August 30th, 2021

Stillwater: This 2021 film release stars Matt Damon, playing an Oklahome, blue collar labourer, who we find out makes trips periodically to France to visit his daughter who is in prison there, for a murder that she claims that she didn’t commit. In many ways, there are parallels with the Amanda Knox real life case that was set in Italy. A roommate is killed with a highly publicized trial with an American at the centre of it. Abigail Breslan (from way back when in 2006 in Little Miss Sunshine). She is all grown up now. She and her Dad have a strained relationship. Dad has a strained relationship with virtually everyone in his life. His wife and mother of the daughter took her own life in a timeline that isn’t exactly clear. Dad acts impulsively and not thinking of the potential consequences of his actions. He has a history with alcohol and other substances. He loves and supports his daughter and believes in her innocence. On a visit, he hears some new evidence and is told that the case would not be re-opened. Without speaking French, and having no allies he seeks to investigate further himself. He runs into, by chance, a woman and her daughter who just happen to stay temporarily at his rented room in the town. They help one another. This movie started out on a trajectory which would suggest that the Damon character in full Liam Neeson mode (a la Taken) would storm in, crack some skulls and dig up new information that would set his daughter free. The bad people would all suffer greatly from ever coming between a Daddy and his little girl. I had expected this, as the story started off slowly and seemed to be heading in this direction, and then it takes a turn for the better. It wasn’t quite so formulaic. We see how a seeming predilection towards acting impulsively, which we can fully understand, results in some serious consequences. The words of the Dad to those around him don’t always match the actions that he takes. However much we feel as though we understand his acts, we also see the other side. I enjoyed this more than I thought that I would. It isn’t shoot ’em up and car chases. But rather dealing with circumstances that are put before you. This is worth checking out.

Hacks: This is a series on HBO/Crave. It stars 70yo Jean Smart and Hannah Einbinder. Smart you will know, and she has done some quality work lately with this series, as well as playing the Mom of Kate Winslet in Mare of Easttown, where she had some of the best lines. She is mostly known for TV but has done some movies. She plays Deborah Vance, a Vegas headliner comedienne who has her star shining a little less brightly, and her material is a little dated. Think Joan Rivers, with a hard outer shell which her line of work (and her longevity in that line of work) would make necessary. She appears outwardly all together, but there is a vulnerability in the performance. She has an ongoing battle with the man who hires the talent for her hotel, the Palazzo. Along comes a young female writer who was released from her previous job in Los Angeles, and her agent suggests that she go work with Miss Vance. They both have complicated relationships surrounding them. They don’t get along very well in the beginning. Vance is sharper and more shrewd than she may first seem. She is wealthy, from the Vegas shows as well as a previously successful TV show with her Ex-husband, who has since died. The 10 episode season, each 30 mins, starts out pretty slowly, but then it builds. Things happen, and the characters do things that can make you laugh and also surprise you. Supporting characters like Vance’s daughter play a role, as well as her CAO of her company who has been with her during this lengthy time in Vegas. As an aside, Smart’s real life husband passed away during the filming of the show, and Smart decided to finish the shoot. The last episode is dedicated to him. Like Vance, Smart is the consummate professional. I liked this. I would suggest staying with it, because I found the early episodes dragged a little. The relationship between the two women has to grow. As with the Dad in Stillwater one can see the results of acting impulsively, and how the clean up can be much more involved than the initial volley.

She’s Out of My League: this 2010 film is a fun romantic comedy where an average nice guy Joe, played by Canadian Jay Baruchel meets up with an starts a relationship with a stunning beauty. The beauty, Molly, is played by Alice Eve, who other than Star Trek Into Darkness I don’t recall her in other things of note. Baruchel plays Kirk, and he works for TSA at the Pittsburgh Airport. He has his buddies, notably TJ Miller as the wise cracking know-it-all buddy Stainer. Kirk meets Molly at the security check, as she is turning heads to virtually all the men at the airport. Kirk just is the nice, polite guy that he is to everyone in his life. He listens to Stainer about his place, and believes that a girl like Molly would never possibly be interested in a guy like him. There is a priceless exchange about human rankings, and how the numbers have to work:

It is all in good fun, with some good laughs. We cheer on Kirk and Molly. We hope that they can find their way clear to be together, even though all the odds seem against them. Kirk’s family is hilariously dysfunctional, especially his overly competitive brother. This was on Netlflix and even my 16yo son enjoyed it. For a lighter evening, it is fun, and surprising in a way that these stars have not been in more films.