“Pieces of a Woman” (US Rated R)
Cast: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LaBeouf, Ellen Burstyn, Sarah Snook
In what was arguably one of the most difficult years for the entire world in a long, long time, some of the movies released over this past year of the COVID pandemic have boldly delved into some unusually difficult subject matters.
Perhaps that’s because it may be easier for some of us to watch these types of movies at home than in a theater.
Following up on the extremely intense “Never Rarely Sometimes Always”, which examined abortion in a way seldom seen on the big screen, we now have “Pieces of a Woman” – released last week on Netflix – tackling miscarriage head on.
A heartbreaking home birth leaves a woman grappling with the profound emotional fallout, isolated from her partner and family by a chasm of grief.
Blessed with a stellar cast and powerful performances all around, including from the legendary Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn, all eyes will be on the fantastic Vanessa Kirby. Known to many as the young Princess Margaret in the first couple seasons of Netflix’s “The Crown”, Kirby delivers the goods (which we knew she would) in her first lead role. Co-star Shia LaBeouf is also pretty decent.
Despite the heavy subject matter, “Pieces of a Woman” is entertaining and compelling from start to finish. It’s a must watch adult drama about the unraveling of family relationships.
“Tenet” (US Rated PG-13)
Cast: John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Kenneth Branagh
“Don’t try to understand it!”
Those words said to John David Washington’s character (known only as “The Protagonist”) in the film “Tenet” tell you all you really need to know about this very unusual motion picture.
Released in the limited theaters that were still open August, and after numerous delays, “Tenet” was supposed to be one of the big action movies of the year. Of course, it couldn’t really live up to its full financial potential. And unlike many other films last year, it wasn’t released concurrently online. Not until last month.
So now, as it’s finally available via digital streams and on Blu-ray/DVD, we get to see whether it lives up to the hype. And I can declare that this mental workout of a film is so incredibly smart that it’s stupid, and at times, so incredibly stupid that it is smart.
Washington’s The Protagonist is a secret agent who’s given a single word as his weapon and sent to prevent the onset of World War III. He must travel through time and bend the laws of nature in order to be successful in his mission.
“Tenet” more than likely would benefit from multiple viewings, although you might not really care to get that deep with it.
It certainly is a wild ride though, with a lot going on in terms of shocking and spellbinding action, and a lot in terms of the high-concept, sci-fi, time-travelling themes.
Director Christopher Nolan (“Inception”, “Dunkirk”, and “The Dark Knight” trilogy”) crafts an impossibly stylish picture, from the casts’ fashions to the locales for the shoots to the cinematography.
But the omnipresent, overbearing and oppressive background music can grate on nerves. The great Kenneth Branagh, playing a Russian psychopath, might do that to you as well, but he does bring fire to the screen whenever he’s on.
With its intense storyline, multiple bad guys, and a constant feeling that you can’t trust anyone, “Tenet” does feel a tad bit unnecessarily complicated, and as if it’s been intentionally constructed like the tense spy dramas of the late ‘60s through early ‘80s. However, that style often feels forced and not in keeping with the du jour fashion of storytelling.
Like an un-medicated schizophrenic on a roller coaster, “Tenet” certainly ain’t dull. It’s interesting, but also exhausting. You can’t totally hate it, but you can’t exactly love it either.
That character who tells The Protagonist, “Don’t try to understand it” is a scientist in a lab. She follows those words up with: “Feel it!”
That’s the best advice one could give.