Movie Reviews: ‘Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky,’ ‘Life During Wartime,’ ‘Cyrus’

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky opens with a fleeting glimpse of a youthful Coco Chanel (Anna Mouglalis) battling her corset, a feminine symbol she later trades for a signature style: polished androgyny. Chanel is first exposed to Russian composer Stravinsky’s misunderstood genius at the premiere of The Rite of Spring at Paris’s Théatre des Champs-Elysées. Chanel is instantly smitten with Stravinsky (Mads Mikkelsen), even as she enters the heyday of her renown. At her insistence, he relocates his wife and four small children from a dingy tenement to her picturesque country home. Their romance deepens as Stravinsky’s wife battles tuberculosis and suffers from the strain of her husband’s betrayal. The affair is brief, but director Jan Kounen locates, with magnificent precision, the passion and intensity that forever changed their lives. (June) —Eiseley Tauginas

Winter’s Bone – This year’s winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for dramatic film, Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone is an exploration of human endurance. The drama follows Ree (Jennifer Lawrence), a strong-willed, 17-year-old loner, as she bravely defies her rural community’s code of silence in a quest to hunt down her meth-making, bail bond-ditching father and save her family. Along the way, she battles drugs, moonshine and a bevy of other impoverished mountain life clichés. With restrained direction and subtle, compelling performances from Lawrence and John Hawkes (as her uncle, Teardrop), the film never feels hammy or maudlin. Winter’s Bone is as chilling, saturnine and breathtakingly barren as its title suggests. (June) —Ashley Simpson

Life During Wartime – History haunts the characters in Todd Solondz’s Life During Wartime, the pseudo-sequel to his much-praised 1998 ensemble feature, Happiness. Purists might be perplexed to find that Solondz has recast each role in the new film—Ally Sheedy replaces Lara Flynn Boyle; Allison Janney, Cynthia Stevenson; Shirley Henderson, Jane Adams—but that shouldn’t detract from the thrill of the ride. Life During Wartime highlights the twisted but talented writer-director’s darkly acerbic humor and sideways exploration of upper-class American suburbia. Narrative threads weave in and out of each other as the film’s oddball characters grapple with divorce, newfound romance, pedophilia, mental illness and suicide in a way that is both wry and suffused with pathos. A son’s recrimination of his child-abusing father (Ciarán Hinds in the role once played by Dylan Baker) is simultaneously hilarious and tragic. Darker than night, yes, but absolutely delicious. (July) —Michael Jordan

Cyrus – What can a few million extra bucks buy you in Hollywood? Well, John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei and Jonah Hill, for starters. And that’s all Mumblecore grads Jay and Mark Duplass need to elevate Cyrus from a quaint indie flick into a highly watchable, slightly warped romantic comedy. It’s the Duplass Brothers’ first film with major studio backing, and besides a crisper stock and wider release, it’s got their distinct mark, all embarrassing moments and start-stop dialogue. Cyrus takes its name from Hill’s character, whose Oedipal relationship with his mother, Molly (a radiant Tomei), stands as the primary obstacle to her finding happiness with glum divorcé John (Reilly). The rivalry between the two man-children, as they battle for Molly’s affections, is at once hilarious, unsettling and truthful. (June) —Ben Barna

“Don’t You (Forget About Me)”: John Hughes’ Beauties

Iconic ‘80s director John Hughes died yesterday at the tender age of 59. Hughes did more than make great movies. He emboldened a generation to let their freak flags fly, and made sure all of us angsty teen girls knew there is more than one way to be cool, loved, and beautiful — and that even the pretty girls have bad days.

We can credit Hughes with launching the notable careers of Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy, among others, whose roles in Sixteen Candles (1984) and The Breakfast Club (1985) defined and redefined the teenage experience. Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter yesterday, Ben Stein had this to say: “He made a better connection with young people than anyone in Hollywood had ever made before or since.” Stein, who played the monotone economics teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, also said, “He was to them what Shakespeare was to the Elizabethan Age.” And so he was.

Of the many characters Hughes created that just got me, it was Ally Sheedy as consummate dirty-haired outsider Allison Reynolds that first drew me in and made me feel like I wasn’t so hopeless. I loved her pre- and post-makeover (though it would have been a little cooler if she got the hot jock in all her goth glory). More than 20 years later, Hughes’ films continue to be the standard against all which teen movies are compared; his outsiders, his freaks, and his beauties are timeless characters that we’ll never forget.