Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Office Christmas Party” with T.J. Miller, Jason Bateman and Jenifer Aniston, “Jackie” starring Natalie Portman, “Lion” with Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman and Jessica Chastain as “Miss Sloan.”
Richard sits in with Erin Paul to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Office Christmas Party” with T.J. Miller, Jason Bateman and Jenifer Aniston, “Jackie” starring Natalie Portman, “Lion” with Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman and Jessica Chastain as “Miss Sloan.”
Less a biopic than an intimate character study, “Jackie,” sees Natalie Portman play one of the most famous women of the twentieth century, first lady Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy. Director Pablo Larraín personalizes the reaction to assassination of John F. Kennedy, presenting a portrait of grief that values rawness over slick sentimentality.
Focussing on the events immediately following November 22, 1963, the film cuts through the carefully constructed image Jacqueline Kennedy presented to the world. Instead it shows her as a grieving widow struggling to fulfil her personal responsibilities under the scrutiny of the American people and White House staff.
Larraín employs a standard biopic starting point—an interview with a journalist (Billy Crudup)—to frame the tale, but then throws all other familiar biographical approaches out the window. Kennedy’s story is a tragic one played out on the world stage and yet the film is never mawkish. It is a look at the end of “Camelot”—the musical and the ideological state of mind it personified for the Kennedy administration—as a psychological portrait of the woman at the very centre of it all.
Portman plays Kennedy not from the point of view of history—she is remembered for her grace and dignity—but as a woman fraying around the edges as she ponders the gravity of her situation and the legacy that will be left behind. She doesn’t look like Kennedy but, in a performance largely captured in close up, creates a portrait that seamlessly blends the poised, public Kennedy persona with a woman on the verge of a breakdown. It is often harrowing and certainly shows a different side of Kennedy than any other look at the subject.
“Jackie” is a bold film that values visceral feelings over glossy convention. It presumes much in its efforts to peer into the cracks of history, taking abundant artistic licence with what some will see as an intrusive look into Kennedy’s life. This is not “Camelot,” it’s the flipside of that romantic fairy tale.
She shimmied and shook her way through the decades. When she wasn’t on stage, entertaining at some of the world’s most glamorous nightclubs, she filled her off hours with affairs with Elvis and JFK. She is burlesque icon Tempest Storm, the subject of a new eponymously titled documentary from director Nimisha Mukerji.
Storm, born Annie Banks in rural Georgia, always wanted to be famous. As a child she would go to the movies and imagine the actors were just behind the screen. Her career was launched after a move to Los Angeles around 1950. Waitressing paid the bills, barely, so when a customer suggested she might make more money as an exotic dancer she jumped at the chance, changed her name—rejecting her agent’s suggestion, the cheerier Sunny Day, with the curt explanation, “I don’t feel like a sunny day.”—and began a career that continues to this day.
Her life is the stuff of legends. Aside from her dalliances with rich and famous stars, “Tempest Storm” tells of her multiple marriages, childhood trauma, her search for her biological father and, of course, how she famously insured her breasts—her “moneymakers”—for one million dollars with Lloyd’s of London.
What sets the documentary apart from a run-of-the-mill celebrity tell-all is Mukerji’s sensitive handling of Storm’s personal troubles. A fraught relationship with her daughter Patti, who she gave up when the girl was just ten years old, becomes the film’s main theme. Storm wanted fame and fortune and for the most part got it, but at what price.
“Tempest Storm” is a portrait of a taboo-breaker, a woman who has always walked her own path. Her journey is entertaining but her message is profound.
Gravitas literally drips off the screen during “Parkland,” director Peter Landesman’s impressionistic look at the three days surrounding the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Somber music spills from the soundtrack, people fret and pray while Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley pontificate on “one of the more horrible days in American history.”
Trouble is, there’s no story.
Instead, it’s a character study of the folks, from the doctors and nurses at Parkland Memorial who tried to save JFK’s life (Zak Efron, Colin Hanks and Marcia Gay Harden) to secret service and law enforcement officers on the scene (Billy Bob Thornton, Ron Livingston) to Lee Harvey Oswald’s family (James Badge Dale, Jacki Weaver) to the reporters who broke the story (Mark Duplass) and the man who took the most famous images of the shooting, Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti).
It’s a sprawling cast who all vie for enough screen time to make an impact in this fast moving but ultimately ineffective study of the time.
The period details are all in place, and Giamatti, Dale and Thornton shine, but former journalist-turned-director Landesman’s lack of a point of view adds nothing to this often told tale.