A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at “Fifty Shades Freed,” “Permission” with Rebecca Hall and the meta-movie romance “Entanglement.”
Richard and CP24 anchor Nathan Downer have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the continuing and endless erotic (ish) adventure of the “Fifty Shades Freed” gang, the sorta-kinda-rom-com “Permission” with Rebecca Hall, the meta-movie romance “Entanglement” and the mockumentary “Fake Blood.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Jennifer Burke to have a look at the weekend’s big releases, the erotic (ish) adventure “Fifty Shades Freed,” the sorta-kinda-rom-com “Permission” with Rebecca Hall, the meta-movie romance “Entanglement” and the mockumentary “Fake Blood.”
Richard sits in on the CJAD Montreal morning show host Andrew Carter to talk about the climatic erotic adventure “Fifty Shades Freed,” the sorta-kinda-rom-com “Permission” with Rebecca Hall, the meta-movie romance “Entanglement” and the mockumentary “Fake Blood.”
In its first hour, the new film Permission looks and feels a lot like a traditional romantic comedy — but this is a trick, says actress Rebecca Hall.
“When we first started out making this (director Brian Crano) said, ‘I want this to look like a classic rom-com from the ’90s. Lots of backdrops from Manhattan. Lots of completely gorgeous-looking apartments that, inexplicably, these people are living in. Everyone is beautiful. Everything is beautiful,” explains Hall.
And just when you think you’re on cosy ground, “the rug is pulled out from under you. You feel gut-punched.”
In the film, Will, played by Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens, and Anna (Hall) have been sweethearts since high school. Now, on the cusp of her 30th birthday he’s about to pop the question. First though she drunkenly proposes they sleep around a bit. Not break up, but get some life experience before they settle down. At first they encourage one another in a bit of harmless fun but as their polyamorous relationships start to deepen, uncomfortable realities are revealed.
“Over the years we’ve all had conversations about relationships and where they were heading,” Hall says. “Brian noticed a general trend that happened somewhere around the ages of 27 to 30-something, where people who had been in shockingly monogamous, stable relationships either got married or broke up. This was something he was interested in because so many of his friends were children of divorce or had complex attitudes toward monogamy. Some were fundamentally monogamous while others were exploring other options.”
Permission’s final third contains the film’s most essential truths. In a dramatic shift in tone from the first hour, the harsh realisms of this arrangement appear.
“The thing we were interested in weren’t the moral rights or wrongs, if there are any, of having an open relationship,” she says. “It was more about these two people who are stuck, who have not allowed each other growth because they have been together for so long and have not had the level of communication in the relationship that is necessary. The film is really about giving ourselves permission to question a relationship that is basically good. It sounds like a nothing statement but no matter how sophisticated and evolved and progressive we have all become there is still this strange pressure to do the right thing. If the relationship is good you stay in it because if you leave it you might be mean or a failure.”
The film takes a thoughtful and mature approach to its story, asking: How far can you stray, even with permission?
“Brian and I used to play a little game,” Hall says, “where we would try and think of films and stories where women have sexual agency but aren’t kooky, crazy people who end up being psychopaths or pixie dream girl stereotypes. It was difficult to come up with. The construction of Anna was really someone who is working out what that means. She is going to discover what sexual agency means for her. She is going to own it and be empowered by it. I think that is a really important message to put out there right now.”
Recently CNN reported on a study that claimed cuckolding can be positive for some couples. Their reporting of it was roundly mocked on line, with one twitter user dubbing CNN the “Cuckolding News Network” while another called it, “a brilliant idea for strengthening your relationship in time for Valentine’s Day!” Validity of the study aside, “Permission,” a new movie starring Rebecca Hall, explores the same territory.
Will (Dan Stevens) and Anna (Hall) have been sweethearts since high school. Now, on the cusp of her thirtieth birthday he’s about to pop the question. First though she drunkenly proposes they sleep around a bit. Not break up, but get some life experience before they settle down. At first they encourage one another in a bit of harmless fun but as their polyamorous relationships start to deepen uncomfortable realities are revealed.
Director-writer Brian Crano takes a thoughtful and mature approach to the material but his delivery of it feels scattershot. The first hour has an effervescence to it that disappears as the various story threads wrap up. In the beginning it feels sexy and dangerous but as Anna’s relationship with musician Dane (Francois Arnaud) and Will’s fling with divorcée Lydia (Gina Gershon) heat up questions arise. How far can you stray even with permission?
The final third contains the film’s most essential truths. In a dramatic shift in tone from the first hour, the harsh realisms of this arrangement appear. Also effective is a subplot about Anna’s brother Hale (David Joseph Craig), his boyfriend Reece (Morgan Spector) and their desire (or not) to have a baby. It is heartfelt and could definitely been given more screen time.
“Permission” is easily more interesting than CNN’s treatment of the same material. Although uneven it is an interesting look at the responsibilities that come with adult relationships.
“Downsizing,” the new satire from “Sideways” director Alexander Payne, offers up a proposition that is almost too good to be true. His movie asks, What would you do if you could simultaneously help save the environment and improve your personal finances?
Set in the near future, overpopulation is the biggest issue facing the world. In Norway a team of scientists come up with an inventive, and just a little wacky, way to solve the problem, cellular reduction a.k.a. shrinking. It is, they say, the only safe and humane way to resolve the curse of overpopulation. “Life is unsustainable at this current mass and volume,” says Dr. Jorgen Asbjørnsen (Rolf Lassgård).
It’s a medical procedure known as downsizing whereby a person’s current mass and volume are shrunk by .0634%. They take up less space, produce less waste—four months of bathroom waste for a family of four takes up less than half of one garbage bag—eat less and generally are less a drain on the planet’s resources. The kicker? It’s cheaper to live. $83 is an average food budget for two months or could buy a matching conflict-free diamond bracelet, earring and necklace set.
When we meet Omaha couple Paul and Audrey Safranek (Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig) they are at a financial crossroads. He wanted to be a surgeon but when his mom got sick he dropped out of pre med to take care of her. Now he works “in-house at Omaha steaks and “tweeting repetitive stress injuries. She wants to buy a new house but they can’t afford it.
Top realize Audrey’s dream of a new house and life, they decide to get small. The capper on the deal? Their equity of $150,000 translates into $12.5 million at the dollhouse-sized city called Leisureland Estates.
But what happens when one chickens out? “You’re upset!” says Paul. “You’re upset! I’m the one who is 5 inches tall!”
As Paul begins his new miniature solo life he meets his neighbour Dusan (Christoph Waltz), a Siberian wheeler-dealer who brings luxury items to the new small communities and Ngoc Lan (Hong Chau), a shrunken dissident from Vietnam, jailed for political and environmental activity, who smuggled herself into the United States in a television box.
Paul’s journey into smallville changes his life in more ways than he ever could have imagined. Damon plays Paul as an everyman, a good guy who massages his wife’s neck and gave up his dream to look after his mother. The enlightenment he (eventually) finds comes with the realization that Leisureland Estates isn’t a brave new world but a continuation of the world he left, complete with class struggles, race issues and poverty. “That’s the thing about becoming small,” says Dusan’s friend Konrad (a wonderful Udo Kier), “you become rich. Unless you were poor. Then you’re just a small.”
Downsizing, the procedure, not the movie, it turns out isn’t the answer to the world’s problems. Healing the world is simpler, more primal. It’s about building communities, looking after one another and learning to appreciate what we have.
At least that’s what I think it’s about. “Downsizing,” for all its ingenuity gets bogged down in its second half. The opening hour is inventive, like a light-hearted “Twilight Zone” episode. There are nice details—following the shrinking procedure the newly small adults are scooped up by nurses with spatulas and deposited on to tiny gurneys—and several belly laughs stemming from the situation. When the film halfway abandons the less-is-more concept—in a world where everything is miniature, the opportunity for the kind of sight gags that drew laughs in the first half disappear—it becomes slightly muddled. Is it a romance? Sort of. Is it social commentary? Yes, but about what exactly? The environment? (There’s even an allusion to Noah’s Ark.) Racism? Illegal immigration? They are all touched on but the film flits from one issue to another so quickly it’s like channel surfing between CNN and MSNBC every forty seconds or so.
“Downsizing” may bite off more than it can chew but its an indictment of how man has broken the environment isn’t all doom and gloom. With Paul’s new world, friends and outlook also come a hopeful gaze to the future. You may wonder about the appropriateness of the comic tone of Ngoc Lan’s broken English but will can never speculate on whether the film has its heart in the right place or not.
Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “The Lost City of Z,” starring Charlie Hunnam as an obsessed Amazonian explorer, the unforgivable “Unforgettable,” the wild and wooly “Free Fire” and the rom mon “Colossal” starring Anne Hathaway as a woman whose drunken stumbling has far reaching effects.