Tag Archives: Jane Fonda

Book Club

Four smart and accomplished ladies have a friendly book club to “stimulate their minds.” But this month, frisky businesswoman Vivian (Jane Fonda) is suggesting Fifty Shades of Grey, which promises to stimulate something else. Sharon (Candice Bergen), a judge and voice of reason doubts it even qualifies as a book, but she is overruled and pretty soon they, along with Diane (Diane Keaton), recently widowed, and Carol (Mary Steenburgen), the only one who is happily married (or married at all, I suppose) are actually reading this month’s selection, which is apparently a pretty rare thing (sorry, Wild).

Fifty Shades of Grey offends me on many levels. Likely not on a prurient one. I can’t be sure though, since I’ve never read it. It offends me because it started out as porn fan fiction about Twilight, which is a book that already offends me for infantilizing MV5BMTU2MjYzMjY2MV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTYyNjM0NTM@._V1_SX1777_CR0,0,1777,743_AL_literature. But fan fiction should likely stay in the darkest corners of the internet, where it belongs. Instead, easily titillated people with low standards encouraged the author to change the names and publish it as a “book,” which I avoided on principle. Ditto when the movie(s) came out, and you know there aren’t many I miss reviewing, even the stinkers.

When I first heard about this one, I loved it immediately for the terrific ensemble cast, but I was really disappointed about the subject of their book club.  I think older women, and indeed all women, should be free to explore and own their sexuality, but it’s insulting and belittling that it’s come to this. Luckily, the toxic erotica is only the jumping off point, followed by a pretty harmless rom-com. Not a great one, but thanks to fabulous leading ladies, it can’t go completely wrong can it?

And it’s sort of nice to see these ladies getting to live, getting to flirt and travel and nurture friendships, getting to be things others than mothers and grandmothers, which are wonderful things of course but not the only thing. Aging is a sin in Hollywood, and women over 40 are largely viewed by the camera’s lens as sexless. Producers routinely cast young actresses in “old” roles (ie, a 28 year old Angelina Jolie playing 27 year old Colin Farrell’s mother). The year Meryl Streep turned 40 she was offered THREE different roles for a witch. In The First Wives Club, Goldie Hawn’s character explains “There are only three ages for women in Hollywood; ‘Babe’, ‘District Attorney’, and ‘Driving Ms. Daisy.'” In real life, women continue to be interesting, complex human beings at every age, and the stories we tell should reflect that. Book Club is not the answer we really need; it feels more like an extended sitcom episode. But I won’t deny that Bergen, Keaton, Steenburgen, and Fonda are thrilling to watch; they remain magnetic as ever. If I have to put up with a “lethargic pussy” joke I will, but I will continue to hope for better next time. Like maybe a little less glaring whiteness, for starters.

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Our Souls At Night

Actor-comedian Patton Oswalt lost his wife suddenly in April 2016. He was very vocal in his grief following her death so it took people by surprise when he announced his engagement barely a year later. Some were critical. I, however, wish him nothing but the best, and I’d wish the same for Sean if he were ever in the same spot. I know a little about love and grief, and how they are not mutually exclusive. I’d also never want Sean to feel lonely.

That’s how Louis (Robert Redford) and Addie (Jane Fonda) are feeling when we first meet them – lonely. Both of their spouses are long dead and they’ve each been leading pretty Fondasolitary existences up until Addie gets up the courage to ring Louis’s doorbell and invites herself in for a chat and a little proposal. Why not sleep together, she suggests. No, not sex. Sex doesn’t interest her. But the nights are long. Very long. Couldn’t they come to some arrangement? After thinking on it, he agrees, so off he goes in his best blue plaid shirt, to have a platonic sleepover with a neighbour he’s lived alongside for decades but never really known.

I’m often critical about movies starring senior citizens. So many feel demeaning, unworthy of their subjects, but I must admit, this new one from Netflix feels invigorating and authentic. Addie clearly has agency. They both have plenty to offer. Of course they’re not immune to aging but they’re also not done living, and that was fantastic to see on the big screen.

Jane Fonda and Robert Redford both accepted Lifetime Achievement awards here at the our-souls-at-night'-will-reunite-'barefoot-in-the-park'-stars-robert-redford-and-jane-fondaVenice Film Festival, in a ceremony preceding the screening of their new film. They’ve co-starred in movies before: The Chase (1966), Barefoot in the Park (1967), and The Electric Horseman (1979); this is their first in 38 years. To mark the occasion, Fonda said “It was fun to kiss him in my 20s and then to kiss him again in my almost-80s.” I have to say, it was fun for the audience, too. Yes, it’s great to see mature faces getting meaty roles, but you’re also getting a masterclass in acting. These two make it look easy. Their chemistry feels effortless.

nintchdbpict000349666861Of course, if you’re looking for classic, cheesy romance, this isn’t it. Louis and Addie are too wise for that. They have responsibilities, baggage, obligations. Kent Haruf, who wrote the novel upon which this film is based, knew a little about that. He wrote his book under a death sentence: he was 71, and he finished it just months before he died of lung cancer. The novel was published posthumously, so Louis and Addie are his legacy. Fonda and Redford would have made him proud.

This is an excellent movie from Netflix that will be available for streaming later this month.

Venice Film Festival

Sean and I are on our way to the Venice Film Festival (by way of Philadelphia, oddly enough). Founded in 1932, the Venice Film Festival is the world’s oldest. It has the distinction of being one of the “Big 3” alongside Cannes and Berlin, and also one of the three festivals that kick off Oscar season, alongside Telluride and of course TIFF (these three festivals occur nearly simultaneously, but Venice ekes them out by a hair).

venice-film-festivalThe very first film to be shown at the festival in 1932 was Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. A couple of years later they made it competitive, offering up the “Mussolini Cup” for best foreign film and best Italian film. [As you can guess, the festival underwent some bumpy times. Prior to 1938, political pressures distorted the festival. In the 1940s, there was pretty much a monopoly by movies and directors from the Rome-Berline Axis. But by 1946, things were back on track, the Mussolini Cup renamed once the dictator was ousted.] More recently, the prize takeaway is a Golden Lion (Leone d’Oro) for the best film screened in competition; the Silver Lion (Leone d’Argento) awarded to the best director; and Volpi Cups (Coppa Volpi) for best actor and actress. These are awarded via jury, this year presided by Annette Bening. Bening will be supported by Baby Driver director Edgar Wright; British actress Rebecca Hall; Hungarian filmmaker Ildiko Enyedi; Mexican filmmaker Michel Franco; French actress Anna Mouglalis; film critic David Stratton; Italian actress Jasmine Trinca; and michael-jackson-thriller-3d-billboard-EMBEDTaiwan-born filmmaker Yonfan. John Landis will preside a jury judging the virtual reality competition. He’s also debuting something of his own – a 3D version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller (also screening at TIFF).

The Jaeger-LeCoultre Glory to the Filmmaker Award is dedicated to personalities who have made a significant contribution to contemporary cinema. This year’s recipient is to be Stephen Frears, who is screening Victoria and Abul at the festival. Past honorees have included James Franco, Brian De Palma, Kitano Takeshi, and Spike Lee.

Venice holds a lot of prestige because it screens a lot of movies that make a big splash come awards season. Last year it hosted the world premieres for La La Land, Arrival, Jackie, and Nocturnal Animals — all of which would go on to either win or be nominated for Oscars (and all of which we saw a week later, at TIFF). What will this year’s Big Movie be? Hard to say, but Alexander Payne’s Downsizing is the festival’s opening film, and not to be missed.

osan_unit_02098_r_crop-embedActually, the programming is such that there are tonnes of not-to-be-missed films, including Netflix’s Our Souls At Night. Its stars, Jane Fonda and Robert Redford, will be receiving Lifetime Achievement Golden Lions at the September 1st screening.

As long as Sean and I can tear ourselves away from this beautiful Italian island, we’ll be watching several exciting titles and reviews will be plentiful. Matt will be heading off to TIFF almost as soon as we return from Venice, which means Assholes Watching Movies will runneth over with exciting new stuff. As always, please tune into our Twitter @assholemovies for live updates. Plan on seeing lots of gelato there.

This is Where I Leave You

When Judd (Jason Bateman) comes home to find his wife fucking his boss, he moves out and is blind-sided by another piece of good news: his dad’s dead. So he and his 3 grown siblings return to their childhood home and are manipulated by their mother, the fabulous Jane Fonda, to stay for a week under the same roof to sit Shiva.  306995id1b_TIWILY_INTL_27x40_1Sheet.indd

It’s been a long time since these people were all gathered together with nothing better to do than nit-pick each other’s lives and observe each other’s failures, and what with other mourners randomly dropping in with secrets and casseroles, there’s a whole mess of drama that unfolds.

I wanted to like this movie more than I did. There’s nothing really wrong with it, and it definitely has its moments, but you just expect more from such an all-star cast. Why assemble so much talent only to waste it? The source material is pretty strong, and if this movie (now on DVD!) catches you at the right moment, you may find yourself identifying with it. Not that your family is this crazy, because it’s not. But maybe because when you go home to grieve your father, you also find yourself grieving the dreams you’ve given up on, the person you never became, the opportunities you left behind. Unfortunately, director Shawn Levy doesn’t show a lot of maturity with what he chooses to present on film. If he’s this afraid to scratch beneath the surface, then maybe he should stick to soulless movies like Night at the Museum and let someone else helm movies about grownups.

You won’t hate this movie, but you’ll probably forget quicker than Jane Fonda can shake her big, plastic boobs.