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Tag Archives: Peter Sarsgaard

Black Mass

If there’s anything young Bostonians learn, it’s that “mates stick together, no matter what …”.  It’s no different for John Connolly (played by Joel Edgerton) and James “Whitey” Bulger (by Johnny Depp) who grow up together on the streets of South Boston. They stay in touch, but their paths go separate ways. Years later, in the late 1970s, Connolly and “Whitey” meet again as adults. Connolly’s already made a name for himself in the FBI – and Whitey’s become a notorious Irish Mobster across South Boston. When the Italian Mob start to gain power in the area, Whitey and Connolly do everything they can to fight back and retain the turf. They form a strong alliance and resist the Italian Mob. Their loyalty knows no bounds – it’s stronger than geographic and legal limits and involves them in a downward spiral of crime, murder, drugs and power. Connolly navigates the fine line between keeping his career intact and living with his long-held loyalty, while Bulger’s double-life gets complex – at home he’s a calm and caring family man while at work his activities get more and more violent, eventually landing him on the FBI’s “Ten Most Wanted” list.

This is your run-of-the-mill “notorious gangster versus FBI” movie – but with two key features … first, Whitey Bulger is played by a totally unrecognisable Johnny Depp – it’s remarkable and you’d never really know it’s Depp. There’s something weirdly artificial about his performance too – it’s not the makeup, it’s about his behaviour, he’s often like a cold, clinical robot. Second, this frightening story is true – the guy brutally and violently operated in South Boston for decades. Joel Edgerton’s performance is very strong – he really deserves the Hollywood Film Award for Breakthrough Actor and the Virtuoso Award from the Santa Barbara International Film Festival 2016. The movie also received the Hollywood Film Editor of the Year Award. Johnny Depps’ portrayal of Bulger is magnificent. He’s totally believable and thoroughly deserves the Palm Springs International Film Festival Palm Achievement Award and the People’s Choice Award for Favourite Dramatic Movie Actor – also much more. Benedict Cumberbatch’s role as Billy Bulger, Whitey’s brother, doesn’t add a whole lot to it.  As a story, it’s just average – but the performances are great.

Made in 2015. Directed by Scott Cooper.

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Posted by on January 25, 2016 in Movies

 

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Lovelace

It’s 1972 and Linda Boreman (played by Amanda Seyfried) is 20 years old. She’s been raised in middle America by her strict, religious and upstanding parents Dorothy (by Sharon Stone) and John (by Robert Patrick). She’s had her moments … a teen pregnancy a year or so before, but on the whole she’s a naive young woman who just wants a happy life, good marriage and to please her husband. Her friend, Patsy, (by Juno Temple) is far more curious and adventurous and she drags Linda along to parties to get her to “loosen up a little”. Linda meets charming Chuck Traynor (by Peter Sarsgaard) and they instantly fall in love. Although her parents are unimpressed, she moves in with Chuck and they are very happy together. Wanting to please her husband, Linda is happy to learn all the ways to make him happy … and he’s keen to teach her. Their sex life is healthy and – thanks to Chuck’s coaching – Linda develops some desirable skills for Chuck. Chuck decides he can take advantage of Linda’s skills and he uses his contacts, Butchie Peraino (by Bobby Cannavale), Gerry Damiano (by Hank Azaria) and Anthony Romano (by Chris Noth) to get her a role in a porn movie. She innocently complies and they produce “Deep Throat” – the first scripted porn movie. She’s unknown in the industry, and they promote her as Linda Lovelace – her notoriety soon grows when the movie is released. She’s a huge success and their life changes significantly. Chuck builds a business based on Linda’s reputation – but life is not what it seems for Linda. She is subjected to cruel abuse by Chuck and she never sees a penny of the money she has earned for him. She lives in a dark world of violence, fear and abuse – and nobody knows it …..

This is a good movie because it’s a true story. You won’t see any porn here – in fact, whilst there’s a lot of swearing, there’s very little nudity. It has been made to tell the story of the domestic violence endured by Linda Boreman during her “career” as Linda Lovelace. Her struggle to be heard by anybody through these years is palpable and the drama is portrayed well. Only her friend, Patsy, has any inkling that things are troubled. Linda’s parents are oblivious to what’s happening in her real life – seeing only the public persona and getting stuck in their own intolerance and misunderstanding of their daughter. Chuck Traynor is a nasty piece of work – entirely greedy, selfish, cruel and utterly heartless. His treatment of Linda is horrific. The performances are good – Amanda Seyfried is marvellous as Linda Boreman/Lovelace, Sharon Stone is totally unrecognisable as Dorothy Boreman, as is James Franco as Hugh Hefner. Peter Sarsgaard is very good – he’s frightening in this role. Chris Noth’s portrayal as Anthony Romano is great and it’s good to see Demi Mazar here too. Linda Boreman finally found the strength to speak out and also wrote a memoior about her horrific personal life, known as “Ordeal”.

Made in 2013. Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2014 in Movies

 

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Blue Jasmine

Things are going so well for Jasmine (played by Cate Blanchett) – her significantly rich husband Hal (by Alec Baldwin) is a successful businessman, she has a busy social life, a beautiful house, designer clothes, expensive jewellery … but suddenly it all falls to pieces and Jasmine finds herself rather down on her luck. She’s had to move away from her high life in New York to stay with her sister Ginger (by Sally Hawkins) in San Francisco – it’s not quite the life she’s been used to … no money left for rent – and now she even has to get a job!!  She doesn’t really know Ginger very well, except that her husband Augie (by Andrew Dice Clay) was a loser and she doesn’t exactly live the same way Jasmine does. Such is the dramatic come-down Jasmine is enduring. Life is stressful, Ginger’s two sons are utterly intolerable and Augie hasn’t provided well for her – her place isn’t exactly “Park Avenue” either … but it’s at least somewhere to stay until Jasmine gets herself back on her feet.  She’s neurotic and anxious, with the past flooding back to crowd her thoughts when anything tips her memory that way.  She relies on pills and drink to get her through the day. Oh how will she ever survive and adjust to such a comedown?

This is a good movie.  Cate Blanchett is excellent as the self-centred Jasmine – totally focussed on her own life, self and utterly unaware of anyone else’s needs. She is dressed in the finest designer clothes and behaves as the perfect spoilt rich bitch. There is certainly something “Blanche Dubois” from “A Streetcar Named Desire” about her character and to some extent about this story – but only in the opening few scenes – it’s not a remake of that movie at all. I was captivated by them all – it’s easy to get wrapped up in the world of these people. Woody Allen has cast this movie exquisitely – as Ginger, Sally Hawkins is just as strong as Blanchett – she is a marvellous counterpoint to the classically styled Jasmine – these sisters were actually born of different parents and just adopted by the same couple, hence their “sister” status but total lack of anything in common, either physically or in lifestyle. Ginger’s boyfriend, Chilli, is played well by Bobby Cannavale and both Alec Baldwin and Peter Sarsgaard are great. It’s easy to forget that both these lead actresses are non-American, Blanchett is Australian and Hawkins is British but they play Americans with complete conviction. This is one of Woody Allen’s finest in the last few years and as usual he has shot it beautifully. Well done everyone involved.

 Made in 2013.  Directed by Woody Allen.

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2013 in Movies

 

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Rendition

Anwar El-Abrahimi (played by Omar Metwally) is Egyptian and living in the US. He’s an academic and happily married to an American, Isabella (by Reese Witherspoon). She is heavily pregnant and looking after their son in Chicago, while Anwar is in South Africa at a conference. He calls her to say he is on his way home and they arrange to meet at the airport.  On the other side of the world, a suicide bombing in North Africa kills several people including an American envoy and the CIA are eager to get those responsible as swiftly as possible. CIA Executive Corinne Whitman (by Meryl Streep) orders an aircraft in transit to be intercepted by agents and a passenger taken away. Blindfolded, he is thrown into cell in a secret location and all trace of his travel is deleted from airline systems. He is brutally interrogated at the hands of the reliable Egyptian agent Abasi (by Yigal Naor) and inexperienced CIA officer, Douglas Freemen (by Jake Gyllenhaal) is sent to observe the interrogation. Anwar maintains his innocence throughout the torture, which causes Douglas to question the methods and outcomes of this practice. Back in Chicago, Isabella waits at the airport for Anwar, but he doesn’t arrive.  When she checks with the airline, there is no record of him being on the flight … strange, how can that be?  She turns to an old friend who works in the CIA, Alan Smith (by Peter Sarsgaard) for help.  Everyone is sure that Anwar is innocent so this must be a really horrible mistake … right?

This is a great movie, I enjoyed it a lot. From the outset, the story is told well, the drama unfolds in well constructed sequence and the characters are all fascinating.  Woven into the story are several scenarios set in North Africa which provide the valuable perspective of those on the other side of this issue – Muslims – students and families, with their cultural issues featured well. The political influences are also well depicted here, Corinne Whitlam (Meryl Streep) is a wholly political character, which is necessary in her job and she does this well, as does the high profile Senator Hawkins (by Alan Arkin) who develops the political melting pot of issues further. Peter Sarsgaard is a great political operator with a good heart and Reese Witherspoon is good in this dramatic role. The Americans are not the key feature though, which is also a good change – there are several characters in the Muslim community who have key roles in the story.  There is an interesting chronological twist which will confuse you for a moment, but then come clear, it is well done.  Best performances are Jake Gyllenhaal and Yigal Naor as the interrogators at the coal-face of this drama, with complicating issues in their lives. There are some violent and graphic scenes in the movie but overall it presents a good balanced view of all the issues involved and tells a good, compelling drama.  It kept me interested all the way through.  Well done, a great piece of work by Gavin Hood.

Made in 2007.  Directed by Gavin Hood

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2012 in Movies

 

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An Education

In suburban England in 1961, Jenny (played by Carey Mulligan) is an intelligent and headstrong 16 year old schoolgirl. She lives a very sheltered life and is the only child of strict, conservative parents (by Alfred Molina and Cara Seymour). One day on her way home from school Jenny meets older man David (by Peter Sarsgaard), A relationship develops and Jenny spends more and more of her evenings and weekends with free and easy David, his friend Danny (by Dominic Cooper) and Danny’s girlfriend, Helen (by Rosamund Pike). They enjoy a slice of the good life with regular parties, eating out and society occasions. Jenny is tantalised by this lifestyle and she gradually falls in love with David. During their relationship, David manages to charm Jenny’s parents and convince them he is a good man with honourable intentions. Jenny has happy times for a while, but her grades and behaviour deteriorate, so she has several interactions with her predictably stern headmistress (by Emma Thompson) and she also seeks the counsel of her teacher Miss Stubbs (by Olivia Williams), who is a more steadying and sympathetic support. However, David, Danny and Helen are not particularly nice people and just as Jenny starts to get used to her grown-up lifestyle, things take on a new perspective which turns her world on its head.

In her first movie role, Carey Mulligan is excellent – although she does sometimes seem a little to mature in her thinking and behaviour, to be a girl of only sixteen during those times. Watching the family life depicted here, the behaviour and expectations of the parents is quite apalling by today’s standards, but I think (sadly) that it is right for those times. I enjoyed the drama and the way the conservative world is shown throughout the whole story. The ending of the film delivers the key theme that life experiences all count towards learning and even if you make mistakes, they sometimes turn into memories to be cherished.

Danish director Lone Sherfig and screenwriter Nick Hornby have adapted this story is from British journalist Lynn Barber’s memoir.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2012 in Movies

 

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