Reviews of Battle of the Sexes, Downsizing, and – finally – The Last Jedi.
FILM | Battle of the Sexes (2017)
An absolutely timely, entertaining but punchy sports film focusing on sexism in pro-tennis, Battle of the Sexes was one of my surprise favorites of 2017. Written by Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours), directed by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris (Little Miss Sunshine), and shot by Linus Sandgren (American Hustle, La La Land), this feminism-and-sports drama packs so much talent that both Emma Stone’s and Steve Carell’s more than noteworthy (and sadly unacknowledged) performances are only a part of the package. While the narration lacks a bit in focus at times, the movie manages to bring home its point without creating new stereotypes or demonizing men, making it a pretty balanced contribution to the discussions we’re all currently having. (4/5)
FILM | Downsizing (2017)
There is a good movie, hidden away somewhere in Downsizing. There’s probably even two or three good movies hidden away in there. But then, that’s also the problem: Alexander Payne’s screenplay simply wants to be and do too much: a bit of romance, a bit of science fiction; a bit of a plea for sustainability, a bit of (cosmetic?) social criticism… Above all, though, Downsizing can’t decide whether it wants to be a playful feel-good comedy (as the trailer seemed to suggest), or a serious drama. Either of the two would have been legitimate takes on the subject matter, either of them would – individually – also have made for engaging films. But together? Not so much. In the end, what remains are a few funny moments, Hong Chau’s great performance, and a little frown as to the direction Matt Damon’s career is taking. (2.5/5)
FILM | Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
I’ve had too much going on at the time to get too, too excited about the release of the new Star Wars film. (Or maybe a combination of age and franchise fatigue is slowly beginning to make itself felt.) Nor did I have the time to read much about what others were saying about it. As for me though, I really enjoyed The Last Jedi. Granted, it could have been a bit shorter (which, however, applies to every other blockbuster these days), and they could have gone a bit easier on the gratuitous humor—which, however, I realize would be expecting too much from a Disney movie. Other than that, though, The Last Jedi had pretty much everything that I expect from a Star Wars movie: strong characters (Rey is even greater here than in the previous instalment), conflicts that actually feel important and meaningful, exotic locations (space casino!), and a – mostly – captivating plot. Oh, and also Yoda. That Supreme Leader Snoke met such an early end was unexpected and made the character feel utterly unexplored. The fight in his quarters, on the other hand, has definitely entered on my list of the most memorable sequences in the Star Wars universe: fantastic timing, choreography and visuals. On a final note, it was difficult not to notice how hard this 2017 Star Wars film was trying to be as “diverse” as possible in the characters it introduced and focused on. While perhaps not a bad thing per se, the emphasis it placed on this seemed a bit forced at times—and, given the current political climate, a hint opportunistic, too. If you can live with that, The Last Jedi does a whole lot right in terms of cinematic entertainment, and is a worthy addition to the Star Wars universe. (4/5)