A Fantastic Woman

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

A Fantastic Woman

Sony Pictures had the good sense to recognize the unique quality of A Fantastic Woman. After the film was rewarded with top prizes at film festivals, Sony brought it to the American mainstream. It is a beautifully made film about a transgender woman who falls in love with a man who loves her back. The writing, music, dialogue and an amazing central performance lift the film to a point where there simply are no negatives to report.

Marina ( (Daniela Vega) is singing and waiting tables in a nightclub when she and Orlando (Fransisco Reyes) meet and fall instantly in love. Sure of each other’s love after a night of indulging themselves, Orlando wakes up and suffers an aneurism. As Marina escorts him down the stairs, the stricken man falls and injures himself badly. She summons help and takes him to the hospital.

That is the moment that triggers Marina’s heartbreaking trip through the surrounding world of people still locked in their distaste for transgender people. Those at the hospital – did the patient really fall down the stairs or did Marina push him? Is it necessary to photograph Marina head to toe in the police station? Orlando’s ex-wife Sonia (Aline Kupperheim) steps up to make all funeral arrangements and is verbally and morally brutal to Marina who she refuses to recognize as a legitimate part of Orlando’s life.

The hatred of Marina, delivered in quiet, brutal detail, is done against a beautiful score appropriate to the transgender singer’s sadness. Marina presents herself with dignity as she tries to mourn the man she loved. What soars into cruelty is the brutal treatment of the singer on all fronts. Determined to mourn Orlando, she is treated like a criminal at every turn. She is even banned from the funeral. 20th century prejudice reigns. While she suffers these attacks from people rooted in the last century, we wonder if anyone at all will let her into the mourning process.

Actress Daniela Vega, thoroughly at home in her identity, is brave in the face of cruelty and we feel the ache of her having no one to talk to of share her sadness with. This feeling human being is treated like a criminal. Vega is so thoroughly comfortable in her identity that we wonder when people will finally suspend their prejudice to accept people for who they have become. Remember in the 1950s when drinking too much or having an affair were used for exclusion? Watch the beautiful dance sequence; watch the ending with a thoughtful mindset.

When a brave moviemaker tackles a subject that is out of the circle of mainstream acceptance, it is often done with a heavy delivery of the message. Not here. Rather than hammering their cause, Daniela Vega and director Sebastian Lelio have created a film whose color and music and central performance take us to a place that may be raw, but it is a beautiful plea to all of us to listen.

Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : A Fantastic Woman
Word Count: 496
Running Time: 1:44
Rating: R
Date: March 25, 2018

 

This review was posted on March 25, 2018, in Drama.

Final Portrait

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Final Portrait

Final Portrait is one slice of the life of renowned artist Alberto Giacometti. It is a compelling look at the inner life of a man possessed a study not of his art but of the man himself that lingers long after we leave the theater.

James Lord (Armie Hammer) is the American author who will write a book about the few days he spent with Giacometti (Geoffry Rush) at the end of his own trip to Paris. When he arrives at the painter’s studio, Lord announces he has a short time before his flight home to America and wanted to say goodbye. Giacometti announces that he wants to paint his friend’s portrait, an undertaking he promises will take only a few hours.

The hours turn into two weeks for Lord who calls home frequently to report his delay. During the prolonged and frustrating work sessions, we absorb the details of Giacometti’s studio, his unfinished paintings, his personality, and the possible truth that everything about Giacometti is unfinished. Is that the cause of his deep frustration?

The studio is in an unassuming, quite rundown part of the city, no fancy address for this famous man. As we are brought inside, we see a large room cluttered with the tools of his trade. Scattered on tables and counters, unfinished sculptures and paintings wait for his hand. Or are they finished? That’s the thought that comes to mind as we watch the painful passage of time as Giacometti paints his portrait of James Lord. He starts, covers his beginning with a light gray paint – it’s not right – and starts again. It’s the primary message of the film – Does this brilliant artist ever know exactly what he wants to produce and is he ever satisfied?

As we follow Giacometti’s tortured process of creating a painting or a sculpture, we realize he is surrounded by unfinished work. Director Stanley Tucci wisely assumes that he can’t read the artist’s mind. He just shows us the unfinished result. As Giacometti paints, thinks, and erases repeatedly, we in the audience try to imagine what inner turmoil is causing all the changes. When that question falls short of any answer, we accept that this is what sets his work apart. His mental process is his alone. We have learned that his work springs from his mind to the canvas as if it were uninvited and suffers his own rejection nearly every time.

Clemence Poesy plays Giacometti’s resident prostitute/lover. Tony Shalhoub is the artist’s brother, Diego. Armie Hammer is wisely restrained as the understanding friend, and Geoffrey Rush becomes the focus for everyone in the audience as well as in the movie. His Giacometti is astonishing in a state of silent frustration with his own work. He seems to be daring himself to fail by not knowing his own goal. Director Stanley Tucci gives us not a finished portrait of the famous artist, but a portrait of the chaotic mind and surroundings of a brilliant man.

Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Final Portrait
Word Count: 495
Running Time: 2:07
Rating: R
Date: March 18, 2018