On the Rocks, Conned this Rox

One of my top fifteen movies of all time is Lost in Translation, Sofia Coppola’s gorgeous ode to feeling misunderstood, captured perfectly by two different generations (Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson) who come together in a hotel bar.

So I went skipping to On the Rocks, Sofia’s newest using Bill Murray again, in a different self-aware cad role with the beautiful Rashida Jones as his Eyeore of a daughter.

If L.I.T. was about feeling misunderstood, On the Rocks is about feeling unappreciated. Rashida feels unappreciated by her husband, Marlon Wayans (pretty face, not an actor). Bill relates to the under appreciation having felt that ‘back in the day’ and consequently straying from Rashida’s mom.

Hence, Bill wants to help his daughter get ahead of the curve and find out if indeed Marlon is the cheater he (Bill) use to be.

Many missed opportunities: one being use Jenny Slate as more than just three funny cameos, two give Rashida’s character more pizzazz (I mean no wonder Marlon would be bored), three, the pivotal daughter-father showdown needed to be amped up to evoke emotion.

Fortunately for Sofia, Americans have been bludgeoned by Covid 19 and are so starved for movies that this looks good enough to rate an 87% on Rotten Tomatoes. In reality, however, this is a 72and a half (I’m averaging my film buddy Gus Mollasis’s 75 and my 70 here) at best.

Kajillion ways to improve Kajillionaire

I pat the couch like Sigmund and say, “Miranda, come sit over here. In fact, lay down and tell me what you wanted to communicate in this film.”

I really enjoyed Miranda July’s “Me You And Everyone We Know,” back when through lines were a thing. Kajillionaire was billed as a comedy, but if I laughed once, it was in delirium over how slow an hour and 36 minutes can actually feel.

A bit of an exaggeration. Yet Gina Rodriguez’s allure toward the grifter family didn’t make sense. Evan Rachel Wood seemed to be trying too hard to be weird, as was Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins. The movie just felt beneath them.

Evan Rachel Wood’s post tremor epiphany needed more explanation as to why she ignored Gina’s character, given that REW’s character had such an epiphany due to the child rearing and parent bonding classes she was taking.

Make us care more by not being so weird. Save that for a more capable eccentric, like Todd Solondz or Charlie Kaufman.

You Say Tommaso, I say Too Macho

Ok, I couldn’t resist the title, if anything, I felt for Willem Dafoe’s character to a point…

But first, let me say that Abel Ferrara’s a new director to me. I did not see The Bad Lieutenant, but did love Herzog’s sequel Bad Lieutenant Port of Call. From what I’ve read of Ferrara’s filmography, he’s too rough for me.

Dafoe has worked with Ferrara before and will be in his next project as well (Siberia) and my fandom of Dafoe means even in his dish washing scenes, I’m riveted. The man can do no wrong in my book. To be completely serious check out the Al Anon scene where he professes gratitude for the man who helped save him from drugs and alcohol.

And for the love of God, since the Oscars are going to be gutted anyway, let’s give a tiny white guy award just at the end for someone with a filmography that is so underappreciated in awards: The Lighthouse (come on!!) At Eternity’s Gate (what????) and The Florida Project (get out of town)…for those ALONE, come on up and grab your award Willem.

Back to our regularly scheduled review, Tommaso. Ok, the story is cinema verite’ and it’s tough to feel sorry for a rich director living with his 25 year younger girlfriend who has had his child* . Part of me of course is unsympathetic…a you reap what you sow mentality…meaning when you engage with a woman half your age (portrayed perfectly by Cristina Chiriac) and get verklempt that you have nothing in common, I say, I told ya so…

(*said child played by Abel’s daughter-please get her therapy now for scaring the hell out of her in one screaming scene)

Yet I appreciated the honesty of the film, that Ferrara doesn’t paint Dafoe as innocent. If anything, Dafoe’s character IS trying to insert himself into a family milieu with a woman who grew up without one.

Answer me this? Have you ever had a relationship where you were trying to recreate your parent’s marriage/relationship. My hand is up and in marriage two, I chose a volatile, somewhat infantile, yet extremely intelligent and sexy man, and I filled the role as spoiled woman who enjoyed the highs of occasional trophy boyfriend. I know, gross, you may be saying, but look in your own mirror and perhaps you’ll see where you also, recreated the familial scene (for better or for worse).

In Tommaso the young wife rejects her older companion, thus setting him up to be a enraged without ventilation, though certainly his dalliances with other woman are an outlet, justifiable to him, due to this rejection.

So the movie is deeper in that it makes me wonder, what do we want of our men? Do we really want them involved in child rearing, or would we prefer to have them just as financiers and protectors until the kids are out of the house….and by that time, we find ourselves different people who no longer fit together as we once did?

For this meditative thinking, Tommaso is worthy of watching, as the director allows us the quiet space to decide for ourselves, what is fantasy and intentional.

An Ironic Mutiny: The Ghost of Peter Sellers

Ironically, I abandoned ship on a movie that WASN’T about a ship, since Peter Medak’s doc
The Ghost of Peter Sellers
was poignant enough to keep me engaged. Realize, I rarely give up on a film anyway, but my increasing impatience with the distractions of home cinema is fraying my ability to make it to the finish line.

Peter Mendak idolized Peter Sellers, as anyone with comedic taste would, and was thrilled when he agreed to do a movie with him in 1973. Trouble is, between horrible weather, a budget that got out of control and Peter’s mental health, the movie was an entire unreleased failure. Mendak’s doc is his attempt to reconcile the guilt and to explain his rationale for going forward despite the many red flags or should I say, Jolly Roger flags that appeared.

The movie I DID pull the plug on had a really good review
Sorry I Missed You
and granted, it was well acted and by all rights, I should have done my due diligence of research on director Ken Loach, known for his socialist realism. Mind you, I am all for the working class, and know firsthand that employees can be exploited, especially now in desperate pandemic times, but I could only do 45 of the hour and 41 minutes. I am interested in how the movie ends, but it was just too bleak for me to continue.
The film has garnered BAFTA nominations and I was super impressed by all the actors especially Debbie Honeywood and Kris Hitchen as the married couple working their British fannies off to provide a living for their two children.

You Can’t Handle “The Truth” (2019), especially if you like tight screenplays

I am really confused by “The Truth”. How can the same man (Hirokazu Koreeda) who wrote and directed the BRILLIANT “Shoplifters” move on to a follow up of circuitous drivel like The Truth?

My guess is he has the bank to surround himself with the best actors, so he thought, let’s do this, even if it’s not fantastic.

I mean who doesn’t adore Catherine Deneuve? Or Juliette Binoche? Or Ethan Hawke?

The story has promise addressing a damaged mother and daughter relationship, but never really probes deep enough for impact.

Instead, the drab script just crinkles and falls apart like the dried up autumn leaves shown at the beginning and end of the film.

Gratitude and Genuflection for Driveways

My my my I felt sad when Brian Dennehy died, not that I was even that hip to his filmography, but he reminded me of my former father-in-law, a hard shelled exterior soft hearted interior Irish guy. And after seeing Driveways (fantastic screenplay written by Hannah Bos and Paul Thureen) directed by Andrew Ahn, I am in a combination of awe and mourning.

Driveways has already garnered a nomination for the Independent Spirit Best First Script Award. And I am hoping, flattening the curve willing, that Driveways will get a big screen release, not because the Hudson Valley shots are all that profound as this movie is more about the relationships among humans, yet the emotions are so large, they deserve a big screen to let them breathe. Jay Wadley’s poignant original music is also worth theater sized speakers.

Suffice to say I was teary eyed in the first 10 minutes as Lucas Jaye is an absolute marvel as the 9 year old boy who forms a friendship with neighbor Brian Dennehy. Likewise, Hong Chau, already nominated for a Golden Globe in Downsizing, portrays Lucas’s single mom with a realistic tenderness.

I am rooting for this film as I did last year’s Peanut Butter Falcon. For a mere 3.99 on Amazon Prime, watch it now, and then go see it again when it hits the cinema.

Abe: Reality After the Mirage

For a day or two, Rotten Tomatoes had Abe at 100% and in Covid times, that’s like walking the desert and seeing a fountain up ahead. By the time I got to said fountain aka Abe, the RT rating was at a much more sensible 71%.

And rightly so…
Is the story of Abe excellent fodder?
Battling relatives of different religions and nationalities is certainly intriguing and even if you’re a Wonder Bread white girl, you can still appreciate strife caused by differences in political opinions.

HOWEVER, take the same intrigue and then stretch it out like silly putty so that the images are now of the Circus mirror type, and you have how the four writers (too many cooks adage, SO apropos here) screwed up this script.

Noah Schnapp (the boy Abe) and Seu Jorge (Chico the chef) are super realistic and great, but besides the Uncle (I tried finding the actor on IMDB and I don’t know if he was ever named in the dang film and without photos, many actors are without them on Abe’s page, I can’t name the actor), ALL of the other family members are hack actors. Or were given the Circus mirror of a script and seem like hack actors.

I was moved by Abe’s story and the neglect form his rather ignorant parents who seemed so blase’ about most everything, but then would clamp down on punishments hashtag #stupidparenting.

The other highlight was the soundtrack, a mix of Brazilian reggae fusion by Gui Amabis.

Another Adults Home Alone Feature: Aberdeen

In the rabbit hole of what to watch, I happened upon Aberdeen from 2000, written and directed by Hans Petter Moland (his most recent film was Out Stealing Horses [2019] which garnered several awards in Norway).

Aberdeen stars Lena Headey who I’m probably the only person on Earth who didn’t know who she was (Game of Thrones heart throb). Before knowing this, I thought admiringly, even as a binary, at her beauty AND even more importantly, her tremendous actress prowess.

Co-starring with Headey is an actor I’ve expressed admiration for in the past, Stellan Skarsgard (Good Will Hunting, a Lars Von Trier go-to and apparently a favorite of Moland also starring in the aforementioned Out Stealing Horses) does his usual yeoman’s job as Headey’s drunken Dad.

The movie had enough twists and turns to keep me entertained. Like other well done father daughter films (Toni Erdmann being my fave) this dysfunctional duo seems very realistic. Ian Hart puts in a nuanced show as Headye’s lover and Charlotte Rampling does her best with what’s she’s given, a la Dianne Weist in The Mule, a bedridden dying woman.

Worth a look if your home alone and need an adult drama.

William Nicholson’s Hope Gap, Mega Talent Takes Up All the Spaces

I was about to type William Nicholson where you been all my life, but never seeing The Gladiator #girlwhodoens’tlikeviolence, I did not know that this gent was previously Oscar nominated for best screenplay, as well as for Shadowlands which I did see suckerforalovestorywithanintrovert.

Ok, ok, enough hash tagging. How about a lecture instead? For the love of God, get out of your CNN, David Mueller fear hovel and go to the movies to see Hope Gap written and directed by the aforementioned.

You may not believe me, but ‘check the tape’ as they say in radio, since I spied how special Josh O’Connor was in Emma last week (not knowing he is already an award winner himself). Low and behold, in this film, he was the third leg of a highly talented triumvirate with Bill Nighy and Annette Bening.

This movie is for anyone who has ever been divorced, in fact, while wildly different in tone, (this is a super meditative and pensive film), it could have been called Divorce Story as a counterpoint to Bambauch’s Marriage Story.

I’m not going to ruin anything by giving away plot, suffice to say that this is a couple who divorces and the son is put very unfairly in the middle. I know I can relate to that, as well as trying very hard not to continue the pattern.

Go. See. This. Movie. And I already vote for Annette and Bill to get Oscar noms.

Glad It’s Night and The Two Popes

To finish off the Cine-World Film Festival at Burns Court Theater in Sarasota, the programmers showed The Two Popes, directed by Fernando Meirelles (The Constant Gardener) and written by Andrew McCarten (Theory of Everything and Bohemian Rhapsody).

The Two Popes, while a tiny bit bloated (chop off the first chaotic ten minutes), was charming and heart warming.

While rumored to be a Spotlight indictment of the Catholic Church, this is actually the antithesis, a hope that the Church is getting back in touch with human needs and pain partially due to the beauty of Pope Francis.

My Catholic exposure is not extensive (though I went through Pre-Cana to get married and agreed to raise my son Catholic) and The Two Popes taught me a lot about Catholicism in regards to how a pope is chosen and some of the politics involved with religion. I certainly was ignorant to Argentinian strife that the movie told in a perfect balance of angst without gratuitous violence (PRAISE JESUS!).

At its core The Two Popes reprises the famous adage: “it’s not about the religion it’s about the relationship.

The acting was tremendous. I can easily see Jonathan Pryce, who I had merely seen in The Wife when he’s done so much more, be nominated for an Oscar. And while Anthony Hopkins was great as well, after reading his Wiki page, have decided he might really be a cold hearted cannibal (ok a bit hyperbole) in hat he has basically disowned his only daughter. I realize there obviously might be much more to the story than any of us can know to judge.

Once this makes it normal run in Sarasota theaters, go see this. Definitely a well told story that not only teaches history, but humanity, too.