Honey Ordinary (Film Thoughts: Honey Boy)

Honey-Boy-PosterWhen Shia LeBouf was in rehab, his therapist asked him to write down some of his memories, as they thought he was suffering from PTSD. Those writings, fleshed out, became the screenplay for ‘Honey Boy.’ Sadly, it feels like it. I know a lot of people like this film immensely, but I am not on that camp. For the most part, I thought the film was self-indulgent and one note. I empathize with what the character went through (here the LaBeouf character is named Otis) and the performances are across-the-board outstanding, but I didn’t connect with the film at all.

Maybe it’s misery fatigue? i didn’t find anything new in this story, or even in how Director Alma Har’el tells it. It isn’t broad enough to be interesting for me, and perhaps it should have had a little more back story for context? Noah Jupe, who plays Otis is great, mixing innocence and kid-smart. LaBeouf, playing his father, is raw and edgy, and I could imagine playing this character must have been very cathartic for him. And Lucas Hedges, playing young adult Otis is great, and I think he has never looked more attractive on screen. The film is not necessarily a total waste of time, but I question if it needs to exist.

At The End Of A Love Affair (Film Thoughts: Marriage Story)

Marriage-Story-poster-2Noah Baumbach’s ‘Marriage Story’ is a love story. But it is framed from an opposite point of view, as the film starts with the couple, played by Adam Driver and Scarlet Johansson, at the office of a therapist who is counseling them about their uncoupling. What follows next is a film about two people trying to figure out themselves as they go through the process of a divorce, and along the way they find that above all things, they still have an evolving feeling of love for each other.

Written by Noah Baumbach (and apparently based on his experience when he was divorcing actress Jennifer Jason Leigh) the film is sometimes difficult to watch. There are a lot factors here that complicate more than just a separation – there is a distance issue as Johansson’s character Nicole moves to Los Angeles after being cast on a pilot (‘But we are a New York Family,’ Driver’s Charlie says)  And when lawyers got involved in the process, the whole situation turned all shades of ugly, and you can see in the character’s faces that even they themselves do not comprehend what exactly has gone on. The premise may be on the familiar side, but the story is elevated by raw and honest career-best performances from both Driver and Johansson. In my review of ‘Jojo Rabbit,’ I wrote that the latter’s earlier performances have previously left me cold, but here she is as real as it gets. And Driver’s brilliance shouldn’t be a revelation, but there is a scene here where he just slays me – in the middle of a fight, Charlie just breaks down and he – both of them – will break your heart. Every year, I pick my ‘sentimental’ favorite performance, and this year his will be hard to top. And there’s even a cherry on top – one of his memorable scenes is when he sings ‘Being Alive’ from Company. When I first read about this, I had reservation, but it was handled so organically that not only did it make perfect sense, but I would even say that this one of the best uses of a Sondheim song out of a show tune’s context. All in all, though, I am not one hundred percent convinced yet that this will be the film I champion come awards season – it comes off as much too white and straight at times, but there’s no denying this will be on my Top 5 films of the year.

Subtle In Sintra (Film Thoughts: Frankie)

frankieIra Sachs is one of my favorite directors and his films ave always touched me, from ‘Love is Strange,’ to ‘Keep The Lights On’ to ‘Little Men.’  I wish I could say the same for ‘Frankie,’ his latest film. I had high hopes for it, for it stars Isabelle Hupert in the title role (Does she only make films with one word name titles ? From Elle to Greta and now Frankie)  Unfortunately, though, ‘Frankie’ is too subtle for me, and I am the queen of subtle.  Jupert plays a movie star named Françoise Crémont who assembles her family in picturesque Sintra, Portugal. ‘Frankie; as she is called, is dying from cancer, and she is trying to orchestrate her family’s lives after she passes. This situation, of course, lends to a whole range of emotions among her family members, as they deal with their own personal struggles. The ensemble cast around her is great, and I particularly liked Marisa Tomei as a woman unaware that she is being match-made by Frankie for her son. There’s not much drama in here – the situations are sparse and under-nuanced, and there were far too many characters for the audience to connect with except for Hupert’s Frankie.  I appreciated Sach’s genteel style, I just wish there were more substance.

Secrets and Sighs (Movie Thoughts: Official Secrets)

Poster-Official-SecretsBefore we got into this mess under Trump, we sometimes forget that Bush 2’s administration was also bad. While I will say that it wasn’t as catastrophic as what we currently are enduring, it was still pretty bad. I mean, we went to a fake war during that time. You will see that while watching ‘Official Secrets.’ This film is pretty good, and the subject mater is as timely as today. Basically, the film tells the story of Katharine Gun, who works with the British intelligence Agency. One day, she receives a memo from the NSA, asking for their agency’s help in collecting information on United Nations Security Council members to be used to pressure them into voting for the Iraq war. She leaks this information and bears the consequences of it. Keira Knightley plays Gunn and she is magnificent here – subtle and empathetic. I keep on forgetting that she is a great subtle actress and she is on top of her game here. I confess to not really knowing anything about this case so I felt the urgency and suspense in the story – Gavin Hood’s pacing is fantastic and this film is as thrilling as any action movie out there. And the ending is satisfying and infuriating at the same time, once you realize the cover up that they did to protect their misdoing. I highly recommend this film.

Notes On How To Be King (Film Thoughts: The King, Netflix)

large_king-posterDavid Michod’s ‘The King’ showcases Imothee Chalamet, who plays King Henry V, and we see a young actor come into his own here right before our eyes. Prior to this, we have only seen him in young, tortured roles, but in this film, even though Hal is young and tortured, we see the character complete an arc to young adulthood, and he literally becomes a King as a character and as an actor before our eyes. It shouldn’t surprise me how good Chalamet is – he puts great thought in his role but the result does not come off mannered – and he is fantastic here. In a lot of ways he elevates the film, which comes off a little heavy at times. The story of King Henry V’s rise to young kinghood in 1413 is an interesting one, but it is also very details. Michod and screenwriter Edgerton cuts some necessary corners, but the film still logs at a heft 140 minutes, and I wonder if your average Netflix viewer will have the patience for it. I was at the screening at the film is gorgeous to look at on the big screen, and I would say that’s the preferred version for one to truly appreciate this film.  The film makes the story easily accessible, and the dialogue is more modern than archaic so it doesn’t really ‘read’ as too much ‘history.’  It’s a meaningful and timely film, and was even jokingly described as “the story as to how Brexit happened.’  I hope it gets eyes, and it looks like Netflix is promoting the hell out of it. (It starts streaming 1 November and is in selected theaters right now)

P.S. I have to do a quick shout out to Robert Pattinson, who plays Dauphine, the son of the French king. He steals most of the scenes he is in, with a great comedic flamboyant fearless performance. I bet we will hear more about his performance here.

 

At Home At The End Of The World (Film Thoughts: The Lighthouse)

lhIn the middle of watching ‘The Lighthouse,’ I felt like I was going mad. I felt claustrophobic, and I felt like I was stuck somewhere I did not want to be. I was seeing the film in a crowded AMC Multiplex, not an art house theater, and I cannot imagine what everyone else is thinking. One thing is for sure, though – I thought Robert Pattinson is giving one of his usual great performances. On one hand, I wish he didn’t do the Twilight movies because it gives him such a bad rap – I mean he is certainly much much better than those films. But then, those Twilight films are also responsible for something like ‘The Lighthouse’ financed – I wonder if this film would exist if Pattinson wasn’t attached to it. (My afternoon screening was packed) But back to the film, it  certainly felt very experimental, and at times self-indulgent – the glossy black and white film in a weird aspect ration, the sound and music choices that enhanced the viewing experience. But it is one of those weird things that in the end, everything made sense. It’s really not my kind of movie, one of those unpleasant watching experiences that try your patience, but it has a payoff, and I can’t truly explain it, but I ended up admiring everything I saw after I have seen it all. There is a lot of rave over Willem Dafoe as Thomas Wake, but at times I felt it was too showy and over the top. Director Robert Eggers succeeds in making you feel like you are stuck at the end of the earth with these two characters, and most times you will feel like you are part of a bad dream. Even if, like me, that is not your kind of thing, you can’t help but kind of enjoy the ride.

An Israeli In Paris (Film Thoughts: Synonymes)

4807139.jpg-r_1280_720-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxxNadav Lapid’s ‘Synonymes’ is one of the weirdest, oddest movies I have seen this year. And I did not sense that from the very beginning. I did not know anything about the film upon seeing it, but something about it beckoned me. I thought for some reason that it had gay content (maybe because the lead, Tom Mercier, is very attractive, or I was attracted to him) but there wasn’t really anything explicitly gay about it, although it had a lot of homoerotic energy in it.  It’s the story of Yoav, who moves to Paris after serving in the Israeli army. (This is apparently partly based on the director’s life)  Just right after being in Paris, he loses all his worldly possessions and is helped by a couple (Quentin Dolmaire and Louise Chevillotte) who clothe him and helps him gets settled. At some point you can sense there is some ulterior motive there, but then the movie goes to a totally different direction. Lapid uses Yoav body liberally – showing us all of it, and so much of it that we get to know it as intimately as we get to know what is on Yoav’s mind. But as much as we get to know him, I found that Yoav is still a puzzle towards the end of the film – the pieces we get to know don’t really all fit, and the last part of the movie got more and more bizarre. My takeaway from the film is varied – I don’t know if I was supposed to laugh, or get annoyed. One thing is for sure, though, not a second of the film was boring.