Crafty Women. Films reviewed: Hevn, Love & Friendship, The Intervention

Posted in Uncategorized by CulturalMining.com on May 27, 2016

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

In movies, tricksters or con artists are usually played by men. But this week I’m going to talk about movies where women are the sneaky ones. There’s a scheming widow in England’s stately mansions, a mysterious visitor to Norway’s wild west… and a couples’ reunion in the deep south.

a7b552c0-d8aa-4d87-a639-ef3c685cf143Love & Friendship

Dir: Whit Stillman, Based on the novella Lady Susan by Jane Austen

Lady Susan (Kate Beckinsale) is a ravishing woman in 19th Century England. She has beautiful auburn curls and a plunging neckline. She’s also very intelligent – she could charm the cufflinks off a shirtsleeve. Men are like putty in her hands. She’s also morally lax. Marriage is a contract for the hoi polloi – for the priveged it should be thought of as a stepping stone. Lady Susan loves her landed gentry lifestyle, but after the death of her husband Vernon, she has no land, no home… and no income. Luckily she still has Love and Friendship ample friends and in-laws with money to burn. But when word of her extramarital dalliances reaches the wife of her host, she is forced to flee and come up with a new plan. She sends her grieving daughter Frederica (Morfydd Clark) off to boarding school and starts the gears aturning.

In addition to her secret bedmate, Lady Susan is being wooed by two men. One is Sir James (Tom Bennett), a rich landowner who smiles a lot and is dumb as a post. The other is young and handsome Reginald DeCourcy (Xavier Samuel) in whose home f0aa524a-eb42-4f36-802b-2c90b6ca15a3she is now a guest. He has been warned about her wily ways and is initially resistant to her friendship. But he learns to love her witty repartee and complex verbal jousting. Though she never says so, Lady Susan hopes to marry him and secure her — and her daughter’s — financial status. But her plans start to crumble.

Frederica is kicked out of boarding school because Lady Susan never paid tuition. Lady Lucy Manwaring suspects adultery involving her husband and tries to expose it. And her best friend 1c923623-0a27-47d6-b030-8b1b054f4d94Alicia (Chloe Sevigny) can help her with her schemes in London but only if her much older husband (Stephen Fry) is kept out of the loop. Can Lady Susan win her man, restore her status, keep her secret lover and get the money she wants and needs?

Love & Friendship is a Jane Austen novel re-imagined as a wonderfully witty screwball comedy. Director Whit Stillman took the unfinished story and added his own touches. He introduces each character – and there are many — with their names and brief descriptions appearing on the screen. The acting is good across the board, the costumes, music and settings (shot near Dublin) are all delightful. I liked this one a lot.

13100783_517603071760333_8882449457086362845_nHevn

Dir: Kjersti Steinsbø

Andrea (Siren Jørgensen) is a soft-spoken travel writer with a short boyish haircut. She arrives in a small town in western Norway in the middle of the night, unannounced. Why is she there? She works for a famous travel magazine and wants to interview Morten (Frode Winther) the local hotelier. So the scruffy bartender, Bimbo (Anders Baasmo Christiansen) promises to introduce her to him in the morning.

This is a small town where everyone knows everyone else. And it’s a beauty. Rows of wooden houses line one side of a11990560_444423365744971_5662763713369488379_n pristine green fjord, and stark mountains dominate the other side. And Morten’s white hotel overlooks it all.

The next day the blond and athletic Morten welcomes Andrea and offers her a suite in the empty hotel. And his wife Nina, noticing Andrea came without a suitcase, offers her 11953484_444951912358783_7881565416398246509_oopen access to all her clothes.

Andrea is clearly uncomfortable with all the nice things being offered. So uncomfortable that she runs to the bathroom to puke. She hasn’t told them why she’s really there. She’s not a travel writer, her real name is Rebekka, and she’s there to get revenge… through entrapment.

She visited the town with her much younger sister when she was just a teenager. And Morten did something then that led to her sister’s suicide. She wants him to suffer for what he 13241197_521854988001808_7585247791226230863_ndid… but did he actually do it? Is he still assaulting young women? And will she be discovered before she carries out her goal?

The movie is called Hevn (means revenge in Norwegian) but this is no Valhalla; its a festering pit of deceit and treachery. ‘s a not-bad psychological thriller. The Nordic scenery is breathtaking and the cast is attractive, but the story is not that gripping. We can understand Andrea’s struggle and feel her passion and fear, but we never learn anything about her backstory. It’s as if she lives only for revenge for her sister’s suicide. The film wavers between Big Issue and psychological thriller, without ever deciding which one it wants to be. This movie is OK, but not great.

interventionThe Intervention

Dir: Clea DuVall

Four couples, old friends all, are having a reunion. They meet up in a huge house amidst the Spanish moss of a Carolina plantation. It’s a surprise party of sorts. The surprise is they’re there not to celebrate but to break up a marriage. Ruby and Peter (Cobie Smulders and Vincent Piazza) have careers and kids. But their friends all think it’s a sham – they don’t love each other anymore so why are they still together. So Jessie (Ruby’s sister) and Annie another friend plan to hold a secret intervention to tell that couple to face the music. But look who’s talking! Annie (Melanie Lynskey) is a heavy drinker and refuses to commit to her fiancé. Jessie (Clea DuVall) is in a longterm relationship with her girlfriend but they have yet to move intogether, still don’t live together. And the newly single Jack arrives with another surprise: Lola (Alia Shawkat), a 22 year old loose cannon he picked up at a music festival. Lola is openly bisexual, and ready to jump into bed with anyone who strikes her fancy. Will the intervention succeed or fail? And will any of the couples survive this fraught-filled get-together?1140_TheIntervention

The Intervention is a light and likeable relationship dramedy. By light I mean there’s nothing remarkable about the story. It succeeds on the strength of the excellent comic acting of three women: DuVall, Shawkatt and most of all Lynskey.

Hevn and Love & Friendship both open today: check your local listings. The Intervention — which will be released later this summer — is premiering at Toronto’s Inside-Out LGBT film fest. The festival is on now and for the next 10 days. Go to: insideout.ca for showtimes.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning, on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com.

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