I 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.
I was excited to check out Netflix’s ‘Sierra Burgess Is A Loser’ because I am liking this new slate of Netflix rom-coms, and also, it has Noah Centineo who is really very easy on the eyes. But I found the film to be a misfire. First off, the film’s premise has a Cyrano meets Catfish plot, and it made me uncomfortable a lot of times. (As my friend said while watching it, ‘this film just stressed me out’) Also, the film has a very unlikable lead character, and Shannon Purser, who stars as the title character, just isn’t appealing or charming enough. It is so bad that you find yourself rooting for her antagonists. A lot of the plot is just plain creepy, and if Sierra was my child, I would have slapped her four ways if she behaved like that. And i felt the character of Sierra got away with a lot of things without any kind of remorse for what she did. Even the cutie Centeneo (underused) couldn’t save the film. Try to see other things on your Netflix ‘My List’ before playing this one.
I read YA novels because I love its purity, and also it’s hopefulness. When we are young, we still do not have the cynicism and jadedness we have as adults, and I like that even for 120 minutes, I could get lost in that world, with that feeling. Obviously, I know what real life is now, where I value pizza more than love. So of course, I loved Susan Johnson’s ‘To All the Boys I Loved Before,’ a movie based on a YA novel I loved reading years ago. I even remember the gimmicky premise – Lara Jean (Lana Condor) writes letters to boys she has feelings for, sort of like journal entries. She then hides them with obviously no intentions of sending them. But mysteriously, they get out, and well, there you go. Lara Jean then goes to a ‘fake dating’ scenario with Peter (Noah Centineo, a breakout star here) in order for him to get an ex jealous, and for her to gloss over her crush for her sister’s ex. Then we all know where this goes – they slowly fall for each other.
The great thing about the film is it just plugs these tropes perfectly, and because of the charming cast – Condor and Centineo are great together – you not only go along, you even root for both to fall faster. This film reminds me of the John Hughes teen flicks of my youth (wisely referenced here) and since Gen Y kids deserve the same kinds of stories. An added bonus – great to see an Asian lead (this film is dropping the same week as ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ even) though perhaps it is slightly jarring to see John Corbett as her dad. This is cute and romantic, and I can[t wait to see it again. Thanks, Netflix.
I have been reading all these articles saying that ‘Set It Up,’ the new Netflix movie, is so good that it could provide a new boom for rom-coms. The romantic comedy genre has been taking a beating of late, replaced by all those Apatow-type of romantic films. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a big romantic comedy softie, and if this movie will be responsible for a new wave of films, then I will gladly hop on the boat.
‘Set It Up,’ directed by Claire Scanlon, is pretty good. For someone like me craving for romance in movies, it satisfies. It’s story is not without bumps – you don’t really believe everything that’s going on – but you kind of go along, and the ride is nice and pleasant. This is mainly because of a great performance by Zoey Deutch. At first, I was wracking my brain of an actress who she reminds me of, but then found out that she is the daughter of Lea Thompson, so bingo! In any event, Deutch is a lot of things all at once: funny, vulnerable, manic – whatever the role and situation calls for. She is the next big thing and I won’t be mad if she becomes the new face of the new wave of rom-com. Glen Powell has a little more subtle presence – you wish he was more something, but maybe this is only because Deutch is such a major presence everyone is dwarfed. They have okay chemistry but this is all pretty chaste – nothing too Apatow in here. Taye Diggs and Lucy Liu, as their bosses, are more or less caricatures, but they are good enough actors that they humanize these cardboards. I don’t know if ‘Set It Up’ would make my favorite romantic movies of all time, but it will probably be one of my favorites this year.
When I first saw the trailer of ‘Alex Strangelove,’ I thought it was very similar to ‘Love Simon.’ in that it is about a high school student grasping with their sexual orientation. But Berlanti’s film is about dealing with being gay after the fact that one has accepted himself. “Alex Strangelove’ is the film right before you get to that place – it’s about the questioning and eventual acquiescence to that same fact. I think the two film are worlds apart, and ‘Alex Strangelove’ is just as good, just as entertaining, just as touching.
Alex (Daniel Doheny) thinks he is straight, and as a matter of fact has a girlfriend (Madeline Weinstein) but he questions this when he meets Elliot (Antonio Marziale) a guy who is unapologetically gay. Maybe this points to the fact that he is unable to have sex with his girlfriend (we learn later on that the suspicion has already started) and when he does, things go in a disastrous manner. Written and directed by Craig Johnson, this film is a lot of fun in that silly, goofball way – I am sure it will attract its teen/tween target market set. But snobs like me will find a lot to like about it, and for old farts like me, it gives me a window to how kids nowadays think: sexual orientation is still a big deal, but the outcome nary matters to them anymore – it’s just the ‘getting there’ that provides stress. Doheny is perfect here with his wonderful neurotic confusion – you feel and empathize, and cringe with him when he makes his misguided choices. I thought the film was much raunchier than I thought it would be. It’s certainly racier than the squeaky clean ‘Love Simon.’ I totally enjoyed this, and highly recommend it. And as Pride Month comes upon us, I applaud Netflix for its dedication. I know this will reach a big audience, and it’s just great to be a kid these days with all these films to have access to. There’s a lot of hate nowadays, but love still comes out on top, it seems.
I know a lot of people have been talking about Netflix’s ‘The Kissing Booth,’ and I really have been wanting to see it. I mean, teen rom com, right? I love this genre, and I always say this – I still admire how when you are young you are still hopeful about what love (first love) can bring you, and that thrill of realizing you have fallen for someone – is there a more joyous, euphoric feeling?
You really think ‘The Kissing Booth’ hits all the marks – Elle (Joey king) and Lee (Joel Courtney) have been best friends since they were babies, but there is now a kink – Joey has fallen for his older brother Noah. The thing is, they made ‘rules’ for each other when they were kids and one of them is that relatives are off limits romantically. It’s a nice sweet and predictable set up but cute, so I’m in. King is charming, and quirky, and is a natural. Elle hides the relationship from Lee, and I think we kind of know where this is all going to turn out. It worked for me, and I even found myself tearing up. Softie me, yes, I admit.
But then after watching it, I had some troubling thoughts. Noah is nice and cute in that suburban white boy way, but his character is pretty violent and controlling, and I want to tell Elle please stay away from him – he will be a wife beater. Plus, he seems to be manipulative – warning other guys not to date her, so there’s a deadly dangerous streak there. I have read numerous criticism about how the movie is obsessed with Elle’s body, and I kind of agree – it definitely has a sexist undertone. What bothers me is that the target market for this film is teenagers – and these ideologies will shape them.
But if you take it for what it is – a sweet and silly teen rom com, then why not, it would satisfy on that front. Just talk to kids after and point to them its shortcomings.
Ricky Gervais stars, writes and directs in ‘Special Correspondents,’ a movie that is available on Netflix. I like Gervais enough, especially when he is being acerbic and ‘mean,’ but that’s not the Gervais we get here. What we get is the nice fuzzy teddy bear section. He plays Ian, who along with his co-worker Frank (played by Eric Bana) fake their own kidnapping after they get into a mishap and doesn’t get to Equador where they are supposed to be special correspondents for a radio station. The movie is absed on the French comedy “Envoyés Trés Spéciaux,” and you get one of those bumbling, slapsicky, kind of corny kinds of films. About ten minutes in, I thought to myself, this is going to be bad. It turns out it isn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Gervais, and especially Bana, engage you in the action, and Vera Fermiga, playing Ian’s ambitious wife, steals whatever scene she is in. This is the type of film you may not necessarily seek, but I think is perfect for Netflix. If you find yourself flipping through titles, you could probably do a whole lot worse.