Monday, July 24, 2017

William Oldroyd's LADY MACBETH expands to South Florida theaters (and elsewhere)

Clearly setting most critics aflame with its rather eerie-if-cornball combo of sex and violence coupled to concerns of class, race, patriarchy and the use of power, LADY MACBETH, the first full-length film to be directed by legit theater fellow, William Oldroyd, and adapted by Alice Birch (from an original story by Nicolai Leskov), turns out to be an interesting enough look at the above themes, if finally a fairly shallow and and not very trenchant exploration of them. What begins as a low-key and unsettling view of the life of an oddly-if-interestingly "abused" young woman, who is sold into marriage, slowly and equally quietly evolves into a tale of revenge, unbridled lust and multiple murder.

It's all quite fun. And ugly. The former for awhile, the latter throughout. This is as much due to the ability of Mr. Oldroyd (the filmmaker is shown at left) and his cinematographer Ari Wegner to compose the frame -- while using lighting and color in such clever ways that, at times, you might think you were viewing a Vermeer -- as to the fine acting from his new-found star, Florence Pugh, shown above and below, who handles herself with surprising precision and resolve.

The remainder of Oldroyd's cast fills the bill nicely, too. The characters here are inseparable from their time period and place: a 19th Century rural England in which patriarchy rules all with a nastily iron hand and not a trace of any glove, velvet or otherwise.

Therefore our "heroine," Katherine, finds herself trapped in a not-only loveless marriage, but one in which she is ordered about like chattel and expected to act as servant in almost as many respects as the household's actual servants, which include a maid or two and the male workers on her husband and father-in-law's estate. (In fact, all of them seem to have more freedom than does our poor Katherine.)

As we witness her ordeal, our sympathy goes out to the young bride again and again, until at last she takes the reins and proves so powerful, vicious and unstoppable that a certain amount of credibility flies out the window, even as the behavior of others so conforms to her needs that events grow a tad too coincidental for comfort. (That's Cosmo Jarvis, above, right, who plays the hot young hired hand with whom Kathrine falls in lust.)

By the bleak finale, we're left to consider the uses and abuses of power, as well as a hierarchy that places the while male in charge and the white female next in line, with the servant class far down the chart, and those servants of color on the very bottom rung (at which point they seem all too willing to sacrifice themselves silently, if not gladly). Yes, it's fun times.

Is this the way of the world back then? What about now? How much has changed? All these questions bubble to the surface over the course of the film, and that bubbling proves just fine. I only wish the movie did not seem quite so cast in stone, with each character and/or event offering nary a surprise along the way. Lady Macbeth is powerful all right, but as quiet, elegant and precise as is Oldroyd/Birch's adaptation, it's also sledge-hammer obvious.

From Roadside Attractions and running a sleek 89 minutes, the movie -- after opening in major cities around the country -- hits South Florida (and elsewhere) this Friday. In our area, look for it in Miami at the AMC Aventura 24Regal South Beach 18 and The Landmark at Merrick Park . In Fort Lauderdale it opens at The Classic Gateway Theatre, and in West Palm Beach at the AMC CityPlace 20, and in Boca Raton at the Living Room Theaters and Regal Shadowood 16, and at The Movies of Delray. On August 4, The Movies of Lake Worth will be added to this mix.

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