Capsule Reviews: BEALE STREET, COLD WAR, & DESTROYER

If Beale Street Could Talk – Fix Rating 6/10

After taking home Oscar gold in 2016 with the wonderful “Moonlight,” writer/director Barry Jenkins turned to a screenplay he had written before his great success. That script, “If Beale Street Could Talk,” is an adaption of a James Baldwin book.

KiKi Layne and Stephan James in Barry Jenkins’ James Baldwin adaptation “If Beale Street Could Talk”

The story methodically follows the struggles of Tish Rivers (KiKi Layne), as she desperately tries to prove that her fiancé, Alonzo (Stephan James), is innocent of a rape that he did not commit. As Alonzo spends time in jail, Tish gives birth to their child.

Heart-breaking and real, “Beale Street” is also slow and meandering. The energy that Jenkins brought in “Moonlight” is missing as this film feels like one segment from that film stretched to feature running time. Performances are wonderful with “Atlanta’s” Brian Tyree Henry sharing a memorable scene.

Cold War – Fix Rating 9/10

If 2018 was the year of the timeless love story (see “A Star is Born”), “Cold War” proves that romance can be harshly dangerous, especially if you’re living in a repressive country.

The pain of the heart captured in “Cold War.” 

When music composer Wiktor (Tomasz Kot) first meets Zula (Joanna Kulig), he’s merely searching for the right fit for a dance and performance company. But it wasn’t just her voice that intrigued him. Zula, a stunning beauty, carried something dark and instantly attractive in her assertive manner. In time, the two become inseparable. But when Wiktor decides to leave their county and defect, the separation takes a toll on their difficult relationship.

Following the couple over a period of years, we see them rise and fall in their careers, all the while pining away for one another. At times, they share a stolen moment, as they go to great pains to avoid detection by authorities.

Shot in the 1:37:1 Academy aspect ratio, this rich, black and white foreign feature, written and directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (see “Ida”), is sure to receive end of the year awards notice. “Cold War” is an impressive, sad, finely etched story of troubled souls, cursed by their love for one another, during the wrong time and in all the wrong places.

Destroyer – Fix Rating 7/10

Nicole Kidman is having a fantastic year. After delivering an award-worthy performance in “Boy Erased,” it is her work in Karyn Kusama’s “Destroyer” that will really turn heads. Here she plays an alcoholic police detective named Erin Bell, who has forever been damaged by an undercover assignment that went bad. Years later, she discovers that one of the players from that dark assignment has returned.

Nicole Kidman gets ugly in “Destroyer.”

A one-woman wrecking machine, Erin sets off, often haphazardly, on her own to bring the criminal to justice—her particular kind of justice. “Destroyer” isn’t just some revenge, action, crime tale, no, this is a character study about a wronged woman seeking to put some order back into her life. We see her struggle with her relationship with her teen daughter and battle the bottle addiction.

Kidman delivers a stripped bare performance appearing so beaten and ugly throughout most of the movie that you might not even recognize the classic Hollywood beauty. After 2018, one thing is clear, Nicole Kidman is an acting force to be reckoned with.

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