Wednesday, 20 June 2018

I, Tonya (15)

Good things, as the saying goes, come to those who wait — and this would appear to be true of films at the very least.

Having missed I, Tonya when it came around at the start of the year, we were both surprised and delighted to find it back on this week at our local multiplex of choice.

There was quite the buzz during Oscar season, so we were more than happy to settle down with some older viewers to see if it was worth the fuss.

Now, the strange thing is, that you automatically know the story.

Those of us of a certain age, and sadly some of us fall into that category, still vaguely remember the story of two rival skaters and the attempt to nobble one of them in the knee area.

What we didn't know, of course, was the story behind the story.

With Margot Robbie donning the skates as Tonya Harding, she of the title, and Allison Janney as her vile mother, I, Tonya looks at the life of the troubled skater and how things came to pass.

What we expected was a sympathetic portrayal, or at the least a very honest one.

What we got was a surprisingly dark and funny course of events, but one that is also very sad and violent.

Told through transcripts from interviews with the main protagonists, what we discover is that Tonya had a harsh upbringing, pushed and beaten by her mother according to her, culminating in her violent marriage.

Told in a documentary style, the early years are tough and brutal, with — if you'll excuse the expression — no punches pulled.

But there is a dark humour at play underneath which helps to lift what would be an otherwise downbeat and gritty tale.

But it's when the ludicrous plot to unsettle Tonya's rival Nancy Kerrigan that the real humour is allowed to flow.

Honestly, the Cohen brothers couldn't have come up with something this ridiculous.

Devised by her lowlife then husband Jeff (nicely underplayed by Sebastian Stan) and Tonya's deluded fuckwit of a bodyguard Shawn (Paul Water Hauser), it was botched at every turn.

But in the hands of director Craig Gillespie the drama is tense and mildly shocking, even if you know what plays out.

Credit also has to go to writer Steven Rogers, who has taken a tale the whole world watched and produced surprises, twists and turns.

The film belongs, though, to both Robbie and Janney.

From the outset you don't like the mother, and Janney creates a character who is up there with Cruella De Ville for a cinematic villain.

And you do actually feel a bit sorry for Tonya and the world she grew up in.

But full credit has to go to Robbie, who manages to stop feeling sorry for her from the minute she opens her mouth.

What becomes clear is that, while hampered by her roots, Tonya was still responsible for her decisions — even if she refuses to see that.

But thanks to Robbie's stellar performance, you still kind of like her...

Perhaps what is the most surprising thing is what you didn't know about this story.

Obviously her life before the infamous clobbering is important  and forms the basis of the story, but did you know what happened at the Winter Olympics in '94?

No, neither did we.

Of course, to find out you'll have to watch the film...

I, Tonya brilliantly captures that one moment in history when the whole world was suddenly interested in figure skating.

While a tad long, it keeps you engaged throughout and the central performances are captivating.

Oh, and the soundtrack is just fricking awesome.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

A Quiet Place (15)

As has often been mentioned around here, life has a way of getting in the way of the things we actually want to do.

So it was with A Quiet Place - not only did it take longer than I hoped to actually see it, but getting round to writing the review took far longer than is right proper.

Still, we're here now....

...and we're still trying to get our breath back.

Now, we'd already heard via the lovely Wittertainment chaps that this film was a bit tense.

But no amount of warning can prepare you for just how tense this is.

From the opening scene of a deserted street, of a redundant street light, you're pulse is already starting to go and you're edging towards the front of your seat.

And by the time the credits roll you have a good case for asking for half your money back because at no point do you settle back and make full use of the chair provided.

The story is quite a simple one. In a dystopian near-future world, those who are still around exist in a silent world.

Sign language and whispers are all that are used to communicate.

The why is only slowly revealed, which just adds to the wonderful tension this film is built on.

It stars the wonderful Emily Blunt and real-life husband and star of the American version of The Office, John Krasinski.

Now, I'll be honest here, I've never got into the American version and we wouldn't say we were fans of Mr Krasinski's work...

...but after this...


Not only does he play his part with understated subtlety, but the talented little sod directed this film as well.

And in his hands, we've been gifted a modern classic.

Blunt is equally as good, while the child stars (Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe of Wonder fame) convey their fear and anger so convincingly it puts a number of adult stars to shame.

There are other aspects and themes we'd love to wax lyrical about here, but to do so would give away too much of the story - and this is one of those films where you really benefit from knowing as little as possible.

But you should know this.

We can't recall the last time a film gripped us from the opening scene, or kept us on the edge of our seat for 90 minutes, or made us want to scream out over laundry.

It brought back fond memories of The Mist and Alien in the way it kept a steady pace all the way through without ever getting boring or dragging it's heels.

And while there are couple of places where questions could be raised (a hurricane lantern when they have electricity?), this is such, such a good film you can forgive it its few flaws.

And there's not an ounce of flab anywhere. No scene is wasted, no dialogue unnecessary.

This is one tight little ship.

In an age of mega blockbusters, it's a genuine delight to find a film that is made with love, care, attention and for tuppence h'appeny an a bag of chips.

That such a film is just so good is full credit to the cast, writers and director.

It deserves to be watched again and again for years to come.