A luxury yacht cruise goes horribly wrong.
Directed by Ruben Ostlund
Starring Harris Dickinson, Dolly de Leon, and Woody Harrelson
Review by Jon Kissel
The film that put Swedish director Ruben Ostlund on a global stage was Force Majeure, a satirical drama about what the members of a family should expect from a father and one of the best films of the 2010’s. When it came time for an American remake in 2020, the totally fine Downhill was made starring Will Ferrell and Julia Louise Dreyfuss, but it shaved about 40 minutes from the story, miscast Ferrell, and lost most of its nuance. That is often the first thing to go when films get translated from abroad for American audiences. For Ostlund’s English language debut, Triangle of Sadness, the acid-tipped director reveals what he thinks about the USA, which is that we need things spelled out for us. If we’re behind, we can be entertained with a lot of vomit and diarrhea. Revisiting the eat-the-rich trend that Ostlund was an early adopter of with previous film The Square, Triangle of Sadness provides an intro level course on class consciousness, wallowing in shit amidst a handful of strong performances and setpieces.
In the time before Walk Hard, when everyone wasn’t wise to the tropes and rhythms of the musician biopic and they came out at a slower clip than they do today, What’s Love Got To Do With It experienced critical and commercial acclaim by turning one of the most energetic singers and performers into a terrified victim of spousal abuse. Tina Turner’s career can be divided into the half that she spent with her cruel husband Ike, a brief interregnum where she struggled to feed her children after divorcing Ike in a one-sided settlement, and the half that she toured the globe, selling out arenas and starring in movies opposite Mel Gibson. Brian Gibson’s film focuses entirely on the first half, a choice that doesn’t bury the film but does make the viewer consider alternatives. A good biopic is the kind that doesn’t take its subject from cradle to grave, and What’s Love Got To Do It finds a tidy arc in the portion of Turner’s life it covers.
Of all the reasons Black Panther became such a dominant culture force, Afro-futurism played an important part. So much of Western life for a person of African descent is a reminder that only a handful of generations ago, one’s ancestors were enslaved or, in even more recent memory, were crushed under the boot of European colonialism. Envisioning a Black empire that’s strong and vibrant lets the viewer live in the counter-factual for a couple hours, where there’s a place untouched by imperialism and bursting with pride at its own world-beating accomplishments. The Woman King doesn’t have cutting-edge technology courtesy of a unique mineral deposit, but Gina Prince-Bythewood’s historical epic does bring viewers to a period of African autonomy when small kingdoms on the Atlantic coast vied for territory and power. In one of these kingdoms, Prince-Bythewood uses an army of female warriors to tell her story of self-determination and vision. The Woman King takes the very American tradition of hagiographic cinematic history and gives it to someone else. It might not be strictly accurate, but what is? The Woman King’s greatest value comes from its locating of grand historical arcs in new places, where the story of Dahomey, like all civilizations, is pulled between its opportunities fulfilled and overlooked.
Gina Prince-Blythewood’s directorial debut, Love and Basketball, puts her alongside other talented female directors like Lynne Ramsay, Debra Granik, and Dee Rees whose output is unjustly sparse. Prince-Blythewood’s quick first step should’ve earned her as much work as she wanted, but instead, she’s only directed four other movies in the intervening twenty-three years. Her first film knows a thing or two about struggling for a thing and not getting it, whether that be a career in professional sports or a relationship with a childhood sweetheart. Love and Basketball’s excellent grasp of its characters and their interplay is potent enough to power half a dozen films. Packed into one complete package, it makes for a fantastic experience.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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