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The Regime movie review & film summary (2024)

There are a few commendable aspects of the show. Consolata Boyle’s inspired costume design does quite a bit of heavy lifting in Elena’s evolution. Perfectly fitted skirt suits and dresses in bold colors (green, white, blue) are used in scenes meant to cement Elena’s authority; olive green is used in scenes when she is meting out punishment. (She only wears trousers when she visits a union that is enraged by her anti-worker actions.) As she slowly adopts Herbert’s right-wing nationalism, Elena switches to peasant dresses, billowy sleeves, and embroidered blouses, not dissimilar to Republicans awkwardly posing for hunting photos in attire purchased in the previous 24 hours, or how Democrats kneel wearing kente cloth while doing nothing to reform this nation’s sickening carceral justice system. 

Perhaps my favorite detail is Elena’s jewelry; she wears bigger, flashier earrings at parties, like many women might, and opts for smaller, more delicate earrings featuring floral designs for events courting support from farmers. But when confronting an American politician, she chooses gold hoops equal in stature and detail to her opponent’s earrings. Hair and makeup designer Sian Griggs (“Maestro,” “Killers of the Flower Moon”, “Ex Machina”) is equally worthy of praise. Elena’s hair is an ever-so-slightly wavy chignon when we meet her, but as her Earth begins to revolve around Herbert’s sun, she adds a thick single braid, wrapped around her head, or sports a long cozy plait while promoting agrarian land reforms. I have no problem with the fact that Alexandre Desplat’s score sounds like a remix of his work on Wes Anderson’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel”; both stories are set in similar parts of the world, and Desplat’s film score is one of the finest ever written. And Winslet herself is reliable as always. She’s spoken in interviews about crafting Elena’s accent, but what I find even more interesting is the downward droop of her lower lip, which deepens in moments of toddler-like petulance and indignation. 

But that’s where the good work ends. We never learn whether Elena came to power in an election that was truly fair and free. Her cadre of ministers, bickering and fighting and sniveling, have no motivations other than the maintenance of their own wealth and power. The camerawork does not deal in subtlety. Overuse of Dutch angles makes the ridiculousness of the proceedings far more literal than it needs to be. Scattered along the way are some keen bits of dialogue, including observations about how imperialism forces smaller nations, especially those with valuable resources, to choose between allying with America/NATO or China, and that elites often try to curry favor with disenchanted members of the working class by weaponizing their frustration to malign minorities and dismantle workers’ rights. 

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