Monday, October 26, 2015

Rapid Reviews: Carol and Anomalisa

One of the most anticipated films to play at this year's Philadelphia Film Festival is the latest adapted drama from Todd Haynes, Carol. At the center of the film is two-time Academy Award winner, Cate Blanchett. And outside of the indisputable icon of female performers, Meryl Streep, Blanchett may be the most prominent actress in Hollywood today. But despite the enormous talents of the film's leading lady, Carol struggles to capture the deepest emotions of its audience.

This 1950s set feature follows a separated wife and mother, Carol Aird (Blanchett), whose history of sexual relationships with other women put her on thin ice with her husband. But when she refuses his final attempt at reconciling their marriage and, instead, pursues a much younger department store clerk named Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), Carol jeopardizes her ongoing legal battle for joint custody of her daughter.

First and foremost, Cate Blanchett continues her long string of top-flight work with a turn that warrants the Oscar buzz which surrounds it. Rooney Mara delivers a fine performance in her own right, as does fellow supporting star, Sarah Paulson. However, all of this notable work is lost in an inept script and sluggishly paced film. Running at nearly a two-hour clip, a trudging and uneventful story regrettably spoils an otherwise superbly acted tale of true love.

Stars: 2 stars out of 4

Grade: C+

Although this year's Opening Night selection felt a little peculiar, no one can deny the Philadelphia Film Festival's knack for drawing well-renowned industry talent. In town to rep his latest cerebral concoction, Academy Award winner Charlie Kaufman (writer of Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) unveiled his and Duke Johnson's Venice winning stop-motion animated drama, Anomalisa.

Michael Stone (voice of David Thewlis) is a husband and father away on a business trip to Cincinnati where he's scheduled to give a big speech. While traveling he finds himself resenting the monotony of his life and pursues a pair of star-struck fans who are attending his talk the next day. That night he meets Lisa (voice of Jennifer Jason Leigh), a woman unlike any other who sends his emotions into a tailspin.

In a smart and clever fashion, Anomalisa represents another winning effort from the mind of Charlie Kaufman. The unique visionary provides an artistically diverse effort that breaks from conventional storytelling. Despite massively outreaching its running time to an almost unnecessary 90 minutes, Anomalisa sets itself apart as a mastery of all the senses. See, feel and listen your way though another brainy and exquisite piece of work from Charlie Kaufman.

Stars: 2 and a half stars out of 4

Grade: B-

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