Captain America's fight, Susan Sarandon as a meddling mother and DOXA's documentaries
She plays a widow who moves to Los Angeles to be near her daughter (Rose Byrne) a nascent screenwriter. (Scafaria based the story on relations with her own mother). Mom has advice aplenty. Serial killer in the news? Take precautions. When daughter says enough and insists on boundaries, mom turns to others to help including a clerk at the Apple store and a lesbian whose wedding she organizes. Why is she like this? A therapist explains more than we need. We can see she’s a well-meaning woman distracting herself from her own problems. A few dates with an ex-cop (J.K. Simmons) helps her build a new life for herself. No surprises, a few gimmicks and a few chuckles make this a pleasant, easy to take movie. (5th Avenue) 3½ out of 5
NATASHA: Here’s an atypical version of a movie staple, the coming-of-age story. It’s far sexier than usual and plays out in an Ontario family of Russian immigrants with Jewish roots. They talk about Israeli-Palestinian relations at the dinner table and whether Mandela was a friend of Israel. When an uncle arrives with a new bride and her daughter Natasha, teenager Mark is told to show her around Toronto. Sure, why not. He’s not working or even looking for a job. At best he’s a courier for a friend who deals drugs. He thinks about girls though and watches porn.
Natasha, aged 14, turns out to be sexually forward. She seduces him, explains she’s done it hundreds of times with guys back in Russia and was part of some kind of under-age sex trade. She’s angry her mother took her away from her friends. Mark is an easy fill-in, naïve and smitten. You expect tragedy but no. The film is bittersweet and ends in irony. Alex Ozerov and Sasha K. Gordon feel perfectly natural as the two teens while the direction by David Bezmozgis, working from his own short story, is far from slick but quite effective anyway. (International Village) 3 out of 5
DISORDER: Real suspense and tension is somewhat rare in movies these days. Speedy story-telling, rapid cutting and other modern devices get in the way of the deliberately-paced buildup that’s required. This film by Alice Winocour has brought it back. If it makes a mistake it’s by holding some scenes too long in order to build tension. Mostly it manages to grip you even though you don’t always know what’s really going on.
Matthias Schoenaerts, the Belgian actor getting a lot of attention these days, plays a French soldier barred from further duty because he has post-traumatic stress disorder. He gets a one-time job doing security at the Paris-area estate of a Lebanese businessman and his wife, played by Diane Kruger. Society types and politicians are there for a party and there are hints of discord and political intrigue. Nothing for sure, just hints. And is it real or just in the soldier’s mind? The camera keeps us close and enrapt. He’s hired again when the businessman goes away on a trip. There’s double the tension this time. The soldier seems attracted to Kruger and on edge over a possible home invasion. Again. Real or PDST? Winocour doles out bits of information now and then but mostly keeps us on edge in this crafty psychological thriller. (International Village) 3 out of 4
DOXA: The festival of documentary films is on until May 15 and I’ll pass along some good suggestions in two batches. Today’s (see below) are being shown this first week. You can read about a lot more at the festival site www.doxafestival.ca