Robert Tanitch reviews the latest DVDs
Gifted (Fox Searchlight Pictures). A single man (likeable Chris Evans) is raising his dead sister’s 7-year-old daughter (Mackenzie Grace) who is a mathematical genius. The question is how should a prodigy be educated and who should have custody of the child? Should the girl, as her grandmother (Lindsay Duncan) argues, be taught in an environment in keeping with her genius or should she be taught in the local primary school like any a normal little girl? Granny is willing to take her son to court. There is another question. Should the girl’s guardian be having sex with the girl’s teacher (Jenny Slate)?
I Am Not Your Negro (Altitude). Raoul Peck’s documentary will be of interest to anybody interested in Civil Rights. The script is by James Baldwin (1924-1986), author, playwright, civil rights activist, who was an eloquent orator and talked about the American black experience in a crisp, succinct and calm manner. He was intelligent and highly articulate. His face was animated (especially his eyes) and he had a beautiful voice. There is some excellent footage of him on US TV and when he was at Cambridge University Union debating that the American Dream is for whites only “I am not a nigger,” said Baldwin. “I am a man.” The undergraduates gave him a long standing ovation.
The Final Portrait (Vertigo). The artist is Alberto Giacometti, famed for his skeletal sculpture. The sitter is an American art critic, James Lord. The setting is the artist’s chaotic studio in Paris in 1964. Lord has to keep delaying his return home because Giacometti is full of self-doubt. The more he works on a picture the more impossible it becomes for him to finish it. He constantly paints over the portrait. Obsessed with a prostitute, he pays her pimp a fortune for her services as model and whore. There is no drama. The drama is in Geoffrey Rush’s performance as the artist. He shouts at the canvas and slags off himself and Picasso. Armie Hammer is the frustrated sitter.
Battle of the Sexes (Fox Searchlight Pictures). The battle is played out on on a tennis court in 1973 between 55-year-old Bobby Biggs and 29-year-old Jean Billie King to decide who is the better tennis player – male or female? Biggs (Steve Carell) is a male chauvinist pig, a showman, a clown, and a compulsive gambler. King (Emma Stone) is trying to juggle tennis, marriage and a relationship with a hairdresser. The film is not just about tennis it is about gender politics, homophobia and equal pay for women.
The Odyssey (Altitude). Jerome Salle’s film is no Homeric epic but uninspired, poorly scripted biography of Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau, who wanted to conquer the oceans, and his filmmaker son, more eco-minded, who persuaded him to preserve them. Lambert Wilson is the explorer chasing money in order to be able to explore. Pierre Niney is his son who died young in an aeroplane crash. The film is at its best the deeper in water it is. On land it is bitty and superficial.
Loveless (Altitude). A couple about to divorce have a 12-year-old son. The only reason they married in the first place was because she was pregnant with him. They never liked him and want to ditch him and begin a new life with their respective partners. The boy runs away and nobody can find him. His disappearance does not bring his parents any closer. They loathe each other even more. An understaffed police force leaves the local community to try and find the boy. Andrey Zvyagintsev directs this sober Russian film.