Can You Ever Forgive Me? Waiting Too Long

What happens when life gets in the way of writing a review is correlative to the number of rabbit holes I go down researching the background of the film. Like, just now looking at the screenwriters of Can You Ever Forgive Me? I segued on to the co-writer Jeff Whitty who I discovered starred in a (faux?) documentary called Lisa Piccard is Famous….which was directed by one of my favorite actors of all time Griffin Dunne…so there goes the attention.

Ok, I’m back to focus. The other co-writer of Can You Ever Forgive Me? (new short title for the sake of my paltry typing skills: Me?) is Nicole Holofcener who also wrote some of my favorite indies Enough Said and Please Give.

Me?’s Director is Marielle Heller, who again, brushing off my skirt from that hole fall while reading about a small film she wrote and directed called Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015) that starred Kristen Wiig, which sounds very intriguing. Stating the obvious here, but just like there’s not enough time to write film review while ‘fresh in mind’, it is also impossible to watch all the movies I want nor the read the same in books.

What about the movie?, you’re screaming about now…ok, the film was very well done. Not perfect by any stretch in that it didn’t really match the genre description of ‘thriller’, though I guess you could make a case for the film in a OJ slow speed chase thriller type pace.

Melissa McCarthy is tremendous. You forget she’s a comedian when she becomes the real life frumpy failed bio writer, Lee Israel. Likewise and even more so in my opinion, with the defense of acting that pulled my heart strings was her sidekick, played at an Oscar nom level by Richard E. Grant. His work here had an air of Dick Van Dyke’s sad whimsical chimney sweep mixed with Greg Kinnear’s gay pathos in As Good As It Gets.

Also rans (a racing term) who impressed were Jane Curtain (aside aging well!) and Dolly Wells, who I swear I saw in a Todd Solondz film once…but no luck in that shallow internet quick hole dip.

While specifics are tough to name, I think I thought they went a little overboard in the gross factor in regards to Lee’s apartment…fly infestation, cat feces beneath the bed. Beyond that though, this film had memorable characters connecting on a very real and deeply nuanced way. If time permitted, I revisit this film, but I’m too busy obsessing about what I’ve yet to see at all. Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Beautiful Boy: Like Carson’s Carmac placing the envelope to my head

I haven’t read a review of Beautiful Boy, yet, preferring as usual to give my original take. But I will take a guess as to why the film only received 69% Rotten Tomatoes (77 Audience, always way smarter aka Bohemian Rhapsody). Envelope to my head like Carmac the Magnificent, I’m going to guess ‘too long’ and ‘too depressing’, but I think anyone would be hard pressed to do a Mel Brooks “Crystal Meth: The Musical”. If you’re patient enough to read my review, I promise to read some reviews and save you the trouble with a Post Script down below.

I actually am daughter to a Dad (no spoiler there) who annually winds up in the hospital with heart trouble. He’s had triple bypass, angioplasty, many stints of stents, etc. Still, he continues his wanton ways; multiple beers a night, horrific dietary practices: Pepsi for breakfast, gravy for lunch, some processed meat for dinner, with plenty of sugary goodies sprinkled in all day long. The long story short of that tale is that others are often aghast that I don’t go running to the hospital every time I get the call.

Watch Beautiful Boy for the full two hours and you’ll see Steve Carell’s character reach the same (I need to keep boundaries to keep my sanity) conclusion. He (in this case the he of the movie is the tremendously talented Timothy Chalamet) won’t change his habits so there is really no fan fare (which in the end only results in negative reinforcement) or hand wringing that can make someone change unhealthy behavior. Only you can prevent forest fires (or in this case, substance abuse).

Here’s what was wrong about the movie: it didn’t need to be two hours. The first 15 minutes were a weird kind of guessing game about who was related to who and a time line regarding Carell’s wife and children. We didn’t need that puzzle. As Gordy Hoffman taught us in BlueCat Screenwriting, get to a main conflict within the first 13 (or was it 10?) pages.

Also there wasn’t a clear explanation of his Timothy Hutton office visit. He seemed to be consulting the NY Times, then no, it was a doctor to do a NY Times article…then there’s a random scene (no explanation) of him at the Rolling Stone offices. Again, you don’t need to make the audience work to understand, unless you’re just padding the screenplay bra (when it should be au naturel).

Acting was top notch: Carell is unbelievable both in the past is several comedic roles and a wonder in this dramatically speaking, as he was in Foxcatcher. As previously mentioned Timothy Chalamet, elsewhere the swaggering handsome guy, or in Call Me By Your Name, the vulnerable college aged guy, was tremendous. What brave roles for both these guys who certainly must be able to call the shots on what films to do. Bravo to them for taking the time to spend on a real topic about real people. Gorgeous. the female roles while minor in scope, were beautifully done: Maura Tierney and Amy Ryan, both oozing with sincerity.

So I give Luke Davies (co-writer) and Felix Van Groeningen (co-writer and director) a pass on the few quibbles I have with the total picture. Felix, by the way, previously directed the movie Broken Circle Breakdown, and while it’s been years since I saw it, remember balling my eyes out. I expected to, but did not, cry at Beautiful Boy, though came close at the airport scene when Carrell tells his son he loves him more than everything. But then again, due to my daughterly experience, when at first I did run to the hospital and now merely blink, take a deep breath and go check on Grandma, I have come to the conclusion that my Dad is living the life he wants to lead, however reckless that it is, rather than choose change which while a relatively painful journey (facing his demons, denying his fat and sugar needs) would most probably reap deeper benefits. I’m ok and you will be, too, even after seeing this film.

POST SCRIPT: Wow, and you thought I was heartless, the reviewers ruthless….”messagey Oscar bait” and as Carmac predicted “exhausting”. That’s what addictive behavior becomes to those on the sidelines, honey..exhausting.

Check your bags at the door reviewers: Bohemian Rhapsody was an 11:)

While I know I’m hard on certain films and did take it down an angry notch after listening to others’ opinions of Old Man & a Gun, I CAN NOT BELIEVE the bitching and whining by the mass of critics regarding Bohemian Rhapsody. While I try not to read reviews before writing my own, and did not, my sweet co-worker Katia read some to me as we worked the book store counter. And I had already heard some of The View ladies (eye roll) bias, ‘you didn’t delve into the gay relationship or AIDS epidemic’, to whom I say, ‘what the heck are you talking about?’. Not only did the film dive into it, the screenwriters (Anthony McCarten and Peter Morgan) showed that in the early AIDS epidemic, people were a. in denial and b. super skeptical and ignorantly homophobic.

I also heard the reviewers think his marital relationship was not made complicated enough. Again, I totally disagree. He obviously loved his wife and was conflicted about his bisexual feelings. I’m really not sure why there’s such a backlash to this film.

But I’ll leave the judgments behind and tell you what I enjoyed. In contrast to the all too snappy quick Star is Born, director Bryan Singer allows scenes to breath and thus, we feel more for these people. While I will agree that like Star is Born, illness and alcoholism still don’t look real, again showing our society’s need to have pretty characters in film. Poor Matthew McConaughey probably thinks, ‘why did I knock myself out for Dallas Buyers’ Club’? Though the answer is Academy Award and fame and fortune. Let’s see if the Oscars like Rami Malek better than Bradley Cooper. God knows in this film at least, Rami wins the battle of the balladeers by a long shot.

While the other band members seemed a little bit plastic, I thought they did a decent job of portraying 4 different creative forces trying to hammer out the business side of things. I also was reminded of Love&Mercy in watching man made sound effects (vs. our current everything techno whoopdey do) and their beautiful influence on Queen’s tunes.

Note to self, rewrite my top 7 songs to include Bohemian Rhapsody, it’s pure genius.

And speaking of the song and movie title, while I have complained in the past about comedians anachronistically ending up in dramatic movies (Louis CK; Dave Chappelle), Mike Meyers actually had a reason to be here, having head banged his way through Bohemian Rhapsody in Wayne’s World. And to play such a Tom Cruise from Tropic Thunder douche bag managerial role was perfect.

This film was joyous and maybe that’s the trouble. We seem to be hooked on maudlin at this point in our country’s career. If you’re not hand wringing that the world’s going to end, then you’re frivolous and ‘obviously’ one of ‘them’. How about we all agree to enjoy a great rock concert which Bohemian Rhapsody most definitely is. If you can’t enjoy the pure ecstasy Freddie Mercury got from performing, then you really don’t understand the importance of music. In fact, instead of listening to one more political advertisement, put some headphones on and allow yourself to escape to Someone to Love and get back to me about how bad you feel. I swear it’ll lighten your load.

Is the Paint Dry Yet? The Old Man & the Gun

The most exciting thing about The Old Man & the Gun was Tom Waits in the one scene he was allowed to speak. He tells a funny story about his macho step-dad on Christmas Eve. The scene was unfortunately only five minutes out of the 1 hour and 33 minute running time.

So again, I channel Fred Willard in A Mighty Wind, “What Happened?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Of8JOVXYU0Q

Let me go out on a limb and say that perhaps Robert Redford is stoically coping with a debilitating disease. I have to give him props for not caring about Botox, but perhaps there’s something more sinister behind his lack of lines in this film. If this is so, and I hope its not, then the ‘last film’ is a heroic goodbye. If he does still have all his marbles, for shame Robert. And I say to you, Robert what I said to “Dan” (Daniel Day-Lewis), please do not end your career on THAT note. (the emasculating Phantom Thread)

When I saw Casey Affleck pop up, I thought, aw excellent, someone to hang on to, but nope, denied. They (David Lowry and David Grann, screenwriters) must’ve said to Casey, “hey we have a cinch of a film for you-come high, hungover and lacking energy and it’ll be great!” I can only assume here that the real detective was as lethargic as Casey acted. His detective makes Andy Griffith’s law enforcement look James Bond-like.

Toward the end of the film, there’s a montage of clips of the outlaw’s numerous escapes. Again, like the Tom Waites moment, I thought, why, oh why couldn’t we have focused on that? I’d even have taken Sissy Spacek (a weak horse riding love interest) taking the wall paper off her Victorian house and finding the signature of the man that built the house. Here you probably think, ‘ooh that’s sounds mysterious’ to which I reply, ‘Yes! And it shall remain so!’

Just to prove I haven’t jumped into a negative trough (going along with the supposed ‘iconic’ shot of Redford on a horse), here’s a list of all the positives in my life this week:
making my son laugh
talking to Tim about fun topics we like to discuss
my film class with Gus Mollasis
talking to my Grandmother
hanging out with Jack who makes me laugh
my empathic co-workers Andrea and Katia

So there, proof I remain balanced, yet still disappointed in The Old Man & the Gun.

“Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot”…Hmmm…

Ok, I usually have a strong opinion about a film, however, “Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot” is tricky.

Here is a two facts I do know:

One: Joaquin Phoenix should get nominated. Done. He is like Christian Bale was in The Fighter, transformed into being John Callahan. A very close absolute best, tied with his role in The Master, a PT Anderson masterpiece.

Two: Jonah Hill‘s performance is also magnificent, his best ever. He uses Gus Van Sant‘s (writer and director) material like a virtuoso conductor, making his understated role crescendo to a moving denouement.

My main difficulty with the film is the story, it’s more a sweet tribute piece then it is a narrative. I’d almost like to see another layer added to the film, like Van Sant’s reasoning for making the film, his learning about the man, what attracted him.

So a great rental, or if you’re a giant Joaquin fan like me, worth the $6 bucks admission.

Deer in the Headlights: Chappaquiddick

Guess I’ve been a bit of Ted Kennedy myself recently, deer in the headlights, sort of mired in thought. That’s actually a faulty analogy because I didn’t cause an accident that killed anyone. Just not sure where I’m going with projects and relationships.

But I digress. Chappaquiddick the film (directed by John Curran-the only other film I’ve seen of his is We Don’t Live Here Anymore which was rough, but worthy) is worth it’s 80 Rotten Tomatoes percentage points. Certainly not an upper, Chappaquiddick recounts the fatal accident in which Ted was driving and his female companion is drowned.

Here are two sides of a theory that I wonder what others think-possibly even would be Kennedy scholars who have read or know more…the movie wants us to believe that Mary Jo was a confidante and a champion of Teddy to reach higher politically without a sexual component. If this is true, did that make it easier for Ted to walk around in a stupor for 12 plus hours while his car lay upside down in the water?

On the other hand, let’s say the writers’ (Taylor Allen, Andrew Logan) simply left that out and Ted and Mary Jo were lovers. Would that have been more of a reason for Ted to want to avoid the controversy? It wasn’t just a girl drowned, but also a lover, given that he was married. The movie did seem to intimate that Ted really wanted the ‘boiler room girls’ at this party, but leaves it open for debate the reason, leaning more toward it simply being a family of Bobby supporters needing to get together to wax philosophical about past tragedy vs. future hope.

I won’t go further into the dehumanizing way many of these rich folks treated each other, watch the film to be shocked abut the nuances of that cut throat world.

I will mention the acting though of whom Jason Clarke hits it out of the park. He is definitely deserving of an Academy Award nom though that might just seem too morbid to be giving a nomination to man portraying a man who seemingly killed someone without caring. Bruce Dern was also fabulous a stroke victimized and emotionally abusive Papa Kennedy. Ed Helms is admirable as Teddy’s ‘friend’ and tool, Joseph Gargan, who according to the film, attempted several times to be the moral compass. I will research on whether he’s written a book on his thoughts about this tragic time.

An acting misfire that I will now call the LCK (for Louis CK in Trumbo) goes to Jim Gaffigan. Sure he makes a good bumbly chunky guy, but is just too anachronistic in a movie about tragedy. I kept thinking he was going to look at the camera and say, “Hot Pockets’.

So while I wrestle with the belief that people don’t need to see each other daily for closeness or monogamy, I obviously know if a friend or lover is in a life or death situation and you do nothing, you’re a scumbag, no matter what your last name may be.

Two Semi Oldies: Both Blue in Language and History

I recently watched two PPLL (Pre-Pension Library Loaners) and was surprised at their similarity regarding a legion of f-bombs. The two films also both have either a sad back or front story.

I took out Object of My Affection after starting a play reading class in which we started with one act by Wendy Wasserstein. While I had heard of her Pulitzer and Tony Award winning play The Heidi Chronicles, I didn’t know much abut her. She wrote the screenplay for The Object of My Affection (directed by Nicholas Hytner, who these days directs mostly National Theater Live productions). Wendy Wasserstein had a sad ending to her brief life (died of cancer at age 55 after having a baby late in life (49)).

In her honor I watched The Object of My Affection which despite it’s Rotten Tomatoes 49% was very real and well written. The only negatives I saw was the hacky saxophone music (like it was stuck in the 80’s still) and the acting. Both Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd meant well, but their performances were no match for the script’s verisimilitude. Which I think is rare, believing the words, but not the people speaking them. Again, a tribute to Wendy W. I will say something about solid acting in the film, too, and that was by John Pankow who has done mostly tv work as of late.

The second f-bomb laden film I watched was for totally different reasons. My favorite co-worker, Barry, and I are on a constant conversation about film. He has suggested mostly great films for me to watch. This latest, Auto Focus, directed by Paul Schrader (coming out next week with what looks like a blockbuster with called First Reformed), had its pluses and minuses. The sad front story here was the move’s focus of Bob Crane’s sad descent into drinking and sex addiction after hitting it big with Hogan Heroes.

The actors Greg Kinnear and Willem Dafoe were terrific, yet the movie felt a bit clunky. A little cliche in the beginning and downright uncomfortably cloying as far as their characters fascination with sex. Ironically, I realize what they did back in the early 70’s was nothing compared to the probable rampant porn addiction happening today.

I forgot to mention that Barry’s recommendation was partly due to our common fascination and admiration with Richard Dawson and how he is the person who introduced (unknowingly) Bob Crane to his future assassin, John Carpenter.

All in all, not a bad way to spend a few rainy afternoons in Sarasota.

Way Late to the Party: Bridge of Spies

What can I say? When Bridge of Spies came out I avoided it like the plague thinking it was a war movie, combined with the fact that Tom Hanks has become like chocolate cake. He looks good, tastes good, but gosh darn it, is he healthy to like so much? I felt the same way watching him in Bridge of Spies as I did watching Meryl Streep in August, Osage County, literally almost tearing up at the thought of the day when she (in this case, he) won’t be acting any longer.

But let’s not forget what brought me late to the part to begin with, and that is the majesty of Mark Rylance. If you enjoy dry British humor and have some time to kill, google his Tony Acceptance speeches (2008, 20011). Now I still say he didn’t deserve the Oscar as much as Tom Hardy did the same year for The Revenant, but I will say that I lust after his quiet demure attitude and handsome appearance.

The movie was not violent to my relief and I will always cherish the memory of viewing it with my Grandma and Dad. Not to mention, because Tom Hanks is always so good, I looked like the superstar for picking it out at the library. Thanks Tom!

By the Grace of God Go “I Tonya”

That’s it. I’m writing a card to my cousin Karen after seeing I, Tonya. To tell her how proud I am of her crawling her way out of a horrific upbringing, inspired by the terrible cards also dealt to Tonya Harding. My dear friend Carrie was nice enough to go to the movie and drive me home (via Jimmy John’s via stupid road closings since I had an intense post movie lettuce wrap craving).

Can I say how much more important I, Tonya is than Liam Neeson’s new stupid, ‘I gotta save the world’ movie is? I, Tonya is about a real human being, flawed due to a white trash upbringing, brought down according the movie by her abusive husband.

The move was disturbing, in a good way, as Carrie and I skipped (figuratively speaking) like we were seeing an elongated “Ice Skaters of Orange County” and what we got was basically The Fighter, only set on the west coast in Portland Oregon, where evidently, as in every city in America, children are abused and made to feel worthless enough to continue the cycle of dysfunction to marry abusive people.

It can happen to the best of us. All it takes is to feel discounted as a youth, to make you choose what feels ‘normal’ aka abuse. Trust me when I say I had to look away several times from the abuse in this film, and definitely had a flashback with the ‘you’re a Queen one day, and worthless the next’ second marriage. Don’t cry for me Argentina, I want no sympathy, only congratulations that I had my limit reached and now look back and wonder who the heck I was…besides a woman in love with a handsome, intelligent athlete who had to self-destruct every two weeks. As lonely as I am now, I know I am at peace.

I hear you saying, “excuse me honey, this is a film review”. Yes, yes, but this movie struck a nerve.

Acting: spot on. Alison Janey can play a mother of all sorts, comedic and in this case demonic. I’d give her an award for best supporting, though I think Laurie Metcalf showed more range in Lady Bird. Margot Robbie finally got my attention as a 3-d person and was excellent. Sebastian Stan came out of nowhere to blow me away as the douche bag husband. Craig Gillespie (though I couldn’t make it through Lars and the Real Girl did a brilliant job of directing) and the cinematographer Nicholas Karakatsanis deserves high high praise for camera work. I, Tonya appears to be his first noteworthy film.

My favorite scene was when you think Tonya is finally leaving her husband and the road trails off to a great 80’sound track cranked to evoke freedom. The soundtrack was a character in itself, everything from ZZ Top, to Fleetwood Mac to Supertramp, just great songs in all the right places.

If you can handle a lot of punching violence you’ll have no problems with I, Tonya. If you grew up in a small town that many people didn’t make it out of, you’ll also truly appreciate this movie. And if you’re a silly girl like me, who fell in love with the bad boy and got stuck in the whirlpool for while, you will definitely cringe and root for Tonya to disengage. I salute Tonya and my cousin Karen, two women who fought tooth and nail to overcome chronic negativity to hopefully live peaceful and happy lives.

A Solid Second Serve, Borg vs. McEnroe

So right off the bat I have to say Mea Culpa in being THE most biased reviewer when it comes to a film about John McEnroe (Borg vs. McEnroe directed by Janus Metz). See I’ve been in love with him since I was 17, had my bedroom wall plastered with his photos as a senior in high school, met him for an autograph in 1983, even loved his short lived interview show, and am still to this day, downright giddy when I see him commentating. I LOVE THIS MAN.

On the other hand, I may be the most biased against a film that stars Shia LaBeouf as John McEnroe. HOWEVER, Shia LaBeouf actually did a very good job portraying him. And I mean, very, very believable. My only nitpick is that McEnroe is a rocker (meaning in the physical self-soothing way) and in a scene where he’s on an interview Tonight Show like show, he sat perfectly still. That’s not Mac. But beyond that, excellent. And talk about kindred spirits…it’s no secret that Shia has been arrested a few times due to reckless behavior. I’d actually read Shia’s book about his obviously tortured past. I’d even help him edit (HINT, HINT).

The man who plays Borg could have easily been Borg’s son, or an identical clone that was cryogenically defrosted, Sverrir Gudnason. Not much acting involved besides pensive looks, but still, well done. And the man who’s in every Lars Von Trier film, Stellan Skarsgard, was also good as ‘the coach’.

The screenplay by Ronnie Sandahl (who won accolades for a foreign film called Under Dog) told each player’s back stories enough for us to understand their tremendous drive to be victor. And extra congrats to the man who did the musical score, Jonas Struck who not only saved, but refreshed re-watching a condensed 5 hour tennis match.

Definitely worth seeing on the big screen, especially if you’re a tennis fan. And thank you very much to my comedy editor and com padre, Bob, for treating me to this film, the finale of the Cineworld Film Fest sponsored by the Sarasota film Society.