Hey, even critics are supposed to have sort of a life, and I'm doing my best to so too, so here's are a few shorter reviews of films I've seen recently.
Rated R, 99 minutes
In French with English subtitles
"Raw" is a provocative, engaging and lurid French film about cannibalism that would make Hannibal Lecter very happy. Lifelong vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier) arrives at veterinary school to start college, but a hazing ritual involving the consumption of rabbit kidneys at the urging of her upperclassman sister, Alexia (Ella Rumpf) reveals a previously unknown desire for raw human flesh.
Directed and written by Julia Ducournau in her debut feature film, "Raw" is definitely and understandably not a film for everyone, given it's highly charged, divisive subject matter. It's as bloody as you might expect, but also very thought-provoking and symbolic: Justine's desire for human flesh is a substitute for her inability to have decent human relationships. It also creates one of the most unique sibling rivalries in cinematic history, as the two girls try to one up each other - with eating human flesh, that is.
Not the faint of heart (I had trouble with a few scenes myself, and had to close my eyes), "Raw" is a thoughtful exploration on human relationships, and not just eating each other. It's also an auspicious debut for French filmmaker Ducornau, who will be one to watch after this.
Rated R, 101 minutes
Wes's Grade: C+
Neurotic, quirky indie dramedies are a dime a dozen these days, and the new indie dramedy "Wilson," based on the engaging Daniel Clowes graphic novels of the same name, wears its quirkiness on its sleeve like a badge of honor. With a great cast and a few genuinely funny moments, the uneven film tries to model itself after Larry David's much more likable "Curb Your Enthusiasm" with more unpleasant results here (even that show's Cheryl Hines appears briefly here, barely recognizable).
A lonely, neurotic and hilariously honest middle-aged man (Woody Harrelson) reunites with his estranged wife (Laura Dern) and meets his teenage daughter (Isabella Amara) for the first time.
Directed by "The Skeleton Twins" Craig Johnson and a script by Clowes, "Wilson" is a charming film that plays to its unfiltered leading character, but Clowes' script tends to meander without accomplishing much, even when Wilson goes on the hunt for his ex-wife and long-lost daughter. It helps that his ex-wife is played by the lovely Dern, who's excellent here, and his daughter is played by affecting newcomer Amara, who'll be seen in the upcoming "Spider-Man" film.
Though Harrelson is an inspired choice as the grumpy Wilson, I felt a little disconnected by it all, and tonally it felt way too familiar with many other independent films such as 2001's "Ghost World." It's not horrible, but I expected more from "Wilson" and considering its cast and crew, is a mild disappointment.
The Sense of An Ending
Rated PG-13, 108 minutes
Wes's Grade: B-
The distinctly new British drama "The Sense of An Ending" is a compelling, well-acted reminder of how our memories fade as we grow older, how we make bad things that happened to us years ago much worse and good things often a lot better than they really were. Based on the novel of the same name by Julian Barnes, it's a thoughtful look at how we frame events in our lives as we age.
A business owner named Tony (Jim Broadbent) reunites with his first love Veronica (Charlotte Rampling) after a letter and a diary force him to confront some secrets of his past.
Directed by "The Lunchbox's" Ritesh Batra with a script by British playwright Nick Barnes, the slow-moving but powerful British character study "The Sense of An Ending" is thoughtfully executed by Batra and superbly acted by Oscar-winner Broadbent (also of the "Harry Potter" series), as the self-centered and opinionated older version of Tony (the younger played by Billy Howle, who reminds of a much-younger Eddie Redmayne), who struggles to piece together the events of his past.
Director Batra handles the material well, especially the extensive flashbacks, which can be tricky, very well here, given that they're entirely necessary to putting together the pieces of the film. Oscar-nominee Rampling is also solid in a brief role as the older Veronica; "Downton Abbey's" Michelle Dockery and character actress Emily Mortimer also appear briefly, but it's Broadbent who grounds the film so believeably in a poignant turn.
There are also some moments of warm humor, especially as Tony tells much of it to his lawyer ex-wife Margaret (Harriet Walter), and their interplay adds some lighter texture to its serious tone. "The Sense of An Ending" is one of those low-key, underrated films that'll slip by you without noticing, so I recommend you put this on your list to see.