Beautiful Ugly Women

It was really strange to see Nicole Kidman ‘dressed down’ in the film Destroyer. It reminded me of Charlize Theron in the 2003 Monster for which Theron won an Oscar. Kidman and Theron are both beautiful women who have to be made up to look ugly. (Most of us I think need to be made up to look beautiful!) There is the notion that playing gritty roles like those in Monster and Destroyer shows how serious these actresses are. That they be judged on the merit of their acting and not just the appeal of their faces. Much like Harry Potter author J K Rowling writing under the nom de plume Robert Galbraith, with the idea that she be praised for her writing rather than her former fame.

Kidman’s character in Destroyer wore manly clothes that hung on her thin frame. Her short, brown shaggy hair was annoying. And her skin was full of pigmentation. The only thing the make-up artists didn’t do was cover up Kidman’s bright blue eyes.

Kidman does a good job of portraying sad, desperate, hardened cop Erin Bell who has a past. Bell is by no means a one-dimensional character, something that comes to light as the woman’s history is slowly revealed in the movie through flashbacks. There is a good twist right at the end that makes the plot believable. Despite her hard exterior Bell is actually motivated by love – both romantic and filial. Unfortunately, this incentive, undermines the plausibility of the story.

Destroyer is currently showing at cinemas in South Africa.

Stereotyping ‘Male’ Characteristics: Atomic Blonde & A Family Man

Image source: Ster Kinekor

In the spy action thriller, Atomic Blonde, Charlize Theron acts as a British MI6 agent, Lorraine Broughton, who is sent into cold war Berlin to recover a top secret document. The film opens with Broughton being grilled post-operation by her superior, Eric Gray (Toby Jones), and CIA agent Emmett Kurzfeld (John Goodman). She looks battered and bruised. The story goes into the past from here, flashing forward at intervals to further debriefing scenes in which Broughton seems to be getting a raw deal.

Broughton was chosen for this difficult mission, it transpires, because of her amazing skills at detecting and beating up hordes of fighting men. Warned not to trust anyone Broughton is even suspicious of her MI6 contact in Berlin, David Percival (James McAvoy). A number of important foes with names I found hard to keep a track of come and go, as do groups of others sent to confront Broughton and prevent her succeeding in her mission.

The only person Broughton seems to genuinely connect with is female French agent Delphine Lasalle (Sofia Boutella), a vulnerable,

Image source: Ster Kinekor

inexperienced first-timer. The two women have sex.

In Atomic Blonde there is action, fighting, double crossing and plot twists from beginning to end. I particularly liked a scene in which Broughton slips into a group of people escorting an important contact while snipers aim at them from buildings up above. In a synchronised move everyone in the crowd puts up black umbrellas obscuring the prey from the shooters’ view.

But Broughton’s brilliant fighting skills seemed unrealistic. The film’s feminist stance – the two main female characters are virtually the only goodies – is undermined by the aggrandisement of male-type characteristics of physical aggression. Paired with lingering camera shots of Theron’s beautiful profile, this focus wasn’t enough to carry the shallow plot.

Atomic Blonde opens at cinemas in South Africa on Friday 25 August 2017.  

Image source: flickeringmyth.com

Another film that portrays a stereotypical male role, this time in the form of the undesirable absent father, is A Family Man.

Dane Jensen (Gerard Butler) works for a recruitment agency and will do anything to meet his figures every month. He undercuts other agents, lacks integrity when dealing with job seekers, is constantly robbing his family of time with them, and puts undue pressure on his son Ryan (Max Jenkins).

When Ryan becomes ill Jensen is challenged to shape up and become a better man, husband and father.

A Family Man is a moralistic story of character building. But, like Atomic Blonde, has unrealistic aspects. Recruitment is equated with the tough world of stock trading. Jensen’s wife is too forgiving. And the denouement is much too neatly tied up. I found the plot bitty, Butler’s American accent annoying, and the ‘absent father’ theme a bit tiresome.

A Family Man is currently on circuit in South Africa.

 

Charlize Theron romps around the desert in Mad Max: Fury Road

A review by Brenda Daniels

Charlize Theron at the WonderCon in 2012. Photo: Creative Commons.

Charlize Theron at the WonderCon in 2012. Photo: Creative Commons.

Although not a fan of the 1980s Mad Max movies, I was nevertheless keen to see what a modern-day version of these well-known films was like. My verdict: Mad Max: Fury Road is a fun, wild, fairly pointless romp through the desert, featuring Charlize Theron as the well-rounded heroine, Furiosa.

The film is set in a future in which water is a scarcity and “green places” are a distant memory. Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne) controls a fount of water out in the desert and uses it to suppress and control the thousands of people in his remote empire. One tough woman, Furiosa (Charlize Theron), turns rogue and makes off in a huge modified truck in search of a green place. Her cargo: a group of breeders – young, beautiful, innocent-looking women who could produce offspring that would presumably spawn a new and better human race.

Along the way she meets up with Mad Max (Tom Hardy) who falls in with the fleeing group and helps them evade capture. They are pursued by a very weird conglomeration of modified vehicles, and human (both living and dead) enemies. Characters are killed off with wild abandon – even the good ones – and the action is relentless. Even, at times, seemingly pointless. Furiosa is looking for utopia, yes. But this meaningful part of the story is dwarfed by the wild, endless, bloody road trip.

Tom Hardy as Max is a tough, brooding presence who says very little for the duration of the film.  Charlize Theron is very good in her role as the adept, one-armed, feisty Furiosa who has ideals and a heart. I think she holds the film together. The climax of the film is pretty good and Furiosa and Max part with enough unfinished business for the Australian filmmakers to make a sequel.

Mad Max: Fury Road, which was filmed in the Namib Desert, opens at classic and 3D cinemas countrywide in South Africa on Friday 15 May 2015.