July 18th, 2022

Old Henry: This is on Netflix, and stars Tim Blake Nelson as Henry. He plays a lone farmer who lives with his teenage son. His wife has passed away earlier. The story addresses this loner who is looking to have a very simple life with no complications. Into his life, he has a man who was hurt badly and a bagfull of money. Henry is very adept at dealing with injuries and nurses this injured stranger back to health. His son wants to explore and think about a life of adventure, far away from the quiet little farm. Dad’s past is a mystery for the audience. A local sherriff is intent on tracking this man, along with his group. He arrives at Henry’s door, and then things take place.

For me, this story reminds me a great deal of the Clint Eastwood mysterious stranger movies where he just arrives in town, with no backstory and no idea whether he is good or bad. The sherriff very early on is shown as a man not to be triffled with. He is determined and very much a guy focused on the end justifying the means. The first half is a bit slow but sets the scene. The second half is much more interesting and fun. Henry is being put into an untenable position where he needs to either roll over or reveal his skills to the audience and to his son. I found this more interesting than I expected. My thoughts were more that this would be like The Power of the Dog that put me to sleep from boredom. But it steadily built up to a point where you actively cheer for Henry and his son.

Good Luck to You Leo Grande: Emma Thompson stars in what could easily be just a two person play. Daryl McCormack plays Leo, the much younger Irish male character for this story. Emma is playing Nancy Stokes, who is a retired teacher. She married her high school boyfriend and has lived by all accounts a very straight laced life. Her husband has passed away. She has hired Leo as a male escort. Yes a gigilo. The movie then addresses their encounters. From the first meeting to the last, you can see the dynamics between them shift. She initially extremely shy, worried about the morality of her situation and Leo’s. What does his family think about what he does? Does he have ambitions for other careers etc? His answers surprise her a little bit. He on the other hand, tries to make her feel less self conscious, about her body, her attitude and allowing her the chance to feel that she should focus on her own happiness now. Emma Thompson is really good in these roles, because there no artificiality in her. What you see is what you get. She accepts herself as an actress it seems at the age in which she currently is. NO surgeries. No massive body transformations. But she is eloquent, showing her struggles at her current life. But both of these people have growing to do. The relationship that they undertake helps them both grow and improve going foward. They were lucky to meet one another. This was slow moving, and fairly predictable, but it becomes about the performances and how believeable that they are. Not every story needs guns and CGI, spaceships and good guys and bad guys. It can be about a human experience; the everyday.

Dirty Dancing: Yes, the 1987 film with Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey. I saw this back in the day in the theatre. I had also seen Grey and Swayze in Red Dawn. Grey after this movie was an It Girl, at the top of her game. From Ferris Bueller and this. She plays Baby Houseman, going to a family retreat for the summer, with both her parents and her older sister. Dad is a doctor. Mom seems to be stay-at-home. The time is the 1950s. Before the pill, and women’s liberation and all that entailed. Baby is a guest, and is told not to engage with the staff. The Staff however are told to do what is necessary to keep the guests happy. Dance with the girls, keep the lessons coming. Swayze is the local entertainment director, along with his good friend Penny Johnson who is also a dancer. Seems Penny has some trouble, and that Baby can assist, or takes it upon herself to assist. She likes Swayze’s character, and wants to impress him.

I was surprised on the re-watch how much this movie was about the relationship between Baby and her father. Baby was the apple of Dad’s eye, but then things happen where Baby has to rely on her Dad’s positive feelings about her, and she disappoints him. Dad makes some assumptions, and they both do some things that neither is proud of. There is a heartfelt discussion between father and daughter that, for me, shows a generational difference in parenting. I couldn’t imagine sitting as stoically as Dad does here while his daughter tells him her feelings. This is an iconic film for both. Jennifer Grey famously had plastic surgery, mostly on her nose and it changed her film career fortunes. Apparently there is a sequel that she is working on where she will act as a Mom figure. This still holds up well, with the good music, the dancing itself and the family relationships with dynamics that are ever-present. If your kids haven’t seen this, this may be something that they will enjoy.