Waiting for Gadot

A Good Superhero Film (rather than “a good superhero film compared it to the other tosh DC/Warners have put out”). Here’s the Sunday Indo review…

***

Wonder Woman
Cert: 12A

THE critical mauling of Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice somehow penetrated the din of its huge box-office take, as if many went along to witness how bad DC Comics’ attempts to build its own Marvel-style cinematic universe could actually be.

A scant mercy however was Israeli actress/model Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Ever since, the promise of the whip-wielding icon getting her own outing seemed far more interesting than muscle-bound mummy’s boys wearing bat ears or hair pomade. Wonder Woman, the archetypal superheroine, had the guts, power and beauty of a demigoddess, precisely what creator and feminist psychologist William Moulton Marston intended back in the early 1940s. Lynda Carter fitted the bill for the 1970s TV show. Ever since, those knee-high boots have been waiting for Gadot.

It’s a relief to find her so at home as Amazonia princess Diana, being trained in battle by auntie Robin Wright. Although their matriarchal  paradise is cloaked from the world, a plane carrying a US spy (Chris Pine) crashes one day. After hauling him ashore, Diana beholds the handsome Pine visage adorning the first man she’s ever laid eyes on. He, in turn, must contend with coming to on a sandy cove to find Gal Gadot smiling back at him. Talk of WWI and his mission to foil a chemical weapon attack by Danny Huston’s German general twig Diana’s thirst for justice, and off they go.

Why this succeeds: Top action choreography, a fine cast (bolstered by David Thewlis, Ewen Bremner and a hilarious Lucy Davis) and a side order of fish-out-of-water camp that director Patty Jenkins serves next to wartime derring-do and Diana’s gritty grace.

Batman and Superman need to shape up.

4/5

First published in the Sunday Independent

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Master of puppets

The world can always do with a new Charlie Kaufman offering. This animated jewel will do nicely. Read on…

***

Anomalisa
Cert: 15A

WE’VE missed Charlie Kaufman. Seven years is a long time to be without one of the most singular writers in modern cinema but that is what we’ve endured since his directorial debut Synecdoche, New York bombed at the box office. His films are hilarious, surrealist, metafictional and often contain veiled, postmodern versions of himself (ie fumbling menopausal males). In the case of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) and the brilliant Adaptation (2003), the results can make for life-affirming cinema.

Despite being depicted in co-director ’s distinct stop-motion animation, Anomalisa is as “Kaufman” as it gets. A big screen adaptation of his 2005 play, it features a glum middle-ager with grey hair and grey life (a customer service guru called Michael). It has an existential and romantic crisis forced to the surface by way of said despondent fugue. Michael (voiced by the reedy whine of David Thewlis) is in Cincinnati to give a talk at a conference. Everyone in his orbit sounds exactly the same to Michael (all voiced by Tom Noonan), from his wife and son to the hotel bellboy.

After a romantic grapple with Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a frumpy conference-goer staying on his hotel floor, he falls hard, convinced that she is the remedy to his many midlife-crisis ills. As he does, shards of Noonan start to creep in to Lisa’s voice, hinting that only Michael can fix Michael.

There’s much to take from Anomalisa that belies its soft-eyed dolls and dry wit, not least its meticulous mix of the whacky with hard, uncompromising realism. Even Thewlis’s bleating feels like “textbook Kaufman”, which is saying something. It’s great to have him back.

5/5

First published in the Sunday Independent