BOOK REVIEW: PAMELA HART – A LETTER FROM ITALY

 

A Letter from Italy is a romantic story that isn’t just ruled by its heart. It’s a novel inspired by Louise Mack, the first female war correspondent who worked during the First World War. It’s a book that shows how a determined and strong journalist negotiates the trials and tribulations of being a woman in a male-dominated industry and also through a time of tumultuous change.

To read the rest of this review please visit the following website: http://magazine.100percentrock.com/reviews/book-reviews/201703/226447

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FILM REVIEW: MISS SLOANE

M3 Jessica Chastain stars in EuropaCorp's "Miss. Sloane". Photo Credit: Kerry Hayes © 2016 EuropaCorp Ð France 2 Cinema

Miss Sloane could be renamed, “Ms Stone.” The film is about an ambitious and icy woman who acts as a lobbyist for a firm that is advocating on behalf of a gun control bill in the States. It’s a tense, political drama with as many power-plays, twists, turns and slights of hand as The Ides of March.

Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) stars as the titular character and really carries this film. She is the ruthless Elizabeth Sloane, a woman who survives on a diet of amphetamines, power, the company of male escorts and cheap Chinese food. Sloane is not a likeable character by any stretch but Chastain gives such an absorbing performance that it is hard for us to turn away.

We meet Miss Sloane as she prepares to plead the Fifth Amendment at a senate ethics hearing. The film then tells her story through a series of flashbacks. It shows how she earned a reputation as a formidable, world-class lobbyist and how she defected from a large agency who won a contract from the gun lobby in order to work at a small boutique firm who were advocating for a gun control bill.

Sloane is a complicated character. She enjoys 3am phone calls to her underlings and the public humiliation of people. She also has no qualms spying on her colleagues and competitors, selling out rats and milking the bleeding heart vote by exposing a colleague (Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Concussion)) as the former victim of a high school-shooting. Yet when Sloane defects from her pro-gun agency to the one supporting gun control, there are at least some questions regarding her motives and whether she is taking a moral stance. Another big question is whether Sloane’s over-confidence and cockiness will mean she misses some important fact or find herself exposed to a blind spot or two.

This film is written by first-time screenwriter, Jonathan Perera and directed by John Madden (this is a serious departure in tone from his previous films, Shakespeare in Love and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.) The supporting cast features Jack Lacy, Mark Strong and John Lithgow who put in rather able performances but are eclipsed by the dynamo work from Chastain. Miss Sloane is quite an eye-opening and detailed political tragicomedy and an exposé of a corrupt system and its steely-eyed and determined participants. This film is ultimately a wild ride with the big boys and one strong woman and a game you can’t help but find yourself getting lost in for the most part.

Review Score: THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

 

Originally published on 01 March 2017 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/film-review-miss-sloane-usa-2016-proves-a-strong-woman-can-play-with-the-big-boys/

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DVD REVIEW: WILD

wild-reese-witherspoon

 

A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step and so too does a journey of 1770 kilometres and one through a path of self-discovery. The latter is also known as Wild or a film that has been adapted from Cheryl Strayed’s best-selling memoir from 2012. One things for certain, this journey is definitely worth the ride.

The film is adapted by Nick Hornby (About A Boy) and directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club, The Young Victoria) who does an excellent job of getting the best performances from his actors. Academy Award recipient, Reese Witherspoon (Walk The Line) stars as Cheryl Strayed and entertains us with her most dramatic role to date. In Wild, her character is a woman who was on a downward spiral into self-destruction (think promiscuity, heroine abuse, lying and divorce) and she makes a rash decision to go hiking in order to find herself.

The hike was of the Pacific Crest Trail and the section that stretches from the United States border with Mexico to its other border with Canada. It’s a gruelling and punishing trek but it’s also one that appears to be very rewarding. In the film we see Strayed travelling through picturesque panoramas, sitting on top of mountain ledges, crossing streams and snow, experiencing the sweltering heat of the desert and negotiating through some arduous wilderness. Cinematographer, Yves Bélanger does a wonderful job here by leaving the surroundings in their raw, natural state with just the sunlight to illuminate things while handycams capture Witherspoon’s dirty, make-up-free face and monstrous pack.

The story of Wild does not just pass the different signposts of the trail. The audience also gets to learn about Strayed’s history and most importantly, her relationship with her mother (who is played by the gorgeous, Laura Dern). Strayed is grieving the loss of this great love and inspirational woman who succumbed to breast cancer at an early age. The memoires and flashbacks add additional weightiness to a film that was already quite poignant.

Wild is a poetic tour de force that is set in the great outdoors. This hiking tale is seamlessly woven with memories about love and childhood and it has the ability to transform and heal its viewers in a better way than Eat Pray Love did. This authentic and complicated reflection is sumptuous and visceral and will leave you feeling like you’ve walked with the characters every step of the way.

Originally published on 18 June 2015 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2015/06/18/dvd-review-wild-usa-2014/

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FILM REVIEW: BELLE

belle

 

The name, Belle brings to mind a beautiful, English rose. But Dido Elizabeth Belle, the real-life woman and beauty at the heart of Amma Asante’s second feature is a little more complicated than that. The illegitimate, mixed-race daughter of a Royal Navy Admiral is sent to live with her distant, aristocratic family at their estate, Kenwood House, after her father is sent away and her mother dies. What ensues is a compelling tale where gender, race, politics, class, ethics and other social conflicts collide.

The year is 1769 and England still employs slaves. It is also the same year that Belle’s adopted father, the First Earl of Mansfield and the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, William Murray (Tom Wilkinson)presides over a landmark, legal case. The Zong massacre was the subject and it saw some 142 slaves die while they were in passage. Some were diseased and would not fetch the appropriate price if they made it to their final destination. Many individuals subsequently drowned and an insurance claim was made for these “lost goods”. It was Murray who had to decide whether this act was a deliberate case of fraud and whether you could put a price on human life.

Belle herself was also forced to grapple with some difficult issues and she is ably played here by the strong, dignified and thoughtful, Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Her real father (Matthew Goode) changed her circumstances in life when he bestowed her upon his wealthy uncle and asked the latter to become her guardian. But she was also forced into a world where she was educated and for all intents and purposes treated like a lady, but her race precluded her from reaping the same benefits as her white cousin and pseudo-sister, Elizabeth Murray (Sarah Gadon).

This slow-burning film really hits its stride when it steers away from Cinderella clichés and stops giving airtime to characters that bear a striking resemblance to some of Jane Austen’s sillier creations (i.e. the ones obsessed with marriage, wealth and little else). Thanks to a stellar cast (which also includes Emily Watson, Miranda Richardson and Sam Reid), Belle manages to get to the heart of the story’s raw and pure emotion and ask the bigger questions. These include Belle’s own enquiries about how a local clergyman can be welcomed to dine at a table where she is not allowed (as she is considered too important to sit with the slaves but not good enough to sit with her own family whenever company is around). There is also the question of whether the heiress, Belle will ever be able to marry a man who is as wealthy as herself.

The story is actually inspired by the 1779 portrait of Dido Elizabeth Belle and her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray. There are few concrete facts known about these two women, which meant that the film’s writer, Misan Sagay was able to cast her own ideas and pure fiction into a broader, historic context for the script. For the most part this works well and it proves an inspirational tale as the oppressed lead character overcomes various impediments before eventually discovering her true place in society. It’s not an easy journey but there are times where it does reach a tense climax. Plus, the film’s biggest strengths are when it gets the opportunity to showcase sumptuous production values, lavish costumes and an all-round glorious design.

Belle is ultimately an emotionally-charged, layered and extraordinary period drama about one strong woman and her family. It manages to retain a beautiful feel and sentimentality, even while dealing with the darker horrors and conflicts of the day. The defiant lead characters prove equally entertaining and inspiring; the secondary love story will make audiences want to cry; and it will ultimately leave people with lots to talk and think about.

 

 

Originally published on 4 May 2014 at the following website: http://iris.theaureview.com/2014/05/04/film-review-belle-uk-2013/

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