Ever since the ‘Before Sunrise’ series, I have followed Richard Linklater’s work, and to mixed results. There are films of his I love, but there are some that make me baffled (‘Last Flag Flying’ anyone?) His latest film, ‘Where’d you go, Bernadette’ falls somewhat in the middle, but I liked it more than probably a lot more people.
And I think that’s because of Cate Blanchette. Her character, Bernadette, is complex to say the least. She is eccentric, and quirky, but she is also fully-formed and you can sense that Blanchette knew this character very well, and is unapologetic about her and her flaws. In a sense, she celebrated them. And a great actress puts the character front and center in the performance. In this case, the character is front and center of the film. And that is the best best quality, and its biggest flaw. Bernadette is not easy to live with – she hates people who are not her family, but most times, you cannot blame her – her superficial neighborhood is a pain in the arse to keep up with. The plot will lead you to her disappearance – but we really see that Bernadette is running away from a version of herself. The story was always going to be a tough sell – I have not read it but I hear Maria Semple’s book is told from emails and text messages – but Linklater proves to be mostly successful in fleshing out the Bernadette character. I wish the people around her were drawn better – Billy Crudup is a snooze here – but Bernadette is enough for me to enjoy the film.
Oh, the promise. ‘Ma’ could have been good serious campy fun. I mean, it had all the elements of one, and Octavia Spencer was so game for it. She is creepy and you would have believed wherever her character’s journey would have ended up – and the more outrageous would have been better. But Director Tate Taylor chose to go the safe – read boring – route and gave us a by-the-book rote storyline. About halfway through, it lost my interest and the only thing that kept my attention was the twink factor. File under ‘Missed Opportunities’
Rural Iceland is the setting for Gudmundur Arnar Gudmundsson’s ‘Heartstone,’ about a pair of friends, Thor (Baldur Einarsson) and Christian (Blaer Hinriksson) who discover more about themselves one late Summer. Amidst domestic problems at home, but find solace int heir friendship. Christian seems to find more in the company of Thor, which the latter dismisses, and this results to Christian committing suicide. It’s a sad story of one’s coming out to himself, and the internal repercussions that go with it, Atmospheric Iceland is gorgeous and beautifully shot, and the story is as touching.
Pose is back, and I am happy.
I bet a lot of people – myself included – never thought it would get a second season, but here it is, and it is more assured, more confident. The first season was a little timid, but this time around, it definitely has a more vocal voice. and that is a good thing. The timeline moves forward to 1990 and here these characters are, on the summer that Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ hits it big. I remember that time specifically, it is the start of a very tumultuous year for me, but I came out of it better, and with a great understanding of who I was then. The AIDS crisis is in full swing at this point, but the big difference between the 80s and this period is that there is a lot more awareness – and people are getting fed up and starting to fight. There is a scene in the premiere that got to me, and that is when they go to the ACT=UP meeting. It was very realistic – it is at the basement of the LGBT Center, and it looks very similar (albeit cleaner) than how it was. And I remember ACT-UP meeting were very scary to me – their anger petrified me, but at the same time I was in awe of them – their bravery overwhelmed me. I was a young and didn’t know how to deal with myself, much less join a movement. I was too scared to be myself totally and to be with them. Pray Tell would probably label me a coward, just like he did Elektra.
And that is probably what will make this season more compelling for me. This era was the start of a big change in my life, and as I watch these characters’ stories, I bet I will see myself in all of them.
‘Marilyn’ is that kind of movie that will make you think, and will probably make you angry, and its ending will definitely shock you. Directed by Martin Rodriguez Redondo, it is the story of Marco (Walter Rodriguez) who lives with his family of ranch hands in rural Argentina. He is seventeen years old, and i discovering his sexual orientation. His world is small, and has to fit within its restrictive norms. Most days he is stoic but he fully comes into himself during Carnival where he wears a dress and has a chance to be ‘himself.’ The film is on the short side, but it packs a lot, and I was engrossed instantly. Rodriguez is fantastic, and you will empathize with his character for the most part, even as the final scene will see a drastic shift in him.
Once in a while, there’s a movie that really touches me. I may not be the best movie in the world, but nowadays I find that stories that touch me are rarer to find. But ‘Un Frere’ (A Brother) took my soul in 70 minutes or so, and now I just need to tell the world to see it because chances are, it’ll touch someone else’s soul too.
Tom (Simon Royer) is vacationing with his family when he finds that another boy Felix (Marin Lafitte) is temporarily living in their house. And it doesn’t take a genius to see where this is going. He falls in love with him, and finds a little about himself in the process. Royer’s wide eyed innocent performance is spot on, and it was great to see that exact moment when we see him recognizing that he is attracted to Felix. And int he beginning we sense that Felix may not really be into it, but as their friendship deepens, we see Tom’s effect on him. This is a sweet and sour summer story, with elements of awakening and coming of age, and perhaps the French provincial version of ‘Call Me By Your Name.’ It’s charming, and it made me cry just a little bit.
This always happens. I would see films back to back and somehow there would be a connection between the two of them, and this time I have stumbled upon two films dealing with gender identity.
First up is ‘Girl,’ from Belgium. I know this was their entry last year for Best Foreign Film and I somehow missed this. But I have finally seen it (via Netflix) and I have to say I was quite taken by it. I know that this film has been twinned with some controversy, basically stemming from the lead actor being cast. Since this is a trans role dealing with the trans experience, the community was up in arms over the casting of a cis actor, Victor Polster, in the role of Lara, the film’s protagonist. Controversy aside, I think he plays the role perfectly – so internal, so quietly intense that most times I felt like I was watching a documentary – seeing a real living human being right up there on the screen. The story telling could be all over the place – plots are explored and never followed up – but his performance pulls it all together. There are some cringe worthy parts of the story line – the scene before the ending is worse than anything from a horror movie – but I also felt Lukas Dhont was able to express love, compassion, and acceptance. Hate this, protest it, love it – but definitely see it.
There’s a similar but different kind of identity issue in ‘Tucked,’ from Director Jamie Patterson. The film centers around ‘Jackie,’ a drag queen in a London bar. Jackie is really Jack, played by Derren Nesbitt, and early in the film he has been diagnosed with cancer and is given six months to live. But Jackie is no ordinary drag queen – he is actually a straight man who just likes to cross dress, and he has been estranged from his daughter. Enter Faith (Jordan Stephens) a young up and coming drug performer who has been shunned by his family. He is taken under Jackie’s wing and…well, you don’t have to be a fortune teller to see what happens. This is certainly a smaller film with medium charm, and a big heart. Both its predictability and competent performances make up what makes it appealing – like fabulous glittered comfort food. Wear a boa and enjoy.