*** Boxing legend Marvin Hagler once quipped that it’s hard to get up at 5 am “when you’ve been sleeping in silk pajamas.” That’s the comfort predicament for Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan). He’s now a gladiator in quiet detente, surrounded by fineries: a beautiful family (Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Mila Davis-Kent), a robust knitwear collection, and a promising post-boxing career as a gym owner. But his bliss is interrupted by Dame Anderson (Jonathan Majors, cementing himself as 2023′s Biggest Bad after playing Marvel’s Kang), a childhood friend and veritable shadow of Adonis, locked up as a teenager and now hulking toward a title shot. With a posture and wardrobe modeled on Mike Tyson’s Spartan intimidation, Majors enriches the character with bone-deep anxiety and loneliness. Like all the Creed films, III reimagines its Rocky forebears in better taste: empathy for “villains,” better roles for women, honest conversations between Black heroes and antiheroes. Does it toss the electricity and breakneck pacing of Rocky III out with Mr. T’s bathwater? Regrettably. Do the scenes of men learning how to cry outshine the combat that Jordan himself now directs? Also yes. But pity the franchise that, unlike this one, refuses to work on itself. PG-13. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Bridgeport, Cedar Hills, Eastport, Evergreen Parkway, Fox Tower, Joy Cinema, Lake Theater, Laurelhurst, Living Room, Lloyd Center, Oak Grove, Pioneer Place, Progress Ridge, Studio One, Tigard.
ONE FINE MORNING
*** No one ever says that Sandra (Léa Seydoux) is spread too thin in One Fine Morning, writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve’s follow-up to Bergman Island, but it’s obvious when you observe the Parisian single mother’s daily routine. Through weariness and without complaint, Sandra dotes on her young daughter and cares for her dementia-ridden father, struggling to imagine how a new romance could fit into her life. But it’s not just the contents of Sandra’s plate that suggest a put-upon person; it’s how Hansen-Løve allows all the other characters to monologue. Sandra’s love interest (Melvil Poupaud) is a verbose chemist, her mother (Nicole Garcia) a remarried political advocate, her daughter (Camille Leban Martins) a bright young student. Even Sandra’s career as a translator deemphasizes her perspective. That’s a fascinating challenge for Seydoux, a movie star (best known for Bond films and Blue Is the Warmest Color) inhabiting an everyday person decentralized in her own life. It’s a frustratingly subversive, perhaps overly thorough approach to making the audience constantly hope that someone else will put Sandra first. Maybe that day will come some fine morning. Maybe the reprieve will last five minutes. Maybe this is just the thankless labor for too many women. R. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Cinema 21.
** Charlotte Rampling’s Night Porter co-star Dirk Bogarde once termed her inimitably piercing, amused and sorrowful gaze “the look.” The 77-year-old arthouse star has expertly employed the look for nearly 60 years on screen, and it’s the engine of her latest film. Juniper sees Rampling play Ruth, an ailing, gin-guzzling grandmother, but drink doesn’t dull Ruth’s tongue or wit as she weaves a theoretically unlikely (but narratively predictable) bond with her depressed grandson Sam (George Ferrier) while convalescing on his family estate in New Zealand. Without shame, Ruth prods some psychosexual dynamics with her grandson and his friends, and the cinematography delights in her view of young men’s toned arms. That’s the kind of devil-may-care libido you want from the star of Swimming Pool, but while Sam repeatedly lifts the wheelchair-bound Ruth into the air to dance, he can’t carry the movie. Without Ruth, it’s all grief through exposition and a floppy blond haircut that obscures any specificity in Ferrier’s pained features. Filmmakers should showcase Rampling’s indomitable presence and deep-set eyes for as long as she’s working, but ideally with more actors capable of facing the look. NR. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Salem.
THE QUIET GIRL
** This year’s Best International Feature category at the Oscars brims with gutting little parables of innocent creatures finding and losing love. If EO the donkey and the boys of Close didn’t drain your waterworks, The Quiet Girl is eager to try. The black sheep of a literally and emotionally bankrupt home, 9-year-old Cáit (Catherine Clinch) is shipped to her cousins’ idyllic dairy farm in Southern Ireland for the summer. There, the practically mute child finds her new guardians will welcome and explore her reticence in ways no sibling, teacher or parent ever has. Cáit’s cousin Eibhlín (Carrie Crowley) is practically angelic, though it takes Eibhlín’s husband, Seán (Andrew Bennett), longer to warm up, as Cáit fills their lives’ child-sized void. The adults of The Quiet Girl are either so kind or so dismissive toward children that one almost expects Matilda-style magical realism from the entirely polarized treatment, while Cáit herself is more vessel than character. The result is a soft summer fable that all but attacks our tear ducts. Starving a vulnerable audience proxy of love and then dosing them at exactly the prescribed times takes unflinching focus—and it’s hard not to feel, even if the tenderness is an act of force. PG-13. CHANCE SOLEM-PFEIFER. Living Room.