Wild Gene; ‘Wicked’ in Britain; action in Ireland; country music

| March 28, 2024 | 0 Comments

Remembering Gene Wilder (10/10): 92 minutes. NR. “I didn’t think Jerry Silberman had the right ring to it. I wanted to be … wilder.” That’s how and why Gene Wilder got his name.

Although he had a small part in “Bonnie and Clyde” (1967), my first memory of Wilder is in “The Producers” (1967), the first 10 minutes of which are among the funniest ever filmed.

This is not just a revealing documentary about an outstanding actor / writer / director, it also tells how things got done in Hollywood. Told by Gene himself and people like Mel Brooks (there’s lots of Mel in this film, and that’s always a treat), Richard Pryor’s daughter, Rain, Ben Mankiewicz, agent Mike Medavoy, Carol Kane and many others, it captures the man as well as the actor. It’s full of “Inside Hollywood”-type anecdotes and also covers heartbreaks. If you love the Hollywood movie industry, this is a can’t-miss film.

Wicked Little Letters (8/10): 100 minutes. R. It’s hard to believe when you watch this, but the events depicted actually occurred in a little English village called Littlehampton, and they did cause a national sensation. It’s the story of two neighbors, Edith Swan (Olivia Colman) and Rose Gooding (Jessie Buckley). Edith and others start receiving profane, offensive (indeed, wicked) letters, and Rose gets blamed for them.

Rose is a newcomer to the village and lives with her daughter Nancy (Alisha Weir) and boyfriend Bill (Malachi Kirby) next door to Edith. Rose is raucous with a truly nasty mouth. Edith, on the other hand, is prudish, the daughter of a tyrannical puritanical father, Edward (Timothy Spall), with whom she lives. The only person who comes to Rose’s defense is Gladys Moss (Anjana Vasan) who is, herself, going through terrible discrimination, being the first female police officer in the history of Sussex.

Brilliantly written (Jonny Sweet) and directed (Thea Sharrock), Rose’s defiant attitude provides much of the comedic parts of the movie. I am a big admirer of all three stars, Colman, Buckley, and Spall, and all give sparkling performances.

This is clearly a feminist movie because virtually all the male characters are presented in a negative light. The police (except Officer Moss) are all male, biased and sexist, and the protagonists are all female. In fact, with the possible exception of Bill, there is not one male character who is not a heavy.

I downgrade my numerical score for this somewhat, on account of the offensive woke presentism used in the casting of a character. The events the film is based on took place in the 1920s, but one of the judges in the trial is Black. In fact, there was never a Black circuit judge in England until Barbara Menshah was appointed in 2005, more than 80 years after these events take place.

Historical movies should reflect things as they were in the time when the events take place. It’s fine to have diversity in casting, but it’s not fine when the casting ignores the actualities of the time and place of the film. Such castings are jarring. I suppose if Hollywood were to remake “Patton,” we might expect the general to be played by Jennifer Lawrence or maybe Kimura Takuya or Jamie Foxx. The people who make these foolish decisions are agitpropping, and these choices degrade what is otherwise an exceptional film.

In the Land of Saints and Sinners (8/10): 106 Minutes. R. This is Liam Neeson’s generally annual early-year thriller. Some have been good (the first, very good) and some not so good. This is one of the good ones. While Finbar Murphy (Neeson) leads what appears to be a mellow life in an isolated coastal town (Glencolmcille) in the early ‘70s, he is a political assassin in the Irish wars.

Enter Doirean (Kerry Condon), a brutal, emotionless, cold-blooded killer on the other side, who ends up targeting Finbar with her vicious crew. Well directed by Robert Lorenz from a script by Mark Michael McNally and Terry Loane, it is enhanced by captivating cinematography (Tom Stern) of the desolate but beautiful Irish seaside. The conclusion is one of the better denouements one will see with the tension rising by the second. My only problem with it was the audio. I watched it on a link to my computer and had a difficult time with the thick Irish brogues and seemingly low-quality audio. Even though that could have been my computer, films in which people speak in deep accents should be enhanced by captions. But even without understanding much of the dialogue, it is so well done that I could follow what was going on.

The Neon Highway (8/10): 112 minutes. PG-13. When singer / songwriter Wayne Collins (Rob Mayes) and his brother Lloyd (TJ Power) arrive to perform at a local spot, they are well-received, and Wayne receives a troubling offer from a producer. On their way home, they have a bad accident, ending their quest for fame and stardom. Seven years later, Wayne, now a cable installer, meets country music star Claude Allen (Beau Bridges), who has fallen on hard times but who offers to help Wayne get his old record produced.

Directed by William Wages (with writing credits to Wages and Phillip Bellury), what follows is an involving tale of hope and deceit highlighted by fine performances by Bridges and Mayes along with a realistic look at the inside of the music business, where it seems as if everybody is manipulative and nobody is to be trusted.

REMAKE OF “PATTON” MOVIE, not yet scheduled.
Larchmont Chronicle editorial cartoon, 2024

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