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Cinema Film Round-up: February 24, 2023

The Star's film critic MARIA DUARTE reviews Joyland, What's Love Got To Do With It, Cocaine Bear and Creature

Joyland (15)
Directed by Saim Sadiq
★★★

 

 

A traditional family in Pakistan is ripped apart when the youngest son becomes infatuated with an ambitious trans starlet in Saim Sadiq’s impressive debut feature which explores sexual fluidity and rebellion within a repressed patriarchal society. 

Haider (a phenomenal Ali Junejo) is unemployed and a stay-at-home husband while his wife Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq) goes out to work with his blessing.

They live with his wheelchair-bound father (Salmaan Peerzada), his older brother (Sameer Sohail), his pregnant wife (Sarwat Gilani) and their three daughters.

His dad and alpha male sibling constantly poke fun at Haider’s sensitivity and question his masculinity. 

When he obtains a job as a back-up dancer at an erotic burlesque-style theatre he soon grows close to the show’s owner Biba (the mesmerising Alina Khan), a transgender woman who accepts him as he is.

Meanwhile Mumtaz is forced to give up her job and become a housewife and mother alongside her sister-in-law in a household which only celebrates the male line and proves suffocating for her.

Starring the first trans person to have a lead role in a major Pakistani film, Sadiq’s stunningly honest yet bittersweet drama examines masculine toxicity in Pakistan’s patriarchal society in which men and women have their strict roles to play. 

As it heads to its uncompromising conclusion Joyland pays homage to all those people who pay the human cost of patriarchy.

Out in cinemas today.

What’s Love Got To Do With It (12)
Directed by Shekhar Kapur
★★★

 

The pros and cons of a love match versus an arranged or “assisted marriage” are explored in this rom-com which examines the contrast between Western and Eastern ideas of romance. 

It is inspired by writer Jemima Khan’s own personal experience of living in Pakistan for a decade where she was married to Imran Khan, the country’s former prime minister and renowned cricket player.

The film, directed by Shekhar Kapur, offers an interesting perspective following documentary film-maker Zoe (Lily James) as she decides to film her childhood friend and neighbour Kaz (Shazad Latif) on his journey rom London to Lahore as a willing participant in an assisted marriage. While Zoe’s love life is a mess, Kaz knows what he wants. 

Despite a tone that is all over the place, it is James and Latif’s sizzling chemistry that keeps you invested in this cross-cultural romantic tale, along with Emma Thompson’s whirlwind turn as Zoe’s meddling mother.

Out in cinemas today.

Cocaine Bear (15)
Directed by Elizabeth Banks 
★★

Inspired by real events, this film does what it says on the tin. It is indeed about a bear, high on cocaine, who goes on a rampage in the woods killing unsuspecting victims in the goriest fashion. 

It is based on the true story of how in September 1985 a narcotics cop turned drugs smuggler (Matthew Rhys) dropped an illicit cargo of cocaine over the Chattahoochee wilderness in Knoxville Tennessee (and died after bailing out of his plane), and a 175-pound bear was found dead four months later having overdosed on those drugs. 

Everything else is pure fiction. 

To imagine a 500-pound coked-up killing machine is a simple but brilliant idea, except that this dark comedy within a horror film needed more laughs to counterbalance the blood and gore, and its attempt to highlight the dubious US war on drugs during the Reagan era also falls flat. 

However, a standout cast led by Keri Russell and the late Ray Liotta (in one of his last ever performances) do a sterling job under the circumstances in a tale that shows truth to be stranger than fiction.

Out in cinemas today.

Creature (12A)
Directed by Asif Kapadia
★★★

Academy Award-winner Asif Kapadia attempts to push the cinematic boundaries in this immersive and visceral film which brings acclaimed choreographer Akram Khan’s new work to the big screen. 

Set in a dilapidated Arctic research station, this dystopian work centres on a creature (Jeffrey Cirio) who is unknowingly enlisted into an experimental programme during which begins to think for himself and falls in love with a compassionate cleaner Marie (Erina Takahash). They dream of escaping the facility. 

Inspired by Georg Buchner’s seminal play Woyzeck and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and performed by the English National Ballet, this poignant and striking creation is the tragic tale of an outsider’s search to belong and be accepted. 

It is a surreal and visual feast that needs to be experienced on the big screen.

Out in cinemas today.

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