Sierra Brings The Creeps (Movie Thoughts: Sierra Burgess Is A Loser, Netflix)

large_sierra-burgess-posterI was excited to check out Netflix’s ‘Sierra Burgess Is A Loser’ because I am liking this new slate of Netflix rom-coms, and also, it has Noah Centineo who is really very easy on the eyes. But I found the film to be a misfire. First off, the film’s premise has a Cyrano meets Catfish plot, and it made me uncomfortable a lot of times. (As my friend said while watching it, ‘this film just stressed me out’)  Also, the film has a very unlikable lead character, and Shannon Purser, who stars as the title character, just isn’t appealing or charming enough. It is so bad that you find yourself rooting for her antagonists. A lot of the plot is just plain creepy, and if Sierra was my child, I would have slapped her four ways if she behaved like that. And i felt the character of Sierra got away with a lot of things without any kind of remorse for what she did. Even the cutie Centeneo (underused) couldn’t save the film. Try to see other things on your Netflix ‘My List’ before playing this one.

Reading Unrequited (Film Thoughts: The Bookshop)

a952a61e5e6b29332f8f0bed00b472cf1410ae20In a lot of ways, ‘The Bookshop’ is your Anti-Summer movie. It’s small, kind, genteel that it made me wonder how it was greenlit. But, I am glad it exists. Isabel Coixet’s film is very British – set in a sleepy British seaside town, about dry English characters, set in mid century, and the whole movie revolves around the existence of a book store.

Emily Mortimer stars as Florence, who wants to turn an old moldy home into a book shop. But the village diva (Patricia Clarkson) is in her way – she wants to make the place an arts center – where you can do chamber concerts. That is basically the conflict, and really, I thought – why can’t they have the bookshop the same place where you can do chamber concerts and readings? I mean, the little corner of the place could serve that purpose. But no, this is the 50s, and besides, they couldn’t have chosen a better villain than Clarkson, who sashays her way into every scene, and really, she is so fabulous here I want to take her side anyway.

The film very slowly chugs along, and the Anglophile in me loved a lot of it. But admittedly, it could use a lot more action, even interaction. Bill Nighy plays a small memorable role as a customer who defends Florence, and makes a strong presence, but over all, this film is probably too niche for your average American.

In Support Of (Film Thoughts: Support The Girls)

large_support-girls-posterI know Andrew Bujalski’s ‘Support The Girls’ has been getting a lot of good word, and that is really a reason why I checked it out. Because, really, a comedy set in a Hooters-type of bar, probably isn’t a movie that was made for me. And? Meh. I wish I liked it more. I liked Regina Hall’s down-to-earth performance as Lisa, the general manager with a heart.  And the film does feel authentic – you get the realness of a certain segment of working class America here. And the narrative is there. But it just isn’t for me. I lost interest in some of the stories, and didn’t really care for any character besides Lisa (and even for her, not really too much)  This is just a classic case of ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ I wish it luck, but I am walking away.

In Search Of (Movie Thoughts: Searching)

large_searching-posterI don’t normally watch these thriller types of movies but sure why not I did see ‘Searching.’ Maybe I still have a little bit of hangover from seeing ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ as this stars John Cho, an actor whose work I like. Directed by Aneesh Chaganty, the film has a particular gimmick – the story is told via various forms of social media outlets – Instagram, Facebook, Live-Broadcasting. it centers around the disappearance of the 16 year old daughter (Margot) of Cho’s David.  The gimmick worked, as we get to see the story unfold via these channels. I thought the story itself was a bit perfunctory, and the ‘reveal’ was more amusing than shocking, and the only reason it got to be a little more interesting is because of the way it was presented in the film. I also thought Debra Messing, who plays the detective assigned to the case, was a little lifeless. Maybe I am just used to her larger=than-life characters that when she plays it down (like she does here) it just seems so… underwhelming. Watching this film wasn’t a ninety minute waste, but I would not say it enriched my life either.

The Better Half (Film Thoughts: The Wife)

large_wife-posterAfter watching ‘The Wife,’ I will now be officially rooting for Glenn Close to win a Best Actress Oscar. She has been nominated six times and has never won, and if the Academy wants to give statues for ‘body of work,’ then by all means just hand the trophy to her. And it’s not like they would be giving it for a slouchy performance. Her titular role in this film is the heart and soul of the piece – it ties it all together, and it’s a great piece of restrained acting. In the hands of another actress, it could have gone hysterical, or showy, but Close knows how to show restraint, and it all adds up to a weighty and credible performance, and surely worthy of awards and accolades.

I also really liked the film. Swedish Director Bjorn Runge has fashioned an intelligent film, about an author (Jonathan Pryce, also fantastic by the way) who wins the Nobel Prize for Literature. His wife has always been there by his side, and in the course of the film, we also learn that she has profound contribution to his achievements. You get swept into the story right away (with some parts told in flashback) and you get immersed in the low key if a little predictable. suspense of the narrative. Runge’s direction is also on the predictable – if solid – side. I hope the film finds an audience, even in the late summer doldrums.

Love Letters Straight From The Heart (Movie Thoughts: To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before)

to-all-the-boys-ive-loved-before.119306I read YA novels because I love its purity, and also it’s hopefulness. When we are young, we still do not have the cynicism and jadedness we have as adults, and I like that even for 120 minutes, I could get lost in that world, with that feeling. Obviously, I know what real life is now, where I value pizza more than love. So of course, I loved Susan Johnson’s ‘To All the Boys I Loved Before,’ a movie based on a YA novel I loved reading years ago. I even remember the gimmicky premise – Lara Jean (Lana Condor) writes letters to boys she has feelings for, sort of like journal entries. She then hides them with obviously no intentions of sending them. But mysteriously, they get out, and well, there you go. Lara Jean then goes to a ‘fake dating’ scenario with Peter (Noah Centineo, a breakout star here) in order for him to get an ex jealous, and for her to gloss over her crush for her sister’s ex. Then we all know where this goes – they slowly fall for each other.

The great thing about the film is it just plugs these tropes perfectly, and because of the charming cast – Condor and Centineo are great together – you not only go along, you even root for both to fall faster. This film reminds me of the John Hughes teen flicks of my youth (wisely referenced here) and since Gen Y kids deserve the same kinds of stories. An added bonus – great to see an Asian lead (this film is dropping the same week as ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ even) though perhaps it is slightly jarring to see John Corbett as her dad. This is cute and romantic, and I can[t wait to see it again. Thanks, Netflix.

Naked Emotions (Film Thoughts: Juliet, Naked)

large_juliet-nakeIt seems that the rom-com is really alive and well. Jesse Peretz’s ‘Juliet, Naked’ is funny, unpredictable, heartwarming – all of the things I am looking for in a romantic comedy. And as a music fan, this is also a celebration of how art affects you and drives a lot of aspects of your life.

Annie (Rose Byrne) has been with Duncan (Chris O Dowd) for fifteen years now, and it has been stale of late. Duncan, you see, is obsessed with musician Tucker Crowe, who released a record years ago but has since disappeared. Duncan runs a website devoted to him. Annie is not amused. When she posts a non-flattering comment on his website about unreleased demos of Tucker’s songs, she gets a personal note from Tucker himself (Ethan Hawke) and a cute correspondence starts. When circumstances bring Crowe to Annie’s sleepy English seaside town, well…you can probably tell what happens next, but then again, maybe not.

All three actors here give spirited performances. I liked O Dowd’s the most, maybe because I can identify with his fan obsessiveness (and music collecting, to be honest) In the theaters, he got the most on-point reactions. I have read reviews where hsi character has been thoroughly disliked but all I can say to that is, ;they don’t understand us, dude.’ Hawke shows not only formidable charm but depth to his Tucker – he fills in more from how the chracter is written. (Look at this and his performance in ‘First Reformed’ you can see his versatility as an actor)  And Byrne shows great restraint. Her Annie could have been a lot of things – shrieky, hysterical – but Byrne focuses on vulnerability.  All in all, I really enjoyed this film even more than ‘Crazy Rich Asians,’ if we are speaking rom-com. It’s less formulaic, more nuanced, and feels more genuine.