Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Movies

In ‘Hereditary,’ Toni Collette reveals a sixth sense for icy terror

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy noted in a sentence so right, by the time you started arguing with it Anna Karenina was off and suffering.

If Tolstoy got a look at Hereditary, he might’ve added: "Well. There’s unhappy, and then there’s grief-stricken-hideously cruel-unholy family secrets-horror movie-unhappy."

The latter is the dwelling place of director Ari Aster’s fiendish feature debut. Not everything in Hereditary fits together; its rhythm is a little off in its second half (at 127 minutes, it feels slightly attenuated), and it’s clear Aster wanted to throw in a little bit of everything, from seances to sleepwalking to malevolent specters of doom.

Yet you may be too fraught watching the thing to bother over a few missteps. Working with a superb cast, a crafty, teasing musical score by Colin Stetson and a steady accumulation of wracked nerves, gathered image by carefully planned image, this movie promises a paradoxically bright future for its director.

Aster also wrote the screenplay, which begins with an onscreen newspaper obituary noting the passing of a 78-year-old woman at her daughter’s home, near the mountains. Aster makes no mystery of his protagonist’s feelings regarding her late mother. Toni Collette plays Annie, a driven, somewhat forbidding artist specializing in miniatures. In fastidiously re-created tableau, she depicts tiny little scenes from her own life. At the funeral, early on, Annie speaks of her mother’s "secretive and private" side. Later, when Annie reluctantly visits a grief-counseling group, she tells the strangers more about that secrecy, along with the streak of madness and loss that runs in her family.

Annie’s husband (Gabriel Byrne) is quiet sanity incarnate. He half-wonders if Annie should find a way to unblock her feelings toward her late, un-lamented mother. She does so, without his help, in the worst possible way: We’ll keep spoilers under wraps, but it’s enough to say Hereditary makes Annie’s children the playthings of the story’s supernatural element.

Forced by Annie to take his troubled, withdrawn younger sister, Charlie (Milly Shapiro), to an unsupervised high school party, stoner Peter (Alex Wolff) concludes the evening in a panic. Charlie, who likes to click her tongue and make a pingpong-ball sound, has a severe nut allergy, ruthlessly foreshadowed by the filmmaker. Peter rushes her to the car, and takes off, trying to get her to the hospital in time. Then something truly brutal happens, and it’s enough to slap the audience into realizing this family’s troubles have just begun.

Hereditary may generate its share of resentment. It’s not a cathartic horror movie; its preoccupations and methods are pretty grueling. Annie finds her way to the spirit world by way of a sympathetic amateur medium (Ann Dowd) who takes an interest in her recovery after the highway tragedy. By this time Peter’s barely functioning; between him and his mother, the feelings of guilt, resentment and rage run both ways, and Peter becomes one of the "pawns in a horrible, hopeless machine" one of his fellow English class students talks about, in a discussion of Greek tragedy and pitiless gods.

Aster borrows from all over the place, with unusual confidence and purpose. His best images play spatial games between Annie’s miniatures and the goings-on in the real house. Each time Aster cuts to a shot of the spacious semifurnished treehouse behind the family home, the one emitting a ghostly red glow from a space heater, it’s just as arresting as the previous time. Above all, there’s Collette, who sometimes can overdeliver a dramatic moment or an aghast reaction, but in this storytelling context she’s fabulous. It’s a fierce performance with a human pulse, racing one minute, dead still the next. If Hereditary isn’t quite up to the horror-debut level of The Witch, it’s still a pretty remarkable experience. And now I think I need to pet my dog, or listen to some Gershwin, or something.

Comments
‘Incredibles 2’ just might be better than the original — and a cure to superhero fatigue

‘Incredibles 2’ just might be better than the original — and a cure to superhero fatigue

It’s been 14 years since the premiere of Brad Bird’s beloved animated superhero film The Incredibles, one of the mega-hit Pixar films that cemented its reputation for film humor and heart that would satisfy both parents and children. With cool mid-ce...
Published: 06/13/18
Why is Mister Rogers making adults cry decades later?

Why is Mister Rogers making adults cry decades later?

Neighborly block party comes to downtown Tampa.
Published: 06/12/18
 ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’ about Mr. Rogers is much-needed emotional tonic for troubled times

‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’ about Mr. Rogers is much-needed emotional tonic for troubled times

If beloved children’s television show host Mr. Rogers were once a representation of all things milquetoast, in the summer of 2018, his message of love and tolerance is not only saintly, it’s radical. In the deftly crafted documentary Won’t You Be My ...
Published: 06/12/18
Yes, ‘Ocean’s 8’ is a heist movie, but it’s also an empowering, cheeky comedy

Yes, ‘Ocean’s 8’ is a heist movie, but it’s also an empowering, cheeky comedy

Most every successful heist movie, just like a heist itself, functions by obeying a well-defined formula.First comes the setup and backstory (typically involving the righting of a wrong, to lend the subsequent lawbreaking a veneer of moral justificat...
Published: 06/06/18
TMZ: Last surviving munchkin from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ dies at 98

TMZ: Last surviving munchkin from ‘The Wizard of Oz’ dies at 98

The last surviving munchkin in The Wizard of Oz has died.Jerry Maren, 98, died last week at a nursing home in San Diego, according to TMZ.The cause of death for the last surviving member of the famous Lollipop Guild, made famous in the 1939 classic, ...
Published: 06/06/18
‘Blind Side’ star is at Tampa Theatre for a screening this weekend

‘Blind Side’ star is at Tampa Theatre for a screening this weekend

BLIND SIDE: Summer Classic Movie SeriesAll summer long, Tampa Theatre is showing classic Hollywood movies. Sunday features not only a screening of 2009’s The Blind Side, but also actor Quinton Aaron, who played Big Mike in the film, for a Q&A. Based ...
Published: 06/06/18
In ‘Hereditary,’ Toni Collette reveals a sixth sense for icy terror

In ‘Hereditary,’ Toni Collette reveals a sixth sense for icy terror

All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way, as Tolstoy noted in a sentence so right, by the time you started arguing with it Anna Karenina was off and suffering.If Tolstoy got a look at Hereditary, he might’ve added: ...
Published: 06/06/18
Jodie Foster makes ‘Hotel Artemis’ first-class experience

Jodie Foster makes ‘Hotel Artemis’ first-class experience

Hotel Artemis is a shining example of how it isn’t the amount of money spent to make a movie, but how the budget is being spent. Director/writer Drew Pearce has managed to take the money that would be the cape-pressing budget for most superhero movie...
Published: 06/06/18
Summer movie guide: All the superheroes, sequels and quirky comedies to see

Summer movie guide: All the superheroes, sequels and quirky comedies to see

Summer started early this year in Hollywood with the record-breaking release of Avengers: Infinity War, and the marquee Marvel superheroes couldn’t have come at a better time. The box office for the year is down nearly 3 percent, and the industry is ...
Updated one month ago
How Ybor City parties inspired the sets of Avengers: Infinity War

How Ybor City parties inspired the sets of Avengers: Infinity War

Thanos has nothing on Plant City native Charlotte Lee.For the Avengers: Infinity War baddie to alter the perception of his surroundings, he needed a Reality Stone, which, according to the Marvel movie’s lore, was a remnant of one of six singularities...
Updated one month ago