Moving any mountain: Director Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi is on top of the world with documentary 'Free Solo'
Think women only just started playing the fool in Hollywood?
The movie reference I carried for free solo climbing for many years was Mission Impossible 2 when a (much younger) Tom Cruise dangled from a precipice from one arm and with no harness. He made it look easy; with Free Solo you’re about to find out just how hard it is.
This documentary, released this week in the UK, follows super-elite pro-climber Alex Honnold as he climbs the 3,000-foot vertical rock face El Capitan in Yosemite without using ropes. He’s attempting to set a new record and fulfil his life’s ambition, and is tracked every painfully considered, chalk-handed step of the way by married directing partners Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, not to mention another team of elite climbers and cinematographers.
The risk-taker: informer's Bel Powley takes on Matthew McConaughey in White Boy Rick
Are women funny? Fans may remember a couple of years ago that opinion pieces on Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, Melissa McCarthy and Amy Schumer started appearing, expressing surprise that finally, there were funny women in Hollywood – almost as if giraffes had been spotted on Sunset Boulevard. Fortunately, our grandparents and great grandparents were less sexist than us in many ways – and an exhibition at the BFI Southbank in London now explores Playing the Fool – and the women of early Hollywood who entertained audiences with their comedic genius.
It’s 7.45am in Los Angeles when Bel Powley comes on the phone, 3.45pm in the UK. She begins by apologising into the ether to whoever she spoke to before me, because she hadn’t managed to down any coffee beforehand, whereas now she’s managed half a cup and is feeling considerably more awake. In those precious few seconds of sounding each other out before the conversation properly begins, there’s bonding over how frustrating it is when movie trailers give too much plot away (“I find it really annoying when you watch trailers and you think ‘well I’ve seen half the film now!’”) and how enjoyable it is to be surprised by what you’re watching (“I love going in to see plays when I know nothing about it”). With that no-spoiler spirit in mind, we come to White Boy Rick, the 1980s-set film based on the true-life drama of Richard Wershe Jr. and his family, where Bel shines as Rick’s troubled older sister, Dawn. It’s a riveting yet nightmare-ish story as the characters battle to survive trading drugs and guns as their main currency.