Great is Great (Television Thoughts: The Great, S01 E01, Hulu)

I know I am late to this party, but I just started watching Hulu’s ‘The Great.’ It has been on my list for a while now, but I never really started it. Nicholas Hoult is one of my favorites and you would think I rushed to see it, but I dragged my feet…and it is just my loss. Hoult is great here as Emperor Peter, sly and funny and annoying and hateful all at the same time, changing minute by minute. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised how goo he is, as I have been following him since his ‘Skins’ days. But Elle Fanning is the real draw here. She plays Catherine The Great, and already in the first episode she has shown range few actresses show in a whole season of a show. In just the pilot episode, Fannign has shown Catherine to be at once innocent and virginal, to victimized, to a young lady showing great ambition to a young lady driven by ambition to be the historical figure that Catherine was. I don’t know how accurate this story is (it points to mostly fictional, I read) but this is one delicious watch I shall be savoring.

Young Women (Film Thoughts: Ending Beginnings/The Roads Not Taken)

Saw two movies back to back with young woman at the center of both and thought I should probably write about it jointly.

ebFirst up is Drake Doremus’ ‘Endings Beginnings’ starring Shalaine Woodley as a young woman who finds herself in relationship with two men – whoa re best friends. I wish there was more nuance to the story but there isn’t. She just can’t choose between the two, or refuses to. I don’t even know what the point, too, because in the film, the two men, played Jamie Dornan and Sebastian Stan look alike so I find it hard to discern the difference between the two. When she gets pregnant later on in the film, my first thought was: well. it’s fine because she is sleeping with both and either one could be the father and it will not matter. The three actors are all good, so you can kind of see where each is coming from, but in the end it’s seem like rich white girl problem. They are all good to look at so you don’t mind everything that’s going on but when you finish you know there wasn’t much substance there.

large_roads-posterSally ‘Potter’s ‘The Roads Not Taken’  has Elle Fanning as a young woman taking care of her father (played by Javier Bardem) who is a writer suffering from early dementia. But Bardem plays the character as too much like a cliche that he has lost all dinity. Poor Fanning has to lug him round through his dentist and doctor appointments, and both are medical professionals who have the worst bedside manners. there are flashes of his life – Salma Hayek plays his first wife and their son dies, and Laura Linney gets one scene as Fanning’s mother. But the film is dead on arrival, nothing can make it rise from the dead.

Romance In The Rain (Film Thoughts: A Rainy Day In New York)

8922I guess I should preface my thoughts on ‘A Rainy Day In New York,’ by commenting on the allegations on Woody Allen, who directed this film.  While all things point to him being a flawed person, his artistry has always impressed me. I remember being young and watching his movies abut Manhattan, and walking those same streets, and thinking, ‘he gets what I want New York to be,’ which is probably what the ideal New York is for hi – classy, filled with interesting off the beaten path places, and soundtracked by songs from the Great American Songbook. Those factors permeate this film, and I am besotted by it. While I wish people would separate artistry from the lives of people, I also understand ‘cancel culture.’ But what can I do, I liked this film.

It probably helps that it stars Timothee Chalamet doing a role that suits him very well – the nebbish New Yorker who finds rainy days romantic, and is comfortable playing the piano at The Carlysle singing ‘Everything Happens To Me,’ I mean, really is there a more ideal version of Chalamet for me? He is great here, essaying a typical Woody Allen hero. IT’s sweet and charming and old fashioned and I am in love with him in it. And I also thought Selena Gomez was fine – sassy and perfect for Chalamet’s Gatsby, and their chemistry was sizzling – Elle Fanning was saddled with the less interesting role, in my opinion. And the great Cherry Jones does a wonderful scene towards the end that is worth any price of admission.

But there are some problems – the set up was a little awkward, and some of the situations forced, but those were easily overshadowed by the performances. And there is still that young woman older man thing that could be troubling, even in the Chalamet/Gomez pairing – his character used to date her character’s older sister.

I think it’s sad that this doesn’t have US distribution (Amazon refuses to release it) because while it’s not nearly the best of Allen’s work, it is fine enough, and it reminds me of a new York I once loved. It doesn’t exist anymore, of course, but once in a while it gets recaptured, and if only for that, I thank Woody Allen.