Capsule reviews for Sept. 6

Populaire

There’s a breezy throwback quality that adds a modest level of amusement and visual flair to this otherwise predictable French romantic comedy that takes place in 1958, about a young woman (Deborah Francois) trying to escape the monotony of her life by taking a job as a secretary for a charismatic insurance agent (Romain Duris). Although she’s incompetent at other tasks, her typing skills are unbelievable, prompting her boss to enter her in a speed-typing competition. Of course, there’s also a hint of romance between the two leads, whose easygoing charm makes it easier to tolerate the lack of subtlety or surprise in the script. (Rated R, 111 minutes).

 

Touchy Feely

A sharp ensemble cast cannot rescue this woefully contrived drama about a family struggling with connections and commitment, including a massage therapist (Rosemarie Dewitt) who develops a sudden aversion to physical contact, a fledgling dentist (Josh Pais) who is credited for developing a miracle cure for a mouth ailment, and the young assistant (Ellen Page) trying to find her place in life. Director Lynn Shelton (Humpday) ventures away from her improvisational style with a more scripted project, but the film doesn’t offer much insight into contemporary relationships, and feels more pretentious than profound. Unfortunately, the emotional distance between the characters transfers to the audience. (Rated R, 87 minutes).

 

Winnie Mandela

The audacity and determination of its subject doesn’t find its way into this shallow and superficial biopic about the ex-wife of former South African president Nelson Mandela. It chronicles the upbringing of Winnie (Jennifer Hudson) along with her relationship to her husband (Terrence Howard), who was incarcerated for more than 20 years for his anti-Apartheid activism. During that time, Winnie became a controversial and outspoken political voice herself. Hudson offers a passionate potrayal in the title role, but the project plays it safe by placing Winnie and her struggles into a cliched Hollywood framework, with calculated moments of inspiration and heartbreak dictated by an overbearing score. (Rated R, 107 minutes).

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