I was absolutely blown away by the trailer for Gaby Dellal’s new family drama about a teenager (Elle Fanning) who seeks signatures from both parents allowing her to begin the process of sex reassignment surgery. My only concern going in was how the currently trending topic of anything trans would be dealt with. Would it be sensationalized or exploitation? Would it struggle so hard to stay PC that it wouldn’t say anything at all? Would Dellal take advantage of all the press surrounding the subject matter to produce shameless and obvious Oscar bait?
All my fears were laid to rest almost immediately. Dellal introduced the film saying that About Ray was not a story about someone who was transgender. It’s a story about family. This turned out to be absolutely true. The three leads (including Naomi Watts and Susan Sarandon as Fanning’s mother and grandmother) don’t play one-dimensional symbols of courage. These characters- as well as their house- look completely lived-in. Having to adjust to thinking of their (grand)daughter as a (grand)son is only a small part of the story of this family’s bond and conflicts. Fanning, Sarandon, and Watts are more than up for the challenge. They even look like a family.
About Ray is complex and always entertaining (eliciting laughs from Sunday morning’s audience in almost every scene) and never preachy. See it.
Note: when we saw this movie at TIFF, it was called About Ray. Now that it’s finally hitting theatres May 5, it has been renamed ‘Three Generations.’
Matt wrote last week about the choices he made for his viewing pleasure (and hopefully your reading one) at the Toronto International Film Festival, slated to open with a bang (or rather, a star-studded screening of Demolition) on September 10.
I held mine back because the truth is, the TIFF selection process was not a fun one for me. TIFF has weird rules where it takes your money and then weeks later gives you a “randomly” selected window of just 60 minutes for making your choices – I’m seeing maybe 20 movies out of over 430, by my count, so that’s an awful lot of frantic sifting, choosing, replacing, and scheduling to do in just 60 minutes. It goes without saying that I was “randomly” selected to choose more than 24 hours later than Matt, which meant that a lot of my first, second, and third choices were “off-sale”. Off-sale doesn’t mean sold out, it means that they’re holding some tickets back for when they go on sale to the general public. And nothing against the general public, but I paid my oodles of money, I’m travelling in from out of town, and I don’t think it’s very nice or very fair to force me (since I’ve prepaid for tickets) to see movies that aren’t selling as well, when someone who pays a nominal $25 on the day of will have better luck than me.
I’ll stop my belly-aching now. We’re still pretty lucky to be going at all and I know that. So, without further whining about first world problems, my TIFF picks:
Demolition: I’m actually going to see this one with both Matt and Sean, so it’s a rarity, and I’m not only looking forward to seeing what director Jean-Marc Vallée can squeeze out of Jake Gyllenhaal, I also can’t wait to discuss it with my favourite movie-going friends.
The Lobster: This one is quirky as hell and right up my alley, and I never thought I’d be saying that about a Colin Farrell movie. Newly heartbroken, he checks into a hotel where he’s under the gun to find a mate within a super tight time period – or risk being turned into an animal and put out to pasture? It sounds more like a child’s drawing than a movie, but there you have it.
Eye in the Sky: We ‘re doing the red-carpet treatment of this one on Friday night, and Dame Helen Mirren is confirmed to attend. She’s looking less glamorous in the still from this movie, playing a Colonel who’s spent a long time tracking down a radicalized citizen who must be stopped. But when drone operator Aaron Paul reports that a small child has wandered into the kill zone, the team has to decide whether the casualty of this little girl is acceptable collateral damage. Yowza!
The Martian: You may know that I have been frothing about this movie for months now. I luuuurved the book and passed it along to all of my literate friends but then waved a flag of skepticism when I heard that a) it’s directed by Ridley Scott b) it’s a reteaming of Matt Damon and Jessica Chastain, lately seen together in Interstellar. But I hope hope HOPE that they “science the hell” out of this thing and blow my fucking socks off.
The Danish Girl: Eddie Redmayne is almost certainly in the running for a second Oscar for his portrayal of Lili Elbe, the 1920s Danish artist who was one of the first known recipients of sexual reassignment surgery. The trailer alone looks so lush that I’m drooping to see it – which is fortunate, because TIFF stuck me with TWO pairs of tickets to this. Woops! Anyone know someone who’s looking for a pair?
Freeheld: We’re seeing this one on flashy premiere night as well and will see both Julianne Moore and Ellen Page walk the red carpet. They star as a real-life couple from New Jersey who just want Moore’s pension to go to Page when Moore passes away. It was a huge case for LGBT rights and I’m betting that both of these ladies really bring it.
The Dressmaker: Funny story. I read this book recently, in anticipation of this movie. And I really, really liked it. Only: it’s about a young dressmaker who survives the sinking of the Titanic thanks to her wealthy employer. Knowing that Kate Winslet was set to star, I was shocked that she’d choose to go back to Titanic in this way. I mean, if anyone can put it off, it’s Winslet, but still. The more I read, the more I thought maybe she’s not playing the dressmaker, maybe she’s playing the plucky journalist. I still couldn’t believe the press wasn’t making a bigger deal out of this, but it wasn’t until I finished the book that I realized that I’d read the wrong Dressmaker. Same title, different author. Oopsie daisy again. But I’m confident this one’s good too, and it’s Kate Winslet, so we’re almost guaranteed to see boob.
Into the Forest: Here’s a movie that looks so familiar to me in the trailer that I believe I have read the book. I do not know for sure that it’s based on a book and I’m not looking it up. This way even I’ll be surprised (or, REALLY surprised!). Evan Rachel Wood and Ellen Page star as sisters who live in a remote cabin in the woods. The world is on the verge of the apocalypse and their location keeps them safe, but also leaves them vulnerable…
Anomalisa: This is the Charlie Kaufman-directed stop-motion animated ode to a motivational speaker and his bleak existence. I have no idea what to expect from it and that’s why I’m so crazy excited. It could go a lot of ways but no matter what, I do believe I’ll be seeing something special.
About Ray: Have you ever attended a red carpet event in the middle of the afternoon? Me neither! TIFF is so jam-packed with gliterry premieres that it starts packing them in at odd times just to get through them all. I’m tickled we got tickets to this (hard won, believe me) and I’m anxious to see if it’s as good as it looks, and if this and The Danish Girl will cancel each other out (though this one is also about a gender transition, it’s set in modern day, with Elle Fanning as the young woman who wants to be a young man, Naomi Watts as her mother, and Susan Sarandon as her mother.
Miss You Already: This might be a little too chick-flicky to be regular festival fare, but it’s Toni Collette so say what you want, but my ass will be in that seat at the ungodly hour of 8:45 in the goddamned morning. Toni and Drew Barrymore play lifelong friends whose friendship hits a bit of a roadbump when one discovers she’s pregnant just as the other gets a cancer diagnosis. Note to Sean: bring tissues, or an extra-absorbent shirt.
Maggie’s Plan: Starring the delightful Greta Gerwig, Maggie’s plan to have a baby on her own is derailed when she falls in love with a married man (Ethan Hawke) and destroys his relationship with his brilliant wife (Julianne Moore). I like Gerwig a whole lot but to be honest, I’m really wondering how this dynamic is going to work – and I’m super intrigued to find out how Bill Hader fits into the mix. Julianne Moore is going to be one busy lady at this festival!
The Family Fang: Directed by and starring Jason Bateman, he plays a brother to Nicole Kidman, both returning to the family home in search of their super-famous parents who seem to have disappeared. Jason Bateman is a little hit or miss for me but I committed on the off chance that the man playing his father – legendary Christopher MotherFucking Walken – might be in attendance. He’s not slated as far as I can tell, but I’d kick myself right in the sitter if he was and I wasn’t.
Legend: Tom Hardy plays real-life English gangsters. Yes, plural: the Kray twins. This dual role is getting a lot of buzz and since I seem to be mesmerized by Hardy in nearly everything he does, I’m super excited to check this one out.
Biggest TIFF regret: Missing Room. We’ll be back and forth between Ottawa and Toronto, but this particular movie only plays twice during the whole festival, and neither screening is on a day I’m there. I loved this book and am anxious to see the movie treatment. Good or bad, I want to pass judgement. I want to feast my little eyes. I am heartbroken to miss this one.
We still have some tickets to alocate. Any suggestions?
If you were in The Lobster hotel and failed to find a mate – what animal would you be turned into. Me? An otter. Definitely an otter.
We’ll be posting updates as we go, and be sure to check out our Twitter @assholemovies for photos of the red carpet premieres!
Wanderer’s timing has been spooky lately. The Assholes fly out to sunny California today and will be taking a road trip of our own on Sunday along the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway. Perfect time to be thinking of our favourite road trip movies.
Thelma and Louise (1991)– A road trip to a friend’s cabin in the mountains quickly goes off the rails for Thelma and Louise when Louise shoots an attempted rapist to death before they’ve even reached their destination. The trip goes from vacation to nightmare to something much more as the two realize they wouldn’t go back to their old lives even if they could. Nothing like the life of a fugitive to make you finally feel free.
Sideways (2004)– I made a deal with myself that I would only pick one Alexander Payne movie this week. As much as I love his last four movies- all road trip movies- Sideways was an easy decision, given that we will be doing a Napa Valley wine tour of our own tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll have more fun than Miles (Paul Giamatti), a depressed alcoholic and failed novelist. Sideways is a hopeful but often painful comedy that to this day still makes me feel a little guilty every time I order Merlot.
Due Date (2010)– Director Todd Phillips and star Zach Galifianakis’s follow-up to 2009’s The Hangover was highly anticipated and very disappointing to many but I have always stood by it. Galifianakis’ Ethan Tremblay and Robert Downey Jr.’s Peter Highman are forced to drive cross-country together after they’re both improbably kicked off an airplane. Both stars play off of each other beautifully and the gags mostly work but what I love is how the story is constructed around what’s going on in the lives of these two men instead of around a bunch of setpieces and jokes. Downey is particularly good as his performance hints at a more real pain than he has been able to manage even in his recent “dramas” like The Judge.
The March sisters. Being 1 of 4 sisters myself, I suppose I should relate more to them, but I do not. I’ve never had a warm or fuzzy feeling for these women, and I do not foresee one suddenly coming on.
In 1994, director Gillian Armstrong decided to cast 3 famous little women, and 1 unknown. I wonder if she just ran out of budget. As Meg March, Trini Alvarado comes from left field and does little to distinguish herself. Pay her no mind. We all know that Meg is not that important. It’s next in line Jo (Winona Ryder) who has set herself up as the head of sisters and all things, the playwright and boss. Little Beth (Claire Danes) is the retiring, sweet one. And of course there’s Amy (Kirsten Dunst), the youngest and the sauciest, always finding trouble to get into, such as bringing limes to school, and falling through the ice.
Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Kristen Dunst: can you get any more 90s than that lineup? Susan Sarandon plays their matriarch, ‘Marmee’ – a big name for giving her so very little to do. But this is not a story about mothers, it’s a story about sisters, and no story about sisters can be told without boys, which is why floppy-haired Christian Bale is installed next door, and he’s making some interesting acting choices. He seems to have decided to go with “effeminate Keanu Reeves” for his portrayal of Laurie.
This version is a perfectly acceptable adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s beloved story. So my beef is not so much with the movie, and I dare not say it’s with the novel, but I don’t care much for the story, which feels too precious and sappy to me. Which is the only reason I’m not freaking out about Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan reteaming. They’ve already been hard at work on Gerwig’s version of Little Women, with Ronan as Jo, of course. And Emma Watson and wholesome Meg and Eliza Scalen as boring Beth and Florence Pugh as a surprisingly elderly Amy. Oh, and Timothee Chalamet, of course, as Laurie. And Laura Dern as Marmee, and Meryl Streep as crazy ole Aunt March, so consider my heart irretrievably broken.
Melissa McCarthy plays Tammy, an unhappy woman in the middle of the worst day ever when we meet her. On her way to her crappy fast food job, she hits a deer and nearly totals her car. Late to work and bloodied from her accident, her manager fires her on the spot aaaaaand she doesn’t take it well. She makes less than a gracious exit; “burning bridges” comes to mind. She heads home only to find her husband engaged in some very bad behaviour. So naturally she decides to run away with grandmother (Susan Sarandon).
This movie is fun, and sometimes funny, but it’s never as funny as you’d hope. After all this is Melissa McCarthy. Her star shines pretty bright. She and her husband Ben Falcone wrote the script; she stars, he directs. But if they were given carte blanche, they wasted it. For two crazy funny people, they’ve hatched a pretty mediocre comedy here. McCarthy does her loudmouth thing. Sarandon is just not believable as an old granny despite the wig and bifocals meant to blunt her sensuality. It’s still Susan Sarandon, who is effing hot. The two make for an odd pair, and sometimes the relationship hits the right notes but other times it just feels sour. Kathy Bates almost steals the show as the kind of cousin who’s good to have around in a pinch.
I saw this movie and laughed. Lots of people must have – the critics didn’t care for it, but audiences turned it into a 100 million dollar hit. But I’m still not happy about it. First, because I think McCarthy is very smart and this kind of comedy demeans her. Second, because we keep seeing her do this “schtick” over and over: obnoxious fat girl with a dirty mouth. And the thing is, this is not the Melissa McCarthy I know and love. Lots of people came to know and appreciate her with the movie Bridesmaids, where she played another belching, awkward bull. But I know McCarthy from her Gilmore Girls days where she played an adorable chef and businesswoman named Sookie. She was sweet and charming and weird and FUNNY. Funny without it being crass, or referencing her weight, which, to the best of my knowledge, was a non-issue on the show. She was just a funny woman who looked like a lot of women do.
And now Hollywood has turned her into the female Chris Farley. She isn’t just a comic who happens to be fat, she’s a fat comedian. Her characters are fat, the kind of fat that is “gross” and should be laughed at. Do it once and it might be inspired, but make a career out of it and it starts to feel like exploitation. America loves to laugh at fat people. And fat women? Laughing at them is all they’re good for. And it looks like McCarthy is afraid of just that – that if she tried to just be Sandra Bullock’s sweet best friend, audiences wouldn’t buy it. How many times have you seen a fat woman in a movie who is not meant as the comic relief?
Often referred to as “America’s plus-size sweetheart,” Melissa McCarthy responds “It’s like I’m managing to achieve all this success in spite of my affliction.” And the thing is, I feel confident that she’s worth so much salt than she’s showing. We saw a tiny glimpse of her playing straight in St Vincent but that’s exactly the problem: unless they’re prepared to be raunchy cannon balls, a fat woman must be relegated to fat best friend, the one who never has a boyfriend of her own. A sad sack, unless she’s black, and then she’s sassy. But still alone and negligible.
Dear Melissa McCarthy: you are beautiful and talented and mega successful. You are so much better than this. Please stop playing a caricature! Your audience patiently awaits you,
The Big Wedding stars FOUR Oscar winners: Robert DeNiro, Diane Keaton, Susan Sarandon, and Robin Williams.
So the answer to the question is: at least 5. It takes at least 5 Oscar winners to save a piece of shit; four were definitely not enough.
The premise: a long-divorced couple (Keaton & DeNiro) have to pretend to still be married on the occasion of their adopted son’s wedding (Ben Barnes, white guy, not remotely Columbian, to Amanda Seyfried), to keep up appearances in front of his religious biological mother, who is visiting all the way from – you guessed it – Columbia.
Flimsy? You bet. It’s exactly the kind of role I hate to see Diane Keaton doing these days, and now she’s dragging Susan Sarandon down along with her (playing her former best friend and current flame of the ex-husband). Ladies at this stage in their career should not have to resort to slapstick.
Topher Grace and Katherine Heigl round out the cast as the two other unlucky-in-love kids, heaping contrived subplot onto contrived subplot. And then Robin Williams shows up as the drunk but devout Catholic priest who’s set to marry these two crazy kids, despite the racist protests of a soon-to-be in-law unfortunately named Muffin (beige grandbabies alert!). Um, haven’t we seen Robin play this exact thing before?
Anyway, you won’t think this movie is good, but if you’re in the right mood – like, in bed with a bad head cold, for example – you might find it…passable. Like, if it’s playing on TV and you can’t find the remote, you could do worse. And maybe you just need a little schmaltz in your life: nothing wrong with that. Don’t admit to it, maybe, but enjoy it with a bowl of popcorn, or maybe melty ice cream, because let’s face it: the movie itself is cheesy enough to clog your precious arteries.