4 Films about Dealing with the Cray-Crays
The Homesman (2014, Tommy Lee Jones dir.) is the most relevant to the title in the genre of fiction--you'll see what I mean later. This quiet but disturbingly sad film demonstrates tight direction of subject matter that could have gone terribly wrong: either saccrine or Mel Brooks-worthy. Mr. T-L Jones and Hilary Swank have to transport three young women who have lost their minds on the prairie, and they have to do it with them in a box of a wagon amidst Indians, bad guys and the elements. Minor roles by John Lithgow, Meryl Streep and Tim Blake Nelson are tied up with a bow, and James Spader shows up later as...well, James Spader, but the two lead roles really carry the film and the climax is certainly not predictable. Don't watch it when you're depressed, but do watch it.
I wanted to watch Elsa and Fred (2014, Michael Radford dir.) because I am a life-long Christopher Plummer fan, ever since The Sound of Music and my day of chasing down his Caledon Hills set as a teen, only to find the detritus of the deserted film crew: I had a loaf of Wonder bread as my prize, until it went moldy. Anyway, Shirley MacLaine plays a probably-crazy woman in this film and the story never really works. Skip it.
For real craziness, enter Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015, Alex Gibney dir.). This is the one that beats the craziness of The Homesman but in the documentary category. If you think you know how crazy Scientology is, think again. I will probably be 'visited' for the previous sentence alone. This is about lives completely ruined--emotionally, never mind the financially--and two leaders you seriously won't believe: L. Ron Hubbard, who taunted his wife that he had chopped up their kidnapped baby daughter and put her in the river, and who taught more serious students of the religion about their outer space sources [insert cartoon head-shaking sound here], and his successor, David Miscavige. The discussions of the IRS battles, child abuse, slave labour and long-term imprisonment and abuse of those not in line are completely shocking. While there are a few good lines by interviewees, such as the APA saying that Dianetics was akin to 'psychological folk art', audience laughs soon abate and by the end we feel drained. It almost, almost, makes you feel sorry for adherents Tom Cruise and John Travolta for being so sucked in. But most of all, you feel grateful that there but by the grace of God go I. Again, depressing but an absolute must-see.
Finally, Little Accidents (2014, Sara Colangelo dir.) got some splats on Rotten Tomatoes but I thought it deals with people suppressing the urge to go crazy with guilt/sorrow/rage with restraint. It maintains a degree of suspense and a satisfying pace: too quick and it wouldn't work with the subtlety it possesses. Certainly, the performances by Elizabeth Banks, Boyd Holbrook and Jacob Lofland are crazy-good. Cinematographer Rachel Morrison captures a few lovely moments. And I must give kudos to hair department head Christopher Fulton: it may seem like a weird shout-out, but I feel that aspect of makeup and costumes is important for this film.
Next time, my post is going to be about film criticism. I'm going to go meta.