Friday, September 28, 2018

"The Wife" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "The Wife" as well as DVDs "Lemon" and "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie."  The Book of the Week is Sally Field's memoir "In Pieces."]


The Wife


When novelist Joe Castleman (Jonathan Pryce) receives the Nobel Prize for Literature, his wife, Joan (Glenn Close), is forced to face the choices she made in life.

I probably wouldn't have known much about this movie or gone to see it if Hubby hadn't been in an airport on a recent business trip, needed something to read and randomly picked up the novel by Meg Wolitzer upon which this film is based, but I am glad he did.  With six Oscar nominations and no wins, I think this is Glenn Close's year for an Academy Award.

I can't really go into too much detail about the film, because this is one of those films with a big revelation at the end.  Unfortunately it was a revelation I saw coming practically from the first frame (Hubby said the book was much more subtle in the hints about what was to come), but that did not hinder my enjoyment of the film, especially the acting.  Let's just say that behind every successful man is a woman.

It's 1992. Joe Castleman is a successful novelist who has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  He and his doting wife, Joan, along with their son, David (Max Irons, son of Jeremy), travel from Connecticut to Stockholm for Joe's award. David also hopes to be a writer and yearns for his father's approval which is not forthcoming.  As we follow Joe and Joan on that journey, there are flashbacks to young Joe (Harry Lloyd, who distractingly looked too much like Jim Carrey and Jim Carrey always makes me laugh no matter what kind of role he is playing) and young Joan (the stunning Annie Starke) meeting in the 1950's when he was a professor at Smith College and she was a student and promising writer.  Though he is married with a baby, they embark on an affair and eventually he leaves his wife and marries Joan.  Joe is arrogant and needy and Joan is a good wife. Now they have been married for over 30 years and she looks after Joe, making sure he takes his pills, knows where his glasses are, and has forgiven him his infidelities, all of those things a good wife was supposed to do for her man back in the good old days.

But in Stockholm as Joe prepares to accept his Nobel Prize and Joan plays the role of the dutiful wife, Joan goes from doting wife to a woman tormented by the past and what might have been. And Christian Slater, as biographer Nathanial Bone, who hopes to write about Joe, stirs the pot as he interviews Joan over some stiff drinks.

Jonathan Pryce is always good but almost unrecognizable here with the facial hair and the American accent.  Likewise Annie Starke as the young Joan is wonderful but this is Close's film.  Though she doesn't say much, her face speaks volumes as it reacts to what is happening around her.  Her face seems like a mask but yet it tell us everything. It's a face masking all of the secrets and locked up resentments of Joan's life.

Adapted for the screen from Meg Wolitzer's novel by Jane Anderson and directed by Swedish director Bjorn Runge, this is the story of a marriage and how so many women who came of age in the 1950's gave up their own dreams to live a life helping their husbands realize theirs.

Rosy the Reviewer says...ring....ring...Ms. Close?  Oscar calling.
(Note:  We saw this film at an "art house" that specializes in smaller films and there were only two other people in the matinee we attended so if you want to see this lovely film, get thee to the theatre now)!



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


On DVD




Lemon (2017)


When his girlfriend leaves him after ten years together, Isaac's life starts to unravel.

Forty-year-old Isaac Lachmann's (Brett Gelman) longtime girlfriend (Judy Greer) has left him and his life isn't working. He is a struggling actor whose most recent work includes a PSA hyping the dangers of Hepatitis C and a commercial selling adult diapers. So he also teaches acting classes to get by. It doesn't help that his seemingly only friend, Alex (Michael Cera with Shirley Temple hair), who is also one of his acting students, is getting some good jobs and bragging about them. However, it's difficult to feel sorry for Isaac because he is socially awkward to say the least.  He is in fact actually quite obnoxious.  

The film is cringeworthy at every turn because Isaac never makes the correct social decision. It's humor is also very dark. For example, Isaac's girlfriend is blind and sells medical supplies. Isaac's acting classes are also quite dark as they illustrate the dynamic of the failed actor as he relentlessly picks on one of his students.  Isaac's favorite is Alex who can seem to do no wrong while Isaac relentlessly picks on Tracy (Gillian Jacobs) who can't seem to do anything right as Alex and Tracy rehearse a scene from Chekov's "The Seagull."  Isaac may only be able to get commercials for adult diapers but, dammit, this is his acting class and he is going to throw his weight around.

Isaac eventually meets Cleo (Nia Long) an African-American make-up artist with a young son and he becomes obsessed with her while at the same time showing his innate racism.

There is lots of star power in this little film that shows all of the posing and false bragging that embodies the actor's life in L.A; how actors are treated in the industry (like pieces of meat); what they have to go through to even get very small parts; the pecking order (you throw your weight around on people seen as below you as Isaac does with Tracy); and the rejection they face every day.  So to cope they create ego laden personas for themselves.  It's as if everyone is acting all of the time even when they aren't.

Written by Janicza Bravo and Gelman (they are married) and directed by Bravo, there is a message to be had here but unfortunately it was overshadowed by the unlikable characters. 

As I said, there are several big names attached to this film. Megan Mullally of the voice that sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard has a fake British accent here that comes and goes, the aforementioned Michael Cera, Judy Greer and Nia Long as well as Jeff Garlin and Rhea Perlman (playing against type), but the film is really all about Gelman as Isaac Lachmann.  Gelman is a writer and actor in real life and has been a fixture on TV.  His character here reminded me of Will Ferrell when Ferrell plays arrogant but clueless characters.  But despite the insights and the good acting, I had a difficult time figuring out why all of these actors wanted to be in this film.

Those moments of insight and the good acting are not enough to save this film which is, er, kind of a lemon.

Rosy the Reviewer says...I like original films, I like quirky films, I like strange films but this one was a bit too original, too quirky and too strange. I can't recommend it.  I don't want you blaming me for this one.




Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)


Ever since "Jurassic World (2015)," the first in this planned trilogy where the dinosaur amusement park went haywire, the dinosaurs have been living freely on the island of Isla Nublar but are now in danger as a volcano threatens to erupt making the dinosaurs extinct once again.  Owen (Chris Pratt) and Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard) to the rescue!

After the Jurassic World debacle, the dinosaurs are living alone on Isla Nublar but a volcano threatens to erupt.  There are those who believe they should let the dinosaurs die but animal rights groups are fighting to save them particularly the "Dinosaur Protection Group," led by Claire Dearing, who was instrumental in saving them in the last film.

She is approached by billionaire Benjamin Lockwood (James Cromwell), who wants to save the dinosaurs. He was supposedly involved with Hammond (from the first film) in creating the dinosaurs in the first place and he needs her to activate the old park's security systems so Claire works with Lockwood's minion, Eli Mills (Rafe Spall), to save the dinosaurs not realizing that he does not have the dinosaurs' best interests at heart.  In fact, he wants to save them from the island only to auction them off to animal traffickers for millions of dollars.

Claire and Owen had a thing in the last film but are no longer together. However, Claire knows she needs Owen to help her. Owen is living off the grid building a cabin in the middle of nowhere, but Claire finds him and entreats him to help her save the dinosaurs, especially Blue, the little dinosaur that Owen raised from a baby. Owen is not keen.  He wants to be left alone but the two go off and get drunk together, hash over their old relationship, Owen eventually relents and the two, with the help of dinosaur doctor Zia Rodriguez (Daniella Pineda) and computer nerd and scaredy cat Franklin (Justice Smith) - the two also provide comic relief - head to the island to help Lockwood's men save the dinosaurs, not realizing they are actually helping the bad guys.

The volcano does blow and this is where, as an actor, being a good runner and screamer comes in because there is a lot of that.  There are also many scary and up-close-and-personal encounters with dinosaurs especially as the monsters invade Lockwood's mansion.

Meanwhile, Mills is putting his evil plan in play (to weaponize the creatures) but it is overheard by little Maisie (Isabella Sermon), Lockwood's granddaughter.  She tries to tell her grandfather about it but Mills intervenes much to Lockwood's detriment and now little Maisie is in danger.

But you know how these things go.  Our heroes will prevail.

Written by Derek Connolly and Colin Trevorrow and directed by J.A. Bayona, there is a certain comfort in these kinds of movies.  Unlike Forrest Gump's box of chocolates, you DO know what you are going to get. 

  • The film will start with some sort of huge ominous action sequence that forebodes what is to come and someone usually gets eaten
  • There is a reluctant hero who has given up
  • We also have a plucky heroine and...
  • A plucky child
  • There will be a problem that our heroes must solve
  • Lots of big angry dinosaurs (or gorillas or aliens) will abound
  • Some bad guys (animal traffickers have been big this year) will show up to try to thwart our heroes
  • Our reluctant hero is drawn back in by memories, in this case memories of raising little Blue

And we are off and running!  Let's save some dinosaurs!

So even though you know how it's all going to go and how it's all going to end, there is comfort in that, right?  You settle down for a night of escapism that doesn't require a lot of brain waves. Or...you could get bored since you have seen it all before. That's what happened to me.  Even though there are some spectacular action scenes, the CGI dinosaurs are fun and the film is quite visually beautiful (Bayona also directed the lovely "A Monster Calls' which I really liked), about half way through, I got bored, especially since I knew how it was going to end. That's why it's sometimes a good thing to watch a movie at home.  You can fast forward through the boring bits.  Once the story became more about little Maisie, it all kind of fell apart.

Oh, but one final trope I missed.  The bad guy usually meets his demise rather spectacularly and this film is no exception.

I enjoy Bryce Dallas Howard as an actress and wish she would do more than this type of film.  I have also enjoyed Chris Pratt in the past.  He had a great deal of charisma in the first "Guardians of the Galaxy" film and even in "Jurassic World," both of which I really liked, but here he seems to be sleepwalking through the whole thing. He didn't even make wisecracks like we are used to.  If it wasn't for Pineda and Smith there wouldn't have been any humor in this thing at all. Since I didn't like him in "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2," either, maybe he just has a problem with sequels.

Plus Howard and Pratt had zero chemistry.  I thought the same thing about him and Jennifer Lawrence in "Passengers."  Maybe he has a problem with sex. I think it's time for him to be in some kind of sexy thing so we can see if he even has some sex appeal. 

Finally, what the heck was Jeff Goldblum doing in this?  When this was close to release, he was on all of the talk shows hyping the film and come to find out, he is in two very small scenes.  Maybe he was important because he was warning us that another sequel was coming.  Oh, god. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...you've seen it all before so you probably don't need to see it again.



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


125 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?



Hotel Terminus (1988)


A documentary that examines the life of Nazi SS officer Klaus Barbie, the infamous "Butcher of Lyon."

I am going to say at the get go there is absolutely no reason for a film to be FOUR AND ONE HALF HOURS LONG!

That said, this is a fascinating documentary and won an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 1989.

Using forty years of footage and interviews culled from over 120 hours of filmed material with former unrepentant Nazis, American intelligence officers, South American government officials and victims of Nazi atrocities, director Max Ophuls (who also directed the incredible "The Sorrow and the Pity - another very long movie") tells an epic tale about Barbie, who was Gestapo chief at the aptly named Gestapo headquarters, the "Terminus Hotel" in Lyon, France - where he tortured and murdered resistance fighters and deported thousands of Jewish men, women and children to the death camps.  

We learn from this film that after the war, he worked with and was protected by the U.S. Army and American intelligence officers because he helped them with their anti-communist efforts.  He was able to ingratiate himself with them because it seems we hated the Russians more than the Nazis! Despite Barbie's crimes, he was allowed to live peacefully in Bolivia for over 30 years until in 1987 he was finally brought to trial in a French court for crimes against humanity.

This film stirs the questions about American and German complicity, indifference, justice...and guilt. It also is a timely take on nationalism.

Why it's a Must See: "A work of art in every sense, [this film] is among the most rigorous as well as the most accessible documentaries about the Nazi era."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...an amazing film but it could have been shorter.




***The Book of the Week***



In Pieces by Sally Field (2018)


Who knew that our little "Flying Nun" had such a harrowing life?

It's all here.  Actress Sally Field spills the beans on the child abuse she suffered growing up as well as everything you ever wanted to know about her relationship with Burt and a great deal more.  I was particularly upset about her stepfather's sexual abuse.  It was really bad for her, I know, but I was upset to learn her stepfather was one of my movie star crushes growing up. Disturbing to learn he was a pedophile.

Raised by a struggling actress mother who divorced her father when she was really young, Sally was raised in L.A. by her actress mother and actor stepfather.  She struggled with insecurities and didn't do well in school but theatre saved her.  Not knowing what she was going to do after high school, luckily she was plucked from obscurity at 18 and landed the TV show "Gidget," which lasted for one season.  The show might have failed but she didn't so despite that show ending, she was off and running.  "The Flying Nun" came next and it was very successful but let's just say that type-casting is real and it took awhile for her to shed that habit and be taken seriously as an actress, particularly since she was a little thing who looked like a child until she was 40.  Hey, she still looks like a young girl at 71!

But then along came "Sybil," the TV version of the best-selling book about the woman with multiple personalities.  Everyone was stunned that our little Sister Bertrille could turn into a woman with so many, how do I say?  Issues ?  And that TV movie led to film roles: "Smokey and the Bandit, "Norma Rae," "Places in the Heart," "Forrest Gump," "Lincoln," and more.  "Norma Rae" and "Places in the Heart" were significant because she won Best Actress Academy Awards for both.  Remember her speech for "Places in the Heart?"  You like me!  You really like me!  But "Smokey and the Bandit" was significant because that's when she met Burt Reynolds.

They did two more films together as well as embarking on a romantic relationship. It's interesting that in his later years Burt has said that Sally was the love of his life.  That's not her take.  She describes him as a regular guy with his own family issues that helped create his charming devil-may-care persona that he showed the world but he was also controlling, lacking in empathy and not particularly interested in her issues.  There's more but you will have to read about it for yourself.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Sally, we do like you.  We really do!  If you like celebrity biographies, this is a good one.  It's candid and riveting.


Thanks for reading!


See you next Friday 


for



"Fahrenheit 11/9"

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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