Written and directed by Meredith Danluck, State Like Sleep centers on Katherine (Katherine Waterston), a widow who returns to Belgium to pick up her belongings and ultimately close a tragic chapter. Katherine’s husband Stefan (Michiel Huisman) was a popular actor, and his suicide was absolutely unexpected. Stefan and Katherine’s relationship may have been going south due to Stefan’s drug addiction and errant behavior, but death never seemed to enter the equation.
Katherine’s mother Elaine (Mary Kay Place, delivering an affecting performance) is also in Belgium to help with the transition, but Elaine’s health problems lead to hospitalization, leaving Katherine to her own devices.
After Katherine returns to the apartment she and Stefan shared, she starts digging into his life, believing a club owner named Emile (Luke Evans) may have played an important role in her husband’s death. Ramping up the mystery is Edward (Michael Shannon), who is Katherine’s next door neighbor while she stays at a hotel. What turns out as an awkward first meeting leads into a much different direction, giving Katherine what seems to be hope for the future.
Danluck cloaks her story with film noir trappings, and it’s refreshing to see a woman dominate a predominantly male driven genre. Femme fatales often give way to complex characterizations, but they usually don’t anchor the narrative, and Waterston is more than up to the task.
State Like Sleep, while offering up tons of atmosphere, isn’t a pure homage to noir, and thankfully it strives for much deeper material. Danluck is much more interested with how Katherine processes her grief and relationship with loved ones, and it’s refreshing to see a storyteller take a genre’s tropes and expand upon that universe. Some moviegoers may have wished for a cinematic driven noir filled with visual flourishes and twists galore, and while State Like Sleep plays a few of those notes, there’s much more music left to be played. Thanks to subtle and surprisingly evocative performances by Waterston and Shannon and nuanced storytelling from Danluck, the song doesn’t remain the same,
State Like Sleep, now available on Digital and On Demand, hits theaters January 4.
On the latest episode of CinemAddicts we cover two films that definitely will be remembered come awards time. Both Roma and Cold War come straight from the heart, as the directors used inspiration from their own lives to helm their respective features. The relationship of his parents inspired Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida) pen and direct Cold War, the story of two lovers (Joanna Kulig, Tomasz Kot) who spend years attempting to solidify their relationship. Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma centers on a maid named Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) and her life in Mexico City. The project, which was also penned by Cuaron, is inspired by his own childhood and it’s his most personal project to date.
Take a listen to our review of both films in the episode below!
Cold War opens in select theaters on December 21, with Roma landing a December 14 premiere on Netflix.
Gene Hackman has not starred in a film since 2004’s Welcome To Mooseport, and if you literally miss his voice then We, The Marines may be part of your holiday shopping.
Narrated by Hackman, the film takes a first-hand look at the men and woman who become part of the U.S. Marine Corps. The project was initially produced for permanent exhibition in the Giant Screen Medal of Honor Theater at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Hackman played a Marine in the 1984 feature Uncommon Valor.
We, The Marines will be released in a 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and Digital copy set on December 11 via Shout! Factory.
With many biopics, the task of the filmmaker can be a difficult one, capturing the often larger than life exploits of the subject and condensing it down for the viewing audience. Such was the case with Bohemian Rhapsody, a film that tracks the rise to fame for legendary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame act, Queen, but primarily centers on the difficult life led by frontman Freddie Mercury.
Rami Malek, best know for his TV work in Mr. Robot, was the eventual choice to portray Mercury, with it seemingly being a solid choice given his physical similarities to the singer. However, Malek embodies the role of Mercury fully and has rightfully received raves for his performance as the singer, adapting the stage mannerisms and his bold confidence and strident belief in himself as an entertainer along with bringing a vulnerability to coming to terms with who he was as an individual.
Though much of the cast is relatively unknown, the performances are solid. Gwilym Lee and Ben Hardy both look the part, but bring relatable and likable traits to their roles as Brian May and Roger Taylor, while Joe Mazzello is solid, albeit with less screen time, as John Deacon. Lucy Boynton, who turned heads in Sing Street, delivers a heartbreaking turn as Freddie’s wife and first love Mary Austin.
Mercury, aka Farrokh Bulsara, is introduced as an outcast teen whose family fled Zanzibar, looking for a life better than what his family had in mind and having a clear vision that music is his path. In the film, Mercury happens upon the band Smile, which featured Brian May and Roger Taylor, who had just lost their vocalist who decided he had to move on to bigger things. Mercury also meets and falls for Mary Austin (Lucy Boynton), starting a sweet and loving relationship as the band starts to take shape.
If there is an issue with Bohemian Rhapsody, it could be the pacing of the film. But as stated, there is so much of Queen’s history to tell, that some key moments are bound to get a bit glossed over along the way. What is developed though is the key relationships in the film, with Mercury sometimes challenging his bandmates but holding steadfast to the idea that they were family, and the singer also believing that Mary was his one true love, while coming to terms with his sexuality while out on the road.
The relationship with Mary is sweet, but ultimately heartbreaking, as Mercury seems at odds with accepting how life was playing out as Mary found the strength to let go amidst Mercury’s desire to keep their life status quo. While some have been critical about how Mercury’s sexuality was revealed in the film, it’s not exactly shied away from. His dalliances with male suitors, in particular Queen staffer Paul Prenter (Allen Leech) and his eventual late life love Jim Hutton (Aaron McCusker), are both addressed, even though stopping short of the bedroom (likely due to the PG-13 film rating).
As for the band side, Mercury is viewed as occasionally difficult to work with, suffering a bit of lead singer’s disease, but the genuine musical respect and vision is showcased through the film, with the group as a whole staying true to the challenges of their music despite the occasional critical reviews or interference from corporate suits. Tensions do mount amidst the band, but never beyond repair, and the group bond is really at the heart of the film.
Through it all, Mercury may seem on top of the world from the public eye, but he spends a lot of the movie ultimately figuring out who he is in this world. Final act revelations allow him to work through some of his personal flaws, accepting the love of others as learning to love life as himself while ridding himself of negative influences.
Where Bohemian Rhapsody does thrive is with its musical scenes, serving as a bit of a jukebox to the group’s mastery. If you’re a fan of Queen’s music, you will likely be satisfied and even love this film, as they do hit on a number of the band’s biggest songs. The recreation of their goose bump-inducing Live Aid performance also is worth the price of admission, while also serving as a key payoff for the film’s final act.
In summation, Bohemian Rhapsody does a solid job of telling Freddie’s story, even if it does take a few liberties with the timeline and certain events. Viewers get a fair representation of a talented singer, a somewhat flawed man and an incredible salute to the music the group created.
If Vegas is Sin City, what exactly might you call a Lake Tahoe establishment split between California and Nevada? The once majestic El Royale hotel, the centerpiece for ‘Bad Times at the El Royale,’ has fallen on bad times, and it’s about to get a little worse with the arrival of a group of strangers, each with a secret to hide amidst this stop over. And it’s safe to say the El Royale has some pretty interesting secrets of its own.
One by one, we’re introduced to the elderly, somewhat confused Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges), aspiring vocalist Darlene Sweet (Cynthia Erivo), smooth talking but sexist vacuum cleaner salesman Laramie Seymour Sullivan (Jon Hamm) and the mysterious bad ass hippie chick Emily Summerspring (Dakota Johnson), all seeking refuge for the evening in the mostly abandoned former Rat Pack hang in the late 60s. There to greet them is the hotel’s seemingly lone employee, the boyishly scatterbrained concierge Miles Miller (Lewis Pullman). After pleasantries (or not so pleasantries in Emily’s case) are exchanged and everyone’s true motives start to reveal themselves.
Writer/director Drew Goddard jumps around the timeline with ease, telling the story of the occupant of each room, giving a bit of their backstory and the darker history that brought each to this moment in time, converging together ahead of a storm that’s brewing. The fivesome soon become seven with the addition of the charismatically dangerous Billy Lee (Chris Hemsworth) and Emily’s troubled sister Ruth (Cailee Spaeny) and to reveal more would give away key plot points. Suffice it to say, some may find redemption at the El Royale, while others are just in for plain bad times, and allegiances are formed and broken in the fight to survive the night in this establishment that has even more secrets than its inhabitants.
Bridges headlines this stellar cast, giving a heartfelt performance as the not so holy man of the cloth, while Hamm also steals a few scenes early on. But the real finds in this film are the names you may not recognize. Cynthia Erivo wows not only with her voice, but the heart and determination she embodies as the often overlooked and fed up Darlene Sweet, while the fresh faced Pullman as the hotel’s overseer projects innocence lost in one of the film’s most prominent back stories.
Goddard captures the look of the era quite well, giving the film a stylish feel befitting of the time period. The story telling devices work, fleshing out each individual character and keeping the stakes high at every turn with the ultimate final conflict feeling fully earned and satisfying. The conflicts make you think, the characters engage and Bad Times at the El Royale leaves the viewer with a great two and a half hours of viewing.
On the latest episode of CinemAddicts, Anderson Cowan and I discuss a slew of October releases and spotlight a couple of films that should be on your radar.
Whether or not it’s actually Robert Redford’s last film, The Old Man & The Gun is, according to Cowan, a fitting tribute to 1970s cinema and the career of the iconic actor. Redford previously worked with director David Lowery on Pete’s Dragon, and since Cowan is obsessed with Lowery’s previous film A Ghost Story, The Old Man & The Gunwas high on his list of films to catch in theaters. The feature is now playing in select theaters.
One of my October recommendations is After Everything, a New York City set romantic drama about Elliot (Jeremy Allen White), a 23-year-old who has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. The good news, however, is that he falls head over heels with Mia (Maika Monroe), a career centric woman who returns his affections. Directed by first time filmmakers Hannah Marks (who’s also an actress) and Joey Power, After Everything is not a saccharine, disease of the week narrative. Thanks to top notch writing and charismatic performances from White and Monroe, After Everything is a subtly resonant tale of falling in love amidst a trying period in one’s life. The feature, which co-stars Marisa Tomei and Callie Thorne (Marks worked with Thorne on the TV series Necessary Roughness) hits theaters and is available On Demand starting October 12. Check out this month’s episode of CinemAddicts below!