Saturday, June 22, 2024

“RUMOURS”

THE STORY – World leaders meet at the G7 but get lost in the woods whilst trying to compose a joint statement on an unspecified global crisis. Beset by thick fog and menaced by undead bog bodies and a giant brain, they navigate the tortured passions between them.

THE CAST – Cate Blanchett, Alicia Vikander, Charles Dance, Roy Dupuis, Denis Ménochet, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Rolando Ravello, Takehiro Hira, & Zlatko Burić

THE TEAM – Guy Maddin, Evan Johnson & Galen Johnson (Directors/Writers)

THE RUNNING TIME – 118 Minutes


Political satire is both very commonplace and extremely difficult. These two facts, coupled with the general quality of most satire made these days, make you think that most people who try it really shouldn’t. Effective satire requires walking a fine line between precision and farce. In “Rumours,” Canadian auteurs Guy Maddin and Evan and Galen Johnson show that even those with a talent for farce can’t translate it into an effective piece of commentary.

For “Rumours,” the three Canadian directors have selected the G7 group of countries as their target. They must feel a certain amount of animosity towards the organization; a repeated joke revolves around the group comprising six of the world’s largest economies, plus Canada. In the film, an isolated German estate house hosts a summit of the seven leaders, at which they seek to publish a joint statement in response to an unspecified global crisis. The setup is fresh out of Armando Iannucci; Julia Louis-Dreyfus wouldn’t look out of place here in her role as U.S. President Meyer from “Veep.” However, Charles Dance is playing the American President in the vein of Joe Biden, despite his none-more-clipped English accent (though it does lead to a good joke). The cast is the most impressive part of “Rumours,” including the likes of Denis Ménochet (French President), Nikki Amuka-Byrd (British Prime Minister), and Roy Dupuis (the horny and lovelorn Canadian PM), though Cate Blanchett playing a German chancellor modeled on Angela Merkel (when Frau Merkel is now out of office) is an odd choice, one that illustrates that cutting-edge incisiveness isn’t the film’s primary concern.

The first act of “Rumours” is the strongest, as the leaders sit down to a working lunch in a gazebo on the grounds of the estate. As they settle in, and little barbs and in-jokes are exchanged, Maddin’s script gives us some decent laughs – did the British and Canadian prime ministers have a thing once? Does the Japanese Prime Minister (Takehiro Hira) understand what he’s being told? World leaders are as susceptible to gossip and confusion as the rest of us. The cast deliver the punchlines with gusto; Rolando Ravello’s Italian PM becomes an endearing butt of the joke with his poor grasp of English. Yet, one starts to wonder, where is this going? Given that the crisis to which these leaders are drafting their response is unspecified, the film clearly isn’t interested in sharp insight into a given current event. Fans of Maddin and the Johnsons’ previous work might be able to foresee the kind of bizarre byroads “Rumours” will go down, but they (and everyone else) will struggle to find the point.

As time passes, all contact outside the gazebo is lost, and our less-than-intrepid gang must find a way out of the sprawling estate and discover what’s happening. We know national leaders might not always have their finger on the pulse, but this crowd has a knack for tripping over themselves. “Rumours” goes at a steady pace, but as the humor moves away from political infighting to dealing with giant brains (!) and self-abusing mummies (!!), the jokes get weaker, and the film loses focus. The actors are all game for what the script throws at them, but it becomes increasingly nonsensical, culminating in a final act that offers no clarity, laughs, or conclusions. By the end, “Rumours” becomes another broad attempt at satire that sees powerful people swearing and taking their clothes off as the height of hilarity. This is bad enough, but you have to wonder what the message the filmmakers sought to convey actually was. Nearly two hours is a long time to ask an audience to spend with a spoof that struggles to spoof anything, but most people are likely to have checked out long before the end. “Rumours” boasts some visual and narrative irreverence and some bawdy laughs, but it should have leaned into one of these tracks more to give it any hope of sticking in the mind. Unlike its panicked, chattering characters, ‘“Rumours” struggles to find anything to say.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - An impressive, game cast brings some big laughs, and there are bizarre visual flourishes you’d expect from Maddin and the Johnsons.

THE BAD - The satire has little bite and, at two hours, the premise is stretched painfully thin. The final act drags.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 5/10

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>An impressive, game cast brings some big laughs, and there are bizarre visual flourishes you’d expect from Maddin and the Johnsons.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The satire has little bite and, at two hours, the premise is stretched painfully thin. The final act drags.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>5/10<br><br>"RUMOURS"