The Journey

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The Journey

Runtime 91 minutes
PG-13

The battle between the Protestants and the Catholics in Northern Ireland (known as The Troubles) is as legendary as it was bloody. In 2006 the parties met in Scotland to once again try to resolve the issues. The leaders were the Rev. Ian Paisley (Timothy Spall), the closed-minded leader of the Protestants and Martin McGuiness (Colm Meany), the leader of the IRA. The two had never met but they hated each other.

There was apparently a tradition in Northern Ireland for politicians from opposing factions to travel together to prevent assassination attempts. In 2006 Paisley had to return to Ireland to attend a party celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary. McGuiness apparently traveled with him.

They flew together but nobody knows what happened. What did happen that they know of is that The Troubles were settled. Director Tim Hamm and writer Colin Bateman decided to move the location from the confined, claustrophobic airplane to an automobile. So they had Paisley and McGinnis ride together in a limousine to an airport that was over an hour away.

This movie is an imagination of the conversation that might have taken place between these two antagonists who hated one another, and it is a sparkling journey.

I don’t think there is any actor extant who can portray a hateful, unlikable person as well as Spall. I thought he deserved an Oscar nomination last year for his performance in Denial, and I would give him another for this performance. He is so condescendingly arrogant that one cannot help but despise him.

While sophisticated moviegoers might think that the film has a lot of green screen and CGI in it for the car trip, in fact the movie was actually filmed in a moving car as shown on screen.

There have been lots of films about two men who oppose one another. The one that stands out for me is Becket, which brought together the monumental battle of wills between King Henry II, played by Peter O’Toole (“Won’t anybody rid me of this troublesome prince?”) and Thomas  Becket, played by Richard Burton.

Spall and Meany need not take a backseat to O’Toole and Burton and their performances here. Working with a smart, intelligent script they fence with one another throughout the movie in a way that is entirely believable.

This does what movies should do; it educates and entertains at the same time.

Beatriz at Dinner

Runtime 83 minutes
R

Salma Hayek stars in “Beatriz at Dinner” directed by Miguel Arteta.

Kathy (Connie Britton) and Grant (David Warshofsky) throw a big party at their beautiful mansion to celebrate a big deal they closed with the help of Doug (John Lithgow), a hugely successful real estate entrepreneur. Beatriz (Salma Hayek), a holistic healer massage therapist who helped cure their daughter of cancer, is at the house and her car has broken down so she’s invited to the party.

While the plot is a collision of values between Beatriz and Doug, what sets this film apart is the party dialogue of the exceptional script (Mike White) translated to the screen with unusually good pacing by director Miguel Arteta.

Most movies that try to display slice of life dialogue fail dismally because it is so stilted and phony. But the dialogue in this film is so good, so true to the characters’ respective characters, that it expertly captures the quality of such a group.

There are scintillating performances by the supporting cast that includes Chloë Sevigny, Amy Landecker as Doug’s wife, Jeana, and Jay Duplass. These people just don’t seem to be acting as they sit around and discuss things that real people of privilege would actually discuss at a party like this. Maybe I’m emphasizing the dialogue too much, but I’ve seen too many films in which the conversation is just so false and contrived that when I finally see a film in which it rings true, I guess it’s hard for me to believe.

Lithgow is particularly effective, especially when he gushes on about how great it makes him feel to kill big game (something I think should be a felony, and Beatriz obviously agrees with me).

Beatriz is inscrutable, to say the least, and the ending is equally so, if not beyond credibility. The runtime is right up my alley.

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