Saturday, April 11, 2020

Netflix: 3 Mini-Reviews: LOST GIRLS, THE LAST THING HE WANTED, HORSE GIRL: Focus on Flawed Females

April 11, 2020


Director: Liz Garbus
Writers: Michael Werwie, based on the book by Robert Kolker 

Mari Gilbert (Amy Ryan) was expecting her daughter Shannan to join her for dinner, but she never showed up. It turned out that Shannan was out working as a prostitute that night in a gated community in Long Island, and never came home. Police Commissioner Richard Dormer (Gabriel Bryne) did not seem to be working hard enough on Shannan's disappearance.  Because of Mari's dogged persistence, the police found the abandoned bodies of over a dozen other murdered sex workers in the same general vicinity.

This was really Amy Ryan's show all the way. Ryan was all-grit as she portrayed low-brow single mother Mari Gilbert, who was unrelentless in her search for her missing daughter. She was coarse or ruthless, she did not care. She just wanted to get to the bottom of things as she still had to deal with her other two daughters, the neglected Sherre (Thomasin McKenzie, who was Elsa in "Jojo Rabbit") and the schizophrenic Sarra (Oona Lawrence). The investigation of the Long Beach serial killer murder-mystery was maddening and disgusting, but remained fascinating to follow to its uncertain ending. 7/10. 


Director: Dee Rees
Writers: Marco Villalobos and Dee Rees, based on the book by Joan Didion

Elena McMahon (Anne Hathaway) was a veteran D.C. journalist who passionately covered violent events in Central America, even when the US government wanted to keep these things under wraps. When she was assigned by her newspaper to cover the 1984 US elections,  she reconnected with her estranged father Richard (Willem Dafoe) who dealt in smuggling illegal arms. To bring herself back in the thick of the action she craved, Elena agreed to fly to El Salvador for her ailing father to complete a covert arms deal for him. 

This looked like a very serious political movie at first, with Anne Hathaway giving a dead-serious portrayal Elena McMahon -- dedicated journalist, absent mother, guilty daughter, breast cancer survivor, newbie gun-runner. However, the plot began to get unhinged as it thickened into an incomprehensible mess. Rosie Perez was effective as Elena's gritty work partner Alma. Willem Dafoe gave an amazingly realistic performance as Elena's father Richard who was beginning to lose grip on reality. Ben Affleck's government agent Treat Morrison was a dull emotionless question mark from his first scene to his last. 4/10.


Director: Jeff Baena
Writers: Jeff Baena and Alison Brie

Sarah (Alison Brie) was a shy, introverted young woman who worked in an arts supply store. After work, she visited Willow, the horse she used to ride as a child. She had just been set up with a guy named Darren (John Reynolds) who seemed to share her quirks. She was a devoted fan of a sci-fi television series called Purgatory which she watched on repeat. Later on, she began to have strange dreams which began to convince her that "Purgatory"'s plot about aliens and cloning was actually happening in her real life. 

Director Jeff Baena took pains to build up the character of Sarah to mundane details in order to deeply immerse the audience in her world. When the story later turned to the psychotic, knowing Sarah so well made sure we would still be along for the weird ride. With her wide-eyed innocent face, Alison Brie had an affecting and totally transformed portrayal of Sarah. She was going in and out of sanity so effectively, we cannot tell which things were real or not. This is not an easy film to get through because of its strange twists and turns, but Brie held us in all the way to that bizarre ending. 6/10. 

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