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Fine Young Cannibals: “Bones and All” review

They’re just a couple of kids in love…who love eating other people

Bones and All
Starring Taylor Russell & Timothèe Chalamet
Directed by Luca Guadagnino
Rated R

See it: In theaters Wednesday, Nov. 11

Lee and Maren seem like a lot of young couples. They drive around, listen to music, have some tiffs with their parents. And when they grab a bite, well, it’s likely not from Chic-fil-A.  

You see, they’re cannibals. Yes, they eat people.

On one level, this insanely, savagely original young-love story is about a couple of outsiders in a harsh world that doesn’t understand or accept them. We can all relate to that, right?

What sets Maren and Lee apart, though, is the compulsion—the craving—they have for human flesh. It’s an acquired taste, we learn, one that’s rooted in both heredity and environment. They find out they’re not alone; they’re part of a gritty, grimy subset of other cannibals. They’re all outcasts, society rejects who refer to each other as “eaters.” The most, ahem, committed of eaters talk of going all in, dining on “bones and all.”

And Lee and Maren feel desperately fated, destined for a life that makes their road a rough, hardscrabble—and often horrific—one.

It’s a weird movie, crazily and often conversely beautiful and romantic, about two 1980s kids living outside the norms of convention—way outside. There’s blood and guts, as you might imagine, but that’s only one element of the bigger story, about a pair of ruggedly attractive castaways wrestling with who they are, and why. And Lee and Maren aren’t particularly happy about what they’re driven to do. But the rush it gives them—like a drug—is a hard habit to kick.

Taylor Russell (who played Judy Robinson in the Netflix reboot of the space sci-fi series Lost in Space) is Maren, abandoned by her father (Andre Holland) after she turns 18. On a quest to learn more about her family, particularly the mother she never knew, she hooks up with a lanky drifter (Timothèe Chalamet), and off they go in search of answers…and their next meal.  

The movie reunites Chalamet—who’s received acclaim (and awards nominations) for his work in Lady Bird, Little Women and Dune—with Italian filmmaker Luca Guadagnino, who directed him inCall Me by Your Name. Guadagnino is a “painterly” director, known for his lush visuals, and the movie even begins with a series of oil renderings depicting serene pastoral scenes that we’ll later see in the film. They “paint” the way for Lee and Maren’s journey, seeking some peace in their unsettled—and unsettling—lives, like the tranquility in those picture-perfect paintings. But they’ll always be outsiders looking in, hunted and haunted.

Rebels on a road trip—if James Dean had a copious amount of blood soaked into his white T-shirt, plus a quirk of dining on carnival workers in an Iowa cornfield, well, he might have fit right into this cannibal club.

It’s a wild ride, for sure. Mark Rylance (below right) is an older, creepy cannibal who teaches Maren how to use her nose to sniff out fresh food. Michael Stuhlbarg and David Gordon Green play a pair of odd-couple “eater” buddies. Chloë Sevigny has a shocker of a scene, as a patient in a mental institution.

Maren, especially, contemplates the larger complexities and the implications of feeding her eating habit. Even cows in a slaughterhouse, she notes, have family, and maybe even friends. She advocates no-kill meals, dining on people who have already died. It may sound like a small distinction, but hey, some cannibals have principles.

The movie doesn’t really have a message, as such. But its depiction of cannibalism as addiction, as fate, as a consumptive lifestyle “appetite” alongside other hungers, like sex, lust and love…well, let’s just say I’ll never hear “Lick It Up” the same way again after watching the way that rockin’ KISS hit animates Lee.

Riding a wave of film-festival praise, Bones and All gnaws its way into theaters the day before Thanksgiving. It’s probably not exactly what most people have in mind for a celebratory family feast. But if you’ve got an appetite for the unusual, the unsettling, and for a gutsy spin on being young, angst-ridden, adrift in America and in love, well, lick it up.

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The End of the World (As We Know It)

Semi-autobiographical spin on childhood at the dawn of the 1980s has sobering messages about life

Banks Repeta with Anthony Hopkins in ‘Armageddon Time.’

Armageddon Time
Starring Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins, Banks Repeta & Jeremy Strong
Directed by James Gray
Rated R

See it in theaters Nov. 4

From the New Testament of the Bible, the term “Armageddon” entered the wider lexicon to mean an epic battle to end all battles, a final clash between forces of good and evil.

It’s a metaphor for the turmoil of life in James Gray’s largely autobiographical coming-of-age portrait, which centers on an 11-year-old Jewish boy named Paul (Banks Repeta) in the New York City borough of Queens, and the ups and downs of his friendship with a Black classmate (Jaylin Webb) in 1980.

The two lads get in some trouble (toking on a joint in the bathroom) and are separated when Paul’s parents (Jeremy Strong and Anne Hathaway) send him off to a posh private school. But Paul has little interest in becoming someone else’s definition of successful. His kindly grandfather (Anthony Hopkins) encourages his dreams of drawing and becoming a famous artist.

Johnny has dreams, too. He wants to be an astronaut, like his Apollo space heroes. And despite his friendship with Paul, he knows they are from two different worlds, that some dreams will only take you so far, and some flight paths are unchangeable. Like the model rocket Paul launches in the park with his grandfather, life goes where it goes. It goes up, it comes down. It can be beautiful, exciting, thrilling—or it can misfire, or blow up, or crash, becoming a disaster. It’s not equal, it’s certainly not fair, but that’s the way it is.

Armageddon Time is set against the backdrop of Ronald Reagan’s election as U.S. president, and the hawkish prospect he represented for increased militarism in a fight against “communism.” Paul’s mother fears he’ll push America into global conflict, a nuclear Armageddon.

As Paul navigates this brief but formative period, he learns some valuable lessons about racism, antisemitism and how life isn’t always a delicious dinnertime dumpling. His grandfather, a Ukrainian Jew who fled the horrors of ethnic cleansing in Europe, tells him to stand up to bullies, to keep pushing back against evil and darkness, and to be a mensch, a person of integrity and honor.

His mother loves him, but thinks he’s “slow,” in need of remedial education. His blue-collar father thrashes him with his belt for misbehaving and worries he’ll never amount to anything. Both parents openly disapprove of his Black friend.

Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong play the parents.

Director Gray (whose previous films include the Brad Pitt space saga Ad Astra and the crime thrillers We Own the Night and The Yards) creates an effective, evocative sense of a specific time and place, the rush of childhood, the complicated dynamics of family and a depiction of adolescence on the uncertain threshold of adulthood. He especially draws out memorable performances from his two young central characters, the conduits for his story’s moods of youthful adventure, yearning, frustration and ache. Johnny turns Paul on to the happenin’ hip-hop of Harlem’s Sugar Hill Gang and “Rapper’s Delight.” Paul goes to the movies with his family to watch Goldie Hawn (a Jewish girl) in Private Benjamin. The dawn of the computer age sparks Paul’s imagination, in more ways than one. They make each other laugh, they run through the park, they skip a school field day to hang out and ride the subway.

It reminded me a bit of Licorice Pizza, Paul Thomas Anderson’s gloriously golden retro ode to growing up and the rush of young love in California in the 1970s. But Armageddon Time is a bit darker than that, several shades more sobering, even a dollop depressing in its depiction of the creeping threats to Paul and Johnny’s friendship, in a world tainted by hatred and fear, and the reality that some dreams can never blast off into the bright, blue sky.

And as a nod to what’s coming, for Paul and America, the movie introduces the specter of Donald Trump, in characters representing his father, Fred Trump (John Diehl) and sister, Maryanne (Jessica Chastain).

Armageddon time may, it suggests, be any time. As Paul’s grandfather tells him, never give up, stand tall and keep fighting the “bastards.” There’ll always be bastards, the battle didn’t end in 1980, or after the Holocaust, and it sure doesn’t look like it’s over now.

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