Over at FilmInk, I take a look at Oh Lucy!
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Over at Screen Realm, I take a look at Lean on Pete
It’s Christmas and teenager Ashely (Olivia DeJonge) has a lot to unpack at present. As well as boyfriend trouble, she’s having to deal with moving out of her home town after the holidays. Trying to recoup some sense of normality, Ashley offers to do one last babysitting gig looking after 12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller). For Luke, this is fantastic news due to the long-held crush he has on Ashley, and is ready to break into his parent’s spirit cabinet if it’ll prove to her how grown up he is. The evening has all the trappings of a terribly awkward night in, and that’s before the phone lines are cut and a home invasion leads to Ashley and Luke running for their lives.
Like McG’s The Babysitter, Chris Peckover’s Better Watch Out cleverly upturns the standard babysitter in peril trope. Whereas the former threw some good old-fashioned devil worshipping into the mix, Better Watch Out has a more modern axe to grind in the shape of 2017’s biggest trend, toxic masculinity. From the opening scene – which sees a cackling boy violently destroy a girl’s snowman simply for his own enjoyment – we know we’re in a world where the needs of women come second to men. So, pretty much exactly like the real world then…
For another example, look at Luke’s crush on Ashley. In other films, in other decades, his behaviour would be brushed off with a ‘boy swill be boys’ attitude. He confides in his friend, Garrett (Ed Oxenbould), that his evening’s plans of a horror film and pizza should be enough to get into Ashley’s pants. After all, he read it on the internet, dude, you can believe everything you read there. The parallels to teenagers learning about sex through watching online porn are clear, and once Ashley must push back Luke’s advances no less than three times in five minutes, his behaviour is seen as anything other cute. But it’s not just about dismantling the cloying idea of a boyhood crush; even later, once Luke’s has been invaded, someone is shot trying to escape and the killer is revealed, Better Watch Out continues its spearing of male privilege with Ashley expected to defend her body from verbal and physical attack.
Performances are key here, and starting off larger than life DeJonge and Miller allow theirs to be stripped down by the reality of the situation, their festive and joyful expectations worn down by the societal norms that plague them every day. So, again, pretty much exactly like the real world then…
Whilst admittedly restrained in terms of flashy direction, Better Watch Out succeeds by offering something other than nubile teens running around in tight t-shirts.
After being force-fed meat during a hazing ritual, veterinarian student and hardcore vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier) begins to develop an unhealthy interest in cannibalism in this surprisingly beautiful feature from French director Julie Ducournau. Surprisingly beautiful because when one hears the term ‘cannibal’ they’d be forgiven for conjuring up images from the works of Ruggero Deodato. What they probably won’t imagine is something like Raw, which goes outside the norm of what we would consider body horror.
Justine’s parents expect her to be a vet, and make the lifestyle choice of vegetarianism more akin to an indoctrination. At school, she reluctantly partakes in hazing so that she doesn’t stand out too much and embarrass her older sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf), who attends the same school. Justine’s growing appetite for flesh may be highly unusual, but it serves as just another thing in her life that has been forced upon her. Yet as Raw progresses, we do see her try to embrace it and from doing so, she begins to develop and grow from a young girl into a grown woman who craves her own mind. When sister dearest admits to having the same predilections and invites her to her own carnivorous world, Justine chooses that moment to be her own person. Raw is as much a coming of age drama as it is a horror.
Read the rest of the review here.
The US may have the Red franchise and Last Vegas, but when it comes to taking full advantage of the ‘grey pound’ market, the British seem to have it all sewn up. Films like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Golden Years and Hampstead have served up, with varying success, an alternative to youth focused cinema.
The Time of Their Lives, written and directed by Roger Goldby, sees two OAPs, played by Joan Collins and Pauline Collins, thrown together by chance and jettisoned off to the beautiful French countryside. Joan C plays a once successful actress long since banished to a retirement home, whilst Pauline C inhabits a mousy housewife whose marriage has never recovered from the death of their eldest. Once over the Channel, the two become involved with an Italian artist, played by the original Django himself, Franco Nero. Cue themes of coming to terms with aging and grabbing firmly onto the chance of a second life.
Read the rest of the review here.
Directed by Olivier Assayas (Irma Vep), Stewart plays Maureen, a personal shopper to French actress to French celebrity Kyra (Nora von Waldstatten), who leads a rather solitary existence in Paris spending her free time bewetten her bedsit and a large country house. The reason for the disparity in her dwellings is that the latter belonged to her late twin brother, Lewis, who Maureen believes she can connect to in the afterlife. This isn’t an idea she’s suddenly woken up to, but one that comes from the siblings shared belief that they’re both a little bit psychic and, should one of them die, they will send a message from the other side. Maureen also believes that she is going to die of the same heart defect as her brother and this seems to fuel her desire for connection. If you were pretty sure that you could die soon, wouldn’t you want at least an assurance from someone other worldly who could tell what to expect? Like TripAdvisor for ghosts?
This obessession – and it is an obsession – with ghosts and spirits appears to be a way in which Maureen can staunchly refuse to accept her brother’s passing. It has taken its toll on her and, as a result, she’s collection of twitches and dark ringed eyes wrapped up in an oversized jumper. It can’t be overstated what a brilliant performance this is from Stewart. Thoughts are drawn to her unique turn in the rather dull Equals; you can’t take your eyes off her. Through her, Maureen displays an attitude towards her boss to others, but cannot stand up to her when needed; a thread in the narrative sees Maureen failing to return some clothing on loan from a boutique because Kyra has decided she’ll keep it.
Read the rest of the review here.