Movies of the Week #18 (2020)

Hustlers (2019): I wasn’t sure about Hustlers, which I thought might be another Widows (2018), i.e. an Ocean’s 11 template movie with all female leads that everyone liked, but me. Here, they’re making a living in a strip club and end up…hustling their clients to even the playing field. It’s all familiar stuff, but it finds just enough nuance to be relevant, with the ups and downs of workplace camaraderie in full display. Perhaps I liked the fact that Hustlers is more pulp, it takes itself less seriously and actually manages to create dramatic tension between its leads. Jennifer Lopez steps up in a big way, puts your fitness level to shame and looks like the actress she always/never promised she could be, depending on who you ask. Steeped into the good, old days of the subprime crisis in the late 00s, this proved a fun ride. 7/10

Just Mercy (2019): If you’re up for (yet another) movie about the crass inequalities of the American justice system, have a treat. Coming from director Destin Daniel Cretton, who created the exceptional Short Term 12 (2013), Just Mercy captures the (in)humanity of its subject matter and is deftly acted, but fails in shaking up the formula. The true story goes that an African American man, Walter McMillian, got the death sentence so that local police could close a high profile case. It helped that he was black, even though the evidence against him was practically non-existent and the whole trial lasted less than the time it takes Amazon to send you an order. Expedited. Although I liked it for the most part, the fact that it doesn’t look for the complexities of how a young Harvard educated lawyer like Bryan Stevenson would tackle the subject beyond community outreach and handling police harassment is a letdown. Clemency (2019), though I rate them similarly, at least had the ambition of finding a different angle. 7/10

Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf (2017): A small find thanks to my girlfriend, this unlikely documentary about the art of garden design was free to watch at the end of April. While the movie has moments of dullness, Piet Oudolf’s passion and commentary end up highlighting some important concepts about art, beauty and the life and death of flowers through a lens that most of us will not have come across before. Something about the eye of the beholder, but not really. Reframing, if jarring and off-putting at times, is something we could do more with nowadays. 7/10

Rust Creek (2018): Rust Creek seems like a run of the mill movie about a girl getting lost in the forest while trying to escape an assault – anxiety riddled, menacing and predictable. In the middle of it, the twists and turns actually prove fruitful, thanks in no small part to Hermione Corfield’s restrained performance. Ultimately, survival movies so intently focused on one character live or die on this. I guess it’s up to you to find out how chemistry makes an entrance… 7/10

Misbehaviour (2020): For a movie about one of the key moments in the women’s liberation movement, Misbehaviour feels distinctly one-note and dated – not for a lack of trying to find nuance, it just rarely does. We get a dish of a familiar story, familiar discourse and familiar characters, the latter mostly so generic that you couldn’t tell them apart by the end. That being said, there are a few standout moments where Philippa Lowthorpe’s movie does resonate emotionally, thanks to Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s performance. Alas, that’s about it. 5/10