Capsule Collection (Movie Thoughts: Adopt A Highway/Holly Slept Over)

1adEthan Hawke has turned out to be one of our finest actors. I used to have a big crush on him back in the days, but nowadays he kind of looks like a meth addict. Even though I didn’t really love ‘First Reformed,’ I thought he was so good in that film that the performance should have gotten an Academy Award nomination. His streak of great performances continue with ‘Adopt A Highway,’ where he plays Russell, a convict who just gets released from prison (for possession of an ounce of weed!)  He plays the character with resentment and vulnerability. The film is all over the place but I thought it was still thought provoking, and the pay off on the end surprisingly effective.

2MtOWNmNDMxYTMxMWZjXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyOTU3MjU4ODM@._V1_I also liked ‘Holly Slept Over.’  It’s about a couple, Audra and Noel who is trying to conceive a child.  When her old college roommate visits, this gives Audra a chance to evaluate her fractured relationship with Holly – they had had a college fling when they were younger. Holly then gets invited for a threesome, and well, we all know where that can go. I liked the first half of the film more – there is so much talk about Holly that when she finally shows up, she diesn;t quite live up to the hype.

We Can Handle The Truth (Film Thoughts: The Truth?La Verita)

1qHirokazu Kore-eda’s film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes last year and he opened the festival this year with ‘The Truth,’ his first non-Japanese film. This film is set in Paris, and the dialogue is in both French and English. Catherine Deneuve here stars as Fabienne, an old-school movie star who has just released her memoirs. At the beginning of the film, we see her daughter Lumir (Juliette Binoche) arrive with her husband and daughter to celebrate the book’s launch, but when she starts reading the book she finds out that it contains a multitudes of lies, like her father being listed as dead, and, more alarming for her, that Fabienne has painted herself as a great mother. And the film goes through how everyone deals with that. For example, Fabienne’s long-doting assistant is not even mentioned, prompting him to quit, leaving Lumir to act as one while she is vacationing. This film is more an exercise in great effortless acting. Deneuve is delicious as the self-centered Fabienne, who, like any other actress out there, has no concept of reality. And Binoche can only be described for making us all believe that she is playing a woman who turns to screenplay writing because she is a terrible actress.  We gleefully watch these two in action before we realize there isn’t much plot or story here. But for the most part, we don’t mind.

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.

On Any Given Sunday (Film Thoughts: First Reformed)

First-Reformed-Poster‘First Reformed’ is one of those tough films to describe. It was described by Fandango as a thriller, and I went in with that frame of mind It incites thrill, alright, but in a whole different manner. It’s not a plot driven movie, as it is mostly a character study of Ernst Toller, a pastor of First Reformed Church somewhere in Upstate New York. he presides over one of those small churches that is only alive because of its historical significance. On any given Sunday, there are only a handful of parishioners who go there – most folks go to the mega church down the road. In fact, the same mega church funds First Reformed. I am not going to go over the rest of the plot, as I think it;’s mostly irrelevant. We see Toller spiral out of control because of a set of setbacks, among which he is urinating blood because of cancer, and has gotten involved in the life of two parishioners – a married couple with issues, and bo have they got issues.

The film is best seen through the eyes of observance – of how religion affects and influences people’s lives, of how humans deal with its significance. I have always thought that Ethan Hawke (who plays Toller) a fantastic actor, and he is great here, grunting and cursing and parishioning. It’s his career-best performance. Towards the end, the film turns fantastical and metaphysical, and it feels like you have stumbled upon a whole different movie, but I kept thinking about it, and its not making sense makes all the sense in the world. This film assaults you, and I bet you’ll welcome it.

Once There Was A Love (Film Thoughts: Maudie)

mauThere is something very poetic about ‘Maudie.’

I saw the film a couple of days ago and it is staying with me. There’s something about it that touched me deeply, and I am at a loss as to why. I have tried to start and restart writing about it, but I just can’t find the words. It is a story of a woman, played beautifully by Sally Hawkins, who becomes a housekeeper/caregiver for Everette Lewis (Ethan Hawke) a fish peddler who is very hard to get along with. But somehow their hearts find solace with each other, and he found a way to let Maudie (Hawkins) soar as she leashes her creativity through painting. She becomes a sensation, capturing the interest of even Nixon, and then she…falls apart little by little.

And then the rest breaks my heart to even write. This is a beautiful story, told exquisitely, and matched by Hawkins and Hawke’s acting, which elevates the sometimes bland screenplay to soar. You can feel the different emotions right there in their rawest – hope, pain, tenderness. This is one of those quiet movies, when as you watch it, you don’t even realize that these characters are snaking their way into your inner selves. I love this movie for all it does to me.

Miserably It’s Maggie (Movie Thoughts; Maggie’s Plan)

Maggies-Plan_poster_goldposter_com_2I really wanted to love Rebecca Miller’s new movie ‘Maggie’s Plan,’ and halfway through the movie, as I am realizing I don’t even like it, I started to question myself why. Maybe it stems from my irrational dislike of the actress Greta Gerwig – there’s something about her that annoys me and thus I never could get into – much less believe – any of her characters.I tried giving her the slack so many times here, but with her as the heroine of the film, I just couldn’t go on-board. I was banking on the idea that Julianne Moore will steal the film from her, but her character her seems to be a SNL parody, though she tries very hard to give it vulnerability, and nearly succeeds. I read a comment about the movie that it is a “New Yorker short story,’ and I think that’s an apt description, but I even think the magazine would reject this. There’s just so much good things here that did not account to a great whole that I couldn’t help but feel so disappointed. I wanted to feel characters that are New Yorkers – neurotic, sophisticated, pedantic in the most appropriate way – but here we get neurosis and no backing behind them. I just imagine how this film would have fared in the hands of Noah Baumbach, or Woody Allen (though the latter doesn’t seem to be doing New York movies anymore) and think there could have been real gold in here.