6.5/10 Another film unfairly lambasted by the “critics” on Rotten Opinions, writer/director Sam Mendes’ “Empire of Light” may ill in comparison to some of his other films (“American Beauty”, “Skyfall”, “1917”) and have flaws, but there is a lot to admire, some brilliant performances and the top talent in all of Hollywood behind the scenes. Following Quentin Taratino’s recent love letter to cinema, “Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” and the more recent Steven Spielberg love letter to motion pictures with “The Fabelmans”, Sam Mendes decided to throw his hat into the ring and the ode to the cinema aspect of the film certainly works, even if the film tries to juggle too many balls at once. As for what works, the film does feel authentic as I am sure Mendes based a lot of this film on his real life experiences of growing up in the UK. The old fashioned movie theater and its employees working together reminded me of my first job working in a movie theater. The acting across the board is fantastic but it is Oscar winner Olivia Colman as Hilary who steals the (picture) show. Her character has mental issues so she has to cover a wide array of emotions as she goes from stable and happy to depressed and unhinged from scene to scene. The supporting cast of players like Micheal Ward (Stephen), Toby Jones (Norman) and Colin Firth (Donald Ellis) make the most of their respective screen time but Colman is pulling the heavy weight here. As for the top talent in Hollywood I referred to in my opening line of this review, this film is shot by the best cinematographer in the world; Roger Deakins. On top of the film looking incredibly, we get two of the best film composers working today (Oscar winners Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross) providing a beautifully melancholy score, following their also fantastic work this year on “Bones and All”. From a production standpoint, the score, cinematography, direction, production design and costume design are all top notch. As for what doesn’t work, there are a few issues that hold the film back. First off, the plot tries to cover too much ground and some of the underlying political narrative falls flat. This is the umpteenth Hollywood film with a “racism bad!” message, while only showing one side of racism. We all know racism of all kinds is bad (despite Hollywood pushing antiwhiteism) so beating that dead horse in yet another film feels beyond repetitive at this point. Hilary has a romantic fling with a much younger, more attractive man who felt so out of her league, making their relationship feel rather unbelievable. A man that young and attractive would have no problem getting younger girls closer to his own age and even if he preferred older women, he could do much better than Hilary (no offense to Colman). The film tries to tackle racism, political upheaval, mental health, workplace relationships/drama and be a love letter to cinema all at once and it never pulls all of it off. While undeserving of the 45% on Rotten Opinions due to the phenomenal acting and fantastic production values, “Empire of Light” falls short of Tarantino and Spielberg’s epic love letters to the silver screen.

#EmpireOfSearchlightPictures / #ColinGirth / #ASingleWoman / #ProjectingAndProjectors / #MakingConcessions / #AtomicBond

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