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Close-Up with Camenker Volume XXXI, MOVIE REVIEW: THE OUTFIT

This Week for “Close-Up with Camenker,” Volume XXXI, Movie Review: The Outfit

(April 5, 2022)

I really feel bad for the post-awards season film releases. While many of them are really strong films overall, especially in the day and age of streaming where quality rarely lags, they often fail to receive recognition that is sometimes due for them given that many are simply fatigued from the Oscars.

I would count the recent film THE OUTFIT, which screened at Red River for a couple weeks, as one that would likely have gotten some love were it released toward the end of Oscar season. Granted, it’s not a stellar film that would have racked up a multitude of awards or even nominations, but its lovely aesthetics and visual simplicity alone are both unique and enjoyable. Plus its a great directorial debut from IMITATION GAME writer Graham Moore (who also wrote the script here).

Centered around a Chicago-based clothing store owner with a layered past and shady acquaintances, played by the brilliant Mark Rylance, THE OUTFIT is a film that reminds its audiences that the bygone cinematic philosophy of “less is more” really is special. Filmed almost entirely within the confines of the store, it almost reads as a play given the limited space and set. This works beautifully in its favor as does the use of gorgeous visual elements that shine without being too ostentatious.

Though it does read as a modern film in how it is shot and with its cast, filled with familiar 21st century faces, THE OUTFIT has classical elements in its filming, which is where that “less is more” idea came to mind for me. What I mean is that, like many films of the past which did not have a lot to work with compared to today, this one does not overuse mediums that it has access to in the way that Marvel movies or franchises do. Instead, it puts its small set, lovely period costumes, and stellar cast at the forefront, which ultimately benefits it greatly.

The production design and costuming are at the crux of what makes the picture shine. Attention to detail in Mark Rylance’s profession, what he refers to as “cutting” rather than tailoring, as well as emphasis on the ornate clothing add so much to the fascinating plot. With intent focus on the Chicago mob and its business dealings, many of which happen in Rylance’s shop, you expect one thing but get the other. This is both refreshing and unexpected.

Rylance delights as usual, reminding audiences that the power of a performance can often be delivered in an understated or subtle manner. As with many of his recent roles, he transforms into the character without being too commanding, sharing the wealth with his fellow actors at all times. He really is a great example of someone who has risen to cinematic success later in life and will likely continue to make a positive influence on the world of film with his roles.

One last thing that I’ll say about this film is how much I appreciate that it focuses on the Chicago mob in its plot, but that it also is not the “be all, end all” of the picture. So many mafia films have been written and produced over the years and they have become rather formulaic in the end. THE OUTFIT uses a different approach here that makes it all the more enjoyable.

I’d highly encourage anyone to see this film, which ultimately shines for its simplicity and approach. While it won’t get any awards for having the most stellar script or dialogue of all time, nor will it likely be among the movies that artist guilds laud in the near future despite its beautiful sets and costumes, it is a good way to spend a couple hours on a Sunday afternoon. And it is a reminder that Mark Rylance sure isn’t going anywhere, nor will you want him to…

Stay tuned for Volume XXXII of “Close-Up with Camenker,” which will return on April 20.

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