Bethlehem Press

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Movie Review: ‘Maudie’

Friday, August 4, 2017 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

“Maudie” is a charming film based on the real-life story of Maud Lewis (1903-1970), a Nova Scotia folk artist with a disability whose paintings brought her national attention in Canada.

Look for an Oscar actress nomination for Sally Hawkins, who portrays Maud with brash reverence and raw-nerved reality.

Also look for an Oscar supporting actor nomination for Ethan Hawke, who plays Maud’s husband, Everett, with barely-repressed anger.

Maud, rejected by her Aunt Ida (Gabrielle Rose) and brother, Charlie (Zachary Bennett), answers Everett’s ad for a housekeeper.

Everett lives in what appears to be the grand-daddy of the tiny-house movement, a 10-ft. by 12-ft. house. He scrapes together a living as a fisherman and seller of wood. The house is barely big enough for one person, much less two persons.

Maud and Everett clash from the start, but through her cooking, cleaning and painting, especially when New York City visitor, Sandra (Kari Matchett), starts buying her art work, the walls come down. Gradually, and grudgingly, a picture of, if not domestic bliss, then domestic partnership develops.

Aisling Walsh (director, “The Daisy Chain,” 2008) directs from a screenplay by Sherry White (co-writer, “Relative Happiness,” 2014) with a simplicity that emphasizes landscape, reflective surfaces, colors (from desaturated colors, to sepia tones, to bright winter snow) and facial closeups of the lead characters.

The bleak coastline, simple village and overcast sky become characters unto themselves in the cinematography, which alternates from vivid vista exteriors to soft-focus interiors, by Director of Photography Guy Godfree. Adding to the mood is a spare guitar and piano melody by Michael Timmins (of Canadian group, Cowboy Junkies), who wrote “Something More Besides You,” sung by his sister, Margo Timmins (also of the Cowboy Junkies), heard on the soundtrack.

Hawkins (Oscar supporting actress nominee, “Blue Jasmine,” 2013; “Happy-Go-Lucky,” 2008) has a memorable screen presence. She’s an inside-out actor. As Maud, she hunches her back, walks pigeon-toed, tilts her head, wrinkles her brow, and raises her eyebrows.

She clutches her paint brushes dipped in primary colors from a sardine-cans palette. Each brush stroke is laborious, and a labor of love. As the socially-awkward Maud, she speaks haltingly, often in whispers. When she breaks out into a crooked toothy grin, you can’t help but smile with her.

Hawke (Oscar supporting actor nominee, “Boyhood,” 2014, and “Training Day,” 2002; Oscar adapted screenplays co-writer nominee, “Before Midnight,” 2013, and “Before Sunset,” 2004) walks with the stolidity of a man used to clearing fields, carrying rocks in his hands. His forehead is as furrowed as a plowed field. His lips are set in a permanent scowl. He’s a man of few words, if any. The only smile he allows is rueful, and that rarely. His eyes burn like cinders.

Maud is Cinderella to Everett’s Beanstalk Giant. Maud and Everett are each in a world of pain, of hurt. Scenes between Hawkins and Hawke are fascinating and are so seamless, you never think they are acting.

Maud Lewis was a folk artist whose paintings are naive, outsider (think Grandma Moses). After a newspaper article and a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation TV show profile, she achieved celebrity. She sold her paintings for $5 each. At a May 2017 auction, one fetched $45,000.

“Maudie” is a film of extraordinary depth and exquisite sadness. As Maud says, looking out a window, “The whole of life, already framed, right there.”

And so is the film.

“Maudie,”MPAA Rated PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned. Some Material May Be Inappropriate For Children Under 13) for some thematic content and brief sexuality; Genre: Biography, Drama, Romance; Run Time: 1 hr., 55 min.; Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.

Credit Readers Anonymous:The “Maudie” end credits include brief black and white documentary footage of the real-life Maud and Everett Lewis, plus images of Maud’s actual paintings. Filming locations included Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Maud Lewis’s paintings are on exhibit in The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Halifax.

Box Office,July 28: “Dunkirk” was the victor two weeks in a row, with $28.1 million, $102.8 million, two weeks, with “The Emoji Movie” opening at No. 2 with $25.6 million, as “Girls Trip” dropped one slot, with $20 million, $65.5 million, two weeks, keeping “Atomic Blonde” opening at No. 4 with $18.5 million, one week. 5. “Spider-Man: Homecoming” slung down two slots, $13.4 million, $278.3 million, four weeks.

6 “War for the Planet of the Apes” swung down two places, $10.3 million, $118.6 million, three weeks. 7. “Despicable Me 3” ratcheted down one notch, $7.7 million, $230.4 million, five weeks. 8. “Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets” orbited down three places, $6.8 million, $30.6 million, two weeks. 9. “Baby Driver” skidded down two slots, $4 million, $92 million, five weeks. 10. “Wonder Woman” flew down one place, $3.5 million, $395.4 million, nine weeks.

16. “Maudie” held at No. 16, with $350,934 on only 228 screens, and $4.6 million, 16 weeks.

Unreel,Aug. 4:

“The Dark Tower,”PG-13: Nikolaj Arcel directs Katheryn Winnick, Matthew McConaughey, Idris Elba, and Jackie Earle Haley in the Fantasy film based on the Stephen King novel about gunslinger, Roland Deschain, who battles Walter O’Dim, the Man in Black, to prevent him toppling the Dark Tower that holds the universe together.

“Detroit,”R: Kathryn Bigelow directs John Boyega, Anthony Mackie, Algee Smith, and Jacob Latimore in the Drama based on the 1967 Detroit riots.

“Midnight Sun,”PG-13: Scott Speer directs Bella Thorne, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Rob Riggle, and Quinn Shephard in the Romance-Drama about a 17-year-old who has a disease whereby exposure to the sun is fatal.

“Step,”PG: Amanda Lipitz directs Paula Dofat, Cori Grainger, and Tayla Solomon in the Documentary about a Baltimore high-school girls’ step dance team.

“Wind River,”R: Taylor Sheridan directs: Kelsey Asbille, Jeremy Renner, Julia Jones, and Teo Briones in the Crime Thriller about an FBI agent who investigates a murder on a Native-American reservation.

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes