The Roads Not Taken (2020)

The Roads Not Taken
Director: Sally Potter
Writer: Sally Potter
Cast: Javier Bardem, Elle Fanning, Branka Katic, Salma Hayek, Milena Tscharntke, Laura Linney
Seen on: 13.8.2020

Plot:
Molly (Elle Fanning) has a big day planned with her father Leo (Javier Bardem). They have two doctor’s appointments, which is quite a challenge for and with Leo as he has early onset dementia. Molly does her best, but not everything works well – neither with Leo nor with her job that she is neglecting for her father. Meanwhile Leo is living alternative lives that make him re-examine the biggest life choices he made.

The Roads Not Taken is a beautifully acted, interesting film that focused too much on Leo for me – and not enough on Molly.

The film poster showing Leo's (Javier Bardem) head dissolving into photos.
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All the Bright Places (2020)

All the Bright Places
Director: Brett Haley
Writer: Liz Hannah, Jennifer Niven
Based on: Jennifer Niven‘s novel
Cast: Elle Fanning, Justice Smith, Alexandra Shipp, Kelli O’Hara, Luke Wilson, Keegan-Michael Key
Seen on: 6.3.2020

Content Note: suicide, mental illness, domestic violence

Plot:
Finch (Justice Smith) is going for a run one night when he finds Violet (Elle Fanning) standing on the ledge of a bridge. He talks her down, but from then on, he can’t help wanting to help her. When their geography teacher gives them the assignment to explore Indiana’s sights in pairs, Finch sees the opportunity to partner up with Violet. She reluctantly agrees and they start their tours. But Finch, labelled a freak at school, has some problems of his own.

All the Bright Places looks like a “normal” teen romance film, but it goes pretty dark – darker than you expect from the look of it. Which is probably my biggest criticism of it, because other than that, it treats a difficult topic with a lot of care, albeit not always perfectly.

The film poster showing Violet (Elle Fanning) and Finch (Justice Smith) leaning in for a kiss.

[SPOILERS]

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Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (2019)

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
Director: Joachim Rønning
Writer: Linda Woolverton, Noah Harpster, Micah Fitzerman-Blue
Based on: Disney’s Sleeping Beauty / the fairy tale
Sequel to: Maleficent
Cast: Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Harris Dickinson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Sam Riley, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Ed Skrein, Robert Lindsay, David Gyasi, Jenn Murray, Juno Temple, Lesley Manville, Imelda Staunton, Judith Shekoni, Miyavi, Kae Alexander, Warwick Davis
Seen on: 23.10.2019

Plot:
It’s been five years and Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and Aurora (Elle Fanning) have found a good way of living with each other and ruling their kingdom. But when Aurora accepts Prince Philipp’s (Harris Dickinson) proposal, things change. And the first thing is that both Aurora and Maleficent have to meet Philipp’s parents (Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Lindsay) and hopefully leave a good impression with them. But something else is afoot, too, that could threaten the entire kingdom.

I really loved the first Maleficent film, so my expectations for this sequel were pretty high, but unfortunately weren’t entirely met. It is an entertaining film, but I was hoping for more.

The film poster showing Maleficent (Angelina Jolie) and in her wing several other characters and a castle.
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Mary Shelley (2017)

Mary Shelley
Director: Haifaa Al-Mansour
Writer: Emma Jensen, Haifaa Al-Mansour
Cast: Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth, Bel Powley, Tom Sturridge, Joanne Froggatt, Stephen Dillane, Maisie Williams, Derek Riddell, Hugh O’Conor, Ben Hardy
Seen on: 9.1.2019
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Plot:
Mary (Elle Fanning) is the daughter of two authors, William Godwin (Stephen Dillane) and Mary Wollstonecraft. Her mother, unfortunately passed early and her father’s new wife (Joanne Froggatt) is not easy on her, leaving Mary at even more of a loss than your average 16-year-old. That’s when she meets Percy (Douglas Booth), a charming poet who intrigues her. They fall in love and together with Mary’s stepsister Claire Clairmont (Bel Powley) they run away to Geneva to meet Lord Byron (Tom Sturridge) and Polidori (Ben Hardy). The five of them spend an intense time together – a time that includes a literary contest that pushes Mary to write her first novel, Frankenstein.

Mary Shelley, unfortunately, didn’t really come together, although I am uncertain what went wrong here – they had all the right ingredients to make a feast and ended with a slightly bland meal that didn’t sate. (I promise I won’t be stretching this metaphor any further.)

The film poster showing half of Mary's (Elle Fanning) face.
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How to Talk to Girls at Parties (2017)

How to Talk to Girls at Parties
Director: John Cameron Mitchell
Writer: Philippa Goslett, John Cameron Mitchell
Based on: Neil Gaiman’s short story
Cast: Alex Sharp, Elle Fanning, Nicole Kidman, Ruth Wilson, Stephen Campbell Moore, Matt Lucas
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 2.11.2017
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Plot:
Enn (Alex Sharp) loves nothing more than punk music. Having heard about a special concert, he stumbles into a party that seems a little stranger than the usual stuff. But there’s also the cute Zan (Elle Fanning) there and Alex hits it off with her. But as the two spend more time together, Enn realizes that Zan isn’t just a little strange: she’s actually an alien.

How to Talk to Girls at Parties was sweet and funny and colorful and loud and a whole lot of fun. It’s a film designed to make you smile and leave it with a bounce in your step.

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The Beguiled (2017)

The Beguiled
Director: Sofia Coppola
Writer: Sofia Coppola
Based on: Thomas P. Cullinan‘s novel
Remake of: the 1971 film
Cast: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning, Oona Laurence, Angourie Rice, Addison Riecke, Emma Howard
Seen on: 3.7.2017
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Plot:
John McBurney (Colin Farrell) is an injured Union soldier on the run in the South during the US Civil War. He stumbles upon a girl’s school, led by Miss Martha (Nicole Kidman) and finds pity in the women who don’t turn him in to the Confederate soldiers – at least not until he’s healed and stands a chance to survive. But they keep him under lock and key while they tend to him. The teacher Edwina (Kirsten Dunst) and the girls – above all Carol (Elle Fanning) – are intrigued and excited by the soldier and soon vie for his affections. Not even Miss Martha finds herself unmoved as McBurney tries to turn the situation to his advantage.

The Beguiled is visually stunning, but other than that didn’t blow me away all that much. It’s not bad, but I still prefer the original film (although I didn’t love that one that much either).

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20th Century Women (2016)

20th Century Women
Director: Mike Mills
Writer: Mike Mills
Cast: Lucas Jade Zumann, Annette BeningElle FanningGreta GerwigBilly Crudup
Seen on: 26.4.2017

Plot:
Jamie (Lucas Jade Zumann) lives with his mother Dorothea (Annette Bening) who raised him all her own. They share their home with photographer Abbie (Greta Gerwig) and handyman William (Billy Crudup) and as often as Jamie’s best friend, the slightly older Julie (Elle Fanning), stays over, you could say she lives there as well. As Jamie tries to navigate puberty, his mother tries to make sure he becomes a good man, while Jamie is more interested in convincing Julie to have sex with him.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Beginners and unfortunately, 20th Century Women didn’t really blow me away either. The cast was good but as so often, the film focuses on the wrong guy. With emphasis on the guy part.

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3 Generations (2015)

3 Generations aka About Ray
Director: Gaby Dellal
Writer: Nikole Beckwith, Gaby Dellal
Cast: Elle FanningNaomi Watts, Susan Sarandon, Linda Emond, Tate Donovan, Sam Trammell
Seen on: 22.12.2016

Plot:
Ray (Elle Fanning) is fighting to get the hormones he needs to transition. His mother Maggie (Naomi Watts) supports him as best she can, even when she does struggle herself sometimes with his being trans. They live together with Ray’s lesbian grandmother Dolly (Susan Sarandon) who tries to help, too, but doesn’t really understand what Ray is going through. They do not live with Ray’s father Craig (Tate Donovan) who has a new family and not much interest in Ray. But Craig needs to agree to Ray’s treatment, so Maggie and Ray have to convince him.

I knew going in that About Ray – retitled 3 Generations – wouldn’t be an unproblematic film about being trans, but I wanted to give it a try anyway. What I got was okay, but definitely not great.

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The Neon Demon (2016)

The Neon Demon
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn
Writer: Nicolas Winding Refn, Mary Laws, Polly Stenham
Cast: Elle FanningJena MaloneBella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Karl Glusman, Desmond Harrington, Christina Hendricks, Keanu Reeves, Alessandro Nivola
Seen on: 8.6.2016

Plot:
Jesse (Elle Fanning) just moved to L.A., dreaming of a career as a model. She meets photographer Dean (Karl Glusman) and make-up artist Ruby (Jena Malone) who both take a shine to her and try to help. Since there is something about Jesse, that seems barely necessary though – her career is definitely off to a good start. But young girls like Jesse are quickly swallowed by the fashion world and grow older too fast – which is what happened to Gigi (Bella Heathcote) and Sarah (Abbey Lee), who can’t stand Jesse waiting in the wings to take their place.

The Neon Demon is a hypnotizing film that manages to conjure up an intriguing atmosphere that kept me glued to my seat. But – as with Drive – it only worked for me because I read it completely different from what Refn apparently intended to say.

theneondemon

[SPOILERS]

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Trumbo (2015)

Trumbo
Director: Jay Roach
Writer: John McNamara
Based on: Bruce Alexander Cook‘s biography of Dalton Trumbo
Cast: Bryan CranstonMichael StuhlbargDiane LaneHelen MirrenAlan TudykLouis C.K.Sean BridgersAdewale Akinnuoye-AgbajeElle FanningJohn GoodmanDean O’GormanChristian Berkel
Seen on: 17.3.2016

Plot:
Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) is an immensely successful screen writer and at the height of his career – when his affiliation with the Communist Party means that he gets caught up in a political witch hunt and is finally imprisoned and put on a blacklist. And he’s not the only one affected – his family suffers, too, as do quite a few colleagues who also get branded as communists. Unable to work officially, he devises a plan how he and his colleagues may ensure their livelihoods.

Trumbo is pretty much how you’d expect it. It’s expertly crafted and tells an interesting story very well. But it plays everything so safe, it’s hard to get excited about it.

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