The Love Witch
Desperate Witch Casts Spells On Unsuspecting Suitors In Campy Horror Comedy
Elaine Parker (Samantha Robinson) only became a witch after being abandoned by her late husband. An incurable romantic with fairy princess fantasies, the gorgeous widow still harbors hopes of finding Mr. Right.
With that goal in mind, she relocates to a quiet town in Northern California where she conveniently rents an already Goth-themed apartment in an imposing mansion on a hill. There, she makes fast friends with her laid-back landlady, Trish (Laura Waddell), while setting a trap for a string of unsuspecting suitors via a combination of spells and love potions..
Her first mark is Wayne Peters (Jeffrey Vincent Parise), a very gullible professor she picks up in a park. She seduces the stranger with the help of a drink spiked with hallucinogenic herbs. However, Wayne is not long for the world once the two have consummated the relationship.
After burying the corpse in her backyard, it’s on to the next conquest for Elaine, who sets her sights on everyone from Trish’s husband, Richard (Robert Seeley), to Griff (Gian Keys), the police Sergeant investigating Wayne’s disappearance. Thus unfolds The Love Witch, a campy horror comedy written, produced and directed by Anna Biller (Viva). The movie marks her sophomore offering, and stars Samantha Robinson in the title role.
The visually-captivating adventure is a rarity nowadays in that it was shot on 35 mm film, and it is also a highly-stylized throwback in the sense that it is an unapologetic homage to the trashy sexploitation flicks of the ’60s and ’70s.
So, don’t expect to invest emotionally in this cornball adventure at all, particularly given how the heroine delivers virtually every one of her lines in a halfhearted, tongue-in-cheek tone. Ultimately, this period piece harks back less to a cultural era than to a bygone genre of moviemaking.
A light as a feather, feminist fantasy where flawed males meet their match during creative displays of eroticized violence.
Very Good (2.5 stars)
Running time: 120 minutes
No Pay, Nudity
Rated R for pervasive profanity
Aging Actor Adjusts To Diminished Prospects In Compelling, Character-Driven Dramedy
Lawrence Rose is the stage name of Lester Rosenthal (Gabriel Byrne), a former TV star whose career has been in a tailspin ever since his doctor character was killed off a popular daytime soap opera. Consequently, the aging actor now fritters away his days hanging out in the lounge of the Actors’ Equity union hall, hoping to land an audition that might lead to another big break.
While Lester’s younger colleagues are making the most of those opportunities, he’s routinely left behind to chew the fat with other waiting room regulars like pessimistic Herschel (Nathan Lane), the irascible receptionist (J.R. Horne) and the aspiring African-American (Jon Michaell Hill) he’s showing the ropes. He also sits there wondering whether it might be time to retire because he can no longer take all the rejection and disappointment. The only soothing presence in this scenario is Andrea (Frances Conroy), a pleasant soul who’s always accompanied by her toy poodle, Papp.
This is the thought-provoking point of departure of No Pay, Nudity, a poignant portrait of an over-the-hill thespian’s adjustment to diminished prospects. The movie marks the impressive directorial debut of Lee Wilkof, a veteran actor with a plethora of stage and screen credits on his resume.
As the film unfolds, we find chronically-underemployed Lester contemplating his miserable lot in life and mourning the recent loss of his beloved pet dog, Barry. It doesn’t help that he finds himself pressured by his daughter Renie (Zoe Perry) to take a job as a waiter at the restaurant where she works, and that his ex-wife (J. Smith-Cameron) thinks he’s losing his looks.
The plot thickens when he’s offered a supporting role in a play opening a world away in Dayton, Ohio. Will Lester downsize his elusive expectations and relocate to the Midwest, especially when it means putting on hold a budding May-December romance with Pearl (Donna Murphy), a pretty, acting class student?
Kudos to Gabriel Byrne for delivering a nonpareil performance in this plausible portrait of a fading star struggling to maintain his dignity in the face of diminished dreams.
Excellent (3.5 stars)
Running time: 92 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening November 18, 2016
Bleed For This (R for profanity, sexuality, nudity and violent images) Inspirational biopic chronicling Junior Middleweight Boxing Champ Vinny Pazienza’s (Miles Teller) incredible comeback after a near-fatal car accident which left him with a broken neck. Cast includes Aaran Eckhart, Katey Sagal, Christine Evangelista and Ciaran Hinds. (In English and French with subtitles)
The Edge Of Seventeen (R for sexuality, profanity and underage drinking) Coming-of-age dramedy revolving around an awkward teen (Hailee Steinfeld) whose life gets even harder after her best friend (Haley Lu Richardson) starts dating her big brother (Blake Jenner). With Hayden Szeto, Woody Harrelson and Kyra Sedgwick.
Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (PG-13 for action violence) Screen adaptation of a textbook mentioned by J.K. Rowling in Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone, set in 1926 and chronicling the adventures of a wizard (Eddie Redmayne) who ventures from Great Britain to New York City. Support cast includes Carmen Ejogo, Johnny Depp, Zoe Kravitz, Colin Farrell, Jon Voight and Ron Perlman.
Hunter Gatherer (Unrated) Character study highlighting a recently-paroled convict’s (Andre Royo) adjustment back to society without the support of his girlfriend (Ashley Wilkerson) or family members who moved on with their lives while he was behind bars. Support cast includes Kellee Stewart, Jeannetta Arnette and Trayvon Williams.
I Am Not Madame Bovary (Unrated) Battle-of-the-sexes comedy about a woman (Bingbing Fan) who sues her ex-husband (Zonghan Li) for refusing to remarry after they filed for a supposedly fake divorce in order to purchase a home reserved for singles. With Wei Fan, Tao Guo and Hua Liu. (In Mandarin with subtitles)
Life On The Line (R for violence, grisly images and brief profanity) John Travolta stars in this action thriller about the unsung electricians who risk their lives working hundreds of feet in the air to maintain the grid.
Magnus (Unrated) Reverential biopic about Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, child chess prodigy who became world champion at the age of 22. Featuring commentary by Gary Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand.
Manchester By The Sea (R for sexuality and pervasive profanity) Character-driven drama about a janitor (Casey Affleck) who becomes the guardian of his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges) following the untimely death of his older brother (Kyle Chandler). With Gretchen Mol, Michelle Williams and Heather Burns.
Nocturnal Animals (R for menacing, violence, profanity and graphic nudity) Screen adaptation of Tony And Susan, Austin Wright’s suspense thriller about an art gallery owner (Amy Adams) haunted by dark truths revealed in a novel written by her ex-husband (Jake Gyllenhaal). Ensemble cast includes Michael Shannon, Isla Fisher, Laura Linney, Michael Sheen and Armie Hammer.
Off The Rails (Unrated) Obsessive compulsive documentary about Darius McCollum, a black man suffering from Asperger’s syndrome who has been arrested 32 times for impersonating engineers, conductors, track repairmen and token booth clerks in order to hijack subway trains.
Officer Downe (R for sexuality, nudity, pervasive profanity and graphic violence) Kim Coates plays the title character in this adaptation of the sci-fi comic book about a reincarnated cop who repeatedly returns from the dead every time he gets shot to patrol the mean streets of L.A. With Tyler Ross, Lauren Luna Velez and Alison Lohman.
A Street Cat Named Bob (Unrated) Heartwarming biopic recounting the real-life story of a recovering drug addict (Luke Treadaway) whose life was transformed by a stray cat that crossed his path. With Ruta Gedmintas, Joanne Froggatt, Anthony Head and Darren Evans.
The Take (R for violence, profanity and nudity) Action thriller about a pickpocket (Richard Madden) recruited by a CIA agent (Idris Elba) to help thwart a terrorist mission. Charlotte Le Bon, Kelly Reilly and Jose Garcia. (In English and French with subtitles)