Friday, May 18, 2018

"Life of the Party" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Life of the Party" as well as DVDs "The Insult" and "In the Fade."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Nostalgia for the Light."  The Book of the Week is a novel: "The Perfect Nanny"]











Life of the Party




After 20+ years of marriage, Deeanna's husband dumps her for another woman, and instead of curling up and dying, she returns to college to finish her degree.

The day that Deeana (Melissa McCarthy) and her husband, Dan (Matt Walsh), drop off their daughter, Maddie (Molly Gordon), at Decatur College for her senior year, Dan asks Deeana for a divorce.  He is in love with a locally famous realtor, and not only is he leaving Deeana, but he plans to take the house as well because for some reason it's only in his name. Deeana is completely blindsided, left with nothing, and goes home to be with Mom and Dad. But she is comforted by her best friend, Christine (played by a hilarious Maya Rudolph) who likes to play racket ball drinking a wine cooler...or seven.


But after the initial shock, Deeana gets the idea that she needs to go back to college and finish her archaeology degree. Not sure where that came from, but OK.  She had quit college when she married Dan and now it's her time.  


You see, despite this set back, as in her husband leaving her for another woman and leaving her with nothing, Deeana is basically a very upbeat and bubbly woman and that's her strength, because everyone is drawn to her optimism.  However, you can imagine how Maddie feels about going to school with her mother.  Geez, I can't imagine my mother telling me she was going to enroll in my college, live in the dorm and hang out with me and my friends.  But Maddie is a better person than I and is soon not only OK with it but also introduces Deeana to her sorority sisters who think that Deeana is the greatest thing since the invention of the beer bong.  

Meanwhile, Deeana lives in the dorm with Leonor (Heidi Gardner, another SNL alum), a young goth-like woman who stays in bed most of the time and doesn't seem to ever leave her room, but Deeana manages to win her over too. Is there no one who Deeana can't win over?  Deeana even captivates Jack (Luke Benward), a young, handsome college guy who seems to prefer chardonnay to beer and older women to college coeds and they get it on.  In fact they can't get enough of each other...and that's where my "ew" factor kicked in and the film kind of lost me.

Anyway...


If you can buy the premise that a 40+ year-old-woman would return to college - the same college her daughter is attending - and that she would live in the dorm with a young roommate, that her daughter would not only be OK with her being there but actually introduce her to her sorority sisters who all think that hanging out with her Mom is the greatest...uh...then you will probably like this film.


Now, I know that I have been a big Debbie Downer lately when it's come to comedies, and that you may question my sense of humor.  I don't blame you. I am questioning my sense of humor too.


So I have decided to be positive.  I am going to list what I liked about this film first.




***What I liked***



  • I liked Melissa McCarthy

She is one of the best at physical humor and she is not afraid to do just about anything for a laugh. One of the funniest moments in the film is when Deeana piles her husband's belongings out in the backyard and when she sets them aflame it's like a bomb going off and she is knocked across the yard, legs awry and butt in the air.  I actually laughed out loud.  I couldn't believe it.  Not that she was knocked across the yard.  I couldn't believe I laughed.


  • The film celebrated female friendships.

When Deeana was dumped by her husband, the first person she went to was her best friend, Christine, played by Maya Rudolph, who is one of those ride or die friends. Though I like Melissa, her character got on my nerves a bit after awhile, but Maya was funny, the funniest thing about this film.  She is willing to really go there, if you know what I mean.


  • The film celebrates positive mother/daughter relationships.

Though Deeana's daughter, Maddie, is not initially happy about her mother attending the same college as she, she comes around, because she really loves her mother and enjoys her company.  She is also very empathetic and supportive to her mother.  I would like to feel that my daughter would have been the same way if I had gone back to school at her college and wanted to hang with her and her friends. (Right now my daughter is shivering and going "Naaaaa.")


  • There was a feminist vibe that I liked.

Well, kind of.  I like it that Deeana didn't fall apart when her husband left her and that she kind of made a new life for herself.


  • SNL members are getting gigs

In addition to Heidi Gardner and Maya Rudolph, Chris Parnell also makes an appearance as Deeana's archaeology professor.  McCarthy has had a long association with SNL so it's nice to see her paying it forward and giving these guys some jobs.  God know, actors always want to know where their next gig is coming from.

OK, now, brace yourselves.  




***Here is what I didn't like***



  • I love Melissa but her character got on my nerves after awhile.  

I am not a big fan of perpetually happy, positive people who get by in life by making the best of every situation.  I know that says more about me than the character so you will have to do with that what you will, but making the best of every situation also doesn't make for much of a story either.


  • The film wasn't that funny and nothing much happens.

I know, here I go again, but I don't think I am alone in saying that the movies McCarthy has been in that were written by her and her husband, Ben Falcone and directed by him ("Tammy," "The Boss"), are not as funny as those she has made with Paul Feig ("The Heat," "Spy").  And like I already said, there isn't much of a story either. Woman gets dumped by her husband, woman gets on with her life, end of story.  I think it's time to sever that relationship - the writing one, not the marital one.


  • The film wasn't very realistic

I mean, c'mon, what parent would go back to the same college as her daughter, live in the dorm with a young student, hang out in the sorority house where the sorority sisters just love her and then snag a really, really handsome much- younger boyfriend?  I wish.  But then what daughter would be OK with that?


  • They didn't do their homework.

OK, this may seem like a small thing, but there was one scene where Deeana is partying at a frat house and every time someone took a drink they would all yell their drinking motto.  Deeana, however, would yell something political like "Save the whales!"  However, when she yelled "Equal work for equal pay!" I went "huh?"  Isn't it "Equal pay for equal work?"  At first I thought that might be the joke but then she and everyone else yelled the same thing a second time. That kind of stuff really bothers me.

Rosy the Reviewer says...But there were more things I liked than I didn't like, so if you like Melissa McCarthy this is mostly a fun movie experience that I can mostly recommend.







***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***

(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!


On DVD













The Insult (2017)






Nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language film last year, this film is a reminder of the tensions that not only exist between Christians and Palestinians in Lebanon but religious and racial tensions that exist around the world.

Tony (Adel Karam) is a devout Christian living in Lebanon, and he is also a devout believer in the Christian Party which doesn't approve of Palestinian refugees. But Tony lives a conventional life in Beirut. He runs a car repair shop and his wife, Shirine (Rita Hayek), is pregnant and they both look forward to getting a bigger apartment. 


But everything changes one day when Tony is watering his plants on his balcony and water runs out from the gutters and falls on some men doing work in the street.  One of those men is Yasser (Kamel El Basha), a Muslim Palestinian refugee, who is the foreman for a construction crew working for the city.  Turns out Tony's gutters are not up to code so when Yasser approaches Tony about doing something about his illegal gutters, Tony is defiant, so Yasser and his men take it upon themselves to redo Tony's gutters on their own.  However, Tony is not pleased and beats down the new gutters.  Then Yasser is not pleased with Tony's actions and responds with an expletive, so Tony goes to Yasser's boss to demand an apology.


Yasser is convinced by his boss to apologize but when he approaches Tony and tries to apologize, he hears the anti-Palestinian hate rhetoric that Tony is listening to on the radio, which is bad enough, but when Tony says "I wish Ariel Sharon had wiped you all out," that is the final straw and instead of apologizing, Yasser punches Tony in the ribs. 

So now Yasser feels he is the one who deserves an apology from Tony and so begins a series of events that leads to a trial and becomes a national cause celebre that pits Christians and those who don't want Palestinian refuges coming to their country against Palestinians.  What started as a property dispute has suddenly turned into something very big.  And this all started because one man wouldn't apologize to the other. But don't think that Tony is necessarily the bad guy in this story. 
Tony has his side of the story as we learn later in the film.  Whether we approve or not, everyone has a reason for their grudges.


Yes, this is a story that takes place in Lebanon and yes, it's about Palestinians vs. Christians but it's also a story of religious and racial hatred that can be extrapolated to what is happening today in the rest of the world. 

Written (with Joelle Touma) and directed by Ziad Doueria, this is one of those films where things go from bad to worse and then more worse.  When Samire gives birth prematurely and the baby has complications, Tony blames Yasser for the stress on his wife and it goes on and on.

Karan and El Basha are wonderful as the two men at odds caught up in a political situation that spirals out of control.

As humans, we always need someone to blame for our misfortune.  Hitler was able to get people to believe all of their problems were because of the Jews and in the Middle East for many that same kind of sentiment exists against Palestinians.  And in Europe and here in the U.S. there is a similar fervor toward refugees and immigrants.


But then there is the hatred of the group that can often be mitigated by an interaction on a personal level and that is borne out in a quiet moment at the end of the film when Yasser's car won't start.  Tony goes into car mechanic mode to help him, and you feel at that moment, that if there had not been all of that political interference, that perhaps Tony and Yasser would have been able to find some common ground.  


If you are not familiar with the political situation in Lebanon, the film can be confusing at times (and I confess I didn't), but that does not really hinder the effectiveness of this film.  However, educating yourself about what is happening there is not a bad idea, because we Americans don't seem to know much about what is happening in other countries and don't really seem to care.  And we should. 


Rosy the Reviewer says...a compelling and timely story of how religious and racial hatred can turn an insult into a war.

(In Arabic with English subtitles)












In the Fade (2017)






Katja's husband and son are killed in a bomb attack and when it doesn't look like they will get justice, she takes it upon herself to seek revenge.

Katja (Diane Kruger), her husband, Nuri (Numan Acar), and their young son, live in Hamburg amidst a growing foment of Neo Nazism.  This is of particular concern to them because Katja is married to a Turk.  One day as Katja leaves her husband and son at Nuri's office, she encounters a young woman leaving her new bicycle unattended. She says to the young woman leaving the bike that she should lock it and just then Katja's husband's office blows up and he and his son are killed.


So begins a painful odyssey for Katja as she tries to get justice for her husband and son.  


First, the police lay out all kinds of scenarios that perhaps Nuri was responsible for his own death due to some shady dealings. Yes, Nuri has a history of drug trafficking and a prison sentence but he has since gone straight and was 
working in a tax and translation office when the bomb went off.

So in addition to Katja's grief over losing her husband and son, she has to deal with the skepticism of the police and family tensions which in turn lead Katja to indulge in a bit of drug use to ease the pain. I mean, wouldn't you (she said sipping her big glass of wine)? 

It eventually comes to light that the young woman Katja saw leaving the bike and the young woman's husband were, indeed, likely suspects and known Neo Nazis, and they are brought to trial. Since Katja can identify the woman, the trial seems to be a no-brainer, but because of some shady testimony and the defense lawyer calling Katja's credibility into question because of her drug use, the two get off.  

Now Katja is forced to get justice on her own.  The last half hour of this film is very, very tense as Katja, driven by sorrow and loss, zeros in on the bad guys and they zero in on her.

Written and directed by Fatih Akin, this is another film about the hatred of a group of people, especially immigrants (see review above) and the destruction it causes.  And it is also a showcase for the talents of Diane Kruger.


Diane Kruger is a highly underrated actress.  


Though she has had a successful acting career and been in some high profile films like "Inglorious Basterds," she has mostly toiled in smaller and foreign films. She is not up there in the starry stratosphere of a Julia Roberts or a Cate Blanchett.  I wasn't expecting her in this German film and didn't even realize it was she until halfway through the film. But she is just phenomenal in this. I couldn't take my eyes off her face because it was so wordlessly expressive.  She deserves to be up there in the stratosphere, and I am happy to say that she did win the Best Actress prize at Cannes for this performance.  Well deserved.

What I love about foreign films are the human relationships and small moments that they celebrate and which are often not found in big budget American films. My one complaint is the hand-held camera which wobbled so much at times I thought I was seeing Emily Watson again in "Breaking the Waves," where people were so discombobulated by the hand-held camera some complained of nausea.  I was fine.  Thanks for asking but I needed a swig of wine to steady myself.


Like "The Insult (see review above)," this film shows how those who survive hate crimes and genocide often take on that hatred themselves thus continuing the cycle of fear, violence and hatred that started it all. The film ends with an epilogue of the number of hate crimes occurring today in Germany.


Rosy the Reviewer says...A sad commentary on the burgeoning Nazi movement in Germany but a reminder that we have these same kinds of Nationalistic and anti-immigration issues here in the U.S.

(In German with English subtitles)






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





143 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?










Nostalgia for the Light (2010)








A documentary that pairs astronomers looking for clues to the history of the universe in the Atacama Desert in Chile with women looking for the remains of loved ones killed by the brutal Pinochet regime.

This film is all about what is happening up in space vs. what is happening down here on earth.  Two distinct activities are taking place in the Atacama Desert in this beautifully photographed documentary where astronomers look to the heavens while relatives of victims of Pinochet's brutal regime search the earth in hopes of finding the bones of their loved ones.


The filmmaker, Patricio Guzman, narrates and discusses his love of astronomy and how as a young boy he wanted to be an astronomer.  He also talks about how peaceful Chile was when he was a boy before "the troubles."  That was when General Augusto Pinochet toppled the elected government in 1973, and, ever since, Guzman has turned his hand to filmmaking and dedicating himself to recording the atrocities committed by Pinochet against all who opposed him.  


The Atacama Desert has no humidity, the only place on earth, and is the closest thing we have to the moon, so scientists came from all over to study the stars there but then came the coup and the desert became the home of Chacabuco, Pinochet's concentration camp where 30,000 dissenters were tortured and killed. In the midst of the beauty of the universe there is the ugliness of what humans do to each other.  


And the desert was also the burial ground for those dissidents  - the people Pinochet "disappeared," so the astronomers share the desert with the women who have returned over and over for the last almost 30 years to try to find the remains of their families.  The astronomers search for the origin of the past; these women are searching for their past.  The astronomers are searching for celestial bodies; the women are searching for human bodies.


The images shown in this film are both beautiful and horrifying.  One woman describes finding her brother's foot and feeling "reunited." One woman gazing at the large telescopes says wistfully, "I wish the telescopes didn't just look into the sky but into the earth so that we can find them." But in the end one woman is very pragmatic as she realizes that it's all part of the cycle of life and of the universe because she believes that nothing really comes to an end.


"Those who have a memory are able to live in the fragile moment.  Those who have none don't live anywhere."


Why it's a Must See: "Guzman's film celebrates mankind's scientific advances, but suggests that such progression is redundant if we fail in our humanity."

---"1001 Movies We Must See Before We Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...some of the most beautiful images I have ever seen but also some of the most disturbing.

(In Spanish with English subtitles)










***The Book of the Week***







The Perfect Nanny: A Novel by Leila Slimani






Every parent's nightmare!

The perfect nanny is not every parent's nightmare but a nanny who seems perfect who ends up killing your kids certainly is. 


This book seems to be ripped from the headlines as a New York City nanny did, indeed, murder her charges back in October 2012 except this is a fictionalized version taking place in France.

Myriam is a French-Moroccan lawyer who has been staying home with her two young children, but when she is offered a job in a law firm she can't pass it up.  So she and her husband Paul look for the perfect nanny.


Paul has it all worked out:


"No illegal immigrants, agreed? For a cleaning lady or a decorator, it doesn't bother me.  Those people have to work, after all.  But to look after the little ones, it's too dangerous.  I don't want someone who'd be afraid to call the police or go to the hospital if there was a problem.  Apart from that...not too old, no veils and no smokers.  The important thing is that she's energetic and available.  That she works so we can work."


So when Myriam and Paul interview Louise, a quiet, polite woman who meets their criteria, they are thrilled.  She sings to the children, hosts children's parties for them, stays late when needed and even cleans their apartment.


And that's all they need to know.  They don't need to know the sad, lonely life that Louise lives when she is not with them.  She is their nanny and how she treats them and their children is all they care about. They don't know what is going on in her mind and the murderous thoughts that slowly start to haunt her.


This is a fast read - you can do it in one sitting - that attempts to understand how such a thing could happen.  Not sure the book was successful in that, but it did bring home the point - how much do we really know about the personal lives of people who work for us - what they are going through, what they think, how they feel? - and how much do we really care?  And what role does class, power and race play when things go terribly wrong?


Rosy the Reviewer says...if you have a nanny or are planning on getting one, you probably shouldn't read this book!




Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of 


"Fishbowl California"


 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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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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