Movie reviews: “The Banshees of Inisherin” and more


THE BANSHES OF INISHERIN: 4 STARS

This image released by Searchlight Pictures shows Colin Farrell in “The Banshees of Inisherin.” (Projector images via AP)

Fifteen years ago, director Martin McDonagh reunited actors Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson as incompetent hit men in hiding in the Belgian film ‘In Bruges’.

Sparks flew.

The formidable trio come together in ‘The Banshees of Inisherin’, a new film, now in theaters, which sets the scene on a small Irish island, but maintains the chemistry that made ‘In Bruges’ an audience and a critical favorite.

Set in 1923 on a windswept island off the west coast of Ireland, the story begins as the Irish Civil War rages on the mainland. With the sound of gunfire and bombs exploding in the distance, nice village boy Pádraic (Farrell) goes about his daily business, stopping by his lifelong friend Colm (Gleeson) to pick him up on the way to the pub . When he knocks on the door without answer, Pádraic looks out the window to see his old friend, sitting and smoking, ignoring the knocks on the door.

Later, at the pub, the gormless Pádraic learns why he was snubbed by Colm. “I just don’t love you anymore. »

Hurt and confused, Pádraic tries to fix things, but Colm is unstoppable. He wants to spend whatever time he has left, no matter how many years he has left, doing something meaningful; don’t chat over a pint. Pádraic is boring, says Colm, his conversation is a waste of time.

Despite the threat of dire consequences, Pádraic cannot accept that the friendship is over, and what started as a cold shoulder escalates into violence born of humiliation and anger.

The dark and hilarious “The Banshees of Inisherin” uses Colm’s bashing of his former friend as the engine to drive a universal story of loneliness, what happens when civility fades, and the importance of support systems.

McDonagh creates a lively backdrop for the action. Life on the small island is portrayed as both idyllic and mind-numbing. The rolling hills, greenery and winding country roads are straight out of a tourist brochure. But it’s the soft underbelly, what hides under the picturesque facade, that’s interesting. Gossip is rampant, every house has a secret, and the local cop (Gary Lydon) abuses his power on the street and in the house. The film takes its time in transitioning from charming to sinister, from the light tone of the first hour to the darkness of the last forty minutes.

It’s a pleasure to see Farrell and Gleeson back together. There’s an undefinable chemistry between them that suggests they have a deep bond, which makes their on-screen friendship severing so effective.

Gleeson, as a man thinking about his legacy, fighting the despair of realizing, late in life, that he hasn’t felt anything genuine in years, is a commanding presence. He has awakened from his secluded, worldly existence and takes extremes to turn his life around, leaving Pádraic in the dust.

As solid as Gleeson is, it’s Farrell’s shift in tone from heartbroken to desperate to steely that steals the show. As someone who prided himself on being a “nice” person, it’s fascinating to watch the darkness grow within him. It’s subtle, delivered with sly shifts in expression, but compelling as he goes through the stages of grieving for his lost friendship.

“The Banshees of Inisherin” would only be worth the price of admission for the inventive use of familiar Irish swear words. Come for the swear words, but stay for the performances and the palpable sense of devastation that comes when a friendship ends and there’s no one to share a pint with at the local pub.

TAR: 3 ½ STARS

This image released by Focus Features shows Cate Blanchett in a scene from “Tár.” (Features targeted via AP)

Cate Blanchett gives a performance of bravery in “Tár,” a canceled 158-minute new cultural melodrama disguised as an arthouse.

Blanchett is Lydia Tár, the superstar maestro of the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. As she prepares for a historic recording of Mahler’s Fifth, she is demanding and demanding, on and off stage. In other words, he’s a bully, used to people bowing to his genius.

She quietly belittles her assistant Francesca (Noémie Merlant) and triggers a devastating dismantling of a student of Julliard (Zethphan D. Smith-Gneist) whose crime was to suggest that Johann Sebastian Bach’s ribald personal life renders the composer unworthy of be studied.

In Berlin, when she’s not putting the orchestra to the test, she lives with her partner Sharon (Nina Hoss), who plays violin in the orchestra, and her stepdaughter Petra (Mila Bogojevic). At work, she plays favorites with Olga (Sophie Kauer), a virtuoso cellist who rises through the ranks a little too fast for the comfort of some other musicians.

As she’s about to hit major career milestones, a new memoir and the completion of her cycle of Mahler recordings, a crudely edited video of her Julliard lecture surfaces, alongside accusations of impropriety business with a former colleague.

“Tár” emphasizes the bad ending to the story.

We can all imagine the high-flying part of Tár’s life. Images of limos and private jets, harassed personal assistants and the hushed respect that greeted him in the halls of power are proof of that.

What’s far more compelling, but not nearly as familiar, is the fall from grace. What happens when everything you worked for is taken away from you, gradually, then suddenly? It’s the real story and it’s the story that “Tár” doesn’t tell. Unfortunately, he spends over two hours on the other stuff and gives a little heft to the set-up in a very unsatisfactory way.

Despite the story’s imbalance, “Tár” contains some jaw-dropping scenes, like the aforementioned Julliard sequence. Shot in one take, the scene is a show stopper for Blanchett and cinematographer Florian Hoffmeister. That the beautiful one-shot take is then cut into shards and reassembled, like the pieces of a video puzzle, is a clever and very effective joke.

The best part of “Tár” is an Oscar-bound Blanchett. In her hands, Tár is a bully, whether at her job or on the playground as she bullies her stepdaughter’s bully. She uses her power as a weapon to get what she wants and in the hands of Blanchett she is a character study of a monster, a person detached from polite society. She says artists must “sublimate and fade” for art, and yet she’s too narcissistic to take her own advice.

“Tár” has rewards for viewers patient enough to navigate the film’s poorly paced first hour. The revelation that power can breed monstrous behavior isn’t new, but it’s brought to life brilliantly by Blanchett.

THE GOOD NURSE: 3 STARS

This image released by Netflix shows Eddie Redmayne and Jessica Chastain in a scene from “The Good Nurse.” (JoJo Wilden/Netflix via AP)

“The Good Nurse,” a new psychological thriller from Netflix starring Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne, is both a condemnation of America’s healthcare system and a pulpy warning that may seem misleading.

At home, Amy (Chastain) is a caring single mother of two. At work, she’s a kind and compassionate night nurse from New Jersey, the kind of healthcare worker who goes above and beyond for her patients. New to work, she’s still on probation, working toward full-time status and, most importantly, health insurance. Amy suffers from cardiomyopathy, a cardiovascular disease characterized by blood blisters on her heart. She should be off work, but she can’t because she doesn’t have insurance. “We need to keep your heart working long enough to put you on the transplant list,” says her doctor.

Enter new night nurse Charlie Cullen (Redmayne). As a colleague, he is compassionate and knowledgeable. As a friend, he intervenes to help her through the health crisis and take care of her two daughters. It’s almost too good to be true.

“I can help you,” he told her, giving her pills stolen from the hospital’s storeroom. “You’ll be fine.”

But when people start dying mysteriously in the intensive care unit, was it just a deadly coincidence or could he be responsible? Is this friendly and helpful nurse an angel of compassion or an angel of death? Cops Danny Baldwin (Nnamdi Asomugha) and Tim Braun (Noah Emmerich) dig into the latter and want Amy to help prove their case. “He’s been to nine hospitals and no one wants to talk to us,” Baldwin says of Charlie’s checkered work history.

Based on the true story of one of the most prolific serial killers of all time, “The Good Nurse” is a thriller without a lot of thrills. It’s no surprise who the killer is.

What is surprising and effectively depicted are the other things, the way the hospital tries to control the investigation, the obstruction and outright cover-up. As in the recent “Doctor Death” series, it reveals the extraordinary lengths hospitals will go to to limit their liability in wrongful death cases. That’s where the shocks are; that is what leaves a mark.

The rest of the story is carried by the protagonists, Chastain and Redmayne, who both give minor chords, understated performances that exude compassion, until they don’t. Redmayne’s change is scary because he lets his true colors show.

“The Good Nurse” isn’t at the edge of your seat, but it does something most true crime dramas don’t. He emphasized character and procedure rather than the sensational details of Cullen’s crime spree.

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