Thursday, February 4, 2021

Bob's Cinema Diary: 2/5/20 -- 'Two of Us,' 'Bliss' and 'The Right One'

Two of Us

 Barbara Sukowa and Martine Chevallier  play aging lovers in Two of Us, director Filippo Meneghetti's look at a love that struggles to shed its secrecy. The two women live in adjoining apartments. Chevallier's Madeleine, called "Mado," resists uprooting her life and moving to Rome with Sukowa's Nina. Such a move would mean announcing her gayness and changing the emotional calculus that allows her to maintain her relationship with her grown children. They don't know she's gay. Early, on Madeline tells Nina that she's willing to sell her apartment and move to Rome. But she falters when it comes to informing her children. The movie's principal development involves Madeleine's health. After Madeline suffers a stroke, her daughter Anne (Lea Drucker) takes over her care. Madeline's son (Jerome Varanfrain) grows increasingly impatient with what appears to be Nina's intrusive efforts to remain in Madeline's life. The children think their late father was the love of Madeline's life. The arrival of a caregiver (Muriel Benazeraf)  prompts Nina's  to push Benazeraf's character aside so that she can fulfill a role that reflects the reality of a long, mostly satisfying relationship. We wonder whether Madeline, who has lost the ability to speak, will play a role in deciding the outcome. The movie has as much to do with Nina's ability to function in a climate of secrecy as with the love the two women share. That makes Two of Us a touching reminder of the toxic complexities that result when secrets are kept.

Owen Wilson joins Salma Hayek in a story in which two  down-and-out Los Angelenos  enter an alternate reality that resembles the ultimate vacation destination. Or maybe that alternate reality is the real thing. Or maybe you won't care which is which. The story begins by introducing us to Wilson's befuddled Greg,  a man who messes up at work, accidentally kills his boss and then takes to the streets of Los Angeles. Divorced and at loose-ends, Greg seems unable to connect with his daughter (Nesta Cooper), a young woman who keeps trying to salvage her relationship with Dad. Initially, Hayek's Rita charges into the movie, telling Greg that she can free him from any suspicion that he may have murdered his boss. Rita's powers to tinker with reality apparently stem from crystals that she ingests and which she eventually shares with Wilson's Greg.  Rita explains the movie's various developments to Greg, but director Mike Cahill's movie never makes much sense and winds up as a ragged, lunging attempt to engage questions about the nature of reality and meaning that have been better addressed in other movies. Matrix enthusiasts can rest easy.

The Right One

If there's anything to be discovered by watching The Right One, it's that actress Cleopatra Coleman has the requisite humor and charm to hold a movie together. Of course, romcoms aren't solitary affairs: It takes two to tango. The second part of director Ken Mok's  ostentatiously quirky romcom revolves around Nick Thune, who's stuck playing Godfrey, a shape-shifting character who assumes various poses throughout the movie: a singing cowboy, an effete art critic, or a hard-rocking DJ. For reasons that aren't clear, Coleman's Sarah is attracted to Godfrey and pursues him without even knowing his real name. She's a writer 
and aren't all writers fascinated by oddballs? Godfrey reluctantly becomes involved with Sarah, allowing her to visit the many characters he plays. The plot strains to tell us why Godfrey can't simply be himself. All of this amounts to little, aside from providing each actor with an opportunity to showcase something: Thune, versatility; Coleman, snappy charm. But both are stranded by an implausible story that, rather than reaching a crescendo of love and acceptance,  sticks a flat ending. With Iliza Schlesinger as Sarah's obnoxiously self-absorbed editor.

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