Very stylish, with great cinematography and a pop soundtrack that perfectly peppers the lavish period-piece setting. Story-wise, the slow opening act intrigues as quiet Marie is made pawn in a publicized political chess match, but the unfocused next two acts fail to generate any momentum. They sit better in out-the-carriage-window hindsight (the forced reign of a teen queen is bound to be messy) but more consistency and depth in the one of the character or plot threads would have been nice.
The unexpected arrival of a wounded Union soldier at a girls school in Virginia during the American Civil War leads to jealousy and betrayal. (IMDb)
The slow first two acts are a fairly bland main course (colourless cinematography and a lack of music don’t help) but in hindsight they do well in setting up the thrilling third act dessert with its deliciously sinister climax and brilliant cherry-on-top final shot (with ominous score icing): the women played with the polite man until his destructive patriarchal power emerged and threatened, and now the understanding of the titular character(s) is subverted. Kidman’s turn is a chilling standout.
A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo. (IMDb)
Just a hug would have been better, but aside from that and a few other missteps in the final act (the singer sleepover came out of nowhere), it’s the ultimate in soothing cinema, thanks to its down-to-earth script that manages to capture all the beauty (and often humour) found in the mundane things of hotel/tourist life and friendship (see the falling asleep while talking scene). Solidly acted and remarkably edited and scored, it’s a marvel of refreshing authenticity (see the first night out).