It’s a weekend of naughty titles attached to not-so-naughty films.
+ "Hard Candy": "Not to sound like Michael Medved here, but really: Isn’t there a statute of limitations for the rape-revenge genre?" wonders Rob Nelson at the Village Voice, who finds it half bemusingly guilty pleasure and half "pure tortureâ€”to watch, some will say." In the LA Weekly, Scott Foundas suggests David Slade‘s film is somewhere between the traditions of "Death and the Maiden" and "Funny Games," and writes that, despite lacking the sense of humanity of those films:
[L]ike its eponymous confection, the movie gets lodged in your throat and sticks there for a while, admittedly more for its aggressive shock value than for anything it has to say about the greater implications of vigilante violence, the information superhighwayâ€™s rampant sex culture or the slipperiness of cyber identities.
He also labels the ending acts of the film "monotonous." And Manohla Dargis at the New York Times writes that "Viewers who find torture entertaining, even in the age of Abu Ghraib, may find this watchable. Not so those of us who, like an acquaintance, get pretty bored with people in trapped-in-apartment movies having philosophical debates while fearing for their privates."
+ "Kinky Boots": Stephanie Zacharek at Salon suggests that "You could do worse if you’re looking for a gentle pick-me-up: ‘Kinky Boots’ is a sweet-tempered, mildly entertaining picture. But there’s that word mildly…" She finds that "Kinky Boots" and the recent comedies like it don’t live up to their Ealing predecessors, but do "offer a showcase for performers whom we often think of as "serious" actors to do light comedy, to loosen up and have fun." In the New York Times, Stephen Holden shows more spark than we might have ever seen from him in a review:
Lola’s being black lends her an extra layer of alienation and insight
into oppression, which automatically translates into an extra layer of
nobility. In one scene, she deliberately loses an arm-wrestling
competition with a bully to allow him to save face. That’s what I call
Look at you, Mr. Holden! He also calls the film a "product stamped on an assembly line." And at the Village Voice, IFC’s own Matt Singer grumbles that "’Boots’ is unforgivably tame; only foot fetishists (or possibly Imelda Marcos) could get off on such desexualized, PG-13-rated fare."
+ "The Notorious Bettie Page": Pulled-quote style…it’s time for us to head home.
David Denby at the New Yorker: "‘American Psycho,’ [Mary] Harron‘s nastily satirical thrill-kill drama, came off as inordinately proud of its own heartlessness; it was all curdled smarminess and gleaming surfaces sprinkled with designer blood. This movie, however, is lively and sweet-tempered and often funny."
J. Hoberman at the Village Voice: "Not for nothing is this movie opening on Good Friday. It can be as boring as church. There’s no snake in Bettie’s Eden and no narrative to Harron’s movie. It’s more of an altar piece: Our Lady of the Garter Belt, the Fastidious Bettie Page."
David Edelstein in New York: "By no means is ‘The Notorious Bettie Page’ a pinup anthem. Its tone is semi-parodic, with lurid black-and-white cinematography and brassy, tongue-in-cheek music. But Harron stops well short of camp. Thereâ€™s a hint that Bettie goes in for stylized S&M because of how she was sexually damaged: She bombs in Method-acting classes; she seems incapable of doing all that psychological plumbing. She’d rather be a clown, doffing her clothes, pulling saucy faces, and wagging her finger as she mock-disciplines other trussed-up models."
Ella Taylor at LA Weekly: "As played by Gretchen Mol, whose natural radiance is all but drained of its animal energy by her vague, unfocused acting â€” the vacantly agreeable smile never leaves her doll-like features for long â€” Page comes across less as the free-spirited, instinctive bohemian Harron clearly means her to be than as a good-natured provincial noodle to whom life merely happens as she wanders from one potentially adverse situation to another, spinning dross into gold by accident."
Reverse Shot‘s Michael Koresky at indieWIRE: "Couched in truth as it may be, Harron’s approach drains Bettie Page’s aura of anything even remotely resembling eroticism; rather than trying to recreate the excitement or sexual energy of Page’s iconic images, Harron settles for safe, distancing irony. For all its sexual individualism, ‘Bettie Page’ assumes a rather condescending air of its own: Page is a sweet-faced kewpie doll angelically dolling out whack-off material for the pervs who are into leather and chains."
Armond White at the New York Press: "Scenes of Page failing her acting-class exercises are doubly strange because of Mol’s own unsuccessful bid at stardom. (The film’s notion of female exploitation is complicated by Mol’s history in which a poking-nipple Vanity Fair cover is her claim to dubious fame.)"
Stephanie Zacharek at Salon: "’The Notorious Bettie Page’ is a true feminist movie, but one that avoids cant and facile theories about victimization. Harron and [screenwriter Guinevere] Turner find a great deal of friendly good humor in the Bettie Page story."
Manohla Dargis in the New York Times: "If the inner Bettie remains somewhat out of focus here, even to the beatific finale, it’s largely because what made her a sensation â€” both in the 1950’s and the 1980’s revival that made her into a modern cult figure â€” wasn’t her acting aspirations or the religious convictions that might have pushed her to leave modeling, but that she was a genius of the body. It’s a truism of art history that while men act, women appear, smiling demurely away from the gaze of the viewer. In many of her photographs, by contrast, Bettie looks straight into the camera with a grin that is by turns twinkling and devouring, and flips that old truism on its head by turning her appearance into a performance. She knows what you want; she wants it, too."