First Reformed

Riskily, I’d already been speaking highly of this film to people purely on the strength of its trailer, and how several critics I like seemed to like it a whole bunch.

And maybe I shouldn’t have finally sat down for the art house Calvinist climate change drama after two large glasses of white wine, as you’d probably think this is the kind of movie where now I’d do a play on “sobering”. But First Reformed is a strange bold harrowing high, so careful and strickening and wild and unanswerable that instead of sobering up I came out of that feeling like I was haunted, like I was fucking possessed, stumbling along the streets breathing around these slow seizes of my ribcage. I think I’ve discovered a new genre I love: something restrained yet outrageous. The Phantom Threads of the world. Movies that respond “yes” when you ask “just slowly fuck me up!”

This movie is so well-placed in itself and in the current moment…I’m struck, I’m still reveling. The lovely lonely damaged fierceness of Ethan Hawke, who has aged into exactly the kind of handsome that still might become a reverend. The unguarded realism of Amanda Seyfried’s performance, within precisely my favorite amount of experiential surrealism. The spare, tonal way Paul Schrader uses framing and music. How it’s all too transcendental to say it goes off the rails, more that it goes for broke, for breaking, creating something like the Austere Uncanny. You know that thing where you can feel your heart beating in your stomach? The final act of First Reformed.

I have just one complaint and it’s that the blood was so good and I wanted more, I wanted blood just welling through and no I’m not explaining further and yes that’s intended to be the most acute kind of shrouded spoiler.


Okay I’m out!!

Ocean’s 8

Ocean’s 8 gave me everything I knew I wanted (heists, ladies, the Met Gala, coats) and even things I didn’t (references to the Williamstown Theatre Festival, co-op board jokes). I enjoyed myself so much. This is such a pleasant, chill movie. There really isn’t any tension or dramatics, just a group of women gently bantering and doing crime. There have been some critiques that Ocean’s 8 doesn’t have enough zip, and sure, if you need zip in everything, but honestly this was relaxing af and I needed that. It’s a high femme hang-out caper, and if that’s derivative then please direct me to where I can find the rest of those, because this was like a bubblebath after a long day.

How’s the cast? You already know the answer to that: extraordinary. Superhero franchises weep at the sheer wattage of this lineup. How’s the gay? The whole movie ranges from subtly sapphic to Cate Blanchett as “Lou”. Helena Bonham Carter’s accent? A soft-edged Irish that’s so good on her. What gets stolen? The show, by Anne Hathaway. Anne Hathaway is doing a high-wire act of vacuous actress femininity, The Joke, The Mark, and The Meta all wrapped into one Janelle Monáe Pynk bow, smilingly turning the dial to 11 while maintaining direct eye contact. I love her. Annie Forever.

My favorite line in this movie was in the trailers, but it didn’t diminish it one jot. It’s when Lou asks Debbie Ocean why she needs to do this, and she leans a bit to take a bite off her plate and calmly says: “Because it’s what I’m good at.” This is a movie where Anna Wintour plays herself. This is a movie where Anna Wintour’s special events director also plays herself. Not to imply running Vogue is like running a con, except in how it is—except in how these woman are good at this. Like all heist movies, you come for the competence porn. This time it just takes the form of Sandra Bullock in a beautiful dress going on a tear in her fluent German for several minutes. God I love when they let Sandra Bullock speak German…

In closing, the supporting men deliver as well: commendations to the always clever Richard Armitage for understanding that one of the key features of being a rich bearded art dealer douchebag is that they are in fact quite boring, and three cheers for the return of James Cordon as just a delightful actor, turning in a great subtly odd comedic performance. “Oh, to be you!”