It was Annemarie’s favorite kind of Required Viewing selection — one that includes Tom Hardy. Lawless, the Prohibition Era crime film that also stars Jessica Chastain and Shia LeBeouf, gets a pass from AM on its violence because it has swol Tom Hardy rocking a fine collection of sweaters and mumbling his way through courtship. Also Shia doing Shia things and fun shenanigans with moonshine!
Take it away, AM, why do you think Lawless achieved Required Viewing status? And did you actually enjoy this movie, or just Tom Hardy?
A: Honestly, I’m not sure if I bullied you into this or if you even like this film. Either way, I greatly enjoyed it. Yes, violence, but this is the type of film I can see it coming and just watch through my fingers. So I actually am not entirely sure what violence was perpetrated on and by Mr. Hardy, but he looked quite good doing it. Not top Hardy, but top 5 easily. While a lot of this was pretty implausible (WHY ARE THEY SO IMPERVIOUS TO DYING), it was a well-acted moonshine-y jaunt through the hills of Virginia with the creepiest lawman ever on the screen since the Childcatcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Ok, Brooke. Let’s hear why this made the list, outside of my insistence. Where does this Hardy look rank for you? And what are your thoughts on the famous Bondurant brothers. Are they really un-killable?
B: Let me put you at ease, AM. Your Tom Hardy thirst is not the only reason Lawless landed on the list. I like Lawless because it’s quite a different slice of this time period than we’re normally served. Usually, the gangsters are the end-all and be-all, and everyone else is just cannon fodder. In this case, the Bondurant brothers, who were very real men, are there standing apart from all of that, and I was into it. And I am always into Jessica Chastain, Mr. Hardy and The Beef. So, you see, I was a Lawless fan even before I knew you, but your insistence pushed it to the top of the list.
For me, this Hardy look is among the very best. I might rank the goth outlaw of Taboo just ahead of this old man sweater over ripping muscles LEWK, but only just. I do love an old man sweater.
As a point of order, I believe it is only Tom’s character, Forrest who is believed to be immortal. And given that he has his throat aggressively slit and is later shot in the chest multiple times and heals up, well, I kind of subscribe to the theory that he was at least a demigod.
And conveniently enough, this brings us around to that line. AM, tell us all about your favorite part of Lawless.
A: First, because you didn’t ask, I shall recount to you my top Hardy looks:
- Dunkirk — RAF pilot For. The. Win.
- Venom (This film doesn’t look good, but I think this is a modern Hardy look we can all get on board with, at least until he actually turns into Venom.)
Now that we have that out of the way, by far my favorite part is just before the big, climactic showdown on the bridge with the law. Jessica helpfully informs Forrest that she has had to save his butt once already, when he got his neck cut from ear to ear. He didn’t walk with a gaping neck wound, a woman about half his size DRAGGED him into her car and took him to the hospital. Forrest stares at her, dumbfounded. “I thought I walked.”
He’s been hearing how un-killable he is for so long that he actually believed he walked. With a giant bloody wound. Miles to the hospital. It’s one of the few clear Hardy lines of the film (he does adorably mumble), and the deadpan comedy is brilliant. We watched the scene three times, and it’s perfect.
Brooke, talk to me about the styling of this gangster film? What makes it different than others from this period?
B: I love that you spin the mumbling as “adorable” when most people would say “unintelligible.” But, we’re here to talk about gangster films. Most pictures that depict this era are very slick, and everyone dresses like Shia starts dressing after he gets a money. They’re also all darkly lit and set in crowded cities, where Lawless lives and breathes in woods that are equal parts beautiful and haunting. It feels almost natural in contrast, and so bright, and with a lot more cardigans than you’d usually see too. I have to say, I love this aesthetic and particularly enjoy how bizarre it makes Guy Pierce look with his slick suits and shoe-polished hair.
AM desperate to hear your thoughts on the two central romantic relationships in this picture. Hit me.
A: One more thought on Guy’s look: what was up with the shaved part and light eyebrows? It’s a bizarre choice that I thought was going to be explained? Brooke, help me out. Was his grooming choice a historically accurate portrayal of a real-life guy? Or did Guy go for a random look and everyone is just hoping we go with it?
Let’s start with Shia and his (Amish?) lady friend, Mia Wasikowska. It’s the classic country meet cute. Boy sees girl, boy drinks several bottles of moonshine, boy hits on girl, dad of girl doesn’t want his daughter to have anything to do with a gangster, but since she’s rebellious, she ends up with him anyway. I suppose my view on this relationship is clouded somewhat by the real-life Shia drinking real moonshine to get into character, causing havoc along the way (as young men fueled by moonshine tend to do). But with that said, I do love these two characters sparring, and hats off to Mia for sticking through this, and frankly convincing me with her acting that she did actually want to date Drunk Shia.
Couple #2! I was a bit thrown off by Jessica Chastain’s entry into the film. She just shows up one day at the station, says she heard they needed an employee, and basically doesn’t leave. I suppose she could have heard about this job from people as she was passing through, but are we meant to believe that she came directly to Tom Hardy because she’d heard rumors of his “invincibility?” From the beginning, Jess aligns herself with Tom (as one would), and acts as sort of a surrogate mom and nurturer for the Bondurant brothers. Clearly though, she wants more. And she gets more, by finally shedding all her clothes, and tucking herself into bed with Mr. Hardy whilst he makes noises that we approximate as “Merph?” (IMDb tells us he supposedly said “Um… uh, wait, what you doin’?”… but I heard none of that.) But, in the end, we learn that not only do the brothers survive, they ALL get married to the respective ladies in their lives and live pretty damn close to happily ever after. (Tom’s not invincible after all, as we learn he dies after the events of the film from a case of pneumonia contracted whilst drunk dancing near a lake.)
Brooke, can you please answer my questions? Tell me your thoughts on the two central romantic relationships, and also, if you were part of the Bondurant family, what job in the bootlegging business would you most prefer?
B: I haven’t read the book that tells us the history of the Bondurants versus the law, so I don’t know if Guy’s look was inspired by an IRL look related to these events or if he merely took inspiration from other TOO dapper dudes of the day. I’m no fashion historian, but I do believe that the Prohibition era saw some curious trends among those who still had money.
I’ll take the romances one at a time and get to your questions in due course as I do so.
Back to couple #1. I think you’ve got this one exactly right, there’s something very sweet about this on-screen romance, but it’s made a bit awkward by the fact that super drunk Shia made very real Mia quite uncomfortable with his method moonshine antics.
When it comes to couple #2 however, I can enlighten you on some points. First, it comes no surprise to me that you didn’t catch Jessica’s whole story, cause you were busy ogling Tom. Jess says she left Chicago to get away from the rough city life, that she was looking for somewhere quiet. This was the Depression, so it wasn’t uncommon to have people pulling up roots and looking for work. So, when you get a woman on her own, it makes perfect sense that the neighbors would send her to the Bondurants, who they knew would protect her, as much as she would nurture them. I don’t think she chose the Bondurants because she’d heard immortality myths, but because they needed help and she needed consistency. And you can’t get much more consistent than a guy who exclusively communicates in grunts. I actually ship this couple so hard though, minus when Forrest gets mad that she was raped because she tried to save his life, COME ON BRO. Happily, he sees the error of his ways, after he almost dies. Again.
If I were a Bondurant, I think I’d probably have tried to stay well out of the business, but eventually learned some sweet, sweet knife skills and been unlikely backup muscle. AKA, I’d hang around the station during deals and dispense justice when Howard failed to show.
Tell us your place in the moonshine game, AM. Then give us your final Lawless thoughts.
A: As a pacifist and as a Hardy enthusiast, I’d volunteer for Maggie’s job (minus said rape). I do follow on the Depression-era trend of wanderers and seekers, but I would have loved to hear just a bit more from her perspective. What drove her out of Chicago? Just work? Or something else? I also ship this couple, so would have loved just one more conversation between the two where she shares about her past life. But, given his insanity about her rape, I’d wager she might be smart in keeping her old secrets quiet. (I heartily second your “COME ON BRO.” That was lame of him.)
Aside from the appeal of the cardigan-ed Hardy, I have to say that the job description of Maggie’s actual job isn’t bad. Pouring coffee, shucking corn, probably some baking and knitting in there. Farm life with the occasional murderous customer? IN.
Next time, we break the trend of giving Annemarie what she wants. We stayed in a cabin in the woods, so it was high time we finally watched The Cabin in the Woods.