To Glee or not To Glee (Film Thoughts: The Prom)

Since I am a big musicals fan, I was overjoyed when I heard that Ryan Murphy was doing a film version of the show for Netflix. But, I was also quite petrified – I championed that show from the beginning. I have always gravitated towards smaller heart-filled musicals, and you bet I was rooting for this show against Hadestown. You see, I can be a Brodsway purist when it comes to these things, and I am scared of what Murphy would do to my small, intimate gem of a musical.

Well, the movie is finally here. And for starters, do we really need this cast? A friend of mine called it ‘stacked,’ and yes that sure is an apt description – Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, James Corden – these are big names. But in my world, they fill bigger shoes: Beth Leavel, Brooks Ashmankas, who both to me are close to perfection in these roles. And yes, I have just got to get this off my chest: Streep underwhelmed me here. I know she is a goddess, but I felt she was off here – she strained to hit notes (Dee Dee’s songs were made for a belter) and they even made her look like Beth Leavel, so I ask: why didn’t they just hire Leavel (I know, tiny violins for me) As for Corden, much has been said for his ‘offensive’ characterization of a gay man, but to be honest, I thought he would be worse. Was I offended by his performance? No. But surely he was just following Murphy’s direction (or non direction, perhaps) And did we really need Nicole Kidman for Angie Dickinson – it’s a small-ish role for someone of her stature, And Angie Schworer is someone who lived that role (was probably even named after her)

But I have to say, though, I was thrilled to see this (I wish I had seen it on a big theatrical screen) because everything looked great amplified. The fuller orchestrations has made the score soar, though ti sometimes also highlighted deficiencies in Matthew Sklar’s music and Chade Beguelin’s lyrics. I cannot complain about Jo Ellen Pellman’s Emma, who is utterly charming here and sings her songs perfectly (she may be a bit perfect for the role, but who cares) and Arian Dubose just whet my appetite for her Maria in. Spielberg’s West Side Story. And of course, it is glorious that the message of the show is there for all to see and absorb, and on Netflix it will sure to reach millions.

Ultimately, I enjoyed the film. I just have to set aside all my bias, and just accept that this version is a different one from the stage version. It’s surely not the worst thing in the world.

I’ll just leave this right here:

Bad Girls (Film Thoughts: Bombshell)

MV5BZjlhOWE3YjktY2MzOC00ZmQ1LWIwNjgtZmVhZmFjZGExMzgyXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyMDA4NzMyOA@@._V1_I didn’t know if I was going to like ‘Bombshell,’ but of course I wanted to see it, if only for the performances, especially the three female leads, who are all favorites of mine. And to be honest, while watching the film, I did not know who to sympathize with, especially because I think almost all the characters here are despicable. Charlize Theron is great as Megyn Kelly, but I still cannot for the life of me feel for her – I don’t know if I can shake off the baggage that comes with her – this is, after all, a woman who thinks ‘Will and Grace’ influences kids to be gay and also that Santa Claus can not be black. Watching this film is kind of like watching your enemies implode and fight each other. I don’t think I have spent more than a minute watching Fox News, and just the sight of its logo makes me want to vomit. Still, Jay Roach has directed a film that mostly entertains, even as it is flawed. First of all, I am just not a fan of the cutesy gimmicks used here, like Theron as Kelly breaking the fourth wall to address the audience. I don’t think it needed it, but I understand why – they want people to have some kind of kinship with Kelly, probably they know she is unlikable enough already? But yes, the performances here are worth seeing – as I said Theron nails Megyn Kelly down to the deep sultry voice, and Nicole Kidman is great as Gretchen Carlson. Margor Robbie, as a composite character, gives the film a little heart, but I detested the character to begin with, so it didn’t really capture me – though that’s not Robbie’s fault. In the end, I just did not have an emotional connection with the movie.

Set To Destroy (Film Thoughts: Destroyer)

destroyerNicole Kidman is one of my favorite actresses because I think she is so fearless – nothing stops her from making any of her characters authentic. She does whatever she needs to do, she isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty to get the job done. On Karyn Kusama’s ‘Destroyer,’ a lot of people have commented on how she altered her looks to make herself look unattractive – mousy brown wig, unclear skin. But that is just the beginning of how she transformed into the character of Erin Bell. Ever the thinking actress, there’s a lot more to the character – the low voice, the ticks and mannerisms. And Kidman is tough and convincing, both badass and vulnerable, and is fascinating to watch.Erin Bell is never a non-three dimensional character – it lives and breathes right before our eyes. As a detective who was burned years ago in an operation, Bell struggles to find her way when shady characters from the past come back into her life.

The story is pretty simple, but Kusama gives the film a specific feel that it never feels stale. We are transported in a  world of sun-drenched and lived-in Los Angeles, and for me it feels familiar and foreign at the same time.  That said, I wish I was into it more – this just isn’t my kind of story, and the film did not engage me as much as it should have. And while I commend Kidman and her performance (probably one of the best in her career) I just wasn’t in love with the film.

Killing Fields (Movie Thoughts: The Killing Of A Sacred Deer)

kil‘The Killing Of A Sacred Deer’ is directed by Yorgoss Lanthimos, who directed ‘The Lobster.’  I cannot remember if I liked ‘The Lobster,’ (I guess I did, because I rated it four stars on Letterboxd) but I still remember that movie vividly – its weirdness was both amusing and disturbing.

I feel the exact same way about ‘The Killing Of A Sacred Deer.’ here I am, almost a day after seeing it and I can still see some scenes vividly in my head. I am still thinking about the ending, and last night I started to google what other people thought about it. I know the initial inspiration is from a Greek tragedy (Iphiginia in Aulis) but the film is very modern, and it plays with your mind. I know if it should play like a dark comedy, but for me it is just dark and disturbing. It isn’t horror in the strict sense (I was apprehensive in seeing it because of that) but it scares you.

Colin Farrel is fantastic, and is in the center of the piece. He plays a doctor who befriends the son of a patient who dies on his operating table. From the beginning you know there is something ‘off’ about their relationship, and if I say more it would be a spoiler. And is there a more fearless actress than Nicole Kidman. She is fantastic here, as the wife who sees her family disintegrate before her eyes. And Barry Keoghan is a revelation here – innocent, creepy, that little kid you thought you could squash but is more than a menace. There are some unbelievable circumstances in the plot here, but in these actors’ hands, you just go along for the ride.

I don’t know if everyone will like this movie, of course. But I bet it will creep you out, and I bet, like me, you will be thinking about it days after seeing it.

Taking Care Of Business (Film Thoughts: The Beguiled)

img_2293-1I did not know until after I saw Sophia Copolla’s ‘The Beguiled’  that it is a remake of a 1971 film (starring Clint Eastwood) which was based on a 1966 novel by Thomas Cullinan. In fact, I did not know much about the film, even though I saw the trailer numerous times. I remember thinking it’s some sort of a Southern Gothic horror film, so I had trepidation about seeing it. Alas, it opened around the time I was going on vacation, so I conveniently filed the movie out of my mind….until now, when I have finally seen it.

To be honest, I don’t really know how I feel about it. My first reaction is that I am left cold by it. This is a story of a bunch of Southern girl students all in one house, when one of the girls chances upon a wounded Yankee soldier in the woods, and takes the man home. Under the supervision of Martha (Nicole Kidman) they take care of the soldier, until circumstances change the balance of power in the house.

There’s a lot of subtlety in the film, and Kidman delivers a truly fine performance (I mean, is there anything this woman cannot do?) but I was looking for more story here. But then perhaps I am missing the point of the whole film. This is probably the kind of movie that needs to be seen several times in order to fully grasp what it intends to say but sadly, I don’t know if I have more investment in the film to do that. But I do like Coppola’s light directorial touch, and the film is  very pretty experience, with great cinematography that makes you feel like you are inside the house.