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FRIDAY FILM BITES: Farewell My Queen, Hit and Run, Killer Joe

Categories: Movies

Farewell My Queen Virginie Ledoyen stars as Gabrielle in Farewell, My Queen. (Eone Films)

Farewell My Queen

A tale of young infatuation hidden beneath the beautiful frocks of the 17th century French court, Farewell My Queen is a surprisingly intimate, if not naturalistic, look at the final days of royal life in Versailles. In a humid July, the air is thick with mosquitoes and talk of the revolution. But for the moment it is only an echo, a murmur on the breeze.

Inside the palace walls, Sidonie Laborde focuses on her role as the Queen's royal reader. When Marie Antoinette beckons her, she comes to read passages from plays, poetry or even descriptions of the latest palace fashions. Léa Seydoux plays Sidonie as a woman blinded by her misplaced passion. But the Queen has eyes for the beguiling Gabrielle, a raven-haired beauty in an emerald dress.

Director Benoît Jacquot keeps the focus on the small village of servants who tend to the royals. The Bastille falls, life goes on, but there's an unease behind the gossip. Jacquot captures the claustrophobic atmosphere, a mixture of disbelief and doom, among the elite. What raises Farewell My Queen above the hot pink mess that was Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette is the little details. Seydoux's rasping breath as she runs to the Queen's side and the easy (yet enchanting) arrogance of the Marie Antoinette herself (Diane Kruger in an iconic performance.)

RATING: 4 out of 5

HIt and Run Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard embark on an awkward and hilarious road trip in the romantic action comedy Hit and Run. (Jeffrey Reed/Alliance Films)

Hit and Run

Somewhere behind the chorus of squealing tires in Hit and Run is a charming, surprisingly real romantic comedy about a bad man trying to be good and his all-too-understanding girlfriend (Kristen Bell).

Dax Shepard plays "Charles Bronson" a getaway driver hiding in a small town under the witness protection program. But an opportunity for his girlfriend forces Charles to head to Los Angeles and confront his past. Cuddling in bed beside each other, Shepard and Bell have an undeniable chemistry (helped by the fact the two are a couple in real life.) What is less believable is Charles as a muscle car-racing wheelman, an occupation that seems to clash with his Chad Kroeger hairstyle and laid-back attitude.

Hit and Run is a passion project for Shepard, who co-directed the film, wrote the screenplay and provided all the cars. Shepard prides himself on being behind the wheel for the movie's many chase scenes, but strangely provides little more than cars skidding across pavement, burning endless rubber and carving wide figure eights in empty fields. He also brought in his buddies, Tom Arnold as an accident-prone federal marshal, and Bradley Cooper. Cooper is wildly miscast as a wannabe gangster complete with dreadlocks and tear-away pants.

While in real life Shepard and Bell seem to be well-meaning citizens, (see their pledge not to marry until their gay friends can join them) Hit and Run is peppered with awkward to uncomfortable race-based humour and a mincing cop as the token gay character. The story runs out of gas far before the finish arrives, but Shepard has an easy-going screen presence and a unique comic voice. Here's hoping his next project leaves the auto-fixation in the dust.

RATING: 2 out of 5

Killer Joe Matthew McConaughey and Juno Temple, left, in a scene from Killer Joe. (Independent Pictures/Associated Press)

Hit and Run

Just a quick mention -- you should not miss Killer Joe while it's still in theatres. A white trash opera of Jerry Spinger-like dimension, the latest movie from director William Friedkin and the playwright Tracy Letts does not disappoint.

Emile Hirsch is Chris Smith, a low-life who puts a contract out on his mother. Enter Matthew McConaughey as Killer Joe himself, a police detective who moonlights as a hitman. Since Chris and his kin are short on funds, he takes Chris's flighty sister Dottie (Juno Temple) as collateral.

Killer Joe gives us a vision of Texas that will give the tourist board night sweats. The Smiths, a mixture of lunkheads, dealers and schemers, are like drowning rats in a bucket, scrambling over each other to survive. As for McConaughey, he continues his hot streak, ruling the screen as the black-hatted sadistic Svengali who cons the cons. Yes, there are perverted acts involving poultry and yes this is NOT recommended for the easily offended. Still, this squeamish fever dream of deep-fried Southern noir is something to savour.

RATING: 4.5 out of 5

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