Saturday, January 5, 2019

Three Films Make A Post: Takes a killer to make one

Ocean’s Eight (2018): As with the Soderbergh Ocean’s films, this all-female spin-off directed by Gary Ross is a technically very accomplished heist movie. It also suffers from the same main problem as its brother movies: it’s not as smart as it clearly thinks it is and never stops congratulating itself for it. Turns out Soderbergh’s smugness is infectious.

However, what this one mostly made me think of are the horrors of Hollywood’s obsession with youth as beauty, particularly in women, and its habit to push aging actresses into what borders on self-mutilation based on the insane assumption that not being able to move her face anymore while looking like some sort of moving doll on the wrong side of the uncanny valley is a lesser problem for an actress than having a couple of wrinkles like actual human beings do. I’m also pretty miffed that all the all-female Ocean’s film is able to is make me think of the way its protagonists look.

Proxy Killer (2018): But enough of that. How about a perfectly fine low budget thriller instead? Scott (Charlie Babcock) survived an encounter with a serial killer his wife didn’t. Making his first step into self-help groups, he meets the mysterious O (Mandy Amano) who easily draws out the killer in him. Even though it is easy enough even early on to see where Kyle Downes’s film is going, the focussed presentation and convincing performances by Babcock and Amano keep things going effectively until the pleasantly logical conclusion.

Look Away (2018): Less focussed and less consequent is Assaf Bernstein’s tale about bullied eighteen-year old Maria (India Eisley) coping with an emotionally abusive family by trading places with her much more confident but alas evil mirror image. Thematically and visually, there’s a lot to like here, and India Eisley’s, as well as Mira Sorvino’s and Jason Isaacs’s performances are fine. The execution, however, flounders repeatedly, first making Maria’s environment just a little too horrible to credit, and then expecting the audience to care when Maria’s mirror image provides these nasty caricatures torturing our heroine with their comeuppance. A bit more subtlety, and a couple of human traits for everyone involved would probably have worked wonders there.

The film also suffers under the contemporary obsession with giving everything a backstory, so Maria’s mirror personality is of course not just a supernatural or psychological projection of her desires but the spirit of her dead twin her father apparently killed directly after their birth because she was deformed. See what I meant about subtlety and the lack thereof?

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