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.

“Saint Frances” Blesses Us On Many Levels

As satisfyingly ‘fun’ Parasite was, what a refreshing change Saint Frances is to the violence of current cinema. St. Frances is also a shining light in a predominately moody selection currently showing at the Cine-World Film Fest (not counting A Faithful Man, but sorry Frenchies, you’re silly, not moving).

Saint Frances written by its star Kelly O’Sullivan (think younger Amy Schumer in humor or younger Kate McKinnon in looks) works on many levels. Pro-choice, pro-you-don’t-have-to-be-a-parent-to-be-a-great- life-contributor, pro-nebulous relationship status and anti-religion (on the latter, Catholicism’s the target, due to its self-shaming dogma).

The film’s subject matter in a nutshell: a woman ambiguous about children becomes nanny and forms a bond with the child of whom she’s in charge.

Poolling two men afterward, Vince, an astute lawyer from Canada and Robert (?) a local cinemaphile, both men confirmed that Saint Frances is not just a chick flick and enjoyed the film as much as me. Vince even wowed me by naming, without my prodding, I cross my heart, PEANUT BUTTER FALCON as his favorite movie of the year.

I know, FIRST: Willem Dafoe Best Actor, THEN: Peanut Butter Falcon Best Original Screenplay.

But back to Saint Frances…if it comes back for a longer run, go see this. And while O’Sullivan goes for dialogue and scene shock value with menstrual and abortion talk and blood (clearly redundant, and a bit insensitive and too frank at times), no one around me seemed offended in the slightest.

So what they hey, it’s an anything goes culture. Go see Saint Frances, directed by, in his first attempt at feature length, Alex Thompson, with cutie Kate Sullivan as lead, and super adorable and amazingly steady little 5 year old Ramona Edith-Williams.

Motherless Brooklyn; an orphan in this year’s films

I love Ed Norton. My admiration began in 1996 with “Primal Fear”, where his performance and shockingly cool twist ending made me say, ‘Wow’. From there, in Spike Lee’s super hip “25th Hour” with Philip Seymour Hoffman, moving on to his many Wes Anderson film performances.

But the real affection began watching his roast speech for Bruce Willis, when after many funny jokes, he teared up thanking him for his help in financing Motherless Brooklyn. On recent podcast appearances, I wanted to jump through my lap top and give him a hug for his sincere commentary of the giant harm cell phone distraction does to humanistic values.

So I skipped into Motherless Brooklyn, loving Ed, though somewhat warily having been non-plussed with the trailer I had seen.

Here’s the deal: Motherless Brooklyn is a good movie and is validation or should I say incrimination of Robert Moses’s hand (and shovels) in tearing down African-American residences to build his sanitized white people parks and highways. Bravo for that indictment.

And a usual, Ed Norton as the Tourette’s syndrome lackey turned private eye was perfection. As was his stellar cast: Alec Baldwin as “Moses”, my G.O.A.T. Willem Dafoe, and a Sarasota grad Dallas Roberts who had strong presence as one of the other lackeys. To round out the cast: two fine women: a newbie actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Cherry Jones all contributing to a solid story.

The cinematography was amazing in certain sections: jazz club, pool scenes, Brooklyn Bridge scenes.

You’re waiting for my ‘but’ and here it is: BUT, the movie overall was too dark and bleak both in color and tone. I hate to be the one to say, the book is better, but there, I said it. Only because in the novel by Jonathan Lethem, the Ed’s Tourette’s sufferer has a beautiful back story of being taken in as a tormented orphan by Bruce Willis (not in the movie long enough to stand out) AND in a related novel subplot point, Ed attempts painstakingly to call all the names in the 1950’s phone book thinking he wants to reconnect with the parents who abandoned him. If these two super poignant parts plus another which would have involved more Leslie Mann into nearly seducing Ed’s vulnerable character would have added light and spice to the film.

Instead we are left with a neo-noir which is just too flat and run of the mill. I still love Ed Norton and totally understand his need to make this more historical fiction. Not a failure in any measure.

Just like 1981: Colette

Funny, when I looked up the 1981 Commodore’s song Lady (You Bring Me Up), a commented posted under the YouTube video said, “Back when it all still made sense”. Amen, brother!

But I’ve actually had a couple of 1981 experiences that made perfect ‘sense’ this past week. First was dancing to “Lady, You Bring Me Up” and feeling like a kid again. In fact, all the Lionel Richie songs remind me of college (and/or high school). I mean who doesn’t remember dorm room dancing to MTV’s former video days repetitive play of Lionel’s “All Night Long”?

My second 1981 flashback was inspired by film class advisor, Gus Molassis, who assigned our class Colette. Having just seen The Wife, I was miffed thinking it was just the same story minus 100 years. (And this is partly true, the stories: wife ghost writes for husband were eerily similar). My negative presumption paralleled the 1981 emotion I had freshman year at St. Bonaventure when the only elective available for me was Detective and Sci Fi Literature. I immediately said spoiled brat style “yuck”, similar to my film assignment reaction.

Boy, was I wrong in both circumstances. If it hadn’t been for the Sci Fi class back in 1981, I may never experienced Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, which brought me to tears with its beauty. And today, while Colette didn’t move me to tears, it was heart warming and much MUCH better written than The Wife.

The key difference between The Wife and Colette were the scene specificity of the marriages. In Colette, we see a real couple with genuine difficulties; infidelity, gender and sexuality self-discovery mixed with cultural aspects of the time period; in this case, the tail end of Victorian Age repression, with tiny fissures cracking its frigid core.

Was some of the dialogue unrealistic? Sure, like Dominic West‘s pompous ass Willy (though also lovable and charming) who talks with such self-knowledge you would think he had a Masters in Johnson (joking aside, I meant Counseling). The old ‘honey I stray because I’m a man and can’t control my penis’ -I paraphrase of course-that’s probably what Harvey W. said).

Yet, the acting was superb and West and Keira Knightley seemed very realistic, unlike the more jokey Pinnochio Jonathan Pryce in The Wife. Other acting praise goes to Denise Gough, an Irish actress who plays the masculine half of Knightley’s bisexual experience. Her performance showed tremendous verisimilitude.

My misgivings about the movie were also its tributes. These two seemed to have enough marital joy that the suffering didn’t seem painful enough, more, ‘I’m hurt, but skipping along, tra la la’. And it seemed Colette got her own way most of the time, and if so, wasn’t Willy more of the victim? A well developed point of contention though, which again, equates depth and excellence. Props to Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, co-screenwriters and the director respectively.

I will say the trailer did it no favors, a large reason for my premature bias. The trailer made it out to be a simplistic man-keeps-woman-down story when it was so much more.

So here’s to trying experiences which seem foreign and finding gold!

Paris, Texas a PPLL Extravaganza

Well, my main complaint about Paris, Texas was going to be the length (2 and a half hours), but as I type, I’m watching and listening to director Wim Wenders‘ commentary on deleted scenes and I am transfixed with hypnotic awe.

Except for the older vehicles, Pars, Texas (circa 1984) could be shown today. It’s a timeless tale of lost love and the invincible bond of parent and child. Compounded with the poignancy of the film, is the bittersweet sadness of Harry Dean Stanton’s life and death. If you get a chance and care, listen to Marc Maron‘s podcast with Harry Dean Stanton which captures Harry’s level of despair with a hint to some trauma suffered at the hands or mind of his mother that sent him into an abyss of eternal solitaire. Not that he didn’t date (and younger!) or have a good life, but there’a deep melancholy to his life story that leaks out in Paris, Texas and his last movie, Lucky.

In fact, I wish I had seen Paris, Texas before seeing Lucky as the two are definitely parallel films (though the former was written by Sam Shepard, another bone deep melancholy soul) and the latter by Logan Sparks. They share similar settings (southwestern desert), similar music (twangy soulful electric acoustic) and the search for meaning in a solitary hermetic life.

A scene from Paris, Texas that I adored reminded me of a scene from the original Jaws. In Jaws, Roy Schneider is at the dinner table with his son. Each begin mimicking the other’s facial expressions in a cute father-son bonding moment. In Paris, Texas, Harry Dean Stanton and his son, (played gorgeously by Hunter Carson, son of one of the writers for the film and Karen Black, the actress) execute a similar scene while walking on opposite sides of the street, mimicking each other’s gaits.

I loved the use of color in the film, from gorgeous Texas skies, to LA night sky; from matching red shirts to Nastassja Kinski and Hunter bother wearing green shirts with the green lit buildings behind them outside a Houston hotel, the film was produced with an artistic eye.

And don’t let me forget to praise Dean Stockwell and Aurore Clement who were also fabulous in their sibling and parental roles.

I’m partial to this film due to the aforementioned, and Hunter, the young boy loved his Star Wars action figures which took me back to my son’s childhood. I had just written to a friend the other day that if I could have one day of my life back to re-experience, it would be a day of fun with Liam (this was brought on by the sad closing of Toys R Us).

Two and a half hours of film didn’t seem long until an unnecessarily over written cathartic scene in a peep show between Nastassja Kinski and H.S. Stanton, but in watching the deleted scenes and becoming mesmerized by the Texas landscape and the German accent of Wim Wenders, it was worth the time.

PPLL for any newcomers to my blog stands for Pre Pension Library Loaner, #55thbirthdayninemonthsaway!