This week's films reviewed; Book Club, My Friend Dahmer and Ismael's Ghosts

 
James Luxford
Book Club
3.0

Straight from the Hollywood cliché factory, this sex comedy follows four friends (Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Candice Bergen, Mary Steenburgen) whose stalling love lives are reinvigorated when their monthly book club covers Fifty Shades of Grey.There’s nothing particularly surprising about how it’s filmed or where it goes. It’s a comfy rom-com in the style of Fonda’s Netflix series Grace and Frankie, another comedy about getting your groove back.

It handles the subject of sex as maturely as a Carry On film, filled with gratuitous visual gags and tedious double entendres.The cross section of the stars’ situations (divorced, widowed, never married, and stuck in a rut) is one of several conveniences that collude to tie everything up neatly over the course of 90 minutes. However, the class acts in front of the camera at least partially make up for the lack of originality.Despite the light material, the four legendary actors make the PG sex humour feel endearing, even fresh. Their timing is impeccable, their chemistry genuine.

There’s a simple, relatable empathy to their performances, foregrounding the message that everyone needs love, regardless of age. The older male stars don’t have much to do other than appear in doorways looking suave, but in an industry so focused on the male gaze it’s a refreshing change to stick to a female perspective.You won’t find many films as typically “Hollywood” as Book Club. However, thanks to an accomplished cast, it hits familiar notes in a satisfying way.

My Friend Dahmer
****

The early years of Jeffrey Dahmer are dramatised in disturbing fashion in this film that charts the beginnings of what would make him an infamous killer.Presenting his story as a nightmarish high school drama, director Marc Meyers neither condemns nor condones his protagonist, instead observing moments that may have contributed to his actions. A group of teens befriend him to pull humiliating stunts in public, warning how the irresponsibility of children can inflict lasting and significant damage. Dahmer’s home life is also slowly destroyed by his unstable mother (a brilliant Anne Heche), eliciting a trace of sympathy for the killer-in-waiting.While no-one could have predicted what came next, Meyers does a great job of showing how a disturbed life can evolve unchecked by society

Ismael's Ghosts
***

Former Disney star Ross Lynch transforms himself in the title role. Staring intensely through large glasses, everything in his physicality telegraphs that something isn’t right. He switches from vulnerable to menacing with little discernible change, and is downright frightening in the film’s dimly lit finale. Jumanji star Alex Wolff is also terrific as the ring leader of The Jeffrey Dahmer Fan Club, who draw grim amusement from their classmate.While My Friend Dahmer undoubtedly benefits from the shadow of foreboding, the unsettling drama succeeds as a psychological assessment of what it takes to make a murderer.Former Bond villain Mathieu Amalric plays a film maker whose relationship is rocked

when his wife (Marion Cotillard) returns after disappearing without trace 21 years previously.Had the film stuck to that simple premise, the prospects could have been high. Sadly, too much needless information is crammed in, distracting from the main conceit and giving you the sensation of eavesdropping into several conversations taking place at once. Where the film succeeds is in Cotillard’s performance, which has both realistic and supernatural elements. There is a fascinating story hiding beneath all that Gallic self indulgence.In the end, Arnaud Desplechin’s movie is too long and too opaque to be special, but as an enigma to pick apart, it will appeal to a certain kind of fastidious cinema-goer.

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