it.

Film Reviewer: Joan Ellis
Film Title : Chappaquiddick
Word Count : 498
Running Time: 1:41
Rating: PG-13
Date: 8 March 2018

 

Red Sparrow

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Red Sparrow

If Red Sparrow were a little less terrible, making fun of it might be an entertaining exercise. But because it is truly and inexplicably bad, there’s no fun to be had in writing about it. Here is one the twelve confusing paragraphs from the International Movie Data Base summary of the movie. Good luck.

“Dominika is removed earlier than expected to carry out a mission under her uncle and General Vladimir Korchnoi (Jeremy Irons). The target is an American CIA operative, Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton). She is to find out the name of his Russian contact. She is placed in a rooming flat with Marta (Thekla Reuten) who also went to Sparrow school. Nate has convinced Dominika to become a double agent and work with the CIA.”

That’s just a hint of the dozens of characters we are expected to track during its exasperating length of two hours and twenty minutes. Audiences walk out shaking their heads after failing to follow the impossible puzzle. Listen up, Hollywood: You can’t ask any audience to sort through a crowd of characters with the implied command that they must know the importance of every single one.

The Sparrow School operates under the ice cold control of Matron (Charlotte Rampling) who is teaching women how to use their bodies as espionage tools. Because Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence) needs money to support her ailing mother (Joely Richardson), she enrolls. After learning – by mistake – the identity of a double agent, she has no choice but to use her body as her tool for navigating the Russian/American spy underground.

The red sparrow is played by Jennifer Lawrence who has often won the hearts of audiences with her skill, her personality, and the marvelous voice that she can bend to all kinds of movie demands. In this story, that creative voice is reduced to a skilled monotone Russian accent that hides all her personality and skill. She moves through a complex world of espionage and sex with a heavy heart and many tears. She will be raped, beaten literally to pulp, vomiting from horror and naked through much of the story. She plays Dominika as well as anyone could but all this to support your mom is a thin premise.

In a fine gang of good male actors, the confusing script leaves us wondering which one is Jeremy Irons, or Joel Edgerton, or Matthias Schoenaerts. Huge casts with secondary parts defeat good stories.

We live in an era where there is nothing unusual about on-screen nudity or sex, but this movie raises the question of what has happened in our culture to make people want to watch vomit, rape, beating, and torture with a new tool that allows the torturer to literally skin his victim who is chained to a chair. The question always surfaces: Is it a reflection of our current culture or is it Hollywood creating a new one? At the very least, when your mother needs financial help, don’t become a red sparrow.

Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : RED SPARROW
Word Count: 499
Running Time: 2:20
Rating: R
Date: 9 March 2018