(R; 134 minutes; Open Road): That Edward Snowden stole thousands of secret U.S. government documents is beyond dispute. History will litigate whether he was a hero or a traitor for having done so and then disclosing those secrets to the world.
What Oliver Stone’s “Snowden” does is present a portrait of a complex man. At the start, he’s a proud, committed patriot who sought to join Army Special Forces to fight in Iraq after 9/11. But he gradually grows disillusioned when, as an employee first at the CIA and later working for the National Security Agency, he becomes intimately involved with the inner workings of massive covert surveillance programs used to spy on allied nations abroad and U.S. citizens at home.
That character arc ties this movie tightly to two of Stone’s best: “Platoon” and “Born on the Fourth of July” — a young man’s loss of innocence in the midst of a moral quagmire being at the heart of each. That makes Stone exactly the right director to bring Snowden’s story to the big screen.
The production values are first-rate — Stone’s movies are always very good-looking — and the finely shaded performance of Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the lead role is a revelation.
Gordon-Levitt carries the movie, and without flash or overt dramatics, overshadows everyone else in it, including Shailene Woodley. She plays his liberal-minded girlfriend who leads him to question his right-leaning mindset.
Contains language and some sexuality/nudity. Seattle Times
(R; 118 minutes; Amazon/Broad Green): Don’t let the Merchant-Ivory-ish title and the highbrow cred of its star Kate Winslet fool you: “The Dressmaker” is no corset-tightening display of manners.
Aussie director Jocelyn Moorhouse’s first feature in nearly 20 years is, rather, a rowdy Down Under prodigal-daughter saga. Due to Winslet’s design-savvy seamstress character, it features a wardrobe full of colorful frocks clinging to even more colorful characters, all set against dusty, eccentric Australian provincialism. But what starts as a cheeky lark about bad reputations and snazzy transformations never really gels into something truly funny or even appetizingly weird.
When perfectly coiffed and white-gloved Myrtle “Tilly” Dunnage (Winslet) arrives in her remote hometown of Dungatar late one night with a Singer sewing machine, lit cigarette, and “I’m back, you bastards” entrance line, you sense you’re in for something that should be scored by a Leone-era Ennio Morricone, rather than your typical local-girl-makes-good scenario.
With steadfast determination she moves in to the possum-infested hovel at the top of the hill to look after her mother, dubbed Mad Molly (the haggishly charming, delightfully chewy Judy Davis), an ill-tempered, infirm heap who seems to not remember who Tilly is but knows she’s bad news.
But “The Dressmaker” quickly wears out its welcome. A right turn into straight-faced tragedy feels like a desperate stab at stakes-raising, after which it drags on for another half-hour of suddenly dark and bloody vengeance that literally scorches the movie’s already shaky ground. It’s one thing to smile in lieu of laughing, but “The Dressmaker” isn’t sturdy enough to treat its tone like a costume to be changed at will.
Contains brief language and a scene of violence. Los Angeles Times
Also out Dec. 27
- “American Honey”
- “In a Valley of Violence”
- “When the Bough Breaks”
- “Ray Donovan: Season 4”
- “Versailles: Season 1”