The Morning After: Dec. 10, 2018

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

The Favourite

My first exposure to director Yorgos Lanthimos was his futuristic satire The Lobster starring Rachel Weisz and Colin Farrell. That film was certainly bizarre, but showed a great flavor for the unusual, making him a director to look out for each time he releases a film.

The Favourite has a lot of Lanthimos’ trademark quirkiness, but it’s a more straight forward period drama than what he’s done previously. Olivia Colman plays Queen Anne, an 18th century English monarch whose short rein was filled with the kind of pablum that doesn’t often make great movies. Except this one, which centers around the relationship of Sarah Churchill, Duchess of Marlborough (Rachel Weisz) and her cousin Abigail Hill (Emma Stone) as she seeks a job after her family financial collapse. As Abigail weeds her way into Anne’s life, Sarah plays her political hand too strongly, risking her royal friendship and allowing Abigail an opening.

While the historical story is far less incendiary than this film, it nevertheless provides fascinating grist for Lanthimos’ sawmill. The trio of ladies are brilliant together with Colman, Weisz, and Stone all turning in superb performances. The gorgeous design and costumes make a lovely setting for this biting historical drama about love, betrayal, and pigeon-shooting.

A Star Is Born

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper prove strong scene partners in this fourth version of the classic Hollywood story A Star Is Born.

The first film, from 1937, was set in Hollywood as an out of work actress (Janet Gaynor) finds a legendary benefactor (Fredric March) who gives her the chance to become a star. After Judy Garland and James Mason remade the film to great acclaim in 1954 shifting its focus from film to music, it was further iterated on in 1976 by Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson. This third attempt, which moves the singing out of Hollywood, was much maligned even if it did produce one of cinema’s most famous songs (“Evergreen”).

42 years after that prior incarnation, Bradley Cooper makes his directorial debut acting alongside Lady Gaga in a plot not far removed from the third version. Herein, Cooper plays alcoholic Jackson Maine whose career is being slowly destroyed by his worsening tinnitus. After discovering Ally (Lady Gaga) in a drag bar, singing her heart out, he falls in love and takes her on tour with him where her star rises and eclipses his. Jack spirals further into alcoholism and drug addiction, risking his relationship with the burgeoning pop superstar.

Cooper’s direction is assured, a terrific debut for the actor. He and Lady Gaga are strong in their respective roles as is Sam Elliott as Jack’s half-brother and manager. The music is quite good, though the certain-to-be-Oscar-nominated “Shallow” pales in comparison to both “Evergreen” and 1954’s “The Man That Got Away,” it’s still a solid effort. The film is sure to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, the first to do so since the 1937 original, along with a raft of other nominations, possibly even topping all others with a solid chance of winning Best Picture.

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