JUDY & PUNCH – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

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Judy & Punch is a none-too-subtle #MeToo fairy tale that is part Brothers Grimm and part Shakespeare with a pinch of Monty Python tomfoolery. Consider the fact that it is set in a 17th-century village named Seaside that is nowhere near the sea. First-time director Mirrah Foulkes at least doesn’t play it safe with her script as she freely tosses about such anachronistic phrases as “incoming” and “We killed it tonight!” while injecting a Leonard Cohen ballad – namely Who Should I Say is Calling? — into the proceedings as well as a bout of tai chi and electronic background music.

Yes, there will be marionettes and they are manipulated by Mia Wasikowska as Judy, a dedicated mother to an adorable baby girl who lives in her family’s home with her boozehound husband Punch – played by Damon Herriman — whose charismatic nature turns violent and abusive whenever he goes on a bender. He proclaims himself “the greatest puppeteer of his generation” while Judy is the actual master of pulling the strings on stage when they deliver their abusive slapstick displays.

Herriman, an actor who seems to have slime coursing through his veins, practically has “toxic male” stamped on his forehead. Thankfully, Wasikowska is allowed to deliver a tender and tough nuanced turn, especially when the plot suddenly takes a tragic path that ends up killing her child and causes her to be left for dead in the woods. That is when Judy goes into warrior mode when she joins a crew of outcasts who nurse her back to health and help her seek revenge on the one that wronged her in a stroke of grand theater and righteous anger that takes a stand against mob rule and injustice. Foulkes’ debut is more a curiosity than it is a fully entertaining film but its heart is in the right place.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Judy & Punch is AWFJ’s Movie of the Week for June 5, 2020

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Susan Wloszczyna

Susan Wloszczyna

In her nearly 30 years at USA Today, Susan Wloszczyna interviewed everyone from Vincent Price and Shirley Temple to Julia Roberts and Will Smith. Her coverage specialties include animation, musicals, comedies and any film starring Hayley Mills, Sandy Dennis or hobbits. Her crowning career achievements so far, besides having Terence Stamp place his bare feet in her lap during an interview for The Limey, is convincing the paper to send her to New Zealand twice for set visits, once for The Return of the King and the other for The Chronicles of Narnia and King Kong, and getting to be a zombie extra and interview George Romero in makeup on the set for Land of the Dead. Though not impressive enough for Pulitzer consideration, she also can be blamed for coining the moniker "Frat Pack," often used to describe the comedy clique that includes Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell. Her positions have included Life section copy desk chief for four years and a film reviewer for 12 years. She is currently a senior editor for the online awards site Gold Derby. Previously, she has been a freelance film reporter and critic, contributing regularly to RogerEbert.com, MPAA’s The Credits, the Washington Post, AARP The Magazine online and Indiewire as well as being a book reviewer for The Buffalo News. She previously worked as a feature editor at the Niagara Gazette in Niagara Falls, N.Y. A Buffalo native, she earned her bachelor's degree in English at Canisius College and a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.