MUSTANG. Five sisters, on the last day of school in their coastal Turkish village, wander down to the beach in their school uniforms, splash in the water and play chicken with some of boys from the school who have trailed them down there, laugh and squabble, and then head for home. But when they arrive, the familiar joy of summer ends: Tipped off by a neighbor, their grandmother slaps them for their unseemly conduct around the boys, and their angry uncle vows stern retribution to maintain their virtue.
Mustang, a nominee for best foreign language film at this year's Oscars, is the debut feature from Turkish-French filmmaker Deniz Gamze Ergüven. It's an audacious, excellently drawn story of the world within the walls of a household drawing tighter around sisters Sonay (Ilayda Akdogan), Selma (Tugba Sunguroglu), Ece (Elit Iscan), Nur (Doga Zeynep Doguslu) and Lale (Günes Sensoy), while the world beyond the walls comes rapidly into focus. Distractions such as phones, computers and magazines are locked away. Their uncle takes the eldest girls to a doctor for virginity tests. Local women come by the house to instruct the girls on how to make soup and dolmas. The same women return with young male relatives looking to marry.
The title of the film makes a clear comparison between unbridled wild horses able to run free, and the rigid rules around the girls' home as they test their limits. The perspective of the story shifts very effectively to that of the youngest, Lale (in a remarkable performance by Sensoy), who also provides periodic narration through the film. There could be obvious comparisons to The Virgin Suicides, but Mustang fits better into to the cinematic subgenre of seeing the world through the eyes of a child beginning to process her own perspective and take mind of the rights and wrongs of the world that the audience itself already sees. Much as we see Scout come to subtly grasp the racial injustices and class divides of the Jim Crow South in To Kill a Mockingbird, through Lale we get an increasingly clear-eyed view of an insidiously unfair patriarchal status quo. And, as any good heroine must, she eventually sees that she must fight her way free of that system.
For its depiction of a stifling environment, Ergüven's film has a free-moving, naturalistic and almost documentary-like feel to it, and its ensemble of young actresses does exceptional work. All the action is ably assisted by the underlying musical score by longtime Nick Cave collaborator Warren Ellis. Mustang's opening sequence sets a marker for what it's like to have your whole life ahead of you, and then slyly winds its way into showing the importance of grabbing that back when it is taken away. PG-13. 97m. RICHARDS' GOAT TAVERN & TEA ROOM.
RIDE ALONG 2. Not surprisingly, a sequel to the affably amusing Ride Along has landed, and ... well, wanna guess? Crafting follow-ups to Hollywood's not-bad one-offs has bedeviled the biz since Louise Brooks' day, and it ain't usually pretty.
James (Ice Cube) and Ben (Kevin Hart) are now mismatched Atlanta police officers and nearly brothers-in-law. A case calls them to Miami, where the movie opens, as it apparently must under federal mandate, with an overhead shot of bikini-clad women dancing on a gigantic yacht with the glittering skyline as a backdrop. I'll halt for a second to say that Cube and Hart do have fine comic chemistry together but this is another case of a movie in which the very act of viewing it enters a weird meta zone that blurs between actually watching it or imagining a parody of it while on a long walk. Back to the guesswork, dear readers. Will there be a prominent Miami tycoon who might be a villainous drug dealer? Will there be a comic-relief hacker who stole millions from the villain? Will there be an angry lieutenant who threatens our heroes with suspension? Yes to the first two, and on the third there are actually two, since we're in both Atlanta and Miami here, jurisdiction-wise. Also, car chases, a stakeout at the port and explosions. Check out Cube and Hart doing much better work picking up a piñata and dropping by a dispensary with Conan O'Brien on his website; it's free for the viewing. PG-13. 101m. FORTUNA.
— David Jervis
Listings for Broadway, Mill Creek and Minor theaters were not available at press time. For showtimes, see the Journal's listings at www.northcoastjournal.com or call: Broadway Cinema 443-3456; Fortuna Theatre 725-2121; Mill Creek Cinema 839-3456; Minor Theatre 822-3456; Richards's Goat Tavern & Tea Room 630-5000.
THE BOY. A woman takes a nannying gig for an English couple's life-size doll. Who knew it would turn creepy? PG13. 97m.
DIRTY GRANDPA. Zac Efron and Robert DeNiro hit Daytona for spring break, where fully realized female characters are introduced. Kidding! Partying and bikinis. R. 102m. FORTUNA.
THE FIFTH WAVE. An alien invasion with disasters, disease and body snatching. Chill — attractive teens are handling it. Starring Chlöe Grace Moretz as a young woman looking for her abducted brother. PG13. 112m. FORTUNA.
13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI. Drama based on the 2012 terrorist attack starring John Krasinski. R. 144m.
ALVIN & THE CHIPMUNKS: ROAD CHIP. The singing rodents you can either stand or you can't are out to thwart the romance of their handler Dave (Jason Lee) and keep the band together. PG. 86m. FORTUNA.
THE BIG SHORT. Director Adam McKay helms a talented cast (Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling) in a brilliant, entertaining, troubling movie about the madness of the subprime mortgage crisis with real emotion that succeeds as art and cultural commentary. R. 130m.
DADDY'S HOME Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg as dueling fathers in predictable and innocuous comedy that offers laughs nonetheless. With a good supporting turn by Hannibal Buress. PG13. 96m.
THE FOREST. Natalie Dormer plays a woman searching for her twin in the haunted suicide-magnet woods at the foot of Mt. Fuji. PG13. 93m.
THE HATEFUL EIGHT. Director Quentin Tarantino's excellent Western locked-room mystery draws on history and hate, especially race-hate, in a long, talky drama that still delivers signature quirks and brutality. With Kurt Russell, Samuel L. Jackson and Jennifer Jason Leigh. R. 187m.
JOY. David O. Russell's story of a young, down-on-her-luck divorcee-turned-inventress (Jennifer Lawrence) is compelling if unsurprising. PG13. 124m.
NORM OF THE NORTH. An anti-development polar bear and a herd of lemmings head to New York City to stave off condos in the Arctic in this animated comedy. With Rob Schneider and Heather Graham. PG. 90m.
THE REVENANT. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a frontier survivor Hell-bent on revenge in a gorgeous, punishing Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu film that offers little beyond beauty and suffering. R. 156m. FORTUNA.
SISTERS. Comedy stateswomen Amy Poehler and Tina Fey are funny enough, but play it safe in this coming-of-middle-age comedy. R. 118m.
STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. The writing and visuals are a bit too faithful to the original, but they work in this nostalgic return. Leads John Boyega and Daisy Ridley are as compelling as more familiar faces. PG13. 135m. FORTUNA.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill