Tag Archives: Carey Mulligan

Saltburn-2023

Saltburn-2023

Director Emerald Fennell

Starring Barry Keoghan, Jacob Elordi, Rosamund Pike

Scott’s Review #1,417

Reviewed January 19, 2024

Grade: A

Emerald Fennell, as a director (she also acts) is someone to keep a close eye on.  With only her second film, Saltburn (2023), she has quickly drawn comparisons to Darren Aronofsky and Yorgos Lanthimos by creating wickedly daring comedies rife with sharp dialogue and peculiar tastes.

Okay, I’m drawing those comparisons on my own.

The point is that she creates films that are not necessarily for mainstream audiences but will satisfy the peculiar cravings of those seeking left-of-center and hard-to-predict films.

She also wrote the screenplay.

Those wary of hard-to-digest scenes involving blood, sex, nudity, and other depravities, be forewarned.

Her first film was the revenge-themed and Academy Award-winning Promising Young Woman (2020) starring Carey Mulligan who makes a return appearance in Saltburn.

This time out Fennell offers us a beautifully daring story centering around privilege, jealousy, and desire. The film offers unlikable characters with enough twists and turns to keep the audience off guard and confused as to who to root for or against.

Will the characters we hate stay hated? If this sounds vague it’s because the film is filled with mystery.

Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) is an awkward young man struggling to find his place at Oxford University the recipient of a scholarship for those with financial hardships. His mother is a recovering drug addict and his father is dead.

Unpopular, he finds himself drawn to the charming and handsome Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi), who also happens to be filthy rich. Felix is the envy of almost everyone as they strive to be his friend or bedfellow.

After Oliver does Felix a favor, they become buddies, and Felix unexpectedly invites him to Saltburn, his eccentric family’s sprawling estate, for a summer vacation.

The lavish Oxford University is grandiose and scholarly with lots of preppy and wealthy intellectuals. As the snobs partake in parties and wild games Oliver is looked down on by everyone but Felix. The spoiled students are not meant for the audience to like.

I love how Fennell incorporates legions of insecurities suffered by the have-nots struggling to fit in which is a common theme of hers. The only kid willing to give Oliver the time of day is a creepy Jeffrey Dahmer type.

Anyone familiar with cliques on college campuses will be firmly in Oliver’s corner. He’s a good kid after all, who has been dealt a struggling hand at life, what with his parent’s issues and all.

The shit hits the fan when Oliver arrives at Saltburn which makes Oxford seem minimal in comparison. Manicured and sprawling lawns complete with a center maze are overwhelming to Oliver to say nothing of the group of oddballs that make up the family and staff.

Suddenly though, everything becomes weird, and the tone of the film shifts.

The final forty-five minutes are riveting with unexpected events transpiring after a wild party to celebrate Oliver’s birthday. Felix, his sister, and their parents are involved in shenanigans that make the viewers question everything they’ve seen thus far.

Mulligan doesn’t have much to do in Saltburn. Her role amounts to little more than a cameo which would be more irritating if the other characters weren’t so richly written.

Rosamund Pike and Richard E. Grant sizzle as aristocratic types oblivious to everyone else and their wealthy surroundings. It’s almost as if they assume everyone lives this well.

The sexual scenes of desire are breathtaking and startlingly explicit. In one scene, two characters make out with bloody mouths and in another, one character masturbates in a bathtub while another character spies on him and lustfully licks the faucet a few minutes later.

The best acting performance belongs to Keoghan who delivers a complex and spirited character who we’re not sure what will do next or sometimes why. He possesses an innocent yet creepy veneer which is tough to figure out.

His naked dance sequence is one of the wildest in cinema history.

Fennell hits another grand slam with the eerie yet fascinating Saltburn (2023), a delicious examination of the class system. The mixture of the groveling poor with the callous rich makes for a brilliant story.

I can’t wait to see what she does next.

Maestro-2023

Maestro-2023

Director Bradley Cooper

Starring Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan

Scott’s Review #1,411

Reviewed December 3, 2023

Grade: A

Brilliance personified defines Maestro (2023), a film directed by and starring Bradley Cooper. As if that isn’t enough Cooper co-wrote the screenplay with Josh Singer and co-produced the project with Martin Scorcese and Steven Spielberg.

With riches such as these players involved equates to adequate muscle to make the film a necessary watch brimming with creativity and good storytelling.

There is no disappointment whatsoever in the buildup. Maestro expresses powerful acting, creative direction, and a musical score encompassing the works of the man being examined, Bernstein.

At the conclusion, I found myself feeling like I’d been hit by a Mack truck. The epic portrayal of one family’s love for one another was overwhelming.

Combined with the art appreciation left me astounded with culture and further knowledge of the composer.

The story is not as much of a straightforward biography as one might imagine though when the film begins in the 1940s the famous composer is just on the cusp of his first big break. By sheer luck, he is asked to fill in for an ailing conductor, Bruno Walter, one evening.

But at its core Maestro is a torrential and fearless love story chronicling the lifelong relationship between Leonard Bernstein (Bradley Cooper) and Felicia Montealegre Cohn Bernstein (Carey Mulligan) who was a well-known theater actress.

They meet at a party and fall madly in love spending most of their time together. The intrigue is that Leonard is gay and quite openly so before he meets Felicia and becomes famous.

His boyfriend is David Oppenheim, played by Matt Bomer.

This sat well with me and I was impressed by their openness well before the LGBT movement. Unfortunately, we see little of David or Bomer after the early days and Leonard becomes enamored with several young aspiring composers. He then took to doing lines of cocaine into the 1970s and 1980s.

What the film does well is reveal that Felicia is aware of Leonard’s sexuality and loves him despite his appetite for men. This is not always easy for her. They share a love that is stoic and unadulterated and they become one in their bond making it unbreakable.

Maestro gets very dark in the later stages when Felicia is diagnosed with terminal cancer but this gives Cooper and Mulligan a chance to shine, and dazzle the audience with mesmerizing acting performances.

It’s tough to showcase one because both are so good.

Cooper has given the best performance of his career.

Enveloping himself into the role so much that it’s staggering how he gets the mannerisms of Bernstein.  The composer’s energetic style of expressive body movements and gestures which he was noted for as a conductor are done to perfection by Cooper.

Mulligan doesn’t play the wife role. She has her own story and makes the audience empathize with Felicia’s struggles to deal with her husband’s sexuality especially when rumors come to light affecting her children.

Mulligan gives a genuineness and heart to Felicia’s battle with cancer.

Cooper’s direction is excellent. The first part is shot in black and white giving an artistic, old Hollywood-style feel making the cigarette smoking look glamorous and sophisticated. The lush art direction merges into blurry shadows and angular lighting that fits the mood.

The color enhances the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s time as the characters age. The hairstyles and outfits gleam with sophisticated New York style and the Bernstein’s Long Island home is palatial.

Ironically, the darkest parts of the film are the most vivid and colorful.

Finally, the musical score features legendary Bernstein pieces that give truth to the production not only reminding viewers how talented he was but the choices made enhance each scene where a number appears.

I smiled when a number from West Side Story, perhaps his best-known work was featured.

A knock-out scene of Leonard conducting at a cathedral is lengthy and dramatic culminating with Felecia looking on from the side of the church. At this moment, I knew that the couple were true soulmates.

Maestro (2023) is an exceptional piece of filmmaking that easily secures Bradley Cooper his place in cinema history both in front of and behind the camera.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor-Bradley Cooper, Best Actress-Carey Mulligan, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Makeup and Hairstyling

Mudbound-2017

Mudbound-2017

Director-Dee Rees

Starring-Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund

Scott’s Review #724

Reviewed February 12, 2018

Grade: B+

Mudbound is a 2017 Netflix period drama offering that transports the viewer to a time of racism and struggles as World War II ravaged Europe.

The piece is largely set in rural Mississippi, however, during the 1940s as a vastly different way of life existed for most- especially black folks.

The film depicts the hardships and struggles of two families living on the same land- one white and one black, and how their lives intersect with one another’s dramatical.

The film received several Oscar nominations including Adapted Screenplay, Supporting Actress, Song, and Cinematography. I will suffice it to say I support the latter two mentions in the group, but not the former.

While the final act kicks the film into much-needed high gear, and the filming detail of the rural southern terrain is quite apt, I kept waiting for a stunning scene involving the usually wonderful Mary J. Blige to erupt, but sadly nothing ever came.

The writing, while inspired, would not get my vote in the screenplay category either, especially when other, more worthy films (think Mother!) were bypassed.

The mood of Mudbound is immediately impressive as we are introduced to the grizzled and muddy town of Marietta, Mississippi, a sort of farm wasteland, where brothers Henry and Jamie McAllan struggle to bury their recently deceased “Pappy” as the lands are ravaged by a driving storm.

When Henry briefly leaves Jamie in the watery grave the pair has dug, Jamie is panic-stricken that Henry will not return. In this way, director Dee Rees reveals a major clue to tension between the brothers as the film rewinds to sometime earlier when times were happier for the brothers.

Mixed in with the trials and tribulations of brothers McAllan, is Henry’s wife Laura (Carey Mulligan), who shares a loveless marriage with him, while secretly lusting after Jamie.

A poor black family resides and works on the McAllan farm, and must endure hardship and racism from the white residents of Marietta, especially when their son Ronsel returns from World War II, a celebrated hero. Old habits die hard as the Ku Klux Klan rears its ugly head- targeting the young soldier for daring to bed with a German woman abroad.

As most of the film meanders during the first hour or so with odd edits and pacing, I did not easily connect with many of the characters, though I wanted desperately to.

There seemed to be not enough buildup to the ultimate drama. The film is shot in a way that you know you are watching something of substance, but it takes a long, long time to reach a crescendo.

The aforementioned criticism of Mary J. Blige, who portrays long-suffering matriarch Florence Jackson, is not of the part itself or her acting, but rather, I expected a gritty, meat and potatoes style performance from the talented lady.

I disagree with her Oscar nomination, and instead would have chosen the brilliant Michelle Pfeiffer from Mother!

Praise must be written for Mulligan’s performance, shamefully overlooked, like the haggard, intellectually unfulfilled housewife, Laura. As she wistfully buries her nose in a novel to escape her dull life, or longingly looks at Jamie, disappointed with her loneliness, we feel every emotion that Mulligan plays.

A consistent problem with Mudbound was there lacked a grand emotional scene from either Blige or Mulligan.

The film’s racist subject matter can be utterly difficult to watch as a major character sees their tongue removed and another character forced to make a difficult choice. This action leads to a deadly turn of events and the murder of another character, resulting in a lifetime of secrets.

The final thirty minutes is the best part of Mudbound.

A must mention, and the historical feat is the nomination of Rachel Morrison in the cinematography category. She is the very first female to ever receive this honor and it is certainly about time. Morrison successfully fills Mudbound with the perfect mood- both picturesque greenery and a depressing, downtrodden aura.

This is not as easy as one might imagine, but creative talent achieves this effortlessly.

Mudbound is a film that has received lots of attention but is not the masterpiece some are touting it as. Taking way too long to hit its stride, the film has good aspects and also some missed opportunities.

Perhaps a better put-together film might have resulted in a brilliant experience instead of “only” a very good watch. I recommend Mudbound, but I expected and hoped for much more than I was given.

Oscar Nominations: Best Supporting Actress-Mary J. Blige, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Original Song-“Mighty River”, Best Cinematography

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Robert Altman Award (won)

An Education-2009

An Education-2009

Director Lone Scherfig

Starring Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard

Scott’s Review #584

Reviewed January 4, 2017

Grade: B+

An Education, a British film released in 2009, is a small, little gem of a film. The story-telling and the acting are very good.

Since it is a British film, the accents can be a little distracting for some, but I enjoyed it very much.

It tells the story of an intelligent, college-driven teenager, named Jenny (Mulligan), who falls in love with an older, charismatic man (Sarsgaard). She is faced with conflict from her family and teachers, most notably her father, played by Alfred Molina.

The individuals in her life have differing opinions on which path Jenny should choose in her life. This leads to the main conflict in the film.

The setting is rainy, cold, London in 1961. Headed for Oxford and a successful career (not common for a female in those days), Jenny is willing to risk it all for love, but is she being taken advantage of?

The film is romantic, comical, and serious all rolled into one. The story is nothing original, to be frank, but specifically, the excellent acting makes it worth seeing.

An Education (2009) proves filmmakers can take a good story, told before, and make it compelling to an audience.

Carey Mulligan deservedly received an Oscar nomination for this film and made her debut as a high-caliber young actress to watch.

Oscar Nominations: Best Picture, Best Actress-Carey Mulligan, Best Adapted Screenplay

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: 1 win-Best Foreign Film (won)

Never Let Me Go-2010

Never Let Me Go-2010

Director Mark Romanek

Starring Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Keira Knightley

Scott’s Review #555

Reviewed December 21, 2016

Grade: A-

Offering a unique experience in creative story-telling, Never Let Me Go (2010) is an excellent film that I was happy to discover.

A mixture of romance and science-fiction, tells of young love and tragedy interestingly- sacrifice and science can lead to dire results.

Based on a 2005 novel of the same name.

A small British drama about a private school where the children are raised as typical children, but at a certain point are expected to donate organs to save other lives, the concept is quite fresh and original.

The film deals with both the moral and psychological effects of the chosen ones as they attempt to allude to ending their lives- if they can prove they are in love.

My initial reactions were multiple emotions-thought-provoking, touching, and sad is what I felt.

This film will make you think. It is equally evocative and thought-provoking- many times I imagined myself in a similar situation.

As Andrew Garfield’s character gets out of his car on the side of the road and screams up at the sky, it is the most powerful scene in the film.

Excellent acting by the three leads (Mulligan, Garfield, and Knightley), with special praise for Carey Mulligan.

Charlotte Rampling as the mysterious headmistress of the school is brilliant.

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Cinematography

The Great Gatsby-2013

The Great Gatsby-2013

Director Baz Luhrmann

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire

Scott’s Review #142

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Reviewed July 29, 2014

Grade: A

Despite some mixed reviews of this movie, I loved it.

Having read the classic novel, The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald, I was familiar with the story of excess and scandal during one sweltering summer in the well-to-do Long Island, NY community during the 1920s.

Directed by Baz Luhrmann (Moulin Rouge) I found the look of the film lavish, realistic, and gorgeous- perfect ambiance and a dream-like quality.

I loved the casting of Leonardo Dicaprio as Gatsby, Carey Mulligan as Daisy, and Tobey Maguire as Nick Caraway.

The chemistry among the three leads is apparent and visually the film is spectacularly dressed, from costumes to gorgeous sets, and the speech patterns of the era- “old sport”, and “row”, is used frequently and seem authentic.

Many complained about the mixing of modern rap music with a film set in the 1920s, which does sound strange on paper, but I enjoyed that aspect of it and feel it gave a contemporary edge to the film.

There are slight adjustments from the novel, but I thought it was a very successful transition to the big screen.

Oscar Nominations: 2 wins-Best Production Design (won), Best Costume Design (won)

Inside Llewyn Davis-2013

Inside Llewyn Davis-2013

Director Ethan Coen, Joel Coen

Starring Oscar Isaac, Carey Mulligan

Scott’s Review #35

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Reviewed June 17, 2014

Grade: B+

Being a tremendous fan of the Coen brothers (Fargo-1996, No Country for Old Men-2007) I was eager to see their latest offering, Inside Llewyn Davis (2013).

The Coen’s have such a sense of quirkiness in their characters and while this film is not on the level of their other gems, it is a good piece.

I love the cold, winter, Greenwich Village setting as struggling folk singer, Llewyn Davis (expertly played by Oscar Isaac) struggles over two weeks to land gigs or breaks while encountering many people who either thwart or help his chances of success.

Sadly, the film was ignored by the Oscar brethren, but alas it tells of a slice-of-life experience of a 1960s artist.

As with most Coen brother films, it is cast with unique, interesting character actors in a bit but nuanced parts.

Oscar Nominations: Best Sound Mixing, Best Cinematography

Independent Spirit Award Nominations: Best Feature, Best Male Lead-Oscar Isaac, Best Cinematography