Review: In ‘She Will,’ an aging movie star seeks vengeance, and more movies for the weekend

‘She will’

Most horror films—even the “sublime” ones—fit into a recognizable narrative tradition like “ghost story” or “slasher.” But it’s hard to categorize the visually gorgeous, emotionally raw “She Will” from writer-director Charlotte Colbert (co-written with Kitty Percy). It’s kind of a supernatural thriller; but it is rather an ironic and strikingly poetic vision of feminist retribution.

Produced by Dario Argento (who knows a thing or two about turning old genres into amazing new forms), “She Will” stars Alice Krige as Veronica Ghent, a faded movie star recovering from a double mastectomy early in the film and checks into a funky, artsy retreat in the Scottish wilderness with her new assistant/nurse, Desi (Kota Eberhardt). There, amidst all the therapeutic drawing classes and boring cocktail hours, Veronica discovers that the land was once a place where witches were burned – and that the restless souls of these women can reshape reality for the embittered actress’ sake.

Colbert doesn’t explain too much what the ghosts – and by extension Veronica – can and can’t do. Most of the story’s pertinent information is tacitly suggested by the dreamy imagery (made luminous and slightly abstract by cinematographer Jamie D. Ramsay), as much of the hypnotic mood is carried by Clint Mansell’s richly textured score. The film’s plot, meanwhile, is fueled by the news that a legendary director (played by Malcolm McDowell) is directing a new version of the film that launched Veronica’s teenage career. Reflecting on that time, she remembers the abuse more than the triumph; and she begins to wonder if she can use her new powers to gain closure.

The one overt reference to the “Me Too” movement in “She Will” comes from a loudmouth at the retreat who complained that women “change everything in hindsight.” But in a more subtle way, this all-too-common critique of sexual assault cases defines the film’s violent revenge fantasies. As an actress, Veronica lived through a time when men not only controlled the business, but also determined what was acceptable behavior. Now, empowered by generations of mistreated women, she must force these guys to take responsibility for what they actually did.

‘She will.’ Not rated. 1 hour, 36 minutes. Lammle Glendale; the Frida Cinema, Santa Ana; Vineland Drive-in, City of Industry; also available as VOD

In the film, a woman carries a tray with a tea service on it "Good wife."

During a visit, Tsidi (Chumisa Cosa) is concerned about the dynamic between her mother, a live-in servant, and the lady of the house, earlier in Good Madam.

(Gerhard Kotze / Shudder)

‘Good wife’

In an elegant Cape Town home, an aging maid named Mavis (Nosipho Mtebe) has worked for a now bedridden and possibly dying boss for decades. When Mavis’ daughter Tsidi (Chumisa Cosa) arrives for an indefinite visit, she begins to question the dynamics of the house. Is what is happening here a sad holdover from apartheid South Africa, where an elderly black woman can’t stop dedicating her life to a white woman? Or do all those strange symbols and totems strewn about indicate that Mavis was indeed bewitched?

In the psychological drama Good Madam, director Jenna Cato Bass (who also wrote the script alongside producer Babalwa Baartman and the entire cast) hints that this isn’t really a yes-or-no question. Bass’s film is hushed and slow, but effective as it invites viewers to explore these comfortable suburban spaces alongside Tsidi and contemplate how people can be charmed in more ordinary ways – such as through the illusion of authority or closeness to wealth.

“Good Madam” gradually unravels the years of tension between Mavis and Tsidi, who was largely raised in a poor area by her grandmother while her mother devoted herself to her employer and Tsidi’s older, more successful half-brother. The film doesn’t shy away from magic spells and arcane African blood rituals, but the truly dark mojo that Bass brings so powerfully to the big screen involves the cycles and privilege and exclusion that seem to persist with every attempt at exorcism.

“Good wife.” In Xhosa with English subtitles. Not rated. 1 hour 32 minutes. Available from Shudder

“American Carnage”

Writer-director Diego Hallivis and his writer-producer brother Julio bring a lot of nuance to their horror satire American Carnage. They’ve taken a broad and hooking premise and populated it with well-developed characters brought to life by a talented young cast. And unlike some filmmakers who tackle hot-button political issues, the Hallivis brothers don’t treat their heroes as rhetorical pawns used strategically to win an argument. They justify the increased outrage of the film in likeable characters with versatile personalities and background stories.

Jorge Lendeborg Jr. plays JP, who gets caught up in a nationwide wave of migrants and their American-born children (arrested for failing to report their parents to authorities). He and his fellow inmates are offered a chance to reclaim their freedom by helping elderly people in a nursing home. But not long after JP arrives, he discovers the facility is just a front for an operation designed to exploit the forgotten and marginalized.

The nature of this exploitation is a surprise best left untouched. That’s what makes the “horror” in this picture; and that ultimately makes it a more conventional, plot-driven thriller in which JP and his buddies try to escape their strange situation and uncover the horrors behind it. Until “American Carnage” hits that wall, though, it’s a vivid, passionate, and only slightly over-the-top take on how some people use anti-immigrant sentiment to distract from their own monstrous crimes.

“American Carnage.” R, for some disturbing violence and gore, consistent language, some sexual innuendo, nudity and drug use. 1 hour 40 minutes. Limited edition; also available as VOD

‘glass house’

South Africa’s Pearson Conservatory is the stunning setting for writer-director Kelsey Egan’s (co-written by Emma Lungiswa de Wet) post-apocalyptic melodrama Glasshouse. Set in a world where an airborne poison called “The Shred” destroys the memories of its victims, the film follows a family – almost all women save for an infected son – who explore “The Sanctuary” in an abandoned greenhouse has built. Their peaceful, prosperous existence is threatened when one of the daughters brings home a wounded man (Hilton Pelser). Egan and company spend more time creating atmosphere and expanding Sanctuary’s mythology than telling a fully developed story. Still, “Glasshouse” keeps a few provocative secrets for its final third; and throughout, Egan borrows from the likes of “The Beguiled,” leaning into the sensuality of its premise, in which a handful of lonely ladies are suddenly at the mercy of a handsome stranger.

‘Glasshouse.’ Not rated. 1 hour, 37 minutes. Available on VOD

“The Silent Party”

Like many revenge stories, the frugal, uncomfortable Argentine thriller The Silent Party challenges audiences’ expectations and urges them to question their own bloodlust. Jazmín Stuart plays Laura, a reluctant bride-to-be who sneaks away from her father’s house the night before her wedding, stumbles upon a party and ends up being sexually assaulted. She and her family wanted to exact retribution, but then video footage of the incident raises questions about Laura’s complicity (at least in the minds of her father and fiancé). Director Diego Fried, co-director Federico Finkelstain and screenwriter Nicolas Gueilburt inexorably move their plot towards some climaxes of explosive violence. But for the most part, The Silent Party is a quiet, intense drama that focuses heavily on its heroine and the unbearable pressures of life surrounded by hyper-controlling chauvinists.

“The silent party.” In Spanish with English subtitles. Not rated. 1 hour, 27 minutes. Available on VOD

Also in streaming

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The offbeat Belcher family goes on their usual, unpredictable antics in The Bob’s Burgers Movie.

(20th Century Studios)

“The Bob’s Burger Movie” is a must-see for fans of the long-running prime-time Fox animated series, and may even win some converts — though with minimal build-up, the film throws viewers straight into the ongoing story of the odd Belcher family and their failing beachside restaurant. The series’ creative team and voice actors deliver a typically unpredictable quadruple-length episode that includes a financial catastrophe, a chilling murder, and several catchy musical numbers. Available on HBO Max and Hulu

Now available on DVD and Blu-ray

“Raging Bull” routinely lands on lists of the greatest films of all time, hailed for Robert De Niro’s chilling performance as brutal boxer Jake La Motta and director Martin Scorsese’s fusion of gritty realism and dazzling theatricality. The 4K UHD edition of the Criterion Collection includes video essays, interviews, behind-the-scenes documentaries and three separate commentary tracks. criteria

https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/movies/story/2022-07-15/review-in-she-will-good-madam-bobs-burgers-raging-bull Review: In ‘She Will,’ an aging movie star seeks vengeance, and more movies for the weekend

Sarah Ridley

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