Tag Archives: Renee Zellweger

TIFF19: Judy

In her late 40s, Judy Garland is down on her luck, near destitute in every way but loaded with debt, desperate to make just enough money to keep her kids with her but never quite sober enough to make it work. In America, her reputation for being unreliable practically a national headline. The real money is in London, but that’s a whole ocean away from her kids. But needs must.

The thing is, Judy’s demons are portable. They travel with her. Her engagements do not run smoothly. We flash back to her early days in the studio system, circa The Wizard of Oz. Studio head Louis B. Mayer is a total dick. He steals her childhood and replaces them with pills. Pills for everything: to pep her up, knock her out, thin her down, keep her going for 18 hour days. Judy’s addictions are traced with a very straight line back to these early days, before she’s even old enough to question them. Her parents practically sell her to the studio and she’s completely at the mercy of people who just want to exploit her.

But that voice, that talent, those unforgettable movies: it wasn’t Judy who got rich on them.

These shows, the London shows, are some of Judy’s last. She will be dead in 6 months, and the fact that she is waning is clear to all. A good day means a fantastic show: the legend is still in there somewhere. But there are bad days, and very bad shows.

Judy is not a biopic, it’s a very small sliver taken mostly from the end of her life. It is 0% glamour. This movie is a performance piece. It is a 100% ‘for your consideration’ love letter to the Academy for Renee Zellweger to be considered for her Oscar, please (in fact, she’s already got a Best Supporting, but rumour is, it’s a little lonely up there on her mantelpiece).

I never quite forgot that I was watching Renee, but I did often see Judy (and Sean, being less familiar with Judy, saw Liza), so she was doing something right. She was doing a LOT right: she channels Judy’s voice, singing more so than speaking. And she nails the spastic mannerisms of a pill-popper, jerking painfully across the screen. The total effect is an awful lot of sympathy for an icon who really just wanted to be a regular woman. But if you’re not a fan of Judy, there may not be much there for you. There isn’t a plot. There’s mostly just going to and from the venue, with gin and tonics in between. Is it a great, meaty role, well performed, with much to be admired? Absolutely, taking up so much space it leaves room for little else.

Here And Now

Vivienne (Sarah Jessica Parker) is a New York singer grateful to have made her living with music. She’s got a new album coming out and is embarking on a new tour, even if tickets aren’t selling as briskly as they used to. But a grim diagnosis from her doctor has her wandering around the city, lost in thought.

The whole movie takes place on this one bleak day. She’s introspective, pinballing between gratitude for the life she’s lived and regret for all the sacrifices she’s made in order to live it. A teenager daughter who’s been left in the care of her father (Simon Baker) is first among them. A visit from her critical, overbearing mother (Jacqueline Bisset) is ill-timed. Updates from her manager and her only real friend (Common) keep things in perspective.

I actually kind of love movies like this, where we get to know a person very intimately on such a significant day. And New York City is such a great place for wandering souls, a beautiful backdrop for anguish and analysis. The pace is deliberately slow as Vivienne meanders around, mentally struggling to balance the demands in her life now that she’s staring down the barrel of her own mortality.

The film works best when its female characters are interacting, and evaluating the bonds between them. Other stuff works less well, which makes for a frustrating experience, since the movie is just too slow to allow for scenes that don’ work. But Parker is committed, and Renee Zellwegger makes a surprising and crucial appearance, so it’s not all bad. It’s just terribly uneven, which, in fairness, is probably true to any day on which you’ve just been told you’re facing an untimely death. But since you and I are going to go on living, we deserve to do it with better stories better told.

The Whole Truth

It’s possible that if Keanu doesn’t play a lawyer at least once per decade he’ll die. That’s the only reason I can think of to explain his casting as a lawyer ever, because he’s barely credible as the sandwich guy who delivers lunch to law firms.

hero_TheWholeTruth-2016-1In The Whole Truth, Keanu does indeed play a lawyer who is defending the son of a former colleague and longtime friend. The son is accused of killing his father, that very same former colleague and longtime friend. I’m sure Keanu would like to believe that his client is innocent, but his client isn’t talking. And his client’s mother (Renee Zellweger) is mostly weeping, and begging Keanu to save her son’s life.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who is above this material, plays a lawyer assigned to help Keanu, and be less of a dick in the courtroom than he is, which is a role that could have been fulfilled by Andy Dick or Jeremy Piven or goddamned Jim Belushi, who was actually busy playing the murder victim, but you catch my drift. It wasn’t a high bar.

Anyway. It’s derivative. It’s one of those “unravel the plot” movies probably based on a mystery novel only sold in drug stores. When “the whole truth” is finally revealed, you probably won’t be around to hear it, having already changed the channel, and you certainly won’t give a shit. The ending isn’t earned, it doesn’t pack a punch, it’s just a fart in the wind (is that a saying?).

I’m dubious, Keanu.

Romcoms, Curated By Batman

Apparently (Lego) Batman has a special fondness for cheesy romantic comedies. Sure the Dark Knight tends to enjoy a rather solitary existence, but he unwinds at the end of a long day by watching kiss-a-thons. For every baddie that he puts away, he likes to watch a good smooch. Nothing wrong with that.  In his new movie, currently out in theatres, several of his favourite love movies are highlighted, so here they are, to the best of my memory:

must-love-dogsMust Love Dogs: Poor Diane Lane is so love-starved that her family takes her new singlehood into their hands, fixing her up with an internet dating profile she doesn’t want, or necessarily know exists, but which insists that all suitors ‘must love dogs.’ This is a pretty good gambit because along comes John Cusack, with a borrowed dog and good intentions. And that’s okay since her dog – a Newfie named Mother Theresa – is also not technically hers. Thus a relationship is born from the ashes of lies and non-shared non-interests. Condom hi-jinks and some VERY suspicious coincidences: classic.

Serendipity: Two people, attached to others, nevertheless share dessert when they try to buy the same pair of cashmere gloves for Christmas. They part – reluctantly – but both return for missing items and spend more time together. It’s magical (ahem). But her phone number gets blown away in the wind, a bad sign, obviously, so he puts his info on a $5 bill, hers in a used book, and if the universe thinks they’re meant to be, they’ll find the info and live happily ever after. Did I mention it’s John Cusack again? Batman must have a thing for Johnny.

Marley & Me: Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson are newlyweds who work at competing 232247-marley-and-me-marley-gif.gifFlorida newspapers – she successfully, he decidedly not. When they think about starting a family, they adopt a dog instead, to test the waters. The puppy is incorrigible but provides fodder for a column and suddenly he has a career too. The babies come, eventually, and changes in home, work, and friends. Marley’s there through it all – but well all know dogs don’t live forever. I’m sure this one hits Batman right in the feels. Dogs are the one thing he likes more than John Cusack.

Jerry Maguire: A sports agent eventually falls in love with the single mother who absconds the firm with him. She supports him, he fails to appreciate her. She has the kind of life that previously horrified him. They separate. It’s quite pathetic until he realizes that she’s had a profound impact on his life and that he wants to be with her no matter what, at which time it becomes even more pathetic. You had me at hello, 10lb head, show me the money, etc: you betcha Batman quotes along with this one.


So, do you have much in common with Batman? Which one of these would pair well with a cuddle?

Queen Mimi

Director Yaniv Rokah is a barrista\wannabe actor in Santa Monica, where he encounters the woman who lives in the laundromat across the street.

Marie ‘Mimi’ Haist was born in 1925, married young and ‘obeyed’ her domineering husband. After 29 years of marriage she was left with nothing when he preferred his mistress. She was out on the streets in her 50s, homeless, spending her days in a renee-zellweger-062313-kiss-10__optlaundromat until one cold night a kind laundromat owner didn’t kick her out at closing time. She’s been living in Fox Laundry ever since – some 25 years now.

The documentary is pretty low-key about how the laundromat guy, Stan Fox, was really her saviour. Not just for letting her stay, but for knowing her story, and for putting up with her. She’s not exactly a picnic; if she doesn’t like you, you’ll know it. But if you show her kindness, she’s a blast. She doesn’t work for Stan Fox but she does work in the laundromat, undercutting his business and often making more money than the actual employees. She likes nothing better than putting on some tunes and dancing her head off.

She’s 88 years young in the film and dresses like she’s 12. Her face is one of years hard-lived. Her teeth are nonexistent. Her back hunched, perhaps a side effect of sleeping scrunched up in a lawn chair in a laundromat for so long.

You kind of have to watch this film. Queen Mimi is a character, one you’d hardly credit in a movie, and one you have to see in a documentary to believe. She’s got her philosophies, screen-shot-2013-09-24-at-2-05-59-pmher hard-won wisdom, and an outlook that’s totally unique. She’s cantankerous and whimsical and totally intolerant of homeless people (she doesn’t see the irony). And she has a knack for making famous friends: Zach Galifianakis has taken her to movie premieres (he met her while doing his laundry some 18 years ago), Renee Zellweger takes her shopping, and if you promise to keep a secret, Zach’s about to put her up in an apartment all her own. She hasn’t had a home since 1976.



What a fascinating portrait of a complex human being. We step over homeless people all the time, but everybody has a story, and this is Mimi’s. It’s heartening to see so many people rally around her, wonderful to see that people care. I kind of wish the same for all those lining the sidewalks.


Bridget Jones’s Baby

My biggest problem with the Bridget Jones series has always been with Bridget herself. I find her a bit insufferable. She’s whiny and vacuous and quite self-absorbed. I think she’s supposed to be relatable, but I always find her an insult to women everywhere. However, with both of my dreamboats Colin Firth and Hugh Grant on board, I couldn’t help but succumb to Bridget and her wanton ways.

In this newest incarnation, Hugh Grant is dead, and his cavernously-bridget-jones-gallery-01inadequate replacement is Patrick Dumpsey. I am very firmly NOT aboard the McDreamy train. I am on the station platform, eyebrow cocked, arms crossed, unamused ember in my eye, willing it to just get on with it already. Good riddance. The only thing I’ve known him from is Can’t Buy Me Love, and I’ve not been induced to rectify that. Still, I was unprepared for how astoundingly bad Dumpsey is in Bridget Jones’s Baby. Dear god. He’s really, really bad.

Bridget Jones, luckily, is a little more tolerable. Older now, she’s less obsessive about her weight (though this might be attributed to Renee Zellweger’s refusal to gain weight for the role), and accordingly more focused on her age. But 15-bridget-jones-baby_w529_h352she’s also got a nice social life and a good job, so she feels more well-rounded and less pathetic. Well done, feminism! And she isn’t whining and pining over two men, either. This time she’s chosen both, laid them both, and wound up pregnant. Who’s the daddy?

In a way it doesn’t matter. Bridget is 43 now, and more mature. She’s not man-hunting, she’s content to be by herself, to parent by herself. This message isn’t exactly served by the love fantasy it constantly alludes to. Firth’s character, actually called “Mr. Darcy” is every bit the prototypical Pride & Prejudice hero. Dumpsey gets a Cinderella storyline and does his best Prince Charming impression. Austen vs Disney: who would you choose? Bridget is as maddeningly flip-floppy as ever, but never mind. The real love story here is between Bridget and her baby, which is possibly the first thing this trilogy really gets right.


Shark Tale

You know how movies always come in pairs? White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen: same basic film. Dante’s Peak and Volcano: twins! Armaggeddon and Deep Impact: same damn thing. Antz and A Bug’s Life: why the hell not. Infamous and Capote: nominally two different films. Turner & Hooch\K-9. Platoon\Full Metal Jacket. The Truman Show\Ed TV. The Prestige\The Illusionist. No Strings Attached\Friends With Benefits. I could go on and likely so could you. Are the movie studios hoping you’ll see one instead of the other, or are they banking that if you liked one, you’ll like the other?

Or did Jeffrey Katzenberg steal an idea and take it with him when he left Disney? He’s been shark-taleaccused of that more than once, and that’s the theory behind Shark Tale conveniently riding on Finding Nemo’s coat tails. Both are animated movies dealing with outcast sharks befriending fish. Doesn’t that seem like quite the coincidence?

DreamWorks Animation has often been a step behind animation powerhouse Pixar, and in this case, Shark Tale isn’t exactly a bad movie, but it is the inferior one.

Oscar (voiced by Will Smith) is a small fish who dreams big. When a shark turns up dead at his feet (fin?) of course he takes the credit, and then the money and the fame that come along with being The Sharkslayer – everything he’s always wanted. Until some real sharks start threatening his reef and he’s the one that’s supposed to stop them.

There’s a tonne of voice talent on hand: Renee Zellweger, Angelina Jolie, Jack Black – butGang001.jpg my favourites were Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro, who recorded their lines together, and if you look carefully at their characters, you’ll see some tell-tale eyebrows and a distinguishing mole.

So why is it that this movie fails? Story, mostly. Pixar has this magical formula for making a children’s movie that still appeals to adults, and I think in striving for it, Dreamworks failed to hit either target. It’s fast and it’s colourful but it doesn’t seem to captivate kids the way that Finding Nemo did. And there’s no underlying truth and sweetness, so no reason for adults to really watch, except for the sharks-as-mafia bit that’s kind of a tired joke, and got the Italic Institute of America all riled up. But that’s not the only organization they pissed off: the Christian wackos over at the American Family Association (a nice euphemism for spouting pure hatred) decided 1that Lenny the Shark was a bad example to kids because his VEGETARIANISM was an allegory for HOMOSEXUALITY. Um, no comment.

The one thing this movie does get right is its soundtrack. But everything in between is forgettable and derivative. Even the animation doesn’t live up to the standard they set with Shrek. There’s no charm, and no whimsy. Would this movie be as ugly if it wasn’t always being compared to the pretty twin, Finding Nemo? Who knows. But it’s just not interesting enough for me to care.