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Knight at the Movies: Hello, My Name Is Doris;, Eye in the Sky
by Richard Knight, Jr., for Windy City Times
2016-03-16

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Doris and drones

The two best movies opening this week star women—which is fantastic and rare. It's even better that one is 69 and the other is 70.

Although we've been told over and over again that age and experience are things to be discounted in our youth obsessed culture, rare exceptions to this prevailing "wisdom" suggest—rather loudly—otherwise. Case in point: Hello, My Name Is Doris, starring Sally Field, and Eye in the Sky, starring Helen Mirren. These two completely different movies share one very strong component: They're driven by the tremendous performances of their stars, two women whose decades of hard work and innate talent dominate what in less experienced—and perhaps younger hands—wouldn't have been nearly as compelling and entertaining.

Sally Field's part in "Doris"—a bittersweet and, at times, far-fetched comedy from director Michael Showalter ( American Wet Hot Summer ), who co-wrote the script with Laura Terruso—is the much showier role. Without someone of Field's inestimable talents, eccentric Doris Miller could easily have come off as the caricature she must have seemed on the page. That's for good reason: Doris, a loner at the office who hides out in her cubicle, nevertheless is screaming out for the world to see her. With her bouffant hairpieces, her cat-eye glasses, colorful getups and penchant for picking up discarded retro items on the street, here is a woman who has been dying for years to connect with others.

Fate takes pity on Doris: In a crowded elevator on the way to work one morning, the aging wallflower is noticed by John ( New Girl's Max Greenfield ), a handsome charmer in his 30s who compliments Doris on her glasses and, soon after, is introduced as a new co-worker in her office. Doris, who has spent the last three decades taking care of her recently deceased mother, is suddenly free to pursue her infatuation with John.

Although best friend Roz ( a very welcome Tyne Daly ) is wary, Doris isn't about to be deterred and, with the encouragement of Roz's 13-year-old granddaughter, she begins to make progress of a sort. John and his friends dig Doris' so-out-she's-in fashion sense ( think Little Edie Beale of Grey Gardens ) and her awkwardly blunt manner. Beneath the wacky set pieces the material daringly suggests ( gasp! ) that a sexual relationship between a much older woman and a younger man isn't a freakish impossibility. Field manages to offer shading and emotional pathos to the rather contrived Doris and Greenfield's winning work make the chemistry between the unlikely duo quite palpable. Hello, My Name Is Doris is a charming ugly duckling story with some surprising and very welcome turns.

Where Sally Field is lovably eccentric, Helen Mirren is cool, fierce and unflappable as British Colonel Katherine Powell waiting for permission to take out terrorists in Eye in the Sky, Gavin Hood's well-done thriller about drone warfare and its risks. The action happens in real time as Powell prepares to zero in on a terrorist couple hiding out in a house in Nairobi, Kenya. Then, a cyborg beetle—a flying surveillance camera flown inside the house by an operative on the ground nearby ( the movie's creepiest device )—reveals two other terrorists inside the house strapping on explosives for a suicide mission. As Powell waits for permission from her superior ( Alan Rickman, fantastic in his last screen role ) to go from "capture" to "kill"—permission that involves ever-higher-ranking officials from Britain and the United States ( the drone operator, played by Aaron Paul, is based in Utah )—a moral dilemma comes front and center.

A spunky little girl ( Aisha Takow ) is suddenly sitting right outside the house selling loaves of bread. The clock is ticking as the various officials argue about whether to go through with the drone strike. At such a moment, what should take priority? The survival of the little girl and other bystanders versus the lives of hundreds of innocent victims if the suicide terrorists leave the house and detonate the bombs in a public area. Although the film hedges its bets a little ( the little girl is irresistibly cute with a full, pouty lower lip and wide, innocent eyes, for example ) Eye in the Sky is ultimately a thought-provoking and very entertaining ride driven by Mirren's uncompromising performance.

Queer movies at the Chicago European Union Film Festival

The Gene Siskel Film Center's 19th annual Chicago European Union Film Festival is well under way. Each year, the fest presents Chicago premieres of dozens of hotly anticipated films and the wide-ranging assortment usually includes a batch of queer-themed titles ( Summertime from France and Viva from Ireland having already screened ). Two upcoming screenings ( more in next week's issue ):

B-Movie: Lust & Sound in West-Berlin 1979-1989 ( Germany ) ( 3/18 and 3/23 )—B-Movie barely pauses for breath as its takes us on a wild ride through a tumultuous era, crammed with vivid characters ( Nick Cave, Keith Haring, Gudrun Gut, Tilda Swinton, Blixa Bargeld, Christiane F., et al. ) and galvanic music.

Therapy for a Vampire ( Austria/Switzerland ) ( 3/19 and 3/24 )—This new twist on the vampire comedy centers on Sigmund Freud's iconic couch, which becomes a solace outside the coffin for elegantly weary bloodsucker Count Geza von Kozsnom.  A love triangle soon becomes a quadrangle, and it's all set in stylish 1930s Vienna.

Complete schedule and show times at http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/eufilmfest2016

'Carol' is here

My #1 LGBTQ film for 2015 was Carol—Todd Haynes' superlative adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's 1952 lesbian romantic classic "The Price of Salt." The film is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download and is a must for your collection. There are movies in which the director's talent and breathtaking technique meld so seamlessly that we know that we are witnessing an instant classic and with Carol, which was scripted by out writer Phyllis Nagy, Haynes did just that.

Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara ( both Oscar-nominated for their performances ), as the unlikely lovers, give complex performances; also, the film's sumptuous cinematography, costumes and production designer underscore Haynes' exactingly detailed approach. Watching Carol from a queer perspective is like witnessing an unearthed artifact of queer culture that one dreamed of but never hoped to see. The home edition includes a behind-the-scenes featurette and Q&A with the cast.

Upcoming movie calendar

Highlights from films opening in Chicago, March 18 and March 25 ( some descriptions come from studio press materials ):

—Chicago European Union Film Festival ( now through 3/31 )—See details above. http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/eufilmfest2016

—The Divergent Series: Allegiant ( 3/18 )—Part three of four in this teenage post-apocalyptic thriller series ( set in Chicago ) with plucky Tris ( Shailene Woodley ) and her hunky cohort Four ( Theo James ) leading the insurgents battle to save humanity.

—Eye in the Sky ( 3/18 )—See details above.

—RECOMMENDED: Hello, My Name Is Doris ( 3/18 )—See details above.

—Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice ( 3/25 )—It's hunk vs. hunk, aka battle of the nipple ponies, when Ben Affleck ( new to the cape and cowl ), as Batman, embarks on a personal vendetta against Henry Cavill, returning as Superman.

—Marguerite ( 3/25 )—In 1921 France, a wealthy woman ( Catherine Frot ) follows her passion to sing in front of audiences, but no one tells her how bad she is.

—My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 ( 3/25 )—Parenting and marriage is becoming tougher and tougher for Toula ( Nia Vardalos ) and her husband, Ian ( John Corbett ). Not only has their relationship lost some of its spark, but they're also dealing with a rebellious teenage daughter who clashes with Greek traditions. That's for starters. Lainie Kazan, Andrea Martin and Michael Constantine return for comic relief, and Rita Wilson ( who also co-produced ) and John Stamos join the fun.

—My Golden Days ( 3/25 )—A middle-aged anthropologist ( Mathieu Amalric ) reminisces about family, school adventures, a student trip to the USSR and the love ( Lou Roy-Lecollinet ) of his life.


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