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gardening with soul

Review: Housebound & Aunty and the Star People

By Cinema and Reviews

In Gerard Johnstone’s tightly put togeth­er comedy-chiller Housebound, Morgana O’Reilly plays rebel-without-a-cause Kylie, forced by a judge to spend nine months of home deten­tion with a moth­er she detests in a house with a hid­den his­tory. It’s a star-making per­form­ance from O’Reilly in a film that’s full of them. In addi­tion to our surly heroine, we have an expertly pitched Rima Te Wiata as moth­er Miriam (why she hasn’t been seen in more fea­ture films is a long-standing mys­tery that is only deepened by her per­form­ance here), Glen-Paul Waru as Amos, the secur­ity guard attached to Kylie’s detail and dragged into invest­ig­at­ing the bumps in the night that plague the house, and the debutant writer-director himself.

Johnstone’s con­trol of his mater­i­al is first-rate, pro­du­cing com­par­is­ons in this reviewer’s mind with Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead fame, prob­ably the highest praise that I can come up with for a film like this one. He keeps the mys­tery mys­ter­i­ous even as more clues are unveiled, deliv­ers gags that work to pro­pel the story and illu­min­ate char­ac­ter rather than just being yucks for their own sake, and makes sure that there are enough scares that an audi­ence can nev­er really relax.

That word ‘audi­ence’ — it’s key to the suc­cess of Housebound. There’s no ques­tion that this film won’t have a long and suc­cess­ful life on vari­ous forms of home video, but it really comes to life with a full house.

Last year, one of the most sur­pris­ing suc­cesses in loc­al cinemas was Gardening With Soul, a doc­u­ment­ary about Sister Loyola Galvin, nona­gen­ari­an tender to the Sisters of Compassion garden in Island Bay. In 2014, we have anoth­er doc­u­ment­ary about an older Wellingtonian. Jean Watson isn’t quite 90, but the rev­el­a­tion that she is actu­ally in her 80s still comes as quite a sur­prise as we watch her ped­alling her bicycle around the small Indian town she loves — and whose children’s homes she has sup­por­ted for over 30 years, des­pite liv­ing in a mod­est Berhampore flat back in New Zealand.

Like the earli­er film, Aunty and the Star People is full of gen­er­os­ity and wis­dom, remind­ing us that we should be pay­ing much closer atten­tion to our eld­ers. They have much more than just their exper­i­ence to offer us.

Printed in the September issue of FishHead magazine in Wellington.

Blue Jasmine poster

Review: Blue Jasmine, Riddick, What Maisie Knew, Romeo & Juliet: A Love Song and The Best Offer

By Cinema and Reviews

Max Casella, Cate Blanchett, Sally Hawkins and Bobby Cannvale in Woody Allen's Blue Jasmine (2013)

When did “late-period: Woody Allen start? Was it with Match Point (when he finally left New York for some new scenery)? Or should we con­sider these last ten, globe-trotting, years as late‑r Woody? The last ten years have cer­tainly been up and down in terms of qual­ity. Scoop was all-but diabol­ic­al. Vicky Cristina Barcelona was robust and sur­pris­ing. Midnight in Paris was gen­i­al but dis­pos­able (des­pite being a massive hit) and You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger was barely even a film.

Blue Jasmine posterNow, Blue Jasmine, in which Mr. Allen uses the notori­ous Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi crimes as inspir­a­tion for a story about the fraud’s vic­tims as well as the col­lat­er­al dam­age inflic­ted on a woman obli­vi­ous of her own com­pli­city. As the eponym­ous Jasmine, Cate Blanchett plays the wife of Alec Baldwin’s shonky NY busi­ness­man, their rela­tion­ship told in flash­back while she tries to rebuild her life in her adop­ted half-sister’s (or some­thing – the rela­tion­ship seems unne­ces­sar­ily com­plic­ated for some­thing that has no mater­i­al impact on the story) apart­ment in an unfash­ion­able area of San Francisco.

[pullquote]As they used to say on tele­vi­sion about kit­tens, “a child isn’t just for Christmas, a child is forever.”[/pullquote]Blanchett unravels beau­ti­fully and almost main­tains our sym­pathy des­pite the repeated evid­ence that she does­n’t really deserve it. In sup­port, Sally Hawkins as the sis­ter is more watch­able than usu­al and oth­ers – not­ably Andrew Dice Clay, Michael Stuhlbarg and Louis C.K. – get moments to shine even though some of those moments can seem a bit repet­it­ive. Mr. Allen’s ear for dia­logue seems to have entirely deser­ted him – these people talk like they’re being quoted in New Yorker art­icles rather than con­vers­ing like liv­ing, breath­ing humans – but the struc­ture is sat­is­fy­ing and Blanchett takes the entire pro­ject by the scruff of the neck and makes it her own.

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