Ronit (Rachel Weisz: My Cousin Rachel) returns to her Orthodox community to mourn her father, a revered rabbi. She has lived in New York by choice and in exile since the revelation of her teenage fling with another woman, Esti (Rachel McAdams: Game Night).
Returning home as a successful photographer, Ronit learns that even in mourning she is shunned. In neither her father’s obituary nor his will is she acknowledged as his only child. She is welcomed only by Esti and by her husband Dovid (Alessandro Nivola: You Were Never Really Here), Ronit’s childhood friend.
Having accepted her rabbi’s order to take a husband, Esti is at once a pillar of the community and a closeted lesbian living a life of quiet desperation. In Ronit’s return, she hopes to grasp a little bit of happiness.
As the women reunite, gossip swells.
Beautifully shot and acted, Disobedience is a thoughtful film about closed communities. Director Sebastián Lelio, who just won an Oscar for the outstanding A Fantastic Woman, delves into the nuances of the Orthodox London community, showing the good and the bad. On the one hand, the community serves and helps its own. On the other, it’s run by rules that are unkind to those who don’t follow them.
Lelio takes pains to show the isolation of a person shunned. From the stores to school, the community turns hostile.
Helping underscore the theme is the brilliant acting trifecta of Weisz, McAdams and Nivola. Weisz’s Ronit is tortured as her hopes for reconciliation are smashed.
As Esti, McAdams offers a disturbing portrait of repression in religious communities. Unhappy as she is, she can’t bring herself to chance life alone. She knows that rekindling her romance with Ronit is the way to ruin, but she’s helpless to stop her attraction.
The surprise of the film is Nivola’s Dovid. His performance elevates a character who could have been a villain to a figure of sympathy. Dovid is devoted to his community and religion and is torn attempting to do the right thing.
Fascinating, well crafted and wonderfully performed, Disobedience is well worth the ticket.
Great Drama • R • 114 mins.
~~~ New this Week ~~~
Four friends are feeling in a rut. Diane (Diane Keaton) is a widow figuring out sudden solitude. Sharon (Candice Bergen) is a judge stinging from a contentious divorce. Carol (Mary Steenburgen) longs to revive her stale marriage. Vivian (Jane Fonda) enjoys an active single life.
Forming a book club, the quartet finds their world changed by the titillating Fifty Shades of Grey. The book inspires some to embrace their sex lives and others to seek out lasting commitment.
Book Club is a typical finding-a-new-lease-on-life comedy. If you’ve seen one of its kind, you can guess the plot. It’s more about the charisma of the actors than the strength of the plot. This isn’t a movie to stretch these actresses, but it will play to each of their strengths. Expect Keaton to shriek and flail, Bergen to offer a sardonic wit, Steenburgen to smile beatifically and Fonda to offer a sultry wink.
If you’re a fan of these lionesses of the screen, it should be fun to watch them vamp for laughs. Still, it’s distressing that these women are enamored with one of the poorest written books in history.
Prospects: Flickering • PG-13 • 104 mins.
Super-powered Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) has developed a reputation in the superhero community as the unkillable Deadpool.
Time-travelling, bioengineered super-soldier Cable (Josh Brolin) arrives in Wade’s era to give the hero a choice. He must kill a child to protect the future. Wade instead assembles a super team to stop Cable.
Deadpool was the surprise super hit of the Marvel universe. Foul-mouthed, uber-violent and hyped to the ridiculousness of the super-genre, this is not the Marvel movie you take your kids to. Reynolds is charming and wry as this superhero who breaks the fourth wall to address the audience. Reynolds and the producers seem to have found a delicate balance between parody and gimmick. But leave the kids at home. This one will earn its R-rating.
Prospects: Bright • R • 119 mins.
Pope Francis: A Man of His Word
Legendary director Wim Wenders was offered unprecedented access to the Pope as he spread his message of hope, charity and kindness.
The documentary examines what Francis hopes to achieve as head of one of the most powerful religious groups in the world and how he deviates from the pontifical norm.
Don’t expect a film questioning Catholicism or criticizing the church. This movie is about hope and the positive effect religion can have on the world.
Prospects: Flickering • PG • 96 mins.
Frank (Will Arnett) and Max (Chris Bridges) are ill-adapted mixed-species partners who go undercover at an exclusive Las Vegas dog show to bust a smuggling ring and find a stolen baby panda.
Frank pretends to be a pretentious dog owner and Max his pampered pet.
Think of this as Miss Congeniality with a cast of talking dogs. Expect tons of bodily humor and slapstick comedy in this kiddie movie.
Prospects: Flickering • PG • 92 mins.