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Bones and All Review | The Cannibal Mystery Tour

NYFF: Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell star in Luca Guadagnino’s heartfelt cannibal film.

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Why 2022 has become the year of cannibalism is well beyond me. Earlier in the year, we witnessed Daisy Edgar-Jones’ breakout performance in Fresh (which is streaming on Hulu now), and later this month, The Menu comes out; which apparently isn’t about “having friends for dinner,” but I’ll wait to confirm that until I’ve seen the film myself. And now entering the fray is Bones and All, a new film starring Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell, who’s far better here than the Escape Room film from last year would suggest (see what a film committed to making its actors shine does?) as two drifters who are the kind to have “friends for dinner” and they go on a self-discovery road trip across the midwest. 

As someone who appreciated Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name — this is not an endorsement of its subject matter — I was excited for Bones and All. It is perhaps a bit ironic considering the subject matter and someone in Call Me By Your Name (I’ll let you decipher that), but let me tell you at the door before you enter: Bones and All is not for those with a light stomach.

Director Luca Guadagnino on the set of Bones and All, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film. Credit: Yannis Drakoulidis / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures © 2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Maren (Russell) has an insatiable appetite to bite the flesh off of others. Bones and All pulls no punches from the very start (within 10 minutes she’s invited over to a friend’s and lets her urges get the best of her). We quickly learn that this is not a one-time thing and has likely been happening since she was three. Her father has adapted to a drifter lifestyle as much one can — as evident in the way he is able to quickly pack up and leave for another state after this particular occurrence. But this is the last straw (or bone) and Maren’s father leaves her with all of the essentials: a small stack of cash, a birth certificate and tape recordings. So naturally, Maren sets off on a Cannibal Mystery Tour across the Midwest while listening to her tapes and discovering the 13 reasons why she craves flesh (okay, it’s not 13). Along the way, she meets a wide range of interesting people, to say the least. 

Russell carries the film’s emotional weight as a girl trying to find herself. It sounds cliché, but put yourself into the shoes of Maren under these circumstances. Maren has also never met her mother, but as many films with similar stories go, you should never meet your heroes (maybe “hero” is too strong of a word in this case). There’s a scene in a medical facility that is just brilliant and Guadagnino shows that he understands how to turn up the dial with tension on the drop of a hat.

In the past year, Mark Rylance has gone from animatronic Elon Musk-type in Don’t Look Up to a tailor for a Chicago mob family in The Outfit — one of this year’s finest and streaming on Peacock — and has now combined the two with his performance in Bones and All. Rylance plays Sullivan, make sure to call him Sully, who is the first checkpoint along Maren’s journey. Sporting a long ponytail — he also has a ponytail that gets a bee one added with each victim. I believe it was in her pit stop in Columbus, Ohio, where she is tracked down at the Greyhound station by Sully. 

But fear not! Sully has morals. “Eaters don’t eat friends,” mutters Rylance with this every southern accent that gives you chills. It’s an unsettling performance that garnered a number of laughs and applause from the audience.

Speaking of performances that garner laughs and applause, Michael Stuhlbarg appears in the film completely unbeknownst to me and is given the chance to chew up the scenery. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and now Bones and All make Stuhlbarg 2-for-2 this year with screenings where there were cheers upon his arrival. Disclaimer: His presence can be found on the IMDB page for the film, I was just unaware. Stuhlbarg’s performance in his short cameo is perhaps even more unsettling than Rylance’s, but his presence was met with applause from the audience and you’d think John Krasinski just showed up as one of the Fantastic Four! Jokes aside, Stuhlbarg is not here to give a fireside fatherly chat, that’s for sure. This put a smile on everyone’s face, including my own, and really breathed life into the film just as it was beginning to grow tired. He even gets to deliver the titular line. 

And Chalamet cannot go unmentioned for his performance as Lee. Simply put, Bones and All isn’t his story as much as Call Me By Your Name was. But Chalamet makes up for that in any scene he’s in. He represents another type of drifter and you see the humanity continue to come out of him as the film progresses. It’s also just great to see him play an eccentric character like he also did in Don’t Look Up (no prayer here, though). Everyone knows this, but Chalamet is just one of those actors who’s evolving right before our eyes, and this is yet another great performance under his belt. 

One last warning: Don’t go into Bones and All on a full stomach. I’m absolutely flabbergasted by the fact that anyone could sit and eat popcorn during this film, yet nearly everyone in the extremely full theater was chewing something. It’s the fact that you graphically see flesh being eaten that’ll make anyone with a light stomach hurl. Generally speaking, I’ve got a good tolerance for that type of stuff, yet Bones and All pushed me to my limit.

Director Luca Guadagnino on the set of Bones and All, a Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures film. Credit: Yannis Drakoulidis / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures © 2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. All Rights Reserved.

But Bones and All cuts deeper than just its three courses of Russell, Chalamet and Rylance. It deals with the concepts of loneliness and the morality of the cannibals’ actions. And at its core, Bones and All is a lovey story, albeit a bit unconventional. The relationship that blossoms between Maren and Lee reminded me of the relationship between George MacKay and Lily-Rose Depp’s characters in Wolf last year. In both instances, the characters are under unique circumstances and are “lone wolves” for lack of a better term. The duos find comfort with each other and there’s beauty in that.

The way in which Bones and All is able to change its tone from a dramatic scene to a more comedic one and then into a horror scene is both a strength and a weakness. I mentioned early a scene in a medical facility, which is the most effective example of this change of tone. And quite honestly, for the majority of the time, it works. However, the third act of Bones and All goes for a big, emotional ending that but chooses an odd way to get from A to B. The tone in this particular scene really diverts from the tone of the rest of the film. It’s an effective jumpscare, I’ll give it that, but it could have been worked into the story a bit cleaner so it wouldn’t be such an odd change of pace. And there clearly was a plan in mind for where the film wanted to end — and I think that this plane sticks the landing — it was just an odd means to that end.

Guadagnino is one of the great working directors and should be credited for bringing original stories to the silver screen. Bones and All may not have worked on every level for me, but the performances are all great and the film is really supplemented by its supporting characters. Notice how these supporting characters, whom you could even call cameos in some cases, actually enhance the film rather than being a cheap way to get audiences to clap like an MCU film? Bones and All manages to accomplish both with great supporting actors that mean something to the overall film. I must admit, I’m very impressed that Guadagnino found a way to integrate such a personal and oddly touching romance. Was Bones and All my cup of tea and will I be rewatching it any time soon? Not exactly, but it’s another hit for one of the best working directors today.

Bones and All held its world premiere in Venice on September 2 and will be released in theaters on November 23.

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Andrew is an entertainment journalist and film "critic" who has written for the likes of Above the Line, Below the Line, Collider, Film Focus Online, /Film and The Hollywood Handle among others. Leader of the Kaitlyn Dever Fanclub.

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The Fabelmans Review | For the Love of Movies

Leave it to Steven Spielberg to make the best entry in the “kid who loves movies” subgenre.

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It’s funny, it feels as though the “kid who loves movie biopic” trope has become a subgenre of sorts in recent years. I think in my mind, the likes of Belfast — a film that isn’t about a love for cinema — and Hugo — a film about a love for cinema — and Empire of LIght — which seems to be a film about a love for cinema — have overlapped. Sure, I know they are different, but it feels like every filmmaker aspires to make a film loosely based on their life and that really laments the fact they do indeed love cinema. Steven Spielberg’s addition to the genre, The Fabelmans, very well could be the best of them all but is not without its flaws. Do I understand the complete critical acclaim and most calling it a Best Picture shoo-in? I understand it, yes. The Fabelmans is the perfect critical darling about one of cinema’s most influential filmmakers yet it’s like Rolling Stone reviewing a Paul McCartney album. Will they give a negative review to one of the world’s greatest musicians? Hell no. The Fablemans isn’t as bad as McCartney’s worst album, but I also struggle to completely get on board with the notation that this is the best film of the year. 

“Movies are a dream, doll — you’ll never forget them,” promises Mitzi (Michelle Williams) in an effort to calm her anxious young son who’s about to enter a movie theater for the first time. As they say, your mother is always right, and after Sammy Fabelman (played by Mateo Zoryon Francis-DeFord in his younger years and Gabrielle LaBelle in his teenage years) is taken to the cinema for the first time by his parents Mitzi and Burt (Paul Dano), his fascination with the art of filmmaking intensifies. Like a young child before they can speak, he just has a hard time expressing that. He watches The Greatest Show on Earth and the sequence where a train crashes into a car lingers in his mind well after the reel stops playing. This leads to an obsession until he receives some toy trains for Hannekah and it’s not until he films it that he finds some catharsis. 

A still from The Fabelmans. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

And Sammy has talent, wouldn’t you know! From his early days of filming his toy trains, he also exhibits a Roger Deakins-like ability to capture images on film. This continues into his formative teenage years, bringing joy and pride to his entire family as they watch the evolution of his craftsmanship at every boy scout meeting. 

But like real life, there is a world outside of movies. Sammy’s parents, after initially settling in Phoenix, move to northern California where the Fabelmans are outcasts in the land of giants. Sammy is picked on by a group of jocks and it’s a miserable experience. Add to the fact Sammy holds onto a secret involving his mother and his “uncle” Bennie — who is not really part of the family and is only at family gatherings because he “works for” Burt, according to his mother.

All that critics have talked about are the performances of Williams and LaBelle. They’re both great — especially the former — but why are we overlooking Dano and Francis-DeFord? Considering that most of Dano’s roles consist of him breathing funny and whimpering in his speech, it’s weird to see him in such a humane role. It’s like seeing Tim Roth in films like Reservoir Dogs and The Hateful Eight and then watching him play a screenwriter in Bergman Island. It’s truly remarkable. Francis-DeFord is just adorable as a younger Sammy and I wish we had gotten even more of him before advancing a few years. See the still below to catch a glimpse of the anxiety on his face while watching his mother watch one of his films. If you are close to your mother, you’ve likely had a similar moment at some point.

A still from The Fabelmans. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Williams is the emotional anchor of the film and is great on her own and in her scenes with LaBelle. As her life continues to derail along with her mental stability, Williams adds empathy to the character despite some shitty actions her character commits. Maybe it’s the “mama’s boy” in me but my heart just melted seeing her reactions to Sammy’s films, the pride and joy her son’s hobby — sorry, passion — brought her. 

I know that we all love Rogen, but he’s surprisingly good in the film. Don’t fret, his signature laugh makes its way into the film on a handful of occasions, but despite shitty actions much like Mitzi, you can’t completely despise Bennie. Something about Rogen’s aura and connection with the Fabelman kids feels in line with that family friend whom you call your uncle. Bennie’s also the “cool uncle” who overshadows Burt at every point. Whether intentional or not, we all know how it feels to constantly be pushed down by your good friend yet you still can’t give them up.

It’s also great to see Once Upon a Time in Hollywood scene-stealer Julia Butters in another role. She plays Reggie Fabelman, one of Sammy’s sisters, and it’s a great way of getting back on track after starring in The Gray Man (which is essentially shooting yourself in the foot). She has quite a turbulent relationship with Sammy and is always there to stick up for her mother when Sammy is being harsh.

A still from The Fabelmans. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Ironically, towards the end of what feels like the end of the film, Burt says to Sammy, “We’ve gone too far into our story to say ‘the end.’” The Fabelmans feels like it has finally reached its natural catharsis and while it always kept my attention up to this point, I felt we had emotionally peaked. Unfortunately for me, the film then proceeds to go on for another 15 minutes to utilize an admittedly great cameo from David Lynch that is equal parts brilliant and unnecessary. This epilogue wasn’t enough to completely sour my thoughts on the film but it did leave a bad taste in my mouth.

My biggest complaint, however, is with one particular bit in the film. Most of the humor in The Fabelmans was fine, but I want to preface this by saying that I think there are some tasteful ways of taking digs at Christians — just look at Honk for Jesus or The Eyes of Tammy Faye — but there’s a bit in The Fabelmans revolving around Sammy’s first girlfriend, Monica (Chloe East) that just didn’t land for me. I’m not posing as a “Holier than thou” Christian — I’m far from a practicing Christian — but there’s a recurring bit revolving around the term “praying” being used as an innuendo for kissing. Sounds harmless enough, right? The issue comes in the actual portrayal of Monica, which is reduced down to a caricature of a “Jesus freak” more than anything else. So yeah, Monica prays, she wishes for the Lord to “come inside her,” but it’s not until Sammy asks the Lord to “come inside him” that they can kiss. Again, I’m not saying Christians should be immune to jokes as they have been for years, but this bit felt weirdly out of place considering the fact that Monica acts relatively normal in any other scene. To her credit, East goes for it all.

A still from The Fabelmans. Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures.

There’s an intrinsic magic within the confines of the 150-minute runtime of The Fabelmans and you just know you’re witnessing something special. Spielberg is one of the most influential figures in all of cinema, and while I may not be the world’s biggest Jaws or E.T. fan, this is a filmmaker that brought the Indiana Jones series to life and made my childhood. Perhaps this is why I’m lenient enough to ignore some of the cliches in The Fabelmans. I also found that Spielberg subverts expectations in his own subtle ways. For example, Sammy gets bullied by the jocks — namely Sam Rechner’s character — but Spielberg found a way to subvert expectations in this cliched subplot. It’s not that Spielberg completely flips the expected outcome on its head. Rather, he finds a new route to get the characters to the same endpoint most of these coming-of-age films come to. That final scene between LaBelle and Rechner is admittedly great and this is where I really would have liked the film to commence

While this subgenre of “directors making movies about loving movies” is on the verge of becoming cliche, I think Spielberg’s message of creative expression and doing what you want is valuable. The Fabelmans isn’t perfect, and I fear its reputation will become tainted in the coming months should it be the Oscar front-runner everyone expects. As of now, it’s the perfect Thanksgiving film for you and your family and as vulnerable as a filmmaker of Spielberg’s stature will be.


The Fabelmans is playing in select theaters now.

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The Wonder Review | Florence Pugh Carries a Film That Leaves You Hungry For More

The film hits Netflix this Friday.

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There haven’t been many films with a viewing experience as frustrating as The Wonder, a new film starring one of the world’s finest actors, Florence Pugh. The Wonder is a film that has practically everything going for it from solid performances, amazing behind-the-camera and a plot that sounds interesting on paper, yet, something’s missing. Perhaps due to pacing or runtime issues, it’s truly a wonder (I’ll see myself out) that I didn’t fall asleep during this film. 

Opening with a spinning shot in what appears to be a rehearsal space for a stage production, The Wonder quickly brings us back in time as Lib Wright (Pugh), a young nurse, is sent to a small village in Ireland to watch over a young girl who hasn’t eaten in months (four, to be exact). 

This girl, Anna (Kíla Lord Cassidy), and her entire family swear on the fact that she has not eaten anything since communion in church four months prior to the events of the film (those thin wafers smack, to be fair). However, one thing leads to another, a journalist gets involved, and above all else, Lib begins having suspicions that this miraculous case is closer to a scam that is well short of a miracle as big as The Second Coming.  

But if only it was that easy! Lib tries her best to plead her case to the committee that placed her on this case to no avail. From there, she’s basically gaslit until taking matters fully into her own hands. 

There’s no better place to start than the below-the-line work on this film. The cinematography beautifully captures this dreary island in Ireland in an oddly similar fashion to The Banshees of Inisherin. The film also appears to be shot on film — or my stream was buffering that much — and features an ethereal score composed by Matthew Herbert. The set and costume design is simply wonderful. All of the behind-the-scenes work is a large part of why any part of the film works. There’s such simplicity in all of it, but there are qualities that make a film about a girl on an infinite fast seem grounded. The craftwork also goes a long way in making the film feel like a part of the time era and pulling you into it. The film supposedly takes place in 1862, and aside from the opening and closing shot (which ties the opening in a neat bow), there’s no doubt that this film takes place in that time period. It’s truly amazing how great the sets and costumes look; and I love the subtlety of visual cues such as the line of the table, perfectly placed in the center of the frame, lining up perfectly with the line on Lib’s dress. It’s such a small detail that Wes Anderson fans would likely appreciate with all of the perfect symmetry found in his films. 

A still from The Wonder. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

And Pugh is expectedly the standout of the film that does a majority of the hard carrying. However, Kíla (her real-life mother, Elaine Cassidy, plays her mother in the film as well) also holds her in. Specifically, there is a scene where Anna really opens up and shares a traumatic experience with her brother with Lib. While the camera does shift between Anna and Lib throughout the scene, Kíla really delivers a heart-wrenching monologue a la Rebecca Hall in Resurrection. There’s little to no score in the background, so the weight of the scene is really on Kíla’s shoulders; who knocks it out of the park.

This traumatic experience also blows the film’s most intriguing theme wide open. This idea of Christian guilt and the morality of Christian worldviews. For the sake of spoilers, I won’t reveal the contents of Anna’s story. What I will say, however, is that what happens would be considered “unethical” in any religion. But because of the fact that Anna is a girl, there are certain expectations placed and she’s seen as a disappointment as a result. Does someone really deserve to die when they are the victim? This moral conflict that mixes misogyny and religion together is by far the most interesting thing presented in the film. If only it delved deeper into it. 

A still from The Wonder. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

As the film progresses, Anna’s condition worsens — especially after Lib catches on to one potential theory that would explain how Anna can live for all of this time. It’s no secret that it’d take a miracle big enough to feed five thousand to be able to live off of no food for a third of a year, and once Lib begins sniffing around, Anna begins to get worse. As a nurse, what do you do? Generally, your mission is to serve and aid your patient. In Lib’s case, her mission was the watch over Anna with little interference. Strange, right? 

The Wonder has an intriguing premise and is well-crafted. Its biggest faults come in the pacing of the film, which makes it a slog to get through it. Pugh and Cassidy are a great pairing and both give good performances, but the film is far from memorable otherwise. Ultimately, the lack of movement in the plot will leave you hungry for more. 


The Wonder is in select theaters now and is streaming on Netflix now.

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Apple TV+

Spirited Review | An Instant Christmas Classic

A festive must watch packed with a star studded cast, gut busting humor and catchy musical numbers.

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It’s not very often a brand new Christmas movie becomes an instant classic, but here comes Spirited offering all the festive magic you could wish for and more.

Spirited comes with a wholly fresh and original story despite the infamous material it’s based upon. Stacked with a stellar cast, gut busting jokes and catchy tunes, Spirited is a Christmas movie that deserves a watch every Christmas season.

A musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ beloved A Christmas Carol, Spirited follows the Ghost of Christmas Present (Will Ferrel) who attempts to redeem an unredeemable (Ryan Reynolds).

Courtesy of Apple

It’s safe to say that there is no shortage of A Christmas Carol adaptations, from the classic 1951 A Christmas Carol, to Bill Murray’s Scrooged and even one involving the Muppets (my favorite). Spirited decides to take the familiar Charles Dickens tale and turn it on its head, making the film feel completely fresh and original despite the material it’s based upon, and results in an adaptation that is easily among the best.

Delivering a story that is so refreshing, Spirited excels in its own original plot, making each twist and turn feel earned and truly unpredictable. These twists are brilliantly executed, and are undeniably impactful. Forcing audiences jaws to drop to the floor as well as hitting them right in the feels in some very emotional moments that are sure to make audiences tear up.

The comedy is pitch perfect, each joke is hilarious and are expertly executed by the film’s cast. The musical numbers are just as funny as they are lavish, excelling the films comedy. Spirited all in all comes together to deliver one of the funniest Christmas ever.

Courtesy of Apple

Ryan Reynolds and Will Ferrel are unsurprisingly dynamite on screen. Hilariously bouncing back and forth from each other whilst also hitting on all the emotional moments that will be sure to make you shed a tear or two. When you put two brilliant comedic actors, possibly two of the best in the genre on screen together what else could you expect. Similarly, the rest of the supporting cast is brilliant with Octavia Spencer once again showing the world why she is one of the best in the business.

Spirited offers many catchy songs, of which you will find yourself singing or humming along too long after the film has finished. The musical numbers are big, exciting and infectious, that are excelled by the cast, who all deliver surprisingly brilliant singing voices. I know I will be adding each song to my playlist.

All in all, Spirited is a must see Christmas film that is sure to become an instant classic. Offering a new and genius take on Dickens beloved tale, packed with gut busting humor, catchy musical numbers and a stellar cast.

https://youtu.be/tnAJntI3NNs

Spirited release on Apple TV+ this Friday, 18th November.

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