Novitiate Aspiring Nun Struggles With Vows In Coming-Of-Age Drama
Cathleen Harris (Margaret Qualley) was being raised in rural Tennessee in the Fifties when she started exhibiting an interest in God at an early age. That fixation was a little disconcerting to her single mom (Julianne Nicholson), an avowed atheist.
With Cathleen’s absentee father (Chris Zylka) rarely around, she only had the Catholic school her daughter attended to blame for cultivating the obsessive interest in religion. By the time she was a teenager, her faith had grown so strong that she wanted to become a nun. And, over her mother’s objections, she followed the calling and entered the convent at 15.
She donned a habit, placed the honorific “Sister” in front of Cathleen, and dropped her surname entirely. But it would still take years of training before she would be allowed to take her final vows. First, she had to prove herself worthy during her postulance, the tough probationary period testing a novice’s commitment to silence, poverty, obedience and chastity.
At least Cathleen wasn’t alone at the convent. She befriended a number of equally-pious females there who were also contemplating ascetic lives as wives of Christ. However, the whole lot of them were always at the beck and call of Reverend Mother (Melissa Leo), a sadistic taskmaster who delighted in torturing them, as if that were the best way of weeding out the uncertain.
That is the point of departure of Novitiate, an introspective coming-of-age drama written and directed by Margaret Betts (The Carrier). The compelling character portrait borders on the claustrophobic in its effort to plumb the depths of Cathleen’s tortured soul as she debates whether or not she’s meant to enter the order.
The picture’s plot thickens in the mid-Sixties after Pope John XXIII issues a series of 16 historic proclamations. Besides calling for Sunday mass to henceforth be said in native languages in instead of Latin, he lowered the standing of sisters to that of any lay believer.
Stripped of their status, 90,000 nuns soon renounced their vows and returned to private life. But what effect would this have on someone just embarking on her career, like Cathleen?
Reminiscent in different ways of Doubt (2008), The Exorcist (1973), The Passion of the Christ (2004) and Paradise: Faith (2012), Novitiate is nevertheless a novel adventure offering a plausible look at the internal angst of a female weighing whether or not she’s meant to be a nun. Sisterhood as a divinely inspired, yet very intimate and solitary path!
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for profanity, sexuality and nudity
Running time: 123 minutes
Production Studio: Maven Pictures / Novitiate Productions
Distributor: Sony Pictures Classics
American Made Tom Cruise Stars In Biopic About Airline Pilot-Turned-Infamous Drug Smuggler
Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) was gainfully employed as a commercial airline pilot when he was surreptitiously recruited by a CIA agent (Domnhall Gleeson). The Agency wanted him to fly covert reconnaissance missions over Nicaragua to assist U.S.-backed rebels trying to overthrow the government.
Barry leaped at the opportunity to spice up his humdrum existence, despite having to hide his new line of work from his wife (Sarah Wright) and young daughter (Morgan Hinkleman). However, he probably had no idea at the time that this would be the start of a reckless career spiral he’d never be able to pull out of.
For, after first having his thirst for excitement whetted by conducting espionage missions, he opted to venture to the dark side when Pablo Escobar (Mauricio Mejia) made him an offer he couldn’t refuse. The Colombian drug lord seduced Barry into smuggling cocaine into the States by plane with a promise of $2,000 per kilo delivered.
Thus unfolds American Made, a real-life tale of derring-do directed by Doug Liman. The production reunites Liman with Tom Cruise with whom he previously collaborated on Edge of Tomorrow (2014).
The picture’s premise situates Cruise in a familiar scenario, given how, at the point of departure, his character is informed that the CIA will disavow any knowledge of his existence, should he be captured or killed, a la Mission Impossible. The difference is that, here, Barry goes rogue by going into business with the ruthless Medellin cartel.
Who knows whether this biopic is loosely or strictly based on the truth? But if even half of what’s served up onscreen is accurate, Barry Seal had quite a hair-raising tale to tell.
American Tale takes you on a wild flyboy ride, literally and figuratively, between the breathtaking aerial shots and the audacious exploits of an avaricious mercenary available to the highest bidder. Kudos to Cruise, a proven master at consistently cranking out satisfying cinematic fare certain to keep you glued to the edge of your seat.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated R for violence, sexuality, nudity and pervasive profanity
In English and Spanish with subtitles
Running time: 115 minutes
Distributor: Universal Pictures
OPENING THIS WEEK
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening Oct. 27, 2017
BIG BUDGET FILMS
All I See Is You (R for profanity, nudity and graphic sexuality) Psychological thriller, set in Bangkok, about a blind woman (Blake Lively) whose faith in her marriage is shaken to the core when she regains her sight and discovers some disturbing details about her husband (Jason Clarke). Supporting cast includes Yvonne Strahovski, Dannu Huston and Wes Chatham.
Jigsaw (R for profanity, torture and graphic violence) The eighth installment in the Saw horror franchise finds serial killer, John Kramer (Tobin Bell), ostensibly resurfacing a decade after his supposed demise to embark on yet another reign of terror. With Callum Keith Renniw, Matthew Passmore and Mandela Van Peebles.
Suburbicon (R for profanity, violence and some sexuality) George Clooney directed this crime comedy written by the Coen Brothers set in 1959 in an idyllic bedroom community rattled by a home invasion. Co-starring Matt Damon, Julianne Moore and Oscar Isaac.
Thank You For Your Service (R for sexuality, drug use, graphic violence, brief nudity and pervasive profanity) Adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winner, David Finkel’s best-seller, chronicling some Iraq War vets’ suffering from PTSD as they adjust back to private life after returning to the States. Ensemble cast co-stars Miles Teller, Keisha Castle-Hughes, Amy Schumer, Haley Bennett and Kate Lyn Sheil.
INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS
Acts of Vengeance (R for violence and profanity) Suspense thriller revolving around an attorney-turned-vigilante who takes a vow to remain silent until he exacts revenge on the murderers of his wife (Cristina Serafini) and young daughter (Lillian Blankenship). With Karl Urban, Paz Vega and Robert Forste.
Brimstone & Glory (Unrated) Visually-captivating documentary celebrating the compelling appeal and beauty of fireworks displays. (In Spanish with subtitles)
Crash Pad (R for nudity, profanity, alcohol abuse, drug use, crude humor and graphic sexuality) Romantic comedy about a naïve, young guy (Domnhall Gleeson) who falls blissfully in love with an older woman (Christina Applegate) until he learns she’s married and only slept with him to get even with her neglectful husband (Thomas Haden Church). With Nina Dobrev, Aliyah O’Brien and Britt Irvin.
Felicite (Unrated) Vero Tshanda Beya Mputu plays the title character in this Congolese musical drama, set in Kinshasa, about a headstrong saloon singer desperate to raise the cash for her 14-year-old son’s (Gaetan Claudi) hospital bills after a crippling motorcycle accident. With Papi Mpaka, Nadine Ndebo and Elbas Manuana. (In French and Lingua with subtitles)
Halloween P*ssy Trap Kill Kill (Unrated) Harrowing tale of survival revolving around a female rock band’s members fight for their lives after becoming trapped in a madman’s maze. Ensemble cast includes Richard Grieco, Sara Malakul Lane, Margaret O’Brien and Paul Logan.
Judwaa 2 (Unrated) Action-oriented sequel about twins (Varun Dhawan) separated at birth and reunited as adults by a twist of fate in time to save their family’s business from ruthless mobsters. With Salman Khan, Anupam Kher and Jacqueline Fernandez. (In Hindi with subtitles)
Let There Be Light (PG-13 for mature themes involving drug and alcohol abuse) Faith-based drama revolving around an avowed atheist/absentee father (Kevin Sorbo) who converts to Christianity and turns over a new leaf after almost dying in an auto accident. Featuring Sam Sorbo, Daniel Roebuck, Dionne Warwick and Travis Tritt.
Suck It Up (Unrated) Bittersweet dramedy about a grieving sister (Grace Glowicki) and girlfriend (Erin Margurite Carter) who embark on a therapeutic road trip to mourn their loss in the wake of the untimely death of a guy they both loved. With Dan Beirne, Toby Marks and Nancy Kerr.
The Work (Unrated) Rehabilitation documentary examining the criminal justice system from the perspectives of three Folsom prison inmates participating in a four-day, group therapy session.