There are few actors that could captivate an audience for 90 minutes on screen by themselves, talking on the phone. The 2018 Danish film Den Skyldige (“The Guilty”) proved Jakob Cedergren to be one of those actors; Jake Gyllenhaal in the American remake is another.
The “one-man” movie technique is not a new concept. 2000’s “Cast Away” starring Tom Hanks proved this gimmick could work on a large scale.
We saw it happen again in modest concept thrillers like “Phone Booth” (2002), “127 Hours” (2010), “Buried” (2010) and “Locke” (2013), where the innovation of the director and the script kept the audience focused on the suspense and plot.
In “Gravity” (2013), auteur director Alfonso Cuarón had the foresight to change the one-man concept to one woman, mastering the use of the technique and nearly winning best picture that year.
I drag you through the modern history of this cinematic technique only to say that Antoine Fuqua’s retelling of the Danish film “The Guilty” lacks a real reason to exist beyond the fact it’s now in English. Sure, if you haven’t seen the original, or many of the films I listed above, it’s likely to impress.
You don’t have to look much farther than an episode of Angela Bassett’s TV Show “9-1-1,” to see the same plot play out. The most interesting addition in Fuqua’s rendition is the movie star voices on the other side of the phone, most of whom the “Training Day” director collaborated with in the past.
Netflix is the ideal home for a film like this.
Easily the most authentic and controversial film of the year, “Titane” is the Palme d’Or winner from the Cannes Film Festival. Writer and director Julia Ducournau has a knack for sending audience members watching her films to the hospital.
In fact, “Titane” and her previous film, “Raw,” resulted in paramedics being called at early screenings. Needless to say, this isn’t for the faint of heart.
The less you know about “Titane” the better. What I will offer is that it’s part horror film, part thriller and some science fiction. It’s the type of genre film that intentionally breaks molds, strives for new ground and would never be made in America.
“Titane” starts off at an intense pace, so much happening so quickly. The pace eventually settles as the plot hurdles toward something more bizarre than violence. Worried eyeballs dart across the screen as star of the film Agathe Rousselle shocks from one decision to another.
“Titane” is much more than “the film where the girl has sex with the car.” Ducournau knows exactly how to keep the film in a state of cringe-anxiety for its duration. The extreme situations, bodily fluids and nudity are equal parts revolting yet astonishing that she has created such a story that pushes so many boundaries.
It’s a wild ride, and certainly not a film for everyone.
NOT SO FUNNY
Melissa McCarthy’s new film “The Starling” opens with great music, the toe-tapping kind.
“The Starling,” directed by Theodore Melfi, whom McCarthy collaborated on “St. Vincent” with, starts off with some original material and teases us with a story that could have afforded the comedian star some much-needed dramatic relief.
Lilly (McCarthy) and Jack (Chris O’Dowd) have recently lost their newborn to sudden infant death syndrome. The couple, who reside in the rural farmland of upstate New York, are devastated to the point Jack enters a mental facility, while Lilly, employed at the local supermarket, carries her burden alone.
“Sometimes we push people away to see if they will come back,” Dr. Larry Fine (Kevin Kline) explains to Lilly. Fine isn’t her therapist or anyone’s therapist — he’s the local veterinarian who begins to give Lilly advice as she deals with an attack bird in her garden.
That’s where “The Starling” offers McCarthy the chance to insert her physical comedy and is where those of us hoping for something different realize this is just another comedy — only mixed with Lifetime channel themes.
The music that started our toes tapping in the beginning is being used now as a gimmick for a montage every few scenes. While “The Starling” has much to say about depression, loss of a child and varying coping mechanisms, all the seriousness is voided by McCarthy and the script’s choice to lean further into the comedy than necessary.
The Starling is playing on Netflix.
Final Thought: You’ll have to leave the house and head to the theater this weekend to find something original.