A scary Marriage Story, a classy Knives Out murder mystery and fighting DuPont in Dark Waters
Along with a full slate of movies today, some of them award worthy, you've got the Vancouver Irish Film Festival to consider. The first last year was a big success and the offerings are good again. I’m judging by the descriptions and the reputations. A Bump Along the Way and Rosie are both award winners (the latter is by Roddy Doyle set amid the housing crisis in Dublin), the documentary Gaza is Ireland's submission to the Academy Awards and The Camino Voyage has four artists and musicians paddling their way to Spain in a traditional Irish canoe. You'll remember one of them, singer Glen Hansard from the hit film Once. Also a very charming children's film, Into the West, has been brought back as a family presentation.
The festival is on through the weekend at the Van City Theatre and you can read more about it at www.virff.org
That full slate I mentioned has these on it:
Marriage Story: 4 ½ stars
Knives Out: 4
Dark Waters: 3 ½
Queen & Slim: 3 ½
Stand!: 2 ½
Honey Boy: 3
MARRIAGE STORY: This is a superb and very affecting film but my advice? See it only if your marriage is secure. This one gets awfully rough, initially as it breaks down but then even more so when it descends into a legal minefield called divorce. You could be into some very uncomfortable conversations yourself after watching Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson act out this one. What’s splitting them isn’t that convincing. It’s something about where to live in the US, New York or California. Careers depend on the choice but you’d think they could work that out.
Not so and despite mouthing best intentions they get themselves into the clutches of divorce lawyers played by Laura Dern, Alan Alda, and Ray Liotta. One is nice; two say go for the jugular. Custody of their son is part of the dispute and adds emotional snags but oddly not nearly the anguish we saw in Kramer Vs Kramer. This film gets deep into the legal details, the conflicting recommendations and every step through the process. There’s been a lot of talk that writer-director Noah Baumbach put in much of what he went through in his own divorce. True or not, the film has a strong air of reality, seems to take the man’s side a little more than the woman’s and has harsh observations about the divorce industry. Strong acting by all deliver his thoughts forcefully. It’s in a few theatres before playing on Netflix and is bound to be a contender in many categories at the Oscars. (VanCity Theatre) 4 ½ out of 5
KNIVES OUT: We don’t get many drawing room murder mysteries of the classic style these days. That makes this one most welcome, especially since it’s very good and comes with a powerhouse cast. A novelist and publisher (Christopher Plummer) is found dead, maybe by suicide, maybe not. Investigating are two policemen and a private detective hired by an anonymous client and played by Daniel Craig. He speaks with a shakey Louisiana accent but proves to be as sharp as any Holmes or Poirot. As for suspects there are many as current scenes and flashbacks make clear.
Was it the author’s daughter (Jamie Lee Curtis), his son (Michael Shannon), his son-in-law (Don Johnson), daughter-in-law (Toni Collette), grandson (Chris Evans) or maybe his immigrant nurse (Ana de Armas)? The script and direction are by Rian Johnson, who is between Star Wars projects right now but has dabbled in off-beat crime stories before. He deftly points the finger at each one of them in turn, keeps us guessing all the way and finally delivers a perfectly logical and satisfying solution. And he does it with bright dialogue and clever wit. This film is a treat. (5th Avenue, Scotiabank, Marine Gateway and suburban theatres) 4 out of 5
DARK WATERS: It’s rare, infrequent but worth celebrating when the movies take on a subject as weighty as this. Big corporation poisons the environment and tries to hide it. In this case it was DuPont with the chemical listed as PFOA which it uses in one of its signature products, Teflon. It makes your frying pans non-stick but dumped into a groundwater system causes birth defects and a variety of diseases in human beings and according to a farmer living near one of the company’s plants sickens and kills cows. All this came out when the farmer from West Virginia recruited an Ohio lawyer, played by Mark Ruffalo, to come down see for himself.