If you said the name Marcel Marceau most people wouldn’t know what you were talking about, a few might know him as the famous mine who rose to fame after the 2nd world war. Those few that know the name, even less would know of his quietly heroic actions, the rescue of Jewish children during a war constantly stripping them of family. Resistance is that story, one of survival and perseverance. Marceau here is played by Jesse Eisenberg and despite his proclivity to play too big, his interpretation is wonderfully layered, dejected and full of self doubt. It’s the unfocused film that surrounds his performance that feels out of sorts with the story it is trying to tell. Erratically jumping from moment to moment, Resistance is a film constantly getting in its own way, be it with its constantly shifting flow or the fact that writer/director Jonathan Jakubowicz boils the entire Nazi party down to one solitary soldier played with comical malice by Matthias Schweighöfer. The whole feature feels like an over simplification of a true story with real nuance and muted dignity. Eisenberg’s performance plays to that film, its a shame that Resistance isn’t it.
Veteran director Roger Mitchell’s latest is a mawkish affair that actively avoids discussing the act that brings this whole family together. Ailing matriarch Lily (Susan Sarandon) wants to end her life on her terms and she has invited all her family to join her and husband Paul (an impressively understated Sam Neill) for one last weekend of happiness. Understandably certain things get in the way of her best laid plans. Featuring a star line up including Kate Winslet and Mia Wasikowska, Blackbird seems to have all the parts for a stellar emotional drama but instead of feeling like a story of euthanasia, a tale that should be grim instead here feels grimy. There is a sickly self importance here where drama is more important than realism. The film actively has you anticipating a twist, a spanner in the works of Lily’s plan but when it finally arrives it sullies the good faith and family dynamic Mitchell and writer Christian Torpe spend half the film developing. Despite some great performances by Neill, a self-deprecating Rainn Wilson and Wasikowska who here is painfully underused, the arguements and discussions that make up Blackbird’s involving but dreary plot feel trivial when compared to the real matter at hand and that knowledge turns everything else into small family squabbling and in the end, neither Lily or the audience want any part of it.
The Tax Collector
There is no way to beat around the bush with The Tax Collector, David Ayer’s latest crime thriller about two enforcers for the biggest crime lord in LA. It is easily one of the most unpleasant watches of 2020 and while I could easily be talking about the bone crunchingly visceral violence and the gore it employs for cheap shocks it isn’t. The Tax Collector is Ayer’s worst film to date, one that is actively trying to emulate his finest outing, the macabre but never gratuitous End of Watch. Here its the other side of the coin, robbers instead of cops with Bobby Soto and Shia LaBeouf playing hardmen in a film of fantastical machismo. While both End of Watch and The Tax Collector riff on the importance of brotherhood and loyalty, here it feels farcical with entire sequences devoted to pointless hedonism and at one point, in an up until that point overblown but semi-believable film, human sacrifice. It all boils down to 90 minutes of Ayer’s worst impulses from scattered action, unfocused grimy ‘street life’ and unrelenting and offensive sexism. I’d like to say it was all worth it for some compelling action or even a standout sequence but enjoying The Tax Collector is impossible thanks to some putrid characters, some poor performances (especially from LaBeouf who attempts stoic psychopath with a side of hipster) and a complete disregard for common sense.
Unlike Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods which also dealt with how Vietnam had changed since the effects of the Vietnam war, mainly from the American perspective, Monsoon speaks more to the country from the emigrant perspective as Kit (Henry Golding) returns to a country that as a child he called his home and fails to connect with a country far detached from the one he sees now. Director Hong Khaou’s follow up to Lilting is a minimalistic love story that displays a country with loving realism, no frills and embellishments. Khaou seems equally enamoured by the modern cities full of development and bustling streetlife as he is with the poorer corners of towns yet to embrace the new. Both versions of Vietnam live within Kit and this struggle between the two as he embraces a new romance with American Lewis (Parker Sawyers), a man equally as affected by the war. For both of these characters, Khaou has crafted a story of finding peace with the past and embracing the new. It is an affecting feature but also a listless endeavour, never saying enough about who Kit is outside of his heritage and his blurry past. Long extended sequences of Kit re-connecting with something that doesn’t exist anymore eventually becomes arduous and at 85 minutes long, Monsoon feels longer. Intentionally quiet and contemplative, by the confoundingly bizarre ending, I enjoyed the experience but I had hoped for a little more noise mixed in among the silence.
With the mad dash of December upon us now, I will endeavour to write at least a small review a day while I work on other pieces and as always leave a comment if you want to say anything about written here or request a film for me to write about.