The Screen Critic: A beautiful arthouse gem, two big Hollywood clunkers, and acting pearls from Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren

Apr 26, 2024
Image caption: Anthony Hopkins in Freud's Last Session (Sony); Ryan Gosling in The Fall Guy (Universal); Gillian Anderson in Scoop (Netflix).

One of the great joys of watching a top arthouse movie is how its unique character can offer much-needed respite from the clamour of big, noisy multiplex movies. Evil Does Not Exist is just such a treat.

From director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, who gave us the Oscar-winning opus Drive My Car, (available on Prime & AppleTV), comes a haunting tale about a small rural community who push back against the proposal by a developer to set up a glamping business in their tranquil midst.

Featuring beautiful imagery and scenes comprised of long single camera takes, the film digs deeply and delicately into its characters, some of whom are young and ambitious, yet self-consciously naive.

Moving at a gentle pace, the film draws you in from its mesmerising opening shot to its cryptic ending. It really is a gem.

Way over at the other end of the cinematic spectrum is The Fall Guy, the latest super-sized slab of over- hyped mediocrity from the Hollywood studio assembly line.

Based loosely on the 1980s Lee Majors TV series, this noisy, jumbled, terribly directed action comedy stars Ryan Gosling as a stuntman who goes to work on a movie directed by his ex-girlfriend, played by Emily Blunt.

No mincing words here, folks – the film is just plain awful, even by the undemanding standards of low- flying crash-bang time killers.

Set in Sydney and supported by Australian tax dollars, the film is a loud dirge. The acting is terrible, the action looks like a poorly edited demolition derby and the story is so full of plot holes you could use it as a tea strainer.

Another high-profile, over-hyped clunker from Hollywood is the alleged romantic comedy Challengers.

Neither romantic nor particularly funny, this overlong drivel stars Zendaya (from Euphoria) as a tennis coach who has on-off relationships with two of her star players (Josh O’Connor and Mike Faist) who, of course, end up playing each other.

The timeline jumps clumsily all over the place making the film feel disjointed while the pedestrian direction from Luca Guadagnino elicits performances from his leads that are pure cardboard.

And at 130 minutes the film is, like so many others, way too long for a story so slight and so lacking in charm.

In Freud’s Last Session veteran Anthony Hopkins takes on Sigmund Freud, the grandfather of psychoanalysis, infusing him with warmth and wit as he engages in a verbal wrestling match with author CS Lewis (Matthew Goode).

As Freud deals with his ailing health, he confronts his intellectual sparring partner about the existence of God, dearly wanting to know why Lewis believes in The Almighty.

As far as talkfests go, the film is graced with crackling dialogue and top lead performances, especially from Hopkins who is so good that, at a guess, he probably doesn’t need to rehearse anymore.

In the same league as Hopkins is Helen Mirren who, in Golda, disappears into the skin of Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir as she leads her ministers and commanders in the Yom Kippur War of 1973.

Unrecognisable under layers of prosthetic make-up (the work was nominated for an Oscar), Mirren is outstanding as the chain-smoking leader whose strategic acumen was matched by a conscience that bore the burden of casualties heavily.

Given current events in the Middle East, the film has an unintended topicality as it deals with the human cost of war and the horrible moral compromises required in the quest for victory. (Opens 2 May)

The excellent Netflix drama Scoop, with amazing performances throughout, tracks the efforts of wily BBC producer Sam McAlister (Billie Piper) to persuade a besieged Prince Andrew (Rufus Sewell) to clear his name by doing a fair and balanced in-depth interview with star news presenter Emily Maitlis (Gillian Anderson).

In a manner strikingly similar to Frost/Nixon, the drama of getting the interview pales against what happens once the cameras roll and Prince Andrew’s utterances leave the crew agape.

Bearing a convincing British accent, Anderson is terrific as the no-nonsense, hard-nosed TV journalist and Billie Piper gives her producer a feisty edge.

But the stand-out here is Rufus Sewell, whose portrayal of Prince Andrew as a self-assured, self- deluding figure proves totally captivating.

Don’t miss it.

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