Teacher Ma’m (Film Thoughts: the Kindergarten Teacher)

large_kindergarten-imageI had heard about ‘The Kindergarten Teacher’ when it premiered in Sundance earlier this year, and have been on the lookout for it. Apparently, Netflix bought the film so yes, even better. I wished this had wider theater distribution, though, because it really is a special film. Yes, I know, it being on Netflix will probably give it more eyes than a regular indie distribution, but still…

Maggie Gyllenhaal gives a great performance here. She plays Lisa Spinelli, a forty-something year old kindergarten teacher who discovers that one of her students has a knack for composing poems. This stirs up something inside her – she is taking a poetry class and doesn’t seem to be tracking. When she starts presenting the kid’s poems as her own, she gains attention from the class, including the professor (Gael Garcia Bernal, also wonderful in a small role)  However, Lisa is not really interested in claiming the poems as her own, she other ideas, and writer/director Sara Colangelo takes the movie to places you never thought it would go. it doesn’t necessarily go darker, but definitely deeper.

This is one of those great small films that gives you a character that may be different, or quirky, but believable, even relatable, definitely interesting. You may even love the character, and will definitely be fond of the film.

It Takes Two (Television Thoughts: The Deuce, HBO)

deuI just finished watching the whole first season of ‘The Deuce,’ and I must say I really liked it as a whole, and honestly, after watching the first pilot, I thought I wouldn’t, and almost gave up on it. I think what works best for me is that I need to watch these episodes right after each other, especially in a show like this where the plot is mostly slow burn, and is more character-centric. I know this comes from David Simon, who is very renowned for both ‘The Wire,’ and ‘Breaking Bad,’ two shows that I tried very hard to get into, but realized just not for my tastes.

The subject matter in ‘The Deuce’ was more interesting for me: prostitution and porn in New York City circa late 70s. This is a period in time I ‘romanticize’ in my mind. I got to New York in the mid 80s and only got the tail end of the sleaze and trash period of the city. I did see some, mind you, and compared to the Disneyfied New York of nowadays, I think that period of time definitely had more character.

James Franco, of whom I am very fond of as an actor, lured me in as well. And here he plays twin brothers caught in the maelstrom of the times. Although, honestly, did we really need twin characters – I guess it would be more in line with the ‘deuce’ idea – dual life of people’s paths crossing, intersecting, and passing by. Maggie Gylenhaal plays the emotional heart of piece, playing one of those prostitutes with a heart of gold kind of role, but also a tough cookie, and destined for both good and bad times. I think she is tremendous here, her big beautiful blue eyes doing a lot of the work: wariness, vulnerability, hope.

The series is supposes to be about the foundations of how about porn came to be, and I was waiting for it to happen, and that story only starts on the last third of the episodes. It spends a lot of the ear;y parts building on all the characters, and by the time the storyline came along, we find that we are already invested in these people.  As I said before, I enjoyed getting to know these characters, and look forward for a promised second season.