K-Lunk / movies


Movies December 14, 2022

Berendson, Woodman and Voze – Disney

Amsterdam (2022, David O. Russel, streaming on HBO) is a big, starry, saggy romp through the sad and scary aftermath of World War I. “A lot of this really happened,” the film declares in the opening moments; in the end we are treated to a side-by-side of Robert De Niro (as the fictional General Dillenbeck) and the real life General Smedley Butler, reading his infamous testimony on the Business Plot, in which he alleges that a shadowy group of wealthy industrialist fascists wanted to stage a coup appointing him the military dictator of the United States.

It was fun. The film seems to think of itself as addressing Important Themes, and to be afraid of doing so with any subtlety. This makes it kind of painful to watch. I was particularly irritated by a couple of voiceovers that seemed only to restate what we just watched, in case you didn’t get it. I just now realized that Disney made this movie, which makes perfect sense in retrospect.

The film’s ambitious plot, which imagines that a pair of wounded veterans (Christian Bale as the contorted, one-eyed doctor Burt Berendson and John David Washington as the star-crossed lawyer Harold Woodman) and the nurse who saved them (Margo Robbie as Valerie Voze) leverage their intelligence connections (Michael Shannon (again!) and Mike Myers (really!) as a couple of skeezed-out bird watching spooks) to uncover the sinister plot after a client (Taylor Swift!) is suddenly pushed under a passing car just as damning evidence that her decorated father may have been poisoned comes to light.

If there’s one redeeming quality for me, it’s that there’s a lot of love and joy celebrated in this movie about dark plots. In my favorite scene, the recovering soldiers Berendson and Woodman want to know what nurse Voze has been doing with the bits of shrapnel she plucks out of their bodies. In return, she says, they must offer her something beautiful. Berendson has a brainwave – perhaps in a nod to the surrealist parlor game Exquisite Corpse – a “nonsense song!” The trio plucks some phrases out of a hat, comes up with a melody, and sings a lovely song. The power of art!