Where the Crawdads sing (15) **
Kurt Vonnegut: Unlocked over time (15) ****
Adapted from the best-selling novel by Delia Owens which sold 12 million copies, Where the Crawdads sing makes a pretty disappointing movie. The discovery of a corpse in the swampy swamps of late 1960s North Carolina hints at a sweaty murder mystery, but the only grain on display in this tasteless fantasy of self-empowerment is that served for breakfast in the southern United States. British actress Daisy Edgar-Jones (one of the stars of the TV show Normal People) is hopelessly miscast as the story’s heroine, Kya Clarke, a supposedly once wild girl turned virtuous role model. autonomy whose outsider status – she is known to locals as “Marsh Girl” – makes her the prime suspect in the murder of a handsome young man with whom she was once involved.
Framed initially as a courtroom drama, the majority of the film unfolds in languid, melodramatic flashbacks, usually accompanied by metaphor-rich narration. We are first told about Kya’s destitute childhood, where she is left at the mercy of an abusive father (Garret Dillahunt) after her mother and then her siblings abandon their swamp cabin at the first opportunity. (Kya is played in these scenes by Jojo Regina). Then the film jumps forward a few years to show her as an older teenager and a woman in her twenties (both played by Edgar-Jones) who comes of age as a self-taught naturalist with a talent for drawing. John James Audubon -esque illustrations of local birds and insects. But Kya’s ability to thrive in the swamps with perfect teeth, snow-white skin, luscious black hair, and long, puffy dresses also catches the eye of two young men (the serious Taylor John Smith and the deceitful Harris Dickinson ) who privately profess their love for her but can’t quite bring themselves to do so in public.
So far, Nicholas Sparks and director Olivia Newman are certainly leaning into the romantic elements with corny love scenes, honeydew cinematography, and a new Taylor Swift song on the soundtrack. But the film must also continue its trial in 1969 and, unfortunately, the evidence against Kya is so falsely and apathetically presented that it robs the film of any suspense. It’s clear from the start what verdict the jury will ultimately reach, even as flashbacks point to evidence to the contrary in order to set up its blindingly obvious, but still painfully long ending. Still, fans of the book can revel in the film’s travel brochure shots of the landscape and its mature evocation of that turbulent period in Southern American history when intolerance of handsome, slender foreigners was apparently the most heinous crime of all.
The late and great American novelist and satirist Kurt Vonnegut gets a suitably messy postmodern documentary about his life in Kurt Vonnegut: Unlocked in Time. Directed by Bob Weide – who previously adapted Vonnegut’s 1962 novel Mother Night into a film starring Nick Nolte and most recently found huge success directing Curb Your Enthusiasm – the documentary is a lifelong passion project, consuming a large part of Weide’s professional career. Started 40 years ago as a simple documentary author on one of his heroes, he simply continued to film, getting closer and closer to his subject, which in turn seemed to take Weide under his wing as a personal archivist and ultimately as a friend, even writing it into his latest novel Timequake, a semi-autobiographical meta-novel about the difficulty of writing his latest novel Timequake.
The proposed documentary, meanwhile, has remained stubbornly unfinished, even as the years since Vonnegut’s death in 2007 have continued. As Vonnegut might have said, it’s fine. But as Weide begins to realize he may not want to close the book on this chapter of his life, he and his co-director Don Argott draw inspiration from Vonnegut’s groundbreaking novel, the anti-war classic Slaughterhouse-Five, using his playful conceit of time travel as a way to deconstruct the documentary format to better illuminate Vonnegut’s work. They succeed, too, in part because Vonnegut is such good company, but also because the film doesn’t stop to explore the personal failures that Vonnegut’s late-stardom status as a counterculture hero has exacerbated. . There are fascinating insights from his adult children here, and the wealth of documentaries and archival footage serve as a reminder of what a lucid and insightful social commentator he was. But Weide’s personal journey with Vonnegut also provides a valuable and captivating running commentary on the complex power of art and literature to shape and enrich the lives of all they touch.
Revolving around an aging actress (Alice Krige) who uses witchcraft to get belated revenge on the filmmaker (Malcolm McDowell) who abused her as a young ingenue, She goes could have been a savage feminist horror panic if its execution hadn’t been so ridiculously bad. The presence of Dario Argento as executive producer hints at the artfully sinister visual style of artist-turned-filmmaker Charlotte Colbert, but the performances (including a prosthetically-covered Rupert Everett), dramatically inert script, and use of a frame generic Scots as a ready-made signifier of folk terror leaves much to be desired. “It’s the Highlands,” a local intones ominously at one point. “Go alone in the mountains at your own risk!
All films in theaters from July 22