Young Man Of Life (Stage Thoughts: Sea Wall/A Life, the Hudson Theater)

swThere is a viral video going around of Alan Rickman saying that basically says doing a monologue is not acting, it just shows that you can memorize. He further adds that ‘real acting’ is being in the moment, listening and reacting to other actors.  I don’t know if I will agree with that, as I have just finished watching ‘Seawall/A Life,’ playing at The Hudson Theater on Broadway. It stars Jake Gylenhaal and Tom Sturridge each doing a monologue. I thought both were very well-written, and presented fully formed characters that I felt I knew after the evening.

The first act has Sturridge playing a young British photographer. Written by Simon Stephens (he wrote The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time )  Sturridge takes us from something light and funny to a darker place, and he does it effortlessly. The director, Carrie Cracknells gives this part a light touch, and when the second sad part comes, you ease into it almost unknowingly, and then you find yourself in the wallows.  Of the two monologues, it is the one that shines better.

Jake Gylenhaal’s second act piece, ‘A Life,’ has less depth, but is showier. It also benefits from Gylenhaal’s star power – boy can this guy command the stage, as he has that undeniable charisma that will make you want to look at him, and look at him more. His piece centers on a young man experiencing the circle of life, experiencing the loss of his father as well as the birth of his child. Gylenhaal gives his all, and there is that much-talked about part where he goes into the audience and makes personal connection with them. Even if you are far from that row, you will feel he touched you too.

All in all, this is the kind of theater that will feel more like an experience, as these two actors present two variations of the young males at similar points in their lives. It’s not too deep, and certainly not shallow.


European Vacation (Movie Thoughts: Spiderman: Far From Home)

large_far-home-posterWhat business do I have watching ‘Spiderman: Far From Home?” I mean, I don’t follow these comic book movie, and I didn’t even see that mega hit Avengers. (Thank God by the way for that sequence int he beginning explaining major plot points from Avengers)  But there are some compelling reasons that made me want to see this film. First of all, Tom Holland. I just have this major crush on him, and it doesn’t hurt that he has stage roots, playing Billy Elliott on the West End (have you guys checked out his dancing videos?) Add to this the fact that I will never resist a European vacation movie – and this is set in various cities, like Venice, Prague and London (among my top five favorites, by the way) And just to make it even more attractive, the film has Jake Gylenhaal, who is always a draw for me. So screw continuity problems, no one could stop me from seeing this opening weekend.

And I am glad I did. Holland is great, with that perfect mix of teen vulnerability and superhero presence, and of course, what drew me in the story is the romance angel. I am not the biggest fan of Zendaya, but sure she kind of won me over here, and I am just so there for her the MJ-Peter Parker pairing. The action scenes kind of flew over my head (I used one of the major ones for a bathroom break) but all in all, it is a very entertaining commercial film, and I enjoyed it much more than I expected to.

Into The Wild (Film Thoughts: Wildlife)

p15750243_p_v8_aa‘Wild Life’ is one of those movies that are a lot of things, but never feels crowded.  It’s a story about a marriage and its disintegration. It’s a coming-of-age film. It’s a snapshot of life in a particular time (1960) in rural America. It’s all beautifully woven anchored by great performances, directed with grace by Paul Dano, sensitively written by hom and his girlfriend Zoe Kazan.

Jeannette and Jerry Brinson (Carey Mulligan and Jake Gylenhaal) are just like any other American family. They have a fourteen year old son Joe, (Ed Oxenbould) and he plays football. It’s your typical American family, but it’s all for show. Joe isn’t really interested in the sport, and Jerry just lost his job at the golf course because his boss thinks that he’s too friendly with the clientele. When he volunteers to help with fighting the brush fires, Jeanette goes on a transformation. Or is she just finally finding herself? This all happens before Joe’s eyes and he matures before he even realizes it. The film is at times painful to endure, but it’s real. Mulligan moves with ease in showing the change in her character, but I just have this weird thing in me that I see Katie Holms in her – or the other way around perhaps? Gylenhaal gives a solid performance as always, and there is wisdom in Oxnbould’s youth – his is my favorite performance here. This is the kind of film that may seem slight, but as you think about it more, the more you will realize its layers.

Just Jake (Film Thoughts: Stronger)

1758340.jpg-r_1280_720-f_jpg-q_x-xxyxxWhen I was talking to a friend when ‘Stronger’ first came out, and he said, ‘Isn’t this the kind of movie wherein you just know what is going to happen based on the story?’ and back then I agreed, and I believed it. I also remember seeing the previews for this so much that I felt I had already seen the movie.

Well, I just did finally see the movie and I was wrong on some of my initial assessments. First, there is more to the film than the formula it looks like it employed – a victim of an attack, and him finding his way back. This is a raw and honest portrayal of a man whose life was changed because he was right by the bomb that detonated at the Boston marathon. Sure, the story follows the trajectory of the formula I talked about, but this felt deeper, and heartfelt, probably because of a magnificent performance by Jake Gylenhaal. He is perfection here, with an even tempered performance that’s realistic and touching. In the hands of a lesser actor, this role could have been overwrought, but he balances it just right here. I don’t think I ever seen Gylenhaal give a bad performance, but his work here is Academy Award worthy (Of course, now that I have said that, he will probably get snubbed…again)


Wild Animals (Movie Thoughts: Nocturnal Animals)

imagesI have fond admiration for a lot of Tom Ford’s work: his designs in fashion aren’t a;ways for me, but there’s no doubt they are all beautiful. His perfumes, aesthetic-wise, all match mine, or what I aspire for, since I cannot afford all of them. And he’s a fellow Virgo, so in my head we are kindred spirits. I of course have been wanting to see ‘Nocturnal Animals,’ his latest directorial effort after ‘A Single Man’ from 2009.

‘Nocturnal Animals’ is two films in one – two stylish films with every frame art-directed to death, and they show two opposing landscapes. One is modern, glass steel art galleries and Amy Adams in high heels and hair blown straight Brasilian style. The other is set in a rural landscape somewhere in Texas, the film imagined from the fictional book Adams’ ex-husband has written and has dedicated to her. If these were Tom Ford perfumes, one would be Black Orchid, the other one would be Oud Wood. They are two disparate stories as well, but they kind of intertwine, and they kind of have parallel trajectories. Adam’s work here is pure style and learned acting – it looks and sounds like a major thesis presentation for film school, and I am sure that’s how Ford intended it to be. Jake Gylenhaal gives a blistering performance in his much darker story, and if I were deciding these things, he would surely get a spot for one of the Best performances of the year. It’s quite a feat to still appear natural even if everything around you seems artificial.

I’m probably making it sound like I did not enjoy the movie.  On the contrary, I did. It’s fascinating to look at – every frame is a beaut – and the story is absorbing, If for anything, there are at times too much going on visually that you don’t know where to look. And there’s obviously an attempt to make art, and I think that alone makes it artistic. There are now a lot of articles over the internet about its two endings – of what they mean not only to the film but also the message that Tom Ford wants to convey. You can ignore all that and still enjoy thsi film for what it is – just don’t think too hard.

Hope Floats (Film Thoughts: Southpaw)

southpaw_ver7Didn’t I say I wanted a little breather from “emotional” films? Well, I thought i was accomplishing that by seeing “Southpaw,” well because boxing, and all that. But, I ended up bawling here. It’s one of those manipulative boxing movies, destined to tug at your heartstrings, and whaddayouknow, they got me hook line, and sinker. It is one of those movies that are so predisposed to doing it, that even if some things are illogical, you just accept it for the same of the narrative. You cry with pleasure, then you realize it is of the guilty kind. Jake Gylenhaal, playing Billy Hope,  is beyond fantastic here. I have been loyal to him over the years, ever since he did Brokeback, and some of his projects are more gratifying than others. Here he gives a performance for the ages, and I hope he gets remembered during awards season. He’s gritty, he is hard as a rock with his buffed body in all the boxing scenes, but he also displays a great amount of vulnerability and softness that we get a well-rounded performance for him despite his underwritten character (what made him the way he is?) and you never take your eyes away for him. And he broke my heart here a thousand times – that final scene was like an arrow that hit me. It just goes to show I believed in him, and his character, even though even Ray Charles wold be able to see that plot turn a mile away. Rachel McAdams, in a brief role, was great as well, and little Oona Laurence, playing their daughter served as the perfect pawn for the plot manipulations. At times, the movie was hard to watch, as I am never a fan of blood and gore, and of boxing in general, but I have to say that the movie served whatever purpose it set out to do.