A quick snapshot of films seen this weekend.
Saturday: "Being Julia", a light, romantic comedy starring Annette Bening, with a wonderful supporting cast that included Jeremy Irons, Michael Gambon, and a deliciously tart Juliet Stevenson. The film is set in 1938 London, where Bening plays a stage actress married to Irons, the theatre-owner who produces her plays. Romantic complications ensue, and at the end of the film Bening has a scene that Katherine Hepburn would have relished (and AB tackles it with as much gusto as Kate would have). The whole cast was clearly having fun with this film, and it was nice to see Irons (whom I've adored since he played in "Brideshead Revisited" more than two decades ago) given a chance to play comedy. What a change from the reserved and/or angst-ridden characters he usually plays ("Betrayal", "Reversal of Fortune", "Damage", and of course never ever forgetting "Dead Ringers" -- the film that I still think should have brought him an Oscar). This film will make you happy.
Sunday: "The Machinist", a small, dark, and very disturbing drama. This is a film that won't make it beyond a handful of cities (assuming it plays anywhere apart from New York and L.A.). If you've heard about the film at all, it's probably from reading coverage of what the star, Christian Bale, did to prepare for the role -- preparation that included losing 63 pounds to get to a (for him) cadaverous 120 pounds, and sleeping only two hours a night for weeks to turn himself into Trevor Reznik, a man who can't sleep and whose grip on reality may be disappearing as quickly as the weight is dropping from his body. While Charlize Theron got a lot of well-deserved credit for her transformation into serial killer Aileen Wournos, I don't think that what she did had the slightly frightening obsessiveness that Bale's preparation did. The first sight of him shirtless drew gasps from the audience (and this was a sophisticated art house crowd in a Hollywood theatre -- we're jaded out here, and there's not much that shocks us anymore, but this did). Not-quite concentration camp survivor, but almost; not-quite end-stage AIDS patient, but almost. The look of the film -- cold and dreary -- almost colourless -- suits the story. The film was given an "R" rating, which amazes me. There's one particular scene in the film -- not sex, and not really violence -- but just something so graphic that I would have expected the film to come out unrated (a way of avoiding an "NC-17" rating). That scene, and really the whole movie, isn't something that should be seen by a minor, even one "accompanied by a parent or adult guardian". And saying that about a film is a first for me.
To close on a happier(?) note, I read a review of "The Foreigner" in today's New York Times. This is the new Matthew Broderick play that features Lee Tergesen in a supporting role. I know that a group of LJ'ers (is that a word?) on the East Coast were planning a trip to New York to see Lee; based on the review, I hope they won't be disappointed. The play wasn't reviewed very well, and the brief description (four words) of Lee's character plus his place in the cast listing, doesn't bode well. I'll be watching for reports back.
Time to get some work done now. Happy Monday, everyone!