Fantastic Woman, Mediocre Script

There are many reasons to like Fantastic Woman, written and directed by Sebastian Lelio and nominated for best foreign film in both the Golden Globes and the Oscars.

First, the film bravely challenges the stupidity of homophobes. More can and needs to be done to shine the light on cruel intolerance across the globe.

Second, certain scenes in the film were beautifully done: slow dance sequences and dance club sequences were evocative and sexy, Marina trail running with her dog overlooking the city of Santiago exhibited gorgeous cinematography.

Third, the acting was great. The main character (Marina) was portrayed by real life trans and opera singer Daniela Vega who wasn’t originally cast for the role. Lelio hired her on as a consultant, but after hearing the poignancy of her story, decided to use her as the lead. She makes Beyonce’s ‘fierce’ look like a fluffy bunny. Daniela Vega is truly a fantastic woman.

Francisco Reyes, though only on the screen for a short time, was also great. And back up!!! Doing my due diligent research, I discovered he also starred in The Club, a mind blowing Golden Globe foreign film from 2015.

Even the minor characters were portrayed with realistic subtlety of special note being the female police detective, Amparo Noguera and Francisco’s wife, Antonia Zegers, also nominated from the aforementioned The Club.

Ok, so what’s the problem, you ask? In a word (ok 5): Loose ends and sloppy editing. The screenplay could have easily tied up one of at least two loose ends. The fact that Marina was training for opera and the vacation Francisco proposes are never addressed. We also see the end result of a demand Marina made, but do not know how the transfer occurs. Supernatural scenes are ok, but some seemed to be non-sequitur.

Too bad, because had these small fixes been accomplished, this ‘coulda been a contender’.

One last note, Sebastian Lelio also directed Gloria from a few years back which was uplifting and fun. I see it’s being remade for American audiences with Julianne Moore. Let’s hope the originality doesn’t get lost in translation.

The Salesman Always Rings Twice & Consolation is Not in His BriefCase

The Salesman directed by Asghar Fahredi played at Burns Court for the Cineworld Film Fest on November 9th. I’m sure based on its quality it’ll get a normal run at most independent theaters and I highly recommend this taut tale.

I’m biased of course, having seen and enjoyed his films in two different states. A Separation I saw on an unfairly cruel cold Austin, Texas day. The good news was that the movie was fantastic and the theater adorable (and comfortable-leather recliners, but I digress). His other two films, The Past and About Elly, I saw in my former hometown of Rochester, NY (which is always cruel and cold, but I digress again).

So back to Fahredi’s tremendous writing and directing. He’s not one to care about his audience’s emotional comfort, caring more about making the viewers question, “what would I do?” In fact, after The Salesman, I heard some women disagreeing about what they would have done. Thought provoking movies are few and far between.

Let me get back to the topic of warmth, but this time not outdoor temps, but rather emotional and psychological. Dang are Iranian relationships ice cold. I understand pride and principles, but the lack of embrace and physical touch, might drive a woman like me, mad. I do understand, however, that witholding of that sense of security certainly adds tension to the story and is also somewhat of a cultural standard. It even made me think today, as I walked the Ringling Bridge, listening to a 90’s tune by Mariah Carey (Dream Lover), that perhaps our own country is getting less affectionate in the aughts and now teens, akin to middle schoolers who become aloof adolescents (my musical comparison being Beyonce’s Lemonade). We (women collectively) ‘ain’t askin’ for love any longer, we’re just demanding respect, which I question: do we have to have to give up emotional embrace to achieve such respect?

I wanted to see The Salesman originally because I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with Arthur Miller’s play. I remember an epiphany I once had in teaching Drama some years ago, that I finally understood why the play is an iconic father/son psycho drama and not just a depressing saga. Later, after hearing an NPR interview that Philip Seymor Hoffman gave regarding his stint as Willy Loman on Broadway, I wondered if he was fortelling his own demise, in how much inadequacy PSH connected to in his own self, equal to, or even more so, than the Willy Loman experience.

How this connects to the film is still something I’m wrapping my head around. Did the husband in the film feel inadequate in what revenge he sought or better to my previous comment on affection, did he feel so incapable of consoling his emotionally traumatized wife that that equaled inadequacy. I will say no more in keeping with my ‘no spoilers’ promise. But go see The Salesman and comment back. The film is worthy of discussion and thought!