Hollywood’s imagination drain is the problem, but here’s the cure – Philip K. Dick.
The late science fiction author whose work influenced “Blade Runner” and “Total Recall” continues to inspire screenwriters with “The Adjustment Bureau,” a romantic thriller starring Matt Damon and Emily Blunt.
Matt Damon and Emily Blunt star in “The Adjustment Bureau.”
“Bureau’s” sci-fi trappings can’t match other Dick adaptations, and you could drive a Hummer through some of its plot holes. But Dick’s fertile mind combined with two strong leads makes “Bureau” a tricky exploration of free will.
Damon stars as David Norris, a politician whose colorful past just cost him a senate seat in New York. He enters a men’s bathroom to mull over his concession speech when he meets Elise (Emily Blunt), who ducked into the bathroom after getting caught crashing a wedding. (more…)
Lovers of pomp, pageantry and extravagant period detail will find themselves exceedingly well served by “The Young Victoria,” a visually arresting and sneakily engrossing film about the courtship of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The movie, which stars Emily Blunt in the title role and Rupert Friend as Albert, accomplishes what the best historical fiction does: It sends viewers so gracefully into the rites and habits and language of another era (in this case Victoria’s ascendancy to the British throne in 1837, at age 18, and her subsequent marriage) that they don’t realize how much information they’re absorbing.
More than anything, “The Young Victoria” deserves kudos for dispelling the common image of Queen Victoria — that rather plump, matronly widow with the dour hankie on her head — and presenting viewers with a beguiling young woman imbued with spirit, intelligence and observant wit. Blunt, who has provided brilliant comedic support in such films as “The Devil Wears Prada,” steps regally into the role as the teenage Victoria, who as heir to the British throne has been brought up by her mother, the Duchess of Kent (Miranda Richardson), in near-pathological protectiveness. Even as a teenager Victoria isn’t allowed to walk down a flight of stairs unattended. (more…)
Once you get past the fact that lovely Emily Blunt doesn’t look anything like the dour historical pictures of Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, The Young Victoria is an appealing and well-crafted, if staid, portrait of a fascinating ruler.
Though the film moves at a stately pace, the production design and costumes are sumptuous and the ensemble cast is splendid. But the film belongs to the title character, and Blunt deftly conveys the young queen of England’s grace and burgeoning steely resolve.
When the proceedings feel muted, Blunt enlivens them. Still, the tenor is one of a dignified fresco rather than a stirring film. (more…)
The first Queen Elizabeth has been the It Girl of the British monarchy in recent times in Hollywood. Queen Victoria now gets royal treatment with a fresh film biography starring Emily Blunt as the empire’s longest-reigning ruler in her early years.
“The Young Victoria” is good, old-fashioned period drama — not terribly lively, not terribly insightful, but rich in pageantry and fine moments of drama, the whole show hinging on a beguiling performance from Blunt.
We’ve see Blunt as a very modern (and often very funny) woman in “Sunshine Cleaning,” her scene-stealing turn in “The Devil Wears Prada” and other films.
She’s just as engaging as queen bee of the corset crowd, bringing endearing zest, impetuousness and imprudence to this woman who eventually would grow into a symbol of sober, imperious widowhood for much of her time on the throne.
Working from a crisp, straightforward screenplay by Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park”), director Jean-Marc Vallee introduces Victoria at age 17, shortly before the death of her uncle, King William, (Jim Broadbent, pricelessly raving against the schemers jockeying for power in the coming succession of his niece).
Chief among the palace plotters are Victoria’s insufferable mother (Miranda Richardson) and her opportunistic counsel, Conroy (Mark Strong), who’s angling to be named regent while the heir-apparent grows into the job of queen.
As Victoria ascends to power, Blunt captures a nice balance of ambivalence and backbone, a teen raised in wallflower isolation taking her first lessons in absolute power — and recognizing that she’s got a knack for it.
These machinations are paralleled by ploys from afar as Victoria’s uncle, King Leopold of Belgium (Thomas Kretschmann), grooms his nephew and her cousin, Albert (Rupert Friend), to woo the future monarch.
If this were a fictional romance, Albert would be the unctuous pretender, a politically expedient candidate that the lady rejects in favor of true love with some dark horse suitor. (more…)
Suicide may be painless, but in the world of black comedies, it’s the cleaning up afterwards that really hurts. After her hesitant Sylvia Plath biopic, director Christine Jeffs has latched on to a solid if unexceptional script by first-time writer Megan Holley, focusing on two sisters who set up a business to disinfect crime scenes in a New Mexico backwater.
Played by Enchanted’s Amy Adams, Rose Lorkowski is an ex-cheerleader and now single mother whose dismal domestic situation is not helped by looking out for her feckless sister Norah (Young Victoria’s Emily Blunt). Throw in Steve Zahn as Rose’s married lover Mac, and Alan Arkin playing the same kind of grouchy grandpa as in Little Miss Sunshine, and Sunshine Cleaning has performers perfectly qualified for a misfit comedy.
Where Jeffs and Holley mess up, however, is in the details; the bile and blood-soaked aftermath the sisters frequently have to clean up is simply too icky to generate laughs, while a subplot involving Norah’s lesbian attraction to the daughter of a suicide victim is poorly developed. Admirers of SherryBaby, Waitress and other small-town tragicomedies will want to take the time to salvage some well-tuned performances here; Adams shines in a blue-collar setting, playing off Blunt’s amusingly sullen posturing, and Arkin is reliable as ever.
Amy Adams and Emily Blunt play two sisters who stumble into the crime scene cleanup business, with disastrous results. Aiming to be a smart, quirky comedy with a hard edge, the film lacks the emotional sophistication it needed to reach the finish line, but it does offer a few good moments thanks to performance value. Alan Arkin and Steve Zahn co-star.
Starring: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin and Steve Zahn.
Rating: Two stars out of five
Contrived quirkiness can be as awkward and cringe-inducing as bad acting. It’s like watching a swimmer tread water with one arm or a figure skater land a triple toe-loop fanny first: Everything starts to look harder than it really should be. (more…)
It’s rare that we stumble upon an indie film that we really hate. Admit it: sometimes they’re just so eccentric that we either have to like indie films for their originality or we’re so awestricken by their philosophical depth that we’re somehow tricked into liking them. However, with “Sunshine Cleaning,” the realness expressed through the plot as well as the acting needs no mind games to win over its viewers.
Sisters Rose (Amy Adams) and Norah Lorkowski (Emily Blunt) find themselves unhappy, to say the least, still living in the small town they grew up in. Rose, the older of the two and former head cheerleader of her high school, lives the typical single mom life, working at a dead-end job, cleaning the homes of those more affluent than her in order to support her ever peculiar son, Oscar. (more…)
The movie around them has problems, but Amy Adams and Emily Blunt put on a first-class acting workshop in “Sunshine Cleaning.”
In Christine Jeffs’ dour indie dramedy, they play Rose and Norah Lorkowski, Albuquerque siblings who aren’t handling adulthood very well.
The oldest, Rose (Adams), works for a housecleaning service and struggles to keep a roof over herself and her young son, Oscar (Jason Spevack). The kid is just plain weird — he’s about to be kicked out of elementary school for licking his teacher’s leg. (more…)
IT’S A LITTLE hard at first imagining such vibrant actresses as Amy Adams and Emily Blunt playing loser sisters in the offbeat dramedy “Sunshine Cleaning,” but they have you believing in their characters even if the rest of the film is a stretch.
“Sunshine Cleaning,” directed by Christine Jeffs (“Sylvia”), begins with a bang: A suicide splatters himself all over a sporting-goods store. Mac (Steve Zahn), the Albuquerque, N.M., cop investigating, notices how much the cleaning company charges to tidy up and mentions it to Rose (Adams), his former high school sweetheart with whom he’s now having an affair. (more…)
Am I the only one on the planet who liked “Little Miss Sunshine,” sort of, without believing a second of it? I never believed those nutty, single-trait characters belonged to the same fractured family. I didn’t believe the rousing feel-good finale. What I liked, I liked because of what the performers did to transcend their own material.
I prefer the equally modest ” Sunshine Cleaning,” again without believing a second of it. It shares with the other audience-friendly “Sunshine” film a key word in its title; a setting, at least in part (Albuquerque); a key supporting actor ( Alan Arkin as a crusty paternal figure); and a rather studied sense of quirk. Nonetheless, the performers get a lot going, and the ensemble’s very easy company. (more…)