IR Film Review: IT CHAPTER 2 [Warner Brothers]

The undeniably draw of the story of IT is the narrative of the community prevailing over the tyranny. The first chapter had a dexterous draw to the children of the 80s. The archetypal structures that had made “Stranger Things” a success were fully embodied by Stephen King many years before albeit in a different time. When the miniseries was made in the 90s, it used a different reference. But, as with this film, it used the innocence and naïveté of youth to propel the story. Now with the introduction of Chapter 2, it progresses the idea to modern times…and while it does not portray an essence of exactly today, it nonetheless feels now which sometimes can interrelate too closely for a sense of closure in a narrative. Pennywise in the first film was that aspect of the unknown, that personification of fear that cannot be contained. Bill Skarsgard’s portrayal in that film was a new way to see this permutation of fear that preys upon children’s misunderstanding of the unknown. While the adult actors reflect their characters well, it is not as key to the journey.

The first movie was a quest in a way, while the second film is more about placing the puzzle pieces together. The inherent structure of the book worked more in jumping in tandem between young psychology and mature thinking. That dynamic was not possible at first as it was not guaranteed the first film would be a hit. Its connection is what drew bigger actors like Jessica Chastain, who had worked with director Andy Muschetti on her early film “Mama” as well as her longtime friend and collaborator James McAvoy. Most of the rest of the kids save for Bill Hader as Richy are unknowns per se which allows the audience to buy into the belief of them returning more fully. The most effective element here is the transition in location between the young and old versions in key sequences. These are the segments of the film that truly work without seeming that it is rushing to tie up loose ends. Sequences like those in a funhouse which should illicit more dread don’t seem as powerful as they should be. Skarsgard as Pennywise, doesn’t have as much as a presence as in the first one, and is missed in many ways as the story, in adhering to King’s narrative, uses his continual use of Native American lore more as a central context. This idiom, which at times is overused in King’s narratives, is used perhaps to plug a narrative hole in comparison to perhaps “Pet Sematary” where it was more essential to the story. And at other times, like in “Dreamcatcher”, it can work quite well. Here however it is not explained enough to make full sense to the casual viewer, or even one familiar with the world.

The aspect of the subconscious especially involving the memory of the Losers, is adequately played but not as fulfilling as it should be. The best example of all cylinders working without the filmmakers worrying too overtly about the plot is when the gang comes back together at a Chinese restaurant in Derry (this was also the scene that was teased in the recent theater re-release of the first film). This scene paints the dread of Pennywise still apparent from the first film but also perfectly encapsulates the details of the grown characters as adults. Balancing these two worlds however is tricky while also keeping to audience expectations. “It Chapter 2” tries in many ways to live up to the original but it is a different construct. It is about how people understand aspects when they are older versus perceptions when they are young. While it does an admirable job of placing those story points in play, its delivery simply does not live up to the first film, through no fault of the actors or story but simply because of the trajectory placed against it.

B-

By Tim Wassberg

IR Interview: Jess Wexler & Jessica Chastain For “The Disappearance Of Eleanor Rigby” [Weinstein]

The Help – Film Review

The inner perspective of “The Help” relies on the passage of time to help understand a level of societal impulse unthinkable by today’s standards, both in modern thinking and in the ways of life and how we deal with issues of race. Perceiving its way in both education and entertainment, much like “Far From Heaven” did but with more mainstream appeal, “The Help” recognizes that from tragedy comes some interesting humor that balances the equation, both in the weirdness of customs but also in the general cruelty of human beings.

The catalyst in the story is Eugenia (played by Emma Stone) who takes on an egregious task of manipulating against everything in the Deep South in terms of the societal norms of the 1950s. Using her as the more, perhaps enlightened modern precedence, she seeks to get the story of how the black maids/nannies raise the white children forming an undeniable paradox between how these people see the world as children but do little to change it for the better as adults.

Viola Davis plays Adeline with a quiet conviction that anchors the movie with undeniable poise. Her interaction with her “lady of the house” whom she calls “a baby having babies” reflects in the fact that the little girl there sees her more of a mother than her actual mother. This motif repeats in different ways with different personalities.

The most affecting aspect comes with the interrelation of Eugenia in her own life with the black woman who raised her: Constantine who was sent away by prejudice and saving of face and died. When the dialogue progresses with the idea of a broken heart, its power is striking, signifying an exceptional scene between Stone and the always multi-layered Alison Janney as her cancer stricken mother who still has the ability to redeem herself.

Every character, big and small, provides perspective in a specific way. Octavia Spencer as Milly is the most bombastic of all the characters and has to modulate her sense of duty, sickness for the system and her own life to differing degrees. In interacting with multiple households, her journey provides the most contrast.

The first involves her with a household run by a vicious daughter Hilly (Bryce Dallas Howard) and her loopy but still visceral mother (played with superb visual effect by Sissy Spacek). The contrast of the two with the venom spewing back and forth at times is exceptional. Howard has never disappeared into a role this much to the point that this reviewer didn’t recognize her. That is the innate strength of the picture in that it places you within the world allowing you to project onto these people with distinction for their plight.

Jessica Chastain, another example, plays a blonde outsider that bonds with Milly when no one else will talk to her (since they believe she is a husband stealer). Chastain, again recently met for “Tree Of Life”, is unrecognizable which makes her performance all the more exceptional. What is interesting also is that this is not normal Disney fare. As interacted with the story diversity of Dreamworks and the Mouse’s marketing power, this film shows the power of what is possible with this partnership with “War Horse” also on the way.

Many moments persist, one of the most powerful showing the disconnect expanding from the expulsion of Constantine. That same moment when Eugenia’s mother recollects throwing out her nanny/maid of 30 years to save face, you can see the hurt in the old woman’s eyes. Despite all the disdain and racial elements, there was still a connection there. Cicely Tyson, even in her older age, plays it with such conviction as not to be believed.

As an unknown director for most, Tate Taylor shows undeniable poise and understanding of the material, making it again, educational and entertaining, which considering the subject matter, is no small task. Like “The Color Purple” which in many ways this will be compared to (in no small way because of the lush but not overwhelming visuals, sparse but tightly controlled production design and costumes, music featuring period music as well as American Beauty’s Thomas Newman handling the score), “The Help” provides just the right balance to make everything work without scarsely a hitch but conveying an exceptional amount.

B