All posts tagged “joaquin phoenix


The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos (2015)

The Lobster, very much like Her and also like Under the Skin, takes place in a future that looks almost exactly like now but a little different; in particular, facial expressions seem to have been outlawed. Everyone displays a lack of affect you’d call shocking if it weren’t for the fact that nothing’s shocking in this place. People react to extraordinary violence and soft boiled eggs with equal indifference. If someone does happen to feel something, the emotions erupt in bizarre and sloppy ways, like geysers or toddlers. The premise is that in this near future, everyone must either be coupled with someone much like themselves; or be consigned to a life of utter independence, caring for and cared for by no one; or be transformed into an animal. Pretty Procrustean! The movie is stylish and very much of its moment in that it dramatizes the contemporary young person’s affliction of feeling vaguely nostalgic about emotions but too jaded or fearful or I don’t know what to actually have them.

I’m going to hope someone else has the time and patience to thoroughly pick apart the gender and sexual politics here. The movie at one point realizes it is severely heteronormative and tries to make a little joke to try to excuse itself; the effort is transparent and ineffective. Meanwhile, as to gender, all the women are either bitchy and icy or nurturing types who sacrifice everything of their own for the sake of their men. (Again, compare to HerYou can even compare sad Colin Farrell above to sad Joaquin Phoenix on the Her poster. They’re the same character.) The men are uniformly hapless, either pushed around or coddled. It’s all highly regressive, but I fear the college kids will only see the cool and quirky surface and not the sexist same-old same-old underneath. They even fooled the brilliant Rachel Weisz, who’s usually so smart about her choices. (It’s time to forgive her for The Mummy; that was ages ago.)


The Master, Paul Thomas Anderson (2012)

In There Will Be Blood, Paul Thomas Anderson got earth’s most intense actor into the role of a megalomaniac and essentially just let the camera watch Daniel Day Lewis volcano all over everything. Here he does the same with another great slow-burner, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, though the results here are even more diffuse in terms of plotting. Joaquin Phoenix plays the Master’s acolyte and foil, and does terrific but often overcooked work; you get the sense that Hoffman is not the only three-named intensity-monger that Phoenix is bending over backwards to impress. It’s an engaging movie to look at, but as with There Will Be Blood, I wind up feeling there’s a certain emptiness to the endeavor. So many of the scenes feel like exercises in a Strasberg seminar; there’s a great deal of emoting, but not a lot of emotion. Part of the trouble is that the movie is so fearful of being about anything specific that it winds up not being about anything in particular. The wish to belong, the lure of alcohol, rationalism vs spirituality, male friendship, PTSD, American vacuity . . . they’re all toyed with as themes, but Anderson puts down no significant bets on any of them. So you’ll remember people laughing, crying, shouting, fighting, and kissing, but not why.