The role of Fern gives McDormand license to indulge an opaqueness that is often more gnomic than expressive. Perhaps she and Zhao felt that being more demonstrative would shatter the film’s wayward poetic mood.
It’s not simply that it’s “too soon” for such movies. That’s highly debatable. More to the point is that the stark reality of these explosive events as we live through them – in the news, in real time, on TV and through investigative documentaries – potentially outflanks any attempt to dramatize them using embellished scenarios and famous actors.
A film director doesn’t have to shoot the works to hold an audience. If the drama is galvanizing enough, that’s all you need. And what we have here is more than enough: Viola Davis in one of her greatest performances, and the late Chadwick Boseman in his final and most powerful appearance.
Clearly Sorkin sees the Chicago 7 as victims of the vilification of dissent. He also sees them as exemplars – this is his version of a superhero movie – and the idealization at times gets a bit sticky.
The Booksellers is a documentary for people who treasure the sheer look and feel of books. It is for anyone who has ever spent way too much time in used and rare bookstores teetering on tall ladders or squeezing through narrow, tome-filled aisles in search of that most precious of commodities: the book you didn’t know you needed until you found it – or, to be more precise, it found you.
The problem is that there is very little chemistry between the actresses, and Haynes and screenwriter Phyllis Nagy are far too studied in their depiction of passion. The most impressive performance in the movie is given by Blanchett’s elaborately coiffed, cast-iron hairdo.
The paradox of Tarantino’s oeuvre is that it is highly derivative of other movies, mostly genre pulp, and yet the films seem distinctly his. He is the most influential director of his generation because he ranges promiscuously through pop culture and brings to his borrowings an incendiary force.
It doesn’t put you through the emotional wringer the way its predecessor did, but it’s consistently inventive, funny, witty, and heartfelt. In other words, it’s a lot better than it has any right to be. It’s more than good enough to justify its existence.
If you care anything about the music of groups like The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Mamas and the Papas, The Beach Boys, or Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the ramshackle, engagingly anecdotal Echo in the Canyon is required viewing.