There's no rushing a Joanna Hogg movie—the making or the watching. After a six-year hiatus, the English auteur hits a career peak with The Souvenir, an oblique study in heartbreak she says has gestated for 30 years. In 1980 Sunderland, England, film student Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne) meets Foreign Office suit Anthony (Tom Burke). He's somewhere between a mysterious stranger and a haughty bore, but evolves their relationship from tea conversants to roommates to lovers all the same. Swinton Byrne (daughter of the great Tilda, who plays Julie's mother in the film) gives an admirably earnest performance, but Burke is upsettingly good, turning on the charm after long spells of avoiding eye contact and spouting empty rationalizations for why he needs to move in or borrow 10 quid. It's a toxic relationship, yet The Souvenir probably wouldn't abide that more political diagnosis. It's told from so close up that dramatic irony around Anthony lying and Julie enabling hovers only on the edge of consciousness. Alluded to in some weaker art school scenes, The Souvenir is intended as a patchwork of memory, not a document. This side-door approach is as elusive and dissatisfying as revealing and true. Experiences are not life lessons until they're over. R. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Clackamas, Fox Tower.
Coming so closely on the endlessly bedazzled platform heels of Bohemian Rhapsody by the same director (Dexter Fletcher), Rocketman follows a familiar '70s-steeped music industry biopic blueprint: monster of pop rock towers over the monoculture despite a semi-closeted homosexuality that seems in retrospect glaringly obvious. If the film's biggest laugh comes from Elton (Taron Egerton) swaggering down a shadowy corridor in full Fire Island demon regalia ready to rock…a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, its best joke might just be the heart-shaped, rose-colored frames he wears throughout a subsequent vividly authorized 120-minute confessional in which all public embarrassments and career misfires are blamed on the eventual disappearance of Mom, Dad, manager/boyfriend and hairline. Elton's only successful relationship, we're reminded again and again, has been with long-suffering, lyricist-for-life Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell), which also neatly explains away the film's greatest failings—don't expect anything more than a jukebox musical outlining the piano player's true-ish story. To its credit, Rocketman seems to understand the gossamer-thin origins were always of far less importance than the tunes collected along the way. Scenes of middling interest repeatedly give way to all-singing, all-dancing dramatizations of that platinum songbook, but expertly unlocking the MGM-styled schmaltz within the heart of its subject does not justify the existence of such a laborious vanity project. R. JAY HORTON. Progress Ridge 13, Mill Plain 8, Vancouver Mall 23, Bagdad, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Cornelius, Eastport, Laurelhurst, Living Room, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Fox Tower, Regal Lloyd, Sherwood, Tigard, Vancouver, Scappoose, St. Johns Twin Cinema & Pub, Studio One.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters
Trudging along in the milewide reboot steps of 2014's dully reverent Godzilla and 2017 shoot-'em-up Kong: Skull Island, this third installment of Legendary's ever-more-creaky MonsterVerse franchise introduces an undercard of supporting kaiju for the once and future lizard king to trounce en route to next spring's throne match against the great ape. Alas, even as an empty spectacle intended solely to focus attention on the coming main event—Godzilla: Don King of the Monsters?—the results never satisfy. There's a nervous energy bristling throughout that seems wholly separate from the, y'know, ongoing planetary destruction continually dismissed as either logistical puzzle, ecological mission bleed, or too-apropos metaphor for the familial hurdles bedeviling estranged parents/bio-audio techs Kyle Chandler and Vera Farmiga along with their precocious daughter Millie Bobby Brown—i.e., Coach Taylor, Norma Bates and Stranger Things' Eleven. While disaster flicks of every stripe have long cast small-screen staples in recognizable parts to paper over plot holes, so many familiar faces are asked to flesh out such negligible characters that the first act plays like a fever dream of recap sequences sewn together from unconnected shows. Had cult horror-steeped director Michael Dougherty been just a shade less invested in arguing the teleological value of our New Testament Godzilla, a daft popcorn epic could've been forged from the sheer cavalcade of stream-worthy icons (Charles Dance, Thomas Middleditch, Bradley Whitford) encountering second-tier big bads (Rodan, Ghidorah, Mothra) amid forbidding environs from Atlantis to Antarctica to the Red Sox's storied ballpark. When Fenway hosts the climactic battle of a Godzilla without anyone mentioning the Green Monster, hasn't mankind already lost? PG-13. JAY HORTON. Progress Ridge 13, Mill Plain 8, Vancouver Mall 23, Cedar Hills, Clackamas, Cornelius, Eastport, Hollywood, Oak Grove, Bridgeport, Cascade, Cinema 99, City Center, Division, Evergreen, Regal Lloyd, Pioneer Place, Sherwood, Tigard, Vancouver, Scappoose, Studio One.