Movie Diary 2/28/2021

The Father (Florian Zeller, 2020). I confess I lazily assumed this was some kind of squaresville, old-fashioned awards bait, probably a realistic drama about the toll of dementia in a family. It is not that. Rather, it’s a very precisely-written, terribly sad chamber piece, featuring fine supporting work by Olivia Colman, Olivia Williams, Imogen Poots, and Rufus Sewell. In the central role, Anthony Hopkins brings a lifetime of skill and experience to a performance that looks to me like a perfect example of British technical prowess with American directness of feeling; it is not a naturalistic performance, but an actor thinking things through and presenting his sculpted account of an observed life. A career role, in short.

The United States vs. Billie Holiday (Lee Daniels, 2020). Andra Day is sharp in the title part, and so are her vocals – sounding just enough like Holiday to keep us rooted in the biography, but strong enough on her own to make the music come to life. The rest of the movie is a jumble that looks exactly like what you’d expect from what used to be called cable-TV.

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