She Said (15) ****
Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (12A) ****
Bones and All (18) ***
Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical (PG) **
Strange World (U) **
It’s been five years since New York Times reporters Jodie Cantor and Megan Twohey published their first story about the sexual predations of Harvey Weinstein. Along with Ronan Farrow’s subsequent reporting in the New Yorker, its impact was like dam breaking, inspiring #MeToo and eventually leading to Weinstein’s incarceration. Cantor and Twohey documented their own extensive efforts to break the story in the 2019 best-seller She Said and it’s this book that director Maria Shrader and screenwriter Rebecca Lenkiewicz draw on here, shaping the story about the story into a journalistic procedural in the mould of Spotlight and All the President’s Men, albeit one subtly distinguished by two things: 1) its protagonists’ status as hard-working women also raising young families and 2) the fact that Ashely Judd, one of Weinstein’s most high-profile victims, plays herself in the film.
The latter gives She Said a sobering verisimilitude, the former adds additional texture to the usual portrayal of investigative reporters doggedly chasing down leads, working sources and confronting veiled threats in their pursuit of the truth. Not that the film doesn’t deliver plenty of that too. Respectively played by Zoe Kazan and Carey Mulligan, Cantor and Twohey are portrayed as nothing if not relentless in their combined quest to get sources to go on the record while simultaneously pursuing a paper-trail of payments made to actresses and Weinstein employees to prevent them from ever speaking out. It makes for a mostly gripping account, even if it’s a little odd we rarely see them taking notes, or even pressing record on their phones, although perhaps that’s also the film’s way of emphasising their need to become empathetic listeners, carefully gaining the trust of women reluctant to put their heads above the parapet.
Stylistically Shrader largely opts for a no-frills approach, echoing the clarity of her protagonists’ reporting, but there are some intriguing elliptical flourishes, such as the chilling way she turns the hotel rooms that Weinstein operated out of into ghostly crime scenes.
Daniel Craig may have definitively exited the Bond franchise last year, but in Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery, he finds himself back in the realm of preposterous supervillains with island lairs, untold wealth and weird obsessions. In this amped-up sequel to writer/director Rian Johnson’s box-office conquering Knives Out, Craig returns as gentleman super-sleuth Benoit Blanc, his enjoyably outré Southern accent this time matched by a series of natty outfits that play into the “go big or go home” ethos of a film that not only makes titular reference to a Beatles song, but has the funds to feature it prominently on the soundtrack.
That’s just one example of how scaled-up this film feels; indeed it’s so opulent it’s like jumping from Dr No to You Only Live Twice with nothing in between. Johnson, however, has such command over his material he even gets away with turning it into a playful attack of the uber-rich. In Glass Onion, the focus of this ire is Miles Bron (Edward Norton), a tech billionaire who organises a murder mystery weekend for some old friends on his private Greek Island. It’s a party to which Blanc finds himself unwittingly invited, his presence inevitably proving fortuitous when the game turns deadly. But who’s going to die and who’s going to lie? Those aren’t details to be spoiled in a review, but Johnson’s fiendishly entertaining concoction rarely disappoints thanks to his dazzling dispersal of clues, red-herrings, narrative trickery, sly cameos and wry performances.
After his divisive remake of Suspiria, Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadanino returns to horror genre once again with Bones and All, a strange cannibalism-themed coming-of-age film starring Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell as young flesh-eating lovers on the run in Reagan’s America. Like a Terrence Malick film pitched at Twilight fans, the it’s heavier on artfully expressed angst and forbidden romance than actual horror, but its opening scenes are stylishly handled and Chalamet and Russell’s tarnished beauty recalls the sordid, youthful glamour of Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho.
Roald Dahl’s Matilda The Musical brings the hit West End show to the big screen with its Tim Minchin songs and Emma Thompson, Andrea Riseborough and Stephen Graham on hand to chew scenery as the deliciously unpleasant adult antagonists of the story’s rebellious pint-sized heroine (Alisha Wear). Blessed with some hazily explained telekinetic powers, Matilda’s supernatural abilities don’t really add much to the story, which instead mostly revolves around her confrontations with Thompson’s hammer-throwing headmistress and a subplot involving a kindly teacher with a tragic back story (a winning turn from Lashana Lynch). Garish as opposed to colourful, the film’s precocious younger cast and uninspired staging will likely try the patience of Dahl fans not already in step with the musical.
A convoluted, eco-themed sci-fi adventure, the new Disney animation Strange World plays like an unwieldy cross between Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Avatar. Jake Gyllenhaal leads the voice cast as Searcher, an inventor corralled into joining a subterranean mission to discover why the natural crop-based energy source he discovered years earlier is suddenly failing. Sneaking on board is his openly gay son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White), whose adventurous spirt reminds him of his own estranged father, a famous explorer (voiced by Dennis Quaid) missing in action after prioritising his own adventures over his family. Predictable family redemption theme established, the film’s busy yet flimsy plot does little to make it entertaining.
She Said and Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical are on general release from 25 November; Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is on limited release from 25 November and streams on Netflix from 23 December; Bones and All and Strange World are on general release from 23 November.