It’s no secret that both Jim and I love movies and love going to see movies in the theatre. However, since moving to France, we have only seen two films in the theatre: Neon Demon and Comancheria/Hell or High Water.
We saw Neon Demon pretty soon after it was released (probably early July). For those of you unfamiliar, it’s from the same Director of Drive and Only God Forgives and was met with some interesting/mixed reviews at the Cannes Film Festival this summer. Suffice it to say, it’s not light entertainment (some heavy & atypical themes) but if you’ve seen any of his other films, it won’t really surprise or shock you (too much/as much). The film was in VOST, which means it’s Version Original with French subtitles. The theatre was small (reminded me a little of the Roxy in Philadelphia and the Dobie in Austin, when it still existed) and we shared the room with maybe 20 other patrons. We weren’t 100 percent sure what to expect, but I will say nearly everyone in his/her seat was audibly shocked / disturbed. I recall commenting to Jim that I don’t think I’ve ever left such a silent theatre. I think one of the most surprising roles went to Keanu Reeves…it’s not often he plays a total creep. Can’t say I recommend this film to the casual movie watcher, but if you like dark thrillers and don’t mind some unconventional themes or are a fan of Nicolas Winding Refn it could be for you.
I can, however, recommend Hell or High Water to anyone/everyone who is reading this blog. Go see this movie right now. It might even be the best movie I’ve seen in a theatre in years. Critics are giving it a 98%, audiences 90% on Rotten Tomatoes, and Victoria & Jim give it two very enthusiastic thumbs up. What made it stand out?
It’s a tried and true modern western. Complete with cowboys, Indians, cops, and robbers. It also feels more like a character study or a snapshot of the 2010s in America, which is refreshing when compared to all the big-budget blockbusters that have been in theatres lately. You grow to love all the characters, but find yourself sympathizing and even rooting for the robbers who are also a little bit cowboy and a little bit renegade full of grit, soul, and charisma. It’s a poetic tale with top-notch storytelling and a talented cast, including West Texas.
The Screenplay – it’s from Taylor Sheridan, who most recently wrote Sicario and (fun fact) also played the deputy on Sons of Anarchy (!). Personally, I wasn’t a fan of the storytelling in Sicario – I thought it was just phenomenally shot (that music should’ve won an award if it didn’t), but he’s really changed things up with this one as the story is spot-on. Essentially, it’s two brothers who decide to start robbing banks who have essentially robbed them for years.
The actors – Jeff Bridges, Ben Foster, Chris Pine, and Gil Birmingham are all phenomenal. I cannot think of anyone who would be better in any of the roles. Jeff Bridges is really settling into his Texas/western character (think True Grit, Crazy Heart) while Ben Foster hasn’t been this great (though I’d argue he’s been in some really great films lately) since 3:10 to Yuma. I’m not as familiar with Chris Pine (almost all of his movies feel forgettable), which maybe made his portrayal seem even better. He seemed unexpected and great. Grit works on him. And then there’s Gil Birmingham. He was the perfect addition to Jeff Bridges to really round out the main characters.
I won’t go too deep into what happens (I don’t want to spoil it for anyone who wants to watch), but I left the theatre interested in rewatching all of these films: 3:10 to Yuma, There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, and True Grit. Unfortunately, I think There Will be Blood is the only one available on HBO Now or Netflix. Due time, I guess.
If you make your way out to the theatre, let me know what you think. I’d love to discuss…