Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Film review “Magazine Dreams”. [Sundance 2023]: Jonathan Majors’ world of bodybuilding is slowing

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Actor Jonathan Majors is a powerhouse of a performer who melts into every role he takes on. He does it right once again in his transformation into the world of bodybuilding obsession in intense drama Magazine Dreams. The first half introduces an intriguing premise, though it strays and never quite finds a way to recover.

Killian Maddox (Majors) lives with and cares for his veteran grandfather. Meanwhile, he attends court-ordered therapy sessions and works at a local grocery store, where he admires a cashier (Haley Bennett) whom he has a crush on. However, Killian doesn’t seem to have the strength to ask her out due to his social anxiety.

He spends all his time dreaming of becoming the biggest bodybuilding superstar in the world. Killian looks up to bodybuilder Brad Vanderhorn (Mike O’Hearn) as his idol and wants to match his level of physique and success. He’s not willing to let anyone get in his way, including the doctors who tell him he’s causing permanent damage to his body.

Magazine Dreams rests in Killian’s pain and misery. His outbursts of anger landed him in court-ordered therapy sessions, where he increasingly lies. Killian’s addiction to steroids is certainly not helping as he continues to spiral. The majority of his frustrations come from diet, exercise and physique, as his community has a serious lack of access to grocery stores and an excess of junk food.

Killian is not willing to accept anything less than his idea of ​​physical perfection. He participates in bodybuilding competitions, where the appearance and size of every inch of his body are judged. As a result, Killian views his body in these conditions and becomes obsessed with the fact that his deltoids are too small after a judge criticized them as such and asked strangers if they were okay with it.

Aside from his dreams of bodybuilding fame, Killian just wants human connections. He looks for it in his crush about the grocery store and in the letters he sends to his idol. Still, nothing seems to be going as planned. Writer/director Elijah Bynum’s screenplay gradually feeds audiences crumbs from Killian’s past while continuing to inform his present and the direction he’s taking later. It is undeniably tragic and constantly haunts his career and social endeavors.

Magazine Dreams is a character study that places the journey on the shoulders of the majors. He delivers a remarkably impressive performance as Killian and raises the word on the page. Majors fully captures the bodybuilder’s physicality, disappearing into the character’s body language and cadence, which add to the drama.

Bynum sets up an arduous inspection of the bodybuilding world in which almost every scrap of hope is crushed to dust. It’s a certainly dark film that’s split in half. The first follows a man chasing his dreams of becoming a bodybuilder and willing to do anything in his power to achieve that goal. After that, the characters’ motivation changes as Killian spirals out of control and wants to watch the world burn. The latter draws inspiration from taxi driver and the Oscar winner jokeralthough Bynum’s vision is only half realized and superficial in relation to the heavy subject.

Cinematographer Adam Arkapaw finds an impressive way to bring to life this film that never fails to amaze to watch, and further emphasizes the power of majors performance. Magazine Dreams begins on a persuasive note, but then repeats it monotonously without nuance, letting its own character study dangle in a room of nothingness. The technical craftsmanship and the leading actors are impressive, but its stimulating storyline is never as challenging as it should be.

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