Reel-View Ratings: The Bigger The Beard, The Better The Movie



Historian Deborah Lipstadt (Rachel Weisz) is sued by David Irving (Timothy Spall) for defamation after labeling him a “Holocaust denier” in a book — and thanks to the quirks of British libel law, she finds herself with the herculean task of having to prove the Holocaust happened in a court of law. It’s a real-life story that makes for an odd movie. The film is ill suited as a historical snapshot (despite a chilling visit to Auschwitz), and it also shies away from delving into the nitty-gritty of the Holocaust itself. There’s no buildup and no catharsis — for Lipstadt or anyone. A film that advertises non-engagement as a way to win wars might have a point, but it also makes for, well, a pretty dull film. Plays at 11:30 a.m., 3:15, 7 and 9 p.m. Jan. 14 at the Movie Museum



This dark comedy (!) opens with its protagonist pinned to the floor, mid-rape. Elle defies the recovery narrative one might expect to develop from this with its eviscerating heroine, Michelle (Isabelle Huppert), who simply picks herself up and starts sweeping the floor after her attacker leaves. Michelle is an enormously difficult woman who defies description and, indeed, seems to embrace every negative stereotype of a woman, ever: jealous ex-wife, harsh boss, cold mother, backstabber, etc. The film serves as an odd, even funny meditation on the complexities of a woman, refusing to consign her to any single, convenient box. It is no easy pill to swallow, but it provides quite a high. Opens Jan. 13 at Kahala Theatre



Live By Night is an interesting conundrum of a film: Star and director Ben Affleck seems to be at war with himself in this story of a soldier-turned-kingpin with a heart of gold, a gambling overlord who avoids murder at all costs. A technically impressive, atmospheric romp through the mob-driven 1920s is undermined, in a sense, by Affleck’s waffling as to the nature of his leading man. Affleck plays it too principled to really take his seat amongst the finest of cinema’s mob men. Therein lies the movie’s weakness — it never fully commits to the moral ambiguity the genre demands. A pity, because Affleck has crafted the skeleton of a great film … it’s just bare bones. Opens Jan. 13 in wide release