Tag Archives: female directors

A Case of You

What had happened was:

  • Sean and I agreed it was finally time to watch Hereditary. Which we’ve been saying for a month. Which we’ve been avoiding since it screened last March at SXSW, and having already reached my terror quota with opening night’s A Quiet Place, I just couldn’t bear, even though my beloved Toni Collette would be in attendance. But as soon as we had the mouse hovering over Hereditary to select it, I lost my nerve and ran away to heat up soup, challenging Sean to find a suitable replacement. Or any replacement
  • Sean and I flipped through the entirety of Netflix, knew intuitively that we’d already watched anything worth watching, so chose Counterfeiting in Suburbia. “Based on a true story” about teenage girls literally just printing and then passing off dollar bills to fund their wildest shopping dreams. It felt like a movie your friend put together for some hokey class in high school, and will maybe receive a C- for, if the teacher is feeling generous. The script is basically just the worst thing ever, but since it’s delivered by wooden puppets, it doesn’t even get the benefit of human warmth. Just kidding. I think those were actual girls. We turned it off after a brutal 12 minutes.
  • So we went over to Amazon Prime, where we found the remnants of Justin Long’s career. Someone still believes in this guy? Weird. Anyway, he plays a fledgling writer named Sam who goes to his local coffee haunt to not write the next great novel. And he obsesses over the barista, Birdie (Evan Rachel Wood). When she gets fired, he decides that he can’t just ask her out like a normal person, he has to turn mv5bztmyzdbjmjktmtk5nc00nmexlwe5mdetnjezzde0ngixmwu4l2ltywdll2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymzg3mja0njm@._v1_into her perfect man first, and he does this by stalking her on Facebook and getting into, or claiming to get into, every single thing she ever mentioned. It’s gross. And not just because it’s Justin Long, though that doesn’t help. Anyway, the most random cast of characters enables this travesty: an emo Peter Dinklage, an inexcusably Sam Rockwell, a puzzling Sienna Miller, and Vince Vaughn very much as you’d expect. Anyway, it’s hard to buy into the rom-com aspect when to romance is actually criminal harassment and the comedy makes itself scarce.
  • In conclusion, do not believe that our watching A Case Of You to completion is an endorsement of it over Counterfeiting in Suburbia. It’s not. It’s just that Sean was giving me a back rub and we couldn’t find the remote.
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Zoe Tanner (Sophie Nélisse) is a beautiful young heiress, her father just having died and left her an enormous stake in a company she wants nothing to do with – and boy does her father’s widow, Rima, agree. Sam Carlson (Noomi Rapace), a counter-terrorism expert and bodyguard, is newly hired to be her close protection officer, but isn’t thrilled to be working for a spoiled little rich girl with mommy issues.

Director Vicky Jewson opens the film with a gripping scene: a gun fight erupts in the open desert of Morocco, and Sam and Zoe barely escape with their lives. Cue a Kate Bush cover and some stylish opening credits.

Sam and Zoe may  not particularly like each other, but a violent and persistent kidnap mv5bytjmy2m1zjytntq0mc00zjm2lwi0ztutntqxnwzkn2e4mmy4xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntc5otmwotq@._v1_plot will ensure that they depend on each other for survival. Zoe’s led a pampered life and is in the habit of sleeping with her bodyguards, but this time Sam is determined to teach her to fight back. And there’s no better time: though freshly bereaved, Zoe’s own stepmother Rima (Indira Varma) is more concerned with appeasing the shareholders than any rescue efforts. Not only are Sam and Zoe on their own in the middle of Casablanca, Rima may prefer if Zoe never returns since she’s a little bitter that her dead husband left the mining company to his spoiled daughter rather than to her.

Vicky Jewson is close to getting this right. Noomi Rapace gets us 90% of the way there of course, kicking butt, doing her own stunts, excelling in exactly this type of role. But Close just can’t live up to its bruised and battered star. It falls back on familiar action movie tropes and the action-filled pace doesn’t give itself a lot of room for exploring the interesting character developments that might have been. However, the movie is well-executed; Close looks and feels legit. So if you’re a fan of international thrillers or just strong female leads generally (this movie is inspired by real-life bodyguard Jacquie Davis), then you might just give this a chance.

 

 

 

 

Abducted in Plain Sight

OH MY GOD!

If you love true crime, you need to stop what you’re doing right now and run, don’t walk, run to your nearest Netflix portal.

Abducted In Plain Sight is about a pedophile who cozied up to a nice suburban family in order to have access to their young daughter, Jan. Lots of pedophiles know that you catch more flies with honey, and this guy was the whole damn hive. Apparently charming as hell, the “fun dad” from across the street, “B” would do mv5bnjk3njfjyzatmgizzi00ywnkltgymzatmmu2zdvlmjc5zdazxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndm3mtm2nza@._v1_sy1000_sx750_al_anything to get close to Jan, and Jan’s parents were naive and trusting and just plain dumb. I mean, dumb enough that they BOTH had their own sexual relationships with this man when all the while all he cared about was screwing their kid. Which they basically invited to happen as they allowed him to sleep beside her in her bed because he asked nicely.

He kidnaps her eventually, and I’m not sure why since he had such cushy, unfettered access to her even in her own home, but he clearly had this elaborate hoax ready and was intent on seeing in through. He gets aliens in on the scheme, and a winnebago in Mexico. It’s pretty sordid stuff. But eventually Jan is returned home, months later, and apparently married to this guy even though she’s all of 12, and the parents drop all charges. But they don’t understand how brain-washed Jan is, and how motivated B is to continue their relationship. It just goes on and on and on. I guarantee you you’ll scream at your TV. How could any parent be this stupid, this cavalier with their daughter’s body, her well-being?

This film is bananas. You can’t and don’t want to believe it’s true, and yet here is Jan, all grown up, very neatly and intelligently laying the story out for us. And even more amazing than her survival is her forgiveness of her parents who failed her on pretty much every level a parent can, and then when they ran out of ways to fuck her over, they went ahead and invented some more for good measure.  And the film goes out of its way to assure us that THESE ARE GOOD PEOPLE. Sure they are. But…but what the hell? How could this happen? Honestly, this story is so crazy you’ll need to hear it from Jan’s own lips to believe it, and then you’ll need to scrub your brains out with soap just to go on with your life because seriously dudes, WHAT THE HELL? You could make a legit drinking game out of just seeing how many times you mumble WHAT THE FUCK while watching this thing. It’s only 90 minutes long BUT YOU WILL DIE OF ALCOHOL POISONING FOR SURE.

I CAN’T EVEN with this review. It’s been a few days but I’m still reeling, and still really wanting to subject as many people as I can to this, because I shouldn’t have to experience this haunting on my own.

Far From The Tree

Early in the documentary Far From The Tree, Andrew Solomon says of the book he wrote by the same name “In telling these stories, I was investigating the very nature of family itself.” What he researched, and what the film explores, is children who are very different from their families, and the impact this has in their homes. Solomon grew up gay in a household that believed homosexuality was a sin. He was rejected by his mother.

The documentary, by Rachel Dretzin, visits with 5 families. Jason is a 41 year old man who loves Frozen and has Down Syndrome while his parents of course do not. He lives with a couple of roommates (the Three Musketeers, they call themselves) and a caregiver, but spends a lot of time with his mother. He grew up something of a celebrity, the poster child for “retarded” kids who could learn to read and write and socialize beyond what was normally credited to them. Jack is a 13 year old kid who has severe autism. He doesn’t speak but he’s clearly very intelligent. Though he has little control over his body, he has overcome numerous obstacles just to communicate with his parents. Loini is a bubbly 23 year old woman with dwarfism whose only wish is to be more independent. A convention where she’s finally able to meet other little people is like a welcome eye-opener; finally, someone understands. Leah and Joe are a married couple, both with dwarfism, who give birth to a baby with normal stature. What will parenting be like with a child who quickly outgrows you?

Though these “differences” in the children are nothing more than anomalies of nature, many parents originally blame themselves or feel some sort of guilt – was it a medication taken during pregnancy? a lack of sleep? the bed rest? The film, however, doesn’t give blame any space. Instead it shows parents going to great lengths just to connect with children they don’t necessarily relate to. The paths to love are in many ways the same (Jason’s mom recalls being told that her newborn was a “mongoloid” and that it was best to remove him to an institution immediately, “before a bond could occur” – while of course Jason’s mom had loved him since the moment she learned she was pregnant). In order to thrive as a family,these parents have become devoted to finding ways to connect with children they don’t necessarily relate to but love nonetheless. Love just as much. Leah and Joe talk about how they love each other for their “isms” (dwarfism) not despite them. I can see how this would be a balm to Solomon, who never got that from his own mother. That we can indeed have meaningful relationships with people who are not like us.

The last family (have you realized yet that I’ve only listed 4 of 5?) is a bit different. Their son, Trevor, murdered an 8 year old boy when he was just 16 himself. Can we still apply the lessons we’ve learned from the previous families to him? Can we accept that this is just how he was born, can we not blame his parents for who is he? Certainly, his situation is much different. Perhaps he was born with violent tendencies. Psychopathy may even be hereditary. But murder is still a choice, while Down Syndrome is not. The documentary takes up the same position though: that Trevor’s parents are not to blame. They’re still his mom and dad, they still love him, they still struggle to keep their family intact. But after falling in love with Jason, and having your heart melt over Jack, Trevor is a challenge. Can we, the audience, find the same empathy? Are we meant to?

I like a documentary that challenges me, and lining up Trevor besides these other individuals is indeed a test.  I don’t believe it’s pass or fail, but we’ve all got room for improvement, and if this kind of confrontation leads to more empathy, it can’t be a bad thing.

Angus, Thongs, and Perfect Snogging

I suppose it’s inevitable that I’ve failed to relate to this coming of age comedy about a young girl in high school who’s utterly obsessed with snogging. More alienating than the age difference is my absolute distaste for the word snogging, which is repeated so often in the film that my stomach acid has stripped away the mucus lining of my throat after throwing up in my mouth so frequently.

In fact, I do not care at all for kissing in films because I really cannot abide the sound effects attributed to it. You can hear the spit. It’s all spit. It’s slurpy and damp and you can just hear the strings of saliva between open, bacteria-ridden mouths. It grosses me the fuck out. Which is weird because I don’t really mind it in person. But as in many things, real-life kissing is almost nothing like movie kissing, and if done reasonably well, and MV5BMTM0MDQ2MDgyMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzc2NDkxMw@@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1503,1000_AL_with the avoidance of too much tooth contact, it’s never nearly as noisy. So I already know that I hate kissing scenes in movies. And poor Georgia wants nothing more than kissing all the time. Scratch that. She wants snogging, because she’s British and therefore had to come  up with a gross word for it that ruins it for the rest of us. I mean, first of all, snogging has always sounded to me like rather more than just kissing. In fact, it pretty much sounds like the whole enchilada. The whole kit and caboodle. But no, snogging is what twerpy little teenage girls do to the backs of their hands at sleepovers and such. Georgia is sadly snog-free at this stage in her life, but she’s devoted herself (at the expense of school, friends, and family, naturally) to correcting this void. And wouldn’t you know it: the eminently dreamy Robbie moves to town, and is the perfect target for all her lusty fantasies (which mostly involve running uphill???).

Angus is just about the only thing that I don’t despise in the film. Angus is Georgia’s long-suffering cat. Normally I don’t go in for cats, but Angus tolerates dog-levels of indignity – tea parties, costumes, even getting pretend-lost so that Georgia and cat-loving Robbie can share a moment or two searching for him.

The other thing that director Gurinder Chadha gets right is casting a very young, very floppy-haired Aaron Taylor-Johnson (who of course isn’t going by that yet) as dreamboat Robbie. It is quite arresting to see him so young and smooth-faced in this film after so recently having seen him waggle his penis about in A Million Little Pieces, and bare the madness of his soul in Outlaw King. I know I complained about all the brutal horse murder in the latter, but it turns out that the slaughter of innocent animals is easier for me to cope with than the sound of perfect snogging.

All I Wish

Senna is an aspiring fashion designer who struggles professionally and romantically. What better time to drop in on her and assess her life than once a year on her birthday? Birthdays are a time to reflect, to take stock, to celebrate, and to mourn. We meet Senna (Sharon Stone) on her 46th birthday and follow her into her 50s. She doesn’t believe in marriage but wouldn’t mind finding love. She does believe in career, but hers hasn’t found her yet. Don’t worry about judging her too harshly – that’s what mothers (Ellen Burstyn) are for.

MV5BZDhiODdhOGUtMTMyMC00NGI3LThkY2UtNmI0MWUzZDRlZGFmXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzQ0MDUyMzg@._V1_SY999_SX1776_AL_On one of these occasions, we (and she) meet Adam (Tony Goldwyn), a straight-laced lawyer with a foot or two in his mouth. They seem like a classic case of opposites attract until one too many birthdays go by without a ring, and Senna’s carefully composed facade cracks, exposing all her inner most birthday wishes – and they aren’t exactly what she’s been espousing this whole time.

Do you make a wish as you blow out your candles? People say that we have to hold our wish dear, keep it secret, or else it won’t come true. Perhaps that’s just a convenient way we have of not exposing ourselves, because, as Senna’s best friend Darla (Liza Lapira) puts it, wishes are an admission that something’s missing, that there’s a hole that needs to be filled.

Senna is a grown-ass white lady with a pretty cushy life, but no, not all of her wishes have come true. If she hasn’t learned that about life by her 46th birthday (*coughSharonStoneis60cough*), then there isn’t much hope for her. Now we’re just going through the motions to see what clever yet subtle way her mother has of lightly insulting her while pretending to lift her up.

Sharon Stone is kind of delightful, in a way that makes you miss her even as you’re watching her in this subpar rom-com, if that’s what this is supposed to be. It would be nice if she was given a vehicle more worthy, but All I Wish (also known as A Little Something For Your Birthday) isn’t it. She does her best to tongue the clunky dialogue and pave over the plot holes with her effervescence, but Sharon Stone alone is not enough frosting to make up for this disappointing piece of cake.

 

 

The Rebound

Like any good sports movie, The Rebound has an impressive training montage. The men push themselves to be stronger, go longer, play harder. They are fast, they are dedicated. They get up at ungodly hours to work out, and their grocery bills reflect their need to ‘feed the machine.’ But the stars of The Rebound aren’t your usual athletes.

In basketball, a rebound is when a player regains control of the ball after a shot is missed. It’s the second chance play. In the NWBA, the players contend with a different kind of rebound. It’s how a man picks himself up after a life-altering accident has left them paralyzed. The W stands for wheelchair.

This documentary follows a few key players on the Miami Heat Wheels as they push toward a national championship. But for the Wheels, it can never be as simple as playing well. Funding, for them, will always be an issue. The county gave them $2500 for the season when a trip to nationals alone will cost 11 grand. So between playing, traveling, and training, they’ll also be fund-raising.

Some of these men will discuss their accidents, and since many are a result of GSWs, they discuss, by extension, the need for gun control. Some of them are hoping to earn athletic scholarships for school. One is trying to break into the music industry. But they’re all really passionate about basketball, which is good, because when you’re strapped into a chair and careening at high-speeds on a court, the game looks brutal and dangerous. But they make it look easy. Physical, yes, but sometimes also surprisingly elegant.

Like lots of movies about sports, this documentary is about triumph over obstacles – it’s just that these athletes encounter challenges both on and off the courts.