Tag Archives: Molly Parker

Pieces of a Woman (2020) Review

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Pieces of a Woman

Time: 128 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Sex scenes, offensive language & nudity
Cast:
Vanessa Kirby as Martha Weiss
Shia LaBeouf as Sean Carson
Ellen Burstyn as Elizabeth Weiss
Molly Parker as Eva Woodward
Sarah Snook as Suzanne
Iliza Shlesinger as Anita Weiss
Benny Safdie as Chris
Jimmie Fails as Max
Director: Kornél Mundruczó

Martha (Vanessa Kirby) and Sean (Shia LaBeouf) are a Boston couple on the verge of parenthood whose lives change irrevocably when a home birth ends in unimaginable tragedy. Thus begins a yearlong odyssey for Martha, who must navigate her grief while working through fractious relationships with her husband and her domineering mother (Ellen Burstyn), along with the publicly vilified midwife, whom she must face in court. A deeply personal, searing, and ultimately transcendent story of a woman learning to live alongside her loss.

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I heard about Pieces of a Woman mainly with regards to awards hype, especially with the lead performance from Vanessa Kirby. I wasn’t really expecting much from the movie beyond that aside from some positive reactions, and that it was being released on Netflix. Pieces of a Woman is a solid enough movie. It definitely could’ve been a lot better, but there’s enough here to make it worth checking out.

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The first act is quite intense as it portraying a childbirth, and everything from the acting to the directing is outstanding in this. It’s by far the most talked about moment in the whole movie and is probably what the film would be largely known for. The movie peaks early with its 20 minute long take of childbirth, however this moment was essential to really put the audience through it and understand the depth of trauma and grief that goes on. So it was kind of inevitable that the rest of the movie wouldn’t reach those heights again, nonetheless I feel like it could’ve been a little better. The rest of the movie is about the after effects and the grief that follows that first act, it’s really a movie that you’re gonna want to watch only once, as it isn’t easy to watch. The movie has a lot of loud bombastic moments of shouting and crying, as well as monologues that not only makes the film feel overdramtised and awards baity, it feels rather hollow and doesn’t have much impact. Also, the film is very predictable, you have a good idea of where it is going, not that it’s the main issue. It’s just that the story and premise aren’t approached in a very interesting way. It could’ve explored much of the relationships between characters but it doesn’t really. The film is seemingly more of a character study centred on the lead character of Martha but it’s somewhat distant from her, so it’s in a bit of an odd spot for the narrative. I really wish the film focused more on the lead character’s individuality and really allowed her to fully explore its themes of loss and grief. For a story that is trying to be intimate, it didn’t feel intimate. Outside of Martha, there are some forgettable characterisations. I have heard some people take issue with some of the odd decisions made by the characters, but they didn’t read to me as tone-deaf or bizarre. They felt completely to real life, it’s just that the characters themselves aren’t particularly well developed or defined. Storywise it does become drawn out, and it doesn’t pick up steam until a little later in the second act. I will say that it did conclude well with the third act and the ending. I wish the middle chunk of the movie was on the same level as its beginning and ending.

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While the acting from everyone is good, this is really Vanessa Kirby’s film, and she’s outstanding in the lead role. I think that Kirby should’ve been given more moments to shine, but she nonetheless gives perhaps one of the most evocative and resonant performance of the past year. She seems to be the only character written with layers because her delivery conveys a lot of the emotions and suffering that she’s going through with a lot of nuance, where everyone else is a surface-level understanding of grief. That’s particularly impressive considering that the character is written in quite a distant way. The rest of the supporting cast are good, including Sarah Snook and Benny Safdie. Ellen Burstyn is great, she is in a somewhat one note role as Martha’s mother, but is able to deliver some powerful moments and fills the story out with her performance and definitely makes up for it.

PIECES OF A WOMAN: (L to R) Vanessa Kirby as Martha, Ellen Burstyn as Elizabeth

The movie is directed by Kornél Mundruczó and I think he did a good job. It’s a tightly directed and shot film, with vital visual elements and compositions, I liked the look of the movie overall. In fact, some aspects of the direction and the editing seem to be more effective with visual moments than some of the actual writing. The long takes are particularly great, especially for the childbirth sequence in the first act. Now looking at that whole scene, it’s pretty clear that not all of it was in one shot as there are some things that happen that would be impossible to do in one complete take. With that said, most of it looks like it was in one shot, and that in itself is impressive.

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Pieces of a Woman is a good movie with great elements but also isn’t as good as it could’ve been. The attempt to look at grief is admirable, but doesn’t explore it well enough. The subject matter and the tone already make it somewhat hard to watch but it’s also hard to be invested when the approach to it isn’t particularly engaging, especially with the writing. With that said, it’s directed well, and some impressive scenes and great acting, especially a fantastic Vanessa Kirby, whose performance alone makes Pieces of a Woman worth watching.

The Wicker Man (2006) Review

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The Wicker Man (2006)

Time: 102 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Nicolas Cage as Edward Malus
Ellen Burstyn as Sister Summersisle
Kate Beahan as Sister Willow Woodward
Leelee Sobieski as Sister Honey
Frances Conroy as Dr. T.H. Moss
Molly Parker as Sister Rose/Sister Thorn
Diane Delano as Sister Beech
Director: Neil LaBute

Police officer Edward Malus (Nicolas Cage) reaches a private island to help his ex-fiancee (Kate Beahan) find her missing girl. The community she lives in follows an odd cult and he must locate the girl before she is killed in the name of sacrifice.

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I’ve been meaning to watch The Wicker Man remake for some time. The original starring Christopher Lee was actually quite good, and worth watching for those who like horror movies. The remake however is generally regarded as hilariously bad, even by horror remake standards, and is particularly known for Nicolas Cage going crazy (and that’s saying a lot). For the record I went in expecting the worst, and the remake certainly lived up to all the talk. It is astoundingly bad, yet as that made for an entertaining movie to watch, at least for me.

THE WICKER MAN, 2006, © Warner Bros. / Courtesy: Everett Collection

From the very beginning you can tell that something is off about this movie. It starts with a brief scene with Nicolas Cage as a cop seeing a truck crash into a car and failing to get the people inside out before it explodes. That opening moment of the truck crash is referenced quite a bit however in both dreams and even random jumpscares. I get that Cage’s character is supposed to be haunted by that moment but there is no resolution for it, and doesn’t connect to the main story in any way outside of both that and his current investigation somewhat involving fire. There is no reason for it to be here. It doesn’t get any better from there. The writing is quite bad. The most significant change over the original is that instead of it being about Paganism vs Catholicism, it’s men vs women here, which isn’t particularly scary or disturbing. If director Neil LaBute really wanted to stick with this concept, then it would have to be a satire or actually say something about gender politics (mishandled or not). However nothing is really said, it’s just an island of all women who perform rituals, men only exist on the island as workers and are used for reproduction, and that’s the extent of it all. I have no idea what Neil LaBute was trying to do with this, because once again this concept isn’t scary in the slightest. It becomes more funny more than anything, which would be fine if it was intentional. Speaking of horror, the attempts at being scary are laughable. Scare scenes aside, it fails to build a creepy or tense atmosphere. The dialogue is quite unnatural, and none of the characters feel normal or real here, and this is even before we get onto the island of the pagan people.

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There are plenty of inconsistencies in the plot that you can pick at endlessly. For one, this movie primarily takes place on a secluded island with no technology or phone reception whatsoever, yet somehow they have a website that Cage looks up early on, that’s just one thing that’s out of place. However most important of all, once you know what’s going on and everything is revealed, it’s just doesn’t make sense. Without spoiling anything, if certain characters were smart enough, this plot would’ve been only 30 minutes long. There’s an endless amount of funny moments throughout the movie, all involving Nicolas Cage. Cage forcing someone off a bike at gunpoint, he dresses up as a bear and punching someone in the face, him screaming wanting to know how a doll got burnt, Cage getting angry in general, the list goes on. Then of course comes a certain infamous moment involving Cage and bees towards the end of the movie, which is actually a deleted scene only seen on the special edition. While I expected those moments, I was also entertained by how weird and questionable many of the writing and directing choices were.

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Nicolas Cage really is the star of the show, and as weird as much of the movie is, it wouldn’t have been even nearly as entertaining without him. His character isn’t really strange or crazy, it’s a rather typical and generic horror movie protagonist if anything, but the writing and dialogue mixed with Cage’s acting style just made it come across as bizarrely hilarious to watch. His highlight moments is when his character is just frustrated in the third act of the movie, he goes absolutely nuts and it is absolutely glorious. The rest of the cast are there but aren’t all that good. Somehow they managed to get Ellen Burstyn to play the pagan leader, and really they could’ve cast anyone in that role.

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Neil LaBute is the director of this movie, and his work in this movie isn’t that good. Apparently LaBute has made some decent movies, but you wouldn’t know this from watching his take on the Wicker Man. It’s not scary in the slightest, from the attempts at being unsettling, to the jumpscares. There are three jumpscares through the use of trucks alone. I know that bees are meant to be like a big thing for this island of cultists and is meant to be creepy, but it’s not scary in the slightest. In terms of positive things, I guess the production design is alright.

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2006’s The Wicker Man is really bad on pretty much all fronts, although if you’ve even heard of this movie you already know that from its reputation alone. If you are looking for a legitimately good horror movie about a cult and was hoping for that in this movie, skip it and go with the 70s original. If you like so-bad-it’s-good movies and/or you like seeing Nicolas Cage act over the top, this is definitely for you and you should definitely check it out.