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Weekend Preview: Sarah Polley's Must-See Doc 'Stories We Tell,' Baz Luhrmann's Showy but Sagging 'Great Gatsby'

Photo of Beth Hanna By Beth Hanna | Thompson on Hollywood May 10, 2013 at 2:08PM

Canadian writer-director-actress Sarah Polley's brilliant documentary on her enigmatic family history, "Stories We Tell," leads the pack of a slew of top-reviewed limited releases this weekend. Ben Wheatley's "Sightseers," the follow-up to frightfest "Kill List," also hits theaters and VOD, along with Irish director Lenny Abrahamson's coming-of-age drama and fest favorite "What Richard Did," and Maiken Bird's fest-circuit sports biodoc "Venus and Serena."
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"Stories We Tell"
Roadside Attractions "Stories We Tell"

Canadian writer-director-actress Sarah Polley's brilliant documentary on her enigmatic family history, "Stories We Tell," leads the pack of a slew of top-reviewed limited releases this weekend. Ben Wheatley's "Sightseers," the follow-up to frightfest "Kill List," also hits theaters and VOD, along with Irish director Lenny Abrahamson's coming-of-age drama and fest favorite "What Richard Did," and Maiken Bird's fest-circuit sports biodoc "Venus and Serena."

In the tentpole arena, Baz Luhrmann's "The Great Gatsby," starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire,  is floundering critically, impressing reviewers with its audacious visuals but failing to fill out an otherwise empty vessel of spectacle. But it just might open to $40 million or more, which means Luhrmann's spectacle is luring audiences--the question is whether they'll spread good or bad word after they sample it.

Stories We Tell Dir. Sarah Polley, Canada | Roadside Attractions | 93% Fresh | Village Voice: "This wondrous, absorbing little picture covers a great deal of winding meta-territory, reflecting on the ways in which a single family's story can be told—or maybe, more accurately, examining the idea that there's no such thing as a 'single story.'" | Our TOH! interview with Sarah Polley

What Richard Did Dir. Lenny Abrahamson, Ireland | Tribeca Film | Cast: Jack Reynor, Roisin Murphy, Sam Keeley | 93% Fresh | New York Times: "This brilliantly acted movie, a loose adaptation of Kevin Power’s book 'Bad Day in Blackrock,' directed by Lenny Abrahamson from a screenplay by Malcolm Campbell, confronts the implications for both Richard and for the tightly knit community that reflexively protects one of its own."

Sightseers Dir. Ben Wheatley, UK | IFC Films | Cast: Alice Lowe, Eileen Davies, Jonathan Aris, Kenneth Hadley | 83% Fresh | Los Angeles Times: "It is the almost accidental way Tina and Chris go about going bad that provides Sightseers with its twisted humor and its unexpected charm." | Our TOH! interview with Ben Wheatley

Venus and Serena Dir. Maiken Bird, USA | Magnolia Pictures | 81% Fresh | Washington Post: "The documentary also reveals the sisters’ almost symbiotic closeness. They live together most of the year, cook together, do karaoke together and joke about how difficult it would be if one chose to get married." |Our TOH! Toronto coverage

The Great Gatsby Dir. Baz Luhrmann, USA | Warner Bros. | Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Tobey Maguire, Joel Edgerton, Isla Fisher, Jason Clarke | 46% Rotten | Wall Street Journal: "What's intractably wrong with the film is that there's no reality to heighten; it's a spectacle in search of a soul." | Our TOH! review | Our TOH! interview with designer Catherine Martin

Aftershock Dir. Nicolas Lopez, Chile/USA | Dimension Films | Cast: Eli Roth, Ariel Levy, Selena Gomez, Andrea Osv | 35% Rotten | A.V. Club: "Right up until the quake, Aftershock is a bland, sub-"Hangover" comedy about guys on the make in South America. Then finally, blessedly, the ground swallows up these shallow idiots." | Our TOH! review

This article is related to: Reviews, Weekend Preview, Stories We Tell, The Great Gatsby, Sightseers, What Richard Did, Reviews


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.