The dreamy Jake Gyllenhaal is doing a little dreaming of his own, his head resting against the glass as he rides a commuter train into Chicago, one seemingly random morning. This is the onset of THE SOURCE CODE and when he wakes up, it is pretty clear to everyone around him that something is just not right. Just like his fellow commuters though, Gyllenhaal has no idea what exactly it is that isn’t right. You can tell from the look on his face that he feels like he has been on this train before. It isn’t until he looks in a mirror that he questions whether he is even on the train at all. And it all just blows up after that.
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
“I actually grew up close to the factory,” Cole tells me when we meet at the Toronto International Film Festival, where MADE IN DAGENHAM had its world premiere. “I was aware of the factory; I had never heard the story though.” The story Cole is referring to is the little strike that changed the world. When the Dagenham Ford plant women decided to strike, it was because their seamstress positions had been downgraded to unskilled worker status.Before long though, it became apparent to them that there was a much bigger battle to be had – the one for equal pay for women.
Their efforts would go on to change the world so how can their story be so obscure? If you’ve never heard it before, you needn’t worry; you’re not the only one. “When the producers came to me, I thought, ‘How could I not know this?’” And Cole actually went to school with other kids whose parents worked at the factory! “It was a really good reason to make the film. This is a story that people should learn.”
Cole tells this historical tale by honouring the facts and fictionalizing the home lives of the women involved. The strikers are led by Rita O’Grady, played by the luminescent, Sally Hawkins. Hawkins was first on board, even before Cole. “I was approached with a rough draft and Sally Hawkins and that was enough for me,” he says. “If it was just Sally I probably still would have signed up.” Rita, a reluctant leader at first, struggles to maintain her newfound duties as the leader of a major movement and her responsibilities to her family.
By taking us into their homes, Cole allows us to see how their struggle was hardly just on the picket lines. “The domestic stories are often inspired by many of the women who were there and are still alive now,” Cole tells me, as portraying them fairly and respectfully was a priority for him. “The structure of the story, how the strike developed, how Ford dealt with it, how the women dealt with it, how the politicians of the day were drawn in by it, is all exactly as it happened.” The perfect balance Cole strikes is one of the things that makes MADE IN DAGENHAM both enlightening and moving.
MADE IN DAGENHAM is Cole’s fifth film as a director, having gotten his start with the British indie successes, SAVING GRACE and CALENDAR GIRLS, films where the underdogs must defeat bigger establishments. “I’m always drawn to David and Goliath stories,” Cole declares proudly. That said, he has no interest in preaching to the converted. No, like every filmmaker out there, Cole wants as wide an audience as possible to see his work and here’s why. “There is no point in making films about social issues that are only seen by middle class liberals. I want to draw in a wide audience and maybe give them something to enjoy but where they actually learn something.”
Another characteristic that seems to be central to all of Cole’s work is its distinctly female voice. Yes, there is a heterosexual male behind the camera but the stories Cole tells are those that resonate more with the ladies. It’s nothing personal against the fellas. “Traditionally, men’s films are about things I’m not particularly interested in,” he says, an opinion I share. “I don’t relish the thought of shooting things or killing or torturing. There are plenty of male directors who do and I should just leave it to them.”
No, Cole sees himself a little differently. “I’m more of a girly man,” he jokes. “Women have a big effect on me in my life. I’m fascinated by them, that’s for sure.” And so Cole truly is a modern man, one in touch enough with his feminine side to not only champion their history on film but to actually get it right.
From a film critic’s perspective, I can genuinely say Cole did get it right. MADE IN DAGENHAM will delight all who see it, even the men who naturally assume they won’t.There’s only one way to know for certain whether Cole got it really right or not though and that would be to ask the women involved in the actual strike what they thought of the film. “I’m thrilled to tell you they loved it,” Cole exclaims, pride beaming from his face. “Its scary stuff because if they didn’t, it would be bad for the movie and bad for me to be able to sleep nights.They thought we caught the spirit of excitement they felt, the fun they had. They were glad we made it look like fun because they said it was.”
And so is the film. Equal fun for all!
Sunday, March 27, 2011
Thomas McCarthy’s latest film, WIN WIN, is a little movie about regular people in a small town. McCarthy is no stranger to championing the stories of the every man (perhaps best exemplified in his last film, THE VISITOR) and this time out, he has the most regular of the bunch at the helm. Paul Giamatti is Mike Flaherty, a local New Jersey lawyer struggling to make ends meet, who also works as a high school wrestling coach in an attempt to hold on to his youth. His situation seems to be getting increasingly dire despite his best efforts to turn things around and McCarthy makes it his mission to take the tiny eccentricities that make up Mike’s daily routine and turn them into humorous foibles that are supposed to make his plight more endearing and relatable. Unfortunately, in doing so, he also makes everything feel far less authentic than it needs to be.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
The first thought I had when I saw that Matthew McConaughey was starring in Brad Furman’s THE LINCOLN LAWYER, a modern day dissection of just how far the legal system’s corruption reaches, was how could he not be sick and tired of playing lawyers at this point in his career.
McConaughey’s first big break was in Richard Linklater’s DAZED AND CONFUSED, but he was propelled into the stratosphere of stardom that we know him from, when he starred as Jake Briggance, a fresh, Southern lawyer taking a crack at his first big case in Joel Schumacher’s A TIME TO KILL. Clearly, he was pretty memorable for me as Briggance because it turns out he hasn’t set foot in a courtroom since – well, he hasn’t set foot on a courtroom set since then anyway. And here I was thinking that all the man ever played was lawyers. Fortunately, I did a little research before meeting him.
One of McConaughey’s favorite things to talk about? THE LINCOLN LAWYER. “When people like it, I can tell,” the veteran junket junkie proclaims. “And people are enjoying this film so there is stuff to talk about.” McConaughey plays Mick Haller, a recurring character in a series of legal novels written by Michael Connelly, a character he describes as both a “bottom feeder” and an “idealist”. Mick is a defense lawyer who defends whoever can pay him the highest price at the end of the day. He knows every loop and every hole to get around anything the system throws at him. It’s certainly a far cry from the greenery of Jake Briggance (pictured below).
The world McConaughey is referring to is one of mistrust and questionable scruples, disguised as the almighty justice system. Mick is set to defend Louis Roulet (Ryan Phillipe), a hotshot realtor who has been accused of attempted rape and battery on a known prostitute. When it becomes apparent that Louis’s innocence may not be so clear cut, every facet of Mick’s life, from his relationship with his ex-wife (Marisa Tomei) to his work on previous cases, begins to fall apart.
“He’s juggling a lot of things; it’s a bit vaudeville,” McConaughey quips. “They can’t just all land at once.” If it didn’t appear as though they all would land at the same time though, it just wouldn’t make for very good drama, now would it?
To further throw off Mick’s balance, he learns that a man he once defended (Michael Pena) was wrongly convicted. He can’t prove it though without breaking the rules he is bound to as a lawyer and this conflict makes his circus act much trickier to uphold. “I was intrigued by this box he is in,” the box being metaphoric, of course. McConaughey continues, “What happens if you found out today that you put, not allowed, but put an innocent man in jail? I can’t imagine a worse nightmare.”
“I’ve got enough going on that I don’t need any other ‘new stimulus’,” he says cheekily, complete with air quotes. “When I’m on a film and I’m working, it’s work. I go home after and I have a structured lifestyle. Even if that's the watching the game on television.” His family even travels with him on junkets now.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Sunday, March 13, 2011
A young lady with a stern, hard look on her face leaves a large stately manor. She makes her way into the rain-soaked fields that stretch on as far as she can see. Soon, she can no longer hold back her tears and they stream down her cheeks while she forges ahead toward an unknown destination, an undetermined future On the surface, the introduction to Cary Fukunaga’s second feature, and first major production, JANE EYRE, based on the Charlotte Bronte classic, can come off as dramatic, even overly so. Fortunately for him though, the woman walking this mile in Jane Eyre’s shoes is Mia Wasikowska and it is clear from one look at her that if anyone possesses the resolve to bear the burden of Eyre’s hardships, she does.
There is a particular brand of period piece that always seems to feature women who just don’t fit into the molds society expects they should. Jane Eyre, taken in as a child by her aunt (Sally Hawkins) after her parents passed, has never been looked upon as though she matters. She has always been plain in the face and difficult to control, which renders her somewhat useless, as the only purpose a woman held at the time was to be married off. An uncontrollable tongue needs at least be camouflaged by a pretty face to make it worth the trouble. She grows up surrounded by attempts to make her conform but emerges from the torture triumphant when she pursues a position as a tutor to a young girl who comes from reasonable means. While she continues to be reminded of her place in her new surroundings, she also finds herself the object of affection of the master of the house, Mister Edward Rochester (the strapping, sturdy Michael Fassbender). No one has ever loved her before and suddenly her years of abuse endured show their far reaching ramifications.
Fukunaga entered the world film scene with his brilliant immigration drama, SIN NOMBRE (click for review) in 2009. His eye for understated beauty and sensitivity shown to character in that film are put to great use in JANE EYRE. Like his heroine, the sets and costumes are all spectacular but matted as not to overwhelm. Instead, they are further appreciated for their restraint and delicacy and the same can be said of the entire cast, led by another surprisingly potent performance by Wasikowska. She plays Eyre with so many layers that even she seems unaware of them all at times. She claims to have no tale of woe when asked what hardships she has had to suffer through and her determination to carry on despite everything she’s known is certainly commendable. However, as strong a woman as she is, she cannot escape unscathed, forcing her to learn that love for one’s self is a challenge that is always ongoing. As for allowing one’s self to be loved by another, that takes a strength we may not even know we have and this is what JANE EYRE embodies.