Thursday, September 17, 2020

Bob's Cinema Diary: 9/17/20 -- 'Blackbird' and 'The Nest'

The Nest
Director Sean Durkin returns to the screen after a long hiatus. His last movie was  2011's Martha Marcy May Marlene. With The Nest, Durkin travels back to the 1980s for a look at a marriage struggling to survive the upheaval of a transatlantic move. Jude Law  (as Rory) and Carrie Coon (as Allison) star as a husband and wife who have fallen off the same page even before they move to London. She loves their suburban life in the US. He’s too ambitious to be content. She runs a riding school: He's a commodities trader. Rory and Allison have two kids: a daughter (Oona Roche) from Allison's previous marriage and a son (Charlie Shotwell) from the couple's current marriage. Not only does Rory drag his family across the ocean, he soon runs out of funds. He vastly overestimates his ability to persuade his London boss (Michael Culkin) to merge his company with an American firm, a development that ensures that Rory won't be able to  afford the Surrey estate he impulsively rented for the family. Late in the movie, a taxi driver asks Rory what he does for a living. "I pretend to be rich,'' says Rory, who by this time has entered a state of dejected realization: The rungs on the social ladder he's climbing have begun to collapse. As the horse-loving Allison, Coon embodies the emotional volatility of an '80s woman who doesn't always listen to her better judgment. Initially charming, Rory refuses to acknowledge his limitations and, in Law's hands, reaches a state of hollowed-out desperation. Durkin, who has no interest in feel-good sentiment, courageously brings his movie to a conclusion marked as much by exhaustion and defeat as by anything that might be called reconciliation. 

There are few more familiar dramatic conceits than this:  A family gathers for a special occasion only to have soul-wrenching secrets revealed. Blackbird follows such a traditional map but adds a disturbing twist. Mom (Susan Sarandon) is dying of ALS. In response, Sarandon's Lily has decided to end her life. She wants to see her family one more time before drinking the lethal concoction that will enable her to avoid a nightmarish end to an otherwise fulfilling life. As the story unfolds, director Roger Michell introduces us to Lily's family: daughters played by Kate Winslet and Mia Wasikowska and a husband portrayed by an underutilized Sam Neill. Winslet's Jennifer arrives at Lily’s seaside home with her husband (Rainn Wilson) and teenage son (Anson Boon). Lindsay Duncan turns up as Lily's best friend.  Christian Torpe's screenplay boasts finely wrought moments that are well-executed by a fine cast, tense encounters between the sisters, for example. But the screenplay adds a few reveals too many and even a cast this strong can't always compensate for a lack of dramatic crackle. At the same time, Michell eventually finds the emotional power and the deep sadness that accompanies Lily's decision; just because it's the right choice for her doesn't make its irrevocability any less harrowing.

No comments: