Friday, April 27, 2018

"I Feel Pretty" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "I Feel Pretty" as well as DVDs "Roman J. Israel" and "Thank You For Your Service."  The Book of the Week is a novel - gasp! - "The Woman in the Window."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Ugetsu."]




I Feel Pretty



A young woman insecure about her looks falls off a bike at her spin class and hits her head and when she wakes up believes she is the most beautiful woman in the world.

Renee (Amy Schumer) is a thirty-something living in New York City and she feels invisible.  For example, at the grocery store talking to Mallory (Emily Ratajkowski), a pretty young woman she met at spin class, a guy mistakes her for the clerk there and asks her where he can find detergent and when trying to get drinks at a bar, the bartender ignores her.  She works as the website manager for one of the most famous cosmetic companies in the world - Lily LeClaire - but she toils in a dark basement blocks from the glamour of the corporate office.  She longs to be the receptionist at the corporate office where she can take part in all of the glamour, even though that job would not require any smarts and she would have to take a pay cut. But when that job comes open, she sees no point in applying since she doesn't feel she is pretty enough to be the face of Lily LeClaire.  In fact, after a long day at work, she goes home to her lonely apartment, takes off her clothes and looks disapprovingly at herself in the mirror trussed up in her Spanx.  It's a very little poignant moment.  Who knew Amy Schumer could be poignant?

But despite her insecurities, Renee hangs in there trying out online dating with her friends Vivian (Aidy Bryant) and Jane (Busy Philips), following YouTube beauty tutorials and going to Soul Cycle for spin workouts, but all the while wishing she could be beautiful. One day while trying to keep up with the others at Soul Cycle, she falls off the bike and hits her head.  When she wakes up and looks in the mirror, instead of seeing herself as she was, she sees a gorgeous woman who could be a supermodel -- and with that her life changes. She becomes THAT WOMAN, a Perfect 10 that no man can resist and she acts accordingly even though to everyone else she looks just the same.  And that is the comic hook of this film resulting in some very funny scenes. 


One memorable one is when Renee meets Ethan (Rory Scovel), her soon-to-be love interest.  Her dry cleaners is one of those places where you have to take a number to get your order and when Ethan, who is behind her in line, asks her what her number is, of course she assumes he wants her phone number.  She is gorgeous, right?.  What man wouldn't want her number? And so her life goes. When you assume you are God's gift to men and act accordingly, everything changes. 

So now she also sees herself as a woman worthy of being the face of Lily LeClaire as their receptionist, so she applies, and Avery LeClaire, the glamorous CEO, played by an extremely funny and amazing Michelle Williams (who knew she could do comedy?) takes to Renee and offers her the job.  Of course Renee thinks that she got the job because she was beautiful, but what Renee doesn't realize is it's not her newfound "beauty" that got her the job and the boyfriend and everything else she ever wanted, but rather her newfound confidence that allows her to let her personality and intelligence shine through.  

So in the course of the film, Renee has to learn that as well as the fact that everyone is insecure about something, even the beautiful Avery whose breathy baby voice makes her feel incompetent and that she will never impress her grandmother (Lauren Hutton), the company's founder.  Renee also needs to learn how easy it is to lose friendships when you are oblivious to their feelings.


Amy Schumer is a polarizing celebrity.  Her humor comes from her innocent cute face and the shocking stuff that comes out of her mouth.  Even if you have never seen her stand up comedy act, her movie "Trainwreck" was a good example. It was very funny but very "R" rated. She is a combination of self-deprecation and bravado, and she can be very raunchy.


But this film is no "Trainwreck."  It's PG rated and actually very sweet, but the haters on this movie came out early blasting Schumer for portraying herself as a woman insecure about her looks when in fact they felt she wasn't fat enough or homely enough to be insecure.  She was also criticized for supposedly implying that women should aspire to be beautiful in order to be happy.


But the haters are wrong. The message here is a good one, that as little girls we grow up unselfconscious about our little tummies hanging out and our hair in rats' nests until that day when someone calls us fat or ugly and that's when we question ourselves and the insecurities begin.  And the fashion mags don't help with those impossibly thin and gorgeous models.  We look at those pictures and think that's what everyone thinks is attractive and we can never attain that when in fact those women don't really look like that either (ever heard of air brushing?) and even if they did, who is willing to eat carrot sticks and lettuce leaves for the rest of their lives to attain that?  No, a real beauty and what we all find attractive is really someone who is enjoying life, living the life she wants and to hell with the haters.  Amy Schumer was on "The View" recently and she said the film was all about "Getting back to that little girl confidence."  If only we could.

I know I yammer on endlessly about the state of modern day comedies and I am here to report that not only does this film, written and directed by Abby Kohn and Mark Silverstein, have a great message for women and young girls, it's actually funny.  Schumer is so good at the throw away lines and her self-deprecating deadpan delivery, and we expect that from her, but Michelle Williams is the revelation here.  And Scovel makes an impressive debut (most of his work has been on TV) as Ethan, a cute and very nice guy who also has his insecurities.  See?  Attractive guys can be insecure too. 

So, haters.  Here is what I say to you.  Who are you to decide who should be insecure and who shouldn't be?  I am sure beautiful women like Jennifer Anniston and Charlize Theron or whomever in the echelon of celebrity you consider beautiful have their insecurities about their looks too.  And if you think this movie was about the importance of being beautiful or that women need to be beautiful to feel confident then you haters just didn't get it.  This movie is about confidence coming from FEELING beautiful not BEING beautiful. And feeling beautiful comes from many sources and we shouldn't get on people's cases for doing whatever makes them feel beautiful.


Oh, and the movie is funny, too!

Rosy the Reviewer says...So, Amy, I get you and thank you for this film.  






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


On DVD





Roman J. Israel, Esq. (2017)


An idealistic attorney finds himself in a situation that makes him question his ethics.

If there was ever any doubt in your mind that Denzel Washington was an accomplished actor at the height of his craft, then this movie will dispel all doubts.  Denzel is just amazing in this film about an attorney with very high values who doesn't have time for the social niceties and chit chat.  In fact, one could say that Roman J. Israel, Esq. is socially abrupt enough and has the social quirks of someone on the spectrum.  He is an old school civil rights lawyer who went to Berkeley and still maintains a desire to make a difference, but he also lives alone in a seedy apartment lined with shelves of Jif peanut butter.  


When we first meet Roman, he is a partner in a two-person law firm where he has worked for 36 years but mostly behind the scenes. His partner, William Jackson, is the face of the firm and has handled all of the litigation activities in court mostly because Roman's argumentative personality couldn't deal with the court structure and the judge's rulings. But Roman is a good attorney committed to activism with an amazing memory - he can quote the California Penal Code by statute - and an exceptional command of the rule of law. For all of those 36 years he has done all of the research and provided Jackson with trial strategy but from behind-the-scenes. Roman's explanation for his playing second fiddle to his partner?  "I chose cause over ambition."

But when Jackson has a heart attack and is in a coma, Jackson's daughter tells Roman that Jackson's succession plan has put George Pierce (Colin Farrell) in charge of the practice.  Pierce is part of a larger law firm and plans to shut down Roman's practice but he offers Roman a job with his firm. But Roman is a principled activist who has been working on a brief that he feels will change the course of justice for the better and George represents everything that Roman is against. Pierce is a handsome slick attorney in an expensive suit who Roman feels is a greedy corporate lawyer, and he wants nothing to do with him. And to add to his assessment, Roman discovers that his partner, William, had not only not been doing his due diligence for his clients but had also been giving kickbacks to George who had been sending cases to William.  Roman declines the job offer and tries to find a job with a local activist organization - The National Assembly for Civil Rights - where he meets Maya (Carmel Ejogo), another activist attorney, but that doesn't work out and Roman is forced to take the job at Pierce's law firm.


But right from the start Roman doesn't fit well into the new job.  He says inappropriate things to his co-workers and just basically doesn't play well with others. He lacks social skills and screws up negotiations on a case because he feels he is smarter than the average bear and can't abide what he considers unfairness.  His first assignment is a murder case which he botches and which leads to his client's death.  Pierce berates him and a series of events lead Roman to become more cynical about the justice system and to go against his own principles to tragic effect.


As I said, Denzel is astonishing in this role. 


This is a Denzel you have never seen before. From his walk to his tics, you can't take your eyes off of him and never once did I think, "Oh, that's Denzel Washington doing a good job playing a part."  No, I was watching Roman J. Israel, Esq., a very complex and principled, though socially awkward man, try to live a principled life but fall into a pit of trouble and who has to eventually confront his own hypocrisy and disbar himself, not just from the law but from life. Denzel is in every scene and is mesmerizing.  

Written and directed by Dan Gilroy, this is a powerful film with a powerful message about the law, about character and the difficulty of living a principled life in an unprincipled world. And for better or worse, we are all influenced by each other.  Roman was pulled to the dark side for a short time by his new life at Pierce's law firm.  But George Pierce, who we thought was a villain, was influenced for the good by Roman. And Colin Farrell does a wonderful job also showing that transformation.


Rosy the Reviewer says...I cried at the end because it was a fantastic film starring a fantastic actor.




Thank You For Your Service (2017)


A sober look at what it's like when soldiers return home from war. 

When I first heard about this film, I thought the title was awful.  I didn't realize that the title itself was an ironic metaphor for the disconnect soldiers returning from war find themselves in when they try to get back to civilian life.


"Thank you for your service" has become a knee-jerk comment we make to men and women in uniform.  I guess it makes us feel better about ourselves to say it, especially those of us who lived through the Vietnam War and remember solders returning from war and being spat upon and booed by civilians who were against the war.  So now we have done a 360 and moved completely to the other side, making a big deal out of those who serve and saying "Thank you for your service" to complete strangers in uniform as we walk down the street or making the point to say "Thank you for your service" when discovering someone had been in the military.  And don't get me wrong. We should make a big deal out of soldiers returning from war because as General Sherman said, "War is hell."  But we also don't want the ubiquitousness of those words to lose their meaning. 


Larry David made that point in a really cringe worthy but funny and trenchant comment on that in one of his recent "Curb Your Enthusiasm" shows.  

Everyone in the room had said "Thank you for your service" to a soldier but Larry refused to say it, not wanting to do something just because everyone else had - if you watch the show you know he is a curmudgeon and doesn't like to do what is socially acceptable - but because he didn't say it he found himself in an awkward and sticky situation, pressured to say the words, not just by his friends but by the soldier, too, who himself had come to expect everyone to say that to him.  And though that was making fun of our now ubiquitous knee jerk reactions to soldiers, it's also a serious statement, and I get it. Because if we really are sincerely thanking soldiers for their service, then we should have some idea of what that service entailed, what those soldiers actually went through, not just say the words, feel good about ourselves and then go about our business, forget about them and about the horrors of war. I think that's what this movie is trying to say.

It's 2007 and three soldiers who served in Iraq return home.

After 15-months in Iraq, Adam Schumann (Miles Teller) returns home to Kansas and his loving wife, Saskia (Haley Bennett) and their two young children, a daughter and an infant son born while Adam was away. In war, Adam has purpose.  Now back at home, he is not so sure what his purpose is. 

Adam's issues revolve around his PTSD and the fact that he is haunted by the death of a fellow soldier, feeling he failed to safely rescue him from a building under fire, and he also suffers survivor's guilt about letting Sergeant First Class James Doster (Brad Beyer) take his place on a patrol one day that resulted in Doster's death.

Adam has returned home from war with two soldier buddies who are also dealing with their own issues: an American Samoan, Tausolo Aeiti (Beulah Koale), and Billy Waller (Joe Cole), who when he returns home discovers that his fiance has left him and taken everything with her. Billy doesn't last long after that. He confronts her at her job where he commits suicide in front of her.

Meanwhile, Tausolo also suffers from severe PTSD and memory loss and just wants to reenlist and is upset that he can't reenlist so he falls in with a group of drug dealers.

All of these guys are in great need of help and from this film's point of view trying to get help from the bureaucratic Office of Veterans Affairs is almost as bad as fighting a war.

It is no easy feat fighting a war and then coming home and having to deal with the petty issues of civilian life.  When you wife hasn't seen you for months, it's difficult to fit you into the schedule.  You also realize you don't even know your own daughter doesn't like chocolate.

Based on the book by David Finkel and adapted and directed by Jason Hall, I liked this film much more than I thought I would. It was a powerful story of the thousands of veterans seeking help and an indictment of the lack of services available.  This film is to the Iraq War what "The Deer Hunter" was for Vietnam.  Yeah, thanks for your service and now you are on your own.

Miles Teller is wonderful as Adam.  He is a young man who made his mark in "The Spectacular Now" and has matured into a wonderful actor with a great career ahead of him. But Koale is also a standout in his first feature film performance.  His naturalness and poignancy is compelling.  I also remember saying to Hubby while watching this, "Boy that woman with the dark hair sure looks like Amy Schumer."  And it was - in a black wig in a very small part. Like I always say, comedians want to be dramatic actors and dramatic actors want to be comedians. It was also a strange little bit of serendipity considering the review of her latest movie above.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this film will give new meaning to you when you say "Thank you for your service" to a soldier.






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



146 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?




Ugetsu (1953)


A ghost story set in medieval Japan.


In the village of Nakanogo, Genjuro (Masayuki Mori), a peasant potter, wants to better himself so he takes his wares to a neighboring town to sell.  He is accompanied by his brother, Tobei (Eitaro Ozawa), a farmer who dreams of becoming a Samurai. Genjuro is doing well.  He is consumed with making money.


"Money is everything.  Without it life is hard and hope dies."


But then his village is attacked by a warring army and they are uprooted.  Genjuro and Tobei are separated from their wives, Miyagi (Tinuyo Tanaka) and Ohama (Mitsuko Mito).  Genjuro finds a town and continues to sell his pottery and Tobei goes off to become a Samurai but while they are gone life is not easy for the wives.  


Genjurō sets up shop in another village and is visited by a noblewoman, Lady Wakasa (Machiko Kyo) and her female servant, who order several pieces of pottery and tell him to bring them to the Kutsuki mansion. Genjurō is seduced by Lady Wakasa, but Genjurō discovers that she and her servant are spirits and that Lady Wakasa was killed before she could experience love so has returned to this world to experience its joys. He is mesmerized by her but a priest tells him to go home or he will die.  He finally comes to his senses and gets away from Lady Wakasa and returns home searching for his wife.  Tobei, who has become a Samurai, also returns looking for his wife.  The wives have not fared well. One has become a prostitute after being gang raped and the other... 

At first look, I am not drawn to these old Japanese films based on folk tales and fantasy set in medieval Japan but once I start to watch they mesmerize me and I find myself in another world captivated by the story, the characters and the beauty of the cinematography. 

Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi, who also directed "Sansho the Bailiff," among others, Godard called him the greatest of directors.

Why it's a Must See:  "[This film] is troubling, perplexing, and beautiful.  Mostly, though, it is truly humbling.  To watch it is to be in the presence of greatness."

In 2004, Roger Ebert called this film "One of the greatest of all films."

Rosy the Reviewer says...I really liked it too.  It's a mesmerizing look into another time, another place and a little understood historical culture.

(b & w, in Japanese with English subtitles)




***Book of the Week***




The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn (2018)


A house-bound agoraphobic woman who keeps watch on her neighbors through her window believes she witnessed a murder.  But no one believes her.

Now don't drop your glass of wine.  Yes, I am reviewing a novel.  I know that's a novel idea (ha...sorry), but I do occasionally indulge in a bit of fiction now and then though my true guilty pleasure is a celebrity tell-all.  Anyway, this is a fun bit of suspense that reminded me of Hitchcock's "Rear Window."
And speaking of wine.  Our heroine, Anna Fox, lives alone and indulges a bit too much in the old vino. She is a child psychologist but ironically also an agoraphobic recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She hangs out alone drinking, watching old Hitchcock movies, talking to other agorphobics on line with a moniker "thedoctorisin" and wishing for a better life.  Oh, and she also constantly spies on her neighbors.  But wine + meds + lots of old suspense movies can sometimes muddy reality and fiction.
Her new neighbors, the Russells, are of particular interest.  They have moved in across the way - a mother named Jane (Jane Russell, get it?), a father and their teenage son.  One night while indulging in her favorite activity - spying on her neighbors - she thinks she sees Jane murdered but when she alerts the police, no body is found and someone else shows up purporting to be Jane.  What the hell is going on here?
Is what she saw real?  Will anyone believe her?
You know those slogan T-shirts we used to wear?  I remember one that always made me laugh.  It said "Even paranoids have enemies."  That is what this book is like.  Anna may be paranoid (and a drunk), but maybe, just maybe, she really did see a murder.  There is possible gaslighting going on here (a term we now use courtesy of the movie "Gaslight"), and our heroine is alone, has a handicap and is in jeopardy.  She has to overcome her handicap and prevail. 

Yes, this is a plot that we have encountered many times in movies and books, but we keep reading because we want to know why Anna is agoraphobic, what happened to her marriage and who is the real Jane Russell (the character in this book, not the actress). The book is a thriller, but it also has humor and heart because of Anna, the main character. Her observations are wry and acerbic so you root for her even when you are also thinking she could be a whack job.  And for us movie buffs, lots and lots of movie references.  

But bottom line: it's a real page-turner with some plot twists even I didn't see coming (and I'm pretty good at seeing the plot twists from miles away). And page-turner though it is, it's not just a schlocky page turner.  Finn is a really a good writer. The book is dialogue heavy, but not at the expense of some eloquent descriptive passages. 

"It was only as we reached the Green Mountains, bulging like shoulders from the earth, that he began to thaw."

"Last night [was] a curl of smoke."

Good, right?  We fiction lovers always enjoy a good simile or metaphor.  Yes, though my reading habits don't seem to support the notion, I do love a good novel.

What did I learn from my not normal foray into the world of fiction?

If you are known to have a glass or seven of wine on a regular basis, people aren't likely to believe you if you say you have seen a murder.  Oops.
Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like thrillers and enjoy writers like Paula Hawkins ("The Girl on the Train") or Ruth Ware ("The Woman in Cabin 10") or you are a Hitchcock fan, you will like this.  And speaking of Hitchcock, this would make a great movie so expect to see this in the theatres soon.  

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of 


"Rampage"

 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.

Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 


Go to IMDB.com, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll down below the synopsis and the listings for the director, writer and main stars to where it says "Reviews" and click on "Critics" - If I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list.




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