Kerlene Faith (Merritt Wever), a graduate student teaching a course about rehabilitation, accepts an offer to visit a prison to try to rehabilitate Leslie Van Houten (Hannah Murray), Patricia Krenwinkel (Sosie Bacon) and Susan Atkins (Marianne Rendon) , three women who are convicted of murdering people with the infamous Charles Manson (Matt Smith). The women recall how they ended up part of Charles Manson's cult and how they committed the heinous crimes.
Charlie Says jumps back and forth between the present day rehabilitation program at the prison and the flashbacks to the women's dark past. Director Mary Harron and screenwriter Guinevere Turner should be commended for showing the women's experiences with Manson unflinchingly. This is definitely not a movie for those of you with a weak stomach. However, Turner's screenplay fails at getting inside any of the characters' heads to flesh them out as complex human beings. Each of imprisoned women remains unlikable from beginning to end without much in terms of nuance or depth. There's plenty of physical grit, but not nearly enough emotional or psychological grit to be found here, so the plot quickly becomes by-the-numbers with characters who never come to life. Even the notorious Charles Manson is far from an intriguing character.
Part of what makes Manson such a dull character in Charlie Says has to do with the poorly cast Matt Smith who never quite sinks his teeth into the role convincingly. The underrated Merritt Wever who was the only bright spot of Welcome to Marwen gives a solid performance, but she's not given enough material to truly shine. The actresses who play the murderers give mediocre performances at best. Moreover, Harron and the editor, Andrew Hafitz, include awkward transitions between the past and present scenes, and some scenes last a little too long and, therefore, become tedious. Ultimately, Charlie Says is a mildly engaging, but underwhelming and emotionally hollow crime drama that lacks depth and intrigue.
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu
When Martha (Diane Keaton) moves from NYC to the a retirement community in Georgia, her neighbor, Sheryl (Jacki Weaver), persuades her to form a cheerleading squad together. They recruit six fellow community members to join the squad including Olive (Pam Grier), Alice (Rhea Perlman), Helen (Phyllis Somerville), Evelyn (Ginny MacColl) and Phyllis (Patricia French) despite the disapproval of Vicki (Celia Weston), the president of the community's welcoming committee.
The best that can be said about Poms is that it's breezy and has a fine cast who seem to be having fun. Unfortunately, the screenplay by Shane Atkinson falls flat as a comedy and as a drama as well because it neglects to flesh out the lives of any of its characters. They seem like they're merely pawns to move the wafer-thin plot along. At times the dialogue sounds corny, but most of the time it's merely contrived and unfunny with amateurish editing, lighting and camerawork. It often looks like a made-for-TV movie. To top it all off, Atkinson tries to boost the dramatic tension by adding a subplot involving one of the characters battling terminal cancer.
An example of a squandered opportunity to include some much-needed depth is when Martha asks her cheerleading squad to name something that they like about themselves, and they each reply with a part of their body that they like, i.e. their wrist, boobs, hands or hair, instead of something more intangible that has intrinsic value like their personality, kindness or self worth. That scene sends a bad message to the audience and makes the film quite vapid. Poms quickly becomes lethargic as it crawls to its ending which can be seen from a mile away. If you want wiser, funnier and warmer film about self-discovery and aging, see Shirley Valentine or The Full Monty. At a running time of 91 minutes, which feels more like 2 hours, Poms is an unfunny, shallow and lethargic comedy that's even worse than last year's Book Club.