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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 25, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 21
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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Masterfully composed Disobedience a tearfully resonant melodrama
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

DISOBEDIENCE - Now playing

When New York artist and photographer Ronit Krushka (Rachel Weisz) receives news that her Orthodox Jewish father (Anton Lesser) died she's understandably shaken by the news. A beloved figure in the London Jewish community, his relationship with his only daughter was sadly not without its travails. Nonetheless, Ronit is compelled to journey across the Atlantic and return home for his funeral, wanting to pay her last respects as best she can.

Once there she is quickly welcomed into the home of childhood friend Dovid Kuperman (Alessandro Nivola). As the Rav's most talented student, he's been tasked by the Jewish elders to take her father's place at the top of their hierarchy, a turn of events that's hardly surprising as far as Ronit is concerned. What she does find shocking is that Dovid has married another of her friends, Esti (Rachel McAdams). The three of them were inseparable as kids, getting into all kinds of mischief that many of the adults around them couldn't help but frown upon. But there was more to the two women's relationship than most knew about it, what the two of them did together leading directly to Ronit leaving for the United States and the eventual estrangement between herself and her father.

Based on the novel by Naomi Alderman, Disobedience is the first English language film from A Fantastic Woman Oscar-winner Sebastián Lelio. Co-writing the script with Rebecca Lenkiewicz (Ida), Lelio has crafted a masterfully composed drama that is an invigorating examination of friendship, faith, sexuality and longing that grows in emotional majesty as things progress. There is a deep form of conflicted, pent-up sadness that permeates things that is deeply evocative, things slowly morphing into an aura of healing and understanding that crosses religious, societal and gender lines. Concepts of forgiveness and freedom are discussed matter-of-factly and without melodramatic embellishment, all of which allows the film to ascend to a shattering plateau that left me both shaken and inspired almost in equal measure.

What is interesting is that even though the story is seen almost entirely from Ronit's point-of-view, ultimately this film becomes more about Esti than it does anything else. Her choices, her life experiences, what she has chosen to go through by staying inside the religious community, all of this and more subtly and delicately eventually comes into play. Esti has gone through a metaphorical meat grinder trying to do what she was told was best. In the process she has dismantled core parts of what made her who she once was as a younger woman, and even though Dovid loves her desperately and only wants what is best for his wife, even he has trouble understanding just exactly the full extent of the emotional toll their time together has inflicted upon her.

All three actors are extraordinary. Weisz, unsurprisingly, is her typically controlled self, revealing minute layers of Ronit's persona as things go on with a deftly gritty gracefulness that's astounding. Nivola, an underrated character actor who has been giving terrific performances for almost two decades now, is even better. The final sections of the film belong almost entirely to him. Where a lesser actor would have chewed the scenery by giving a broad, boisterous performance in order to make sure audiences wouldn't be able to miss all his character was going through, Nivola takes the opposite track. In the process, his lived-in subtlety proves to be eviscerating, leading to a revelation of truthful, understated majesty that had me wiping away tears I didn't even realize were there until they were dripping off of the side of my face.

But make no mistake, this is McAdams' show almost from the first second she walks into the frame. This slow-burn of a performance is an undeniable stunner, the way the actress builds her character with such exacting specificity astonishing. As stated, Esti ends up being the heart and soul of this piece, and while the eventual revelations involving her aren't exactly surprising, the way McAdams chooses to unveil them continually is. Her initial fragile physicality slowly hardens into a stoic resolve that greatly moved me, and as such the character's quest to live her life free of the constraints she has allowed others to bind her down with feels downright heroic.

Unlike A Fantastic Woman or Gloria, there are moments of heavy-handedness here that do feel a tiny bit forced, Lelio telegraphing a small handful of emotional beats in ways that are noticeably obvious. The film is also far more direct about what is going on and what the outcome is going to be than it has been in his prior motion pictures. Even with that being the case, I can't say almost any of this bothered me because the core dramatic components are so fascinatingly strong and dynamic, so truthfully authentic, a few little narrative hiccups here and there ended up feeling so minor I practically forgot about them entirely as I walked out of the theatre. Disobedience is a masterfully composed motion picture I can't wait to watch again, its pleas for tolerance, freedom, friendship and family all ones deserving to be heard now more than ever.


Roguish Solo an enjoyable Star Wars lark
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY
Now playing


The world likely didn't need a Han Solo origin movie. Even with the character, as portrayed by Harrison Ford, being my personal favorite of the original trilogy (not to mention 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens), I can't say I needed to know how he and Chewbacca met, where he got his blaster or when he won the Millennium Falcon from Lando Calrissian. I didn't need to know about his early loves that came before he met Leia Organa or his first smuggling jobs that set him on the path to becoming the roguish rascal who was introduced in 1977's Star Wars. I honestly didn't need any of these things, the way originator George Lucas composed the character and the manner in which Ford chose to portray him more than enough to keep me satisfied all by themselves.

None of which, thankfully, makes Solo: A Star Wars Story any less entertaining. The second entry in LucasFilm's anthology efforts, after 2016's Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, set in Lucas' Star Wars universe, this film takes place long before Han met Luke and the two joined forces to raid the Death Star in order to free Princess Leia Organa from the clutches of Darth Vader. Here, we first meet our hero, now played by Hail, Caesar!, Beautiful Creatures and Stoker heartthrob Alden Ehrenreich as a downtrodden street urchin leading an oppressive Oliver Twist-like existence who harbors dreams of fleeing his situation and becoming one of the universe's best pilots. But while he does manage to escape that world, he's also forced to leave girlfriend Qi'ra (Emilia Clarke) behind, an unanticipated turn of events that leaves him emotionally devastated.

Two years and a brief stint fighting for the Imperial Empire later, Solo makes the acquaintance of professional thief and all around cad Beckett (Woody Harrelson), finagling his way onto the criminal's tight-knit crew with plans of making some quick cash so he can return to Qi'ra and free her from her bonds. He is joined by the massive Wookie Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), the pair becoming quick friends after they engineer an escape from an Imperial prison. But when the heist goes tragically south, all three find themselves beholden to ruthless crime boss Dryden Vos (Paul Bettany). In order to make amends for their failure, he tasks Beckett, Han and Chewbacca to pull off the impossible if they value their lives, and he's going to send his most trusted lieutenant along to keep an eye on them to make sure nothing goes wrong: Qi'ra.

Written by Star Wars stalwart Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and his filmmaker son Jonathan Kasdan (The First Time, In the Land of Women), there is a sense of good-natured whimsy and wholesome ebullience to this tale that's reminiscent of Lucas' 1977 original. I'm honestly not sure what earned the movie a PG-13 rating, as the violence level is kept to a relative minimum, the sexual content is more of the chaste lip-locking variety and there's hardly an uncouth element to be found anywhere along Han Solo's journey. While things get a tad more serious as the narrative propels forward towards a climax, this is all still more akin to a John Sturges Western or WWII thriller (like The Magnificent Seven or The Great Escape) than it is a Michael Bay sci-fi action epic (Transformers this thankfully isn't), and that's just fine as far as I'm concerned.

Granted, with Oscar-winner Ron Howard (Apollo 13, Rush) picking up the reins of the project after original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (21 Jump Street, The LEGO Movie) were forced to depart halfway through filming, it isn't a surprise the tone of the finished film doesn't exactly push the genre envelope. Howard is an old school craftsman who emulates the greats of decades past, his more formalistic style hardly similar to the scattershot, comedy-heavy theatrics Lord and Miller are known for. He likes elongated takes that keep the action centralized towards the middle of the frame, eschewing quick cuts and crazy camera moves the majority of the time.

Not that Solo is visually laidback or lazy. Far from it. Veteran cinematographer Bradford Young (Arrival) paints some exquisite pictures, his visual aesthetic for this foray into the Star Wars universe utterly unique. There is a colorfully meticulous vibrancy to the motion picture that's often thrilling, Neil Lamont's production every bit as vivacious and lived-in as his work on Rogue One was two years ago. Best of all might just be David Crossman's and Glyn Dillon's costumes, the pair's collection of ravishing capes all worn to perfection by both Clarke and Donald Glover, portraying a young Lando Calrissian, almost worth the price of a matinee ticket all by themselves.

Speaking of Glover, the 'Atlanta' auteur and Childish Gambino musician is mesmerizing as Calrissian. From his first introduction to his final appearance, I found it practically impossible to take my eyes off of the talented actor. He makes Calrissian his own, paying deft homage to the character that Billy Dee Williams originated in The Empire Strikes Back while at the same time finding crafty and creative ways to make this smuggler and cardsharp his own. If anything, the movie doesn't do quite enough with him, he and his unruly suffragette of a robot L3-37 (a sublime Phoebe Waller-Bridge) stealing every scene they're a part of with seemingly little to no effort at all.

Ehrenreich won't make anyone forget about Ford, but he still acquits himself handsomely as the titular character. His relaxed back and forth chemistry with both Harrelson and especially Clarke is noteworthy, and it's easy to see him making the character his own in the future if LucasFilm decides to follow this story up with a sequel (which is likely). Even so, I do wish the movie wasn't so cluttered with moments and characters unnecessary to get the protagonists to where they need to be by the time of the climax, while a third act twist, as crowd-pleasing as it might be for some, left me decidedly underwhelmed.

Even with that being the case, I still had a great deal of fun watching Solo. The moment when Han and Chewbacca take control of the Millennium Falcon for the first time and John Williams' classic themes are introduced into composer John Powell's (The Bourne Identity) energetically boisterous score had me wanting to rise up from my theatre seat and cheer, the whole sequence a dizzyingly effervescent spectacle that reminded me precisely why I fell in love with Star Wars as a child. While nowhere near the superlative achievement The Force Awakens, Rogue One and Star Wars: The Last Jedi proved to be, this latest anthology effort is nonetheless easy to enjoy, the joyful exuberance of this Han Solo origin story difficult to rebel against.








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Masterfully composed Disobedience a tearfully resonant melodrama
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Roguish Solo an enjoyable Star Wars lark
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