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Non-Review Review: Mississippi Grind

Mississippi Grind is an intimate and thoughtful character study, featuring two superb central performances from Ben Mendelsohn and Ryan Reynolds. Written and directed by the team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, Mississippi Grind finds two gamblers winding their way down the eponymous river in the hopes of winning big at a poker game in New Orleans. “Like Huck Finn,” compulsive gambler Gerry insists when the idea first comes to him. It seems an appropriate comparison, given the themes of the film.

Never pushing its meditations on the American Dream too hard, and never labouring its points too heavily, Mississippi Grind achieves an honesty that borders on the profound. More than that, it captures both the romance and the desperation of that one last bet – the inability to settle for “enough” and the insistence that there is always everything to be won, even if it means that everything can be lost.

Meet me in St. Louis...

Meet me in St. Louis…

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Non-Review Review: The Apartment

The Apartment is a classic romantic comedy, and deservedly so. Reuniting director Billy Wilder with actor Jack Lemmon, it’s a wonderfully dysfunctional look at life in the big city, and the compromises the people find themselves forced into. While I think the movie probably works better as a romantic drama than as a comedy – with some outstanding moments of bleakness, including a serious suicide attempt and another false alarm towards the end – Wilder and Lemmon do an exceptional job keeping the movie just light enough that the darker elements don’t overwhelm the film. It is a piece of cinematic history, and one that holds up as well today as it ever did.

The neighbours were wondering about the racket…

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Non-Review Review: The Help

The Help is a well made film with a solid script, decent direction, and some very good performances from a superb ensemble. It’s hard not to get swept up in the drama as it unfolds, as the movie takes a harsh look at some of the prejudice festering in Mississippi during the sixties, where the phrase “hippie!”was an accusation that could destroy anyone’s social standing, it was not appropriate to fraternise with the help, and even raising the suggestion of racial equality was to open one’s self to prosecution for breaking the law. It’s powerful stuff. I was moved by it, particularly by the wonderful work put in by the cast. And, yet, I couldn’t help but feel that there was something very cynical unfolding before my eyes. The Help is a movie that seems built to fill a particular void, carefully measured and constructed to keep its audience well within their comfort zones, and a movie that feels like it might be sacrificing some of its depth for fear of actually challenging its audience.

Fraternising with the help...

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