Streep plays novelist Alice Hughes, a vain, manipulative woman with streaks of obliviousness and insecurity. Unable to fly, she’s taking the boat to Britain so she can accept a literary award in person. She’s also taking nephew Tyler (Lucas Hedges) as a general dogsbody, and her old college friends, Roberta and Susan (Bergen and Wiest), who she hasn’t seen for many years. Not invited is Alice’s agent, Karen (Gemma Chan), who nonetheless sneaks aboard, hoping to get her bosses an update on Alice’s latest novel.
If the stowaway plot seems farcical, well, Let Them All Talk is ostensibly a comedy-drama. Not that it’s terribly funny. Perhaps there’d be more laughs if Soderbergh had commissioned a more traditional script from celebrated short-story writer Deborah Eisenberg (Soderbergh had Eisenberg flesh out and structure his premise for the film and had her aboard the ship to advise the actors, but the actors improvised much of the dialogue).
The elephant in the stateroom is that Roberta blames Alice for ruining her life by using her, barely disguised, as a character in a book. Not that they’re going to have it out immediately. Roberta, who is miserable in her job selling lingerie in a department store, takes spiteful enjoyment in declining Alice’s invitations to spend time together and instead focuses on trying to charm wealthy men. Susan, who works as an advocate for women in prison, is bemused by them both, and Wiest is essentially relegated to being a foil for the others.
Bergen’s performance is frequently delicious, Streep is wonderful in the way that she creates and reacts in her opaquely pinched character, and Soderbergh clearly enjoys the grand architecture of the ship. But it’s hard to shake the feeling that it would have better if there was a script to stick to.
It’s a neat idea for a HBO doco: director Nick Bilton picks three young people with small social-media followings and tries to turn them into high-paid, super-famous Instagram influencers. This will involve the purchase of tens of thousands of fake followers, along with bots to like and comment on posts. But there’s a lot more to the illusion, and the documentary is particularly fascinating when it shows the tricks influencers use – such as paying to take selfies in a fake private-jet interior that’s booked out days in advance.
Bridge and Tunnel
There’s an amber glow of nostalgia to this involving half-hour drama series about a group of high-spirited friends coming of age on Long Island at the turn of the ’80s. Love and work pose challenges, but the bachelors’ degrees in their back pockets show that it doesn’t do to underestimate them for their humble backgrounds or the Long Island “cawffee” accent that gets them laughed at in the snooty parts of Manhattan. The natural, appealing young cast members jump into their roles with both feet. Unexpectedly touching.
It feels a little like Beaches writ smaller and longer as we become involved in the decades-long friendship between assertive daytime TV star Tully (Katherine Heigl) and the diffident Kate (Sarah Chalke), whose life is a whirl of big adjustments stemming from a divorce-in-progress from husband Johnny (Ben Lawson). Heigl and Chalke work wonderfully together, as do Ali Skovbye and Roan Curtis as the teenage Tully and Kate. It’s those teenage years that prove the most affecting as Tully suffers traumas that will stay with her. Easy to keep watching.
The Witch of Kings Cross
Amazon Prime Video, iTunes, Google Play
Even if you know something of the story of Rosaleen Norton – the Sydney artist whose esoteric works and outre lifestyle scandalised the uptight Australian society of the 1950s – it’s easy to think of her as a mere eccentric who wasn’t all that serious and isn’t to be taken all that seriously.
Thankfully, this terrific new documentary by Sonia Bible (Recipe for Murder) provides a much fuller perspective, making clear the depth of Norton’s artistic and philosophical vision, the significance and confronting beauty of her work and the egregious, small-minded cruelty with which the police and the press persecuted her and those around her.
Bible brings everything to life in a suitably rich, colourful and entrancing style. She makes great use of Norton’s prolific artwork, as well as some specially commissioned erotic dance (wonderfully choreographed by Maya Sheridan, intimately shot by Edward Gill) that evokes the rituals in which Norton honoured the goat-horned pagan god Pan. Norton’s own writings and new interviews with friends and art experts illuminate different facets of an extraordinary dark gem. A must-see.
Rocco Schiavone: Ice Cold Murders
Rocco Schiavone (Marco Giallini) is a grizzled old Italian cop who loves tobacco, sex and cannabis. He also has such a propensity for operating outside the law that he’s been exiled from his beloved Rome to a remote, freezing ski town where the weather really doesn’t suit his clothes. The first of these feature-length mysteries quickly becomes engrossing viewing as Schiavone investigates a murder on the ski slopes while keeping his hand in in other areas. Giallini makes a charismatic rogue, and the alpine scenery is spectacular.