‘Olympic Dreams’ was filmed during the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea, and the access the film had ‘behind the scenes’ is incredible. You get to see the Athletes Village intimately, from the dining halls and the sporting event locations. Jeremy Teicher directed this film guerilla style, and we are instantly caught in the pageantry of it all – we even get to see the parade of nations up close from the athlete’s perspective. There’s a love story in here, too, between the dentist volunteer and a skiing competitor, and it was kind of sweet. That part of the film is less interesting, but still kind of works, to be honest. The best part is Gus Kenworthy’s bit part as ‘Gus.’ (he’s a natural)
Galt Niederhoffer’s ‘!0 Things We Should Do Before Braking Up’ is also a love story, and it feels very authentic. It stars Cristina Ricci as a young mother who gets pregnant after a one night stand. The father, played by Hamish Linklater, is one of those free souls. When she tells him, his knees shake and his first instinct is to run away from it all. But they kind of persevere, and the film takes a couple of familiar roads. But Ricci and Linklater are both great, so you believe everything anyway. I liked this a lot, and even love its realistic ending more. I hope the film finds an audience.
Alex Magana’s ‘What Love Looks Like’ explores dating in these modern times. Set in Los Angeles, it shows five couples in early stages of getting to know each other. It’s kind of cute, but also kind of pale. Surely Los Angeles is a little more diverse than this?
On one hand, ‘The Thing About Harry’ has all the elements in a rom com you have seen before: road trip, opposites attract, will they or won’t they. But all of those are its best assets as well. This is a love story for the ages, and as a gay rom com, its simplicity and accessibility is truly a miracle. I cannot believe this exists in Network television (a Disney company to boot) but I am mighty glad it does. This is the romantic movie I have been waiting for this Valentine’s season, and it should be celebrated.
It is anchored by two great performances: Jake Borelli and Neko Terho who play Sam and Harry. Harry used to bully Sam in school, and now they go to the same college. They get stuck in a car together driving home for an engagement party (a nod to the classic ‘When Harry Met Sally,’ and yeah, I probably don’t need to tell you anything else – it won’t matter. What matters is you will come along for the ride, and you will fall in love with both characters, and before you know it, you will be rooting for them to be together, as obstacles get hurdled in their way. Peter Paige write and directed this film, and he balances all the elements splendidly – you are crying one minute, and laughing the next (sometimes both at the same time)
Most of all, it made me believe in romantic movies again. Sure, the genre has evolved over the years, but it’s good to see they can still make them the old-fashioned way, like this one.
And here we are, on Valentine’s Day with the ultimate of all ultimates when it comes to romantic movies (in these times, anyway) – Netflix’s ‘To All The Boys P.S. I Love You,’ which is a mouthfu-ltitled sequel to the smash hit ‘To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.’ I loved the first movie, and have been eagerly awaiting this one, and of course, why not see it on Valentine’s Day? (Remember when we used to have old-fashioned old-school romantic movies on this day?)
So the verdict? This one is a less successful film than its predecessor – it meanders before settling into a predictable love triangle story line. But yes, it still works, thanks mainly to the cast. Lana Condor (Lara jean) and Noah Centineo (Peter Kavinsky) are so charming separately and together that it hardly matters. (Is it just me or does Centineo read older this time around) that you have no choice but to just go along with them for the ride. They make such a cute couple and you totally believe them, their pairing so effortless.
When the film offers distraction it kind of stalls a bit. I never believed John Wesley McClaren (Jordan Rivers) as a threat, though I loved Holland Taylor’s sassy turn as an older lady where Lara volunteers.
What matters most is how I connected with these characters. I don’t think there were any surprises here but still I was a weepy mess by the end of the film. For me, this brought Valentine’s Day messaging front and center, just the way I wanted it.
Based on the bottle, I cannot think of a more appropriate Valentine’s Day perfume than Tom Ford’s ‘Rose Prick.’ The matte pink opaque design just screams Valentine’s gift – and I am sure that is not accidental. Since i love anything rose, I was of course more than excited to try this. And the notes looked interesting as well: three types of roses, schezuan pepper, tonka bean. I mean, even if it turns out not for me, it’s going to be at least interesting, right?
Too bad it’s not. The promised opening of pepper and turmeric kind of scared me, but on my skin it was just plain old musk. It didn’t even wake me up, just boring white musk. I do admit that the rose that came after it was gorgeous. It is a rose in full bloom, though if I must admit, a little on the synthetic side. Then I do get the tonka bean, which rounds out the base on the woodsy side. And then the patchouli, which gives this a very dry base. And frankly, nothing unique. Rose Prick smells like a hundred different things I have smelled before.
I was very disappointed in this. It’s so generic smelling, and at $335 for a 50 ml, I expected more. I can think of a hundred other choices for my Valentine’s scent before this one.
As we continue with Valentine’s Week, I want to write about films about love stories. Li Cheng’s ‘Jose’ may not fall under ‘traditional’ as far as love stories are concerned, but in my opinion it is very much one. Enrique Salanic plays the title character, a nineteen year old young man in Guatemala. He works in a curbside restaurant serving shuco (their version of a hotdog) and lives with his very religious mother (Whenever he is late coming from work, she starts praying asking for God to bless her son)
Jose is also gay, and has random hookups from an app on his phone (Grindr is everywhere, y’all) he usually meets these men and they go to hotels that rent room by the hour. You can see the guilt in his eyes as he goes into these trysts, as he makes excuses to hsi mom why he is running late. He starts seeing someone regularly – Luis, played by Manolo Herrera – but Jose feels like in a trap. Even as we see the joy in both their eyes when they are together, Guatemalan society frowns on gay relationship, and besides, his mom depends on him. This drives Luis away, as he is envisioning a life together, even planning on building their own place.
Nothing much else happens in the film, and at times you wait for it as we see Jose go on with his daily life. Cheng documents Jose’s life as if in a diary – we get intimate with him and we see as he sees love unrealized, and because of that, we sense the despair. Hours after seeing the film, I couldn’t help but think about Jose. i couldn’t help but identify with some of his situations and hope that the character is in a better place because I am. The film’s emotional core sneaks up on you, and its effect is devastating.
Valentine’s Week Pick
I have been wanting to see ‘Only You’ for a while now. Someone told me it’s a very romantic movie, and well, you know how I love those. It also stars Josh O’Connor, who I really liked in ‘God’s Own Country.’ And it is set in Glasgow, and the place is photographed beautifully. The Anglophile in me feasted on all of what I saw. The film starts out as a conventional romance – they meet cute fighting for a cab on New Year’s Eve, and they instantly fall for each other soundtracked by Elvis Costello’s ‘I Want You.’ So far, so good for the hopeful romantics like me. O Connor and Laia Costa have palpable chemistry – they sizzle on screen, and the film feels intimate – you can really sense the characters falling in love with each other. This comes early in the film, and I was trying to ascertain where the conflict will be – will the age differences between the characters really matter? I mean, this is 2020, no one cares about those things anymore.
That’s when the film falters for me. The couple tries to conceive a child and has a difficult time doing so. I started to not care about Costa’s Elena, who started to feel whiny and entitled. O’Connor is fine as the young man who adjusts to her whims, and he is a charismatic actor. But Costa is perhaps too good at conveying her frustration which translates to my frustration. I started to not care about what happens to the couple. I wanted Jake (O’Connor’s character) to wake up and leave Elena.
And when they finally separate, we get the last part of the movie. There’s a scene in a restaurant towards the end that is masterful in conveying in showing what happens to love after it gets to put through all the tests. This is a film that is a lot of times hard to look at, but it feels more real than anything I have seen recently.
When you get married, part of the traditional vows is the promise that you will be with your partner in sickness and in health. ‘Ordinary Love,’ directed by Lisa Barros D’Sa and Glenn Leyburn tells the story of a couple venturing into ‘in sickness.’ Liam Neeson and Lesley Manville play married couple Tom and Joan, when in the beginning of the film, Joan finds a lump in her breast area. Well, you can kind of guess what happens next. The film has no big surprises, including great acting by the two leads. It’s nice to see Neeson in a non-action revenge movie, showing tenderness and vulnerability. While Manville’s Joan is the great face of bravery amidst the loss of health and dignity. The two of them are so wonderful together, and so natural, that you feel like you know these couple very well, and that you are going through what they are going through together. To me, that is part of the problem – I have had similar experiences when I was taking care of both my parents that it felt too familiar, and feelings of stress and sadness crept up to me to the point that I felt depressed afterwards. I think this is a fine touching movie. It just represents something I would never want to go through again ever.