DIY Cannes 2013: The Grifters

Annette Bening in The GriftersTo stave off the depression of not being at Cannes while everyone I follow on Twitter gabs about their new favorite discoveries, I’ve decided to take the opportunity and hold my own film festival. Every night, I’m going to watch a movie I haven’t seen by one of the director’s debuting on the Croisette. Thanks to the power of Netflix, so many foreign movies and older auteur classics are available for Instant Streaming. Who knows what discoveries I might find along the way?

Opening Night Film: The Grifters (1990)

Director: Stephen Frears

His Cannes 2013 Film: Muhammed Ali’s Greatest Fight


Stephen Frears is one of those directors nobody really talks about and he doesn’t have the worst career either. The man has 2 oscar nominations (1 for this, the other for directing The Queen) in addition to helming High Fidelity and Dangerous Liaisons. On top of being a director nobody talks about, The Grifters feels like it is his least talked about movie. Now having seen it, I have no idea why. It’s bananas.

John Cusack plays Roy, a grifter who likes taking people in the short con, sleight of hand tricks and quick gambles. His extremely young mother Lilly, played by Anjelica Huston works as a gambler for her ridiculously named mob boss Bobo. To round out the trio is Roy’s casual hookup Myra, the wonderful Annette Bening. As far as a cast goes, it’s pretty much it. It’s nice to see a movie that has enough confidence in its actors and its characters to really let you focus on them. And what characters! All of them are broken, confused weirdos you come to love and adore.

But let’s get serious. When Frears is operating like one of the grifters, everything seems smooth, fast, and fun. The long-con scenes are wild, while the short cons give you just that quick hit of dopamine. However, Roy, Lilly, and Myra all have the same problem – they let their need to be on the grift get in the way. In an under-seen film with more reveals than just Bening’s pair of perky Annettes, I don’t want to discuss anything in the way of plot. Instead, I’ll just say that whenever plot mechanics take over, it all loses a bit of the magic. But just a bit. 

Finally, let’s just talk about the only thing that matters. If you’ve seen American Beauty, you know that our dear Annette can play whack-a-doodle fun. If you’ve seen The Kids Are All Right, you know that the Bening can be callous and wounded. But never, NEVER have I seen her perky and sexy. And excuse me, but I felt like that wolf whose eyes go AH-OOOO-GAH! I was caught off guard from minute one. She embodies Myra with such a joie de vivre not only for Roy, but also for the love of being in a con. Bening has always been a physical actress, acting right down through her toes. Here, she gets to do that with such sexy force and fun, I feel as if I’ve been steamrolled. Her eyes light up with electricity like I’ve never seen before and can only hope to see again.




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