Tag Archives: Harry Melling

Hep Cats & Cool Kitties

Please Baby Please

by Rachel Willis

A great cast, phenomenal sets, tempestuous music, and spot-on costuming work together to bring life to director/co-writer Amanda Kramer’s film, Please Baby Please.

Together with co-writer Noel David Taylor, Kramer has the elements to craft a successful take on gender identity, sexual politics, and the fluidity of sexuality and gender expression.

But for all these strengths, it doesn’t quite work.

That’s not to say the film doesn’t have its moments. Andrea Riseborough, who plays Suze, is a powerhouse on screen. Her effortless portrayal of a stifled 1950s wife is a masterful balance between feminine sexuality and masculine anger. It’s her performance that really blurs the line on stereotypical gender roles.

Harry Melling (Dudley from the Harry Potter series) plays the less overt, meeker of the husband/wife duo, Arthur and Suze. He rails against the stereotype that to be a man he must have control – over his wife and the less tangible things that supposedly make a man a man.

When the couple runs across the gang known as the Young Gents, we start to see the dynamics of gender and sexuality and their precarious, yet significant, role in society.

While the Young Gents earn their place in the film, there are simply too many characters here. Aside from a couple, most don’t have much of a role to play. They appear on screen to represent the oppressive, toxic masculinity that pervades our culture, less character than caricature.

The film’s choreography is another element that doesn’t always work. A scene involving a split screen divides focus, and it’s hard to successfully take in both performances. Do you watch Arthur or Suze? Whose performance in this moment is more important to the film’s overall point?

There is a lot that can be said about our society’s views on gender and sexuality. Much can also be said about what has and hasn’t changed since the 1950s. Please Baby Please adds its messy but stylish take to the conversation.

Great Scot!

The Tragedy of Macbeth

by Hope Madden

Coen brother Joel delivers a vision that’s both decidedly theatrical and profoundly cinematic with his solo directorial effort, The Tragedy of Macbeth.

This film is gorgeous, in an almost Bergman manner. Hardly aesthetic for aesthetic’s sake, in true Coen fashion, every inch of screen is dedicated to a purpose. The square aspect ratio, off-kilter framing and specific use of black and white add to the film’s look of madness. Up is down, black is white, and the ground is always moving beneath your feet.

Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand play the Lord and his Lady and this, friends, is a dream team. Two of the most celebrated and talented actors of modern cinema square off. The veterans give the relationship a depth that tinges the eventual madness with grief.

Washington humanizes Macbeth with a turn full of pathos. And no soliloquy, no matter how well-worn by time and pop culture, feels stale in McDormand’s bloody hands. The adaptation and cast forego lust for something deeper and more tender, but that tradeoff does rob the film of some excitement. If there is a chink in Macbeth’s armor, it is the muted emotion of it.

A supporting cast including Brendan Gleeson, Bertie Carvel, Harry Melling, Stephen Root and Ralph Ineson impresses scene after scene. A slippery Alex Hassell is particularly memorable as Ross, but Corey Hawkins’s powerful turn as Macduff is the film’s biggest surprise.  

Let us pause a moment on the witches. The spectral sisters are played by Kathryn Hunter: spellbinding, contorted and unsettling. Her voice and image poison the beauty onscreen as they poison the mind of the Scot. The choice is inspired.

It’s not the only one. Coen’s writing — or editing, as he adapts the Bard – is precise and pointed. When is it not? Coen’s venture into Shakespeare, though it strips away the humor and quirk you may associate with Coen Brother filmmaking, stands as a strikingly Coen film. And that has never one time been a bad thing.