The mannered aye-matey dialogue often gives Lighthouse the performative feeling of a play, but Eggers (The Witch) is also a masterful stylist; judging by several cues, the story is set in some version of the 19th century, though it tends to treat time less as a set fact than a sort of metaphysical condition.
For kids maybe this is still magical; grownups, though, will waste many long, busily bedazzled minutes wondering why the powers that were able to bring Pfeiffer and Jolie together on screen couldn’t do at least marginally better by them both, and give them parts to truly sink their movie-star teeth into.
What’s left is primarily a series of grand battleground set pieces — filmed crunchily, and well — and a series of consistently strong performances. (Has Mendelsohn every not been menacing and great in anything?).
It’s Nyong’o who makes Monsters worth spending 90 breezy, bloody minutes on; wielding her tiny guitar like she did a fateful pair of scissors earlier this year in Jordan Peele’s "Us," she’s both a warrior queen and a fallible, believable human woman — and never not a movie star in every scene.
Somehow though, the film registers as a strange, airless whiff — stale, inert, and oddly melancholy. The script rarely rises above the schematics of a thousand thrillers that languish on late-night cable, and the almost willfully cliché dialogue sounds as if it’s been generated by some kind of free-with-purchase screenwriting app.
If a motley crew of movie stars is what it takes to shine more light on government malfeasance, then let Meryl carry that torch in a wig and a bucket hat. But as a pure movie-going experience, it’s all kind of a wash.
It all becomes a sort of muddle for a while midway, one that’s not nearly as compelling as the acting itself, which is largely phenomenal, frequently surprising, and often more than a little bit heartbreaking.
In the scheme of Almodóvar’s rich catalogue, Pain is probably too small, too sad, and too obtuse to really recommend as any kind of starting point. For longtime fans, though, it’s a gift; the kind of quiet glory worth waiting a few decades for.
Though it may not be an easy movie to watch, or even a particularly original one — there’s still Kramer vs. Kramer, after all — Marriage still feels like something special on the screen: a movie that somehow makes its intimacy seem like a radical act, one messy, heart-wrecking moment at a time.
If its aim to inspire and educate inevitably leaves the movie feeling a little classroom-bound, Harriet is still an impassioned, edifying portrait of a remarkable life, and a fitting showcase for the considerable talents of its star, Tony-winning British actress Cynthia Erivo.