Staff writers Pat Mullane and Mike Horky are blogging live from Ebertfest in Champaign, Ill. Check back for updates and reviews throughout the weekend.
Céline Sciamma’s “Girlhood” tells a genuine and unique coming of age story, without ever looking like any one you’ve seen before. Perhaps this is because its main character, Marieme, resides in the housing projects on the outskirts of Paris, or because she’s part of a gang of girls who won’t hesitate to throw you to the pavement if you dare step up to them. Maybe it’s just because she’s a girl.
As unfortunate as it is, it’s become a rarity to see a female teenager — a black female teenager — lead a serious film like this. And it’s in Karidja Touré’s performance that makes Marieme so mesmerizing, bringing an emotional depth to the insight of this young woman and all that surrounds her. Marieme’s life has complexities as she serves as a second mother to her younger sisters, but a fearful bystander to her enraged older brother.
As she goes from a quiet dropout to joining a group of girls that leads to shoplifting, drinking, bullying and fighting. And while this gang of girls seems rather alarming, there is a great amount of good within them.
The power of influence is a notion that runs deep within the film, practically changing the life of Marieme scene by scene, some for the better and others not. But, something that becomes clear early on is the security Marieme feels with her girls, a security much of everyone feels with their friends. And it’s in “Girlhood” that Sciamma takes a group of characters so different from you and makes them seem so familiar, as we share the same feelings we once had or similar scenes we recall from our high school years. This film is not the embodiment of a teenage girl’s life. It is of the life of Marieme, who just so happens to be a teenage girl.
– Pat Mullane
When David Foster Wallace died in 2008, the world lost a literary genius. His novel, “Infinite Jest,” had become the staple of college literature classes across the country, and his philosophical and almost poetic outlook on life spoke to countless millennials.
James Ponsoldt’s latest film “The End of the Tour” follows a week in the life of Wallace as Rolling Stone’s David Lipsky interviews him (this would become Lipsky’s novel “Although Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself”). Like his past films, “The End of the Tour” focuses on how an interaction between two characters can change one or both of their lives in emotionally potent ways. Wallace is played by Jason Segel, walking heavily, downtrodden, like the weight of the world is on his shoulders. He is on the last stretch of his book tour for “Infinite Jest,” the one thousand page, three-pound text that took the world by storm. His counterpart in Ponsoldt’s journey is David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg), a quiet, meticulous writer for Rolling Stone attempting to field a piece on Wallace. The film that ensues is not so much concerned with the works of a troubled literary genius, but more about what made Wallace so troubled to begin with.
– Mike Horky
The thing that makes “99 Homes” so enjoyable is director Ramin Bahrani’s abilty to take the business behind foreclosing homes and make it so thrilling. A large amount of the credit also goes to its two magnificent leads, Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon. Garfield — who stars in his first drama since “The Social Network” — plays Dennis Nash, a single father who, along with his mother and 9-year-old son, are forced out of his home by a ruthless real estate broker, Rick Carver, played by the brilliant Michael Shannon. The scene of this eviction is enthrallingly heartbreaking, and Bahrani does little to hold back the reality of the situation, one that many of us are lucky enough to have never seen. With little money and no work, Nash and his family move into a tiny motel on the outskirts of Orlando, filled of other evicted families struck by the 2008 financial crisis.
– Pat Mullane