Haley Lu Richardson shines in ‘Montana Story’
TOP CHOICE OF THE WEEK
*** The horizon can stretch romantically in this family drama from directors Scott McGehee and David Siegel (The Deep End, what Maisie knew), but the film doesn’t revise the Western so much as it traps two characters into one. Owen Teague and Haley Lu Richardson star as estranged siblings, Cal and Erin, who reunite at the family ranch in Montana when their father suffers a stroke. Because the plot finds its skeleton key in the offscreen family history, the dialogue suffers from lead-weighted exposition that challenges Teague (This). But as a family outcast who isn’t afraid to speak viciously, Richardson (Support the girls, after Yang) fares better as the siblings walk on eggshells toward reconciliation. Past traumas aside, the film works best when observing mundane but charged interactions touching on class, race, and rural authenticity, like Cal showing a property or Erin buying a truck on a reservation. neighbor. Here, the film allows us to see the children as they are – the embarrassed offspring of cowboy tourists. They’ve been shaped by Big Sky Country, but they’re also hoping for a redemptive exit. Despite her gender attributes, Montana History is ultimately anti-Western: an ode to a beautiful, rugged country best left behind and loved. R CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. The living room.
*** A 19-year-old Swedish girl who poses as “Bella Cherry” (Sofia Kappel) arrives in Los Angeles with a singular desire: porn stardom through any sexual act necessary. That’s about the breadth of his character, as Pleasure focuses on Bella’s experiences on set, including the girl-next-door foray into which she first registers the power of the camera; an extravagant bondage scene that prioritizes performers’ comfort; and others that are horribly dangerous. Alongside mostly adult film actors, Kappel excels in a debut film that could hardly demand more, given that it makes the porn production compelling when writer-director Ninja Thyberg moves on to a style point of view. documentary. Relying on the stereotypical and often unregulated construction of what the industry calls “pleasure,” the film dispenses with seduction so completely that even Bella’s desires (sexual or otherwise) remain abstract. In turn, Thyberg sometimes weighs too heavily in hip-hop or operatic soundtrack selections to ensure that certain scenes are appealing or upsetting (or not a well-played trick). In all, Pleasure is a compelling, disturbing, inherently unrewarding success story (like a joyless Nightcrawler). Although porn exploitation of labor should surprise no one, PleasureResearch-driven representation is always valuable. Obviously, sex work is work. But is it feasible? NR. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Cinema 21.
Downton Abbey: A New Era
*** The secret key in series-to-movie transitions is finding a compelling reason to bring the group together – and Downton Abbey: A New Era have a little fun with it. Constrained by “financial troubles,” Lady Mary Talbot (Michelle Dockery), née Crawley, agrees to allow a film to be made on the titular estate, prompting everything from enthusiasm to outright disdain for her elders. Simultaneously, another group of characters embark on a journey to the south of France to inspect a villa bequeathed to the Dowager Countess (Maggie Smith), which helps unravel the mystery of why. Balancing so many beloved characters couldn’t have been easy, but writer and series creator Julian Fellowes weaves them all together quite delicately and handles the moments of gravity with grace. A New Era may be a tale of rushed romances and obscenely rich people falling backwards into yet more wealth, but those potential pitfalls are diluted by a fanciful storytelling leading to a satisfying ending. The Crawleys live in a fantasy world with its own rules – and Fellowes clearly demonstrates that he understands his audience and the depth of their passion for his characters and the universe they inhabit. PG. RAY GILL JR. Cedar Hills, City Center, Clackamas, Eastport Plaza, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower, Living Room, Lloyd Center, Mill Plain, Oak Grove, Pioneer Place, Progress Ridge, Studio One, Tigard, Vancouver Plaza.
*** Let’s talk about the dress. It’s pale pink, it’s long-sleeved and it’s worn by Jessie Buckley, star of Alex Garland’s dreamy and chilling thriller. Men. An archetypal symbol of femininity, the dress is the first of many clues that Buckley plays not just a woman, but all women, much like her co-star Rory Kinnear plays all men. Haunted by the death of her husband (Paapa Essiedu), Harper (Buckley) flees to an English country estate to recuperate. Almost the moment she arrives, she’s tormented by seemingly everyone in the area with a Y chromosome, including a little boy who calls her a “dumb bitch”, a silent stalker who appears naked in her backyard, and a priest. which hides its predatory nature. behind courtly manners and long locks. All of these men are played by Kinnear, but it doesn’t seem odd to Harper that they have the same face. Why would it be? The idea of a woman being persecuted by men who represent a single malevolent force seems terrifyingly real. One could argue that Men‘s points about gender are obvious – and that his attitude towards topics like race and mental health is offensively flippant – but like Garland’s earlier films, Ex-Machina and Annihilation, it digs deep under your skin and into your psyche. Harper may be scared, but she’s not helpless. And as she transitions from flight to fight, the film solidifies her power over you. R BENNETT CAMPBELL FERGUSON. Academy, Cedar Hills, Cinema 21, City Center, Clackamas, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower, Hollywood, Laurelhurst, Living Room, Lloyd Center, Mill Plain, Studio One, Tigard.