Acting Out: Lesbian-themed “Disobedience,” Grace Jones Doc Coming Soon

Jim Farmer

Two new films — one a documentary on the legendary Grace Jones and the other an excellent lesbian-themed feature — are on tap for the next few weeks, providing an excellent alternative to big-budget superhero fare.

To say that musician Grace Jones is larger than life is a bit of an understatement. Director Sophie Fiennes’s new documentary on the subject, “Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami” is an intriguing look at the enigmatic one, warts and all. The film exposes enough of the artist to make a feature-length film, but still leaves much in mystery. Wisely, Fiennes has included some great concert clips, showing Jones’ inimitable style (and fashion sense). Jones comes across as very hardworking and devoted to her craft without selling out, but she is also a bit of a perfectionist and the film doesn’t shy away from some diva histrionics. “I’m like a madame in a whorehouse,” she complains after a musical performance of “La Vie En Rose.”

The one major flaw is that the director lets the film go on way too long. It’s almost two hours and it doesn’t need to be. The film follows a holiday road trip to Jamaica, and some traumatic moments from Jones’ childhood are revealed. Nonetheless, Jones’ story of her father is very emotional and gives poignancy to the number that follows. It’s moments like this that elevate the film. “Bloodlight and Bami” may not convert those who are not already following Jones, but it will be almost required viewing for die-hard fans.

Earlier this year, director Sebastian Lelio won a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar for his film “A Fantastic Woman,” which starred transgender actress Daniela Vega in the title role. His first English-language feature is the new “Disobedience,” opening this week in New York and Los Angeles and expanding to other cities (including Atlanta) the following week.

In the film, when Ronit’s (Rachel Weisz, who also produces) father dies, she returns to her hometown in London. She has been working as a photographer in New York after leaving home in scandal — shunned when it was found that she had a relationship with childhood friend, Esti (Rachel McAdams). Back home, she finds out that Esti is now married to Rabbi Dovid Kuperman (Allesandro Nivola). Probably unwisely, Ronit decides to stay at the Rabbi’s home, but an attraction re-develops between the women.

The film is based on a book by Naomi Alderman and does an exemplary job of showing how the characters’ Orthodox Jewish religious beliefs influence their life — and those around them as well. The three central performers are all effective. Weisz’ Ronit may seem a bit chilly, but she captures the struggle of the character. But, the standout here is McAdams as the conflicted Esti, who is re-thinking her decision to be married. Used to rituals, such as having sex with her husband on Friday, she is finding her backbone and ability to stand up for herself. The film’s ending doesn’t wrap everything up with a bow, but is far from tragic. Lelio is a director whose every new project is showing new layers of craft and confidence.