Tag Archives: noir drama

She Seems Nice


by George Wolf

You need an “easy on the eyes” vamp for your nourish thriller? Anne Hathaway’s on your short list, for sure.

Soft-spoken, sheltered waif with eyes that long for a new life? Get me Thomasin McKenzie!

The casting in Eileen may be no surprise, but there are big surprises in store. And the way the two leads slowly draw their characters toward a deadly intersection keeps William Oldroyd’s second feature engaging throughout.

McKenzie is the put-upon Eileen, who quietly spends her days fantasizing about sex and violence and stashing away all the money she makes doing secretarial work at a boys correction facility in early 1960s Massachusetts. Eileen is also the daughter of the town’s former police chief (Shea Whigham), currently a paranoid, drunk widower with a penchant for verbal abuse and gun waving.

Eileen’s world is rocked when the facility’s staff psychologist retires, and Rebecca (Anne Hathaway) shows up to replace her. Tall, Ivy League-schooled with a sarcastic wit and a smoldering sensuality, Rebecca stands out plenty in the little New England ‘burg.

They meet for a couple drinks at the local bar and hit the dance floor while Rebecca belittles the leering regulars. Eileen is transfixed.

So she jumps at the invitation to visit over the holiday break, where Rebecca (and screenwriter Luke Goebel, Causeway) have a big bomb to drop.

Adapted from Ottessa Mosfegh’s award-winning 2015 novel, the film is a slow boil that leans on mood and atmospherics to lull you, even as you feel the creep of dread.

Both Hathaway and McKenzie are perfection, consistently smoothing the bumps when Oldroyd (Lady Macbeth) seems a bit hesitant to fully embrace the story’s pulpy underbelly. He and Goebel also tweak the novel’s ending, leaving the resolution more open-ended and abstract.

Fans of the book may feel slighted, but Eileen lands on the big screen as its own slippery shape shifter, a simmering throwback with just enough thrills to satisfy.

Clothes Make the Man

The Outfit

by George Wolf

The opening minutes of The Outfit give us a master tailor named Leonard (Mark Rylance) describing his process. We see him measuring fabric, cutting and sewing while he outlines his skill in sizing up customers to give them what they most deserve.

Wait..is he still talking about suits?

Maybe, maybe not.

The setting is Chicago in 1956, where Leonard and his dreaming-of-a-better-life secretary Mable (Zoey Deutch) conduct business while local mobsters use Leonard’s shop to retrieve messages from a nationwide crime syndicate known as the Outfit.

One night after a shootout with a rival mob, gangsters Richie (Dylan O’Brien) and Francis (Johnny Flynn) barge into the shop in need of help and refuge. Richie, the son of local boss Roy (Simon Russel Beale) has been shot, and soon most everyone involved will have to fight to survive the long night.

Oscar-winning screenwriter Graham Moore (The Imitation Game) adds directing duties this time as well, for a nifty big screen debut that often homages early Kubrick and classic Hitchcock.

Essentially a two-room chamber piece, the film leans on a terrific ensemble to roll out a steady stream of delicious twists, relishing the nimble noir wordplay and skillfully keeping Moore’s sleight-of-hand from tipping its hand too early.

Fellow Oscar-winner Rylance (Bridge of Spies) is the perfect choice to bring Leonard to life, displaying a seemingly casual excellence right in line with who Leonard seems to be. Will underestimating the quiet shopkeeper prove to be a deadly mistake? Or is it Leonard who will learn a painful lesson tonight?

Rylance peels back the layers slowly, and Moore has good instincts for the pacing that allows for maximum fun. Deutch proves again that she’s a natural, making the most of a more limited role that still boasts an impressive ratio of secrets-to-screen time.

Despite getting a little too cute for the room come finale time, The Outfit is a solid directing debut for an acclaimed screenwriter. And while you can’t help feeling that this salute to the brainy introvert may be a personal one for Moore, it’s artful and engaging enough to rope in anyone who loves untangling a well-fitted suit of clues.