MY COUSIN RACHEL review

How is this movie rated PG-13?! It’s cousins having sex, getting married, and possibly killing each other! What the hell?! Fine, whatever! Different time period, different location!

So news to me, this is actually based on a book, which was adapted once before back in 1952. To my understanding though, the incest was heavily cut down to near-nonexistent. I guess that’s why this movie was made: to faithfully adapt the novel this was based on. But really… were we really clamoring for this? Oh well.

To be fair, before seeing this, I was only interested because… “My Cousin Rachel”… starring Rachel Weisz? There were jokes waiting to be made! But this was a serious and dark kind of story and cousin-on-cousin screwing aside, it didn’t look… awful per se. In fact, elements were intriguing. The movie was about this married couple and the husband passes away. Our main hero suspects that his cousin Rachel was responsible. However, upon meeting her, he becomes infatuated with her and begins to fall hard… though she doesn’t seem to share the same feelings. Yup! It’s that kind of movie! Hence, why I was actually pretty excited for this. I could always afford to see a bat-shit crazy movie like this.

Let’s take a look at the cast. Starring, we obviously have Weisz (DENIAL [2016], CONSTANTINE [2005], and THE MUMMY [1999]) and Sam Claflin (THEIR FINEST [2017], ME BEFORE YOU [2016], and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES [2011], where he also played a character named Philip.). In support, we have Holliday Grainger (THE FINEST HOURS [2016], CINDERELLA [2015], and ANNA KARENINA [2012]) and Iain Glen (RESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER [2017], EYE IN THE SKY [2016], and TV show GAME OF THRONES).

Now for behind the scenes. Writing and directing is Roger Michell, known for HYDE PARK ON HUDSON (2012), MORNING GLORY (2010), and NOTTING HILL (1999). Composing the score is Rael Jones, known for a ton of short films and documentaries. Finally, the cinematographer is Mike Eley, known for NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS (2010) and a ton of short films and documentaries.

Overall, I’m sadistically looking forward to this. I love a fun and insane movie, so bring it on! Sanity’s overrated anyway.

This is my honest opinion of: MY COUSIN RACHEL

(SUMMARY)

Philip (Sam Claflin) was an orphan, until his older cousin adopted him and raised him as his own. After traveling afar, the cousin met up with a mutual cousin of theirs named Rachel (Rachel Weisz). The two married and before long, the cousin fell ill and eventually died, but not before sending a cryptic letter that seemed like he was in trouble and it’s later decided by Philip that Rachel is responsible for his death. Soon, he receives word that Rachel is visiting and Philip intends to confront her. However, when he meets her for the first time, he is immediately struck by her beauty and becomes increasingly convinced that she may not be what he initially thought and the two strike up a benign relationship… until he starts to develop feelings for her.

(REVIEW)

Hmm… it’s about as bat-shit as I thought it’d be… and yet, it wasn’t. It’s kind of weird.

Here’s what I mean, the movie is almost ripe to be self-parody, but the movie treats its own subject matter like it’s the norm. Suddenly, the cringing isn’t as strong because everyone has a nonchalant attitude toward cousins marrying and having sex. Again, I emphasize that I understand different times periods and places, so certain taboos today may not have been so taboo… whenever this movie takes place. I think that’s one of my initial pet peeves with this movie: the year is never specified. I mean, there’s horse-drawn carriages and not a single motorized vehicle ever makes an appearance, so… presumably pre-1880’s? I have no idea, y’all. But I guess the exact date doesn’t quite matter.

Let’s get some of the positives out of the way. The acting is quite good. Weisz is amazing in anything that she does, so she’s a class act here. And was she really speaking Italian? There’s a scene where she was speaking to an Italian character and she looked damn comfortable speaking it. Any who, Rachel is this woman who is clearly grieving over her dead husband slash cousin, but she constantly conducts herself as a pleasant and self-sufficient individual. She even vehemently protests when Philip secretly gives her an allowance, claiming that it makes her look like a beggar and that she’s only there for his money, which isn’t the case. But she is a sweet woman who cares deeply for her cousin and eventually cares for him in all the wrong ways.

Philip is… another story entirely, and I quite honestly don’t know how to feel about him. At first, his actions and motivations seem like they make sense. Who wouldn’t have guessed from the ramblings from the cousin that Rachel was responsible for his death? However, from the moment he met Rachel, I’m somewhat lost. I know the implication is that Rachel is so damn attractive that he’s totally entranced by her beauty, therefore forgets to question the death of his cousin. So the story essentially loses focus because… THE POWER OF BONERS CANNOT BE DENIED!!!

Now I’m not entirely sure if the rest of the movie is either that brilliant or that unfocused, but here’s what I’m getting out of this. Bare with me, this might get more convoluted than the movie intended. While Philip is being all hypnotized by Rachel, I feel like the way the movie’s shot and written is trying to keep the audience distanced from anyone’s particular point of view. I feel like we’re supposed to know that Philip’s infatuation is moronic and the audience is expected to maintain our suspicions of Rachel and make the deductions ourselves. I suppose that’s where most of the fun of the movie came in for me, which is odd to say because this movie isn’t meant to be “fun.” I honestly didn’t know what to make of Rachel. She seemed pleasant enough, but any really good murderer would be charismatic and unassuming, but it’s not like she doesn’t feed us suspicions. She’s incredibly persistent when it comes to serving tea to Philip. Kind of makes you wonder certain things. You keep your caffeinated horse piss to yourself, lady! Actually, I’m a “soak it with honey” kind of guy, but no one cares about that. My little theory that I went into could entirely be me grasping at straws, finding something good to say about it, but it’s entirely possible that this movie abandons its murder-mystery premise in lieu of an icky cousin-cousin romance, then dear God, what kind of sick novel was this? In order to preserve my sanity, I’m going with my theory.

I’m honestly trying to come up with a legit problem with the movie. I feel like the unfocused stuff that I mentioned earlier does feel like an issue and even my excuses for why that is feel like I’m just apologizing for the film in some way. On the other hand, that does feel like the point of the film. On the other other hand, does that mean this story is pure shock value? Throwing in an uncomfortable scenario for the audience to cringe at as opposed to actually making educated and logical guesses as to whether or not Rachel killed her husband?

I’m sure I’m missing something. This has to be a popular book for it to be adapted to the big screen twice. But honestly… yeah, this wasn’t something I could get into. And I wanted to this to be grotesquely enjoyable. Instead, I felt more confused than anything else. I can’t pretend that this was the worst thing in the world because I do enjoy the lead actors very much. I also can’t deny the gorgeous costumes and I do find my mind remembering the cinematography quite a bit, as well as the ending being deliciously nuts. However, this movie wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. It’s not the worst watch, but I think it’d help audiences interested in seeing it to not go in expecting a one-hundred percent bat-shit insane movie that would get a cult following like I did. I’d say unless you’re a die-hard fan of Weisz, save this for a either a discount theater viewing, or better yet, a rental. It’s not the strongest recommendation, I certainly don’t see myself revisiting the film, but I won’t pretend to have gotten nothing out of it.

My honest rating for MY COUSIN RACHEL: 3/5

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Quick reviews: GOING IN STYLE / THEIR FINEST

going_in_style

(SUMMARY)

Joe (Michael Caine), Willie (Morgan Freeman), and Albert (Alan Arkin) are all retirees who depend on their pension funds to live comfortably. However, the company they worked for got bought out and those pensions got taken away by the bank. The three men, eager to get their money back for the sake of their families and health, plot to rob that same bank.

Directed by Zach Braff (GARDEN STATE [2004] and some episodes of TV show SCRUBS)
Written by Theodore Melfi (HIDDEN FIGURES [2016] and ST. VINCENT [2014])
Composed by Rob Simonsen (GIFTED [2017], STONEWALL [2015], and TV show LIFE IN PIECES)
Cinematography by Rodney Charters (TV shows THE SHANNARA CHRONICLES, DALLAS, and 24)

(REVIEW)

Fun fact: this is a remake of GOING IN STYLE (1979).

It’s funny and likable, so I really enjoyed myself.

Granted the movie doesn’t do anything particularly new. The story hits all the beats that a story like this would go for and doesn’t do anything particularly fresh or new. But ultimately, I would think that most people aren’t seeing it for anything ground-breaking, but just to see these great and timeless actors playing a young-man’s game and getting themselves into some wacky situations. But I think what elevates it above mediocre is that there is a lot of heart to the story. You see a genuine, fun connection between Joe and his granddaughter Brooklyn (Joey King), the weight of Willie wanting to see more of his family, especially when his two friends get him a watch with his granddaughter’s face on it. That was pretty awesome of them. And Arkin is hilarious as he tries to fight off advances from a borderline-crazy woman, Annie (Anne-Margret), who likes him. Some funny visuals, and probably one of the most intense and satisfying endings I’ve seen in a bit, I think it’s worth seeing in theaters.

My honest rating for GOING IN STYLE: 4/5

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Their-finest-Quad-poster

(SUMMARY)

Set in World War II, Britain. Catrin Cole (Gemma Arterton) is climbing her way up in the film industry as a writer. Eventually, during Britain’s destruction at the hands of the Germans, the British Ministry of Information film team decides to put together a true story about the Dunkirk evacuation about two women who bravely set out in hostile waters to rescue British soldiers all in the name of boosting national morale. Working with veteran film writer Tom Buckley (Sam Claflin) and starring Britain’s finest, yet pickiest, actor Ambrose Hillard (Bill Nighy), they set out working through the destruction, their personal lives, and together to create a movie worthy of remembrance.

Directed by Lone Scherfig (THE RIOT CLUB [2014], ONE DAY [2011], and AN EDUCATION [2009])
Written by Gaby Chiappe, known for unknown television projects
Composed by Rachel Portman (A DOG’S PURPOSE [2017], RACE [2016], and MONA LISA SMILE [2003])
Cinematography by Sebastian Blenkov (MISS SLOANE [2016] and THE RIOT CLUB)

(REVIEW)

Before jumping in to the review, is anyone else tickled by the fact that we have two films about Dunkirk in the same year, the other being Christopher Nolan’s DUNKIRK (2017) due out this July? I mean, stars-aligned, this is pretty coincidental.

This movie’s going to hold a special place in my heart because it’s basically a fun glimpse into film making back in the 40’s.

But first and foremost, the cast is great. Nighy is hilarious and charismatic, commanding your eyes to focus on him seemingly without effort. But it doesn’t stop there. Arterton does a wonderful job as this talented woman eager to be seen as a creative equal and really stands her ground in a room of high and mighty men. It’s also pretty satisfying to see how respected she becomes by the end of the film, and how much her partners admire her and really listen and take in her ideas. She doesn’t run the show, by any means, but it’s still a nice character arch. And the way the film gets made, the techniques they used to make a beach scene seem full of soldiers and boats, when in actuality it’s just a mat painting on a sheet of glass with two guys in costume looking out at the ocean, it’s really something to watch and does trick the eye. Of course, there’s Nighy getting in the way of the shot to reveal how the illusion is created, making for probably one of the more memorable moments in the movie. Even though I think this movie will be touted as a comedy, there’s more than a few dramatic moments. Buildings get bombed out, people die and the audience sees the bodies, there’s a real emotional weight and heaviness that this movie isn’t afraid to show. I can’t say if this – or for that matter, the original book – are based on true events, but it feels like it could be, considering how much passion it feels like is being thrown into this movie as a whole. I wish I could go on and on about this movie, but the new batch of films are coming out and I don’t like being too far behind. This doesn’t have the widest of releases, but if you happen to see it in your area, I highly recommend it in theaters.

My honest rating for THEIR FINEST: 5/5