Elysium. With that bone structure and those steely eyes, Jodie Foster is naturally designed to seem patrician, even when she’s playing a rape victim or a hillbilly. It’s just her lot. So it doesn’t require any effort for her to portray the elegant, French-speaking defense minister of the orbiting Eden known as Elysium, where in the future, all the rich folks live happily while earth-bound humans live in squalor. And I mean no effort, because she puts in none here; it’s like watching someone cash a paycheck.
She’s hardly the worst thing about this RoboCop-in-space movie, though, which, on its own terms, passes as summer entertainment — cool slo-mo explosions, a few exciting action scenes — as long as you don’t expect more. The writer-director, Neill Blomkamp (District 9) has made a futurist sci-fi parable without much thought about the futuristic part. Aside from L.A. looking like 1990s Sarajevo and the use of hovercraft, nothing really suggests 150 years hence: Not the clothing or the language or really the attitudes. Blomkamp is so interested in his message about the inevitable results of the one-percenters, he forgets to tell a real story. Elysium is predictable, its smug navelgazing undercutting its bite. Two stars.
Lovelace. Linda Lovelace was a boring white-trash teenager until, for a brief time in the 1970s, she became the most celebrated porn star ever, based solely on her oral skills in the crossover X-rated hit Deep Throat. Hers was an old-fashioned Fellatio Alger tale. Only it was really a nightmare.
Linda spent less than three weeks in the porn biz, but was horribly exploited, which directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (the documentarians behind The Times of Harvey Milk and The Celluloid Closet) tell in a sly, Mobius-strip fashion, starting the film over midway through — first presenting a sanitized version, then one that makes us question all we’ve seen. Amanda Seyfried does commendable work as Linda (she’s unrecognizable in the later scenes), but Peter Sarsgaard as her abusive husband and a breathtaking Sharon Stone as her icy mom get the money shots. Four stars.
Blue Jasmine. I don’t know this for a fact, but I bet Woody Allen got the idea for this script when he saw a woman in a Balenciaga dress and Prada shoes talking to herself on a park bench and wondered what could bring a person to that point. What he comes up with is mostly dull stuff about a modern-day Blanche DuBois (Cate Blanchett), putting on airs while taxing the patience of her middle-class sister (Sally Hawkins). Like Elysium, it’s a rambling look at economic inequality.
But Allen’s secret weapon is Blanchett, such a compelling actress she makes this pretentious, flawed socialite someone we care about. Two stars.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 9, 2013.