Episode 121: Lamb / The Last Duel / No Time to Die

“There’s nothing better than finishing something and looking at it. Whether it be a script or a movie, it’s this complete little thing that now exists and is hopefully immortal.”

Cary Joji Fukunaga, Director of No Time to Die

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On Episode 121 of Drink in the Movies Michael & Taylor discuss their First Impressions of: House of Gucci & C’mon C’mon. Then dig into three New Releases: Lamb, The Last Duel, and No Time to Die.

Streaming links for titles this episode

Lamb and No Time to Die is currently available to rent and purchase on most major VOD platforms.

The Last Duel will become available for rent and purchase on November 29th.

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Michael Clawson on Letterboxd | Taylor Baker on Letterboxd

The Last Duel

Written by Taylor Baker

88/100

The Last Duel is a film in three acts, each act by a different writer, with a different lead character perspective revolving around two main events. That of a rape, and that of the titular duel. Matt Damon alone serves as both main character and writer for his segment. He plays Jean de Carrouges, a squire to Ben Affleck’s Count Pierre. Act one begins with a stirring exquisitely shot visceral battle at a river where Jean leads a charge of men into shallow water on horseback to drive back their foes. During this encounter he saves Adam Driver’s Jacques Le Gris from death, one of many matters to be disputed in the subsequent acts. Then time jumps as do locations. Jean recounts hist defeat to his count, and one day Le Gris who happens to be his dead child’s godfather turns up requesting taxes for the count. Jean cannot pay his full debt and he goes to battle in the north where he meets a woman named Marguerite de Carrouges played by acting phenom Jodie Comer. Eventually as expected the two wed, and Jean convinces Marguerite’s father to include a particular parcel of land in his dowry to Jean, a parcel that happens to be Marguerite’s favorite from her childhood. Events come to pass and eventually Jean departs for Paris, while he’s gone we learn that Jacques broke in and raped Marguerite leading to Jean’s demand of a trial by God, another name within the film and ostensibly of the time for a “duel”, to the death.

The second act’s main perspective and thus character is that of Jacques Le Gris played by Adam Driver. A squire who according to his recollection keeps Jean from killing himself at the river battle, that quickly rises up the ranks and gains his master Count Pierre’s ear. The segment itself is written by Affleck, witty and subjectively grotesque as it is convincing. Affleck creates a villainous lead that believes himself not only the center of universe outside of his master’s calls, but also a decider of emotions for those “less” than he. Driver is convicted and convincing as ever, speaking latin, playing court, and shaking down taxpayers. We see his own recollection of events against Jean’s; the locations and people are the same, but events and dialogue shift. Jacques naturally is heroically at the center of how he sees it. One day he meets Marguerite and after Jean insists she kiss Jacques to show there’s no ill will between the two and Jacques becomes enamored. We see the act of how Jacques saw his actions, which are grotesque at minimum, his lack of self awareness, his disregard toward Marguerite even in his presentation of recollection is beyond harrowing. It is in this segment that we see Jacques ask Count Pierre what to do, to which Pierre says, “Deny it. It never happened. Deny.” It’s not quite possible to put in this review how that segment hits, it’s bigger than an explanation can offer, the looks and feelings cast on Driver’s face in the scene breathe toward something that despite his awfulness could lead to something like redeeming, but then all at once, it’s snuffed out. This segment too ends at a trial.

The third act is written by renowned filmmaker and writer Nicole Holofcener. Who deftly, stoically, and openly lays bare not only the weaknesses and insecurities of the men in the first and second act but the pride, the ego, and the hurt that anyone involved in a rape may bear. With her segment the film graduates out of a sanctimonious competition between insecure warriors to a larger gradation of achievement. Heightening rather than underscoring Damon and Affleck’s segments before. She, Damon, and Affleck through the talented cast and crew but especially Scott and his talented DP Dariusz Wolski use the events of the past and how they’re presented to talk about the here and the now. Marguerite’s act is the most beautifully presented, the most emotional, and the most harrowing. It’s also the most impactful, so rather than recount and dig into the nuances of her segment I’ll leave it to you to experience.

There’s been a lot of discussion about when and if the definitive Times Up/Me Too film will turn up since 2018, and while I don’t think we’ll ever really know the definitive film of a large social movement or moment until time passes The Last Duel seems to be the most eloquent, stylized, and cinematic presentation of the difficulties that come from grappling with it in the open. The Last Duel is a film that simply cannot be accurately discussed in any capacity without mentioning rape or more specifically the rape that the whole film hinges around. Which may seem ugly, untoward, or disgusting to some, but by elevating the subject and the word “rape” itself into any conversation about the piece of art itself it’s forcing these hard conversations. The Last Duel itself doesn’t end in a way that asserts that one openly declaring publicly what happened to you is the right thing to do but rather expresses the truth of those emotions one may have. And the various reasons a woman may or may not make that personal choice. Being unable to discuss a film at all without mentioning rape hasn’t been done in this capacity since Irreversible and with Scott’s prolific filmmaking sincerity and Holofcener’s clear hearted voice at the center of the film I think you’ll find you’re better for watching it. I don’t suspect anyone thought that from the director of Alien, Blade Runner, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, American Gangster, etc, we’d be getting a powerful, emotional, and sincere presentation about the subject matter of the Times Up/Me Too movement. But we did, and we’re all the better for it.

The Last Duel Trailer

The Last Duel is currently playing in wide theatrical release.

You can follow more of Taylor’s thoughts on LetterboxdTwitter, and Rotten Tomatoes.

Please Give

Written by Michael Clawson

80/100

Explores more facets of life within its specific milieu in a swift ninety minutes than most films do in over two hours, and without any idea or character forcibly shoehorned in. Is at its best though when it’s looking at middle-class guilt through Kate (Keener, always wonderful), whose emergent conscience about running a second-hand furniture business that benefits when people die prompts her to volunteer and give to the homeless as means of redemption. Two highlights here: her trip to a facility for the elderly (“She’s really hunched”, Kate says concernedly as a woman shuffles by), and her crying when she volunteers with the disabled (“Uh, you should go”, says her supervisor, embarrassed as Kate starts tearing up). Holofcener finds the humor in both scenarios without being condescending.

I can’t help but also call out my two grumbles: Kate’s trip to her competitor’s store, where a fellow patron’s talk about furniture “having ghosts” unnecessarily verbalizes an idea Holofcener already sufficiently implied, and Kate later envisioning a dead woman sitting in a chair across from her, which undercuts the power of the preceding shot of the chair empty, weighed down by the absence of the woman who died in it.

Mortality isn’t in every plot strand, but it does seem to weave its way through the movie’s periphery by implication, and occasionally comes to the fore. Everyone’s talking about going upstate to see the Fall leaves, beautiful as they die, Rebecca Hall’s character’s job as an assistant radiologist involves testing patients for a deadly disease, Kate and Alex’s economic future hinges on the inevitability of people dying and their furniture moving on. That the movie is so light on its feet and digestible as it alludes to the most profound aspects of human experience is remarkable.

Please Give Trailer

Please Give is currently available to rent on multiple streaming platforms.

Sophie Jones

Written by Taylor Baker

63/100

Jessie Barr’s directorial debut Sophie Jones starring her cousin Jessica Barr manages to to feel personal enough to never lose the interest of the viewer. Though one may meander away briefly in scenes when Sophie lays down in the grass and looks at the sky or has another empty conversation with a peer from school. The film opens up on Jessica Barr’s Sophie rummaging and ruminating in her mothers closet. Looking as one does after a loss for ‘something’. Sophie continues that search for the runtime of the film. Often entangling herself physically if not romantically with a few boys, before realizing they aren’t providing her that ‘something’ either. 

Sophie Jones ultimately leans on the strength of it’s tone and the directness of the conversation of Sophie to nearly everyone she encounters. It’s the small moments that provide the bits of depth to the teen. Such as when she begs her sister to sit with her at lunch after her best friend departs for college, or when she is isolated at a party and goes to sit by herself. Those quiet personal moments give us some much needed empathy for the teen. I do find myself unsure about the full runtime of the film. Her journey doesn’t feel particularly remarkable or defined, rather an extended snapshot of a young girl’s grief. This will certainly be more than enough to grab onto for some viewers, but like Sophie in her mother’s closet at the beginning of the film, I’m still looking for that ‘something’.

There’s a lot of promise in this bootstrapping duo of storytellers. Sophie Jones may have enough sincerity to ring through into the coming of age film audience, if given a solid VOD acquisition to get there. I can certainly see enough potential here for a young adult cult classic. As with many debuts, I’m curious how they’ll follow this project up, and if they can lean more into their comedic sensibilities on the editing side on the next go around. There was a bit to much melancholic harshness during some quite absurd moments for me to feel like this is the best possible edit of the film.

Recommended.

Taylor Baker originally posted this review on Letterboxd 10/10/20

Sophie Jones is part of the Heartland International Film Festival 2020 line up.

You can check out the HIFF Website here and stay up to date on Jessie Barr’s work here.