Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to theatres including “Emma,” a period piece with a modern sensibility, “Seberg,” a by-the-book retelling of the defining time of movie actress Jean Seberg’s career, the memory mysteries of “Disappearance at Clifton Hill” and the “Big Lebowski” spin-off “The Jesus Rolls.”
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show with host Andrew Carter to talk about the weekend’s biggest releases including the upper crust shenanigans of “Emma,” the real life drama of “Seberg,” the “Big Lebowski” spin-off “The Jesus Rolls” and the thriller “Disappearance at Clifton Hill.”
“The Jesus Rolls,” John Turturro’s revisiting of his classic “Big Lebowski” bowling alley character Jesus Quintana, is a story of bad decisions made and acted on but one can’t help but wonder is the worst decision was to resurrect Quintana in the first place.
The ride begins with Quintana leaving Sing Sing prison where he served time for what he calls a misunderstanding about indecent exposure in a public bathroom. Hooking up with his best friend Petey (Bobby Cannavale), he struts and swaggers his way back into trouble starting with the theft of a vintage muscle car. When Petey is shot by the auto’s owner, a hairdresser played by Jon Hamm, they hit the road, putting some space between them and the law. Quintana already has two strikes, another arrest and he’s going to jail and never coming out. Along for the ride is Marie (Audrey Tautou), a shampooist and the hairdresser’s former girlfriend. Their adventures, both criminal and erotic, begin with a visit to Quintana’s prostitute mother (Sonia Braga). “She’s better than no mother at all,” he says.
“The Jesus Rolls” is not a “Big Lebowski” sequel. The Coen Brothers gave the OK to bring Jesus back to cinematic life but Turturro opted to base his story on the freewheeling 1974 French farce “Les Valseuses” (“Going Places”).
Sequel or not, tribute flick or not, “The Jesus Rolls” is a gutter ball. As a character Jesus is best seen in small does. He’s a standout in “The Big Lebowski” because he’s an oddball in a film that celebrates oddballs. His two scenes are memorable, blessed with quotable dialogue and quirky tics—he licks the bowling balls before launching them at the pins—but a little of him goes a long way. He’s like garlic. One or two cloves adds flavor; the whole head is overkill.
“The Jesus Rolls” may share a character with “The Big Lebowski” but it has none of its charm. Despite a poignant performance by Susan Sarandon as a woman fresh out of prison and a well-chosen soundtrack, Turturro’s film proves that in the case of Quintana, sometimes less is more.
It’ll take more than a few White Russians to wash “The Jesus Rolls” down.
If Coco Chanel was a superhero, “Coco Avant Chanel” would be called her origin story. Here we learn about the how the superstar designer went from orphan to unhappily kept woman to finding her secret weapon—the little black dress. Of course she’d never wear something as gaudy as a logo on her chest, she exemplified understated class, but she was a wonder woman who created an empire in a business primarily run by men.
As the title suggests this is the story of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel before the fame. When we first meet her she is being shunted off to an orphanage by an uncaring father. Raised in austerity she becomes a seamstress who moonlights as a nightclub singer. While working at the club she enters into a long affair with an older playboy aristocrat named Étienne Balsan (Benoît Poelvoorde). He provides for her and elevates her social status ever so slightly—mistresses were tolerated in turn-of-the-century French society, but not celebrated—but their relationship falls apart when she meets a young English businessman who would become the love of her life, Arthur ‘Boy’ Capel (Alessandro Nivola).
Like “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” or “Iron Man” this movie gives us the background we need to fully understand how she went from zero to hero except that the hero part is barely examined. We follow Chanel just up to the point at which she becomes a major fashion force. Director Anne Fontaine is more interested in the events that drove the designer to revolutionize the fashion industry rather than the revolution itself.
Audrey Tautou, the waifish French star of “Amélie” and “The DaVinci Code,” is an inspired choice to play the iron willed designer. She’s been criticized for looking dour throughout much of the film, but I prefer to see her look as one of steely determination as she navigates the turbulent waters of Chanel’s private life. The charismatic Tautou—who bears an uncanny resemblance to the designer—slowly develops the character, showing the struggle Chanel faced to enter society, to be accepted and have her work taken seriously. It’s nicely rounded performance that breathes life into a person who, despite placing on Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people of the 20th century, is a mystery to the average viewer.
“Coco Avant Chanel” works both as a bio pic (which could easily be followed by a sequel detailing her life at the top of the fashion field) and a romantic melodrama. Anchored by a terrific performance from Tautou and luscious production design it’s an inspiring rags to riches tale.