I love a matinee double feature.
Living in Copenhagen for a few months is energizing and expensive. It’s exciting to be in a new place, and there is much to recommend the way of life here.
Although many things are new to me here, which gives me an opportunity to stretch and to see myself in a different way, one part of my routine at home remains the same while I am living across the Atlantic Ocean.
Yes, I’m still going to the movies, and most of the notable (and not so notable but popular) Hollywood films screen in cinemas around town, if sometimes on a bit of a delay.
Friday I decided to rest my legs a bit (since I walk most places, including my hour-long daily commute to work I have to do that sometimes) at a multiplex in the city center while watching Darkest Hour and I, Tonya, two films that left me wanting a little more.
I have been a fan of Gary Oldman’s for over twenty years, since Sid and Nancy and Prick Up Your Ears. He is a huge talent, and his performance is strong here, too.
Unfortunately, I found myself disengaged from the film.
I have enjoyed and even admired some of director Joe Wright’s other films, Pride and Prejudice and, especially, Anna Karenina, but–like another of his movies, Atonement–Wright’s films never feel of a whole for me.
With Darkest Hour, I didn’t feel that I came away from the experience with much besides having seen Oldman’s highly-touted performance as Winston Churchill and lots of bird’s-eye-view shots that never quite worked for me thematically or aesthetically.
Darkest Hour feels simultaneously overly constructed and underdeveloped, which results in a lack of authenticity that I could not overcome.
Throughout the film, I kept thinking of the first season of The Crown and how much more I was drawn into those stories and, perhaps because of the other elements, mesmerized by John Lithgow’s depiction of Churchill.
During my second feature, I, Tonya, I was a bit more involved but still kept thinking of another film, this time Battle of the Sexes, that served me better as a biopic because of the interiority conveyed in it for Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carrell).
I’m still thinking about Battle of the Sexes months after seeing it, and I doubt that I’ll have the same lasting connection to I, Tonya–unlike my enduring interest in director Craig Gillespie’s earlier (quirky) film, Lars and the Real Girl.
It’s not that there’s anything specifically wrong with I, Tonya.
Margot Robbie (as Tonya Harding), Sebastian Stan (Jeff Gillooly), Allison Janney (LaVona Golden), Julianne Nicholson (Diane Rawlinson) and Paul Walter Hauser (Shawn) are all pretty terrific.
Gillespie uses the structure of the story and visual style of the film to create a glib, tabloid approach that marks the tone of the story as it unfolds.
So far as it goes, that is an appropriate choice.
The key for me is “so far as it goes.” I want something more. It’s fine for that glibness to comprise the superficial surface layer–like an ice rink after the Zamboni has resurfaced it–but I wanted the blade on the skate to cut a little deeper into the ice at some points.
There are times when the film hints at that depth with juxtapositions, such as when Tonya says something in one of the interviews that is contradicted in a sequence, but as a whole, the film does not cohere for me in a way that leaves me satisfied.
It is striking that I saw two very different films on the same afternoon–different in tone, time period, gravity, and so on–but that I had similar issues with each of them.
In order to feel a deeper emotional connection, I wanted something more from both films.