Prior to my screening of Niki Caro’s The Zookeeper’s Wife, a representative from the International Rescue Committee addressed the audience. She didn’t so much as set up the film as much as she discussed the current refugee crisis, directing yr. correspondent to the IRC’s website, along with acknowledging a new set of myths and falsehoods that have surfaced in the wake of our current butterscotch fascist regime. She spoke passionately, mostly to a disinterested audience more concerned about getting a good seat for their free movie. Frankly, I could’ve heard her speak for the evening. In her candor, she articulated an increasingly impossible humanitarian struggle – a struggle that she doesn’t pay lip service to but takes part in day-in-day-out. To think that her précis, her gritty survey of the IRC’s efforts, would be followed by the glossy (dis)comforts of Caro’s film seems like a cheat, but then again: perhaps that’s the only way you and I can confront real agony.
Over a year removed from its premiere at the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival, Oz Perkins’ The Blackcoat’s Daughter (Recommended) finally opens this week in select theaters nationwide. Perplexingly, it screens in just one theater in the Chicagoland area, and you’ll have to make the hike to South Barrington (!) to see it. Given its pedigree – a notable festival debut featuring familiar faces and distributed by America’s preeminent indie label, A24 – this distribution strategy seems especially puzzling. Though for those who had the opportunity to check out the film during its festival run, the question of its very limited release is simple. Too harrowing for mainstream audiences, The Blackcoat’s Daughter is proudly and profoundly un-commercial in what’s a thesis study on the pangs of loneliness and its brutally violent repercussions.
Daniel Espinosa’s Life may be a cut above the rest of your usual studio sci-fi schlock, but what does that even mean? For the intrigue of this blood-soaked odyssey is diluted through its glossy, magazine-editorial visual palette, a skull-clutchingly persistent score, and a screenplay that values broad characterization over specificity. I can’t tell you anything about the coterie that makes up this Alien-knockoff that isn’t some generalization bluntly emphasized by its lowest common denominator, by-committee screenplay: there’s the handicapped character, a misanthrope with a yo-yo, and Ryan Reynolds as your quote unquote comic relief. The women of the film are largely blank slates that bare little to no tactile effect to Life’s narrative. That’s Life. Isn’t that all that needs to be said?
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