Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Meadowland, I Smile Back, Suffragette, A Ballerina's Tale

I Smile Back

A Ballerina's Tale

Quick capsules on a mixed week at the movies:

Committed lead performances by Olivia Wilde and Luke Wilson can’t keep Reed Dawson Morano’s death-of-a-child-themed “Meadowland,” a poor man’s “Rabbit Hole,” from melting into 105 minutes of miserabilism. Elizabeth Moss intrigues in a too-small role, but only once – at a bar, when Wilson asks a friend who hadn’t told him of his impending fatherhood whether he feared “getting it on him” (his bad luck) – does “Meadowland” fail to feel like a movie.

Kudos to Sarah Silverman for her daring and risk-taking performance in Adam Salky’s “I Smile Back.” Her Laney Brooks is the mother of two lovable children and wife of a successful author and insurance broker. But her unresolved childhood abandonment issues manifest in depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and inappropriate acting-out. Silverman walks an emotional high wire here, finding the humor in Laney’s downward spiral and never trading in cheap pathos. As hubby, Josh Charles lends strong support.

Suffragette” is a dull-as-dishwater example of the broccoli movie: the kind you’re supposed to see/like because it’s good for you. Actually, director Sarah Gavron’s color palette looks like dishwater for this rewriting of the suffrage movement in 1910’s England. Carey Mulligan gives a one-note performance as Maud, a laundress turned radical feminist, while Meryl Streep tries to one-up Judi Dench for least screen time in an Oscar-nominated role. Sorry, Meryl; this one has no business receiving a late October release. 

I wish we got a better sense of Misty Copeland the person from Nelson George’s biodoc “A Ballerina’s Tale,” but the picture offers two takeaways: the quotidian life of a soloist at one of the world’s premier ballet companies; and especially the small but fiercely loyal network of black women in dance, who came together to provide Copeland the support system that would see her through the injuries, rehabilitation, and alienation she experienced en route to becoming a principal with ABT.

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