WORDS ON FILM
BY NOLAN LAMPSON
thoughtsoncinema.net | Nolan Lampson
**POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD**
The man walks up to the podium. His hands are shaking. He is clearly nervous. The crowd awaits, signs held up
with pride and ready to rejoice in a celebratory fashion. He begins. One or or two sentences, until a man in the crowd interjects--”So, no women voting rights?” Silence. “No,” says the man, “No women voting.” The crowd is shaken. All this fighting, all this suffering, for nothing. It is moments like this that feed us, the audience. We are shaken too. We feel the shame, the regret, the pity, the sweat on the hands still gripping the “WOMEN TO VOTE” sign, the intangible tension, the cold atmosphere. We feel the hearts of every woman in attendance completely snap as if they weren’t there. We feel it all. Usually.
In Suffragette, the British film by Sarah Gavron and starring Carey Mulligan and Helena Bonham Carter, we don’t. The movie is so dull and narrow in its narrative, so shadowed and safe in its atmosphere, and tries so desperately to be the most somber and serious movie you’ve ever seen, it completely shames the suffragettes the movie is based upon. It believes its concept is so damn made-in-the-shade that it doesn’t have to try. A great way to describe this film is like this: Tom Hooper. For those of you unaware, Tom Hooper is the director of films such as The King’s Speech, Les Miserables, and the upcoming Eddie Redmayne/Alicia Vikander-starring The Danish Girl. I have yet to see that last one, but a quick prediction: Redmayne will be good. Vikander might be. That’s it. What Tom Hooper does isn’t directing. It’s more, shall we say, recruiting. Hooper is closer to Nick Saban than Martin Scorsese. He will collect the best in the biz, the Oscar favorites, the Meryl Streeps (We’ll get to her later), and will do nothing with it. He’ll take a popular or true story with a social message, and guess what? IT WILL WIN.
And that’s Suffragette. Minus the good acting. The film thinks it’s so important to cinema, and an absolute game-changer to Hollywood that it completely falls on its face multiple times. The film is one of the most frustrating films to be released this year, not only because it is so dull and uninviting, but also because any scenes with a mere possibility of raw emotional power are quickly succeeded by a really stupid one with piano music, tears, and thin-as-Heidi Klum characters, corresponding to a Tom Hooper “masterwork”. But easily the best way to describe this movie is: so, so, so formulaic. From the opening scene you know the environment and tone of the entire movie, how the characters will progress, if at all, etc. This 106-minute film’s sleep-inducing quality, funeral-like tone, and extremely formulaic and used basis stretches the film out to what feels like half a day. It, again, believes it is so sophisticated and 'all that' that it figures you might not as well see this movie; take some pills, overdose, crawl over to your fireplace while your mouth is frothing blood and turn on the fuego. Cook yourself and stir. Let cool for 10-15 minutes. Then amputate yourself Franco-style and nonchalantly roll of your roof like it ain’t no thang. The experience should equate to having to listen to AP History class for hours--er, I mean, Suffragette.
I felt slightly bad when I laughed during this movie. At the worst parts, too. All of the scenes with the most corrosive material, I laughed in. Why? At some point, Gavron will shoot a close-up of an actor to capture the emotion. But instead of cutting to a close-up, she decides to have the cameraman zoom into a character's’ face, even if they are moving a great deal. The result is probably the most sloppy camerawork I’ve seen this year. And I laughed. So, to reiterate, not only are all the scenes with raw emotional power succeeded with stupid ones, it turns out that there aren’t even scenes that contain raw emotional power. Gotcha!
Some goods? I don’t know, the production design? I mean, my fallback was going to be Carey Mulligan, but I thought she was mediocre, as were all the other actresses. It really pains me to see such a talented actress with such a needle-thin screenplay. That’s needle-thin, not needle-sharp. This movie was about as sharp as a bar of soap from the corner market.
The “direction”, as you could call it, was quite sophomoric. This is Sarah Gavron’s third feature, which would be sensical, had her other two been ninety-minute promos for hair gel. I should probably check on tha--no, you know what? I almost guarantee they are ninety-minute hair gel promos. I’ll bet you. Actually, probably not.
The editing and music are both out-of-place. There are times when an extremely pessimistic scene (wait, that’s practically all of them!) will have this really light and upbeat melody, which is just another distraction from the film’s messages and thematic elements. The editing was serviceable, I guess, if you like: “Cut. Cut. Insert music. Cut.” It’s a job an eight-year-old can do. I don’t like to go down the list of film factors, like editing, direction, etc. in a review, but the point I am making is that not one aspect of the movie succeeds entirely. Not one! And the worst of it all is that I didn’t care any more about these characters than before.
And last thing, marketing team. Yeah, you failed too. Meryl Streep’s five minutes of screen-time don’t reward her a spot on the poster. Nice try. However, she’ll probably still win the Supporting Actress Oscar yet again. And you know what, the two stars I'm giving this movie go to her. That Oscar would be fine if Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar this year. He probably won’t though. Why? The winner, of course, will be Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl. Courtesy of America’s greatest director, Tom Hooper.
comments on the screen by nolan lampson.