The Big Issue : Edition 581
FILM 34 THEBIGISSUE.ORG.AU 22 FEB–7 MAR 2019 Jacques Audiard’s western dramedy seeks to make you laugh and squirm – often simultaneously. The Sisters brothers – meek Eli Sisters (John C Reilly) and hot- headed Charlie Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix) – are assassins hunting Hermann Kermit Warm (Riz Ahmed) and his valuable new prospecting invention. The aptly named Warm is the cold-blooded killers’ antithesis, converting people – including John Morris (Jake Gyllenhaal) – to non-violence wherever he goes. Anchored by such capable actors, the film’s interpersonal dynamics are a delight. And the landscapes are as compelling as the performances. Cinematographer Benoît Debie elevates the sparse northwestern setting of The Sisters Brothers to sumptuousness. Life’s beauty and tenderness is foregrounded. Though packed with wonderfully inventive moments of violence and viscera, The Sisters Brothers ultimately suggests the bloodthirsty avarice of the traditional western can, and should be, escaped. IVANA BREHAS HAPPY DEATH DAY 2U It’s been a long time since Stan Laurel (Steve Coogan) and Oliver Hardy (John C Reilly) were at their Hollywood peak. But Stan has a plan: a series of live performances across the UK to build interest in a film version of Robin Hood with them as the leads. That’s fine with the easygoing Oliver, even as the tour gets off to a shaky start. But as sales increase, so does the pressure. Their partnership has some not-so-hidden fault lines from a betrayal at the height of their fame; are they going be able to finish their tour? The story is fine but forgettable – it’s the performances that stand out. Nina Arianda and Shirley Henderson are excellent as Stan and Ollie’s wives (who arrive halfway through the tour), while Coogan and Reilly are spot-on physically and vocally as Laurel and Hardy without ever veering into parody. Off-stage and on, this is full of classic comedy bits skilfully performed; thankfully the drama is largely in ser vice to the comedy, not the other way around. ANTHONY MORRIS STAN & OLLIE THE SISTERS BROTHERS IT MIGHT HAVE a particularly pompous-sounding title, but Vox Lux is the most fun I’ve had at the cinema since Mary Poppins Returns. “The movie’s inspired by Apple news updates,” explained its ambitious young director Brady Corbet. “Basically, at any given time, there’s usually some coverage of a mass murder and maybe something about Ariana Grande having cut off her ponytail.” Trashing the idea of a high/low art divide, Vox Lux – which is Latin for “voice of light” – is an ironic cocktail of national tragedies and pop culture. Landing like an anti-Star is Born, the film offers a bifurcated “before and after” portrait of a millennial pop star, narrated by Willem Dafoe. The pious teenage Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) becomes a celebrity in the wake of a high-school shooting, guided by her manager (Jude Law). Jump to 2017, and the adult Celeste (a brassy, ragged Natalie Portman at the top of her game) is trying to restart her career after a bad run fuelled by the usual vices, and then some. The film touches on the zeitgeisty horrors of fame, terrorism and corporate culture, making Celeste a symbol of a generation. At the same time, Corbet delivers an artful rush of hedonism, driven by Scott Walker’s fine score and a number of Sia-penned pop bangers, which are staged in a glittering stadium performance in the film’s coda. Which leaves us with...profound social commentary? Guilty pleasures? Empty posturing? Pfft, when we’re having such a good time, who cares? College student Tree (Jessica Rothe) thought she was done with being murdered. Turns out the Groundhog Day-like time loop she was trapped in on her birthday – one that forced her to relive being murdered over and over again until she figured out how to survive – wasn’t some supernatural coincidence, but a science experiment gone wrong. And now? Wrong doesn’t begin to cover it. This sequel flows seamlessly from the first film, with the entire cast returned and numerous callbacks to past events (if you haven’t seen Happy Death Day, you’ll easily pick it up). This time, writer-director Christopher Landon gives events more of a wacky campus-comedy feel with some perfunctory slasher stuff thrown in. It’s a smart move. After an opening that threatens an ensemble approach, the focus returns to Rothe, definitely this franchise’s star. She’s perfect for the silly side, handles the horror scenes ef fortlessly, and sells the surprisingly strong emotional moments well. Good to have her back. ANTHONY MORRIS ANNABEL BRADY-BROWN > Film Editor NATALIE PORTMAN: IN FORM.