We’ll waste no time on “Rock of Ages” (47% rotten) and “That’s My Boy” (14% rotten), focusing instead on the two best films opening this weekend. Contrary to its tepid banner ads, Lynn Shelton’s “Your Sister’s Sister” is refreshingly simple and authentic. Per her improv-based directorial style, stars Mark Duplass (who also starred in her “Humpday”), Emily Blunt and Rosemarie DeWitt are a joy to watch as they navigate through a charged romantic triangle involving two sisters.
Matthew Akers’ accessible art doc “Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present” (winner of the Panorama Audience Award at Berlin, nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance – it lost to Eugene Jarecki’s “The House I Live In”) not only has a fascinating subject, but adds insight into Abramovic — the woman, artist, provacateur and “grandmother of performance art” — whose reception has ranged from ignored and misunderstood to exalted and emulated. The titular MoMA exhibition that the film records is tame compared to her earlier work, but no less a challenge to audiences. As the Village Voice puts it: “She’s trying to access a shared humanity, to foster an unusual intimacy with viewers—to strip herself, often literally, to a naked and undeniable truth.”
Also arriving in New York is Mathieu Demy’s “Americano,” which is most notable for the actor-writer-director’s use of his own identity and questions (as the son of fillmakers Jacques Demy and Agnes Varda) within a fictional narrative that goes from France to Venice, California to Mexico – where one can’t help but wonder if the casting of Salma Hayek as a stripper/prostitute doesn’t enable the filmmaker to fulfill a personal fantasy. Hayek will also be largely responsible for any ticket sales.
“Your Sister’s Sister” IFC, US | Dir: Lynn Shelton; Cast: Emily Blunt, Mark Duplass, Rosemarie DeWitt | 92% Fresh | EW: “Your Sister’s Sister moves far beyond easy conventions, and the rewards are all the richer.” | toh! interviews Shelton | Critical Cosensus Discusses the Film.
“Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present” Music Box Films, US | Dir: Matthew Akers | 86% Fresh | Variety: “An intelligent overview that makes a radical artist’s work comprehensible to audiences with no previous awareness of her or her chosen path.” | Playlist on Its No-Risk Direction.
“Americano” MPI Media, FR | Dir: Mathieu Demy; Cast: Mathieu Demy, Salma Hayek | 50% Rotten | THR: “The primary appeal of Americano lies in witnessing the attempt of a famous progeny to forge his own creative path, as Demy’s struggle with artistic inheritance resonates throughout unmoored Martin’s voyage between past and present.”
“The Woman in the Fifth” ATO Pictures, FR/POL/UK | Dir: Pawel Pawlikowski; Cast: Ethan Hawke, Kristen Scott Thomas, Joanna Kulig | 72% Rotten | Village Voice: “You’re not sure what this is till it’s over, but certainly Hawke’s performance is his nerviest and most sincere in a decade.”
“The Art of Rap” Indomina Releasing, US/UK | Dir: Ice-T | THR: “While the film showcases some of the biggest names in rap both past and present, Ice-T himself absorbs a good deal of screen time, both interviewing other performers and reflecting on the state of contemporary rap as well, which he feels has gone too ‘pop.'”
“Rock of Ages” Warner Bros. US | Dir: Adam Shankman; Cast: Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand, Julianne Hough, Bryan Cranston | 45% Fresh | Salon: “an effulgent celebration of fakeness. It isn’t trying to be real; it’s trying to be faker than any fake thing has ever been before.” | Village Voice: “It’s not every day, after all, that you get to see two great American traditions — guitar/bass/drums rock music and Tin Pan Alley musical theater — so thoroughly, mutually degraded.”