Beauty Books (Film Thoughts: The Book Club)

54530There is a lot of joy seeing four great actresses interacting on screen, and that is the joy you will get in seeing ‘The Book Club.’  I don’t think anyone will go this movie expecting great filmmaking or deep social commentary of the times. The jokes here are more on the shallow and salty side and more often than not, I rolled my eyes at them (There are two ladies sitting beside me who lapped all of them up, though)  But somehow this movie felt very satisfying. And it all boils down to the performances, stupid. Jane Fonda, Candace Bergen, Diane Keaton, and Mary Steenburgen can create real-life characters even if those same characters are written as caricatures. You believe them, you treasure them, there is no doubt in your mind that these women here have been friends for north of 40 years. You believe their shared history, even if they aren’t spelled vividly in front of your eyes. You follow the stupid paths their characters are facing right now, even if at the same time they all have flimsy and unbelievable story lines. No matter – you got to spend time with these four great actresses, and that’s maybe just more than enough to make you happy.

 

Heart Loves (Film Thoughts: Anything)

anyth‘Anything’ is about a Early Landry (played by John Carroll Lynch)  who had a recent tragedy in his life and because of this has to move to Los Angeles. The film, written and directed by Timothy McNeill, is also based on his play ‘Anything,’ and at times the film does feel stage-y. But it’s well-meaning, and I really liked this film, even though I have some reservations with it. First of all, I think I had some problem with its pacing, with it starting slow, and just as when things started to pick up, it was already ending. I also know that there was a lot of disappointment when Matt Bomer was cast in the role of Freda von Rhenburg. A lot of people said that the role should have gone to a trans woman. there are very few roles available for transgendered people as it is, should Bomer take one away from them? My response to that after seeing the film? This role is thankless, and really, it could have been played by anyone and I don’t think it would have mattered. Bomer does well here, and though the role is showy,  it’s written thinly, and there’s only so much one actor can do to make it meatier. All in all this film is about Early Landry – he is the heart and soul of the piece.

Have I said I liked it? I surely can identify with Landry’s character as a resent transport to the Los Angeles area. And I am in love with the love story here. ‘Isn’t it just love?’ one character says and the film shows how gender, orientation, and everything else can be bypassed all in the name of what one feels for another. There is a scene when where everything blows up courtesy of Maura Tierney’s character (she play’s Early’s well-meaning but pushy sister) and I found myself weeping after – there was something really special and meaningful there and I think the Universe sent that to me. I needed to hear that message right now. There are a lot of ordinary things here, but the film’s heart is extraordinary.

Mommy Dearest (Film Thoughts: Tully)

tulllI am obviously not a mother, so I had doubts as to whether I could relate to ‘Tully.’  And I was kind of right, since I was watching the film with a bit of indifference. For me, it felt just a little too ordinary, although I admit the situation probably feels extraordinary to someone who is experiencing it. I was going to write the film off as just one of those women movies – no offense, but just not for me. Then there comes that twist at the end – it’s sly and will catch you by surprise, like a train that just knocks you over and you think, ‘did that just happen,’ and you realize it just did.

That’s the brilliance of this film – it catches you by surprise. It had that element of tender shock and I left the theater thinking about it, trying to explain it to myself, asking myself what the whole thing really meant. And I am even more in awe of Charlize Theron as an actress – this woman is fearless and I curiously have not really seen her in a lot of things. I know I saw ‘Young Adult’ but for the life of me don’t remember anything about it. But she is unforgettable here, as Marlo, who goes down and dirty as a mother of two as she goes through giving birth to her third. Marlo is stressed, frustrated, but her character never really feels entitled or unsympathetic, and Theron injects Marlo with a down-to-earth sense of humor that further grounds the character. You may not truly love her, but you understand her. When Marlo gets a night nanny (Mackenzie Davis) you do kind of wonder, is there such a thing? But then the situation just sucks you into it instantly, and well, I won’t want to put any more spoilers but suffice it to say, teh nanny becomes an important part of the film, and Marlo’s life.

I recommend this, and sad to see it really hasn’t done very well at the box-office. I guess this kind of film really is difficult to market. I bet, though, that it will find its audience. You just have to give it a chance.

When The Sun Comes Out (Film Thoughts: Un Beau Soleil Interior/Let the Sunshine In)

frenI think Juliette Binoche is one of those under-appreciated actresses, although I think she does more in Europe than America, where she is mostly known for ‘The English Patient.’ Her charm is on perfect display on her film ‘Un Beau Soleil Interior,’ which has the English title of ‘Let The Sunshine In’ as it is released here in the States.

Set in Paris, Binoche is Isabelle, one of those chic ladies who is looking for love. She is in a couple of relationships, but nothing is hitting. We can all relate. Binoche gives this role her all – I an watch her just looking at paintings at a museum and I can feel a sense of what the character is, what it is feeling, what motivates it.

I wished I like the movie more. The character is written as whiny, even though Binoche obviously humanizes it more – and the men she gets herself involves with seem like the same exact characters. There’s a ‘surprise’ at the end that will leave you walking out on a high note, but it felt like a chore getting there. Still, I recommend this for Niinoche’s performance – where you will see a living breathing actress on top of her game.

let-the-sunshine-in

I Have Confidence (Movie Thoughts: I Feel Pretty)

I-feel-pretty-movie-review-safe-for-kidsI like Amy Schumer a lot, and I want to love ‘I Feel Pretty.’  It’s the kind of movie that I should love: with the strong female-centric kind of campy humor, anchored by a strong performance by a gal I adore. But somewhere in the middle of the film, it lost me. I stop believing in it, and the main character of Renee, played by Schumer. The conceit – Renee starts to believe that she is beautiful after she cracks her head in Soul Cycle Class – never really took off for me, and I found myself questioning it all the time. I couldn’t suspend disbelief, and I couldn’t engage.

And that is not Schumer’s fault as well. She works her ass as the character, and there are jokes that land, and it wasn’t a total loss for me because I found myself laughing out load more than a couple of times. Still, it all felt hollow to me, and maybe I really shouldn’t have been looking for depth? Michele Williams is great here, playing Avery St Claire, the Aerin Lauder to Estee, and she transforms her look with pancake makeup and talks with a Betty Boop-ish voice that should sound caricaturish but really works (I wish at times that the movie was about her)

‘I Feel Pretty’ is just ok – something to watch on a rainy Friday night when there is nothing else on. I wouldn’t trade a bowl of ice cream for it.

I Don’t Know Jean Luc (Movie Thoughts: Godard Mon Amour)

poster-large‘Godard Mon Amour,’ as a film, is pretty to look at, with an ode to Godard’s primary-colors theme as in ‘A Married Woman.’ But pretty only goes so far. Perhaps this film, directed by Michael Hazanavicius (of ‘the Artist’) is meant for people who know Godard and his films well, because a lot of times I am lost, when funny scenes are supposed to be funny I am not laughing. And even though Louis Garrell tries hard, there seems to be me no meat in the character of Jean Luc Godard here, and I knew not much more about him after the film ended. Yes, I know the film is not an exact biography, but more a slice of life representation of the years when he was married to Anne Wiazemsky, his second wife. But still, context might have helped me.  I found myself thoroughly bored by the film and couldn’t wait for it to end.

Gracie and Boring (Movie Thoughts: Bloodlight and Bami)

Grace Jones.lgGrace Jones once made me wait five hours for a performance of hers at a South Beach nightclub around twenty years ago and I have soured on her ever since. Maybe I am still bitter about that because I got so utterly bored watching ‘Bloodlight and Bami,’ the documentary about her directed by Sophie Fiennes. I know she is an eccentric character, a diva, a larger than life human being, but I just didn’t get that in this film. I thought the sequences dragged, and the live performances, sandwiched between the documentary scenes, were just okay. I think she is fine on record, and her ‘La Vie En Rose’ is iconic (it’s seen briefly here as a performance for a French television show) but this just dragged on for me.