It was a bad week for holiday movies. I figured I would watch a few Christmas movies to see if that got me in the mood. Wrong. The first was the last from Brook Shields, a piece of plush that she shared with Cary Elwes called “A Castle for Christmas”.
Shields has never been a strong actress. Her best job was done before she turned 20. She looked fantastic at age 12 in Louis Malle’s controversial film “Pretty Baby” (1978) about a child prostitute in New Orleans. She followed that up with Franco Zeffirelli’s “Endless Love” (1981) at age 16. She was a model for a while, leaving her to do a degree in Romance languages ââat Princeton. When she started acting again, it was on TV sitcoms.
She doesn’t match Elwes very well in A Castle for Christmas. He is very small and she is very tall. It’s a silly movie, with an even sillier storyline, and I’m sure it’ll hit the Hallmark Channel next year. But it was a showing on Netflix, one of the many Netflix is ââin the process of producing.
The other Christmas movie is a little sweet called “Single All the Way,” a Canadian project targeting Netflix’s Christmas offerings. It’s about Peter, a young gay man, a social media strategist who works in Los Angeles, who wants to go home for Christmas, but knows his whole family will give him a hard time being single, which they do every year. Maybe if he brings his eight-year-old roommate back to his New Hampshire home, they’ll leave him alone.
He does so, telling them that Nick is her boyfriend. Then he finds out that his mother (Kathy Najimy) has arranged a blind date for him. Najimy isn’t the craziest in it, it’s reserved for Jennifer Coolidge, playing Aunt Sandy. (Do you remember the nail technology in âLegally Blondâ?)
Yes, of course, Peter and Nick finally realize that they are a couple. Even the nieces knew it … and everyone who watched this movie.
So, the serious film of this column is “The Power of the Dog,” a Western drama written and directed by Jane Campion, based on the novel of the same name by Thomas Savage in 1967. I had two other movie buddies watching that with me, but after about 20 minutes they both stood up and said, “Phew, I can’t watch this movie.”
This is the debut feature from this esteemed New Zealand director in ten years, think of âThe Pianoâ (1993), a film that won the Palme d’Or at Cannes that year. âThe Power of the Dogâ premiered at the Venice Film Festival this year, where it took home directing honors.
The film is accompanied by a stellar cast including Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons in a dark story about two brothers, Phil and George, wealthy ranchers in Montana in 1925, a dusty and isolated place.
Phil (Cumberbatch) is a tyrant, who tries to put his brother George (Plemons) down and anyone else who gets in his way. After leading a large herd through a small town, they meet Rose (Dunst), a widow and pensioner, whose effeminate son Peter helps serve tables. Phil can’t leave Peter alone. But George is in love. He goes back there, marries Rose and brings her home. She has the common sense to take Peter to college, using George’s money. Now Phil can just bully Rose.
Peter is played by young Australian actor Kodi Smit-McPhee, who played the son of Viggo Mortensen’s father in Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road”. Don’t underestimate him.
The tension in this movie starts right from the start. You know something bad is going to happen, and when it does, it’s not with a bang, but with a moan. Campion fans will not be disappointed.
Toni Clem is Parisian and has been writing Deja View for over 30 years.