Archives for posts with tag: ethan hawke

There are a million adaptations of Great Expectations, and Alfonso Cuarón’s is not the worst. It is, however, suuuuuuper 90s.

None of the essentials of the story are changed; Pip is now called Finn, and he grows up on the Gulf Coast. The part of London is played by New York, and Finn (Ethan Hawke) is an artist, because I suppose that’s how we update aimless Victorian young men. Estella is still called Estella, and she is still raised to be evil by the delightfully over-the-top Miss Havisham (Anne Bancroft as Miss for some reason Dinsmoor). Gwyneth Paltrow is an excellent choice for the grown-up Estella’s cold beauty.

As an adaptation it’s fine. Ethan Hawke is pretty good at hapless, and Chris Cooper is as usual great as Joe Gargery/Coleman. Robert DeNiro plays…Robert DeNiro, and incidentally also Abel Magwitch, whose adapted name I never caught and doesn’t matter. The Florida visuals are gorgeous, particularly, of course, Miss Dinsmoor’s grand tomb of a mansion. Soho is always rainy, Central Park is always beautiful; these are almost true. The rich ciphers of Finn’s artistic life are appalling. We are meant to be appalled.

So how is it super 90s? Well, Florida seems stuck in the late 80s and early 90s generally, so there’s that. And there is Ethan Hawke’s intermittent (terrible) sensitive facial hair. People still smoke, in buildings, in New York. Everyone (men and women) dresses like a high-powered lesbian. But mostly there is Estella. Gwyneth Paltrow wears every horrible knit outfit, every pair of atrocious mules, every ghastly hairstyle. She looks great (of course). But not only were the 90s a weird, bad time for fashion, they were also a weird, inexplicable time for feminism. Estella’s power, then, is more frankly sexual than we usually see, and she seems more in control, both of which are interesting and probably good. She does not, however, make sense. So…there’s that.

Stray observations:

  • Medium-aged Pip is played by Ethan Hawke in just the worst blond wig, and I’m not sure why.
  • The child actors are phenomenally well chosen, though. Both are eminently believable, and also not irritating as actors.
  • I think I liked the soundtrack. I’m not sure I knew a single song, and the lyrics seemed heavy-handed, often, but, well, Dickens isn’t subtle, and there was no reason for this movie to be so either.
  • Hank Azaria is Estella’s mark. It’s strange not to like or to laugh at him.

Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Rating: R
Length: 111 min.
Score: 3/5. Too close yet too far? If you’re doing Great Expectations, you have to do better, or at least differently.

The set-up of Daybreakers is this: ten years ago, humans were infected with vampirism. Now the vast majority of Earth’s population consists of vampires, and the food supply, obviously, is dwindling quickly. Starvation, in vampires, causes regression to a Nosferatu-like state, which is a) gross and b) not societally sustainable. In cities awake only at night, above networks of tunnels (Subwalks), there is a desperate race for a viable blood substitute.

Enter our hero, Ed (Ethan Hawke), a hematologist vampire working on this project. His evil boss (Sam Neill, whose character’s name I forget because it’s not Vassily Borodin) is concerned with profits, either from his blood farms or from the substitute, emphatically not caring which. Ed’s brother (some young Kiwi) is a weirdo soldier in the Vampire Army, and there is some sibling tension.

But Ed is not evil. Ed refuses to drink human blood, Ed helps humans escape from the Vampire Police, Ed really wants to save humans generally. Ed does not, you will be shocked to learn, have sensitive facial hair. Anyhow, he meets some human resistance fighters, Willem Dafoe drives American muscle cars, there’s an attractive lady (Claudia Karvan as Audrey) and an attractive vineyard, yadda yadda yadda fight the powercakes.

An unsubtle critique of capitalism and warning about possible food crises, this movie is nonetheless not terrible. At least two unexpected things happened, and the world-building is well executed. Willem Dafoe is appropriately crazy and Sam Neill is delightfully Mephistophelean. The only real problem I have is the body horror. Sure, you need some, but this…is a bit much, especially in an otherwise suited, fedora’d, stylish world. Which I’m sure is the point, but I still don’t have to like it.

Stray observations:

  • The vampires mostly wear hats. Like, the kind of hats we stopped wearing when JFK did. I don’t know why, because the hats don’t protect them enough from the sun and are worn underground. Style, I guess.
  • Audrey is capable and no-nonsense, not having to be rescued over-much. In fact, she begins by shooting Ed. Could be worse.
  • There is a predictable but still deeply unpleasant rape-analogue scene. It is, in fairness, largely essential to the plot.
  • Everyone in this movie except for Ethan Hawke and Willem Dafoe is a Kiwi or an Australian. Nonetheless the action occurs in the US, because, sigh, we are the capitalistic and militaristic goons who would create this world. I would like to see the same premise in Australia or New Zealand, mostly, I admit, for the laughs.

Director: The Spierig Brothers
Rating: R
Length: 98 min.
Score: 2/5. Clever, but too gross.