Quick Reviews: 'Ladies Of Steel', ‘Laughing Matters’ | Dramedies From Finland
LADIES OF STEEL
Changing things up slightly when it comes to casting and having your movie lead by three older women is a nice change of pace this year. Director and co-writer Pamela Tola’s Ladies Of Steel (Teräsleidit in Finnish) takes us on a ride for road comedy purposes, there those three—Inkeri (Leena Uotila), Raili (Seela Sella) and Sylvi (Saara Pakkasvirta)—have gone on the run since Inkeri thinks she might have killed her husband who she left lying on the floor unconscious. During this, Inkeri’s daughter is planning a birthday party for her so they are trying to locate her as well. The film gets to an exhilarating start where the trust is put on the three leads but unfortunately when nearing the third act, that starts to slowly fade away.
Uotila, Sella and Pakkasvirta are all wonderful on their own but what really drives the performances home is their undeniable screen chemistry, most notable during the first 30 minutes when the dialogue indicates that the characters would have known each other before the viewers got on board. That’s a difficult thing to do in a road movie but it’s achieved here.
Cinematographer Päivi Kettunen is also giving her all as locations are used naturally when it comes to lighting and some fun is to be had with neons as well as with exposure on flashback scenes. Ladies Of Steel is at its weakest with the daughter storyline which has unfortunately an awful performance by Pirjo Lonka as the daughter. It goes for the ''loud=funny'' type of comedy which fails miserably, on top of that it seems like Youtube sketch comedy instead of a comedy with a message of living while you still got it (theme for the older ladies). Bouncing back to that is always a disappointment and that is the tone for the last whole 30 minutes. It never really survives from that, though the last shot is a great callback to earlier events.
Smileys: Cinematography, acting
Frowneys: Ending, Pirjo Lonka, structure
Director Reetta Aalto’s first own venture in the world feature films comes in form of Laughing Matters (Naurun varjolla in Finnish) where we follow a 30-something Maria (Elena Leeve) whose screenwriting career hasn’t evolved as expected so she finds herself trying stand-up comedy in the search of revitalising herself. Fairly quickly Maria finds her shtick and gets a spot on a tour with three other comedians; Kira (Aino Sirje), Karri (Ernest Lawson) and Tommi (Joonas Saartamo).
This eventually leads the film to turn into a road-movie-of-sorts but sadly the road is also where it strays away from utilising that aspect, preferring to stage the action in hotels and apartment buildings instead. There’s a real rush to get to the relationship drama so building up the jokes (as you do in comedy, film or stand-up) gets put on the back-burner. This is why the otherwise solid premise is completely wasted and watered down.
Floating around locations is a misstep because the character work of Leeve’s main character is extremely effectively done. We get to know about her, then know her strengths and insecurities which is also helped by fine outings by the actor and those three surrounding her. There’s enough chemistry to go around and the stage should be the place to showcase that in the best way. However the stage is where we rarely get to go to and even that is full of weird choices—aspect ratio and lack of static shots in the cinematography department seem completely wrong while the fading out the room sound and cutting to Maria jogging on a bridge are awkwardly edited in and shot. The group of actors and comedy stage were the best bets here but it’s slightly more chaotic than it is funny.
Frowneys: Cinematography, premise