Tag Archives: alfred molina

Saint Judy

Judy Wood (Michelle Monaghan) and her young son Alex drive to California to start a new life. He’ll get to live near and have more time with his dad, and she’ll get to restart her career as an immigration lawyer. Not exactly what she had planned, but not exactly a choice, either.

She was a very successful public defender in her previous life, but it turns out you don’t need a lot of qualifications to be an immigration attorney because the clients are in no position to complain. They get what they get. Lucky for them, Judy Wood is a tireless crusader.

But she still has the capacity to be shocked by what she finds: people who have been held in custody for months or years, drugged for their own “protection,” the burden of proof on the detainees because, since they are not accused of crimes, they do not enjoy the protections afforded the common criminal. They are guilty until proven innocent – and with overworked, underpaid, unqualified lawyers, that’s a pretty dodgy concept.

Director Sean Hanish makes no bones about sainting his subject – it’s right there in the title. So basically we get to just sit back and watch this woman (based on a real-life woman) work up a steam of righteous anger all the way to making actual changes in the American law of asylum to actually save women’s lives.

Lawyers are often depicted as sleazy scumbags in Hollywood, and there are enough real-life counterparts that it’s hard to really object. But for every piece of shit in The Laundromat, there’s also a warrior in Just Mercy. Mercenary lawyers give everyone a bad name, but changes in law come from lawyers who care and are exceptional in their work. I don’t know Judy Wood but I bet she’s not actually a saint. Good news: you don’t have to be a saint to make a difference. Judy did it through hard work, compassion, and belief. And though I think this movie is needlessly formulaic and one-sided, if it serves to inspire a young woman to go to law school and believe that she too can be the change she wants to see in the system, then that’s a great thing.

Advertisements

Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein

David Harbour had a career before Stranger Things: The Equalizer, Black Mass, Suicide Squad, and various TV roles. But Stranger Things is the thing that made him a household name, playing the gruff police chief who adopts science experiment Eleven. It’s what allowed him to secure the lead role in the Hellboy remake. But despite his various roles, I didn’t know him for what is clearly a deep and quirky sense of humour.

In this Netflix short film, he plays “himself”, David Harbour III, plus his father, Harbour Jr., and his grandfather Harbour Sr., as well as Frankenstein. David Harbour (the third) is ostensibly looking into his family’s rich acting legacy, and particularly at a made-for-TV play he starred in called Frankenstein’s Monster’s Monster, Frankenstein. It’s a mockumentary, in case you’ve failed to glean that.

In the needlessly complicated play, the monster is posing as the doctor Frankenstein, and the good doctor is posing as the monster, in an effort to get funding from a lovely young woman (Kate Berlant), who for some reason falls madly for the monster, who is actually not the monster, though she doesn’t know that. At first.

David Harbour (the third) screens footage from this weird TV movie for us, and not just the movie, but the commercials that ran between episodes, giving us a glimpse of vintage product placements that will make you appreciate the content all the more. In fact, it seems this play as being broadcast live on television, and was subject to the whims of its blowhard, egotistical star.

The more Harbour (the third) looks into it, the more his idea of his father, the acting legend, unravels. Turns out, he as a real piece of shit.

It’s a crazy, wacky project that’s not for everyone, but I love seeing this kind of stuff from Netflix. It’s deliciously indulgent, and it takes a sudden turn that you wouldn’t buy from more traditional material. It breaks all the rules. This truly is a new era for television, if Netflix can even be classed as such – not quite TV, but not quite the movies, it’s clearly a lawless, magical place where classic lines can be redrawn and anything goes.

Harbour fully commits to the weirdness, even if I’m still not sure what to call it. Is this sketch comedy? Just an odd idea he had one night, in a fever dream? A side project devoted to pushing boundaries? In the end, at only 30 minutes, it’s an easily digested bit of fun, which actually demands to be rewatched immediately, to pick up the little Easter eggs you didn’t know where planted. I’ve never seen this side of David Harbour before, and it’s not so much a new side as like half a dozen new sides, all at once. Enjoy.

Return to Zero

Maggie and Aaron are happily anticipating the birth of their first child, right up until the moment his heart beat can no longer be detected on the ultrasound and she’ll have to deliver her dead, full-term son.

Losing a child is possibly the worst thing you can survive, and surviving is the tough part. It’s hard to go on without the baby you expected to take home, and without any living memories to cling to, all you have is the loss. And while the mother and father will MV5BNzk5MjgwMTQtYTFiZi00MzMzLWIxY2QtNjRmZGU3ODk1NmU0XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNjEwNDMwNzI@._V1_survive, often their couplehood does not. Up to 90% will have extreme marital difficulty during a bereavement, and how could they not? No two people grieve in the exact same way, even while grieving the same loss. And this kind of grief can’t help but change you.

So what’s in store for Maggie (Minnie Driver) and Aaron (Paul Adelstein)? Well, it’s going to be a very long and hard road for them, and a part of me wants to say: you’ll have to watch and see for yourself. Except you’re not really going to watch this, are you? I mean, who in their right mind would? That’s what I was asking myself when, halfway through this movie, I had a tension headache from crying so much. My face hurt.

It must be hard to let go of your grief when grief is all you have left. But life moves on whether you want it to or not.

This movie is dedicated to one stillborn baby in particular, and many more besides. I hope the making of this was cathartic to someone who needed it. I think grieving parents themselves will have a better handle on whether or not this is movie may be a comfort, or a trigger. What the film makers do recommend is that it’s watched by health care professionals as an education tool. You can find out more here.

Secret In Their Eyes

Thirteen years ago, Detective Jessica Cobb’s daughter was found murdered in a dumpster on a case she was working on. Her close friend and colleague Ray was the one to find her. There’s no good way to break that news to a mother, and there was no way to stop Jess from climbing into that dirty dumpster to cradle her daughter’s dead body. The case was mishandled and the killer never found, mostly because her body was discovered outside a mosque in the months following 9\11 and counter-terrorism took precedence over murder investigations. This group of detectives, once close-knit, is ripped apart at the seams from the grief and the guilt.

Cut to: thirteen years later, Jess (Julia Roberts) and Ray (Chiwetel Ejiofor) meet up again, in the office of a new supervisor, Claire (Nicole Kidman). Ray has some news: he thinks SITE_030515_182.CR2he’s found the culprit. 696 000 caucasian male inmates in American prisons every year; if you look at 1906 faces every night, you can cycle through the entire population in a year. Ray has done this for 13 years and finally has a bite. That’s just to let you know that it may be Jess’s kid who died, but it’s haunted Ray too. They haven’t kept in touch but Ray has never stopped looking. Jess isn’t sure she has the strength to follow the legal channels, but Ray convinces her that under Claire’s direction, things will be different.

This movie is about ghosts, and sacrifice, and justice. It’s a 2015 remake of a 2010 Argentinian movie that probably doesn’t need to exist since the original is so compelling. This one is not quite so complex and yet it’s harder to follow, the jumping back and forth between time lines not quite so clean. But Julia Roberts as a shadow of a woman, contorted with grief, is worth watching (her mother died during production; she returned to work after just 5 days), and so is Chiwetel Ejiofor, who brings a lot of grit and empathy to the role. Nicole Kidman even has a scene in which she’ll suck the air right out of the room. They’re great, and at times they elevate the material, but this movie lacks the thrill part of a thriller. There’s no real suspense generated, it just sort of feels like we’re waiting, and it’s the gloomiest waiting room you’ve ever spent 111 minutes in. Is the ending worth it? Well, I’ll tell you this: there is no happy ending when a mother’s only child is raped and murdered.

 

Little Men

Jake (Theo Taplitz) and Tony (Michael Barbieri) are two 12 year old boys who form a quick friendship when Jake’s family movies into the apartment above Tony’s Mom’s store. It’s a nice friendship for both as Jake, a budding artist, is a bit of an outsider without many friends, and Tony, an aspiring actor, has plenty of soccer buddies but not a lot of fellow artists to relate to. And it just so happens that Jake’s dad (Greg Kinnear) is an actor himself.

The friendship weathers bullying and other outside forces but takes a hit when the two families conflict. Jake’s dad ¬†Brian has just inherited this apartment when his own father littlemendied – not just the apartment, in fact, but the building, which includes Leonor’s (Tony’s mom) store. Brian’s sister is demanding her fair share, and that means increasing Leonor’s rent, which has languished very generously far below market price for years. She can’t afford to pay the higher rent and insists that Brian’s father wanted her there. Brian is pulled by his sister, who is rightfully wanting her share of the inheritance, and his wife who supports the family herself (what little acting work he gets doesn’t pay much).

The parents force this tension onto their children, trying to keep them apart, forbidding them to set foot in each other’s homes. It’s an awkward situation and one of the reasons why this film is titled Little Men: these two 12-year-olds are dealing with pretty mature issues, which is why it’s so sad and frustrating when they’re unable to be each other’s support system. It’s further heart breaking because Tony, having an absent father, was rather leaning on Brian for some fatherly advice. Jake will perhaps recover more quickly, having two loving parents, but what of Tony? It’s a question that doesn’t quite get answered but I think is worth asking.

Little Men is an interesting reminder of how economic power can poison relationships. The grown ups each believe themselves to be not just right, but righteous. Their strained politeness turns cold, then hostile. It’s a cloud that casts a dark shadow over the friendship of their sons, and that friendship is willingly sacrificed by the adults. But those adults are kept at a remove; director Ira Sachs¬†doesn’t judge them much, he’s more interested in what the boys are going through. Their experience is somehow discounted because they are young. We, the cynical audience, watch the parents declare that they’d do anything for their kids while in reality, they flush a genuine relationship down the toilet over money and real estate.

Love Is Strange

Film Set - 'Love Is Strange'Ben & George have been together forever but are newly married. Their wedding is small and joyous, and also the catalyst for George’s dismissal from the catholic school where he teaches music. They can’t afford their home on Ben’s pension alone, and the two suddenly find themselves homeless. Friends and family scramble to take them in but this being New York City, where no apartment is bigger than a breadbox, Ben and George are separated. This is a love story that shows us how patient and enduring love must be. With no prospects in sight, people who were happy to toast them at their wedding are less happy to share their homes. There’s chafing on both ends (Ben clashes with his nephew’s wife, played by Marisa Tomei, when they’re both trying to work from a cramped home every day). They feel displaced and disoriented; their hosts feel increasingly put-upon. It’s sad and sweet and melodic – the soundtrack is divinely full of Chopin.

Director Ira Sachs is slow and meandering. It’s painful to watch the tenderness and the intimacy lithgowloveisdecline into homelessness and despondency. Just when they’ve vowed to share their lives with each other, they can no long afford to share so much as a bed. This is a pretty bittersweet movie, more universal than you may think. The husbands grapple with their emotional health, and aging, and navigating the strange and complicated NY housing market, which is what finally made me realize how mis-titled this movie is. Their love is a lot of things, but it is never strange.