Talking Pictures with Neil Rosen


Movies To Watch At Home, Guy Pearce, Sarah Paulson

Film critic Neil Rosen invites viewers to explore the movie industry with him each month, as he dives in to the latest releases from Hollywood and independent producers. Interviews with actors and other industry insiders, as well as commentary from fellow critics, provide varying perspectives on the ever-changing world of film.

AIRED: December 04, 2020 | 0:26:46

>>> This week on Talking Pictures with Neil Rosen.

We'll look at the 19th century, romantic drama,

Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan.

The suspense thriller Run, along with my interview with

its star, Sarah Paulson.

Director, Ron Howard's latest, Hillbilly Elegy with

Amy Adams and Glenn Close.

Plus the post-World War II drama, The Last Vermeer, where

I sit down and talk to the star of that movie Guy Pearce.

We've got all that and many more movie picks coming up.

♪ [Theme Music]

Hey everybody.

I'm Neil Rosen and welcome to Talking Pictures.

It's our monthly critics roundtable show where we

debate what's worth watching and what's not when it comes

to new releases, hidden gems, and Hollywood classics.

You know, we know that most of the movie theaters are still

closed and you're probably craving some entertainment.

So along with my panel who were all sctreaming from home, we

have plenty of movies and TV series for you to watch at home.

Joining me are Bill McCuddy from Gold Derby.

Hey there, Bill.

>>> Neil. I'm almost done with Netflix.

>>> Lisa Rosman from Signs and Sirens.

>>> Hey kittens. It's so good to see you all.

>>> Good to see you.

>>> And Justine Browning from Entertainment Weekly.

>>> Always a pleasure.

>>> Always a pleasure to see you.

So let's start out with a look at several new films that are

available either on demand or on streaming services.

Beginning with a new film set in 19th century England

called Ammonite with Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan.

Let's take a look at a clip.

>>> What a wonderful opportunity it would be for her

to walk the shoreline with you.

Learn from you.

>>> I'm not looking for an apprentice.

>>> I would be able to pay a premium for a private audience.

>>> Your husband paid me to take you out with me.

>>> My husband --

>>> Your husband left you.

>>> I don't want to be alone.

>>> Lisa, tell us about Ammonite.

>>> All right.

So this English seaside said drama, it stars and especially

dour, Kate Winslet as the real life paleontologist Mary

Anning, who has an affair with Saoirse Ronan as an unhappily

married woman who serves as her reluctant apprentice.

Okay. The romance itself has no historic substantiation,

but that in and of itself would not be a problem to me.

I was actually really inclined to like this film, but,

there's always a but, it's neither the juicy bodice

ripper that the queer lady in me would have desired, nor

does it deliver the insights about gender and class and

sexuality that you might expect.

Honestly, this is a doggedly grim experience that drowns

in stone and fossil metaphors, which is so unpleasant and

it really pales in comparison to 2019's portrait of a Lady

on Fire, which covers the same grounds with a lot more

panache and intelligence.

So rent that on Hulu instead of this.

>>> Justine, what's your take?

>>> Yeah, as you said, Lisa these two women were in

fact true to life figures.

You know, Mary Anning and Charlotte Murchison, both did

groundbreaking work in male dominated fields and you would

think that would be enough to warrant a story, but as

you said, Francis Lee here decides to erase the, the real

significant achievements that they were able to accomplish

and actually has these overlaid a lot of elements that feel

jarring and though it is beautifully acted at times, it

feels detached and insincere.

>>> Bill?

>>> This movie is a snooze.

Ask your doctor about Ammonite.

Sounds like, it sounds like something we should be taking

at bedtime and it actually is.

I mean, this is the, the other thing that, you guys are, right?

The thing that's a crime here is that this woman was ripped

off repeatedly in her career.

Men actually took credit for all the fossils that she found

even though she was paid and allegedly said she didn't care.

That's a much more interesting story.

Also the last 20 seconds of this thing after Kate Winslet

gives what may be an Oscar worthy speech it's completely

undermined by what happens in the last, the very last scene.

So that was a disappointment for me.

I can't recommend Ammonite.

>>> Okay. I can't recommend this either.

Actually, you know, I love your sign about ask your doctor

about Ammonite because yes, even the title is boring.

This was like watching paint dry to me.

I mean, it, it, it's that boring.

Listen the characters are underwritten.

There was no spark whatsoever between Kate Winslet and

Saoirse Ronan's character.

They could barely stand each other, you know, for most

of the movie and all of a sudden, like a light switch

goes off and they're like hot and heavy with each other.

It made no sense to me whatsoever.

I found the sex scenes to be gratuitous and jarring,

as Justine said, it just didn't really sync up with

the rest of the movie. And I would skip this film.

Do I like these actresses? Yeah.

But this material and this direction doesn't

serve them well at all. Moving on, Justine.

Tell us about a movie called Hillbilly Elegy.

>>> This focuses on a Yale law student, played by Gabriel

Basso and he's working towards a better life when he's

drawn back to his Appalachian hometown after he learns his

mother, played by Amy Adams, has plunged back into drug

addiction, and this forces him to reflect on his trouble

childhood, his relationship with his family, especially his

Mamaw played by Glenn Close.

And this is from director Ron Howard, and it's based on the

controversial memoir by J.D. Vance,

which was heavily criticized for its problematic

depictions of middle America.

And this film grapples with the exact same issue.

You know, given the renewed discussion surrounding

the plight of poor white individuals that this was

touted as a window into their views but in fact, it's far

too simple in its portrayals and it's downright cruel.

And there seems to be a running commentary regarding

Appalachians that their poverty is their own fault.

So of course there are some really anchored and well

executed performances here, but it really fails to dig deep into

some really pressing issues like the opioid crisis and so on.

>>> Lisa.

>>> Okay.

I hate the book that this is adapted from.

It's a hateful self rationalizing propagator

of neo-con myths about welfare recipients.

But by stripping the story-

>>> We're going to say that in English now?

>>> Okay, you literally just exemplified what I'm

talking about, but we're good.

Like, but, but honestly, by taking the ideology out of

this story, Ron Howard has actually made something worse,

which is like poverty porn that doesn't offer a psychological

or political insight and perpetuates the stereotypes of

these poor white people that it's pretending, the stereotypes

that it's pretending to condemn.

And honestly, we're in a moment where far too many people are

already bending over backwards to examine this demographic.

So this movie felt especially unessential right now.

I love Glenn Close in a Brillo wig, but honestly

this film is like a teen screaming at his mother about

how embarrassing she is.

>>> Bill.

>>> If the Beverly Hillbillies with no cement pond.

Listen, this is a big misstep for Ron Howard and like the

last film with Kate Winslet, according to Gold Derby,

a shoo-in to be nominated.

We have another shoo-in here in Glenn Close

in another bad movie.

I can't recommend the movie, but I think Glenn

Close and Amy Adams are doing pretty great work.

>>> Amy Adams was awful. That's Oscar bait crap.

I hated it.

>>> It is, and it's probably going to work.

I just want to tell you.

I can't recommend the film, but these performances are going

to get talked about at the end.

>>> Listen, I'm mixed on the film.

I think that Amy Adams performance and Glenn

Close's performance will get Oscar nominations.

They're quite good.

And I think, although it's slow in spot, the plight of this

kid to break out of this family and despite overwhelming odds,

and I won't give this away, there's a decision at the end

that he has to make even though the whole credo of the movies

that the family sticks together no matter what, even though

they're kind of destroying themselves internally.

Anybody from the outside, we stick together.

So, you know, it's not the top of the Ron Howard

film cannons, but okay. Moving on.

Bill, tell us about a movie called Run.

>>> Well, finally we have a film that's at least a little

more fun if not predictable.

This is a starting Sarah Paulson and she

redefines helicopter mom.

She's taking care of her daughter, Kiera Allen who's a

teenager with a disability who uses a wheelchair, she's also

a diabetic, and an asthmatic.

But is she all of those things?

Look, the thing about a thriller like this, and

it's from the same director who gave us Searching last

year with David Kim, and that was a fine first film.

This is a second effort.

The thing about what makes these fun is whether or not

you really go for the ride.

And I went for the ride for a little while.

However you're going to see the end coming very

quickly in this thing.

So even with the great Sarah Paulson here, I'm not

sure I was that thrilled with this thriller.

>>> This movie is very predictable.

You see everything that's coming.

It steals from dozens of other movies, Misery leaps to mind,

and it's kind of junk, but junk can be fun and entertaining.

Billy Wilder, the great writer, director Billy

Wilder once said that if you create tension, you will keep

the audience's attention. And this kept my attention.

I mean, I was tense throughout the whole thing.

And I think that Kiera Allen, who is a wheelchair user in

real life, and Sarah Paulson both give fun performances.

And, and I enjoyed it. Justine?

>>> Yeah, and eerily enough that this recalls the true

story of Gypsy Rose Blanchard, which was chronicled in

the mini-series The Act.

And yes, you do see the twist coming.

But as you said, Bill, it is from the same director

of Searching, which utilizes just a computer screen.

And in the same way here, this is utilizing a very small space.

It's all about the camera work.

As you said, creating the tension.

And really using the camera work and the editing to evoke

a certain feeling and really explore it from a psychological

point of view, not just to be about the pulling the

rug underneath at the end.

>>> Lisa?

>>> I'm a huge fan of films about munchausen by

proxy, which is actually the disorder or the pathology

that's going on in this film.

But this is the most boring take on it I've ever seen

because it's essentially relegated to backstory for

really middle of the road thriller about a crazy mom.

And by all means, demonize the mom as if that is not a

tired enough trope for cinema.

I love Sarah Paulson, but she's got to start holding

out for better material.

>>> It's a fun suspense thrill.

You'll see everything coming, but it won't matter.

And I sat down on Zoom with Sarah Paulson to

talk about the film.

Let's take a look at that interview.

I've been following your career for a real long time.

What made you want to step into this particular genre?

>>> I thought the script was really interesting.

I love this idea of, of just thematically, what

does it mean to be a mother and what, what does, okay,

‘cause I'm not a mother.

What does that kind of, what does that bond look

like when it has a kind of potential sickness at the core,

meaning for Diane mentally.

And how that sort of, it was just an interesting

thing for me to explore.

>>> Justine, tell us about Dreamland.

>>> This is a depression era story that follows

an imaginative teenager, played like Finn Cole, whose

family is struggling to get by and maintain their farm

amid the economic crisis.

And he catches wind that there's a reward for finding

a notorious bank robber played by Margot Robbie.

And he sees this as an opportunity and then very

conveniently for him, after a series of events, she ends up

injured in taking refuge in a barn on his family's property.


He's rather enamored with her and doesn't turn her in.

Instead he starts to work as her accomplice.

This is a pretty straightforward crime saga.

It doesn't necessarily add much to the genre, but there are

these sweeping beautiful shots of these menacing dust balls.

It's very Terrence Malick-esque and that

elevates the production value.

But at the same time, because so much attention is played

to the imagery, I think the characters actually become lost.

>>> Bill.

>>> This is Terrence Malick, light, light, light, light, and

it looks good, but the problem is the guy who's cast in this

thing is not really interesting until the two go on the run

because he doesn't have much of a decision to make, except to

hide her in a barn for almost the first half of the movie.

That means Margo has to carry the movie and

she does pretty well.

I think she gives a pretty good performance in this film.

So I would recommend it just based on her alone

and the way the film looks.

But otherwise, this thing is kind of a misfire.

>>> Lisa.

>>> I can never bear Margot Robbie, who she seems to

confuse like this can do it brassiness for acting with

a capital A and she's extra irritating, but here, but that

is not the problem for me.

The problem is that it's such a mealy mouth cotton headed

twist on Bonnie and Clyde.

And you know what?

We keep on talking about Malick here, but even Malick

can't do Malick anymore.

So watching other people do him is so painful at this point.

>>> Yeah.

I was really bored with this up until the last, as Bill said,

when they go on the lam, like last 15 minutes of the film,

that was the only part that was interesting, when she's

hiding out with this hayseed guy, by the way, I thought it

was a terrible performance, Finn Cole, the guy who plays

the guy that she's wooing, you know, to become her accomplice-

>>> Who fell out that they had to give him the

part at the last minute.

>>> Exactly.

>>> It was just yeah.

I, I, you know, Margot Robbie, I think she's a good

actress and I think she's not served by this stuff at all.

It's Bonnie without Clyde.

It's Bonnie and not even good, Bonnie.

I'd skip it. All right, next up On the Rocks.

Interesting movie. Lisa, talk about it.

>>> Well, this is the latest from Sofia Coppola,

which reunites her with Bill Murray to visit her

trademark topic, daddy issues. What else?

Rashida Jones plays a stalled out mom of two and a writer in

this Manhattan screwball caper in which she and her rat pack

style art dealer, dad, Bill Murray, work out their own

relationship while spying on her husband, Marlon Waynes, who

they suspect is cheating on her.

I love all of these performers, especially Murray, obviously,

but I've always felt like Sofia Coppola is a better art

stylist than a director and this film does not change my mind.

You would think she'd have plenty of insights

about growing up in the shadow of a charismatic

womanizing powerhouse. Hello, Francis Ford.

But no.

In fact, it's more of a pleasant enough way to spend two hours.

But honestly, neither this film nor its characters, or

even New York itself have as much character as you'd expect.

I would stream Lost in Translation instead.

>>> Bill.

>>> Listen, this is a lot of fun.

It's been trashed a lot.

Everybody says it's, it's not as good as like

a Woody Allen movie.

I got to tell you something, she's doing, Sofia Coppola's

doing Woody Allen way better.

I just saw A Rainy Day in New York, and this is a

much better film than that.

It's also nice to see New York City.

I admit it's a little antiseptic and a little whitewashed, but

this is a load of fun when Bill Murray's on the screen.

And so if you've heard bad things is all I want to say-

>>> From me.

>>> Give it, or anybody, just give it a shot because

it's, it's time well spent.

Yes, it looks like a Vanity Fair magazine article but

that's not a bad thing.

>>> Justine.

>>> I found this to be really sweet.

And I think the fact that it embraces its lighthearted

homage to classic spy stories, I felt that it was deeply

personal and refreshing.

I felt return to the simplistic exploration of relationships

that she captivated in with Lost in Translation.

And I actually loved looking, I guess, maybe in a nostalgic way,

given the current circumstances at the way that she captured

a very different New York when this was filmed last year.

>>> Well, that's interesting because it's nice to look at

New York pre-pandemic where all the streets are teaming

with people and all the hotspots are also very crowded.

As you said, Bill, she is trying to do a Woody Allen movie, but

I don't think it is as good as a Woody Allen movie, but the

movie's not without its charms.

I think Bill Murray's character is supposed to be obnoxious

and a know-it-all and that's not always endearing at times,

but you know, it's on Apple TV.

And if you have that service Bill Murray is Bill Murray

and I love Rashida Jones. It's not great.

It's worth a look.

Next, the historical drama called The Last Vermeer. Bill.

>>> Well, I tell you, this is a good idea for a movie.

It's a little long. Let me tell you what it's about.

A soldier is investigating a renowned Dutch artist,

Han van Meegeren, who forges for mirrors and is

sent to trial for allegedly conspiring with the Nazis.

Guy Pearce is van Meegeren looking a little like

David Spade sometimes.

But the, the real story here is a great Danish

actor, Claes Bang, who's a soldier and amateur lawyer.

There are some fun scenes when they go to court at the

end, but there are a lot of muddling subplots in this thing.

And my, the thing I want to say to Guy Pearce is,

move over Kenneth Branagh, there's a new ham in town.

>>> Lisa.

>>> Well, you know, there seems to be this certain ultra

dedicated audience for stories about the Holocaust and that

time immediately post-Holocaust and this movie is not going

to disappoint them at all. It is too long.

It does too many, have too many subplots, but I think

any examination of mercenaries in the empires of great evil

is very timely right now.

And honestly, this is the most delightful I've ever found

Guy Pearce, with his dastardly eyebrows and that smile that

never quite reaches his eyes. I liked it.

>>> Justine.

>>> I just find this period in history so fascinating.

This is kicking off, the death of Hitler and it's

just such a compelling window into the grim uncertainty

in Europe at the time.

And I think art stands in for kind of a metaphor

for how fractured one's personal and family lives

became in the wake of that.

>>> The fact that this really happened, that this

is a true story makes it all the more interesting to me.

I think that the first two thirds of the movie

are a little slow. It's okay.

But this movie really comes alive in the

courtroom trial at the end.

Claes Bang, good performance.

But Guy Pearce, this movie suffers when

he's not on the screen. What an incredible performance.

Just wild.

Hey, I sat down with the star of the film Guy

Pearce again on Zoom.

Let's take a look.

Quite a character and there was quite a flamboyant touch

to the way you portrayed him.

Was this a choice that you made or in your research

was this something that you came upon that this is

actually the way he was?

>>> While everyone else was, as I say, starving

and struggling to deal with World War II, he was living

it up, having parties.

He was a very flamboyant character.

He just, he was a, it was a very hurt man.

You know, he'd wanted to be a great artist himself and it's

sort of been rejected by the critics in his earlier life.

And, and I, but he wasn't gonna allow that to dictate

what kind of life he led.

So he, he lived as if he was the great success that

he always wanted to be.

>>> There's a couple of TV mini series that we want to discuss.

And first up is something called the Queen's Gambit.

Here's a clip.

>>> What are you going to do instead? Huh?

Get drunk.

>>> Now that you mention it, yeah.

Sounds pretty good.

>>> Beth.

>>> Borgov made me look like a fool.

>>> That's because you weren't ready.

>>> I don't even know if I'm good enough.

>>> You're the best there is.

You beat me.

>>> Okay.


I'll come to New York.

>>> Lisa, you know how much I love this series.

Give everybody the scoop on the Queen's Gambit.

>>> Neil, we are on the same page on this one.

It is my favorite TV series of 2020.

>>> Me too.

>>> It's an incredibly stylish and sharp mid 20th century study

of a fictional female chess player played with a brilliant

poker face by the other earthly, Anya Taylor-Joy, who you

might remember from The Witch.

Here she goes from a Kentucky orphanage to being a world

ranked chess master while indulging in drugs and

booze and sex with nerds and a total rejection of

coquettish femininity and the best glamor and fashion

the 60s has to offer.

The series makes chess more exciting and accessible than

it's ever been screen, I think, and it asks really

good questions about how trauma builds us up

and then breaks us down.

It's just this really heartfelt and droll and suspenseful

tale of female achievement and independence with a

great soundtrack and amazing supporting performances by,

this is interesting, the Can You Ever Forgive Me?

director Marielle Heller plays her adoptive Mom --

>>> Also directed Diary of a Teenage Girl.

>>> Yeah. She's awesome.

And then Moses Ingram, who is her deliciously

blunt orphan best friend. I love, love this series.

>>> I can't tell you, this is just such an amazing thing.

And if you tell somebody what this is about, hey,

it's about, it's a series about a woman who's playing

chess in the 1950s and 60s.

Who's not accepted in a man's world.

Who would want to watch that?

And you watch this and you go, wow, this is just the

most incredible thing, because it's so much more than that.

It's a character study about how she's addicted drugs

and she has a relationship.

>>> Like I said, all of what I said. Exactly.

>>> I'm just, I'm just so excited about this series.

It's terrific.

>>> Calm down.

>>> Listen, I think I equate the movie, in some

ways it's a sports movie.

You know, those, those matches at the end and I,

I know nothing about chess.

They're as exciting as the first Rocky movie, when he, when he's

with Apollo Creed in the ring.

I'm like, I'm on the edge of my seat.

>>> Justine, go ahead.

>>> Yeah.

This so beautifully weaves together sense

memory and the present.

And of course, there's that feminine element to it.

And you know, the narratives surrounding men who are geniuses

or think they are, are clueless, but this really gives us the

perspective that is missing, is missing from film and TV and.

And few stories that I think really explore the concept of,

of being gifted through a gendered lens and a coming of

age story for a young woman.

Really amazing to have it be so thoughtfully

produced as a mini-series.

>>> Mr. McCuddy.

>>> Come on you guys. Chess is for boys.

>>> Oh, that's so cute. Sexism is adorable.

It's so funny. So funny.

>>> Okay. Let me see, let me explain.

>>> I know you liked it.

>>> I loved this thing.

The whole family loved it.

But I had to make a sexist dig anyway, because it's hilarious.

>>> Hold on, hold on. Calm down. Calm down.

Come in off the ledge, Lisa.

Here's what I'm trying to say.

>>> Really condescending, Bill. Congratulations.

>>> This doesn't reflect the times as well as it could.

And also she has a pretty easy go here.

All the boys in this thing, take her on as their new leader.

And I've read a couple of pieces in The New York Times

that said, by women who played chess back then, this is

not exactly the way it was.

So I think the series misses an opportunity to have her

overcome some real idiot guys, instead of everybody

jumping on her bandwagon. I think Anya is amazing.

I recommend this to people who ask me, what's the

thing they should see.

But I think there are a couple of moments

that bring false to me.

>>> Next up is a documentary mini-series

called The Comedy Store. Bill.

Comedy, you know, a little bit about that, right?

>>> On some days.

The Comedy Store is a mecca that was by a woman named

Mitzi shore out in Los Angeles.

And she went on to either discover or help develop the

careers of David Letterman, Jay Leno, Louis C.K., Joe

Rogan, Richard Pryor, Robin Williams, Michael Keaton,

who people forget was a standup before he was Batman.

JJ Walker, Freddy Prince, Sam Kinison, all of this in the very

capable hands of another standup comedian, director, Mike Binder

who brought us Black or White, Upside of Anger, Coupe de Ville.

He knows the territory.

He got a lot of famous people, including Letterman, including

Leno, who don't normally show up to do this sort of thing.

It stretches over five episodes.

It deals in each episode with different kinds of

things, including the last one political correctness.

Even if you're not a fan of a lot of these standups,

this is a really fascinating look at a real place that

they tried to make a Showtime series of called, I'm Dying

Up Here that was terrible.

>>> Awful. This was great.

>>> Justine.

>>> Well, you've seen a boom in the last few years of comedians

hosting her own podcast.

And this few segments here have a lot to say about comedians

owning their own voices.

You know, rather being, rather than being at the

mercy of venues and having to filter themselves and

that's what I enjoyed most.

There are interesting points about the evolution of the art

form, you know how in the past you could go work out with

material and now of course, film it on their phones and so on.

You can't really have the ability to workshop and find the

joke or the punchline and so on.

You know, unless you're, you're doing NDAs or as

Dave Chappelle does, banning technology from the shows.

So I really thought it was fascinating and I think

there's an added element now to, to really look at

how the industry has been affected and that in-person

art form is shaped by COVID.

>>> Listen, it's a fascinating history lesson over five parts

that shows you where all these comedy legends got their start.

And it's amazing that Mike Binder got all these people,

not just Leto and Letterman like you said, Bill, but I

mean, there's everybody, you know, who performed there

almost, Woopie Goldberg.

They all speak on camera and look, Bill sought, Bill's done

some standup comedy and I'm a comedy junkie and I think if

you're interested in this sort of thing, you know, it's really,

really, really well done.

But I will say that it does miss the mark at one point.

If you watch this whole series, the point of reference that if

you don't get accepted in the Comedy Store and you want to

be a comic, then your career is over and that's really not true.

What it doesn't say is that Jerry Seinfeld came out

of New York comedy clubs.

So did Eddie Murphy and watching this, it makes you think that

this was the only place to be.

And, you know, and I think that was a fault of the-

>>> Mitzi Shore was the gatekeeper for The Tonight Show

and some of the other shows that were produced out there,

otherwise yes, there was a New York bastion here, correct.

>>> Yes. But, the first episode is the best one.

When, when, you had to be, you get that spot on Johnny

Carson, you become a superstar.

We have to check out now because we're out of time and

I want to thank my panelists.

I want to thank Lisa Rosman.

I want to thank Justine Browning.

I want to thank Bill McCuddy.

I'm Neil Rosen. Stay safe everybody.

We'll see you next month on another episode

of Talking Pictures.

♪ [Closing Music]


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