This past weekend was a busy one for films.
Friday I saw Crazy Rich Asians which had quite a buzz going around the city and still was busy for being released weeks ago. Sadly I had a challenged young man sitting in the row behind me who periodically and persistently would have noticeable outbursts like “It’s almost October, you know….” and “I think it’s getting wet outside” which had nothing to do with the film at all. There was some film commentary as well and the Sally Soundtrack really wasn’t welcome. The woman who sat beside him in that row was quite patient I have to admit. This is my second film in a row with Henry Golding (Simple Favor was other). He likes removing his shirts. He plays the son of a very wealthy and powerful Singapore Chinese family (real estate moguls who developed the city). He starts living in NYC and you see him with his Chinese American girlfriend who is an Economics professor at NYU. His best friend is getting married and he wants to introduce his girlfriend Rachel around. This means an introduction to Mother (played effectively by Michelle Yeoh). Mom has petty and shallow friends who like to gossip. She is mindful of an Empire, where her husband (even for a wedding) doesn’t make an appearance. There are various family members who are around and some are definite stereotypes, but here it works. Comic relief is found in the daughter and school chum of Rachel, and she is very good. The story unfolds in ways that are anticipated and others not. That is the beauty of it, and while you get a sense of the opulence around the characters (the wedding itself is a true showing of crass over-spending just because one can spend it) it still remains grounded in characters that you care about. Will the young boyfriend and girlfriend be able to overcome all of the family and business issues around them? Well worth seeing although it doesn’t have to be seen in a big theatre.
Colette: on Saturday I ended up seeing this new and TIFF period piece starring Keira Knightley. She doesn’t seem to age, and seems to be the same as when I first saw her in Bend It Like Beckham. She is always effective in these period pieces as she seems to fit right in with the clothes, the manners and the challenging times for women and their current station. Here she is a young woman living out in the French countryside, and is courted by a publisher from Paris (played by The Affair’s Dominic West). He is a bit of a rogue, with questionable business acumen. In tough times with limited content he encourages Gabrielle to write about her life, which she had shared earlier verbally with her husband. At first he is not convinced but decides to eventually publish, under his own name “Willy”. Willy is more of a brand than a name, and he takes credit for the work which takes off with the young female population in France. The stories become the talk of the town, and make Willy plenty of money. Claudine are the books, unread by me, but they are a sensation that become a brand itself for everything (combs, perfume, treats etc). The story then unfolds in ways I won’t describe here. I will say that I found this story a bit slow and sluggish. Much of it was the set up for the real story which became the relationships that Gabrielle/Colette has in her life. None of them are shocking, but for the times obviously they would have been. Women had their place, and she was swimming upstream from that regarded path. Knightley and supporting cast do an admirable job here, but I didn’t come away feeling euphoric. It was okay. Much in the same way that I walked away from Cate Blanchett in Carol. As Gabrielle herself states at the end, “What a wonderful life I have had, I only wish I realized it sooner.”
Wrinkle in Time: On Netflix this came out recently and it was based on the very popular book. It suffered greatly at the box office and with good reason I would think upon viewing. It is a mess, and the Disney goal of being inclusive and diverse is undermined by a story that is jumbled and uncertain. Basically Chris Pine as father has disappeared and left behind wife and two kids (older daughter and son). He is a professor of sorts who talks about using one’s mind to travel through time and space. School mates make fun of the kids left behind by their Dad at school. The son manages to find unique guides (among them Oprah and Reece Witherspoon, who’s overbite couldn’t be more pronounced) and they try to assist these young people in a quest to find Dad. Think the fairies who were assisting Cinderella, only less white and one trying too hard to be the comic relief. There is a darkness. There is some light. There is a journey and some interesting visuals, but none of it really resonates and it falls flat. I cannot recommend this.