Telluride Reviews: ’99 Homes,’ ‘Madame Bovary,’ ”71,’ ‘Wild Tales’

TELLURIDE – It's impossible to see every movie at a film festival, but you can certainly come close if you're able to catch a few of the main centerpieces beforehand. At Telluride, the benefit of having viewed “Foxcatcher,” “Mr. Turner,” “Mommy” and “The Homesman” at Cannes allowed this pundit to catch a few of the lower profile titles that are still worthy of your attention. Here are a few short capsule reviews for some films that will also screen at the Toronto and New York film festivals and that should most definitely be on your radar.

“Madame Bovary”
Grade: C+
Reaction: Sophie Barthes' adaptation of the classic Gustave Flauber novel is a sight to behold. The cinematography from Andrij Parekh (“Blue Valentine”) and the costumes from Christian Gasc and Valérie Ranchoux are Oscar-worthy, and the score by Evgueni and Sacha Galperine memorably adds to the atmosphere. Unfortunately, Barthes wants to portray “Bovary” in as realistic a world as possible, but her actors seem to be in a different movie. Logan Marshall-Green and Rhys Ifans, in particular, are bordering on camp (sad, but true). The bigger problem, however, is the Madame herself: Mia Wasikowska. Wonderland's “Alice” gives it her all, but Wasikowska is unable to suitably convince us why Bovary would jump so quickly into her extravagant spending and reckless affairs. Some fault for that must go to Barthes, but when Bovary's world is falling apart around her, she should be a stress case either below or on the surface (we'd take either). Wasikowska simply can't bring her to that pivotal point. Perhaps she was simply miscast?

“99 Homes”
Grade: A-
Reaction: After losing his home to foreclosure, Dennis (Andrew Garfield), a twentysomething construction worker and single father, makes the desperate decision to go work for the realtor, Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), who evicted him in the first place. As the weeks pass, Dennis has to weigh his increasing guilt over Carver's dirty methods with his promise to return his son and mother to their family home. At first, Ramin Bahrani's drama feels like it might be slightly preachy, but it soon turns into a gripping drama that succeeds partially thanks to the amazing work from Garfield and Shannon. This is clearly Garfield's best work since “Never Let Me Go” and is easily one of the top three performances of Shannon's already illustrious career. Bahrani has pulled off a believable drama that also serves as a snapshot of American history. It simply cannot be missed.

“Wild Tales”
Grade: A-
Reaction: Argentinian filmmaker Damián Szifrón's anthology movie first wowed them at Cannes (read Drew McWeeny's more in-depth review) and boy does it live up to the hype. “Wild Tales” is divided into six separate stories only connected by the concept of twisting everyday events with almost unbelievable absurdity. Impressively shot, wonderfully designed and always entertaining with strong performances, “Wild Tales” could turn into a word-of-mouth hit for U.S. distributor Sony Pictures Classics. You'll certainly never think about getting your car towed or calling out someone too slow on the highway the same way ever again.

Grade: A-
Reaction: The buzz has been about “'71's” leading man, “Starred Up's” Jack O'Connell, but the real breakout from this impressive thriller is director Yann Demange. Set during an especially bloody period of the Catholic and Protestant clashes in Belfast, Northern Ireland, the drama follows Gary (O'Connell), a UK soldier trapped in an IRA stronghold. His journey back to his barracks is complicated by both the Protestant and IRA coalitions trying to get custody of him for their own political purposes. Demange shoots the hell out of this one, making Gary's dangerous night a visceral and intoxicating ride. Moreover, this calling card makes him a filmmaker that the global cinephile community needs to pay very, very close attention to.

More Telluride reviews:
“The Imitation Game”