Shirley: LFF Film Review

Shirley

I had been looking forward to seeing Shirley for months, basically since its U.S. release back in June, because I was intrigued to see Elisabeth Moss play reclusive author Shirley Jackson, but I didn’t love the story this movie told.

This biographical drama, based on the novel of the same name by Susan Scarf Merrell, begins with the arrival of newly married couple Fred (Logan Lerman) and Rosie (Odessa Young). Fred is beginning a new job at Bennington College, where Shirley’s husband Stanley (Michael Stuhlbarg) is a professor, and they have been offered a place to stay at their home while they find their feet. It sounds like a nice gesture at first but it soon becomes a nightmare for the couple as Shirley and Stanley take great pleasure in bringing them down and causing tension within their marriage.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Josephine Decker‘s previous movie Madeline’s Madeline because it was so experimental and weird but I had high hopes for Shirley as I assumed it would be more grounded in realism, given that it’s a biographical drama. And it is, to a degree, but it’s still a bit odd in places, especially in scenes of Shirley writing or thinking about a missing college girl named Paula, the subject of her latest novel.

I would have preferred a straight-up biopic about the famed author of The Haunting of Hill House. The novel and this film adaptation are a work of fiction but use many actual details from Shirley’s life, such as her heavy smoking, bouts of depression and agoraphobia, and acceptance of Stanley’s infidelity, so I found those aspects enlightening and interesting, but I thought too much attention was placed on Rosie and at one point, she felt like the centrepiece of the movie.

Moss always gives her performances 100% and I cannot fault her commitment to this mean-spirited part, while Stuhlbarg is perfectly cast as the self-important literary academic who loves the sound of his own voice. They both elevate the material and make it far more compelling than it should have been. Young was excellent as Rosie, who becomes increasingly unhappy in her marriage, and Lerman has the smallest role but doesn’t let the team down. I enjoyed watching their conversations around the dinner table – the dialogue in those scenes was very well written – but the film loses its way when it focuses too much on Shirley and Rosie’s burgeoning friendship/romance.

I don’t really know what I was expecting from Shirley but this wasn’t it. I still liked many aspects of it, like the performances and the dialogue, but the story didn’t satisfy me at all.

Seen as part of the London Film Festival. In cinemas from 30th October

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Indignation: Film Review

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*SPOILER ALERT* 

Indignation is a small film that won’t set the box office alight or have mainstream appeal but if you’re a fan of Logan Lerman or Sarah Gadon you should definitely check it out because they showcase their best performances here by a mile. They are so good, the material is meaty and substantial and there’s fantastic dialogue for the audience to sink their teeth into.

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Fury: Film Review

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War movies are not usually my thing – and it is rare for me to find one that I actually enjoy. This film is great. It is no Saving Private Ryan nor does it reinvent the genre but it offers a fresh perspective and was superbly cast.

Brad Pitt is ‘Wardaddy”, a sergeant who leads a five-man tank team sweeping through German towns during the tail end of World War II in 1945. The film opens the crew heading back to camp as one of their men has died and they need a replacement. They are given Norman (Logan Lerman), who is young, naive and afraid. The roughened team – consisting of ‘Bible’ (Shia LaBeouf), ‘Gordo’ (Michael Pena) and ‘Coon Ass’ (Jon Bernthal) – give him a tough time to harden him to the brutal reality of war.

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Fury: Film Festival Press Conference

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So on Sunday, I was lucky enough to attend the London Film Festival press conference for the closing film Fury. It stars Brad Pitt (in the middle of the panel) as Wardaddy, the leader of a five men manning a tank during World War II. All in attendance (from L-R) were: director David Ayer, Michael Pena, Brad, Logan Lerman, Shia LaBeouf and Jon Bernthal.

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Review

I have to give this film credit for being far better than it looked in its clips and trailers. I wasn’t planning on seeing it but went along with a friend who wanted to and I’m so glad I did. It is SUCH a good film and I found it inspiring and moving. It is definitely a gem and far better than expected.

It stars Logan Lerman as Charlie, a freshman in high school who is complete loner. He is pretty depressive and socially awkward. He makes friends with a senior, Patrick (Ezra Miller) and his group of friends which include his step-sister Sam (Emma Watson), who Charlie falls in love with. He grows up, learns about love, drugs and parties and starts to have a positive outlook on life.

That sums up the plot in a very basic way. It doesn’t have a plot progression as such but more a progression through the Charlie character. It just takes a look at his freshmen year, how he deals with loss, social situations and finding himself inspired and in love for the first time. It is coming-of-age tale so don’t expect huge plot twists and turns but subtle changes in the way Charlie thinks.

Lerman is really good as Charlie and believably awkward. He is emotional and you get behind him and hope he’s going to be okay. You always want Sam to realise how much Charlie loves her. I felt for his character way more than I imagined and I almost teared up towards the end when I thought something bad was going to happen to him. I haven’t read the book so I had no idea what to expect. I would have liked a more satisfactory ending but it wasn’t bad. It just made me a bit sad.

Emma Watson was great as Sam in the fact that the character was so different to what we’ve seen her do before. She is wild, carefree and emotionally vulnerable and I thought Emma did that well. Her American accent wasn’t bad but at times, I wasn’t sure if she had said something properly. The star of the film for me is Ezra Miller as Patrick, the flamboyant homosexual who everyone knows and is a bucket of fun. He, like Sam, has a dark, tortured side so while Charlie thinks they’re so happy and fun, it turns out they’re quite similar to him, they just hide it better. Their secrets are devastating and can change the mood of the film so quickly.

What I like about this film is that it is quirky and fun and can flip to being super serious and sad really quickly, before taking you back to the fun side again. It takes you on a ride and Charlie’s journey is a fascinating one.  Also, the music used in this is amazing! I really recommend it- keep an eye out for Patrick and Sam’s high school dance!