Tag Archives: Meryl Streep

The Post

In 1971, Kay Graham was the first of her kind, a female newspaper publisher, but she was never supposed to have the job. The Washington Post was part of the family business but her father passed it down not to her, but to her husband. But when her husband committed suicide, she stepped into shoes that had always been loafers, not heels.

Then, something amazing happens: someone leaks top secret documents that detail the Vietnam cover-up that spanned 4 U.S. presidents including the current one, Richard Nixon, who’s kind of a dick. The NY Times gets ahold of them but gets shut down by Tricky Dick and his cronies. The papers then filter down to The Washington Post, and Kay Graham has to decide whether she’s going to risk her little empire AND a serious prison sentence.

Interesting facts about Mrs. Graham: she was not a powerful business person, or used to MV5BMTg5Nzg3NjUzNV5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNTY5NzA1NDM@._V1_SX1500_CR0,0,1500,999_AL_being in charge. She’d never had another job. She was naturally meek, and kind of nervous. She was surrounded by assertive men, some of whom weren’t crazy to have her among their midst and certainly didn’t see her as an equal never mind a boss, and none of whom were shy about voicing their opinions. She was, however, an accomplished socialite, which in the city of Washington, means she counted many prominent politicians among her friends – and the particular politician at the epicenter of this scandal was among her closest. These facts are not to diminish her but to illustrate just how courageous she truly was to take the stance she did.

Newsflash: Steven Spielberg is a good director. Yeah, we already knew this, but this film had me noticing all kinds of little details that I admired greatly. This movie has the feel of a smart and sharp little indie; it’s taut and thrilling and lots of fun. It gets a little heavy-handed at times but its best moments are when it’s showing, not telling.

Maybe Spielberg’s greatest asset is his incredible ensemble cast. Tom Hanks is the fevered editor, and he’s flawless. Bob Odenkirk is stupendous as a hard-working investigative journalist. But of course it’s Meryl Streep who steals the show as Kay Graham. It’s not a showy role. Mrs. Graham is never the biggest personality in the room. She’s not commanding, but we are nevertheless riveted by Ms. Streep. Her shaking hands, her tremulous lip – we see how hard this for her, and so we admire her all the more for doing it.

You are not contractually allowed to write a review of this film without using the word “timely”. About a year ago, Nixon was down-graded to only the second most douche-baggiest president in history. Truth matters. The press belongs to the governed, not the governors. Support journalism. Subscribe to a newspaper, even if you read it online. One day they’ll be making movies about this time. But this is not just a news story, it’s also, of course, a nod to feminism. Mrs. Graham walks through a sea of secretaries before she’s admitted to the all-male floor of the New York Stock Exchange. She faces a Supreme Court that has never had a female Justice and wouldn’t for another decade. When someone says that Mrs. Graham’s father willing the family business to Kay’s husband says a lot about the man, Tom Hanks replies that actually, it says more about the time. So yeah, this is the movie we all need right now. It’s essential viewing. But even if wasn’t so “timely”, it’s so thoroughly peppered by exceptionally talented people that The Post is an easy recommendation and a damn fine film.


August: Osage County

Truth tellers: every family has one. They say mean shit and then hide behind its being “the truth” as if no harm ever came from telling the truth. But that’s not the truth. The truth is that the truth can be painful, can be private, and can be left unsaid. And as humans with emotional intelligence and self-control, we have no excuse not to hold back. My grandmother is a truth-teller, often leaving hurt feelings in the wake of her “plain-spokenness”.  I don’t always understand what has kept my grandparents together for 66 years (well, okay, probably Catholicism, and good old fashioned not believe in divorce), but my grandmother is not a pill-popper and my grandfather is not a suicidal alcoholic. So there’s that.

When Bev (Sam Shepard) goes missing, his wife Violet (Meryl Streep) rallies the troops. Daughter Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) is already there, always there, but it’s favoured daughter Barb (Julia Roberts) who really matters, who will make everything better when she arrives.

Favourites: every family has these too. Maybe it’s the one who reminds you most of yourself, or maybe the complete opposite. And maybe it changes over time, favouring the best achiever, and then the one who produces the most grandchildren, and then favouring the one who sticks closest to home. There isn’t always a rhyme or reason but we do seem to agree that we must never, ever admit it out loud. But your kids know, just the same as you knew it of your parents. It’s the way of life. Most people are just pretty good at being diplomatic about it.

Violet’s not. Violet’s pretty nasty about it. Ivy is the good one, but Barb is the favourite. Karen (Juliette Lewis) doesn’t really even figure, but it’s mostly nice when she shows up. And she does show up eventually, because her father’s bloated body is fished out of the river and now it’s not his disappearance they’re dealing with, it’s his death. The dynamic between the sisters is fragile, and with Violet twisted with grief and pills, she lets her truth flag fly. And you know how gets caught in the crossfire? Everyone.

The passing on of pain: Violet and her sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) were abused by their mother. Violet is so self-righteous about her own pain that she can’t fathom the pain she causes others, or she doesn’t think it rates. Violet is cruel to her daughters, and Mattie Fae can’t seem to stand her son Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch). That’s the way abuse works, it trickles down the generations. Is Barb messing up her own daughter, Jean (Abigail Breslin)? She’s suffering too.

Family secrets: What’s a family without its secrets? Maybe secrets are the cement that hold us all together. Only Ivy and Charles know they’re in love, despite being cousins. Only Mattie Fae knows that Ivy and Charles aren’t cousins, they’re siblings. Only Barb and her husband (Ewan McGregor) know they’re separated. Only the devoted nursemaid knows what Karen’t fiance is trying to do with Barb’s young daughter. And only Violet knows that Bev’s death was actually a suicide.

You’ve got to have nerves of steel to get through August: Osage County. The family drama is raw as fuck. But Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts put in incredibly strong performances amid a top-notch cast that never puts so much as a baby toe wrong. It’s note perfect, it’s just not pretty. A lifetime of pain is more poisonous than all the pills in the world. This film, based on a brilliant play by Tracy Letts, is a force.



2016: Year of the Fabulous Ladies

Goodness me, this year is flying by, and looking back at some of my favourite films, I’m seeing a trend. A trend toward women of a certain age. Over 50, let’s say; the women who have often been ignored by Hollywood (more than half of all female characters are well under 40, which is not true of men). And yet here they are, fierce and fabulous. I’m resisting calling them “older women” (perhaps it’s time for a new word?) because they are so much more than merely older. These are terrific women giving voice to characters that are rarely seen, and heard even less (women are given less and less dialogue as they age whereas middle-aged men get more).

Aging is a sin in Hollywood. You go from playing the ingénue to someone’s mom, and then you drop off the face of the earth unless you’re Betty White. Which you’re not. Hollywood casts young women into older roles –

Angelina Jolie once played Colin Farrell’s mother. She is one year older than he is. Amy Poehler played Rachel McAdams’ mother in Mean Girls despite only a 7 year age difference. Sally Field played Tom Hanks’ mother with just a decade between them – and having previously played his love interest! Toni Collette, aged 33, played Paul Dano’s mother when he was 22 (in Little Miss Sunshine). Laura Dern is just 9 years senior to her “daughter” Reese Witherspoon in Wild. Winona Ryder is just 5 years older than her Star Trek on-screen son, Zachary Quinto. That would be like Jonah Hill playing Miles Teller’s dad instead of his high school classmate. WTF?

All too many once-great actresses were abandoned by Hollywood when they hit 40. Where is Angela Bassett? Geena Davis? Joan Allen? Janet McTeer? We can’t save them all, but we vote with our dollars, by making sure that films like these find their audience:

Florence Foster Jenkins – Meryl Streep turns in an endearingly cringe-worthy performance. When she turned 40, she was offered THREE witch parts in the same year. THREE! She turned them all down.  “I just had a political sort of reaction against the concept of old women being 23F3E33000000578-2869426-image-a-28_1418262921292demonized and age being this horrifying, scary thing. I just didn’t like that. I didn’t like it when I was a little girl, I don’t like it now.”

Grandma – Lily Tomlin proves Grandmas come in all sorts of salty sizes. She’s as edgy and witty as ever. “I’ve been offered lots of [roles as] people’s grandmothers that are just the butt of a joke. Doddering with a track suit on. The object of humor, just as women or gay people were the object of humor through ridicule in earlier movies. That was an accepted target, use of someone of that age or that lifestyle.”

Eye in the Sky – Helen Mirren shows nerves of steel as the powerful head of a military operation. Mirren has called Hollywood’s ageist double standard “fucking outrageous.” “Even Shakespeare did that to us. As you get older, even the Shakespeare roles become [less substantial for older women] — that’s why we have to start stealing the men’s roles — doing like I did in “The Tempest,” [by changing the role of Prospero to] Prospera. And it’s great that a lot of women are doing Hamlet, doing “Henry V,” and I’m sure there will be a female Othello soon. And I love that. I think it’s absolutely great because, you know, why not?”

Youth – Jane Fonda has a small but scene-stealing role in this movie about finding meaning in your later years. “Ageism is alive and well. It is okay for

men to get older, because men become more desirable by being powerful. With women, it’s all about how we look. Men are very visual, they want young women. So, for us, it’s all about trying to stay young. I need to work, so I had some plastic surgery. It’s not like it’s too much, it’s not like you can’t see my wrinkles, right? But I think it probably bought me a decade of work.”

Lady in the Van – Maggie Smith gives life and dignity to a mysterious woman living in her van. “I’m always older than God in these parts now.” She played Wendy’s 92 year old grandmother in Steven Spielberg’s Hook and “I’ve been that ever since. They don’t need to make me up any more, I’m afraid. I’ve caught up with myself.”

I’ll See You In My Dreams – Blythe Danner tackles widowhood, retirement, and loneliness. “I remember Leslie Caron years ago saying she left Hollywood when she was 30 or 35 because that’s when roles disappear. That’s not the case anymore, there are better, three-dimensional roles for women of all ages. I’m 71 and I’ve been working more now and getting better roles than I did when I was younger.”

mary-todd-sally-field-lincolnHello My Name Is Doris – a riotous movie starring Sally Field, her first starring role in nearly 20 years. “They don’t write roles for women… and they certainly don’t write roles for women of age and women of color,” said Field. “Since the industry is run by men, men have a tendency to want to make stories about themselves and things they identify with. Then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Florence Foster Jenkins

Florence Foster Jenkins was a real woman, a patroness of the arts who supported almost all of New York’s musical endeavours and dedicated her life to her passion, singing. She was instructed by leading maestros and had orchestras and composers at her beck and call – her generous donations made sure of that.

Just one tiny hiccup: she couldn’t sing to save her life. Her singing was not unlike a dying florence-foster-jenkins-2016-meryl-streep.pngsquirrel’s trying to evacuate a burning building. Horrendous. But she had no flipping idea. Meryl Streep plays Florence with gusto. We all know Meryl can sing: she’s been in Mama Mia and Into The Woods. She’s got pipes. But in this movie she manages to unabashedly sound like someone took a hacksaw to those pipes and stuffed them full of gasoline-soaked rags. It’s stupendous. Her caterwauling never fails to get a laugh and it was amazing to me how long she could sustain that, how funny she could make the same joke, in slightly different, gutsy ways.

Hugh Grant plays Florence’s husband, St Clair, the man behind the “talent” who applauds her every croak and covers up the critics. Their love is tender but their relationship unique. It’s unusual to see a marriage so complex and interesting portrayed without judgement. Simon Helberg plays Mr. McMoon, the man engaged to be her accompanist. An able pianist, he struggles to attach his rising star to her pitiful performances, but it’s amazing how far money and connections will get you. Helberg, nearly unknown to me, creates a florence-foster-jenkins1memorable character of his own in the shadow of two much bigger leads, but he manages to earn his own laughs and distinguish himself.

Meryl Streep is an absolute star and she’ll be a big part of why you love this movie. She finds nuance in her tuneless moaning and clinches the laugh time and time again. I couldn’t help it, not that I must wanted to. And Hugh Grant is charming as ever, and dare I say, reaching beyond his usual repertoire to be worthy of The Streep. It works. They have a distinct, affectionate chemistry that you want to be a part of. Director Stephen Frears knows how to tell a sympathetic story without disempowering anyone.

I thought a lot about the American Idol contestants purposely selected for their awfulness so that we may bond in our mockery of them. Florence Foster Jenkins was a 1940s era William Hung. No one has ever had the courage or the temerity to tell her she’s bad, and so she persists, believing that she’s good. Maybe even great. But Streep pulls it off infectiously, plays delusional faith in herself with sweetness and not inconsiderable vulnerability.  And yet we anticipate her humiliation. Will she ever find out the truth? And who among us will be most devastated?

quote-some-may-say-that-i-couldn-t-sing-but-no-one-can-say-that-i-didn-t-sing-florence-foster-jenkins-78-98-56In truth, this film may not have a lot of staying power, unlike the lady herself who is remembered these 75 years later. She lived authentically, and those who loved her told the Good Lie. I was touched. Frears is careful to avoid cruelty, pushing the bounds of mockery and sincerity without ever overstepping, and so wins our respect. And frankly, so does Florence.


Ricki And The Disappointment

For better or worse, I hold Meryl Streep movies to a higher standard than the rest. Meryl Streep has become her own synonym for being a superb, kick-ass actress. She’s really the best we’ve got, and so you naturally want her to be good every time, and for the movie she’s in to be an appropriate vehicle. This one’s not.

On paper, it sounded almost promising: a young woman is devastated by the breakup of her marriage, and so her estranged mother who left the family to pursue a life of rock and roll is called in for back up. Might be fun to watch Meryl rock out, be a bit of a badass. We’ve heard Meryl sing show tunes (Into the Woods), disco (Mama Mia), country (A Prairie Home Companion) and the blues (Postcards from Reality). Why not rock? And why not throw in some stuff on aging, motherhood, second chances, redemption. Cast Meryl’s real-life daughter, Mamie Gummer (what a name to be saddled with!) and 80s pop relic Rick Springfield, and voila: a movie that practically makes itself. Right?

In reality: kind of a bore, kind of a chore.

We need to talk about Diablo Cody. She’s the wunderkind who gave us Juno, the hyper-verbal, weirdly anti-abortion, high school pregnancy film that took Hollywood by storm. But that was so 2007. Her attempts to replicate success have been…well, lackluster: Jennifer’s Body, Young Adult, and now this. I know it’s hard to let go, Hollywood, but like the only Rick Springfield hit you can name (Jessie’s Girl), it’s time to call Diablo Cody what she is: a one-hit wonder.

I kind of liked Meryl as Ricki, but I didn’t like Ricki, and nobody else should have either. Not her family, certainly. Rick Springfield (of all people) tells her early on: “It doesn’t matter if your kids love you or not. It’s not their job to love you. It’s your job to love them.” That feels like a full-circle moment – you know, that little piece of wisdom in a film that will eventually come back to our protagonist at the moment of truth so we can see how far she’s come. Yeah, someone should tell Diablo about that. Because what actually happens is: Ricki leaves her kids, again. Wallows in self-pity. Comes back only when someone else extends an olive branch and someone else makes a sacrifice, and even then, she manages to make someone else’s special day all about her. Character development? Growth? Um. Not here. But what we do get is a scintillating Diablo simile in which a human heart is compared to a Big Mac – you know, because neither ever spoils (?).

Meryl is great, and I enjoyed Kevin Kline as the ex-husband and Audra McDonald as the new wife and replacement mother, though found her criminally underused. Nothing against Meryl, obviously, but Audra’s a huge Broadway star so it felt a little odd to have her in a non-singing role in such a song-heavy movie. But the songs are only there to attempt to bring some cohesiveness to a movie that otherwise feels like a bunch of random scenes that felt like good ideas but had no real raison d’etre. The tone is…I’m waffling between inconsistent and non-existent. Am I feeling generous? Enh, not really.

I was bored, and I was frustrated. Is it an adequate time-waster? I suppose. It’s minimally offensive, although now that I think of it, Ricki is a Bush supporter, ostensibly because she “supports the troops” (there’s something to that, but we never really find out what – my hunch: cutting room floor) and opposes gay marriage (because people who abandon their children are paragons of family values) but in fact she also complains about the unlivable minimum wage which means she can’t afford to shop at the grocery store she works at. How and why is an aging rocker who dresses like a hooker at night court so goddamned conservative? Your guess is as good as mine. But is it all worth it just to hear Streep cover both Springstein AND Lady Gaga? Just maybe.


Just a few weeks ago, Canadians voted for “change” and for “sunny ways.” We elected a young Prime Minister with a famous last name and idealism still twinkling in his eyes. He was sworn in last week and presented us a cabinet that among other things, had gender parrity.


That’s right. Half men, half women. So of course the very first question journalists needed answered about this tall list of accomplished people was why “he went with gender equality” in his cabinet. Why? Why did he “go” with “gender equality.” Is that really a question you can still ask this day in age? Okay, you know what – it is. Because sadly, this is the first cabinet to achieve this status. But Trudeau seemed to agree in spirit, answering simply “Because it’s 2015” – a mic-drop response that was heard around the world.

But the fact remains that if a Prime Minister chooses a cabinet that has a representative amount of women in it, he’ll have to answer as to why.

Isn’t that incredible? And incredibly sad?

As you know, the boys were dragging me off to see Spectre this weekend, and James Bond is probably the human embodiment of the antithesis of gender equality. To correct the imbalance, Sean agreed to hit up Suffragette with me first, because he’s a 2015 kind of gentleman, even if his movie idols aren’t.

Suffragette focuses on some of the lesser known but pivotal “foot soldiers” of the early feminist movement in Britain. After 50 years of peaceful protest, the women have amped up their right-to-vote rhetoric and are ready to engage in civil disobedience for the cause.

suffCarey Mulligan plays a young woman who was born in a laundry facility and has worked there all her life, working herself raw and having her boss force himself on her just to earn a third what the men take home. And then it goes directly into the pocket of her husband to do with as he sees fit. Not a naturally political woman, she gets dragged into the movement almost unwillingly but once she’s there, you can bet that neither her boss nor her husband are pleased. But it’s the vitriol from her fellow women that’s most upsetting. She doesn’t know her place, and this upsets everyone.

And it’s also enough to have her freedom taken away, and her child too if she’s not careful, so AAantithese are pretty high stakes. The laws are against her – but that’s the point. She is subject to laws she’s not allowed to influence let alone make. Women were property or commodities and laws existed to keep them that way.

Helena Bonham Carter plays a semi-educated pharmacist who is not only a pillar of her community, but an agitator and grass-roots activist. She’s recruiting and planning things when it’s time to start smashing windows and bombing letter boxes. HBC played her part well, suffragetteinjecting a little back bone into the character while still ultimately being subject to her husband’s whims. Helena Bonham Carter is the real-life great-granddaughter of H.H. Asquith, who served as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1908 to 1916, during the height of the suffrage movement. He was of course a staunch opponent of votes for women.

Mulligan is the perfect choice for a young mother who goes through quite the character arc, from wife and labourer to militant feminist – of course, you might find that the first two under such terrible conditions would inspire desperate reactions from anyone. Brendan Gleeson and Meryl Streep also having juicy roles, though Streep’s there in little more than a cameo, she’s nevertheless the perfect choice for theimg095 down with man movement’s heroine, Mrs. Pankhurst (this is the little detail that got to me – that all of these brave, notable women were known only by their husband’s names, ie, Mrs. Pankhurst. It killed me). Streep is strong and steady as ever. All of this capable acting smooths over some of the flaws in film making. It’s not a perfect piece of art, but it is an important one, and it’s hard not to be stirred by it.

Women in Canada got the vote in 1916, for the most part. It was not granted in the province I layout.inddlive in until 1940. American women got the vote in 1920. Some women in the UK were granted the vote by 1918 but it wasn’t unconditionally granted until 1928. That’s less than 100 years ago: way too close for comfort. Is there a woman alive today who hasn’t wondered what it would have been like to live through that? To still be all that we are and yet to be so diminished in the eyes of the law – and society? It’s boggling. And yet, in 2015, when a Prime Minister hires women to work in his government at an equal rate that he hires men, he is still asked why.



The Giver

I read this book so enthusiastically, savouring each word, until the last few pages dumped me abruptly at the end feeling like I’d been robbed, liked Lowry simply hadn’t known how to deal with her little utopia, and so hadn’t.

When I saw that a movie was being released based on her novel, I was intrigued (Jeff Bridges! Meryl Streep!) but wary.giver

We follow Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) in his 12fth and 13th years. He lives in a community rebuilt after “the ruins” with a goal toward sameness. People’s memory of the past has been erased. They feel no pain but also no emotion.  Everyone is equal. Their lives are governed by strict rules that dictate everything from mealtime and career to partnership and procreation. When it’s Jonas’ turn to be assigned a role by the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep), he is selected to be the Receiver of Memories. Jeff Bridges is the Giver of Memories, and his job is to bear the weight of all mankind’s memories for his community, the good and the bad, and then pass them along to the next generation’s Receiver for safekeeping. The process is intoxicating to young Jonas, who has never felt snow, or known song, or seen joy. The Giver must take things slow, however, because more complex memories like war and vengeance and hatred must also be passed along, and the last time he tried to do this was to his own daughter (stunt-casting goes to: Taylor Swift) and she wasn’t up to the task.

Jonas starts to feel that it isn’t right keeping back all these memories but this is their way of life, and even his own friends and family are not easily convinced.

I find myself attracted to utopian-dystopian fantasy fiction. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is one of my all-time favourite anythings. The Giver, however, starts out promising only to disappoint, and the movie is no different – well, maybe it’s worse. Meryl Streep seems to be at half strength in this movie, no back story or motivation to give us a clue. Jeff Bridges mumbles through his part. The kids are uninteresting, including the so-called hero. Alexander Skarsgard seems a strange choice as Jonas’ father, doing unspeakable things unquestioningly. Taylor Swift pops up for a minute or two, cringingly, seemingly only as a great white hope to bring tween interest to the movie since it’s unclear who else to market to. Only Katie Holmes is well-cast as an empty, robotic stepford wife

Did I enjoy this movie at all? I apologize. I did not.


Into the Woods

woodsBased on the Stephen Sondheim musical, Into the Woods tells the story of a childless baker and his wife, cursed by a wicked witch to be barren forever but granted the chance to reverse the spell, if only they go into the woods to retrieve some special items for her. Their story intersects with the familiar Grimm Brothers’  tales of Little Red Riding Hood, Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Rapunzel.

Meryl Streep plays the witch and plays her beautifully. Director Rob Marshall knows she’s the linchpin and grants her the most spectacular entrances and exits. But it’s Emily Blunt in the role of the baker’s wife who feels like the heart bakerof the movie and Blunt really shines. She can make any line sound so natural, and her voice can only surprise you in the best way possible. She was nominated for a Golden Globe and deserves to be, possibly even more so that Streep (!). Anna Kendrick as Cinderella is comparatively disappointing. It’s always difficult for this reviewer to see past her donkey dentures, but her voice is up to the challenge, even I can admit that. But Cinderella just isn’t that exciting to watch (this problem was likely compounded by the inclusion of a preview for the new live-action Cinderella movie to be released in 2015 – my sister and I wrongly imagined some of those scenes as scenes from Into the Woods).


“I was raised to be charming, not sincere.”

There is a lot to recommend in this movie. The ensemble cast is spectacular. After their opening number, “Into the Woods” I felt like I should applaud.  And if you had doubts that Chris Pine could sing, let me assure you that he’s learned more than just a thing or two from Shatner along the way. Actually, our group quite enjoyed the scene between Pine’s Prince Charming (recycling his smug asshole look from Horrible Bosses 2) and Rapunzel’s Prince (Billy Magnussen, leatherclad) – the two men are singing about their respective woman-induced “Agony”, splashing about homoerotically in a waterfall, trying to out-macho each other, crotch-thursting, popping buttons to reveal increasingly deep vees of smooth, tanned chests, reminding us more of a duet between George Michael and Freddie Mercury than your typical fairy-tale princes. Delightfully tongue-in-cheek, you almost wished more of the movie could feel this way.


“Scrumptious carnality”

The sets are gorgeous, and no matter how many times our characters go into the woods, it never feels like they’re passing the same 5 trees, it’s a truly enchanted forest that creates a storybook look that’s fun to get lost in. And the fabulous Colleen Atwood heightens the visual gorging with a stunning array of costumes, including a suit that transforms a man into a mister wolf. Johnny Depp, playing the wolf, is lurking inside those woods, looking lupine and oily, putting out vibes that should warn us away. Although top-billed, Depp’s in the movie for maybe 5 minutes, but that’s more than enough to turn things pretty sour. How do I say this…I felt like I picked up on certain nuances in his song that I was uncomfortable with. As in: sexual innuendo. As in: the wolf would like to “eat” Little Red Riding Hood in more than one way. He’s an absolute creepster with a real pedophile’s mustache and his singing “Hello, Little Girl” will send shivers up your spine. He tells us there’s a “scrumptious carnality” about to be had, and maybe that works in the Broadway production, but it feels grossly inappropriate in this toned-down Disney version where the actress playing Red is indeed a little girl, much too young to be on the receiving end of this lascivious song. And when she starts responding that what they’re doing is new and scary but also kind of exciting, well…I wanted to slam on the brakes.

The characters wrap up their traditional story lines around the 80 minute mark – but wait! These poor schmucks don’t get their happily-ever-afters. The story continues. And I’m glad that the movie doesn’t end on Cinderella’s wedding day because I would have felt cheated. But 80 minutes of singing and skipping through the woods was about as much as I wanted. So the remaining third of the movie, which gets a hell of a lot darker, felt entirely too much. Streep delivers another great song but I was fed up with the inundation of special effects, my patience was waning, and it just felt like filler. My sister felt that since all the characters start (or continue) making selfish, morally ambiguous choices, she didn’t have anyone to pull for. She’s not wrong. My husband felt that the songs were not particularly catchy or memorable, and he’s not wrong either. I enjoyed the movie, enjoyed it quite a bit, it would be impossible not to given the sheer amount of talent (although I am wondering why all of that talent had to be white), but I’m not feeling it for Best Picture this year. Of course, I’m sure I said the same about Rob Marshall’s Chicago and we all know how that went.

Postcards From the Edge

FISHER-1-articleLargeDirector Mike Nichols helps Carrie Fisher brings her best-selling confessional novel to the big screen. Based on her own life (her mother is the fabulous Debbie Reynolds), Carrie writes about a middle-aged troubled movie star (another Oscar-nominated performance by Meryl Streep) who survives rehab only to be relegated to house-arrest with her overbearing, scene-stealing Hollywood-icon mother (Shirley MacLaine).

The thinly veiled rivalry between mother and daughter makes for some pretty unsettling tumblr_nimcjrvp631qzheh0o1_500confrontations. Fisher and Nichols are both Hollywood elite themselves, which means there’s plenty of in-jokes and winks to paper over the lack of depth in the plot. There are no real insights into addictions or family drama here, but there’s an emotional wallop that just may get you, if the sight of MacLaine’s shapely legs in a slitted red dress don’t get you first.

Melodrama has never looked so good: cinematographer Michael Ballhous does career-defining work here, while Nichols does his usual smug, detached thing over in the corner. Do either of these things save it from the inevitable clichés? Not really, but you’re more disposed to forgiving them.

If you can look past the scandal-free safety of the film, there’s a secondary cast to make up the difference: Dennis Quaid as the sleazy boyfriend, Gene Hackman as her demanding director, Richard Dreyfus as her sensitive doctor, and was that Annette Bening I saw? IMDB says you bet your balls it was! She’s whoring it up with cynicism and wit.

If you were a fan of the book, you’ll notice the film has lost its acerbic edge. It’s all about the comedy here, and even an almost-lethal trip to the ER for a good old-fashioned stomach-pumping can’t quell the chuckles. MacLaine and Streep shine through showbiz and show tunes, and if it’s a little shallow, it’s also a good dose of fun.