This week I didn’t get to the theatre but I saw plenty of Netflix. Given that I will review in the level of quality of the films involved.
I neglected to post my thoughts on the new movie Widows that is out in the theatres. This movie is getting a lot of buzz and I was anxious to see it. My first comment is that Viola Davis is quickly becoming one of the best actors in Hollywood. Full stop. She is putting together an impressive body of work, but she’s really just so damn good. She shows torment, emotion, strength, intelligence, sensitivity and all effortlessly with authenticity and being real. In Widows, she plays a married woman to Liam Neeson’s character who we see early is part of a crew of thieves. This crew runs into some trouble on their latest job, and as the title suggests, leaves the world with widowed women, each with their own backstory. There is a political aspect to this story with a Chicago District that has an upcoming election. Colin Farrell is the incumbent with a family legacy there (Daddy was the representative before, played by aging Robert Duvall). They are being challenged by a black candidate who is more grass roots and lives and knows the neighborhood. He is effectively played by Brian Tyree Henry, previously unknown to me but he has done plenty of TV and stage work. The story unfolds with the Henry character approaching Davis’ character and saying that her husband was stealing money that was his for his campaign, and she now owes him a large sum of money and has a few days to get it. Davis moves into action, not believing the predicament she has been put into, all the while grieving for her husband. She engages the other widows from the crew to see if they can work together. This female supporting cast with Michelle Rodriguez, notably Elizabeth Debicki add a great deal of depth to the story. Add in some other effective supporting cast members and this ensemble creates real tension with good performances. In essence this is a heist film at the core (as a job needs to be pulled off in order for bad things not to happen) and there are challenges along the way. But the story doesn’t stop there, as through some flashbacks we see more about the relationships involved, and notably the Davis and Neeson marriage. This movie had a very good plot, tension and all things that a heist movie should have. Kudos to Steve McQueen who wrote this (along with Gillian Flynn) and directed this. At nomination time, I expect that a few of the performances (and likely the movie itself) will be recognized and rewarded. Well worth seeing.
On Netflix, there was the film Disobedience with the two Rachels (McAdams and Weisz) set in London with an orthodox Jewish family whose patriarch has just passed away. Weisz is the daughter who is informed about the passing and decides to come back to London from New York City. She an obvious black sheep, estranged from the family returns, which causes endless surprises and raised eyebrows. We later find out that she and the other Rachel have had a history together, which seemingly lead to the forced separation. Ultimately it is a story about a culture set in its ways, and how this pressures and forces those within it to conform and not be their true selves. In many ways this films themes are those from Boy Erased. Instead of trying to re-educate the offensive outlier, the community shuns and banishes the offending party. In a time of divisiveness and labeling those around us, the alternative is inclusiveness and realizing that we are all the same underneath it all. That may sound a little too politically correct, but the stories just highlight the past practices, and we can reflect upon them. I think Boy Erased told this type of story more effectively, but this was still worth a viewing.
This week I had the pleasure to attend a movie in person with my daughter and her best friend. We decided to see Boy Erased. The story is pretty straightforward with a Baptist preacher and car dealership owner (Russell Crowe) and his Wife (Nicole Kidman) who have one son, Garrod (Lucas Hedges). The parents decide to send their son to conversion therapy to cure him of his homosexual thoughts and actions, which was sprung on them by surprise by another troubled young man at College. This is set in Arkansas back in 2004, so NOT ancient history. The son was at the time 19yo and was given the choice to be disowned by his parents and family or go to get “cured”. He decided for the latter with his shame and uncertainty surrounding his own feelings. He attends Love In Action which locks the subjects away for an assessment and then later makes decisions on what should happen to them longer term. The viewer sees in detail the teachings and methods used to break down the subjects and get them to re-learn themselves and identify the source of their problem (usually past family members or others). There is plenty of finger pointing and justifications. The circumstances surrounding Garrod’s outing were dramatic. Later scenes with other subjects at the therapy sessions are emotional and powerful. In the end we learn that 700,000 people have gone through this therapy in the US. It’s sad to think of all these souls struggling and being subjected to this type of manipulation. For the family, we have an emotional couple of scenes where Nicole Kidman shows her acting chops (and I confess I am NOT a Kidman fan – but here she was very good at delivering an important moment in the film). We also see a much heavier Russell Crowe being pressed to think through his own values and beliefs, as a father, a husband and a preacher. Hedges plays this role very well and is articulate in expressing his feelings. We (daughter and friend) had a debate amongst ourselves about whether homosexuality is born or bred (nature vs nurture) from the science of is there a gene for this (there isn’t) or whether it is learned behaviour? In the end it doesn’t matter, but the impact will be on the viewer’s attitude of whether this type of therapy (by people who may not even be doctors or psychiatrists/psychologists) makes any real difference at all. Worth a viewing, and likely gets Kidman another nomination and could be too for Hedges.
This week I saw two movies of note. First was the Netflix film, that was released at TIFF in September Outlaw King based upon the story about Robert the Bruce starring Chris Pine. The story is in many ways a follow up to the Braveheart story about William Wallace, which starred Mel Gibson and won Best Picture from 1995. The new film borrows a great deal from the Braveheart tale, but doesn’t carry with it the production value, nor the acting from the principals. Pine struggles with the Scottish accent, and the action sequences are nothing that we haven’t seen before. In fact, the charging horse scene with the English horses is very close to the Gibson version at Sterling with the long spears. In the end it felt forced and just not as good, and not really a story that needed to be told in this forum. I am pleased I avoided at TIFF, because once again the film simply wasn’t worth the money and I would have been disappointed. I like Chris Pine. But I think he has a particular niche where he fits where, and being a Scottish King, just simply isn’t it.
Last week I managed to get out to the theatre to catch Bohemian Rhapsody. This film has had some polarizing reviews, and I can see why. For me, this movie should have had more of an edge to it. Much like I think ANY David Bowie future film should try to capture the entire man, and his intricacies and eccentricities. Much can be claimed here. In some ways I feel like I watched Theory of Everything where it was based, in part, on the recollections of Stephen Hawking’s ex-wife. Well of course she’s going to made out to be better than it likely really was! Perspective is everything, and this is no different.
We start the film of Freddie Mercury, when he was nobody, Farrokh Bulsara of Parsi decent, working unloading baggage at the airport. He likes clubs and hanging out and meets upon a band who lost their singer who felt he had better options elsewhere. In comes Farrokh, and provides an impromptu audition and manages to impress the singerless group. We meet Freddy’s family (Mother, Father and sister) where there is nothing but some questioning of where the young man can ever end up. It’s more cliche really than anything else. How many times do we see a supportive family (especially a father for a young man looking to play music?). But nevermind.
For me, I wondered about the treatment of Freddy’s personal life, and how he chose to be. He was married early on and then later lived as a gay man. I didn’t expect, and don’t believe the Freddy Mercury would live the life shown in the film with the lights from separate rooms with his wife, with him by himself. Maybe I am jaded and conditioned to think that all rock stars are constantly in a party state with an entourage and party goers. Maybe he lived more solitary life. Maybe it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. I don’t believe it. I think Mercury was a larger than life personality who did everything to extreme and excess!! He would be the centre of attention and have and take all that he wanted. This is briefly depicted but not convincingly nor enough.
I wish we had seen more creativity and the inspiration for these songs. It’s the real genius at work, with songs that will last forever. The creative process is fascinating, and understanding the influences and how they chose to make their sounds and put them together would be an amazing story unto itself. It isn’t there much. There is a silly Mike Myers cameo that added nothing for me. In the end, I felt that this was not a story or the true Freddy but a story that others wanted to tell on his behalf; a toned down PG rated version. Who gains from this? Perhaps the surviving members of the band. His Wife. Not sure. If there was ever a rock star life that deserved an R rating, it was Freddy Mercury. David Bowie too! Let’s hope that any David Bowie project looks better, and respects the artist fully – unlike what I anticipate that Rocketman (preview at this film) will be for Elton John which comes out next year. No thanks.
I also watched last week, Red Sparrow. Oh Jennifer Lawrence what is it about these projects that you are selection for yourself? Another turkey with this one. A young Russian ballerina cut down by an injury and sold out by her Uncle to this ultra-nasty group of spies/chaos inducers/special forces, who use their bodies to get what they need. The story is messy and convoluted. The agent/double agent mystery doesn’t unfold well, and the ending is contrived. I cannot recommend, and wish that JLaw, would find something more substantial and better for her talents (Passenger, Mother! and others are beneath her).
I didn’t get out to see a movie in the theatre this week. I was disheartened to see the Ebert review on Bohemian Rhapsody, where it was given 1 star. There are mixed reviews on this film, but I was hoping for better. I may get out to see anyway for myself and decide.
Our title this week involves the impending candy-filled holiday for children rather than a review of the latest iteration of the Halloween franchise, sill starring Jamie Lee Curtis, unseen by me. But I did manage to have another week where I was able to see an “oldie”, a “goodie” and something interesting.
First of all, I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the World Series win by the Boston Red Sox last night in LA against the Dodgers. This team lost only one road game during the playoffs (and it was 18 innings long!). They showed resilience and fight and defeated the three best teams in all of baseball (Yankees, Astros and Dodgers). 2018 World Series Champions sounds good! Oh and there was a movie presence at the game last night as Matt Damon was there in full Red Sox hat and “I Am With Stupid” shirt with Jimmy Kimmel and Ben Affleck, Jason Bateman sitting next to Billy Crudup, and of course Mary Hart.