Girls5eva

Over the course of its seven seasons, Tina Fey’s 30 Rock gathered and maintained a very particular comic style, and now a show in its wake, Meredith Scardino’s Girls5eva, uncannily echoes it. Scardino wrote for Fey on Fey’s second show, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, and Fey is an Executive Producer on Girls5eva. It’s Scardino’s show, but it’s Fey’s unmistakeable style, which is fine, because it’s a vibe we all need a little of: fast, funny, and deeply silly.

There are more tropes too, including a kind of third-wave feminism reclamation of such stereotypes as the bimbo, the fat chick and the b*** h. They’re proudly represented here, the creators being comfortable in their own skin as, well, women, and they fit neatly into the show’s simple set-up: a girl group whose moment has long passed gets a chance at another one.

All the acting, all the gags, all the situations, everything is over the top, gleefully so. Of the four main characters, the standout is Wicky Roy, played by Renée Elise Goldsberry, who was the original Broadway Angelica in Hamilton. She plays a diva’s diva, divinely. Luckily we get a lot of her as her three co-horts don’t sparkle as brightly. No matter. This show is one thing and one thing only, escapism, and it works as such.

Tina and Aalto

Untroubled by any scandals of her own making – she’s never been a boozer, a drug addict, or involved in any fraud, deception or even artistic complacency – Tina Turner is one of those great artists who can be celebrated unconditionally. A loving, comprehensive documentary such as Tina, an HBO feature documentary now airing on Foxtel in Australia, cannot be accused of hagiography, because it is a truth universally acknowledged that Turner is, indeed, universally beloved, admired and respected.

Not that she doesn’t have a story. Her story is well told, in her book I, Tina (1986) and the feature film What’s Love Got To Do With It (1993); it’s a story of pain and trauma, most prominently around her 16 year relationship with Ike Turner, who physically abused her. That stuff necessarily gets covered (again) in the first half of Tina, but as Turner escapes Ike, the film, like her life and career, takes off, with a huge sense of release, into the stratosphere. It’s thrilling stuff and an absolutely worthy testament to a truly deserving – indeed, iconic – artist. Turner herself, at 80, is interviewed throughout, and there’s no better teller of her story than she. * * * *

No less influential, if somewhat less dynamic, Finnish modernist architect Alvar Aalto also gets a definitive and highly entertaining documentary of his own in Aalto, now screening in Australian cinemas. He’s dead so doesn’t get to tell his story, but filmmaker Virpi Suutari uses a smorgasbord of architects and academics to tell it instead, using only their voices over ravishing images of Aalto’s buildings (often covered in snow) and furniture, along with spectacularly intriguing other imagery that metaphorically addresses the kind of work Aalto did. Suutari manages to present someone whose work was groundbreaking in a groundbreaking way, an essentially modernist way; his form follows Aalto’s, even into a different medium, and it works, very, very well. This is how you make a film about an architect, perhaps the best I’ve seen. The influence and importance of Aalto’s wife Aino is foregrounded, and their love affair forms the film’s emotional spine. The result is hugely informative and beautiful from first minute to last, with a gorgeous original score to boot. * * * *

Antoinette in the Cévennes

My ass.

Now playing around Australia as part of the Alliance Française French Film Festival

Opening in Australian cinemas April 8

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From her very first scene in the very first episode of the French TV series Call My Agent, it was clear that Laure Calamy was a big comedic talent, destined for more than her supporting role in that very popular show. Bingo. She just won the César Award for Best Actress for her lead role in Caroline Vignal’s Antoinette in the Cévennes, a very slight, very light, very charming French countryside comedy whose success rests entirely on her shoulders. She’s not only in every scene, about half of them are with a donkey. She makes all of them work. Like Meg Ryan, Julia Roberts and Audrey Tatou, Calamy is a natural big-screen comedy star; like them, she has big dramatic chops in support.

The film itself is sunny and delightful (like Calamy). Antoinette is a Parisian teacher having an affair with a married man; when he goes on a trip with his family to the Cévennes, she follows, ill-advisedly, and ends up hiking with a donkey. Self-realisation follows.

Calamy nails every comedic beat but there are multiple moments of pathos and anguish which she also handles with seemingly effortless aplomb. She is a major screen presence. It is to the Césars’ credit that they’ve recognised this kind of performance, in this kind of film, for their Best Actress Award. Light comedy normally doesn’t get that kind of gong, unfairly. And talk about ‘backwards and in heels’: Calamy’s primary co-star is a donkey.