At The Movies: Andrea Riseborough a virtuoso in To Leslie, Adam Driver deserves better than 65

Andrea Riseborough in To Leslie. PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION


119 minutes, opens on Thursday

3 stars

The story: A West Texan single mother hits rock bottom six years after boozing away her US$190,000 (S$254,000) lottery winnings, losing her house and abandoning her young son along the way. This is the role that snagged Andrea Riseborough her controversial Academy Award nomination.

The announcement of this year’s Best Actress Oscar nominees was widely met with “Andrea who?”, followed by the equally head-scratching “How did she get cited for a scrappy American indie, To Leslie, that barely made US$30,000 at the box office?”

Via a groundswell of social media campaigning by Hollywood celebrity friends the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and co-nominee Cate Blanchett, that was how.

The guerrilla tactic has upset many in the industry.

Whether Riseborough deserves the coveted slot is moot since so much of these awards is about goodwill anyway. The 41-year-old Brit has long been admired for her chameleonic skill – Nicolas Cage’s wife in the cult horror Mandy (2018) is the same actress as Matilda’s mum in Matilda The Musical (2022) – and suffice to say she is frighteningly raw in the title role of this sincere but hackneyed working-class addiction drama by feature debut director Michael Morris.

Leslie is a splotchy-faced drunk at once pugnacious and pitiful. Riseborough does not ask for her character to be liked. Leslie does not even like herself, alcoholism having turned her into her own worst enemy as she bawls, wheedles, steals money from her son (Owen Teague) and hits on men in dive bars – anything to score the next drink.

A kindly motel manager (Marc Maron) rescues her from the gutter and gives her lodging and a job. The fairy-tale ending is at odds with the grim realism, but Riseborough lays bare the ugliness of Leslie’s difficult journey there.

Hot take: Riseborough needs no awards to confirm her virtuosity in a movie never as good as she.

65 (PG13)

Adam Driver (left) and Ariana Greenblatt in 65. PHOTO: SONY PICTURES

95 minutes, opens on Thursday

2 stars

The story: An interstellar mission struck by an asteroid crash lands on a strange planet that is Earth – 65 million years ago.

If the sci-fi adventure 65 is to be believed, prehistoric Earth is a cheap-looking survival game where Adam Driver has to run from and shoot rubbery marauding dinosaurs.

He plays stranded starship pilot Commander Mills in a major demotion from his Star Wars (2015 to 2019) tour as Kylo Ren. A near-mute child (Ariana Greenblatt) is the sole surviving passenger, and the two develop a father-daughter bond in the absence of his actual daughter (Chloe Coleman), who appears as sappy holograms.

Together they roam the green-screen terrain on an epic journey in search of a way home. Mills sends distress signals that go unanswered and dislocates a shoulder; the girl trails along, gaily picking berries, and rescues an imperilled baby raptor as though this were a Cretaceous holiday excursion.

The narrative tone lacks consistency and urgency – and most curious is how the pair never need to eat. It is bananas even for a B-movie fantasy that conflates space and time travel.

Sam Raimi is the producer of a directing debut by Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, the screenwriting duo behind A Quiet Place (2018). The title refers to the year of dinosaurs’ extinction: This one fact the movie at least gets right.

Hot take: Jurassic Park this is not.

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