Tag Archives: Ben Mendelsohn

Adore (Adoration)

Ros and Lil are life-long best friends. They met as schoolgirls and have grown up on the coast of Australia. Now they are adults and their lives are still centred here on the stunning New South Wales coast. Lil (played by Naomi Watts) recently lost her husband and she is grieving deeply. Her teenage son, Ian (by Xavier Samuel) lives at the beach with her, so he is a welcome comfort. Ros (by Robin Wright) lives nearby and she’s married to Harold (by Ben Mendelsohn). Their son, Tom (by James Frecheville) is best mates with Ian and they’ve grown up here. Theirs is a very close extended family and they are all very happy in this idyllic location. Out of the blue, one day Harold decides to take his “job of a lifetime” in Sydney and the families prepare for their inevitable separation when Harold, Ros and Tom shortly relocate. Tom, now almost in his twenties, just can’t bring himself to leave the beachside lifestyle – Ros realises that she can’t either. In their shared desperation for a solution they each reach out to the other family – but in new ways. Ros finds a connection with young Ian, in a most passionate and emotional encounter. When Tom finds out by accident, in a childish pay-back he connects similarly with Lil. Trouble is … now they’ve started, none of them can stop. They all know it’s wrong, but their new bonds are passionate and deep. They must do what’s necessary and act to stop the relationships – but will the price be too high?

Without a doubt, the best thing about this movie is the stunning Australian coast. The cinematography by Christophe Beaucarne is wonderful and the area is clearly a paradise. However, apart from this, my opinion of the movie is rather uncharitable. I found the rest of the piece quite tedious and irritating. It’s not really the morality of the situation that gets to me, although it’s not ideal – it’s more the underlying principles by which these characters choose to live and the terrible movie production overall. The performances are all dreadful – Naomi Watts and Ben Mendelsohn should know better – particularly Mendelsohn. His portrayal of Harold is totally wooden, superficial and adds little depth to the story. As Lil, Naomi Watts is okay – she actually won a “Best Actress” award for this role.  She and Robin Wright as Ros have some difficult issues to deal with, but in my opinion they don’t present well. The teenage boys are driven by hormones, as expected, so they can be excused for not thinking with the brain inside their heads. However, I can’t forgive the two women for this behaviour – disappointingly, they both come off as selfish, self-indulgent and driven by physical need. Gary Sweet’s character, Saul, is supposed to be a bit of a hopeless misfit – so he does that well, but even he can’t save this movie. Other reviewers have raved over the whole movie, but not me, sorry.

The story is adapted from “The Grandmothers”, a short story by Doris Lessing.

Made in 2013. Directed by Anne Fontaine.

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Posted by on September 8, 2014 in Movies


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The Place Beyond the Pines

Luke (played by Ryan Gosling) is a bit of a wanderer – his only real talent is riding his motorcycle and he works as a performance stunt rider in a travelling carnival. After a two year absence, his show returns to Schenectady, New York. After a show one evening, he catches up with an old flame, Romina (by Eva Mendes). She is as beautiful as ever and just as he is about to leave town with the show once again, he discovers that since his last visit she’s secretly given birth to his son, now about 2 years old. He quits the show and decides to stay around town to be near his son. Romina has moved on in her life and she and new partner Kofi (by Mahershala Ali) are raising the baby, so there is no place for Luke with her. He’s desperate to provide for his son so he gets a low paying job at a car workshop run by Robin (by Ben Mendelsohn). Soon he wants to earn more to support his son, so Luke turns to crime – he starts to rob banks, carefully at first but then he takes risks for higher returns … but he makes mistakes. A stand-off with an ambitious young police officer, Avery Cross, (by Bradley Cooper) has life-changing consequences for Luke and his baby son. After the incident with Luke, Officer Cross’s profile is raised within the police force and he wants capitalize on this to progress his career, so he makes another significant decision that means things for both Avery’s family and Luke’s will never be quite the same again. Several years later, the actions of Luke and Avery on the day of the stand-off and then the ensuing actions of these families connected by events in history have further serious consequences for everyone involved.

This movie is well made and the story is compelling. The performances of Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes are strong – and Bradley Cooper does well here also. Also excellent is Ben Mendelson as Robin – a very realistic portrayal from him – well done. However, for me the drama loses much of its edge once the first part is over and the two characters of Luke and Avery are no longer the key protagonists in the drama. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but Ryan Gosling’s character primarily features in the first half of the movie – and here is where the strength really lies – Gosling’s fantastic screen presence is intense, his silence, facial expressions and movements are quite enough to display the emotions of his character through the drama. At a point, the story shifts towards Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper’s character) and where is where the drama loses its real edge. In some ways, this movie is trying to be too much – there are several features of the story that are only explored superficially – for example, Ray Liotta’s character is not used to its full potential, he could be a whole lot more than he is here. Also, Rose Byrne is a little redundant in her role as Avery Cross’s long-suffering wife. Because there is so much in this story, the movie is neither one thing nor the other – it fails in some ways as a movie because some dramatic options are not taken – it would perhaps have been better as a television mini-series, giving it the potential to draw more out of some characters and story lines. For me, the ending is a little weak. Overall though, it’s reasonably good.

Made in 2012. Directed by Derek Cianfrance

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Posted by on October 7, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Killing Them Softly

In New Orleans in 2008, amidst the economic hard times Markie Trattam (performed by Ray Liotta) runs a card game. He’s done it for years, but has lost a bit of street cred lately since he arranged a hold-up of his own game to pocket all the cash. Johnny Amato (by Vincent Curatola) decides he wants to turn over Markie’s game again and leave Markie squarely in the frame for it – a fool-proof plan! He hires two-bit crook Frankie (by Scoot McNairy) and his dodgy Aussie mate Russell (by Ben Mendelsohn) to do it. The job comes off okay and the boys are home free … but big boss, Dillon (by Sam Shepherd) smells a rat so he hires hit-man Jackie (by Brad Pitt) to sort it out and restore Dillon as top dog. Jackie, in turn, calls on out-of-towner Mikey (by James Gandolfini) to do the job anonymously, but Mikey isn’t the man he once was, so he’s unreliable. Jackie will need to do this himself, so he wants his full whack for the jobs and drives a hard bargain with Dillon’s man (by Richard Jenkins) to get a fair fee. Can Jackie sort this out without the cops crawling all over him?

This is an entertaining crime action thriller. The mood is sepia and dark as a result of the excellent cinematography – there’s no chaos but the violence is deliberate, just the way the characters play it. Brad Pitt owns his role as cool hit-man Jackie, who likes to carry out his hits by killing them “softly”. He wants all the loose ends tied up so his quietly spoken manner is deliberate and clear in its delivery. Mikey is a role that’s classic for James Gandolfini and he fits it like a glove … a cruel, cold-hearted crook with serious weaknesses and little self-awareness. Ray Liotta is strong as Markie and Richard Jenkins is as good as ever here too (in his usual understated way) as Dillon’s man. It’s peppered with great performances and a standout is Australian Ben Mendelson’s fabulous and authentic portrayal of drug-addled Russell – supported by marvellous camerawork, his scenes are great. The movie is based on the book “Cogan’s Trade” by George V. Higgins and was nominated for the coveted Palme d’Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival – no surprise there. If you enjoyed “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, “Get Shorty” or “Jackie Brown” you’ll like this one. Well done everyone.

Made in 2011. Directed by Andrew Dominik

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Posted by on June 23, 2013 in Movies


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Beautiful Kate

Ned Kendall (played by Ben Mendelsohn) is a country boy at heart, but he lives away from the family home and has done for a long time – to separate himself from his childhood and the harshness of his father, Bruce (by Bryan Brown). Bruce is now dying and on the request of his sister Sally (by Rachel Griffiths), Ned is back at the isolated property to visit him on his deathbed. Sally still lives at the homestead and she now cares for Bruce in these final, difficult days. Feeling unsure of the reception he’ll get, Ned brings his fiancé Toni (by Maeve Dermody) along for the visit too. As soon as he steps foot on home soil, Ned’s memories of his childhood flood back – particularly of his times with his twin sister Kate (by Sophie Lowe) and his brother Cliff (by Josh McFarlane). Their joys and adventures are still vivid in Ned’s mind … but then he starts to remember other, less palatable incidents that stir guilt deep inside him and uncover long buried realities about the family’s past.

This is a marvellous piece of cinema – the isolation of the homestead is reflected in the starkness of the production, but there is also a palpable beauty about the remote landscape. This balance is also seen in the portrayal of the family’s relationships – each one marked by misunderstanding and unspoken issues that erode the trust within a family. The drama does venture into controversial areas about family relationships that will not appeal to everyone – and may upset some, so you need to be aware of that. But the treasure is in all the cast – their performances are all truly wonderful, very strong with real raw emotion – a testament to the directorial debut of Rachel Ward. For his work, Andrew Commis won the 2010 Cinematographer of the Year and Golden Tripod awards from the Australian Cinematographers Society and Rachel Ward won Best Direction in a Feature Film from the Australian Directors Guild. Also, Rachel Griffiths won an Australian Film Industry (AFI) Award for the best supporting actress. I will say it again, it’s marvellous.

Made in 2009. Directed by Rachel Ward

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Posted by on February 5, 2013 in Movies


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Animal Kingdom

“Animal Kingdom” is a 2010 Australian crime drama. After his mother dies from an overdose of heroin, 17-year-old ‘J’ moves in with his grandmother, the matriarch of a notorious crime family consisting of her three sons – J’s uncles … (an armed robber in hiding, a drug dealer and a villain in the making who follows the lead of his older brothers).  It is a violent movie – but not in the “blood and gore” sense  – it is the way that the movie violates your senses as it depicts how the family acts and interacts – it is alarming, sudden and shocking. It will show you a slice of crime-family life that is realistic and gritty. 

Jackie Weaver was nominated for an Oscar for her excellent portrayal of the matriarch, she deserves that nomination but I would have liked to have seen more of her character as her true mettle does not reveal itself until relatively late in the movie – and her habit of kissing her sons on the lips is rather unsettling! Fabulous work is contributed by Ben Mendelsohn, Joel Edgerton, Guy Pearce, Luke Ford, Sullivan Stapleton and James Frecheville also. Each of these actors provides a character that is truly striking, unique and totally believable.  The script was inspired by a true crime family of Melbourne, Australia. It is very, very good.

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Posted by on November 22, 2011 in Movies


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