Friday, November 27, 2015

"Suffragette" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Suffragette" and DVDs "The Gift" and "End of the Tour."  The Book of the Week is "The Happiness Project."  I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Jackie Chan's "Project A 2" - Yes, Jackie Chan is a classic! ]


Women fight for the vote in turn-of-the century England.

Carey Mulligan stars as Maud Watts, a wife and mother who works in a laundry in 1912 London.  Her mother was a laundress and now Maud is following in her footsteps, Maud having started working their when she was only 7.  The boss is a bully and there are clear implications that Maud endured sexual abuse while working for him, but she has accepted her lot in life as most women in that era and station had. 

Enter the Suffragette Movement. 
Women are standing on street corners demanding the vote and participating in acts of civil disobedience that Maud cannot ignore.  She meets a fellow worker at the laundry, Violet (Anne-Marie Duff) and a pharmacist's wife, Edith Ellyn (Helena Bonham Carter) who treats her son, both members of Mrs. Emmeline Pankhurst's movement and Maud is slowly drawn into the Suffragette Movement.
As Maud becomes more and more embroiled in the movement, she befriends Emily Wilding Davison (Natalie Press), a true life suffragette who martyrs herself for the cause and provides an event for women to rally around.  That should have been a big crescendo in the film, but it's too little too late and does not elicit the emotion it should have. 
I really wanted to love this film as I consider myself a feminist.  It's totally in my wheelhouse and I recently wrote about and lamented the fact that these days feminism doesn't seem to be important to the younger generation of women ("Why is Feminist Such a Dirty Word?").  But despite the film's important message and the wonderful acting we have come to expect from Mulligan, Bonham Carter and Meryl Streep in a very small role as Mrs, Pankhurst, the film lacked heart. It didn't move me the way I thought it should. It played like a very serious and important history lesson, not an engrossing theatrical piece.
I don't mean to in any way diminish the sacrifices women had to make to secure the vote for themselves and the indignities they had to endure as men fought to secure their places as their masters.  Today women are still fighting.  I just wish this film had more soul and wasn't such a slog. The film is very Dickensian, dark and grim.  I am not a fan of a film being a grim experience to tell a grim story.  It should still be a good film experience even if the story is grim.
Brendan Gleeson plays Chief Inspector Arthur Steed who is painted as being so steadfastly against the women, especially Maud, that it's almost a stereotype.  But he voices an important line when the women are arrested  for protesting. 

"Don't bother arresting them. Let their husbands deal with them."
And when Maud is sent home to her husband (Ben Winshaw, who now is a regular in the James Bond films as "Q") after a night in jail, he deals with her alright.  He throws her out in the street and forbids her to see her son. Things continue to get worse for Maud as she becomes more and more radicalized.
Directed by Sarah Gavron with a screenplay by Abi Morgan, this is a film telling an important story that has rarely been told: women fighting for the vote.  The younger generation of women not only might not appreciate what happened in the 70's but they are even farther removed from what their female ancestors had to go through to get to vote, and as this film points out at the end of the film, several countries were even slower to give women the right to vote and Saudi Arabia has yet to do it. However, for such a passionate subject, the film was surprisingly passionless.

Rosy the Reviewer says...for something I feel so strongly about, I expected to leap from my seat in solidarity...but I didn't.  Disappointing.

Some Movies You Might Have Missed
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)
***Now Out on DVD***


  The Gift (2015)

A troubled married couple meet an old friend from the husband's past - but is he really a friend?

Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall) move to a new house.  Simon has been transferred by his computer security company back to LA from Chicago (he grew up in LA). She is an interior designer and they are trying to start a family.  But there is an unease between them.  Things didn't go that well in Chicago, so they are looking forward to a new beginning.

While shopping in their new neighborhood, Simon is approached by Gordo (Joel Edgerton), an old high school classmate who Simon doesn't seem to remember. Gordo is kind of timid and creepy. Later, Robyn finds a bottle of wine on their doorstep.  It's from Gordo.  Then he starts appearing at their house unannounced.  Robyn invites him in and after a chat, she invites him to return for dinner.  It's an amiable but awkward dinner.

Then another gift appears on the doorstep, this time as a thank you for dinner.  It's fish food. Gordo has put koi in their pond.  They can't get rid of this guy.

Again he shows up unannounced and this time sees that Simon has written Gordo the Weirdo next to his phone number on the fridge.

But Gordo invites Simon and Robyn to dinner and they are impressed with his home.  When Gordo leaves them alone, Simon continues to make fun of Gordo, but Robyn doesn't approve of Simon making fun of Gordo.  In fact, she kind of feels sorry for him. When Gordo returns, the conversation turns to Gordo.  He admits that his wife has just left him and taken his children.  Simon and Robyn are getting increasingly creeped out by Gordo and Simon finally tells him to stop coming around.

And then Robyn and Simon's lives start to take a nasty turn.  The fish in the pond die and their dog goes missing.  When Simon returns to Gordo's house where they had dinner, the woman who answers the door doesn't know any Gordo.  They receive a letter from Gordo saying goodbye but the letter implies there are some amends that need to be made.

Robyn, unnerved by what has happened, starts doing some sleuthing and uncovers a disturbing incident involving Simon and Gordo. She also discovers what her husband is capable of. The past has caught up with Simon.

Let the revenge begin, and what starts out to be a standard stalker film turns into something quite different as Simon's true nature is revealed.

Jason Bateman has created a niche for himself as kind of a charming jerk.  He did it comedically in "Bad Words" and he does it dramatically here in this unusual thriller.

Joel Edgerton who stars as Gordo, also directs in his feature debut and, though this film initially screamed of Lifetime Movie (and if you are not sure what I mean by that, check out my blog post "Lifetime Movies: A Baby Boomer's Appreciation"), it morphs into something quite different that will surprise you.

Rebecca Hall is a British actress that I highlighted back in March 2014 - "15 Really, Really Good Actors You Have Never Heard of..."  I have been expecting her to break out into super stardom, but despite roles (many of them as Americans) in "The Town" and "Iron Man 3," she has yet to carry a film on her own.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a little bit of Lifetime Movie but a compelling story with a lot of good acting and twists and turns that will satisfy you on a rainy Saturday night at home.



  The End of the Tour (2015)



A dramatization of the five-day interview between Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) and acclaimed novelist David Foster Wallace (Jason Segal), which took place right after the 1996 publication of Wallace's groundbreaking 1996 epic novel, "Infinite Jest."

Jesse Eisenberg and Jason Segal star in this true-to-life depiction of a five-day promotional tour where Rolling Stone Reporter David Lipsky (Eisenberg) traveled with Wallace (Segal) and they formed a bond.

The film begins with Wallace's suicide and Lipsky remembering those five days 12 years earlier (this is not a spoiler. Wallace was a real person who killed himself.  See my link above).

In 1996 Lipsky is a Rolling Stone reporter but he also a writer.  At a book reading for one of his books, though, no one shows up.  That is in complete contrast to Wallace's book reading where he is practically a rock star.

This is not lost on Lipsky, but he is also a big Wallace fan and proposes that Rolling Stone send him to interview Wallace as he promotes his acclaimed third book "Infinite Jest."  Lipsky sets off to the small college where Wallace teaches and the two of them travel from Bloomington, Illinois to St. Paul, Minnesota together - the last leg of Wallace's book tour.

Wallace is at first reclusive and difficult - a modern day Salinger who is uncomfortable with his fame.  He's also a hippie with long hair and an ever present bandanna, awkward, unsocialized but with a droll self-deprecating sense of humor.  He is not comfortable with the celebrity he has achieved. He tells Lipsky that his book is about loneliness and "if someone is interested in reading a 1000 page book [they]must have loneliness issues." 

They share candy, Diet Rite soda and they talk about movies ("Die Hard" being a favorite).  Wallace makes long discourses on writing, marriage, women and Alanis Morissette

But over time, Wallace opens up.  He worries about being a fame whore and says things like "writing books is like having children.  You are proud of them but don't want them to reflect on you." 

He also shares that he doesn't drink because he is a recovering alcoholic who was depressed in his 20's and worried that he would kill himself so he went into treatment.  Likewise, he doesn't have a TV, because he would "watch it too much." In other words, he has an addictive personality.

Their conversations are fraught with word play and one-upmanship as they seek to know each other but not give away too much. Over the course of these discourses, their relationship changes from reporter and subject to friend and mentor, though there are undercurrents of jealousy as Lipsky admires Wallace and wants to be him. 

But over time, Lipsky becomes disillusioned somewhat by his hero as Wallace reveals more and more about his demons.  We want our heroes to be better than us and when Wallace says he just wants to be a regular guy, that disappoints Lipsky. We look up to our heroes, never realizing they are real people with their own insecurities and fears.

Based on Lipsky's book published in 2010 (ironically "Rolling Stone" never published the proposed article), titled "Although of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself," and adapted by Donald Margulies, director James Ponsoldt has put together an engaging two man tour de force punctuated by cool 90's music.

Whenever I see these movies that are mostly two-handers, I think of "My Dinner With Andre," which to me was one of the firsts of this kind of film - just two people talking but what they are talking about is so interesting, they are so interesting, that it is not the least bit boring.  That's what this movie is like.

Jesse does a good job of being Jason's straight man and letting him carry the film, though he certainly holds his own.  He keeps his usual twitchy mannerisms to a minimum.  Segal, who we have come to know mostly through comedies, is a revelation here and shows his acting depth.

The end of an author's book tour can be a let-down as the writer returns to the solitary life of a writer.  I was sorry to see it end too.

Rosy the Reviewer says.. This is an acting tour de force and a treatise on the loneliness of a writing life and you don't need to know anything about Wallace to appreciate it.


***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***


271 to go!
Have YOU seen this classic film?


Project A 2 (1987)

Sergeant Dragon Ma Yue Lung (Jackie Chan) is part of the Royal Hong Kong Navy at the turn of the last century and is transferred to the Sai Wan district to keep an eye on Superintendant Chun (David Lam) who is suspected of corruption in this sequel to Chan's "Project A."

Dragon also has to contend with pirates, gangsters and anti-Manchu revolutionaries.

The film begins with some pirates remembering what Dragon did to them in Part 1 so they vow revenge.  Meanwhile, Dragon is sent to fix the corruption waged by Superintendant Chun.

Chun is a bad dude.  He stages arrests and has no qualms about shooting people to make it look like he is keeping the peace.

The dubbing is terrible (I can't understand why so many of the Chinese police officers have cockney accents either) and the actors are overacting all over the place, but that's part of the fun.  You don't go to a Jackie Chan film for the acting.  You go to see some fantastically choreographed martial arts fights.  And he includes feisty women in it too.

Despite a somewhat cartoonish feel, there is something about this film that is charming, compelling and fun, harking back to old fashioned film-making with an easy to follow, though far-fetched plot, some very good guys and some very bad buys and some incredible kick-ass fight scenes.

Jackie is an unlikely hero but so likable you can't help but get caught up in this tale.

Why it's a Must See: "The plot is only a framework, an excuse for Chan to present us with one mind-blowing set piece after another...Watching him evade, jump, spin, and improvise his way out of a savage beating is to experience the joy and exhilaration of meticulous comic timing and old-fashioned slapstick.  He makes it look easy, but the outtakes that run under the end credits (a tradition in Jackie Chan movies) reveal the set pieces to be painstaking dangerous work.  But why [is] the sequel [the best]? is here that one finds Chan at the peak of his powers...when he was still young, fast, and agile, before age and broken bones inevitabley slowed him down."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...Great fun!

***Book of the Week***



The Happiness Project: or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun by Gretchen Rubin (2011)

Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one rainy afternoon.  She realized that "The days are long, but the years are short. Time is passing, and I'm not focusing enough on the things that really matter." In that moment, she decided to dedicate a year to happiness.

Oprah has given Rubin her highest endorsement.  She has had her on her Super Soul Sunday program and that's where I first heard about this book.  If Oprah says she is worthy, that's good enough for me.

And who doesn't want to be happier?

So I checked out the book from the library, and you know what, she has some great ideas to make your life a lot happier.

Rubin didn't have the resources to move to Paris (which is what I wish I could do) or do the "Eat, Pray, Love" thing, nor did she want to.  She wanted to improve the life she already had.  She chronicles her year of living her life differently, in a way that made her happier, each month setting a new resolution, such as: remembering to be loving, to make time for friends and to pay attention.  She immersed herself in reading all sorts of inspirational books from Thoreau to the Dalai Lama to find out what worked for her.

And you know what she discovered?

That the smallest of changes can make the biggest differences: from singing in the shower in the morning to always kissing her husband good morning and good night, to the "one minute rule:" she didn't postpone any task that could be done in one minute.  She put away her umbrella; she recycled.  And she added the "evening tidying up rule" which took 10 minutes but made the morning routine much easier.

Those are just some of the things she discovered. See what works for you.

Rosy the Reviewer says...don't we all want to be happier?  Here is some inspiration.  

Thanks for Reading! 

That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

"15 Ways to Help Abolish
the Holiday Blues" 


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