Tag Archives: Chloe Sevigny

Teen Wolves

The True Adventures of Wolfboy

by George Wolf (no relation)

Have many Young Adult films carry a theme of self-acceptance? Plenty, but that’s not a problem.

It’s delivering that message via the same tired playbook that gets old, which is just one of the reasons The True Adventures of Wolfboy lands as a charming and completely captivating tale of a truly special teen.

And director Martin Krejci makes sure it feels like a tale in so many magical ways, starting with the beautifully ornate title cards separating each chapter in the journey of a lonely and self-loathing boy on his thirteenth birthday.

Paul (Jaeden Martell) suffers from hypertrichosis – an extremely rare affliction causing abnormal hair growth all over his face and body. He covers his face with a ski mask most of the time, but his father (Chris Messina) gently urges him to put the mask aside and accept the taunts of “dogboy!” with dignity.

Paul’s mother has been gone since he was born, but when a strange birthday gift delivers a map and a promise of explanations, Paul runs away to answer the invitation and get some answers from Mom (Chloe Sevigny).

Krejci crafts Paul’s journey from dog to wolf as an epic odyssey of self-discovery. From Pinnochio-like exploitation in a sideshow run by Mr. Silk (John Turturro, also a producer), to joining the eyepatch-wearing Rose (Eve Hewson) for a string of petty holdups, Paul’s world – and his world view – expands quickly.

But it is the effervescent teen Aristiana (transgender actress Sophie Giannamore) that most triggers Paul’s awakening. She hates the short “boy” haircut her mother insists on, while Paul is ashamed of how much hair he has. Her mother calls her Kevin, his mother doesn’t call at all.

Similarly, Martell delivers true tenderness and longing behind Mark Garbarino’s impressive makeup, while Giannamore is a heartwarming example of defiant positivity. Both actors and their characters bond quickly, and screenwriter Olivia Dufault (also transgender) finds a power that eludes so many YA dramas via the subtle genius of writing Aristiana as a secondary catalyst.

We already feel for Paul, so Aristiana’s effect on his self image is something we feel without being told. The point is made organically, with wit and wisdom, and much more resonance. What Paul finds at the end of his journey is sweet, but just gravy.

Wolfboy is the rare teen drama that speaks without condescension, and entertains without calculation.

That’s welcome, special even.

Ghouls

The Dead Don’t Die

by Hope Madden

Indie god and native Ohioan Jim Jarmusch made a zombie movie.

If you don’t know the filmmaker (Down by Law, Ghost Dog, Only Lovers Left Alive, Paterson and so many more jewels), you might only have noticed this cast and wondered what would have drawn Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloe Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Rosie Perez, RZA, Caleb Landry Jones, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Iggy Pop and Selena Gomez to a zombie movie.

It’s because Jim Jarmusch made it.

Jarmusch is an auteur of peculiar vision, and his latest, The Dead Don’t Die, with its insanely magnificent cast and its remarkably marketable concept, is the first ever in his nearly 30 years behind the camera to receive a national release.

Not everybody is going to love it, but it will attain cult status faster than any other Jarmusch film, and that’s saying something.

He sets his zombie epidemic in Centerville, Pennsylvania (Romero territory). It’s a small town with just a trio of local police, a gas station/comic book store, one motel (run by Larry Fassenden, first-time Jarmusch actor, longtime horror staple), one diner, and one funeral home, the Ever After.

Newscaster Posie Juarez (Rosie Perez – nice!) informs of the unusual animal behavior, discusses the “polar fracking” issue that’s sent the earth off its rotation, and notes that the recent deaths appear to be caused by a wild animal. Maybe multiple wild animals.

The film never loses its deadpan humor or its sleepy, small town pace, which is one of its greatest charms. Another is the string of in-jokes that horror fans will revisit with countless re-viewings.

But let’s be honest, the cast is the thing. Murray and Driver’s onscreen chemistry is a joy. In fact, Murray’s onscreen chemistry with everyone—Sevigny, Swinton, Glover, even Carol Kane, who’s dead the entire film—delivers the tender heart of the movie.

Driver out-deadpans everyone in the film with comedic delivery I honestly did not know he could muster. Landry Jones also shines, as does The Tilda. (Why can’t she be in every movie?)

And as the film moseys toward its finale, which Driver’s Officer Ronnie Paterson believes won’t end well, you realize this is probably not the hardest Jim Jarmusch and crew have ever worked. Not that the revelation diminishes the fun one iota.

Though it’s tempting to see this narrative as some kind of metaphor for our current global political dystopia, in fairness, it’s more of a mildly cynical love letter to horror and populist entertainment.

Mainly, it’s a low-key laugh riot, an in-joke that feels inclusive and the most quotable movie of the year.

40 Whacks

Lizzie

by Hope Madden

Screenwriter Bryce Kass has some interesting thoughts on the case of Lizzie Borden, the American woman suspected in the 1892 ax murders of her father and stepmother. In director Craig William Macneill’s hands, those intriguing ideas receive a proper, historical treatment.

Whether they have merit or not is mainly beside the point.

Lizzie (Chloe Sevigny) was a spinster of 32 when her parents died. She was home at the time, as was the family’s Irish immigrant servant, Bridget Sullivan (Kristen Stewart).

The film does not create a whodunit atmosphere, instead painting a historically realistic picture of some of the details that may have driven Borden to commit the crimes—likelihoods that wouldn’t have been considered in 1892 and have, therefore, rarely been taken into account over the years.

The struggle facing a single woman—economic and otherwise—is handled throughout this film with a desperate grace that elevates most scenes. Sevigny’s wily, lonesome outsider role plays to her strong suit. She shows here, as she did in 2016’s Love & Friendship, a capacity with the delicate language of the entitled.

Kristen Stewart continues to impress, even with a brogue. Yes, she is again morose, conflicted and put-upon, so maybe her range isn’t as strong as I’m suggesting, but she really knows her niche.

The way Macneill and Kass piece together the well-known pieces to this puzzle, this time considering how each may impact and be impacted by the fact that Lizzie was an unmarried woman, is consistently compelling.

Do the filmmakers take their somewhat subversive approach a step further than necessary, moving from honest if overlooked likelihood to vague possibility to “are they doing this just to be lurid”?

They do.

It doesn’t sink the film, though, mainly because Stewart and Sevigny commit to the direction and keep it from feeling exploitive. Plus, it is a fresh and believable take on a very old, oft-told story, so that counts for something.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwgtDHISXtQ





Just Desserts

Beatriz at Dinner

by George Wolf

Have you ever owned the worst car in the parking lot of some fancy event?

Then you’ll immediately identify with Beatriz.

Beatriz is a holistic therapist finishing up a massage at the elegant home of her friend Cathy, when her car won’t start. Cathy (Connie Britton), over the mild objections of her husband Grant (David Warshofsky), invites Beatriz to stay for the dinner party that evening. Alex (Jay Duplass) and Doug (John Lithgow), two of Grant’s business associates, roll up with their wives (Amy Landecker, Chloe Sevigny), and it isn’t long before Beatriz is mistaken for the hired help.

Writer Mike White and director Miguel Arteta, after teaming for Chuck and Buck and The Good Girl, reunite for the first time in fifteen years with a clearly defined purpose.

As the dinner gets increasingly awkward, Doug is revealed as a narcissistic billionaire mogul reveling in the obnoxious ass-kissing of his company. Beatriz, egged on by multiple glasses of wine, confronts him, and suddenly it’s Trump and the resistance taking dessert in the living room.

The comedy is dark and biting, the performances sharp and well-defined. Stumbling only when it trades sly observations for broader speechifying, Beatriz at Dinner is plenty satisfying.

Verdict-3-5-Stars





Whit & Venom

Love & Friendship

by Hope Madden

Love & Friendship may be the film most likely to satisfy both the truest Jane Austen fan and the passerby who finds her material little more than finely written rom/coms.

This is partly due to writer/director Whit Stillman’s uncanny flair for Austen’s dialog, but more because of his power to mine her prose for more than simple romance and righteous indignation.

The widowed Lady Susan Vernon (Kate Beckinsale – never better) must rely upon the generosity of her social circle since her husband’s passing. Because of a minor indiscretion at handsome Lord Manwaring’s residence, she finds herself obliged to visit her late husband’s brother and his wife for a time.

Not that any of this suggests a terrible inconvenience for the charming Lady Susan, who’s machinations and maneuvers are a constantly moving chess match with those around her – both the unsuspecting (men, generally) and the aware (women) – serving as her pawns.

It’s a criss-crossing, matchmaking plot of the most delightfully acidic sort. Stillman’s purpose, like Austen’s, is to point out the social barriers and tethers that make true freedom nearly impossible for women of the age. But instead of bucking the system quietly but proudly like Pride and Prejudice’s Jane Bennet, for instance, the film celebrates a heroine who has so mastered the intricate societal rules that she wields them to her benefit.

Lady Vernon is a mercenary, unfeeling charmer – a truly amazing character done proper justice by Beckinsale’s lilting performance. And while watching her bend, cajole and shepherd her pawns to her will is endlessly fascinating, it’s the intimacy shared only with her one true friend Lady Johnson (Chloe Sevigny) that gives the film it’s most wonderfully venomous bite.

As an added bonus, Whitman has stocked his supporting cast with some of Britain’s finest comic talents. A scene-stealing Tom Bennett, in particular, is a laugh riot as lovestruck dolt Sir James Martin.

Since his breakout 1990 film debut Metropolitan, a Jane Austen adaptation seemed somehow inevitable for Stillman. Where most revisions of the author’s texts have accepted her earnest rebellion and longing at face value, though, Stillman finds a wicked wit that suits both the author and his film.

Verdict-4-0-Stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KhvyupqNhL8





#NotBlessed

#Horror

by Hope Madden

Simultaneously spoiled and neglected, handed every luxury imaginable and then abandoned to do with their time what they will, a group of 12-year-old girls at a sleepover pay the price for a too-modern childhood.

Loosely inspired by true events, #Horror tracks the evolution of the mean girl. Between cyberbullying and online gaming, one pre-adolescent clique elevates their coming-of-age angst into a post-modern horror show.

Writer/director Tara Subkoff populates her soullessly luxurious world with bizarre and arresting visuals, and her cast – both the seasoned adults and the mostly unknown child performers – offer a range of unique and compelling performances. The atmosphere created is so detached, stylized, and surreal, you can imagine almost anything happening.

Subkoff has provocative things to say about coming of age, and though none of them are entirely novel, she wisely avoids one-sided arguments. Yes, the five 12-year-olds ultimately blame their selfish, negligent parents for their own fucked-up-edness, although the film’s heroine Sam, (Sadie Seelert) chooses to reject her loving and protective mother in favor of the attention of her new school’s mean girl circle.

Subkoff’s film is at its best when it drops you into the undercooked logic of a child.

“Nothing is mean if you laugh,” explains a genuinely earnest and confused Cat (Haley Murphy). And that’s really the point of the film: kids are stupid, parents are blind, the world offers more immediate and accessible dangers than ever before, and that time between childhood and adulthood is a haze of misunderstood circumstances and unavoidable selfishness.

Chloe Sevigny and Timothy Hutton are over-the-top wonders, both horrifying yet wonderful in their own way, but Subkoff’s real victory is her ability to capture, with the help of a game pre-adolescent cast, the combination of cynicism and playfulness that marks these particular girls’ youth.

The horror story is a tad thin – derivative, even – but what Subkoff, her visual panache and her cast manage to do with it keeps you intrigued and guessing for the full 90 minute run.

Verdict-3-5-Stars

Read Hope’s interview with director Tara Subkoff HERE.