Tag Archives: Ann Dowd

Rebecca-2020

Rebecca-2020

Director Ben Wheatley

Starring Lily James, Armie Hammer, Kristin Scott Thomas

Scott’s Review #1,430

Reviewed June 30, 2024

Grade: A-

Impossible to compare to the legendary 1940 Alfred Hitchcock film, I tried very hard to take the 2020 retelling of Rebecca based on its merits. After all, it’s been eighty years and other attempts have been made mostly forgotten or irrelevant.

Aware of lukewarm reviews by other critics I desperately washed those aside and settled in for a macabre, dark ghostly British thriller.

The film is quite good! Feeling fresh and with a polished cinematic look, I’d describe it as a modern British offering despite being set long ago.

For comparisons, it reminds me of the British television series Downton Abbey (2010-2015) in look and feel. A grandiose estate, dutiful servants, and rank and file of other wealthy and not-so-wealthy characters.

A young newlywed (character nameless) arrives at her husband’s imposing family estate on a windswept English coast and finds herself battling the shadow of his first wife, Rebecca, whose legacy lives in the house long after her death.

The lead actress, Lily James, who at first I couldn’t recall who she was, is most known for Downton Abbey and the 2023 film The Iron Claw.

The character she plays, the insecure second Mrs. de Winter is confused, and haunted requiring terrific acting. James hits it out of the park on that front.

Emotionally abused by her employer, wickedly played by Ann Dowd, she is instantly heroic and likable so we are happy when she graduates from servant to queen bee.

I cringed at first when I realized that the gorgeous and lovely Kristin Scott Thomas was playing the pivotal role of the villainous Mrs. Danvers. Known for the film The English Patient (1996) where she played the romantic Katharine Clifton, I wasn’t sure she’d be able to go so dark.

Boy, was I wrong? It took me a bit to channel out the dastardly performance by Judith Anderson from the original and accept Scott Thomas. She gets better with each scene and even forces the audience to sympathize with her.

Finally, Armie Hammer is good in the lead role of Maxim de Winter. Handsome, sophisticated, and wealthy, he peculiarly fancies a lady’s maid who inexplicably becomes his wife.

We wonder what he sees in her when his deceased wife ‘Rebecca’ was gorgeous, affluent, and a perfectionist. Rebecca was presumed to have drowned in a terrible boating accident but as events unfold we wonder if there’s more to the story.

If only the characters communicated with each other it would have eliminated confusion. Maxim refuses to talk about Rebecca. If his true feelings were revealed he’d have a different kind of second marriage.

Besides the story and the acting, other trimmings make Rebecca circa 2020 worthy of watching.

The cinematography captures crashing waves and high cliffs that provide a haunting mood. The dining room and kitchen sequences brim with goodness and wonderful meals.

The art direction and set design are overall flawless in the presentation.

The costume party that Mrs. de Winter eagerly plans and hopes will admonish the house of any thoughts of Rebecca go wrong which for viewers is a delight because the scene is already rich.  With help from Danvers a regal red costume is designed and prepared to showcase Mrs. de Winter.

When she confidently descends the staircase the startled crowd gasps with fright at the similarities between her and Rebecca. Maxim angrily dismisses her to change outfits while Danvers smirks in the background.

She’s won round one.

The Danvers/Mrs. de Winter feud is my favorite aspect of Rebecca (both original and 2020 versions) so it’s delightful to see it work so well with Scott Thomas and James.

There is nothing quite so satisfying as watching a film with little expectations but finishing feeling fulfilled and still thinking about it the next morning.

I’ll always watch 1940s Rebecca as a treasured friend but Rebecca (2020) quite capably offers a modern spin with good acting and lavish production values.

Philadelphia-1993

Philadelphia-1993

Director Jonathan Demme

Starring Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington

Scott’s Review #782

Reviewed July 3, 2018

Grade: A

Having the powerful distinction of being one of the first Hollywood LGBT films to deal with heavy issues such as HIV/AIDS and homophobia, Philadelphia (1993) is a film to champion.

The film does contain some less-than-positive stereotypes across the board, but was a tremendous box office success and more importantly introduced a large audience to a still (at that time) taboo subject.

Hopefully, this had a tremendous effect on creating an understanding of a vicious disease and its ramifications.

Tom Hanks deservedly won the Best Actor Oscar for his lead performance of an AIDS and discrimination victim as did the heartbreaking theme song “Streets of Philadelphia”, penned by Bruce Springsteen, win for Best Original Song.

Director Jonathan Demme creates a world quite realistic in portrayal at the corporate level. Hotshot attorney Andrew Beckett (Hanks) has a promising future at one of the country’s largest law firms in Philadelphia.

Assigned a high-profile case, it is noticed that Andrew has developed lesions across his body and is subsequently fired from the firm. After deciding to sue the firm and having no luck finding an attorney to represent him, he finally meets struggling black attorney, Joe Miller (Denzel Washington), who begrudgingly takes the case to gain exposure.

Philadelphia is a film that is a courtroom drama with a cause and is firmly ensconced in the “message movie” genre.  A lesser version, and perhaps one made even a decade or so after 1993, might be reduced to the Hallmark television movie category.

Fortunately, the timing is perfect and Philadelphia can be remembered as a film championing LGBT rights.

Hanks’s performance is just dynamic- his character is meant to be empathetic, a victimized man unjustly suffering not only discrimination but a death sentence. The audience knows what is to come and as Andrew loses more weight and appears more sullen and haggard, the tale increases in sadness.

The final act of Andrew’s court victory is to be celebrated, but also is heartbreaking as a feeble and dying Andrew now lies close to death.

Hanks brilliantly infuses Andrew with courage, heart, and values, so much so that he becomes a hero to the audience even if their sexuality is different than his.

As much as the undying love for Hanks is deserved, the powerful supporting cast is a treasure. Washington is not as sympathetic a character as Andrew is, but learns a lesson and eventually leaves his machismo on the sidelines.

The heart-wrenching death scene culminating in the hospital room involves lover Miguel (Antonio Banderas), surrounded by Andrew’s family, all-embracing as one. There is beauty mixed with tragedy in this one scene alone.

Even Mary Steenburgen as the tough defense lawyer shows some heart. And who can say more about the dynamic Joanne Woodward as Andrew’s mother?

Unfortunately, there are a few stereotypes to endure, and sadly many early LGBT films (and some still do!) include these for emphasis- or perhaps ignorance? Nonetheless, these make the film seem slightly dated given the LGBT progress made in the decades since the film was released.

Joe Miller is portrayed as a macho guy afraid to be viewed as gay- he even jokes around about being a “man” with his wife. Joe also grimaces when he shakes hands with Andrew and suddenly realizes Andrew has AIDS.

Nearly all of Andrew and Miguel’s gay friends are effeminate- this hardly seems possible.

Such is a monumental achievement when a film breaks barriers by telling a story of critical importance. Philadelphia (1993) does just that by patiently asking its audience for tolerance, understanding, and heart.

In return, the film educates, floods with emotion, and breaks hearts. Other LGBT films would come along that were arguably even better, but Philadelphia is a groundbreaking experience sure to be remembered as the first of its kind.

Oscar Nominations: 2 wins-Best Actor-Tom Hanks (won), Best Original Screenplay, Best Original Song-“Streets of Philadelphia” (won), “Philadelphia”, Best Makeup

Compliance-2012

Compliance-2012

Director Craig Zobel

Starring Dreama Walker, Ann Dowd

Scott’s Review #435

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Reviewed June 30, 2016

Grade: A

Compliance (2012) is a ninety-minute riveting experience that will leave you thinking, talking, and feeling for days or weeks after viewing it.

The film is that intense.

The fact that it is based on true events is even more startling. It is, at times, quite disturbing and unsettling to watch, and if one likes their movies happy and wrapped in a bow, this will not be for you, but for film fans who truly want an emotional experience check it out.

At times I wanted to scream at the characters, look away from the screen, and shake my head in disbelief.

A truly riveting experience.

Major props to actress Ann Dowd, who does a bang-up job as the restaurant manager, and main character. What an amazing talent this actress is.

My range of emotions toward this character (sympathy, confusion, anger, disbelief) blew me away.

Compliance (2012) is one of the best modern films of late.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Supporting Female-Ann Dowd

St. Vincent-2014

St. Vincent-2014

Director Theodore Melfi

Starring Bill Murray, Naomi Watts, Melissa McCarthy

Scott’s Review #246

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Reviewed June 5, 2015

Grade: B-

St. Vincent (2014) succeeds only due to the charming, funny appeal of its star Bill Murray, who fronts this cute, mainstream comedy.

Set in blue-collar Brooklyn, New York, it tells the story of a curmudgeonly old man (the title character, Vincent), who befriends a lonely young boy named Oliver, new to the neighborhood.

Mixed in with the cast of characters are Oliver’s struggling mother Maggie (played by Melissa McCarthy) and Vincent’s pregnant, stripper girlfriend, Daka, played by Naomi Watts.

I found intrigue in how we get to know Vincent first and then watch him evolve from a grumpy, cutting old man to a begrudging babysitter of the neighbor boy while clashing with Maggie and fighting with Daka.

Murray returns to comic wit using his now-legendary flawless dry, sarcastic humor and perfect timing and displays much of that in St. Vincent. Throughout all of this Vincent remains brutally honest with his snarky remarks (mainly aimed at Maggie) yet heartwarming and I love this aspect of the film.

Thanks to Murray, Vincent is lovable, making the film, which with lesser talent, would be overly sentimental

As the film progresses we see Vincent’s struggles- his wife suffers from Alzheimer’s, and he is indebted to bookies (primarily Terence Howard- in a bit of a throwaway role).

The film staggers with some predictability issues and is formulaic and easy to predict a warm finale.

Of course, in true form, Vincent is a Vietnam vet who drinks and gambles and is angry at the world, but has a heart of gold so, despite being temperamental, the audience falls in love with him (patriotism helps).

The character contains every cliche in the book. A mean old man- who rises to new heights and becomes a nice grandfather figure to a bullied boy is what this film is going for.

The bullying of Oliver is also contrived- during one scene Oliver, after being picked on once again by the prominent bully, flies into a seething rage and breaks the bully’s nose.

The audience is supposed to buy that the waif-ish, shy kid triumphs over the bully. If only life were that simple. Inevitably, after both serve after-school detention, they bond over bathroom cleaning and become best friends.

Who did not see that coming?

In addition, most of the characters are one-note.

Naomi Watts is a sexy, and aging Russian (not sure I bought that accent) stripper with a soft spot- she comes across as uptight but is caring- another cliche.

Melissa McCarthy is a hard-working, soon-to-be divorcee, trying to raise her kid right- one-dimensional. Even Vincent is seemingly tough as nails, but of course, has a soft spot for the neighbor kid.

The casting of Watts, McCarthy, and Howard is okay, and I surmise the film was going for casting “name” actors, but these parts might have been played by unknowns and had the same effect.

The gem is Murray.

Murray effortlessly breathes life into a character who otherwise would have been as dull as dishwater. I found the writing the weakest point of the film.

A major incident brings the cast together united as one (yawn). The film closes with the family all happily eating dinner together. I do not see this as a spoiler as this ending can be seen a mile away.

Despite the flaws and sentimentality of the film, it is admittedly sweet, and humorous at times, and sends a nice message to the audience- be kind to one another and help each other get through life.

Without Bill Murray, this film would have been completely bland and unlikeable.

St. Vincent (2014) is a feel-good film that is perhaps too feel-good.

Bachelorette-2012

Bachelorette-2012

Director Leslye Headland

Starring Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher

Scott’s Review #22

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Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: D

I’m not sure how to pinpoint exactly what is wrong with Bachelorette (2012) except for just about everything.

It tries to be a Bridesmaids (2011) meets Hangover (2009) copycat but fails miserably. What made those films entertaining was that they were funny.

This film attempts many jokes and falls flat almost every time. The set-ups are there, but there is no follow-through.

Almost every character is unlikable and hateful to everyone else and there is nobody to root for.

Worse yet, the film is bland. Dumb comedies are not my favorite genre, but this was lackluster.

I adore Kirsten Dunst, but sadly she picked a dud she’s likely soon to forget. Isla Fisher seems to always be in films like this and the male actors (James Marsden, Adam Scott) have little to do.

The talented cast is wasted and Bachelorette (2012) is not worth seeing.