Week Three COVID-19 Lockdown 2.0 Movie Project

Welcome to week three of this project! This week brought highly varied films, with wildly different ratings. There are a couple of hidden gems, but not ‘uncut’ ones… Here’s what I watched this week for my COVID-19 Lockdown 2.0 Movie Challenge:

Week 3

  • Wednesday 22 July 2020:

Uncut Gems, Josh & Benny Safdie (2019) 0.5/5

I don’t know how to say this kindly, so I’ll just say it: this is one of the worst films I have ever seen. This film was lauded as Adam Sandler’s best work; as a gritty, interesting, ‘proper’ film. I don’t know what film most of the critics were watching, but Sandler’s performance in this is the most broad, performative and disingenuous performance that I have ever seen. There is a scene in the film where Sandler’s character is at his lowest point – he’s lost everything but his mistress, and he’s supposed to be crying, completely beside himself with emotion. Even the world’s most powerful magnifying glass wouldn’t see a single tear in his eyes. It was one of the worst crying performances of all time (second behind Ben Affleck’s in Jersey Girl), and one of the worst displays of ‘acting’ in the past 50 years.

BeforeUncut Gems, I didn’t have a strong opinion of Adam Sandler. I’ve seen a fair chunk of his films, and he was comfortably slotted into the ‘meh’ category of actors for me. I now have a very strong feeling towards him. And that is one of extreme dislike, so far that I will now actively avoid seeing a film with him in it. I hated him in this, and not in a fun, ‘love-to-hate’ sort of thing. I just. didn’t. care. I didn’t give a crap about his debt, or when he was in danger, or when he was on top. I had complete ambivalence towards him. And that’s not what you want when you’re spending 2 hours and 15 minutes with someone. Unlikeable characters are fine, but not when you can’t stand to watch them.

The supporting cast are fine. Idina Menzel does a pretty good job in her first feature film, and Julia Fox is surprisingly genuine. But even they couldn’t save this film. It’s truly awful.

There’s a frantic nature to the film, presumably to convey mood, but it just feels unpolished. I couldn’t hear the dialogue because seventy characters were speaking at once, so I had a hard time understanding what was going on, and that, coupled with the disjointed camera work, just mad for a frustrating film. While I understand that these choices may have been intentional, it definitely did not work for me. Avoid this one at all costs. Or don’t. Maybe you’ll get a better version of this film that the critics clearly saw.

  • Thursday 23 July 2020:

Crazy, Stupid, Love, Glenn Ficarra & John Requa (2011) 2.5/5

I’m really surprised with my reaction to this film this time around. Crazy, Stupid, Love was one of my feel-good movies that I’d chuck on if it was that time of the month, or I needed something warm and cosy. Those films that feel like comfort food, ya know? Unfortunately, this comfort food has gone cold. I’m not sure if I’ve seen this film too many times (I think this was around my ninth re-watch), or if I’ve just changed, but it’s no longer one of my favourites.

Previously I was enamoured with Ryan Gosling’s character, but now I just see him as an arrogant, smug, judgemental dick. The whole makeover shtick just doesn’t work anymore. Who cares if Cal, a forty-year-old dad with two kids, wears sneakers? Why does he have to spend thousands of dollars reinventing himself and rejuvenating his wardrobe? Superficial improvements don’t mean you’re a better person than someone who doesn’t do that. And unfortunately, this is the message that the film spreads. Him reinventing himself worked – it got him laid, got his ex-wife to notice him, and gained him friendship. I just think that kind of message is dangerous and perpetuates a myth in society that you have to buy expensive things to be considered valuable yourself. More so it’s that the only way to get ahead is to not naturally be yourself, but to pretend to be a more attractive, expensive version of yourself. I hate it.

Emma Stone is fine – I mean, she’s literally the same character in every single film, but I don’t mind that. Julianne Moore is also great, even though she gets a large portion of the unfunny gag lines (see: Twilightreference, which screams, “Haha lol doesn’t Twilight suck?! Aren’t we cool for saying it?!”), and of course Steve Carell is amazing, as he always is. The high school student/babysitter thing still creeps me out, and overall I just feel a little disconnected from this film now. Maybe I’ve outgrown it, but whatever it is, unfortunately this film just doesn’t have any charm for me anymore. RIP Crazy, Stupid, Love.Our love affair was brilliant.

  • Friday 24 July 2020:

The Highwaymen, John Lee Hancock (2019) 3.5/5

I really liked this! This was such an interesting take on a buddy-cop film. Woody Harrelson and Kevin Costner are excellently cast as Texas Rangers tasked with tracking down Bonnie & Clyde. There wasn’t much I didn’t like, to be honest. It’s a slow film, so be warned. The runtime is 2 hours and 12 minutes, but it’s also the pacing that drags a little. The rest of the cast are great, with honourable mentions to Kim Dickens and John Carroll Lynch. Kathy Bates is a little miscast for me, but I’ll let it slide because, hey, it’s Kathy Bates. The cinematography is excellent, and there’s enough interesting twists in the plot to keep you interested. Really enjoyed this – a solid, good film, and not as dry as you might have expected.

  • Saturday 25 July 2020:

Top End Wedding, Wayne Blair (2019) 2.5/5

Argh I wanted so badly to like this film! And I just didn’t. The dialogue is clunky, the story is pretty much a paint-by-numbers, and most of the cast are pretty bad at acting. Miranda Tapsell is the only saving point (she also co-wrote the film), and thankfully her bubbliness is enough to help this film just pull through.

It’s a shame, because this film offers a lot in the way of representation. The Darwin landscape is beautifully translated with some excellent work by the DOP. Similarly, it’s so wonderful to see Indigenous people on film, and to have a story focused on a young, Indigenous woman and her connection with her family.

I’m disappointed that this wasn’t better. It seemed to fall at the exact same spots that pretty much every contemporary Australian film does: the acting and the writing just aren’t strong enough. There’s a plot twist that’s treated so earnestly it baffles me that no one thought the audience would see it coming from a mile away. I feel like this film is a huge opportunity lost, but still worth a watch for the Indigenous representation it provides.

  • Sunday 26 July 2020:

Legend, Brian Helgeland (2015) 4/5

This was an absolutely amazing film! It’s been a while since I enjoyed something this much. Everything is spot on in this rendition of the Kray brothers’ rise in the criminal underworld of 1960s London.

The gimmick of this film was Tom Hardy’s performance as both brothers (identical twins in real life), and for the most part, it works. There’s an impressive fight scene between the brothers which would have been exceptionally difficult to film and edit, even with the help of stunt doubles, split screen, and CGI. Unfortunately, Hardy mostly acts around prosthetics as Ron, which does a lot to help him change his speech, but is mildly distracting as a viewer. His performance as Reggie, however, I think is one of the best in his career.

The rest of the cast is similarly at the top of their game. Emily Browning, Taron Egerton, Christopher Eccleston, David Thewlis, and Paul Bettany are all exceptional. Also brilliant is the soundtrack, which is worth a listen on its own.

This is a wonderfully polished film that didn’t drag in the least. I think if you don’t know much about the Kray brothers, you’ll enjoy it, but if you have a lot of knowledge, you may find some of the artistic liberties a little frustrating.

  • Monday 27 July 2020:

No film this night, due to aforementioned mental health problems.

  • Tuesday 28 July 2020:

Sully, Clint Eastwood (2016) 2.5/5

You know how often I go on about a tight 90? Well, this 90 is maybe a little too tight. There’s nothing explored in this film that’s more than the headlines. I was given no insight into characters, no background, nothing I didn’t expect. And that’s fine – if you want a quick “here’s what happened” explanation and nothing more, but I think we all expect a little more from films these days.

On top of that, the film is just a little too polished. It feels like a Hallmark movie, like a straight to DVD sell-out film. I kept forgetting Eastwood directed this, because it just lacks the feel and tone of Eastwood’s direction, almost as if he just chucked his name on a film directed by someone else. There’s also an overall ‘Murica feel that doesn’t sit right with me.

Tom Hanks is great, as he always is, and Laura Linney does a great job as his wife for never being in a scene with him. Aaron Eckhart also provides a solid performance. It’s fine. There’s just nothing more than you would expect with this film, so if that’s what you’re into, you might enjoy it.

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