Team Experience is at the Tribeca Film Festival. Here's Jason on "A Kind of Murder" and "Always Shine"
I know it's blasphemy in these parts to speak ill of Mad Men (cue 90% of you automatically clicking away in disgust) but I could never really get into it because it felt too slavishly obsessed with 60s posturing - I love Mid-Century Design as much as the next Eero Saarinen disciple but I couldn't ever see the forest for the tulip chairs. That said, the new Patricia Highsmith adaptation A Kind of Murder (from the 1954 book The Blunderer, kind of a suburban copycat criss-cross of Strangers on a Train) makes Mad Men seem positively restrained in its period affectations - how you manage to turn a walking talking charm like Patrick Wilson into a walking talking turtleneck I'll never figure.
The turtlenecks! The martini glasses! The heavy salmon drapes and stone fireplaces! There were moments of such monumental airlessness, as if a plastic sofa cover was wrapped over every scene, where I felt it might be purposeful - where I thought of Todd Haynes' [safe] and the way that movie was built to make the audience hyperventilate while watching it... but A Kind of Murder is no [safe]. What it is is is an occasionally jazzy low-key thriller, with Eddie Marsan skulking about effectively making his case as our modern day Peter Lorre or Raymond Burr. But it ends up more of a put on, a face of perfectly applied make-up cast halfway in noirish shadow, than any sort of artful smear. Grade: C
Part of me wishes I had seen Mackenzie Davis and Caitlin FitzGerald in Sophia Takal's Always Shine before having seen Elisabeth Moss and Katherine Waterston in Alex Ross Perry's Queen of Earth last year, because while I'm more inclined towards Takal's smoky and sinister edged film... that's a whole lot of Persona riffing in the space of twelve months.
Always Shine tells the tale of two actresses in one of those friendships so fraught with complications it would have doctors reaching for the defibrillation paddles - the pendulums of success and resentment, professional jealousy and personal affection, flinging through space so close that something's bound to rub off and muck up everything.
And inevitably, muck. In this case the the muck under the misty cliff-faces and mossy canyons of Big Sur, California, an L.A. getaway close enough that when the sun sets the shadows from the Hollywood sign are yet still the first harbingers of nightfall. Here these ladies make their escape, a weekend coffee klatsch under the guise of nursing emotional distance, their carry-on's stacked with comedy and tragedy masks, plus sundresses. Inevitably, tragically, the two women end up flashing their SAG cards in each other's faces instead of laying bare their hearts, a battle of wiles not wills.
You know, actresses. And who doesn't love a movie about actresses? I think I'm preaching to the choir here. The performative commingling of these two still fresh talents is a blast - Davis I've already fallen head over for on Halt and Catch Fire (please tell me you're all watching that show) and FitzGerald is always fine despite a frustratingly written role on Masters of Sex; here these two fold into and under each other in smart - and, in this movie's true blessing, in unexpectedly funny - ways. Grade: B+