Sunday, February 27, 2011

Recent Movie Roundup 12

My movie-watching slowed way down in the second half of 2010--the posts tagged 'film' from that period cover nearly all of the films I watched--but with winter the interchangeable action films and rage-inducing romantic comedies give way to more interesting stuff, and I've found myself at the movie theater again.
  • The Kids Are All Right (2010) - It's easy to imagine how this gentle, well-made but unexciting film somehow managed to make its way to such universal, but mostly overblown, acclaim.  There are the modest beginnings as an indie flick (with, admittedly, a top-drawer cast) that might incline reviewers to over-emphasize their praise.  There is the heartening subject matter, the marriage of Jules (Annette Bening) and Nic (Julianne Moore), which is rocked when their children make contact with Paul, the sperm donor who fathered them (Mark Ruffalo), and invite him into their lives.  There is the film's depiction of gay marriage and gay families as entirely normal, in the sense that the one the film revolves around is happy, loving, but still screwed up (in part by the pressure to be more happy and more loving than families with opposite-sex parents), and the way that the assumption made by Paul, that as a straight man, as the kids' biological father, and as, for a brief period, Nic's lover, he can appropriate this family for himself, is shut down by all the other characters and the film's ending, which reaffirms the family's power to endure.  These are all good qualities, but they don't quite make up for the fact that Kids is a little floppy, that as a comedy it is neither laugh-out-loud funny nor wry, and that its ending, in its rush to restore Jules and Nic's marriage, papers over rather than addresses or fixes the cracks that were present in it before Paul came into it, and thus feels a little unearned.  As a best picture Oscar nominee, and with Bening positioned as one of the stronger contenders for this year's best actress award (which is almost more baffling than the film's nomination; she's good, but not remarkable), those flaws are a lot harder to ignore.  At this point, Kids's quality has been blown so completely out of proportion to what the film actually achieves that even the things I liked about it--most notably Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson, who give winning performances as titular kids, making them believably immature without being bratty--seem a little duller in the bright glare of all that unearned praise.

  • The King's Speech (2010) - This film's ecstatic reception, meanwhile, leaves me utterly baffled (all the more so because, while Kids is clearly an also-ran in all of its Oscar categories except possibly best actress, King is a shoe-in for best picture).  Again, this is a well-made film that is utterly unobjectionable in itself.  Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush are very good as, respectively, George VI and Lionel Logue, the speech therapist who helped him overcome his stammer in time to take the throne from the abdicating Edward VIII and galvanize his people in the face of WWII (though Firth's performance is not a patch on his magnificent turn as another George, the grief-stricken title character in last year's A Single Man).  But the film itself is so small, so predictable, so proper.  There is almost no beat to either plot or characters that feels fresh or original (as others have noted, the plot is essentially that of a sports movie).  But for its historical aspect, The King's Speech does nothing to set itself apart from the many films that have told its story before, nor does it seem to be trying to tell a particularly excellent version of that story--apart from the performances, the film is not much more than adequate.  It's hard to escape the conclusion that the film is using history as a crutch, borrowing significance from the real George VI's symbolic role in the conflict that defined his nation's identity and role in the 20th century (while, apparently, distorting history, and George's political affiliations, quite significantly).  That that borrowing has been rewarded with praise and awards is incredibly aggravating.

    Even more aggravating is the film's positioning of itself as a fable of class-crossing friendship, with Logue, a commoner (whose ancestry and success at his practice have been severely downgraded in order to emphasize this point, as have the honors that George bestowed upon him before the war and the titular speech) helping George to become the ruler that Britain deserves, even as it pulls every classist, misogynist trick in the book in its handling of Wallis Simpson.  According to The King's Speech, Wallis's crimes are: that she wouldn't become Edward's kept woman, that she expected to be treated as an equal partner in their relationship, and that she was not sufficiently deferential to royalty.  All of which would have put me entirely on her side even if there were not scenes in The King's Speech such as the one in which Helena Bonham Carter's Queen Elizabeth remarks to Winston Churchill that Wallis's "hold" on Edward must be the result of dirty sex tricks she learned in a Shanghai brothel.  (To the obvious retort, that the film is trying to be accurate to how the royal family must have seen Wallis, one can only reply by pointing out that The King's Speech is only too happy to entirely reverse Churchill's position on the abdication crisis--he supported Edward to the bitter end--and as the Queen Mother is no less integral a part of post-war British myth one can only assume that the filmmakers thought that slut-shaming wouldn't alienate her from the audience.)  This is a problem for the film, which uses Wallis (and, to a lesser extent, Edward) as the closest thing it has to a villain, but it's a bigger problem for me, because it means I've been forced into sympathizing with someone who, in real life, was practically a Nazi, which you'd think a film that makes so much hay out of George's role in opposing the Nazis would find more objectionable than promiscuity.  Once you notice how much class and sex prejudice is involved in the film's handling of Wallis, the thinness of its egalitarianism becomes easier to spot, and The King's Speech emerges as a disturbingly conservative film, politically as well as artistically.

  • Black Swan (2010) - I'm not sure what I was expecting from this film, but it certainly wasn't to be swept away as thoroughly as I was.  To be fair, a lot of this is Tchaikovsky's doing, not Darren Aronofsky's--the last twenty minutes of the film are essentially a compressed performance of Swan Lake, and the score features the ballet's signature music quite heavily--but one of the things that Black Swan does well is to take a story so familiar that it's become an insipid, bloodless cliché and turn it on its head, making it scary, sexy, and horrifying (in the same way, composer Clint Mansell weaves Tchaikovsky's music in and out of his own, Swan Lake-inspired, score, and uses it to evoke fear and tension as well as sweeping emotion).  This isn't a profound or complicated film.  Its ideas are straightforward and everything it does is right there on the surface.  But what's on that surface--Natalie Portman's riveting, exhausting performance as Nina, a technically accomplished but emotionally stunted ballerina who spends the film alternately seeking out and fighting off her dark side in order to embody the black as well as white swan; Aronofsky's claustrophobic direction and his evocation of Nina's deteriorating grasp on reality--is so well done, and so overpowering, that the film's thematic thinness hardly has a chance to register (an exception might be the film's final shot, which makes no sense--as if Aronofsky knew what ending his paralleling of Swan Lake and The Red Shoes demanded, but couldn't figure out how to get to it).

    Another thing I wasn't expecting, and which the film's otherwise enthusiastic reception has been surprisingly silent about, is the fact that Black Swan can very easily be read as a feminist story, and more precisely, as a feminist horror story, in which a supposedly romantic framework is revealed as a lethal trap.  What destroys Nina, after all, is the virgin/whore dichotomy--her inability to reconcile the "good" (which is to say, timid, defenseless, virginal) girl she's been raised to be with the "bad" (sexual, powerful, demanding) character she's been asked to play.  As the film's events recall and distort Swan Lake--Nina fears that, like the white swan Odette, she is being replaced by another dancer, and the company's director is paralleled with both the prince and the evil magician--they also cast a light on the system that drives the ballet company, in which women compete with and undermine one another in order to win the favor of a man, who sexually harasses and assaults his "favorites," then discards them when they're no longer young and beautiful--a system that has also produced (and discarded) Nina's mother, who has trained her daughter to be its perfect, and perfectly docile, participant.  When Mila Kunis's rival ballerina Lily, who doesn't play by these rules, who owns her sexuality rather than suppressing or performing it, tries to reach out to Nina, Nina's worldview has no terms in which to comprehend her.  She recoils from, and perceives as an enemy, her only chance of salvation.

  • True Grit (2010) - It's easy enough to take this film as a straight-up, comedic Western adventure, the Coen brothers doing their typical shtick of confounding expectations by not confounding them and simply telling the story of 14-year-old Mattie Ross (a fantastic Hailee Steinfeld) who hires a marshall to track down the man who killed her father, and goes with him on his quest.  As such, the film works very well--Jeff Bridges has taken to sprinkling each of his performances with a little bit of The Dude to give them a popular flavor, but that doesn't make his Rooster Cogburn any less successful; Matt Damon is also good as a Texas Ranger who starts out a buffoon and turns out to have a bit more substance to him (though the slight romantic undercurrent between his character and Mattie is a little disturbing given that Damon is 41 and Steinfeld is 14); most importantly, the plot moves well, the chases, gunfights, and standoffs are all appropriately thrilling, and the landscape is used beautifully.  But I have a niggling suspicion that the film is more sarcastic, and that its comedy is darker, than a first glance would suggest.  I can't help but wonder what we're meant to be laughing at--the buddy comedy antics between Mattie, Rooster, and Damon's LeBoeuf?  The whole notion of the Western adventure?  Or Mattie herself?  And if it's the latter, is that laughter benevolent or cruel?  Are we meant to see Mattie, who is vengeful, bloodthirsty, and, perhaps most importantly, obsessed with the power of money and the law to get her the things she wants, as verging on monstrous, and the high price she pays for avenging her father as a comeuppance?  Or is the film, as Stanley Fish suggests, reiterating No Country for Old Men's message of the universe's amorality, and holding up Mattie's determination to pay for the things she wants and make sure others pay for what they've taken, and to live as if the world were guided by a stark division between right and wrong even in the face of fate's capriciousness, as admirable?  I can't decide whether True Grit wants us to like Mattie, or fear her, or pity her, and I'm not sure the film does either.

  • How to Train Your Dragon (2010) - Like The Kids Are All Right, this feels like a film that I would have enjoyed a lot more had I watched it closer to its release date, and before the hype surrounding it got completely out of hand.  Dragon, which is loosely based on a series of children's novels by Cressida Cowell and tells the story of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel, clearly trying to work the same magic Mike Myers did with Shrek but not quite managing it), a young viking who tries to prove himself to his father by downing one of the dragons who plague their village but ends up befriending and learning to ride the creature, whom he names Toothless, does defy the conventional wisdom that non-Pixar animated films are thinly plotted and use pop-culture humor as a crutch, and is a sweet, enjoyable film.  But it is by no means the rousing success that some reviewers (and the voters for the best animated picture Oscar) have called it.  The plot is overstuffed, and rather than tying together, the film's many themes--Hiccup's inability to take a life, in defiance of the viking ethos; the tense relationship between a father and son who love each other but have nothing in common; the triumph of brain over brawn, as Hiccup uses the lessons he learns from training Toothless to gentle other dragons despite his unimposing physique; the necessity of trying to understand your enemies in the hopes of making peace with them (somewhat undermined when it's revealed that the dragons have only been attacking the viking village because they've been forced to by a bigger, meaner dragon, to whom no such attempts at understanding are extended)--get in each other's way.  For both of these reasons, the characters are obscured, never developing beyond their types.  Like most children's stories, Dragon is manipulative, trapping us with moments of tenderness and high emotion, but whereas Pixar earns the right to be manipulative by crafting unique, carefully detailed stories and characters, Dragon's manipulation is predictable and by the numbers, and the only unexpected note in the film--the high price Hiccup pays for saving his village--arrives too late and is handled too glibly to truly resonate.  Dragon is by no means a bad film, and certainly a step above the various Shrek sequels and uninspired Shrek-imitators that Dreamworks in particular has been producing in the last decade, but it's a far cry from worthwhile in its own right.


Tim Walters said...

Hm. I went into The Kids Are All Right knowing nothing about it except that it had the least unexciting one-sentence blurb on my local paper's website--I just felt like seeing a movie that day--and came out thinking it was the best film I'd seen in years. So it's not just a case of circular hype.

With regard to your exceptions: I found it both wry and sometimes laugh-out-loud funny; I think a character-driven film like this should be a little floppy; I don't think the problems in Jules' and Nic's relationship were either papered over or addressed, but merely brought into the open so that the process of addressing them could begin; and I don't really understand how anyone could find Bening's (or Moore's, or Ruffalo's) performance less than remarkable.

Maybe living in California helps me see how dialed-in these characterizations are (or, if you prefer, makes me a sucker for local color).

Adam said...

"whereas Pixar earns the right to be manipulative by crafting unique, carefully detailed stories and characters, [fill in the blank movie] manipulation is predictable and by the numbers."
This is a great sentence!

I just watched Dragon today. It really draws you in through the visual and musical majesty of the flying sequences (I kept feeling like somebody is about to sing "A Whole New World"). The plot resolution isn't executed quite so well, but you tend to forget about that once Hiccup saddles up that Night Dragon and goes all Sonic Boom.

pangloss said...

I had almost exactly similar feelings about the worth ( and WYSIWYGness :) of Black Swan but am dismayed tht it's only women of my acquaintance who seem to rate it - is it really just chicklit or have we hit a total inability of men to see past the tutus??

pangloss said...

ps to @Tim , from chilly Scotland but with a lot oftime under my belt on the West Coast, I found Ruffalo's performance in KAAR about as supporting as supporting gets , and am amazed he is regarded as Oscar worthy stuff..

Alison said...

FWIW I think True Grit neither endorses or criticises Mattie, but holds her up as an exemplar of its theme: to live with great intensity in the world is to know the world, but this is an expensive knowledge.

Anonymous said...

We experienced TKS and BS slightly differently: for me, Aronofsky's rococo invention drew attention to his film's thematic thinness, and the only element which provided real texture was indeed Portman's performance, equal parts magnetic and repellent. Similarly, it's indisputable that TKS is a conservative piece of film-making - but not so obvious, I think, that we're meant to side with that. I found it a troubling invocation of the British past, allowing both the noble and ignoble to sit side by side. The contradiction you see seemed to me rather the point: it's a gentle film, but not, in this sense at least, a disingenuous one.

Peter L. said...

As far as The Kids are Alright goes, surely it was Jules who becomes Paul's lover? And that was one of the things that bugged me about the film -- the suggestion that lesbians are just waiting for a man to come around -- (which I don't think was the intention, exactly, but it's a legitimate reading). Especially since the whole infidelity plot line was a) tiresome and b) unnecessary except as a cheap shortcut to the crisis. It also handily absolves Nic of any responsibility for her selfish, demanding, and even cruel portrayal in the first third of the movie (imagine her cast as a straight but infertile man -- wouldn't the end be -- well, supportive of a not-particularly-healthy heteronormitive relationship?). In the end, Nic doesn't have to grow at all, which is a pity. Laser's story also gets kind of dropped about halfway through, with the feeling that the script had no idea what to do with him. It was a film that had, I think, about half-again as many plot elements as needed, and the floppiness you describe is the writer and director's inability to resolve (or artfully leave unresolved) all of the tangents they have taken on.

On the other hand, I liked the very understated use of Joni's toying with whether to take the hat or not (being, I thought, one of the few uncalculated things Paul does in the film). I wish the film had the strength to trust the audience more often. It was a film I badly wanted to like, and I feel rather more conflicted than I should that I don't like it more.

Athena Andreadis said...

I agree about the political canonization of shabby actions and people in The King's Speech. The film can only be enjoyed as a period piece and a Horatio Algier variation. Its Oscar sweep is not surprising, given the American fascination with British royalty and upperclass in general (Masterpiece Theater in PBS is nothing but).

Black Swan is a retelling of The Red Shoes, with far flimsier excuses.  As such, it foists the hoariest stereotypes wholesale on the actors and viewers: the mother living vicariously and viciously through her daughter; the predatory choreographer whose abuse is nevertheless "necessary" to make the ballerina truly outstanding (shades of Balanchine notwithstanding); the "bad" girl shadowing/threatening to displace the "good" one, both incomplete and unstable; and, of course, the message that women "can't have it all" -- in fact, they're lucky if they're left with their lives by the end of the film. The Red Shoes was made in the fifties, an era when women did have limited choices.  To see this film passing as novel and edgy in 2011 is nothing short of disheartening.

How to Train Your Dragon is a retelling of Lilo and Stitch, transposed to vague mythic time (Toothless even looks like Stitch). I'd argue that it treats female characters better than Pixar films do, though it has the canon Hollywood absent mother and the strong woman falls into the helpmate category (even if she's a kick-ass variation).

Abigail Nussbaum said...


It's interesting that you should say that, because it was my understanding that Black Swan has proved surprisingly appealing to male viewers, who are not usually attracted to ballet movies. The conventional wisdom is that it's the lesbian sex scene that is the draw - I've even heard claims that Aronofsky wrote it in specifically for that purpose.


You might be interested in this series on the film by Todd Alcott (now at nine posts and counting). He's a lot more negative towards Mattie than I am, and I'm not entirely convinced by his claim that the film takes an equally dim view of her, but it is very well-written reading of the film and the book.


I'm not convinced that The King's Speech is as self-aware as you claim. If anything, the film's knowingness feels like part of its manipulation - it's using our knowledge of who Bertie, Elizabeth, Churchil and David will become and what role they will play in the war in order to achieve its sense of importance.


You're right, I got the characters' names mixed up.

I know that there have been some irate responses to Jules having an affair with a man, but to my mind this isn't the film saying that she was waiting for a man. It's clear that the affair happens because of problems with her marriage to Nic, and she never considers leaving Nic for Paul. I do agree that the affair gives Nic an out from her bad behavior, but it didn't have to happen that way. There was space in the film for Nic to consider her part in driving Jules into Paul's arms, if Cholodenko had chosen to use it.


As I say in the post, I see Black Swan as commenting on the tropes you mention, through the medium of the horror story, rather than repeating them thoughtlessly. I don't, for example, think that the film treats as necessary the company director's abuse and harassment of his dancers - rather, characters like Nina, Beth, and the other dancers in the company treat it as such, but it's made clear that they've drunk the Kool-Aid. Lily, the outsider, sees him for what he is, and achieves her artistry without submitting to his methods.

Athena Andreadis said...

Abigail: if, as you say to Pangloss, Aronofsky included the lesbian sex scenes to attract male viewers, exactly how thoughtful do you think his "comments on tropes" were? To me it looked more like he was trying to ride the Inception "dreamtime" concept.

Abigail Nussbaum said...

I think it's possible to do both. There's a long tradition in horror of using schlock to deliver messages, and Black Swan slots into that tradition quite easily. I also find it rather funny that the film lures in male viewers by promising them hot lesbian sex and delivers a feminist horror story.

Andrew Stevens said...

There's no evidence that George VI was "practically a Nazi." Nobody serious claims that George VI was sympathetic to fascism, nevertheless Nazism. He did favor the government's appeasement policy, but many people in the U.K. at the time favored appeasement for many different reasons (usually remembering the horror of WWI) and most of them weren't fascists or Nazi sympathizers. Edward VIII, on the other hand, was practically a Nazi.

Anonymous said...

Abigail, I am totally perplexed as to how you can see Black Swan as anything other than disgustingly misogynist.

Gavin Burrows said...

”I can't decide whether True Grit wants us to like Mattie, or fear her, or pity her, and I'm not sure the film does either.”
I think you may be asking the wrong question! I’m not sure it works to see Mattie as the protagonist, around which everyone else arranges themselves including the audience. Just like ‘No Country For Old Men’ before it, the three main characters are in a triangle. When we see Mattie as an elderly spinster at the end of the film, we glean that every relationship she’s had outside of that posse has been akin to her barter with the trader over horses. She’s hires Rooster precisely because of the things she isn’t – the fact that he lives outside of the law, outside her world of contracts and accountancy. In the trial scene she should identify with the fact-amassing lawyer, but it’s actually Rooster she’s (quite literally) drawn to.
It’s also notable that, at some point in the film, we get every combination of twos that there are – but it takes all three of them to bring the subject to resolution. Each of them has something in excess that the other two need something of.

Abigail Nussbaum said...


I was talking about Wallis.


The entire second half of my Black Swan write-up is an explanation of how I can see the film as something other than disgustingly misogynistic. Any time you want to respond to my arguments, I'm right here.

Abigail Nussbaum said...


I think your own arguments make a pretty good case for Mattie being the story's protagonist. As you put it, Rooster and LeBeouf are significant in relation to her. Then there's the simple fact that the story is told through Mattie's eyes - there are no scenes, for example, which Mattie doesn't witness.

Anonymous said...

I'm really happy to read a review of Black Swan that sees the feminist reading. Too many critics are dismissing it as a classed-up Showgirls, or only slightly better, as a redux of The Red Shoes, when I think it comments on Red Shoes themes rather than repeating them.

And it seemed to me that Black Swan owed just as much to Dead Ringers, with all its Cronenbergian body horror imagery. When Dead Ringers featured a good twin/bad twin plot, critics drooled over the story as well as Jeremy Irons' dual performance. Set the same type of story in a ballet company with women in the roles and apparently it becomes either melodrama or misogyny.

I think the film is misogynist in the sense that it's showing an environment that's awash in misogyny. We're given Nina to sympathize with, and at every point we're shown that Nina is hurt and diminished by the misogyny around her. When she stabs her female rival, she realizes she has wounded herself: the symbolism there couldn't be more clear.

Gavin Burrows said...

Good point about all scenes being viewed through Mattie's eyes, but I think we're really just diagreeing about definition of the word 'protagonist'. I was thinking of it as something closer to 'hero', someone who happens on the story, either bends the world to their values or is unyeilding in the face of it.

Though the posse seemingly changes nothing to Mattie's life in terms of its events, it makes her realise what she's missing. (And by inference the same thing is true of Rooster.) So I don't think the film obliges us into a 'take her or leave her' response to Mattie.

Peter L. said...

I know that there have been some irate responses to Jules having an affair with a man, but to my mind this isn't the film saying that she was waiting for a man. It's clear that the affair happens because of problems with her marriage to Nic, and she never considers leaving Nic for Paul.

I agree that this was what they were working toward, but the writer and director would have to be pretty dense not to see how this could be a problem. Honestly, the story would have worked more smoothly without the sexual relationship, in my opinion. Having Paul assume he can seduce Jules (since that seems to be how he relates to women, with the possible exception of Joni) and Nic become convinced that Jules and Paul were having an affair when all Jules wanted was a job would have been a nice treatment of patriarchal thinking from a varied group of people. As it was, the story kind of skirted Jerry Springer territory, and not to its benefit.

I do agree that the affair gives Nic an out from her bad behavior, but it didn't have to happen that way. There was space in the film for Nic to consider her part in driving Jules into Paul's arms, if Cholodenko had chosen to use it.

I think we are agreed here. The main failing of the film is too many plot lines to be addressed and satisfactorily resolved in the available time.

Anonymous said...

Abigail - yes, I have been reading the Tod Alcott series on True Grit (recommend to anyone interested in the film). I find his ideas sympatico but I don't actually agree with much he says. He sees Mattie as an embodiment of Calvinism and Manifest Destiny I think.

Anonymous said...

Turning up to say that while I do see the feminist reading of Black Swan, the entire film, including said feminist reading, was done better well over a decade ago by Satoshi Kon in Perfect Blue, which has made watching critics talk about how innovative the film is very strange. Perfect Blue is about the Japanese idol singer industry and television acting rather than dance, but the content about the ways that these arts/industries can eat women alive is extremely similar. If you cross Perfect Blue and The Red Shoes, you get Black Swan, and Aronofsky does not seem to have managed to make the cross synergistic instead of simply mingling the two.

Anonymous said...

If you cross Perfect Blue and The Red Shoes, you get Black Swan

And this becomes even more disturbing when you realize that Aronofsky purchased the US rights to Perfect Blue some years ago, specifically in order to recreate one of its scenes (the underwater bathtub scream) in his Requiem for a Dream.

I saw The King's Speech opening weekend, so I bypassed the hype. For me it was about seeing a very English film made for an English audience, and while I did enjoy it, I was surprised that the appeal was (or is it?) so cross-cultural.

In saying it's "very English," I mean that there seemed to be an expectation of awareness of the events and people portrayed -- and not just awareness, but heightened awareness. I was taken by the amount of discussion I overheard in the lobby afterward. No one was treating it as realistic -- the choices were all text to be examined. And the reason for this (I confirmed, in part, while talking to my English flatmate) was because of how large this period of history loomed in the national consciousness. (Again, the fact that it was the first day of release (pre rave reviews) probably meant it was drawing in people who were already interested in this setting. But I can't pretend it's not something that's also fostered by the older generation.) So the thrust of the film seemed an attempt to humanize and almost trivialize events which have grown to mythic proportions.

I talked to someone who thought it was the best film for the British monarchy in years because it took the recent damage done -- exposure of the fact that the royals are imperfect, often petty human beings -- and made the power of its message about how difficult it must be for them to pretend they are otherwise; how damaging it can be on a psyche that isn't completely self-absorbed. I read the conservative attitudes of the film differently, I think. The attitudes embraced seemed part and parcel with the decorum and rituals which served to construct the illusion of the monarchy, and it caged the people that practiced them even as it allowed them the sense of superiority required to function as a royal. The shock of the party scene wasn't the slut-shaming (though that should have been part of it), but seeing the (woman known to generations as the) Queen Mum reduced to sordid, petty gossip.

I think it had to work against the tide of expectations by undermining the truly divisive elements at work. (Again, those of a particular audience -- there was practically a hiss in the theater when Edward walked on screen.) Would-be sisters-in-law who hate each other is one story, an American Nazi sympathizer at odds with a titled British woman is a very different one. The latter was deeply embedded in the minds of its audience (or so TKS seemed to assumed), so the film worked hard to emphasize the former, to the point of perhaps neglecting the bigger picture. History fanfic, in that sense.


P.S. Because with ALL THAT I forgot to say: I love reading your blog, and even when I don't agree with your reviews you always give me lots to think over. Thank you for all the work you've put into it, and I hope this over-long comment comes across more as the intended hashing-out of ideas than an attempt at "You're wrong! This is why!" etc.

Josh said...

Great insights—while I tend toward the "It's a misogynist story, not a commentary on misogyny" read of BS, I very much like "Nina's worldview has no terms in which to comprehend her."

I think TKS made it pretty clear what David and Wallis's political sympathies were. Roses every week from von Ribbentrop!

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