It’s probably just me but it feels like we are going through a lull in interesting cinema releases. Most of the potentially worthwhile films are either getting a very limited release or are being made simultaneously available on demand. Of the movies only available on the big screen right now….
The Leisure Seeker tells the story of John and Ella Spencer, an ageing couple going on one last trip together in their RV. John (Donald Sutherland) has dementia and Ella (Helen Mirren) has terminal cancer. With that set-up, the events of the film are utterly predictable: encounters with both kind strangers and criminals, the van breaking down, wide-eyed waitresses charmed by John’s Ernest Hemingway stories, and one of couple getting accidentally getting left behind. It all leads-up to the inevitably grim ending. With good performances by Sutherland, and especially Mirren, it is an inoffensive afternoon matinee watch.
Much better and challenging is Tully. This is the third collaboration between writer Diablo Cody and director Jason Reitman, following Juno and Young Adult. The former was very well received at the time but curiously now seems to be widely mocked. As a result, Tully isn’t exactly eagerly expected and that borne out by the fact that there were only three other people in attendance at a Saturday showing when I went and one of those was asleep!
That is a shame, as this is an intriguing piece. A harassed couple, Marlo (Charlize Theron) and Craig (Mark Duplass) accept Marlo’s brothers offer of a night-nanny, Tully (Mackenzie Davis). With Tully’s arrival, Marlo seems to be revitalised. This film does require some patience. It goes on for quite a while in a fairly meandering manner and I was puzzled where it was going. In the end, the story resolves itself in a very satisfying way with some nice observations about the pressures of parenthood, with Theron convincing in her role, and the nature of long standing relationships along the way.
The Leisure Seeker: 6 out of 10
Tully: 7.5 out of 10
If you are looking for some home entertainment there are a couple of recent releases I can recommend. The Bachelors was given a simultaneous cinema and on demand release with a largely negative critical reaction. It has its problems, chiefly a lack of chemistry between JK Simmons and Julie Delpy and the sort of cathartic moment that only happens in the movies. However, it is very good at depicting grief with Simmons excellent in those scenes. Also a subplot involving a tentative love story involving Simmons’ son, played by Josh Wiggins and the troubled Lacy (Odeya Rush) feels fresh and involving.
The pick of all the films this week though, is Brad’s Status. Ben Stiller appeared to be in a career slump until the last couple of years, and his performance in The Myerowitz Stories (New & Selected) last year made my 5 best of 2017. He has a good chance of repeating that in 2018. It should be hard to find sympathy for Brad as he goes on a trip visiting colleges with his son. He is comfortably-off with a loving wife and talented child, but he can’t help feeling like a failure in comparison to his friends from his younger days. Stiller’s performance managed to find me both understanding and empathising Brad’s problems. This is a deceptively simple and heartfelt movie.
The Bachelors: 7 out of 10
Brad’s Status: 8.5 out of 10