Tag Archives: Annette Bening

Nyad-2023

Nyad-2023

Director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin

Starring Annette Bening, Jodie Foster, Rhys Ifans

Scott’s Review #1,429

Reviewed June 28, 2024

Grade: B+

Nyad (2023) is a perfect example of a film made much better by the performances of its lead actors.

Heavyweights, Annette Bening, and Jodie Foster bring heart to their characters, making the viewer empathize and fall in love with them even when not likable.

Despite receiving Oscar nominations for both actors I semi-resisted watching the film and had it on my list for quite some time before biting the bullet and pressing play.

The previews enshroud the film in safety offering a feel-good, Cinderella-type story, pleasant but perhaps little more. A sports biography at that any nitwit searching Google could tell how the film would go.

The conclusion while inspiring is unsurprising and, spoiler alert, Bening as famous swimmer Diana Nyad, dramatically lumbers onto the sand of the Florida Keys amid cheers and chants of ‘Diana, Diana, Diana!’.

She is breathless and haggard but acknowledges her fans and friends.

Filmmakers, Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin only needed to add slow-motion filmmaking to make this thunderous ovation more sappy. 

But they didn’t, and the husband and wife directors do an admiral job of incorporating various colors and cool editing tricks to make Nyad a bit more cutting-edge than it might have been.

The true story of tenacity, courage, friendship, and the human spirit’s triumph, is explored by telling of the life of world-class athlete Diana Nyad.

Three decades after giving up marathon swimming in exchange for a prominent career as a sports journalist, at the age of sixty, Diana has an epiphany.

She completes an epic swim of one hundred-and-ten-mile trek from Cuba to Florida, a feat she failed decades earlier. It takes her four years along with her best friend and coach Bonnie Stoll (Foster) and a dedicated sailing team.

Bening and Foster have tremendous chemistry and every scene together sizzles with authenticity and humanism. Both are gay, it’s assumed they are longtime partners or a married couple. But it’s explained early on that they dated ‘for a minute’ and became best friends.

It turns into a film about female friendship and determination rather than romance. Other than Diana’s one feeble attempt at dating an uptight Los Angeles blonde neither woman date at all.

The flashier role goes to Bening who does not mind looking hideous in her film roles. Determined and aggressive, she slowly transforms into bloated, puffy, and unrecognizable, especially after her long swims.

A wonderful actor, Bening powerfully relays Nyad’s absolute need to attempt this historic feat. She sees her life passing her by and even though she is hardly a failure she doesn’t see herself as anything more.

Foster on the other hand is calm cool and collected, quite familiar with Nyad’s trials and tribulations and bouts of neediness. She’s spent years cow-towing to these needs.

But, Foster’s Bonnie is hardly a patsy or merely a supportive friend. She’s way more. In a brilliant scene, Bonnie confronts Diana and the pair have a blow-up scene. Bonnie needs more from her life and deserves it.

The women grow even closer after this emotional scene.

The film’s mid-section got a bit boring and I found myself tuning out until the big finale I knew was coming.

Since I knew Diana would eventually achieve her goal the three or four attempts feel dull. Bad weather, a jellyfish, fatigue, or other issues force the team to cancel the attempt.

Going in I would have guessed I’d rate Nyad (2023) a ‘B’ but thanks to Bening and Foster a ‘B+’ is a must.

There is so much to be said for brilliant acting and these two ladies know how to deliver the goods.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actress-Annette Bening, Best Supporting Actress-Jodie Foster

The Grifters-1990

The Grifters-1990

Director Stephen Frears

Starring John Cusack, Anjelica Huston, Annette Bening

Scott’s Review #597

Reviewed January 9, 2017

Grade: B-

The Grifters (1990) is a film that has witty writing and an overall appeal. It is unique and quirky and is in the style of a charismatic film noir from one of the golden ages of film, the 1930s, and the 1940s.

Additionally, the film has a very sharp, clean look to it.

The performances, especially Anjelica Houston, are excellent. All three principles, (John Cusack and Annette Bening) give fantastic performances and feed off each other so that the chemistry works quite well.

Cusack plays a small-time crook named Roy Dillon, inept in ways, and estranged from his mother (Huston). When she returns to town, she along with his girlfriend (Bening), all attempt to con and outmaneuver each other for their gain.

The film is set in sunny Los Angeles.

As compelling as the film sounds on paper, I did not find myself completely captured by it. It took me a while to get into the film and by the time I finally did, it had ended.

Overall, well made, and respectable, and I can see how some people would love it, but for me, there remained something missing.

Oscar Nominations: Best Director-Stephen Frears, Best Actress-Anjelica Huston, Best Supporting Actress-Annette Bening, Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 2 wins-Best Feature (won), Best Female Lead-Anjelica Huston (won)

The Kids Are All Right-2010

The Kids Are All Right-2010

Director Lisa Cholodenko

Starring Julianne Moore, Annette Bening

Scott’s Review #560

Reviewed December 24, 2016

Grade: A

The Kids Are All Right is a fantastic film!

In my opinion, the film is one of the best of the year 2010 and was rewarded with a deserving Best Picture nomination.

Annette Bening and Mark Ruffalo were also honored with acting nominations. Bening gives the best performance in the film.

Continuing the trend of more exposure to LGBT issues, The Kids Are All Right tells of a same-sex-centered family dealing with real issues.

Though not dark, the film is not light or played strictly for laughs. It is a family drama that shows how same-sex family units face problems like everyone else, and how they deal with them, never forgetting how much they love each other.

The writing is intelligent, deeply layered, and rich. The acting is superb, and the characters are complex.

The best scene is one where the entire family is eating dinner- suddenly the camera focuses on one person and goes in slow motion, the other voices become muffled and distant, and painful emotion is portrayed on one of the character’s faces as a revelation comes to the surface.

Brilliant.

Even the seemingly unimportant dialogue throughout the film is smart as it shows the bond of the family that cannot ultimately be broken.

The Kids Are All Right (2010) is a worthwhile and compelling film.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress-Annette Bening, Best Supporting Actor-Mark Ruffalo, Best Original Screenplay

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 1 win-Best Feature, Best Director-Lisa Cholodenko, Best Female Lead-Annette Bening, Best Supporting Male-Mark Ruffalo, Best Screenplay (won)

Ruby Sparks-2012

Ruby Sparks-2012

Director Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Starring Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan

Scott’s Review #442

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Reviewed July 4, 2016

Grade: B

Ruby Sparks is a smart, creative, indie film released in 2012.

The film’s theme is fantasy versus reality as the main character is a troubled writer who envisions a character he has created is real.

Is she real or isn’t she?

The film centers around a writer (Paul Dano) with writer’s block who creates an imaginary dream girl (Zoe Kazan), who magically comes to life, one day.

This is an interesting premise and the film has some big-named actors (Annette Bening, Eliot Gould, Antonio Banderas) in small roles which is a delight to see.

The chemistry is lacking between the two leads and the film delves too much into a typical romantic comedy.

Additionally, the film never explains if it is going for seriousness or purely the writer’s imagination, but I admire its creativity and thoughtful premise.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Screenplay

American Beauty-1999

American Beauty-1999

Director Sam Mendes

Starring Kevin Spacey, Annette Bening

Top 100 Films #65

Scott’s Review #70

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Reviewed June 25, 2014

Grade: A

American Beauty is a film that holds up magnificently well and packs the same punch as it did when I originally saw it premiered in 1999.

The film won the Best Picture Oscar in 1999, surprisingly so, as it is not a mainstream film and is edgy, artistic, and poetic.

The film is a thought-provoking story of the American Dream gone wrong and how most people live ordinary, humdrum, on the surface, happy lives, but ultimately are unhappy, damaged, or otherwise unfulfilled.

It is a truthful film and reminds me quite a bit of The Ice Storm, a film from 1997.

American Beauty is not a downer but rather is witty, dark-humored, and filled with dry sarcasm.

Kevin Spacey is tremendous as the central character going through a mid-life crisis and Annette Bening is frighteningly good as his neurotic, controlling wife.

Their daughter, played by Thora Birch, has her teenage angst and falls in love with a neighborhood misfit. Every character, even small and supporting, is troubled in some way.

American Beauty (1999) is a film that was loved or hated at the time of its release; some did not get it or did not want to invest in the thought it requires, but, to me, it’s a work of art, which has achieved a timeless quality.

Oscar Nominations: 5 wins-Best Picture (won), Best Director-Sam Mendes (won), Best Actor-Kevin Spacey (won), Best Actress-Annette Bening, Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen (won), Best Original Score, Best Cinematography (won), Best Film Editing