Friday, August 5, 2016

Reverend's Reviews: All Dressed Up


While hardly a household name today, costume designer Orry-Kelly enjoyed a 40-year Hollywood career that garnered him three Academy Awards and numerous additional nominations. He designed wardrobes for such stars as Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis (with whom he had a particularly lengthy partnership) and Barbara Stanwyk as well as Rosalind Russell's memorable Auntie Mame ensemble.

Orry-Kelly was openly gay at a time when such openness was discouraged by the studios. Still, his star relationships and Oscars for An American in Paris, Les Girls and Some Like It Hot kept him somewhat protected. He also enjoyed a lengthy if closeted romance with one Archibald Leach, better known to the world as Cary Grant.

The designer's life is depicted to generally fabulous effect in Women He's Undressed, now playing theatrically in select cities prior to its VOD/DVD release on August 9th by Wolfe Video. Unexpectedly directed by veteran Australian filmmaker Gillian Armstrong (My Brilliant Career, Mrs. Soffel, the 1994 version of Little Women), it combines vintage film footage with interviews of celebs and film historians as well as dramatized segments featuring Orry-Kelly, played by Darren Gilshenan.

Though Gilshenan's flamboyant performance irritated my husband, I found it enjoyable and its incorporation helps to fill in the subject's less-documented early life Down Under (hence the involvement of his countrywoman, Armstrong). Both the re-enactments and the original footage of Orry-Kelly's work that dominates the second half of the film illustrate his personal and professional significance during a time when Hollywood was deeply, often hypocritically, anti-gay. Women He's Undressed is a must-see for gay viewers and anyone with an interest in classic film.

Two current, female-dominated movies have received mixed responses at the US box office but the women involved are hardly to blame. Ghostbusters, Paul Fieg's remake/reboot of the 1980's blockbusters, finds its lead, mostly SNL-bred quartet overshadowed by a too-familiar script and excessive budget. While Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon shine collectively and individually, this scattershot comedy's grim central plotline -- involving a bullied nerd who intentionally wakens the dead in his quest for revenge -- lacks the original movies' less serious spirit. Runaway special effects also detract from what could have been a lighter, less derivative hoot. Hopefully the virtually guaranteed sequel will do it better.

Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie is a big-screen chapter of the hilarious, long-running British TV series. Jennifer Saunders (who also wrote the screenplay) and Joanna Lumley reprise their performances as wannabe fashionistas Edina (aka Eddie) and Patsy, and its great to find them in as fine form as ever. Virtually all the series' regulars make appearances during the course of a slight story that finds Eddie and Patsy on the lam when Eddie is accused of murdering supermodel Kate Moss. Saunders makes Eddie unnecessarily reflective and serious at a few points, undermining the otherwise amusing goings on. As usual, Lumley pretty much steals the show and ultimately makes the movie worth seeing.

Reverend's Ratings:
Women He's Undressed: A-
Ghostbusters (2016): C+
Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie: B

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film and stage critic of Movie Dearest and Rage Monthly Magazine.