A credible achievement it is to make two features of such lengthiness in one year, Ridley Scott forgets that quantity does not equal quality. Between The Last Duel and House of Gucci is almost six hours of artisanship, but none of it is confident of itself. Where House of Gucci closed itself off from innovation and toured the usual suspects of the biopic genre, The Last Duel relies on an impossibly grand scale and another ensemble. Scott is wasteful and has no way of separating the wheat from the chaff, but he doesn’t need to. There is enough in the grandiose and inspired status of The Last Duel for it to compete on its own level, primarily because there is nothing quite like it anymore.
Insulting and painful the Gucci family may find House of Gucci, the Ridley Scott-directed feature is bound to take the awards season by storm. It is the necessity of impression. Adam Driver and Lady Gaga front an ensemble assault on the warring factions of the Gucci household with derivative performances, sloppy Italian accents and just enough hold on the prime facts to make for an engaging, horribly stretched rendition of Maurizio Gucci’s rise and death. Driver embodies the murdered Gucci owner, but it is Ridley Scott who fails to adapt the horror show as anything more than a generic drama with lighter tones spread throughout. A balancing act of miserable proportions.
Power held by one man for so long is surely conditioned by lacking development elsewhere. Clint Eastwood must believe so as he tackles the life of J. Edgar Hoover. Played by Leonardo DiCaprio over several decades of his life, the hard work found in J. Edgar falls on deaf ears. Not because its hopes of adapting the former FBI Director to the screen is a wasted or useless opportunity to dive deep into the heart of American politics, but because Eastwood is unsure of what to do when he gets there. His response is not to showcase the big, interesting hauls of a fifty-year career, but to delve into the gossip surrounding his social life. Such a waste, especially when Hoover’s work is so interesting, primed and ready to be adapted to the big screen as the man who overhauled what the Federal Bureau of Investigation was responsible for.
Quirky, liberating stories about nobodies from New York provides a wholly different culture to the drink-laden, grim streets of North East England. I’d like to use that as an excuse for why I couldn’t connect with Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, but I really don’t think regional differences are the reasoning behind disliking this pretentious, aimless farce. A film with a checklist of predictable independent tropes under its arm and not much else to aide it through, Baumbach’s famous indie darling is an extremely dull, tremendously ridiculous and rather annoying feature for someone as sceptical of life as I am. But, then again, I doubt scepticism comes into this at all, especially since I struggle to pinpoint what exactly Frances Ha wants to evoke from its audience.
A film bound by the restraints of reality, but providing over-the-top leading roles for the usually tremendous Greta Gerwig, who chews the scenery of glum New York streets, all shot in black and white for no reason other than “why not?”. Gerwig’s leading performance as the titular Frances Halladay, an aspiring dancer bouncing between friends to mooch off of and live with is the core of many problems and issues I have with Frances Ha. This quirky performance begins by walking the line between the realism and believability the film looks to represent, but soon falls into a category of whimsical annoyance. Frances is devoid of any real likeable characteristics, mulling around in an awkward fashion which will prove comfortable for those that engage with foundation-level independent cinema.
It’s difficult to latch onto a character whose biggest issues are an unknown future in a dance troupe and falling out of touch with their closest friend. Really, I should care for how those within the arts struggle to keep up with rent, since I’ll be joining that struggle in a short while. The scrupulous detail put into place in Baumbach’s camera movements is very nice, it’s just that he presents us with nothing of real interest. He holds lingering camera angles very well, and there’s certainly a great deal of focus going into his vision. The downside to this is that his vision isn’t one of much interest, and he fumbles the seemingly easy balance between having realistic characters with only one or two quirks. The balance tips in favour of quirky personalities, rubbing off as annoying and one-note in unfortunately infuriating scenes.
My problems, it seems, are not with Gerwig or Driver or the rest of the cast, but with Baumbach’s writing. His recent work with Marriage Story has slid down into a forgettable slump, the recency bias of such a film has worn off almost entirely. Whereas his Driver and Scarlett Johannsson led Netflix piece does blend some rather solid performances, it also provides a script that feels, at the very least, grounded within its own reality. Frances Ha has the issue of wanting us to connect with a flimsy lead character who isn’t well written or all that interesting. Suffering many of the disconnecting, artificial feeling problems that Baumbach’s other film, Greenberg, broke down upon, it’s a shame to see there is little in the way of progress for Baumbach’s craft.
When Martin Scorsese finally announced he would be directing Silence, I was hesitant to dive into it right away. Such a large leap, going from The Wolf of Wall Street, a biopic of stockbrokers, shady dealings and drug abuse to Silence, a distressed musing on historic religious disputes. Rich in its history and dedicated to telling its story in as much detail as possible, Silence is a marvellous film that highlights some of Scorsese’s finest work.