Onscreen Offscreen: Exploitation or Reparation?

Exploitation Squared

The first three episodes of Pam & Tommy were released on Wednesday, the new show on Disney+ about Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s sex tape scandal. It seems bonkers (featuring a CGI penis voiced by Jason Mantzoukas), and very entertaining thanks to stellar, committed performances from its all-star cast. Contrary to what seems to widespread opinion, the real-life couple did not self-servingly leak the tape to the internet, but were instead victims of revenge porn after someone broke into their home and stole the tape, which was locked in a safe. Publicly redressing this injustice is clearly an important act of media reparation towards some of the immense damage inflicted on Anderson over the years. For this project, its funding and distribution campaign, the money is clearly where its mouth is.

Yet, and here’s the rub which certainly deserves more scrutiny, Anderson didn’t give her permission for the series. The development team, and Lily James, who plays Anderson, did apparently reach out, but never received a response. Fundamentally then, whilst the series may do its best to empathise with Anderson, and the exploitation, violation, and trauma she faced as a result of this deplorable crime, its existence cannot help but further feed it. Yes, she’s a public figure, but the original tape was released without her consent too.

Ireland on Netflix

Netflix recently added some new Irish content to its library. I spoke of Deadly Cuts (Rachel Carey) in an earlier column, and this is one such title you can now watch at home. A comedy-thriller about four Dublin hairdressers who have to defend their salon from a local intimidation gang, and defeat the posh pricks also attempting to take over the area. It’s a laugh, and neatly interrogates how a sense of identity can become so firmly linked to place and the community that live there.

Redemption of a Rogue (Philip Doherty)is another oddity, and whilst I did not enjoy it anywhere near as much as I did Deadly Cuts, I haven’t seen anything quite like it before: a biblical, black comedy musical set in contemporary Cavan. I don’t think I’ve even seen Cavan on film before. Jimmy (Aaron Monaghan) is a broken man who returns home after years in the wilderness to seek redemption, and then end his life. What he finds instead is a musical purgatory that he cannot escape without taking a long, hard, sincere look at himself. I’m not sure it works, but for fans of ambitious filmmaking (and Cavan), it’s worth checking out.

The new season of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia has finally arrived after being released in the US a while back, which is funny, because half of the season is set in Ireland, so surely we deserved it first? There’s nothing quite like seeing your favourite despicable humans walking the same streets you walk each day, is there? I remember the first time I saw old London at a screening of The Lavender Hill Mob (Charles Crichton, 1951) and feeling transfixed by this document of a place so familiar yet stuck in its place, walked and passed over by figures of the past. I wonder if future generations will look back on Dee Reynolds (Kaitlin Olson) getting blasted by a bus on Dame Street the same way. I know it’s not an Irish original, but it features Charlie Day speaking as gaeilge, and my God is it gnéasach.

What’s Onscreen

Jackass Forever (Jeff Tremaine) hits cinemas this week, which is very exciting as it’s the first Jackass movie. I’m actually able to watch in a cinema. I watched the films religiously as a teenage boy (obviously), so this return (supposedly final) does feel rather monumental. I’m sure they’ll blow it out the park, probably with a rocket.

One of the great horror franchises has returned with Scream (Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett). This time, the meta series tackles toxic fandoms and has all the usual scares, stabs, and goofiness. Not all of it works, which I think is down to the writing of some of the legacy characters, but it’s a bloody lovely trip back to Woodsboro.

I watched Belfast (Kenneth Branagh)at the London Film Festival last year and adored it, but I think there is something to be said about how my viewing experience may be immensely different to someone who grew up living with and learning about the historical context of Northern Ireland. Yet, hearing some British critics’ ignorant remarks on the film about the ‘contextual relevance’ of the Troubles after the screening in London only cemented my opinion of the film’s urgency all the more. Unlike films such as ’71 (Yann Demange, 2014), Belfast works very hard to show you why people wanted to stay in the loving and considerate community that was their home, and that couldn’t be found elsewhere. Perhaps in places it can be a little twee, but as it’s framed from the perspective of a child, isn’t everything rather rosy when we’re young?

The king of Gothic atmosphere is back in cinemas as Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro) is on show. Featuring a powerhouse cast and a chilling central performance from Bradley Cooper, the story outlines an inescapable circle of violence and cruelty. It’s not pleasant, but for those looking for something a little more unsettling than the shits and giggles of Scream, this is your pick.

Virgin Media Dublin International Film Festival’s full schedule has gone live, running online and in cinemas across the city from February 23–March 6.

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