For me the ladies walk away with William Friedkin's Killer Joe. The ladies being Gena Gershon and Juno Temple, who are both absolutely terrific. Much has been made of Matthew McConaughey's "brave" performance and I suppose it does mean something for him to do the things he's doing in this film at this point in his career as opposed to him doing very similar only slightly more deranged things in 1994's awful Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning. But I kept getting the Chainsaw vibe from him, especially as the movie thuds along and he becomes more unhinged in... an unwholesome manner... so it never felt like quite the revelation I'd heard it described as.
Gershon, on the other hand - you know how it's said that everything Fred Astaire was doing Ginger Rogers was doing backwards and in heels? In Killer Joe we meet Gena bush first and it only plunges deeper from there. This is some straight up "Kathleen Turner in Crimes of Passion" level fuckery here - the type of role you can't fathom what drove an actress to say yes to this, but thank goodness they did. Whether she's giggling about dick pics or picking at a stranger's mushroom pizza or getting funky with some K Fried C, she is dancing. Backwards, in heels, and bush first.
And this feels like a summation of "Juno Temple-ess (so far)" - a culmination and focus of what Temple can do, and she's laser accurate. Weird and sexy and inappropriate and funny - she keeps you totally off balance, and I found myself hanging on her every whim. The movie never feels more alive then when she's living up there.
Unfortunately it must be known that Emile Hirsch is straight up terrible - so bad he drags down everybody around him whenever he's there. Thomas Haden Church gets the worst of it because he's sharing the most screen-time with Emile; otherwise THC is very funny, but as soon as Emile shows up inside his frame they both suddenly seem to be reading off cue cards they can only half see. Generally I like Hirsch but he comes off as a professional amateur here. Screaming everything doesn't equal character, Emile! And the movie hinges so much on him, it's fairly fatal.
So besides loving the ladies and the delightfully gratuitous moment of McConaughey nudity and then of course there's The Scene Everyone Will Be Talking About, I finally found the film on the half-baked side. It has moments of real sparkling monstrous brilliance, but they're little islands of scenes surrounded by a sea of real clunkers. I kept wanting it to pluck on my nerves like a finely oiled Coens Brothers machine, wringing me out, but it kept me at arm's length, ultimately undevoted to these folk's guttersnipe woes.