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January 23, 2015


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Props to you for the Couch Flambeau reference in that "Little Accidents" review. I was frankly stunned to find that an East-coaster like yourself had even heard of them. I have an album of theirs laying around somewhere that I'll have to dig up now.


"Duke" is fussy, though I thought that made it even more moving. Like Strickland's self-conscious desire to emulate European sex pictures mirrored Cynthia's desire to be the right kind of dominant for her girlfriend. Maybe that's silly, but I did love it.


You were terribly hard on "Mommy." I think you missed the point. I didn't enjoy your review and can't possibly understand how your analysis ended up on RogerEbert.com.

Glenn Kenny

It's a funny thing about the RogerEbert website, and it isn't exclusive to me (I don't want to sound like I'm complaining here): if a negative review goes up that elicits some pain from a commenter, the commenter will say something along the lines of "Roger Ebert would never lower himself to be so" etc. etc., or "this smug condescending review goes against the spirit of Roger Ebert" and I have to wonder whether these people know that Roger was the author of "I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie" and "Your Movie Sucks." Not to mention, you know, that review of "The Brown Bunny."


Very tangential, but the funny thing is that while I generally found Ebert to be a highly reliable reviewer, (in the consumer guidance sense), one thing I had to learn was that he had a peculiarly where his ZERO STAR reviews generally meant a better than 50/50 chance of the movie being highly worth seeing.

Ebert had a particular repugnance for a certain kind of nihilism or brutality in movies that were highly effective that made him go the zero star route on some quite fine flicks. You could rely on a one star movie to know you should stay away, but when he went the full zero star route, it was time to buy tickets...


I agree with you about MOMMY. I don't understand how Dolan's star has risen so quickly - his talent for self-promotion far outpaces his talent for filmmaking.


I wouldn't say your review is unworthy of Roger Ebert's website, but I think you're being unnecessarily dismissive of Dolan, and honestly you're coming off like a curmudgeon smacking down a young upstart. Even your acknowledgement about the quality of the aesthetics are qualified with a disingenuous "...perhaps the ability to hire...crew members of technical facility".

I didn't see any mentions of his previous work, and considering he's had four of his five films premiere at Cannes (the other went to Venice) I think it's fair to say he's someone deserving of a closer look. And speaking of Godard, while Dolan's Heartbeats (aka Les Amours Imaginaires) certainly looks like it owes a great deal to the veteran, let's not forget that JLG was a young upstart himself. Personally I find some of his lauded works like Pierrot Le Fou to be shallow, preening exercises in style with little to say beyond their love for certain Hollywood auteurs. Dolan should be applauded for and judged by not just his pop sensibilities or his ability to recall Almodovar, Wong Kar-Wai, Fassbinder, Godard, etc. but for the beating, vulnerable, compassionate heart behind the writing. Consider that he's not a parent, or a woman, or middle-aged, or transgender and yet he's written great characters with these attributes and shepherded an assortment of impressive performances--the credit for all this shouldn't go solely to his talented actors.

While Sophia Coppola shares some of the same influences, I don't recall her getting this much shit. I know she has her detractors (I myself am a fan) but critical darlings like Lost In Translation, Virgin Suicides, and Marie Antoinette could be described In the same ways people are using to castigate Dolan. Personally, I find Laurence Anwyays to be not only leagues beyond anything Coppola's done, but one of the best films of the past 5 years. I can't imagine someone seeing that and saying Dolan has "very little sense of structure or narrative"; the final scenes of that film has been made by someone wise enough to understand regret and loss and juxtapose it with the ever-present possibies and optimism of new beginnings . It's as poignant as the conclusion of An Affair To Remember, Annie Hall, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind, you name it.

Glenn Kenny

Much as I know your eloquent defense of Dolan is entirely sincere, I can only counter that I don't see a vulnerable, beating heart in "Mommy," which is my first XD. What I see is fake sentimentality, overstated grandstanding, special pleading, a weird bedrock conviction that the more you break shit in a given scene the "realer" it gets, haphazard emotional manipulation, and an overweening desire to lord it over his viewers. If "Laurence Anyways" turns me around I promise to shout it from every rooftop, and admit I was wrong about Dolan overall if not about "Mommy." That's my personal guarantee to you.


Ebert gave zero stars to MANDINGO, which some people (such as Quentin Tarantino) now regard as a classic.


"Ebert gave zero stars to MANDINGO, which some people (such as Quentin Tarantino) now regard as a classic."

Yeah. That was the thing about his zero star movies. He didn't use it for boring movies. They all had some kind of real power to them, which is why those reviews were often recommendations for me.

(If Ebert felt the way I feel about American Sniper, he'd most certainly give it zero stars. I think the movie is INCREDIBLY and irredeemably problematic, and it indeed has power. But I certainly wouldn't give it zero stars on that basis, were I reviewing under that kind of system.)


Fair enough, Glenn. FWIW, despite how much I enjoy Mommy, I don't think it's anywhere near as good as Laurence. Seems to me that a lot of people don't want to appear late to get on the train, so they're writing as if Dolan had finally figured it out or something. So it's very possible you'll enjoy it/admire it more than his newest release. Not that you're ready to dive into all his works, but Tom at the Farm is a signifivant departure from the other stuff in almost every way.

Nathan Duke

I was looking forward to both "Mommy" and "The Duke of Burgundy," based on the previous reviews I'd read (plus, I liked "Berberian Sound Studio," even if I didn't quite love it) - but, I have to say, I found both to be disappointing. I didn't dislike "Mommy" to the extent you did. I found some of the performances convincing, but I agree with what you wrote about Steve's character and how, ultimately, we were supposed to find him "admirable somehow," despite that he was a racist xenophobe who attempted to strangle his mother, burned a kid's face and poked fun at his neighbor's stutter. And the ending was a bit melodramatic. Also felt myself at a bit of a remove from "The Duke of Burgundy," which looked great but didn't quite do it for me.


"Angel-faced but never not mugging, not particularly intelligent but always capable of a razor-sharp comeback to a perceived slight, Steve is an ideal of the anti-social. One gets the feeling that Dolan finds him admirable somehow, which rubbed this critic very much the wrong way."

You could have written this of Linklater and Mason in BOYHOOD and I would more or less agree, although I guess the specifics aren't applicable, except for "angel-faced . . . not particularly intelligent."


Haven't seen MOMMY, but I certainly don't recall BOYHOOD being full of razor-sharp comebacks or mugging. I mean, maybe those are the non-applicable specifics you're talking about, but I'm pretty sure those are key to the diagnosis of "anti-social."

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