Pattinson elevates western ‘Damsel’

Jordan attempts to rewrite history in ‘Creed II’ trailer

Pitiful men pin their hopes on delusions of romance in David and Nathan Zellner’s clever and melancholy western “Damsel,” an offbeat odyssey about the foolhardiness of believing in the “damsel in distress.”

The Zellner brothers’ last film, “Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter,” was based on an urban legend about a Japanese woman who, believing the Coen brothers’ “Fargo” to be a true story, travels to wintery North Dakota to find the buried case of cash left by Steve Buscemi’s character.

That movie, patiently idiosyncratic, found some poignancy in an absurd, ambling tale about fatally misguided misconceptions, and much is the same in the offbeat “Damsel.” Almost everybody but Mia Wasikowska — the “damsel” in question — is tilting at windmills.

The Zellners, who wrote, directed and co-star in the film, have moved to the Old West but the Coens are still close at hand. In lesser, hit-or-miss doses, “Damsel” has imitated some of their verbal theatricality and straight-faced comedy.

The “Waiting for Godot”-style opening is one of the movie’s high points. A defeated-looking preacher (a briefly seen but terrific Robert Forster) joins a man headed West at a comically remote stagecoach stop in the middle of a Monument Valley Desert. He warns the man that life in the West is no better than anywhere else, just bad in “new and fascinating ways.”

It’s an omen that no one in “Damsel” heeds: Look neither toward the West, nor a woman, for your self-reinvention, your “fresh start.”

Soon arriving is Robert Pattinson’s Samuel Alabaster, a stranger in town, who enlists Parson Henry (David Zellner) — the Monument Valley traveler, having inherited the pastor’s robe — to marry him and his fiancee, Penelope (Wasikowska). With a gold tooth and a miniature horse named Butterscotch, Pattinson gives the film a kick that it lacks when he departs. His Alabaster is prim, peculiar and possibly psychotic. Believing himself gallant, he has a song prepared for Penelope dubbed “Honey Bun.” Sample lyric: “You’re my horseshoe.”

It’s well into the journey when Alabaster confesses Penelope has been kidnapped, so their mission is a combination rescue-proposal. His wide-eyed ardor for Penelope begins to grow suspiciously shallow. She’s “good at reading words,” he says. “What more could you ask for?”

The proposal, naturally, doesn’t go quite as “lickety-split” as Alabaster envisions, and Henry — a gentle and half-formed man who naively craves the adventure of meeting “a real Indian” — is carried along by the unfolding events. “But my heart is the right place,” he whimpers.

Imagine

But, then again, none in “Damsel” are really quite up to the role they imagine themselves in, except for Wasikowka’s Penelope — the only sane person in the movie crowded with fools. Handsomely shot by Jeff Nichols’ regular cinematographer, Adam Stone, “Damsel” has the look of a classic Western but a story of dopey, lost men that could just as easily be told in modern-day Brooklyn. While the movie isn’t quite as clever as it thinks it is, the Zellners have a sweet, likable sense of humor tinged with tragedy. And they remain filmmakers to watch.

“Damsel,” a Magnolia Pictures release, is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for “some violence, language, sexual material, and brief graphic nudity.” Running time: 113 minutes.

Also:

LOS ANGELES: Michael B. Jordan and Sylvester Stallone, reprising their Adonis Creed and Rocky Balboa characters, are facing a formidable foe in the first trailer for MGM and Warner Bros.’ “Creed II.”

“You’ve got everything to lose,” Stallone’s Balboa tells Jordan’s Creed. “This guy has nothing to lose. This guy — he’s dangerous.”

Stallone is referring to Florian “Big Nasty” Munteanu’s Viktor Drago, the son of Dolph Lundgren’s Ivan Drago character from “Rocky IV.” Adonis Creed’s father Apollo Creed was killed by an Ivan Drago punch in “Rocky IV.”

The new footage, unveiled Wednesday, reveals that Jordan’s character now has personal obligations with a family, plus the shared legacy with his trainer.

“Creed II” is the continuation of the Rocky franchise and the sequel to 2015’s “Creed,” which earned more than $170 million at the worldwide box office. The new film is being directed by Steven Caple Jr., from an original screenplay written by Stallone.

Tessa Thompson, Phylicia Rashad, Wood Harris and Andre Ward are reprising their roles. The film is produced by Irwin Winkler, Charles Winkler, William Chartoff, David Winkler, Kevin King-Templeton and Stallone. “Black Panther” director Ryan Coogler, who directed “Creed,” is executive producing.

“Creed II” hits theaters on Nov 21.

LOS ANGELES: Jamie Bell is in negotiations to play Bernie Taupin, the famed songwriter who collaborated on 30 albums with Elton John, in Paramount’s biopic “Rocketman” starring Taron Egerton as John.

Dexter Fletcher is attached to helm the project. Lee Hall penned the script. Paramount Pictures will finance and distribute the pic.

Taupin began collaborating on songs with John back in 1967, when the two both answered an advertisement for talent placed in the New Musical Express by Liberty Records A&R man Ray Williams. Though both were rejected for that job, John would stumble across Taupin’s poetry, leading to one of the greatest music collaborations ever.

The two worked together on hits including “Crocodile Rock,” “Honky Cat,” “Tiny Dancer,” “Candle in the Wind,” “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting,” “Bennie and the Jets,” and the title of the project, “Rocket Man.”

Matthew Vaughn and his Marv Films will produce, along with John and his Rocket Pictures partner David Furnish.

Bell is coming off his AMC Revolutionary War series “Turn,” where he starred as American spy Abraham Woodhull and which recently ended its four-year run on the network. Bell was also recently seen opposite Annette Bening in “Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool.” (Agencies)

By Jake Coyle

 

 

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