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Mary Queen of Scots

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    Washington Square (1997)

    I had hoped that the raw, fearlessly sensual Jennifer Jason Leigh would have the power to pop the corsets of a traditional costume movie. But sadly, in the role of Catherine Sloper in Agnieszka Holland's Washington Square, she's supposed to be timid, passive, unsure. And it's a letdown. Adapted from Henry James's 1880 novel — and previously filmed by William Wyler as The Heiress (1949) — the material is pretty creaky and the movie fails (although it would be no easy task) to make it feel relevant. Basically Catherine has been raised by a gruff father Dr. Austin Sloper (Albert Finney), who disapproves of her since his wife died giving birth to her. When she meets handsome, bland Morris Townsend (Ben Chaplin) at a party, she falls in love, but her father is convinced that Morris is only after her inheritance. So he does everything in his power to prevent the union, causing lots of pining and suffering and misery. And that's about it. Not even the usually twinkle-eyed Maggie Smith, here playing Catherine's aunt, can buoy the material. Holland's direction is not particularly inspired, and film often feels somewhat flat and soft. It had a few admirers in its day, notably Andrew Sarris, but not enough... the film earned no Oscar nominations and was a box office disappointment. read more...
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      Washington Square (1997)

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      • With: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Albert Finney, Ben Chaplin, Maggie Smith, Judith Ivey, Arthur Laupus, Jennifer Garner, Robert Stanton, Betsy Brantley
      • Written by: Carol Doyle, based on a novel by Henry James
      • Directed by: Agnieszka Holland
      • MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements including some sensuality, a childbirth scene and brief mild language
      • Running Time: 116 minutes
      • Release Date: 10/10/1997
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      The Wife (2018)

      I finally caught up with The Wife now that Glenn Close has won a Golden Globe and received an Academy Award nomination (her seventh) for her lead performance. That may be a little too much pressure to review the film objectively, and certainly Close is outstanding. But I think I agree with the IMDB commenter who said, "A very good movie which I didn't like." Close plays Joan Castleman, the wife of novelist Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce). Joe has just been chosen to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature, and the family -- including grown son and aspiring writer David (Max Irons) -- are off to Stockholm for the ceremony. Through flashbacks (young Joan played by Annie Starke and young Joe played by Harry Lloyd) we learn of a "shocking" twist, that the film decides to reveal well past the halfway point. To start, for a movie all about the art of writing, The Wife is, at times, annoyingly pedestrian. Whenever the pesky would-be biographer Nathaniel Bone (Christian Slater) shows up, Joan explains that she doesn't want to be seen as a victim, or the long-suffering wife, yet that's pretty much what she is. When Joe asks "why did you marry me," her answer is "I don't know." And we don't either. Oddly, the flashback scenes seem to work the best, and some of Slater's scenes are interesting, but when it centers back around to present-day Joe and Joan, as they fight and talk about Joe's eating, medication, and extramarital affairs, it turns into hackneyed melodrama. Perhaps if the screenplay had laid everything on the table all at once, then all the characters could have been more fully developed. But as it is, The Wife is a partly-effective exercise that will likely be forgotten after awards season ends. Elizabeth McGovern, of all people, appears in one scene as a bitter published writer that warns the young Joan against pursuing a career in prose. read more...
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        The Wife (2018)

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        • With: Glenn Close, Jonathan Pryce, Max Irons, Christian Slater, Harry Lloyd, Annie Starke, Elizabeth McGovern, Johan Widerberg, Karin Franz Körlof
        • Written by: Jane Anderson, based on a novel by Meg Wolitzer
        • Directed by: Björn L. Runge
        • MPAA Rating: R for language and some sexual content
        • Running Time: 99 minutes
        • Release Date: 08/17/2018
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        My Cousin Rachel (2017)

        The novels of Daphne Du Maurier should be a prime source for filmmakers, given that the author's works fueled three of Alfred Hitchcock's movies, Jamaica Inn (1939), Rebecca (1940), and The Birds (1963). Now filmmaker Roger Michell (Notting Hill, The Mother, Venus) snaps up another of her stories, My Cousin Rachel, for his latest feature. Michell is often terrific at films about people and emotions, but he seems to be lacking the stuff of genre; in other words, he effectively generates longing and suffering, but he can't quite whip up much suspense or dark manipulation. read more...
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          My Cousin Rachel (2017)

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          • With: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Holliday Grainger, Iain Glen, Pierfrancesco Favino, Simon Russell Beale, Vicki Pepperdine
          • Written by: Roger Michell, based on a novel by Daphne Du Maurier
          • Directed by: Roger Michell
          • MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexuality and brief strong language
          • Running Time: 106 minutes
          • Release Date: 06/09/2017

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          The Ticket (2017)

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          Spinning Man (2018)

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