The Barden Bellas from the first 2 movies are back, but they’ve been replaced. Having finally graduated from college, a new crop of girls is singing acapella at their alma matter and the old Bellas are feeling obsolete. Shitty jobs aren’t panning out and dreams are already broken, and the old Bellas are feeling obsolete (I know! Who would have guessed that majoring in mouth music wasn’t really the best life choice?!). A last ditch effort to reunite comes in an invitation to perform for the troops in a USO show and since the Bellas have literally nothing else going on (except for one unwanted pregnancy), off they go to a warn-torn Spanish resort hotel to do their part.
Now you might think that being in a war zone is the toughest part of this new chapter, but in fact, to the Bellas, because they’re not crazy AT ALL, the worst part is competing against bands that play instruments. How dare they! I thought college was supposed to prepare you for the real world but these ladies are literally not even prepared for guitars. Yeesh. (Not to give too much credit to the new “bands”, including Evermoist, led by Ruby Rose, because after seriously mocking the Bellas for being a “cover band”, it turns out they all do covers too! A Cranberries tribute is particularly poignant with the recent death of Dolores O’Riordan.)
Anyway. There was absolutely no call to make a third movie here, and the script strains so hard to justify itself you’ll want to buy it a squatty potty. If you absolutely must watch it, you’ll want to wait until it’s available at home, where you can fast-forward to all the Sia bits and avoid the inane “plot” (though you’ll want to hear John Lithgow sing with an Australian accent at least once, just to say you did). It’s pretty clear that this franchise needs to learn the same lesson the Bellas do: moving on is good.
Beatriz is a “healer” which is what people call themselves when they branch out from straight up massage. If you offer any two of the following in addition, you too are a practitioner of “holistic medicine”: meditation, yoga, reiki, consulting crystals, reading tea leaves, speaking to auras, tasting colours. Beatriz is all of the above (probably) and proud of it. And so when poor Kathy (Connie Britton) has had a long, stressful mid-afternoon of instructing servants on how to throw this evening’s dinner party, she of course calls her old pal Beatriz (Salma Hayek) to come cure her of tension and aching muscles by honouring the age-old method of rubbing them down with massage oil.
That would have made for a boring movie had Beatriz’s car started up as it should and allowed her to drive away afterward, but no. Beatriz’s piece of shit car did not start, and her friend can’t come fix it until much later, and presumably she’s too poor to have it towed, so Kathy extends a shaky, not-really invitation to dinner party since they’re “practically friends” and Beatriz accepts.
The dinner party is to celebrate some recent success in business: Doug (John Lithgow) is a titan of business and Jeana (Amy Landecker) is his third or fourth wife; Alex (Jay Duplass) is the young lawyer seeing his first taste of real money with this deal, and Shannon (Chloe Sevigny) his wife who could get used to this; and Kathy’s husband Grant (David Warshofsky) is the guy who put them all together. Now, there are two reasons this dinner and therefore this movie is interesting to watch. First, Kathy and Beatriz are not really “friends” and they’re both going to discover that in highly awkward ways. Second, Kathy and her dinner guests are conservatives who maybe sometimes think of themselves as better than that but really aren’t. It’s business (by which I mean money) first. And Beatriz is no wallflower. She’s pretty much the opposite of the kind of seventh wheel you’d want crashing your party. She’s not only going to speak up, she’s going to scream and shout, and maybe even cry.
It’s a pretty timely movie for the Trump era but it IS not a guide on how to survive. Beatriz blows shit up. She’s incendiary. Salma Hayek is fantastic. John Lithgow is fantastic. The only thing that’s not fantastic is the end. You’ll see.
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 decline 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.