Quantcast
Channel: Good Efficient Butchery
Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 1212

On Blu-ray/DVD/VOD: SWALLOW (2020) and RESISTANCE (2020)

0
0

SWALLOW
(US/France - 2020)

There are moments throughout SWALLOW that are so cringe-inducing that it's actually difficult to watch. It's a disturbing psychological thriller that turns into an emotionally raw drama, and surprisingly, the shift feels natural and unforced. A lot of that is due to what should've been a star-making performance by Haley Bennett, who's been paying her dues for several years now--her striking resemblance to Jennifer Lawrence usually comes up--and she had a breakout role in 2016's THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN. SWALLOW was getting a lot of buzz when it opened in limited release two weeks before the coronavirus pandemic closed theaters, with IFC Films reopening it at one drive-in on Easter weekend when it became the #1 movie in America with a gross of just under $2000. It eventually turned up on VOD and is now on Blu-ray/DVD, and it's one of the year's most provocative films in search of an audience, and if the Oscars actually happen, Bennett's work here is surely worthy of a nomination. Bennett is Hunter, who lives an eerily perfect life with her husband Richie (Austin Stowell). They have a huge, modern architecture marvel of a home, and Richie just got a promotion at his dad's company. Richie is busy with work and when they go out, no one really pays attention to anything she says. She spends her days rearranging furniture, sketching, playing Candy Crush on her phone, and doing housework in dresses. She's an almost anachronistic June Cleaver taking care of a home that doesn't feel like hers. When she finds out she's pregnant, she plays the dutiful role of expectant mother, but something feels off. That's when she spots a marble in some trinket and impulsively decides to ingest it. When she passes it, she keeps it as a memento. Other mementos follow: a thumbtack, a thimble, a safety pin, even a AA battery.





To say much more about where SWALLOW's story goes would deprive you of the astonishment of watching Bennett navigate this character and the incongruous sense that it's a Douglas Sirk film made with the cold, clinical detachment of David Cronenberg. It's ultimately a film about patriarchy, control, and confronting the demons of the past. Hunter's life is a series of passive-aggressive slights by Richie: he's critical of her ironing, she spends the afternoon doting on creating the perfect dinner only to have him look at his phone the whole time they're eating, she's constantly apologizing for perceived inadequacies ("Do I make you happy?" and "I just want to make sure I'm not doing something wrong"), and her in-laws (David Rasche, Elizabeth Marvel) only start doting on her once she's carrying their grandchild. Nothing in Hunter's life is hers. Her only friends are Richie's friends, and when she takes charge during sex and has an intense orgasm, the only thing Richie can say is "I didn't finish." Once her secret--pica, an eating disorder where one feels a compulsion to ingest inedible objects--is exposed, Richie only sees it in terms of how it affects him ("I don't have time for this right now!" and "I can't believe this is happening to me!"). Richie can't do anything without the involvement and permission of his controlling father, who gave him a job, bought their house, etc. Richie and his father even try to sit in on Hunter's first therapy session (Richie's dad: "What medication are you giving her? I'm paying for this, so...I want results"). The scenes where Hunter swallows the various objects are profoundly uncomfortable, but watch the look of triumph on her face. Whatever this is--and she's initially unaware that it's an actual disorder--it's finally something that's hers. One could argue that the direction things go is a little too Movie of the Week-ish, but it works, and it's to writer/director Carlo Mirabella-Davis' credit that it doesn't rely on the most obvious, cliched explanation. It says something about the cold detachment of Hunter's picture perfect life that the burly, intimidating Syrian male nurse (Laith Nakli) that Richie('s dad) hires to watch her during the day turns out to be an unexpected source of empathy and support. In some ways with the topics it handles, it's an inadvertent companion piece to THE INVISIBLE MAN, which came out a week earlier and features an equally strong performance by Elisabeth Moss. (R, 95 mins)



RESISTANCE
(Germany/UK/Panama/China/US - 2020)


An earnest but simplistic Marcel Marceau biopic focused on the legendary mime's experiences with the French Resistance during WWII, RESISTANCE asks a bit much in casting Jesse Eisenberg, who's about 20 years too old to play Marceau at this point in his life. An aspiring actor in 1938 Strasbourg, Marcel is regarded with general disdain by his hard-working butcher father Charles (Karl Markovics of THE COUNTERFEITERS), his politically-engaged brother Alain (Felix Moati), and his cousin Georges (Geza Rohrig), who don't understand his passion for theater with the Nazis rapidly conquering Europe. By chance--primarily an interest in Alain's Jewish Resistance cohort Emma (Clemence Poesy)--Marcel finds himself entertaining orphaned Jewish children brought to Strasbourg, including young Elsbeth (Bella Ramsey, best known as Lyanna Mormont on GAME OF THRONES), whose father (Edgar Ramirez) and mother (Klara Issova) were killed on Kristallnacht. The kids bond with Marcel and love his clownish antics ("The children are the only ones who don't consider you completely ridiculous," Alain scoffs), but with Hitler's forces--represented by "Butcher of Lyon" Klaus Barbie (Matthias Schweighofer)--taking over France, Strasbourg is forced to flee to Limages in Vichy France, but even that doesn't last long since all of France is soon under Nazi control.






Marceau became a renowned hero in the French Resistance, and the last third of RESISTANCE depicts his taking part in a dangerous trek through Nazi-occupied France and into the bitter cold of the Alps to get a group of Jewish orphans to the Swiss border. The film is bookended by a 1945 speech to the troops about Marceau's heroism by Gen. George S. Patton, briefly played here by a possibly CGI'd Ed Harris. Marceau's story is one that would make a great movie, but writer/director Jonathan Jakubowicz (HANDS OF STONE) is too easily sidetracked. There's entirely too much of Schweighofer's Barbie, and the third act turning into a FUGITIVE-style cat-and-mouse chase probably isn't how it went down. The same goes for the absurd scene where new father Barbie encounters Marceau and some other Resistance members on a train with the children and asks him for some parenting tips. It's hard to tell if the Barbie tangent is part of Jakubowicz's plan or the result of a suggestion by Schweighofer, also one of 24 credited producers, but there's no reason that a film about Marcel Marceau's time in the French Resistance should include a scene where Klaus Barbie is arguing with his wife. Eisenberg gets the miming down and exudes a certain childlike, Chaplin-esque presence during Marceau's performances, and the arc involving his father is interesting enough that you'll wish Eisenberg and Markovics had more scenes together, but RESISTANCE simply can't stay focused on the task at hand. (R, 121 mins)


Viewing all articles
Browse latest Browse all 1212

Latest Images

Trending Articles





Latest Images