Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well. I have been so busy the last few weeks with the start of the holiday movie season and our coverage at Hallmarkies Podcast. Make sure you are following the podcast to get all the latest recaps, reviews and interviews for all things Christmas!
With all the madness I have also gotten a bit behind in my reviews- particularly for some of the Oscar hopefuls I’ve been privileged to see at critics screenings. I thought it would be fun to cover the last 3 I’ve seen together so we can compare and contrast and hopefully give you an idea if you will enjoy the film.
Let’s get my unpopular opinion out of the way first. Spencer is the latest film from Chilean director Pablo Larraín. In 2016 he made a film called Jackie which was highly praised but fell flat for me and I’m afraid that’s the same here. I did like Spencer better than Jackie but both movies waste strong performances with a showy director more interested in gimmicks than good storytelling.
Spencer tells the loosely based on true events story of the Christmas holiday where Princess Diana decides to leave Prince Charles in 1991. I enjoyed the Christmas themes and Kristen Stewart is excellent in the role.
The problem with the movie is Larraín seems more concerned with standing out as an auteur director than telling a good story. The way the camera is always moving, the heavy-handed strange music choices, the weird flights of fancy all take me out of the story instead of adding to the experience.
I didn’t feel like Spencer told me anything new about Diana or the royal family. The production values are all strong and Stewart is good so I didn’t hate it but the whole thing left me cold and feels like a missed opportunity.
5 out of 10
Next up we have another biopic this time from the world of sports. It is King Richard and it tells the story of Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena Williams.
I honestly don’t have a ton to say about this movie. It’s fine. There are inspirational moments and Will Smith will probably win an Oscar for this role. We also have nice work from Tony Goldwyn and Jon Bernthal who are the tennis pros who have to put up with Richard’s antics.
The problem I had with the movie is I didn’t find Richard to be a very interesting character. I know it is based on his book, but I wish we could have heard more from the girls. There are some scenes but it is unclear whether they even like playing tennis. Do they agree with this plan of their fathers? Do they want to do something else and were stuck? Maybe they didn’t but I would have liked to have spent more time with them as opposed to their Dad. Richard sticking to his guns and not letting the girls compete in Juniors and other such conflict with the coaches also got a little repetitive and dull.
Nevertheless, this is worth watching for the acting and the chance to cheer on a family that together never gave up on their dreams.
6 out of 10
Now we end with my definite favorite of the 3 hopefuls I’m reviewing today: Belfast. In this semi-autobiographical tale director Kenneth Branagh bounces back from the failure of Artemis Fowl with perhaps his most personal and intimate film of his career. It reminded me a lot of Cinema Paradiso and captures the magic of childhood and how movies often narrate the key moments of our lives.
Jude Hill plays the lead little boy Buddy and he is growing up in the 1960s in Belfast, Northern Ireland. He loves going to the movies and spending time with his Granny (Judi Dench) and Pop (Ciarán Hinds). His father (a great Jamie Dornan) is often away and his Mother (Caitríona Balfe who I loved in Ford v Ferrari and she’s great here too) bears the weight of trying to raise her son in a dangerous neighborhood full of rebellion and mob violence.
I do have a few issues with Belfast that keep it from being one of my favorites of the year. Some of the artistic choices, particularly when we transition from black and white to colored didn’t make much sense and were more puzzling than uplifting. Also the music by Van Morrision, while pleasant, didn’t seem to fit the place, time or tone of the scenes. I didn’t get it.
Other than that I enjoyed Belfast. It will probably win best picture and I won’t be mad about that. It’s a lovely little movie about family, childhood and the magic of the movies.
8 out of 10