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Entries in Chloe Grace Moretz (2)

Thursday
Oct112018

SUSPIRIA

Stars: Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Lutz Ebersdorf, Angela Winkler, Ingrid Caven, Elena Fokina, Sylvie Testud, Renée Soutendijk, Chloë Grace Moretz and Jessica Harper.
Writer: David Kajganich.
Director: Luca Guadagnino

Rating: ★★ ½

When is a horror movie not a horror movie? When does a remake like Suspiria, a new spin on the defining film of the ‘giallo’ horror sub-genre, forego the right to label itself a ‘horror remake’?  Technically it is, of course (or more precisely a ‘homage’, in the words of director Luca Guadagnino), but it is a horror film that doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in being a ‘horror’ film at all.

Released in 1977, Italian filmmaker Dario Argento's surreal original employed primary hues and arch melodrama to tell the tale of an American ballet dancer (Jessica Harper, stunt cameo-ing in the remake) who lands a prized spot at a German ballet school, only to discover it’s a front for a witch’s coven. It is rated highly by 70s Euro-horror buffs for it’s florid palette, painterly composition and gruesome deaths; a film that, if not quite the masterpiece of psychological terror its lavish praising suggests, is certainly a work rich in it’s own sense of style, builds and maintains a disconcerting sense of bewilderment, and delivers some legitimate frights.

Luca Guadagnino’s version is set in 1977, providing the director with a historical and political backdrop for him to return to for no discernable reason, involving the Baader Meinhoff terrorism group’s seizing of an airliner. The American ballet dancer, Susie Bannion, is reimagined as Dakota Johnson, playing younger than the young woman she played in the first Fifty Shades of Grey film nearly four years ago; she’s miscast and not entirely convincing as a dancer (a double is used with little regard for continuity), but she is relatable most of the time as the audience conduit.

Overseeing the German dance studio is Madame Blanc, played by Tilda Swinton, a woman (and actress, one senses) who inspires awe and fear amongst the young dance troupe and faculty alike. She warms to Susie, occasionally at the expense of classmates who are prone to unexplained absences or worst (the film’s first big character demise is a showstopper), and is soon grooming her for more than just lead leggie in a preposterous end-of-year modern-dance spectacle. Swinton has a ball, probably; she gets to also play the film’s primary male character, a psychiatrist named ‘Josef Klemperer’, and a putrid, evil enchantress, both under pounds of prosthetic make-up.


In 2017, Guadagnino directed one of the year’s most beautiful films, Call Me By Your Name; in 2018, he’s directed one of the ugliest. Drawing upon the grim aesthetics of 70s German auteur Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the Italian bathes his angular beauties in at least fifty different shades of grey, a swell as muted browns and purples. It may be deliberate, in that it allows for some nightmarish flourishes of colour at all-too-rare intervals, but it bogs down with a dour drabness a narrative that is already ponderous.

There is satisfaction to be had in watching Guadagnino work gender-specific dynamics with his all-female cast (which includes a terrific Mia Goth and a barely-registering Chloe Grace Moretz); matriarchal dominance, the shifting of a generational hierarchy, maternal legacy and alpha-female predatory tactics make for drama that occasionally compels. One scene sums up the film's attitude to men and what constitutes manhood; a bewitched detective is stripped and humiliated, with Susie looking on covertly. 

However, the director (working from David Kajganich screenplay, adapted from the original’s script) never finds an ounce of menace, a modicum of foreboding; there is ultimately fountains of blood, but it will all seem too little too late for even the most patient horror hound. Guadagnino’s intent may have been to pay homage, and there is skill and ambition to burn, yet all that emerges is an admirable if ultimately unnecessary horror remake.

Thursday
Jan142016

THE 5th WAVE

Stars: Chloe Grace Moretz, Nick Robinson, Maika Monroe, Zackary Arthur, Maria Bello and Liev Schreiber.
Writers: Akiva Goldsman, Susannah Grant and Jeff Pinkner.
Director: J Blakeson

Rating: 2.5/5

A trope-y mash-up of The Hunger Games and Red Dawn overlaid with some ID4/Body Snatchers beats is the best that Columbia Pictures and hired-gun director J Blakeson can make of author Rick Yancey’s YA publishing hit.

With Katniss Everdeen now out to pasture, Divergent heroine Tris showing some fatigue and male-centric actioners like The Maze Runner and The Giver losing traction (not too mention the DOA 2013 mess, Mortal Instruments: City of Bones), Hollywood must have high hopes that 2014 ‘it-girl’ Chloe Grace Moretz can launch a fresh franchise to bolster the ‘young adult’ (ie, teen girl) movie-going demo. But the leaden scripting from heavyweight scribes Akiva Goldsman (A Beautiful Mind) and Susannah Grant (Erin Brockovich) refuses to spark into sequel-sustaining life, instead offering formless melodrama and breathy romance juxtaposed with kids-in-combat action sequences.

Moretz is Cassie Sullivan, a spunky every-girl whose middle-class happiness is torn asunder with the arrival of interplanetary invaders known as The Others. The attacks come in ‘waves’; literally, at one point, when a massive ocean surge lays waste the coastal cities of the planet and sends Cassie and kid-bro Sam (Zackary Arthur) up a tree for safety 100s of miles inland.

The first act, in which planes fall from the sky, a pestilence wreaks havoc and bands of survivors are corralled into army ghettos overseen by a grizzled Liev Schreiber’s Colonel Vosch, reps solid storytelling and convincing ‘survival mode’ tension. The plot contrivances that separate Cassie from dad Oliver (Ron Livingston) ring true enough for this type of genre pic; the early stages of her cross-state odyssey to save Sam while avoiding alien scouts is eminently watchable.

But Cassie’s mission and the narrative’s impetus unravel when our heroine is taken in by solitary farmboy Evan (sensitive beau-hunk Alex Roe). Some rank improbabilities and overripe dialogue, the likes of which may have worked on the page but land with a thud on the big screen, dull the excitement; one cracking bit of woodlands fisticuffs aside, the middle of the film feels dramatically inconsequential when it should be compelling and rich in character development.

Moretz is a solid lead, convincing as both an innocent finding her inner warrior and a modern teen tackling adulthood duties with untapped gusto. Cast with a clear eye as heart throb replacements for Liam Hemsworth and Josh Hutcherson are, respectively, Roe and Jurassic World’s Nick Robinson as all-American Ben Parish. Maika Monroe is the only other standout performer, nailing the tough girl/warrior part played so well by Jena Malone in The Hunger Games instalments.

The central device that posits the army as insidious tools of a faceless ruling force bent on dismantling the traditional American family structure might inspire analyse in some commentators (not to mention the ‘carry this gun for your own protection’ line in armed civil defiance). But those themes remain so resolutely unexplored by the filmmakers that any debate hardly seems justified. The 5th Wave (its title already sounding like a franchise that has overstayed its welcome) may play well to the younger sisters of the aging District 12 fanatics, but it is a minor YA entrant and middling action-adventure pic by most audience measures.