Friday, September 1, 2017

"Ingrid Goes West" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Ingrid Goes West" as well as the DVD "A Quiet Passion" and the short film "The Story of 90 Coins (available online)."  The Book of the Week is the novel "If you Only Knew."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "Moolaade."]




Ingrid Goes West


"Single White Female" for the social media era.

Ingrid (Aubrey Plaza) is a young woman who is obsessed with social media.  Aren't most millennials?  But what sets Ingrid apart from others her age is that Ingrid doesn't appear to have anything going on in her life except social media.

And it becomes clear early on that Ingrid has gone over the edge.

She has been following Charlotte on Instagram, and Charlotte is a young woman who seems to have a perfect life and, of course, as she prepares for her wedding, she shares all of the details on Instagram.  But then we see Ingrid angrily interrupting Charlotte's  wedding reception - in real life - and spraying Charlotte with mace.  Turns out that Ingrid was mad because she wasn't invited to the wedding!  She thought Charlotte was her friend.  However, this was news to Charlotte. Ingrid started to follow Charlotte because Charlotte commented on one of Ingrid's posts, and because of that, Ingrid assumed they were friends in real life, but this so-called friendship was entirely one-sided - on Ingrid's part, in her mind.  Let's just say that Ingrid has some mental problems and after this little incident, she ended up in a psych ward.

But then when she gets out, Ingrid is right back onto social media looking for a new best friend.

Ingrid is a young woman with "issues," and that's putting it mildly.  Her mother has just died and she is lonely. She doesn't have anything going on in her own life so she seeks solace on Instagram where she compulsively likes every post and waits for someone to respond to her.  She is never without her phone - not when she is driving, not when she goes to sleep, not even when she is on the toilet.

One day Ingrid sees a post from Taylor Sloane (Elizabeth Olsen), a beautiful young blonde with thousands of followers living what looks to Ingrid as a perfect life.  Everything for Taylor is #thebest! as she posts pictures of food, clothes and her cute dog, Rothko.  Ingrid comments on one of Taylor's posts about a restaurant that she likes, and Taylor replies that Ingrid should try it if she is ever in L.A.  Well, that is all Ingrid needs to hear.  Her mother has left her over $60,000 so she withdraws all of the money from the bank in cash, puts it in a bag and off she goes to L.A. and of course has to chronicle her journey on Instagram #Ingridgoeswest.

Once in L.A. she rents a small apartment near Taylor from Dan Pinto (O'Shea Jackson Jr.), a young man who is obsessed with Batman and pot.  He is clearly attracted to Ingrid, but Ingrid has only one thing on her mind - finding Taylor and somehow insinuating herself into her life.  She does this by kidnapping Taylor's dog, Rothko, and then, when Taylor puts out flyers asking for help finding her missing dog, Ingrid calls Taylor to let her know she has found her dog and that she is happy to bring him to Taylor's house. #perfect

Taylor is so grateful to Ingrid for finding Rothko that she invites her to join her and her husband, Ezra (Wyatt Russell) for dinner, so Ingrid gets her wish and becomes friends with Taylor.  It is clear that Taylor is not only a stereotypical L.A. millennial - everything is #perfect #thebest #obsessed - but, in fact, Taylor is also insipid and shallow and her life is not quite as perfect as she portrays it on social media.  However, Ingrid is oblivious and does her best to fit in to Taylor's seemingly sunny #noworries lifestyle.  She buys a purse like Taylor's, colors her hair like Taylor's and even takes pictures of Taylor's bathroom including what's in her medicine cabinet. #ingridwantstobetaylor

But we know this friendship with Taylor can't last because remember what I said?  Ingrid has issues, and one of those issues is jealousy, so when Taylor appears to move on to some other friends, Ingrid starts to implode.  Oh, and then, there is Taylor's brother, Nicky (Billy Magnusson), probably one of the most #obnoxious #nasty #amoral #annoying characters I have ever encountered in a movie, which I guess says a lot about Magnusson's ability as an actor.  Nicky doesn't like Ingrid and not only keeps calling her Olga, he hijacks Ingrid's phone, discovers Ingrid's obsession with Taylor and threatens to tell Taylor if Ingrid doesn't give him some money, so at this point, Ingrid plots to get rid of Nicky and the movie turns dark. #dontcallmeolga

Aubrey Plaza is brilliant here as the strangely obsessed Ingrid.  What those issues really are or where they came from are never explained but that doesn't detract from enjoying this film and Plaza's acting.  I first became aware of her in "Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates," a silly film that was mostly funny because of her.  She is one of those actors, like Will Ferrell and Jonathan Winters, who is not afraid "to go there," go full out and over the top and take all kinds of risks for a role.  Here she runs the gamut of emotions.  She is funny, she is dark, she is sad, she is pathetic...I could go on and on. #iloveaubreyplaza

The rest of the cast are also spot on. 

Elizabeth Olsen is on a roll with two films in the theatres now - this one and "Wind River," a film I reviewed last week where she plays a character that is the antithesis of Taylor. Seeing these two films back to back brings home what a versatile actress Olsen is.  Jackson looks amazingly like a young Ice Cube and that makes sense because he is Ice Cube's son and played Ice Cube in the wonderful film "Straight Outta Compton." He shows a softer side here as the Batman obsessed Dan, and he and Plaza share a very funny sex scene where Ingrid dresses up as Cat Woman and gives Dan a thrill.  And Wyatt Russell is the son of power couple Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell and, like Olsen, shows his versatility by playing a more dramatic character than the one he played in "Table 19."  He is going to have a great career. 

Written by Matt Spicer and David Branson Smith with Spicer directing, this film skewers our obsession with social media. 

We may not be as obsessed as Ingrid, but believe me, we are obsessed.  How many times have you run into someone on the sidewalk because your head was in your phone or vice versa?  How often have you done something crazy or silly to get more followers?  I read once that there are many of us out there whose moods are dependent on whether or not someone likes our posts on Facebook or Instagram.  If someone pushes the like button we are happy; if no one does, we are depressed.  Ingrid is way past that.  Ingrid thinks that when someone responds to her post that they really are her friends. #doyoulikeme?

The film also comments on modern relationships. 

Our "friends" and followers on Facebook and Instagram, are they really our friends?  And why are they following us?  Why do we follow others?  Perhaps we are voyeurs, living vicariously through the lives of others, but are their lives real?  Or are they manufactured online?  We don't have the TV show "Catfish" for nothing. #myfavoriteshow  Our relationships online are ephemeral and this movie makes me wonder if perhaps our relationships in the real world might be just as ephemeral. #arewereallyfriends?

The film is funny, it's modern and it's dark. I saw the ending coming (#ishouldwritescreenplays), but it ended as it should.  When we worship social media, when we think those who friend or follow us online are our real friends and when we aspire to have thousands of followers on social media because that would mean we are validated human beings, we shouldn't be shocked when some out there go too far for that attention and validation to the point of committing suicide on line, torturing someone online, murdering online...how far will it go and where does it end? #socialmediacanbescary 

Rosy the Reviewer says...a quirky entertaining little film with a big message and a brilliant performance by Aubrey Plaza. #lovedit





***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!

On DVD








A Quiet Passion (2016)


A biopic about poet Emily Dickinson.

Emily Dickinson didn't start out as a recluse.  In fact, she was quite a feisty schoolgirl (Emma Bell) who had no problem telling the head mistress of her religious school that she wasn't a believer.  How do I know this?  That is how this film begins.

Young Emily considered herself a "rational."  The headmistress of her school labeled her a "no hoper," so her father (Keith Carradine), sister and brother arrive to take her back home.  Emily's father is a male chauvinist (he doesn't approve of women on the stage, even opera singers), but then what man wasn't a male chauvinist in those days?  But though Emily is feisty, she is also a dutiful daughter and devoted to her father.  When she decides that she needs to write through the night when it is quiet, she seeks her father's permission to stay up all night.  Surpisingly, he says yes.  Surprisingly because women shouldn't write either.

But he probably couldn't have stopped her even if he had wanted to because Emily needs to write.

"Poems are my solace for the eternity that surrounds us all."

Even at a young age this was one deep and serious girl, and as the story progresses, we learn that Emily was against slavery and an early feminist, she was devoted to her family and suffered from an unrequited love for a married minister who encouraged her writing.  She also suffered from some mysterious pains, was eventually diagnosed with Bright's Disease, and her father's death seemed to be the catalyst that made her take to her room for the rest of her life, though it wasn't really clear how that happened.

In the film, Emily writes poetry, talks earnestly, wittily and intelligently to her friends and family, yearns for a man she can't have and eventually decides she is happiest hanging out alone in her room.  And then she dies.  That's about it.

But to give writer and director Terence Davies credit, it's not easy to make a plot driven film based on the life of a woman who rarely left home and whose life was mostly spent in solitary mental pursuits.

Cynthia Nixon plays the mature Emily and narrates the film through the use of Emily's poetry. Everyone is very earnest and serious and the language throughout the film is stilted almost as if they are all talking in adages and aphorisms such as:

"Going to church is like going to Boston - you only enjoy it after you've gone home."

That can be witty and enjoyable in small doses but gets annoying when everyone talks like that all of the time! Likewise, the change of scenery is minimal as in not much happens cinematically either. 

Nixon was a good choice for the part of Emily as she resembles her, and in case we don't notice that, at the end of the film, Nixon's face morph's into the famous photograph of the real Emily. That cinematic technique is also used earlier in the film to show the passing of time as the younger versions of the characters morph into the older characters and Bell morphs into Nixon.  
 
Keith Carradine does a good job as Emily's father - such a good job that I didn't even recognize him with those mutton chops. I also enjoyed Jennifer Ehle, as Emily's sister, Vinnie.  I first saw Ehle in the early 1990's in "The Camomile Lawn," a British TV mini-series.  That was her first major role, and I thought her interesting looks and wonderful acting would make her a big star, but it never happened.  She is one of those actresses who works a lot and you recognize her face but can never remember her name.

The film is well-meant and a tour de force for Nixon who is a long way from her "Sex and the City" days, but sadly, it's also bloodless.  If you are a fan of costume dramas and love the poetry of Emily Dickinson, you might enjoy this, but it felt more like a play than a film, and when I watch a film, I want to see a film, not a play.

Rosy the Reviewer says...the passion was so quiet that I....zzzzzzzz.




The Story of 90 Coins (2015)



A short film - a very short film - about having to make a choice between keeping a promise and following one's dream.

Ever wonder what those Live Action Shorts are on the list of Academy Award nominations?  Those are usually the films you have absolutely no idea about and will likely be one of the categories that will ruin your dream of winning the Oscar pool that year.  Some of you might be too young to remember this, but there was a time when we went to the movies and, before the feature began, there was a always a cartoon and along with the cartoon there was also a short live action film. 

This film brought back good memories of that time and made me wish that we could still see those kinds of films when we go to the movies.

New filmmakers often start out making a short film like this, and when I say short, this film is only nine minutes long, but you will be amazed at how much story and emotion can be packed into nine minutes.

Wang Yuyang (Donjung Han) and Chen Wen (Zhuang Zhiqi) are in love.  He wants to get married, but she is unsure so Wang asks her to promise to wait 90 days and spend that time with him.  After each day, he will give her a coin in an envelope, and if after that 90 days, she changes her mind, they can use the money to buy a marriage certificate.  But if she still doesn't want to marry him, they will use the money to buy drinks in the bar where they met and say goodbye. 

Each day Wang gives her the envelope and each day their relationship grows. All is romantic and lovely until life gets in the way. Chen meets Andre (Jose Acosta), someone who can help her realize her dream of becoming a fashion designer, but if she wants to pursue her dream she must move to Paris.  Wang and Chen have a misunderstanding, and she decides to go, but as she is getting ready to make the move, she opens the envelopes with the coins and is reminded of their love affair and the promise they both made to each other.

Did she make a mistake?

All of that in nine minutes. See?  I told you this was a jam-packed nine minutes!

Written by Bai Xuedan and directed by Michael Wong, this is a touching and atmospheric story of young love, loss and regret.  Actors Han and Zhiqi are engaging and lovely to look at and both beautifully capture the essence of romance.  The film is also lovely to look at and the editing is powerful.  It would have to be to get this much into nine minutes!

From time to time, filmmakers will get in touch with me and ask that I review their films.  Sometimes I do and sometimes I don't.  In this case, I am very glad I did.  This is a lovely little gem of a film that I hope gets seen.

And you are in luck.  You can watch it right now.  Here is the link for

"The Story of 90 Coins."

Mr. Wong was born in Malaysia and currently lives in China.  He spent 16 years as an ad agency art director and creative director and has now embarked on a career as an independent filmmaker.  This is his first film which has been recognized at 30 international film festivals.

When I asked Mr. Wong what he was hoping for in regards to this film he replied:

 "I hope one day some studio will take note of it and help me remake it into a feature length film as I think there's so much potential in expanding it into little stories."

I hope so too.

So spread the word - share this with your friends, especially if you know any filmmakers - and hopefully Mr. Wong will get his wish.  You can also check out his Facebook page here.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if Mr. Wong can do this much with nine minutes, I can't wait to see what he can do with 90.
(In Chinese and English with Chinese and English subtitles)





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


188 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?





Moolaade (2004)


A village woman provides protection ("moolaade") to a group of young girls who are about to undergo ritual female circumcision.

I never thought a movie about female circumcision would be on my list of must see movies, but then I never thought I was going to become a blogging film critic either, but here we are.

As detestable as female circumcision is to most of us living in the Western world, female genital mutilation is not uncommon in some countries in the world.  Some men just can't stand the idea that women might enjoy sex, I guess.  I can't imagine anything more barbaric and dominating than mutilating a young girl's genitals so that as a woman she is required to have sex with her husband but is not allowed to enjoy it.

Mother Colle (Fatoumata Coulibaly) is a bit of a rebel in a Senegalese village.  She herself did not have her daughter circumcised, or cut, so when four little girls escape the cutting ceremony and run to her hut for protection, she sets up a barrier, a piece of string, across her doorway, thus invoking moolaade.  The law says that once moolaade is invoked, no one can enter, and as long as the little girls stay inside Mother Colle's house, they will be safe. Mother Colle eventually mobilizes the other village women, who at first are against her, because despite the barbarism of the ritual, it is considered "purification" and the women themselves believe that if it is not performed on a girl, no man will want her. So what's a mother to do?  She wants her daughter to find a husband. Sometimes women are their own worst enemies. 

The moolaade is respected but the village men are not happy about it, especially Colle's husband who loses status in the village because he can't control his wife.  But when another of his wives supports Colle, he is overruled. 

This is very much a propaganda film meant to draw attention to this barbaric ritual, but it doesn't feel like propaganda nor does it offer easy answers as to why men would want this.  The film is also about African village life and the fear of westernization and modernity.  One such luxury that the women enjoy is the radio, so when the all-male village council meets to talk about what to do about Colle and the moolaade, they ban the radios, blaming them for the women's rebellion.  Gee, did it not occur to them that maybe the women weren't being influenced by the West but just didn't want their genitals mutilated?  When the radios are all confiscated and burned in a big pile, it creates a powerful image of how dictators, in this case, men, destroy what they consider their opposition.

Lest you think this film is a dark and boring political piece, you would be wrong. The film is less about the female genital mutilation issue and more about old customs versus new, male versus female and East versus West.
When a young, very Westernized, businessman returns from Paris to his village to find a wife, he wants a wife who has been cut. Of course he does.


The villagers still participate in the old ways such as female circumcision, but they also listen to the radio, drive trucks, send their children off to school in Paris and, though the men seem to run things, when the women ban together the men don't have a prayer. Director Ousemane Sembene portrays the village people with affection, dignity and humor, as three dimensional human beings, not stereotypes.


Why it's a Must See: "Sembene's films are subtle and ambivalent, acknowledging the value of traditions and regretting their erosion while still exposing the system of oppression and injustice they often upheld...The opening of [this film] shows [Sembene's] affectionare, intimate view of African village life at its warmest, offering a useful connective to Western ideas of Africa as a starved, helpless continent, devoid of dignity and self-sufficiency."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...an important story about a topic we westerners know little about.




***Book of the Week***





If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins (2016)


Two sisters, two marriages, infidelity, divorce, sex, all the stuff of great chick lit!

Jenny Tate is a divorced wedding dress designer (a certain irony there) and despite the divorce, she is still friends with her ex.  He has remarried and, wouldn't you know, his new wife wants to be Jenny's best friend. Her ex is perfect, his new wife is perfect and their new baby is perfect. Needing closure, Jenny moves back to her hometown up the Hudson River to the suburbs of New York City to start her own business and be closer to her sister, Rachel, who also seems to have a perfect family life. Jenny meets Leo, the caretaker of her apartment complex, and is interested in him, though she can't figure him out because he blows hot and cold.

However, Rachel's idyllic marriage implodes after she discovers that her husband is cheating on her with a sexy lawyer at his law firm, and this is particularly upsetting to Rachel since she wanted to have the same perfect marriage as her parents. 

But Jenny knows something that Rachel doesn't.  Their parents' marriage was not the perfect marriage that Rachel is trying to emulate, and now Jenny has to decide if she should reveal this family secret or not.

As you know, I am working my way back to reading fiction again. 

When I read a review of a recommended novel, I put it on my list.  That's the only way I can figure out how I ended up reading this book.  It's subtitle is "A Woman's Fiction Novel," and horrors of horrors, it's published by Harlequin, a publishing house known for its romance novels and romance paperback series.  Now for those of you who do not know what that means, this librarian will explain it all to you.

Harlequin novels have been the nemesis of librarians since the 1970's when they descended upon us and took over the fantasy lives of many overworked and under-loved women.  Why? Because there were so many of them - many different series by many different authors - we just couldn't keep up with the ravenous demand.  If women read "Lucy Finds Romance at the Supermarket (#1 in The Romantic Supermarket series), then they wanted to read all 30 of them.  I'm kidding about the title but you get the idea.  They were tame formula romantic stories written off by us intellectual types as romantic pap, devoid of sex or anything that might offend. They were also paperback books which many libraries deemed not worth spending the money on to catalog considering they didn't last very long - when I say catalog, I mean creating a record of at least an author and title so we could find the damn things in the library.  So because they weren't cataloged and with women requesting specific titles so they could read every single one of the paperbacks in the series by a particular author, it was a nightmare trying to find the needed title. I can remember many a lonely night manually checking paperback rack after paperback rack for these things.

But since my librarian days, something strange has happened. 

Harlequin has moved into the 21st century.  This book may be published by Harlequin but it doesn't resemble those old paperbacks at all.  This book is not only funny with engaging, well-rounded, strong women characters and an interesting story, there is sex and, more horror of horrors, the F-bomb is dropped, more than once!  I couldn't believe it.  Harlequin, welcome to the real world!

The book changes back and forth between Jenny's and Rachel's points of view as the story unfolds and their observations are not only spot on but very funny thanks to Higgins' great writing.  Yes, this is Chick Lit but it's Chick Lit of the highest order.  If you enjoy that genre and you aren't afraid of a few swear words and lots of sex, you will enjoy this.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I am still in shock that this is a Harlequin book and that I enjoyed it so much!



Thanks for reading!

 
See you next Friday 
 
for my review of  

"Tulip Fever"  

and

The Week in Reviews

(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)


 and the latest on



"My 1001 Movies I Must See Before 

 I Die Project."

  

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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.
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Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Once there, click on the link that says "Explore More" on the right side of the screen.  Scroll down to External Reviews and when you get to that page, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.

NOTE:  On some entries, this has changed.  If you don't see "Explore More" on the right side of the screen, scroll down just below the description of the film in the middle of the page. Click where it says "Critics." Look for "Rosy the Reviewer" on the list.

Or if you are using a mobile device, look for "Critics Reviews." Click on that and you will find me alphabetically under "Rosy the Reviewer."




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