Posts Tagged ‘The Kid’s Are Alright’

Metro In Focus: why Annette Bening may be Hollywood’s grandest dame

By Richard Crouse – Metro In Focus

Meryl Streep has a body of work that speaks for itself and, as she proved last Sunday night from the stage of the Golden Globes, is unafraid to challenge the status quo. But last week while the world formed opinions about Streep as she mouthed off about Donald Trump—She’s an icon! She’s overrated!—I had my eye on someone in the audience.

During Streep’s speech the camera landed on Annette Bening, who, for my money gives the Grand Dame a run for her money acting wise.

This weekend Bening adds 20th Century Women to her already stellar IMDB resume. As free-spirited single mother Dorothea she is, as writer David Edelstein wrote, irreducible. In other words she’s complex, loving yet stand-offish, warm but steely, a hippie who studies the stock market and Bening brings her to vivid life.

It’s that density of character that sets Bening apart from her peers, Streep included. Warren Beatty, her husband and sometimes director says she has, “talent, beauty, wit, humility and grace,” a combination that makes her “the best actress alive.”

Biased? Likely, but the evidence is on the screen. Bening works sporadically, sometimes taking years between projects or taking small supporting roles in idiosyncratic independent films like Ruby Sparks, but her characters are always compelling.

She became a star playing femme fatale Myra in 1990’s con artist caper The Grifters. Gleefully embracing her character’s deviousness, she stole the movie away from vets John Cusack and Anjelica Huston. Then came intricate portrayals of everything from a muckraking lobbyist in The American President and neurotic real estate broker in American Beauty to Bugsy’s tough-talking Hollywood starlet and In Dreams’ psychic vigilante. Each performances is a polished gem even when the movies aren’t as good as she is.

The last of her Best Actress Oscar nods came with 2010’s The Kids Are Alright. At the center of story are Nic (Bening) and Jules (Julianne Moore), a long time lesbian couple raising their two kids. It’s a happy family until their daughter contacts her biological father Paul (Mark Ruffalo) via the sperm bank.

A scene near the movie’s end displays the complexity of Bening’s work. Nic and Paul sing a Joni Mitchell song at a dinner party. Their wild act is joyful, ridiculous and poignant simultaneously and is a perfect microcosm of Bening’s performance. Bening is unpredictable, sometimes funny, sometimes not, just like real life. It’s her well-drawn character that keeps the basic story afloat with its lived-in, realistic feel.

Less known is Bening’s fine work in The Face of Love, a 2014 film about a widow obsessed with a man who looks exactly like her late husband Tom. Trouble is, she never tells him about his resemblance raising the question, Is she in love with Tom or a memory?

Another question: Is she a selfish conniver, a grief stricken widow or one brick short of a load? The movie allows for interpretation, but regardless of your take, Bening’s performance is so raw and vulnerable it’s difficult to completely condemn her behaviour.

Bening’s name may not always be mentioned in the hushed tones as Streep, but I suspect she doesn’t care for the accolades as much as shattering the clichés of how women are portrayed on film. On that score she is at the top of her field.


the-whoUnlike The Kid’s Are Alright, the seminal 1978 Who documentary which was basically a pop art pastiche of clips and performance pieces strung together, Amazing Journey appears to have been made by sensible people. It doesn’t have the raw rock and roll energy of the first film, but what it lacks in “in-your-face” bravado it more than makes up for in biographical detail and rare footage.

Tracing the history of The Who from their humble beginnings as The Detours and The High Numbers through to their early successes as the go-to band for London’s hip young Mods, the film takes pains to explain the genesis of the band and the reasons why they became successful. There is nothing much new in the band’s overall biographical information, but what is new is the perspective of guitarist Pete Townsend and singer Roger Daltrey, the two surviving members of the original four piece combo.

The pair who once sang, “I hope I die before I get old,” are now rock’s elder statesmen, able to look back on their lives, careers and relationships with their late band mates with a kind of perspective that is often tinged with humor but underlined with a sense of melancholy. When they speak of wild man drummer Keith Moon’s death by misadventure at the age 32 there is more than nostalgia involved, but a real sense of loss that comes from years of reflection on what went wrong.

If that makes the film sound mournful, it isn’t. This was one of the best live bands in the world, bar none, and the footage in Amazing Journey, starting with a never-before-seen clip of the band, still called The High Numbers, from 1964 and culminating with a an on-stage performance from 2007 reveals a band who burned brightest when their was an audience to entertain. Of particular interest is the movie’s spotlight (more fully explored in the excellent extras) on Keith Moon’s drumming. Best known as an offstage character that drove Roll Royces into swimming pools, the movie pulls the focus back to his musicianship, reminding us that his legacy isn’t in the path of destruction he left in hotel rooms all across the world, but the amazing sounds he created with his singular drumming ability.

Amazing Journey: The Story of The Who is probably best suited for Who fans, but people who only know the band as the guys who do the theme song for CSI will find a deeper appreciation for one of rock’s truly legendary groups.