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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 7, 2020 - Volume 48 Issue 06
Movie Reviews
Arts & Entertainment
ALL STORIES
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92nd Annual Academy Awards predictions

by Sara Michelle Fetters
SGN A&E Writer

            92ND ANNUAL ACADEMY AWARDS
            DOLBY THEATRE
            LOS ANGELES
            ABC & KOMO 4 TV BROADCAST
            Sunday, February 9 @ 5pm PST
            (Red Carpet @ 3:30pm PST)

            The 92nd annual Academy Awards are this Sunday, and I admit I’m having a heck of time getting excited about them. Not because I dislike the films or anything. I’m all for either of the supposed Best Picture frontrunners (Sam Mendes ambitious WWI drama 1917 and Bong Joon Ho’s inventively thrilling satire Parasite) taking home the top prize. Heck, even if I wasn’t over the moon about the movie, I’d even be okay with Taika Waititi’s controversial Nazi youth comedy Jojo Rabbit sneakily usurping the throne as some pundits predict might be a possibility.

            No, my issues aren’t necessarily with the nominated titles (Joker aside, which I’m on record for despising). It’s been more with the humdrum inevitability of those nominees throughout the so-called “awards season.” This is one of those years where, whether true or not, the membership of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) have done the least amount of work possible during their annual voting process. There was never any drama. There was never any mystery. It was as if there were 15 or so designated titles deemed “worthy” of a nomination and those were the motion pictures voters stuck with, anything outside of traditional narratives (other than Parasite) or gender/cultural representation left at the bottom of the screener pile unwatched.

            As such, the nine features up for Best Picture (1917, Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood and Parasite) received the lion’s share of this year’s nominations. Sure, movies like Knives Out, Bombshell and even Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker pop up here and there. But for the most part those are the nine singled out in almost every viable category, and personally I find that to be incredibly disheartening.

            From a prediction standpoint, while it’s unlikely there will be a shocker in any of the acting categories (Joaquin Phoenix, Renée Zellweger, Brad Pitt and Laura Dern are going to win Oscars), the remainder of the categories are all by and large up in the air, including Best Picture. As already mentioned, 1917 and Parasite are the presumed frontrunners, but in reality it does feel like along with those two Jojo Rabbit, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood and even Joker have a legitimate shot at taking the top prize. Best Director is also noticeably competitive this year, as are the Screenplay, Editing, Costumes and both Sound categories.

            I guess that means I should check my whining about the lack of inclusion and diversity (both in representation and in the nominated films themselves) in this year’s nominees and celebrate the fact that there’s actually a competitive race in the majority of the categories. It certainly makes predicting the outcome this year at least somewhat fun. In fact, pretty sure my track record of finishing around 90% correct on my picks year-in and year-out might even be in jeopardy.

            Anyhow, here are my predictions for the 92nd annual Academy Awards. Enjoy!

            BEST PICTURE
            Nominees: 1917, Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Parasite
            Prediction: 1917
            Thoughts: As cool as it would be to see Parasite make history and be the first foreign language film to win Best Picture, I just don’t see the Academy following through on delivering on something so momentous.

            BEST DIRECTOR
            Nominees: Bong Joon Ho (Parasite), Sam Mendes (1917), Todd Phillips (Joker), Martin Scorsese (The Irishman), Quentin Tarantino (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood)
            Prediction: Sam Mendes
            Thoughts: I think this is a lock even if Parasite wins Best Picture as Academy Members tend to love technical wizardry, and on that front 1917 is clearly the superior choice.

            BEST ACTOR
            Nominees: Antonio Banderas (Pain and Glory), Leonardo DiCaprio (Once Upon a Time…in America), Adam Driver (Marriage Story), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Jonathan Pryce (The Two Popes)
            Prediction: Joaquin Phoenix
            Thoughts: While I couldn’t stand Joker and didn’t think Phoenix was actually all that good in the film, holy cow have awards season voters disagreed with me. This is a gigantic lock.

            BEST ACTRESS
            Nominees: Cynthia Erivo (Harriet), Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story), Saoirse Ronan (Little Women), Charlize Theron (Bombshell), Renée Zellweger (Judy)
            Prediction: Renée Zellweger
            Thoughts: I can’t help but keep thinking about how much more interesting this category would have been had Lupita Nyong'o (Us) and Awkafina (The Farewell) been here. Oh well. C’est la vie.

            BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
            Nominees: Tom Hanks (A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood), Anthony Hopkins (The Two Popes), Al Pacino (The Irishman), Joe Pesci (The Irishman), Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood)
            Prediction: Brad Pitt
            Thoughts: Brad Pitt’s best 2019 performance was in Ad Astra. Just a reminder.

            BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
            Nominees: Kathy Bates (Richard Jewell), Laura Dern (Marriage Story), Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit), Florence Pugh (Little Women), Margot Robbie (Bombshell)
            Prediction: Laura Dern
            Thoughts: Don’t be surprised if Florence Pugh pulls off a shocker. This is the acting category where that frequently happens.

            BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
            Nominees: 1917, Knives Out, Marriage Story, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Parasite
            Prediction: Parasite
            Thoughts: Freakishly competitive category. 1917 and Knives Out could easily take this as well.

            BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
            Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, The Two Popes
            Prediction: Jojo Rabbit
            Thoughts: Conventional wisdom Greta Gerwig gets the win for Little Women mainly because she wasn’t nominated for Best Director. Unfortunately, I suspect that’s not going to be the case.

            BEST ANIMATED FEATURE
            Nominees: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, I Lost My Body, Klaus, Missing Link, Toy Story 4
            Prediction: Toy Story 4
            Thoughts: My prediction is wrong. I almost guarantee it. One of the other four (I have no idea which) is likely going to pull off an upset.

            BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
            Nominees: American Factory, The Cave, The Edge of Democracy, For Sama, Honeyland
            Prediction: For Sama
            Thoughts: Don’t watch all of these back-to-back. They’re all terrific. They’re also all REALLY depressing.

            BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE
            Nominees: Corpus Christi, Honeyland, Les Misérables, Pain and Glory, Parasite
            Prediction: Parasite
            Thoughts: Think this is a foregone conclusion? It might not be. If Parasite loses here there’s an awfully good chance it’s going to win Best Picture instead.

            BEST CINEMATOGRPAHY
            Nominees: 1917, The Irishman, Joker, The Lighthouse, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
            Prediction: 1917
            Thoughts: Yeah, 1917 has this in the bag.

            BEST EDITING
            Nominees: Ford v Ferrari, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Parasite
            Prediction: Ford v Ferrari
            Thoughts: If Parasite wins here, it will pull off the Best Picture shocker.

            BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN
            Nominees: 1917, The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Parasite
            Prediction: Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
            Thoughts: If The Irishman is going to win anything, it will be this. Otherwise, Scorsese’s mobster epic is going to go home empty-handed.

            BEST COSTUME DESIGN
            Nominees: The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
            Prediction: Jojo Rabbit
            Thoughts: I really want Little Women to win this. I don’t think it is going to.

            BEST MAKEUP AND HAIRSTYLING
            Nominees: 1917, Bombshell, Joker, Judy, Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
            Prediction: Bombshell
            Thoughts: Would actually love to see 1917 get this.

            BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
            Nominees: 1917, Joker, Little Women, Marriage Story, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
            Prediction: Joker
            Thoughts: I have this feeling John Williams will win in an upset. It’s his final Star Wars score, after all, and the entire Academy membership knows it.

            BEST ORIGINAL SONG
            Nominees: “I’m Standing With You” (Breakthrough), “Into the Unknown” (Frozen II), “Stand Up” (Harriet), “I’m Gonna Love Me Again” (Rocketman), “I Can’t Let You Throw Yourself Away” (Toy Story 4)
            Prediction: “Stand Up” (Harriet)
            Thoughts: How is this Rocketman’s only nomination? That’s just crazy.

            BEST SOUND MIXING
            Nominees: 1917, Ad Astra, Ford v Ferrari, Joker, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood
            Prediction: 1917
            Thoughts: I really want to say Ad Astra, mainly because this is inexplicably the film’s only nomination.

            BEST SOUND EDITING
            Nominees: 1917, Ford v Ferrari, Joker, Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
            Prediction: 1917
            Thoughts: I’d rather Ford v Ferrari won at least one of the two Sound Oscars it is nominated for. Not going to happen, but I think that would be pretty neat.

            BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
            Nominees: 1917, Avengers: Endgame, The Irishman, The Lion King, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker
            Prediction: Avengers: Endgame
            Thoughts: I feel like the effects in 1917 are going to be too subtle for the Academy membership. I’m hoping I am wrong.

            BEST ANIMATED SHORT
            Nominees: Daughter, Hair Love, Kitbull, Memorable, Sister
            Prediction: Hair Love

            BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT
            Nominees: In the Absence, Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You're a Girl), Life Overtakes Me, St. Louis Superman, Walk Run Cha-Cha
            Prediction: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You're a Girl)

            BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
            Nominees: Brotherhood, Nefta Football Club, The Neighbors’ Window, Saria, Une soeur
            Prediction: Nefta Football Club



14th Annual Academy Awards party returns to Gay City: Seattle's LGBTQ Center
SEATTLE (January 30, 2020) - Gay City: Seattle's LGBTQ Center and Three Dollar Bill Cinema will celebrate the 92nd Academy Awards and both of their 25th anniversaries at Gay City on Sunday, Feb. 9, from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Guests can walk the pink carpet, celebrate with community, and enjoy hors d'oeuvres, drinks, and bottomless popcorn. Plus, hosting is Seattle's own renowned drag king illusionist D Dynasty.

"Having the 2020 Academy Awards Party back in a community center like Gay City brings it back to its roots: creating a space to get together with friends, watching the Academy Awards, and celebrating the arts," said Fred Swanson, Gay City's executive director.

"We are so excited that Three Dollar Bill Cinema and Gay City are working together on our Annual Academy Awards party," said Three Dollar Bill Cinema Executive Director Kathleen Mullen. "There is so much to talk about, from the great films that came out in 2019 to the controversies around the awards nominations this year. With some sharp conversation, good competitive fun, and a fun-loving community spirit, we are sure to all have a great time."

CHEER Seattle and the Seattle Quake Rugby Football Club will volunteer to help with the film nominee raffle of the evening.

Proceeds will benefit Gay City: Seattle's LGBTQ Center and Three Dollar Bill Cinema. This will be the 14th Academy Awards party hosted by the two partnering organizations.

" Date: Sunday, Feb. 9, 2020

" Time: 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

" Location: Gay City: Seattle's LGTBQ Center, 517 E. Pike St., Seattle, WA 98122

" Tickets: $25 at https://threedollarbillcinema.org/ and at the door.

2020 marks Gay City's 25th year of building resilience and joy in LGBTQ communities. We are the leading HIV/STI tester, and provide 100+ resources and a space for our LGBTQ people to grow, thrive, and be authentically themselves...a place to be you. Our mission is to cultivate access and connections to promote self-determination, liberation, and joy in our communities. For more information, visit www.gaycity.org.

Three Dollar Bill Cinema is a nonprofit arts organization that provides access to films by, for, and about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people and a forum for LGBTQ filmmakers to share and discuss their work with audiences. Annual programs include the Seattle Queer Film Festival, Translations: Seattle Transgender Film Festival, Three Dollar Bill Outdoor Cinema, and Reel Queer Youth. For more information, visit www.threedollarbillcinema.org.

D Dynasty is a male illusionist drag king based in Seattle and long-time advocate for the LGBTQ community in his day life and performance life. His performances are a rare treat for those lucky enough to see them. Learn more at www.gaycity.org/d-dynasty.

CHEER Seattle is a diverse group of dedicated volunteers who perform to raise spirits, awareness, and funds for people living with life-challenging conditions. www.cheerseattle.org

Seattle Quake Rugby Football Club is a nonprofit corporation and a gay organization that actively seeks out traditionally underrepresented members in our community and encourages them to explore the sport of Rugby Union in a nonthreatening and empowering environment. As such, the Seattle Quake maintains a developmental rugby program that fosters a love for the sport of rugby, regardless of athletic ability. Through positive and competitive engagement in our surrounding communities, we hope to directly challenge stereotypes and bigotry in what has historically been the uncommon ground of rugby. Furthermore, we actively participate and are in solidarity with other organizations that share our common goals of mutual understanding and respect for all members of the community. quakerugby.org

Courtesy of Gay City


Cathy Yan's colorful Birds of Prey a wickedly absurd punk rock riot
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

BIRDS OF PREY
Now playing


If David Ayer's Suicide Squad was the low point for Warner Bros' latest round of DC-based comic book escapades in a post Man of Steel world, then imagine how surprising it is to find that this weekend's Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) turns out to be kind of outstanding. Directed by Cathy Yan (Dead Pigs) and written by Christina Hodson (Bumblebee), even though this wickedly absurd slice of action-fueled comedic delirium contains DNA culled from Ayer's 2016 misbegotten box office hit, to say this film dances to the beat of its own idiosyncratic drum would be massively understating the obvious.

As told by craftily whip-smart unreliable narrator Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), this is a tale of murder, mayhem, friendship, sisterhood and female empowerment that is as messy as it is precise. Hodson's screenplay zeroes in on the patriarchal status quo and rips it to shreds one shortsighted misogynistic bad guy at a time. At the same time, Yan delivers a bevy of colorfully playful visuals while also refusing to soften the violence or shrink away from this world's frequently indecorous vulgarity. This is a hypnotic whirligig of funhouse delights and amusement park thrills, all of it imbued with a punk rock sensibility that's a serious kick in the pants.

The plot has something to do with Harley trying to survive living on the streets of Gotham City after the criminal underworld learns she and the Joker have called it quits. Into this chaos drops teenage pickpocket Cassandra Cain (Ella Jay Basco), silent crossbow assassin Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), veteran Gotham detective Renee Montoya (Rosie Perez) and athletic songbird with a mysterious past Dinah Lance (Jurnee Smollett-Bell). All of these women have managed to run afoul of murderous crime lord Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor) and his face-peeling righthand man Victor Zsasz (Chris Messina), and the only way the five of them are going to survive is if they put their differences aside and join forces.

It's more complicated than that, of course, but not nearly as much as it initially looks like it is going to be. Hodson smartly keeps things pretty simple, choosing to concentrate more on the relationships between the characters and the growing affection these women have for one another than she does inserting any unnecessary twists or misbegotten red herrings just for the sake of doing so. By sticking to the narrative basics the screenwriter focuses on a bevy of themes and ideas she'd otherwise been unable to explore. Also, and unlike Suicide Squad, Hodson allows Harley to come into her own as the jubilant princess of crime and mayhem she was always meant to be, Robbie taking full advantage of this gift-wrapped opportunity in the process.

Yan directs with confidence. Like some surreal mashup of Mike Hodges' Flash Gordon, Warren Beatty's Dick Tracy, Johnnie To's The Heroic Trio and Rachel Talalay's Tank Girl, much of the motion picture moves at such a brazen, unapologetically fevered pace I found it difficult to catch my breath. The director allows the humor to pack a bruising punch and the action to leave a bloodied lip. But Yan just as assuredly keeps the spotlight on the women, never forgetting about any of them for a second. She understands they are the heart and soul of the proceedings, and had I not cared for all of them it's doubtful I'd have enjoyed myself nearly as much as I ultimately did.

As strong as McGregor and Messina are, and they are sublime, there are portions of the story where they are relegated so far to the sidelines I began to wonder why it was exactly all of Gotham was so keen to do what they ask. Even though the duo has a penchant for slicing off the faces of their victims, I also can't say I found them that frightening. Additionally, Yan does have trouble settling on the proper tone for her comic book adaptation, the opening prologue a little haphazard almost as if everyone involved with the production were readying to make things up as they go along.

No matter. Featuring top-notch cinematography courtesy of Matthew Libatique (A Star Is Born, Mother!), awesome production design by K.K. Barrett (The Goldfinch), Erin Benach's (The Neon Demon) dazzlingly eccentric costumes and an energetic score from Daniel Pemberton (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), the technical aspects couldn't be better. As for the actions sequences (staged by the John Wick stunt team), they are certifiably terrific, Yan and Hodson sprinkling in delightful little character beats throughout the bone-crunching carnage all of which gives each of the five women addition depth that only make each of them feel even more authentic.

All of the ladies are wonderful. Robbie makes Harley her own, cementing the wise-cracking not-so-villainous villainess as a signature character she'll long be remembered for portraying. But newcomer Basco is nearly as good, the youngster filling wide-eyed Cassandra's shoes nicely. I wish there was a little more Renee Montoya poking around looking for answers, but that doesn't make Perez any less perfect, while Winstead has a deadpan gravitas I couldn't help but be drawn to. Smollett-Bell might be the film's most invigorating secret asset, the subtle complexity of her performance catching me happily by surprise.

Birds of Prey won't please everyone. But the sexist man-babies whose opinions I could care less about aside, for some this exaggerated self-reflexive type of humor and the sensationalistic gruesomeness of the violence will be a little tough to swallow. Yet my hope is that those people will be in the minority, as I found Yan's comic book frolic into the cartoonish illogical to be an all-out blast. Harley Quinn's emancipation and the birth of a new group of female crimefighters is one I happily stand to applaud, and if this ragtag group's adventures continue in the future trust I'll be first in line to witness them firsthand.


Visually seductive Gretel & Hansel a banquet of horrific delights
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

GRETEL & HANSEL
Now playing


Gretel & Hansel is not the fairy tale you know.

After refusing the lecherous advances of a Lord she was seeking employment from, and with their mother unable to care for them as she physically and mentally deteriorates after the death of their woodsman father, Gretel (Sophia Lillis) discovers it necessary for she and her younger brother Hansel (Sammy Leakey) to head off on their own. As they make their way through the forest they stumble upon a large secluded house, the kindly old woman who lives there, Holda (Alice Krige), willing to give them plenty of food and a comfy bed for the night.

If you think you know what happens next you would be right and wrong in almost equal measure. While a number of the narrative beats follow the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale we all know and love, director Osgood Perkins (The Blackcoat's Daughter) and Rob Hayes have still shaken things up considerably. This is a devastating sojourn into darkness and despair that is unrelenting in its emotionally grim finality. Yet there is a heartfelt eloquence to this relationship between sister and brother that transcends the insidious desolation lurking at the heart of the story. It's abhorrently picturesque, this richly nuanced and decidedly esoteric reworking of the material an unforgettable saga of selfless love, steadfast determination and selfish yearning I can't wait to watch again.

I really liked Perkins' The Blackcoat's Daughter. I wasn't quite as enamored with his 2016 follow-up I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House but the film was still a visual treat with its fair share of disquieting moments. But what he does with Gretel & Hansel is extraordinary. He transforms Hayes' script into a haunting allegory of want, need and desire that transcends its fairy tale roots the same way that Neil Jordan's The Company of Wolves did back in 1984. Perkins creates an intimate form of terror that slowly burrows its way underneath the skin as if the film itself were trying to transform the viewer's DNA into something new, something different and something decidedly unnatural.

The focus on Gretel is vital to the film's success. Her transformation is astonishing. The way her initial wariness is circumvented by the wish to become more than what the male-dominated world at large insists she can be. How Holda uses the teenager's fear as a tool of seduction. The way her love for Hansel is deftly consumed by a bevy of waking dreams and sleepless nightmares designed to appropriate it as a tool of division instead of an anchor of familial togetherness. It is the good, bad and disconcertingly in-between of the full female experience, and as such truth is often found in a lie and falsehoods can be the gateway to a deeper understanding of the factual actualities of the entire human condition start to finish.

Lillis and Krige are exceptional. The actresses play off one another skillfully, Gretel and Holda becoming increasingly fascinated and worried by one another as their two personalities and life experiences become gradually more intertwined. This witch may be an evil scourge on the forest but the pain and the strife that lead her to such an end is pitiably moving. Gretel is virtuous, intelligent and steadfast in her belief she can make a better life for her brother, but that doesn't mean she still doesn't greedily hold it against the boy that her sacrifices for his well-being might be keeping her from living up to her full potential.

The two women are dual shades of grey, the only question being whether or not the younger of them will be tempted to slide more towards the Dark and sit alongside the older, or if instead she'd rather stay in a position where she still can bask in the power of the Light. Lillis and Krige dance around one another with pinpoint precision, and I was captivated by how the former's innocence melded so seamlessly with the latter's gnarled experience. Krige, in particular, is hypnotically magnificent, Holda the sort of tragically mesmeric villain I'll be thinking about for a long time to come.

Then there is the look of Perkins' film. Comparisons to recent genre favorites like The Witch and Mandy are likely inevitable. They also aren't entirely accurate. Jeremy Reed's (Hard Candy) production design, Leonie Prendergast's (The Turning) costumes and Galo Olivares' cinematography are all exquisite, while composer Robin Coudert's (Revenge) score is nothing short of perfect. Perkins utilizes all of these technical facets to create an aura of melancholic menace that is paralleled beautifully with an aspirational winsomeness that's imaginative and unique. This allows the director to add a layer of constant naturalistic dread that only grows in demoralizing majesty as the story moves towards conclusion, all of which makes Gretel & Hansel an ominous banquet of delights worthy of feasting upon.


Uneven Rhythm Section falls frustratingly flat
by Sara Michelle Fetters - SGN A&E Writer

THE RHYTHM SECTION
Now playing

Reed Morano's (Meadowland) tough, stripped-down handling of screenwriter Mark Burnell's adaptation of his best-selling 1999 novel The Rhythm Section has plenty going for it, including a fierce, expressively multifaceted performance from star Blake Lively. But this revenge-fueled espionage tale of assassination, paranoia and terrorism never finds its footing, and for all its positives this is still one motion picture I'm having difficulty embracing.

The plot is straightforward enough. Three years after a mysterious plane accident took the lives of her entire family, Stephanie Patrick (Lively) is found in a dirty London brothel by investigative journalist Keith Proctor (Raza Jaffrey). He informs her that, not only was it a bomb that took out the airliner, the man who built it is attending a local university as an engineering student with the full knowledge of British Intelligence.

After getting over her shock Stephanie decides she is going to kill this man. But after an initial failure it's clear that she isn't up to the task. Enter "B" (Jude Law). He's a former MI6 operative who has been secretly feeding Proctor his information. Stephanie manages to track him down, and after about a month of pleading she convinces the disgruntled spy to train her to become an assassin. In doing so B also tells her a story about an international terrorist known only by his codename, U17. If Stephanie wants revenge against those who took out the plane, this man will eventually be the most important entry on her kill list.

Even though the film is financed by James Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli, this is not an action-packed endeavor. Instead, Morano focuses on Stephanie's internal journey as well as her physical transformation into something that could possibly transcend beyond the grief that has left her a shell of the bright, intelligent young woman she once was. It's an interesting way to look at her situation, especially when she proves to be especially good at learning what B has to teach her yet equally terrible at pulling the trigger when the moment she must do so arises.

This helps make Stephanie a far more believable protagonist than this otherwise inherently outlandish scenario deserves. Thanks to Morano's emphasis on emotion above sensation, character above spectacle, there is a uniquely fascinating center to this tale that feels more like The Little Drummer Girl or Three Days of the Condor than it does a gender-flipped Jason Bourne clone or a La Femme Nikita remake. It also doesn't hurt that Lively, after a virtuoso performance in 2018's A Simple Favor, is outstanding here as well. She brings a slow-burn gravitas to her character I was instantly drawn to, watching Stephanie intellectually blossom as events unfold arguably the film's chief asset.

Good thing, too, because there are sadly numerous things about this one that left me frustrated. The central components of the story never come together in a satisfying way. It's as if Burnell has excised large swaths of his book from the screenplay, important structural beats that may have allowed all the various pieces fit together much more seamlessly oddly missing. There's also no sense of time, and even though we're told upfront eight months pass between when Stephanie learns about the bomber's existence and when she heads out to complete her first assassination, I still found it impossible to believe B honestly felt she was trained well enough to go on a mission.

But that's the tip of the iceberg. There's the ludicrous way in which Stephanie and B get their revenge mission financed, and the cliché trick (pretending to be a high-class escort) she uses to get next to one of her targets is unintentionally hilarious. There is the introduction of an information broker (nicely underplayed by an underutilized Sterling K. Brown) that falls unforgivably flat, while an entire scene dealing with the emotional repercussions of living with collateral damage in the pursuit of terrorists is unforgivably ham-fisted and inauthentic. I was also not all that keen on Morano's overuse of flashbacks detailing how hard it is for Stephanie to deal with her grief, and while I fully understand why they are necessary after a while they begin to stop the drama's momentum dead in its tracks.

I will say there is an imaginatively staged car chase roughly halfway through I think I loved, the director trying to make it all feel as if it is happening in one continuous take. I found this sequence energetically uncomforting, veteran cinematographer Sean Bobbitt's (Widows) viscerally controlled camerawork and Joan Sobel's (Nocturnal Animals) kinetic editing both superb. Also, while the identity of U17 was hardly a surprise, I did love the intimacy of a moment between this individual and Stephanie during the climax, Lively's performance an insidiously elegant thing of haunting beauty that left a lasting impression.

This mixture of positives and negatives makes me wonder if I need to give The Rhythm Section a second chance. The stuff I like about Morano's film I admittedly enjoyed one heck of a lot, not the least of which is Lively's aforementioned strong performance. But so much of this espionage thriller didn't work for me, the suspense never consistent and the tension coming and going like an early morning wind whistling over a deserted plain. It just can't keep the beat, and for a composition that initially showed so much promise for things to ultimately fall so flat the likelihood I'll be playing this record again anytime soon is understandably slim.


Pacific Northwest Ballet's Cinderella a gorgeous, romantic production
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Apply yourself to SPT's Admissions - smart, funny, mind-blowing
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Mario Cantone appears in new musical Bliss at 5th Avenue Theatre
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UW World Dance + Brian Brooks Moving Company = WOW!
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SAG-AFTRA statement on the passing of Kirk Douglas
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
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92nd Annual Academy Awards predictions
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14th Annual Academy Awards party returns to Gay City: Seattle's LGBTQ Center
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Cathy Yan's colorful Birds of Prey a wickedly absurd punk rock riot
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Visually seductive Gretel & Hansel a banquet of horrific delights
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Seattle Gay News - SGN
1707 23rd Ave
Seattle, WA 98122

Phone 206-324-4297
Fax 206-322-7188

email: sgn2@sgn.org
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The SGN - Seattle Gay News is one of the largest Gay Lesbian LGBT LGBTQ newspapers in the world.

Based in Seattle USA it is also the 3rd oldest Gay Newspaper Lesbian Newspaper LGBT News Paper in the USA United States.

The SGN has a Gay USA International news archive of over 15 years

An American LGBT Newspaper - Proudly serving Seattle USA and the Pacific Northwest for over 45 years

The SGN is the number 1 LGBTQ Lesbian Gay newspaper and source on-line of International and American Lesbian News in the United States USA

A complete and comprehensive source for gay news USA United States

A top Alternative News source for the United States USA