Last week I saw I, Tonya and Lady Bird at the Walthamstow Empire, which is fast becoming one of my favourite cinemas.
Both Oscar nominated (with I, Tonya deservedly winning”Best Actress in a Supporting Role”) both films build their stories around the relationship between a working class young American woman and her mother, and the young woman struggling to fit into an elite world. One of them also involves a lot of ice skating.
I, Tonya‘s skittish pace and editing meant it felt shorter despite being nearly half an hour longer. Its opening disclaimer – that it was based on a true story, but one we don’t really know the truth about – efficiently set up the mood for the compelling 2 hour journey into Tonya Harding’s career. I felt slightly uncomfortable that perhaps the class snobbery and domestic violence – oppressively strong themes throughout the film – were being played for entertainment however ultimately I felt that I, Tonya is an unashamedly entertaining film that features domestic violence and classism, and trusts the audience enough to let them understand that. After watching the film, I immediately devoured the New York Times interview with Harding and recommended you do too.
Lady Bird was a deeply hilarious and affecting comedy about growing up. The film opens with mother and daughter listening to the closing lines of Grapes of Wrath, foreshadowing the films two major themes: A poor woman giving everything she has to care for other people, and a portrait of California outside the common LA/San Francisco stereotypes. The poignancy of Marion and “Lady Bird”‘s shared moment of emotion at the end of the Steinbeck audio book quickly gives way as a fight over not-a-lot breaks out between the two of them, resulting in a comedically juvenile car bailing that results in Lady Bird wearing a bright pink cast for the rest of act one. Lady Bird derives most of its emotion and almost all of it’s comedy from this excellent distillation of the teenage tendency to break into childish fights at the drop of a hat. Saoirse Ronan performance was physically and emotionally brilliant and practically every joke and emotional trap laid in the script worked perfectly. Timothée Chalamet’s pretentious douchebag teen boy was a particuarly cringe inducing mirror on myself at that age (although I wish I was that cool).
The fact that neither of these films won more/higher prestige Oscars mean I really need to see The Shape of Water and 3 Billboards ASAP.