From American heroes to international icons, biopics were in abundance in 2016.
Natalie Portman fully inhabits First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy in the hours and days following the assassination of JFK. Hers is a brittle, wounded Jackie, fiercely fighting to protect the legacy of her husband as she struggles inwardly to come to terms with her own grief and, ultimately, her place in the world. The film itself never quite lives up to the powerful performance as its center; it feels hollow and oddly unsympathetic to its subject. (7/10)
There’s no doubt that the “Miracle on the Hudson”, when intrepid airline pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger performed an emergency water landing on the Hudson River with no casualties, was an event filled with drama. Not so much Clint Eastwood’s by-the-numbers biopic. From a villainous crash investigation team to Aaron Eckhart’s pornstache, there’s not a lot of subtlety here. Thankfully, Mr. Everyman Movie Star Tom Hanks is on hand to elevate the material merely by restraint. (6/10)
|And the winner for Best Supporting Facial Hair is...|
…Florence Foster Jenkins:
Like a distaff Ed Wood, delusional opera diva Florence Foster Jenkins has been immortalized for doing something she loved to do really, really badly. Meryl Streep delivers a performance as ripe and plump as the arias she warbles are discordant and shrill, while Hugh Grant is very Hugh Grantish as her devotedly codependent husband. Director Stephen Frears is usually more successful with material such as this (see Mrs. Henderson Presents); this one is repetitive and (sorry) one-note. (6/10)
|Before there was Flo-Jo, there was Flo-Fo.|
In the middle of Mel Gibson’s biography of Desmond Doss, a World War II US Army medic who was the first conscientious objector to be awarded the Medal of Honor, is as good a war movie as any in recent memory, anchored by a shockingly great Andrew Garfield as its lanky hero. Alas, it is bookended by a cornball Americana opening and closed out with Garfield karate chopping grenades out of the air. Oh Mel… (7/10)
|I suppose The Amazing Spider-Man was good for something after all.|
If you’ve heard of TV news reporter Christine Chubbuck, you know more about her tragic death – she committed suicide live on the air in 1974 – than her troubled life. Attempting to fill in the details leading up to her shocking demise proves to be too much for the film though, as we the viewers are as perplexed by her actions as the other characters when the (respectfully done) moment arrives. Rebecca Hall overcomes the script’s shortcomings, capturing Chubbuck’s lonely ambition. (6/10)
|Reflections of a Goldenrod Dinner Jacket|
Imagine being lost in a city unknown to you, separated from your family and unable to communicate. Oh, and your only five years old. This is the incredible but true story of Saroo Brierley, born in India but raised by an adoptive family in Australia who, as a young adult, set out to find his long lost family by using Google Earth. Director Garth Davis, in his feature film debut, creates something unique and special, a quiet epic, a personal odyssey of longing and faith. As Saroo before and after, the casting gods were smiling when they found little Sunny Pawar, and Dev Patel is stunning, finally shedding his Slumdog Millionaire dorkiness for good. Have tissues handy, you’ll need them. (9/10)
|The Lion Sleeps Tonight|
Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.