Film picks: Cruella, Let Them All Talk, Singapore Mental Health Film Festival

Emma Stone in Cruella.
Emma Stone in Cruella.PHOTO: THE WALT DISNEY COMPANY

Comedy

Cruella (PG)

134 minutes, opens May 27 in cinemas, May 28 on Disney+ Premier Access, 4 stars

The film begins in the mid-1960s with Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland), a girl whose chaotic ways are viewed as a character defect. After her bad behaviour triggers a tragedy, she flees to London, where she falls in with street boys and grows into a young woman (Emma Stone) whose dreams of a career in fashion design are thwarted by a lack of money and opportunity. She schemes her way into the ground floor of the industry and meets the Baroness (Emma Thompson), the imperious founder of a haute couture empire. The sudden arrival of a masked punk-rock fashionista who calls herself Cruella causes media excitement.

The list of writers who helped create this visually delightful, crisply paced comedy runs to five names, but note that the woman who penned fashion magazine satire film The Devil Wears Prada (2006, Aline Brosh McKenna) is here, as well as the man who co-wrote period romp The Favourite (2018, Tony McNamara).

As Amazon likes to say, if you liked those, you will like Cruella because their combined DNA is all over this villain origin story. Add to that director Craig Gillespie, who helmed I, Tonya (2017), the Tonya Harding biopic that shows he knows how to make ambitious, amoral young women not just interesting, but also relatable and sympathetic.

Cruella opens in cinemas on May 27, with Disney+ Premier Access starting May 28 for an extra fee of $38.98. The film will be available to all Disney+ subscribers at no extra cost from Aug 27.


Comedy-Drama

Let Them All Talk (NC16)

108 minutes, showing on HBO Go and HBO, 4 stars

Celebrated author Alice Hughes (Meryl Streep) has been invited to Britain to receive yet another prestigious award, but poor health keeps her from flying. Her agent Karen (Gemma Chan), in a bid to get in Alice's good graces, pulls strings to get the writer and her two old friends, Roberta (Candice Bergen) and Susan (Dianne Wiest), cabins on the Queen Mary 2 in return for Alice giving a talk during the passage. Alice's nephew Tyler (Lucas Hedges) comes along as her helper.

During the journey, over mealtimes, deck walks and card games, they come to learn uncomfortable truths about how each views the other.

If one had not been told about acclaimed director Steven Soderbergh's guerilla-style approach - he roped the cast and crew on board the Queen Mary 2 for one trans-Atlantic crossing, filming it all using minimal gear - it would be hard to notice the film's technical restrictions. There is nothing to fault in the lighting, sound and camera work.

The movie is built on the idea that if you were stuck on a ship in the middle of the Atlantic, eavesdropping on the conversations of these three women would be the best form of entertainment to be had on board. And he would be right.


Meryl Streep and Lucas Hedges in Let Them All Talk. PHOTO: HBO


FILMS AND TALKS

Singapore Mental Health Film Festival

This festival, launched in 2018, returns with a programme of films and talks with the aim of building constructive conversations about mental health. Among the films available online - each paired with a panel discussion - is Cantonese-language drama Happiness (NC16, 112 minutes, 2016, paired with the online discussion Building A Dementia-inclusive Society on May 29, 1.50pm).

Chan Kai-Yuk (played by Carlos Chan) goes in search of his father, who left him and his mother behind to create a life in Hong Kong. When things fail to go to plan, Yuk moves in with new friend Auntie Fen (Kara Wai), but her erratic behaviour begins to cause concern. Wai won Best Actress at the 2017 Hong Kong Film Awards for her role.


Carlos Chan in Happiness. PHOTO: SINGAPORE MENTAL HEALTH FILM FESTIVAL

Where/Info: Singapore Mental Health Film Festival website

When: Till May 30

Admission: $12 a film, with bundles available. Each virtual pass allows unlimited viewing for 48 hours upon activation till May 30