Kent calls "The Nightingale" a modern story.
When Jennifer Kent's first feature film, The Babadook, created a new iconic horror monster, fans couldn't wait to see what she'd come up with next.
That wait turned out to be five years, or four if if you caught her second film The Nightingale at the Venice Film Festival last year.
Set in 1825 Tasmania, Clare (Aisling Franciosi) is just trying to take care of her husband and child. But she's also the kept woman of Hawkins (Sam Claflin), an abusive British officer who rapes her repeatedly and makes life hell for her family. Since this is a Jennifer Kent film, you know Clare isn't going to stand for it, but The Nightingale is about more than just revenge. Kent explores what actually makes Hawkins so abusive.
Kent calls her film a modern story, despite it being set nearly 200 years ago. Popdust got to have a conversation with Kent to explore those modern themes. The Nightingale is in theaters Friday, August 2.
Aisling Franciosi as "Clare" in Jennifer Kent's The Nightingale. Courtesy of IFC Films
I agree with you that this is a modern story. I saw so many relatable things in it, one being here's this authority figure who does a bad job and still feels entitled to a promotion. Sound familiar?
Jennifer Kent: Yes, [Laughs], yes. And has a terrible history with women. I finished writing it and then all this happened in America.
JK: Yeah. I finished writing it, we were in early preproduction and we were just like, "Oh my God. Unbelievable."
Baykali Ganambarr as "Billy" and Aisling Franciosi as "Clare" in Jennifer Kent's The Nightingale. Courtesy of IFC Films
And they always find reasons not to believe women, don't they? They say she's an ex-con, so she can't be telling the truth.
JK: Yeah, she's a whore, so she's unreliable. I mean, it's sadly familiar, because it's pretty ubiquitous. It's a world phenomenon. It's not just down to one or two people here or there.
And she chooses to stay in the situation with a rapist because she fears the alternative is even worse. How many people, especially women, decide to suffer in an unjust situation thinking it'll be better if they just keep quiet?
JK: I think so and people misunderstand that, because they don't understand how hard it is when you have nothing—to leave a situation. She has everything to lose in making that public or even in telling her husband. There's nothing to gain there.
Or even not telling him, but running away. Being on the run is scarier to her.
JK: She'd be a wanted criminal, so yeah. It was a lose-lose situation there.
Aisling Franciosi as "Clare" in Jennifer Kent's The Nightingale.
Courtesy of IFC Films
Staying with a rapist is extreme, although there are probably women in modern corporate situations who deal with close to that.
JK: Yeah, or in domestic situations. It's not just about go and walk out the door. There are so many things to consider. I feel for her situation. I think it's very believable, even in the modern context.
So she makes some sort of peace with herself that she can live with this and let him keep raping her, thinking that will appease him. Does she learn it's never enough? They keep taking more.
JK: Yeah, I think for her, her biggest concern is her child and her husband and protecting them, and I think a lot of women do that. They put themselves last in order to hold what's dear to them. That's what's so tragic about the situation.
Sam Claflin as Hawkins in Jennifer Kent's "The Nightingale"Courtesy of IFC Films
I hope it might be a productive lesson that putting yourself through that to appease an abuser is not going to work, so we should put a stop to it before it gets that bad.
JK: But she can't put a stop to it. It's really about examining the man, the man's behavior as well. She did what she could. I really do feel that. She did what she could in that situation.
I meant I'm asking all of us to put a stop to men like that, not the women they abuse.
JK: That's why with the character of Hawkins, I really wanted to show the damage in him. Other than he's just an evil person, it's like he's more human than we care to believe. If we can look at how it is that people like that end up in the world, how do we create a society that allows that behavior to exist? And not just in isolation, in relative abundance. How do we raise our boys? How are we socializing people to feel that that's okay.
It's what we're now calling toxic masculinity, right?
JK: Yeah, yeah, yeah, but I have a lot of compassion for that. Don't get me wrong. I'm not condoning any kind of abusive behavior, but I think the key to evolution lies in some kind of understanding of it.
Does it happen in families and society?
JK: It's a very deep, deep problem, I guess is my point, and it's been around. It's not a new problem, and I think ultimately it comes from a lack of understanding and a disrespect for the feminine. So we've got to work on it.
It destroys him, too, but not before he destroys everything else in his path.
JK: He destroys everything that he encounters. I feel for him because it's pathetic. It's not a life. It's not any kind of life, and I think it also comes from what we hold dear. If we hold power and those kinds of things like power and status, if we only value those things, we become morally bereft. As a culture, we lose our way, and I think that we are. We are in that place to a certain extent.
How do we heal those people without letting them destroy us along the way?
JK: I think we have to look first and foremost at ourselves. I think we can only look at ourselves and how we behave and how we move through the world. That's why I wanted to tell the story. How can we love even in really dark times? How can we do that? I think Clare and Billy offer some [hope]. Their story explores that.
Aisling Franciosi as "Clare" in Jennifer Kent's The Nightingale.
Courtesy of IFC Films
In a society like that, is revenge even satisfying?
JK: I think that's for the audience. I wouldn't want to spoon feed a response. I think that's for the audience to decide. I feel I have my thoughts and feelings on that, which were very strongly running through the film. Some people don't like that idea, that revenge isn't sweet. It's not up to me to convince them, either. The story is there, and they can take what they want from it.
What will be your next film?
JK: The one that I'm doing this year is Alice + Freda Forever. That's based on a true story. It's a romance of sorts. It's a love story between two young women in Memphis, two teenage girls and it goes all horribly pear shaped.
The "John Wick" co-creator brings his action style to "The Fast and the Furious" franchise.
By the time Vin Diesel returned to the Fast and Furious franchise, the family had expanded with more dynamic, colorful characters.
After Dwayne Johnson joined the family in Fast Five and Jason Statham was revealed as the villain in Furious 7, Deckard Shaw (Statham) and Luke Hobbs (Johnson) reluctantly teamed up in a subplot in The Fate of the Furious. Now they're starring in their own movie: The Fast and the Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.
Hobbs and Shaw are forced to team up to find Shaw's sister, Hattie (Vanessa Kirby). Hattie went missing after an attempt to secure a virus went south. She's now on the run from the CIA, MI-6, and Princeton (Idris Elba), who wants the virus for himself; fist fights, car chases, and insulting one-liners fly.
The movie's director, David Leitch, co-founded 87eleven Action Design and co-created and co-directed the first John Wick movie with Chad Stahelski. After that, he directed Atomic Blonde and Deadpool 2. Leitch spoke with Popdust about bringing his unique action style to Hobbs & Shaw, which hits theaters Friday, August 2.
Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) ready for actionUniversal
In preparation for the movie, did you watch Dwayne and Jason's fights in all their movies, studying what they've done and thinking about what they might be able to do going forward?
David Leitch: Well, it was funny. I didn't need to study Jason necessarily, because I've worked with him so many times. He works out at 83eleven's stunt training facility that Chad Stahelski and I have. So he's always there preparing, whether it's for a movie that we're doing with him as action directors or even if he's just preparing with the stunt team; he always comes to our place. Dwayne's a little different. I did go back and watch the stuff he did in the Fast movies. I watched this old movie of his called The Rundown, which I remember had a really cool fight scene in the bar where he throws the record player. It was a really creative use of props and things. I just wanted to see where he'd been in terms of his action life in terms of fighting and then where we could take him.
When you intercut Hobbs and Shaw's separate fight scenes, do you actually have to choreograph those scenes together so they intercut well?
DL: You normally would. That was something that actually I got inspired with in post, the intercutting of it all. We were choreographing and adding some moves to be reflective of Shaw moves. So it would reveal brother and sister, chip off the old block kind of thing, like brother, like sister. So we were really specific that way, but in terms of editing and transitions and things, we really discovered that in editorial with Christopher Rouse (the editor).
I love how those intros imply that Hobbs works out constantly and Shaw just rolls out of bed looking like that, as if Jason Statham doesn't work out to maintain his physique.
DL: [Laughs] I think we just wanted to make sure that we can clearly define these guys. If they're both training and they're both working out, then what's the fun in that? I think seeing him go to the pub and seeing him be a little bit more James Bond-y in a way was a little more interesting than seeing Jason kick a heavy bag or do martial arts. That would've been the easy way, but I think we were really trying to define the character and not make them so alike at that moment.
Guns aren't going to work against this villainUniversal
You've done a lot of gunfights before. Did it add an element that Princeton can actually deflect bullets?
DL: It did, and again, we were building this movie for a four quadrant PG-13 model. The gun scenes that I've done in the past with John Wick or Atomic Blonde or Deadpool, obviously that's rated R and you can have a different sort of consequential action. Here, I wanted to make sure that we could have action that told the story but was also frenetic but also allowed us to live in the PG-13 space. So we created our confines and constructs to allow us to do that.
Was editing the comedy banter similar to finding the rhythm of an action scene?
DL: It is. It's honestly very similar. I think there's a pace and kind of flow to performance, whether it's action or it's drama or it's comedy. So that's why editorial is so important, and that's why having a good editor who understands pace in all those ways, like Christopher Rouse. It's really important for a filmmaker to have that collaborator.
PD: The movie features a truck convoy vs. a helicopter, were you flying a real helicopter and driving real trucks?
DL: We were flying a real helicopter and driving real trucks. That's what I think people will not always understand or believe. This integration of visual effects and practical stunts was pretty amazing. I worked with a great visual effects supervisor named Dan Glass. It's always a challenge to me to get as much in camera as possible. So that Black Hawk in 90% of those shots is real. The backgrounds are real, and the trucks on the ground when they're driving are real. Then we're getting enhancements where you see they're being lifted off the ground and things like that. There are things that just couldn't be done safely in the time we had, so then you add visual effects to do it. It was a really great collaboration.
Don't try this at home!Universal
So I'm assuming the chain between the helicopter and the trucks was CGI?
DL: The chain, yes, was CGI and in that respect, when the Peterbilt is towing the helicopter, it's all just great choreography between the helicopter pilot of the Black Hawk with my driver of the Peterbilt, Jeremy Fry. And then Fred North is the guy in the helicopter. He's an incredible, prolific helicopter pilot who was also our aerial coordinator. He did all the stuff between the Black Hawk and the cars.
Did I hear a Transformers sound effect in that scene?
DL: Everybody asks me that. No, not to my knowledge. It certainly wasn't trying to be in homage or anything. I think there might be some crossover in terms of the scale of those movies and what we were trying to achieve so the sounds can end up similar.
That might just be what a Black Hawk really sounds like.
DL: The sound team was exhaustive in trying to get real sounds. So Mark Stoeckinger, who's done all the sound for me since John Wick, he's an Academy Award-winning sound designer. They recorded the Black Hawk. They're real pros, getting their hands dirty and getting that sound.
You see, they are not only furious. They are also fast.Universal
Which scenes in Hobbs & Shaw pushed you the most?
DL: I think the vehicular action was most challenging. Generally, it's more logistically challenging. Locking down 10 blocks of a London street is really impossible. You have to be more creative in the stunt logistics. You ask, "How do I tell this story?" We're shooting some of the London chase in Glasgow, so we can have more control. Maybe you have more elements on blue screen to keep you in rigs with your actors and do dynamic movements that you couldn't really do with them on the street. It's just a bigger puzzle and a lot more departments who need a lot more resources.
This is the first Fast and Furious Presents spinoff. Did you have the freedom to give it its own style?
DL: Yeah, there were no mandates on me. In fact, I was encouraged by the studio to make sure that it was my own. They were like, "We're hiring you because we want you as a filmmaker. We want you to set the palette of this spinoff moving forward. They were incredibly supportive. Donna Langley and Peter Cramer at the studio were like, "We want a David Leitch movie. We appreciate you as a filmmaker." It was great.
You definitely made it your own. Were there any things from the Fast movies that did appeal to you that you did want to include?
DL: Oh, I think there were two really important things from the Fast movies that I wanted. Well, three things actually. Number one was characters. Chris Morgan has done such a great job of telling a family narrative that's lasted through the whole season. We wanted to make sure we were true to that and we had our own version of that. And then I wanted the big spectacle set pieces that everybody knows and loves that push the boundaries of physics, but we don't care because we're kind of in this wish fulfillment universe. I wanted to do all those things.
Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) only walk in slow motion.Universal
You, Chad, and Keanu are developing a John Wick TV series for Starz, but now there's already John Wick 4 on the books for 2021. Is the TV series taking longer than you expected?
DL: I think it has and, quite frankly, I haven't been as hands on with it as Chad has. So we're both involved in it as executive producers. He's been sort of shepherding the whole John Wick world. I think we just want to get it right, and it's hard when you're making a movie and you're so in it; there are so many moving pieces. But everyone's really excited about it, and it's such a rich world. I have no doubt that we're going to make it happen.
How different will an LA branch of The Continental be than what we've seen in New York in the films?
DL: Well, in terms of building out that world, it's so fun because L.A. obviously has many different aspects. The Hollywood angle is obviously the most obvious one. I'm looking forward to what the showrunners and Chad come up with and helping in any way I can.
Have you watched the John Wick series go on as a proud father?
DL: Yeah, and a proud brother. I think Chad has taken it and brought it to places that I wouldn't have. I think when we made the decision to do other things and I wanted to do Atomic Blonde and he stayed in the John Wick world, that franchise became more him and that's great. I get to put my imprints on other things like Atomic Blonde and the Deadpool world. For us, it's been a really great experience and we'll continue to collaborate on our platforms and even our projects.
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Your laughter will arrive in 90 minutes
Most of us probably have an Uber horror story or two, but most of them probably don't end with helping an action hero save the day.
But if viral Uber stories were as fun as Stuber, there'd probably be a lot more five-star reviews for both drivers and passengers.
Stu (Kumail Nanjiani) drives for Uber to make extra money while working a day job. He also has plans to cosign his friend Becca's (Betty Gilpin) spinn business. Meanwhile, federal agent Vic (Dave Bautista) is on the trail of Tedjo (Iko Uwais), who killed his partner. The feds take the case away from Vic, but he has intel on one last drop Tedjo's going to make.
Vic is a cop who plays by his own rules. Hopper Stone/SMPSP
Vic hopes he can still bring Tedjo in by himself, despite having just had Lasik eye surgery. Vic can't see well enough to drive, although that doesn't stop him from trying in a comic misadventure that luckily doesn't kill anybody. So Vic resorts to ordering an Uber and promises Stu five stars if he drives him around until he captures Tedjo.
This is a fun twist on the buddy action-comedy genre, and Stuber can certainly stake its claim on being the first Uber-inspired action comedy. Uber has become such a part of our lives that it's fun to see it represented in pop culture. The audience can appreciate the montage of Stu's bad passengers and empathize with the racist feedback some have left him. By comparison, "Stuber" is a relatively kind nickname. Stu is on the cusp of dropping below four stars and losing his Uber income, so it makes sense that he'd be desperate enough to take Vic's offer.
Vic is used to this but Stu is just an Uber driver! Hopper Stone/SMPSP
Bautista and Nanjiani have great chemistry. It's obvious that a lot of the jokes in the movie were improvised, with lines like "Douche Lundgren" and "Cobra Kai" making the cut. Bautista embraces the basic comedy of a temporarily blinded man being over-the-top as he gracelessly navigates his surroundings.
Still, Vic and Stu each have something to teach each other. Stu has been a doormat for everyone, from women to his bosses and his passengers. The movie makes it clear that he needs to stand up for himself. Although the pressure people put on him to tell Becca he actually loves her comes dangerously close to making Becca a prize to be won by a white knight figure. Fortunately, that narrative resolves in a way that's fair for both Becca and Vic.
In return, Stu helps Vic see that he's been neglecting his daughter, Nicole (Natalie Morales). In the hands of the wrong actor, Vic could be a toxic character, but Bautista is so endearing that all of his bravadoes feel like an outrageous mask for the teddy bear underneath.
Unfortunately, director Michael Dowse and cinematographer Bobby Shore decided to film the fights and chase scenes in the shakycam quick cut style beloved by directors like Paul Greengrass. As a result, the action sequences of this action comedy fall short, because you can't follow any of the cool moves Vic uses on the bad guys. Any fights between Bautista and The Raid legend Uwais are unfortunately obscured. Gunfights fare a little better since they're simply shot back and forth. But the inevitable buddy brawl between Stu and Vic is so delightfully over-the-top that you can appreciate the absurdity even if the cinematography is unsteady.
Amazingly they were able to derive a still image from the shaky action of Stuber.Karen Ballers
Stuber is a funny modernization of the odd-couple/buddy-action-comedy, not only in its use of technology to connect mismatched characters but in its evolved perspective on how the stereotypical characters of the genre can grow. Nanjiani and Bautista each get their own spotlight, with Stuber (hopefully) serving as their vehicle to more leading roles.
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