Thursday, July 28, 2016

Now on Showtime: Clouds of Sils Maria (2015)

Clouds of Sils Maria (2015) - Written and Directed by Olivier Assayas; Starring Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Chloe Grace Moretz.

By Kenny Howell

I am really only familiar with Olivier Assayas' recent work, but his films have always struck me as I was watching people live their lives instead of being characters in a movie.

The delightful Summer Hours was like that, and was one of my favorite films the year it came out.

There are moments when that feel breaks, when you have to drop some exposition or propel the story forward, but most of the time you just feel you have dropped in on someone's conversation.

Clouds of Sils Maria definitely has that feel. It stars Juliette Binoche as Maria, an aging actress who is confronted with playing opposite the character that made her famous years earlier. The character she will be playing now mirrors her life, or at least her idea of her life. She feels the industry has passed her by, and she is washed up. She is further reminded of that when her co-star, who will be playing the part she once played is a troubled, yet talented young actress named Jo-Ann Ellis (Chloe Grace Moretz).

The majority of the film focuses on the relationship between Maria and her assistant, Valentine (Kristen Stewart). Stewart won a Cesar (the French version of the Oscars) for the film for Best Supporting Actress, and it is probably because she seems more relaxed into the role in this one than she ever has. There are still her nervous ticks - the breathiness, the hair adjusting - but she definitely seems more in control than she ever has. Binoche does the heavy lifting, but Stewart is there to help her along the way. Valentine is kind of the voice of reason for Maria, trying to get her to realize where her talent could be best utilized in this stage in her career, but it becomes difficult since Maria cannot break from her cycle of depression and severe lack of confidence in her ability.

Clouds of Sils Maria is quiet, some might consider slow, but if you just let yourself live in it, it's one of the more rewarding experiences of the year.

Clouds of Sils Maria is now playing on Showtime.

Rating: ***1/2

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