Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Tár and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Tár" as well as the movie "Mack and Rita."  The Book of the Week is Matthew Perry's memoir "Friends, Lovers, and The Big Terrible Thing"]


Tár(2022)


The story of Lydia Tár, a world reknowned female symphony conductor who has some issues.

'Tis the season.

No, I'm not talking about the holiday season.  I am talking about Oscar season!  This is the time of year when the studios release their big Oscar contenders, and there is no doubt that Cate Blanchett's performance in this movie will be recognized.  As for the movie itself, er...

Hubby said to me as I headed out the door to see this film, "I have a feeling you are going to love Blanchett's performance and hate the film." He was right.

I was already worried because the film was in at two hours and 38 minutes and I often hold that against a film at the outset. I dare it to hold my interest. Few movies need to be that long.  More and more directors seem to have a difficult time editing themselves. So sitting in the theatre, I was already worried but when the film began, I knew I was in big trouble.

You know how you usually get up and leave at the end of the film when the credits are rolling because you don't really care who the grip or the gaffer was on the film or who drove the stars around?  Well, writer/producer/director Todd Field must not have wanted you to do that, because he rolled all of the credits AT THE BEGINNING OF THE FILM with an irritating soundtrack playing in the background. And other than wanting to be sure we had to watch the credits, I have no idea what the purpose of that was except to irritate.

So there I was in the theatre, already twitching in my seat and the movie hadn't even really started yet.

Now don't get me wrong.  I didn't really have a problem with the film once it got started. It actually had an intriguing storyline with a message. The problem was that the story didn't really get started until about an hour in.  Before there was any story, we had to sit through an interview and what was basically an entire class on conducting so by the time all of that was over, I was squirming in my seat.

You see, Lydia Tár (Blanchett) is a world famous conductor, the first female conductor to direct the Berlin Philharmonic.  So to be sure we know just how famous Lydia is, the film begins with an interview where the interviewer (real life New Yorker writer, Adam Gopnik) reads a lengthy introduction (she's an EGOT, an ethnomusicologist, a piano virtuoso and more) and Lydia talks about her musical philosophy. It's all very intellectual. That is followed by Lydia teaching a class to conducting students where she once again shares her philosophy, but this time she humiliates one of the young students who doesn't agree with her.  At this point, we start to learn that Lydia is not very nice. She also has a huge ego.  

As the film progresses, we discover just how self-serving, egotistical and cold she is. She upbraids her wife, Sharon (Nina Hoss), when she returns home to find too many lights on and she orders her assistant, Francesca (Noemie Merlant), around.  Later, we learn that Lydia is also, in fact, a predator. 

When I say it's all very intellectual, I mean that I can't imagine anyone other than a classical music aficionado understanding half of what Lydia talks about in her interview, in the classroom or when she is talking to her mentor. I am totally okay with exposition to get the audience oriented but almost an hour of musical tutelage to do that was too much. I was totally lost before anything really began, and it's not that I know nothing about classical music.  I am familiar with Mahler and his music, I was a fan of Leonard Bernstein, and I have even heard of Elgar, but when Lydia got into naming specific movements of orchestral pieces, using conducting jargon and throwing around the names of other female conductors, I got lost and, dare I say, bored?  And there is a LOT of that in this film, not to mention times when Lydia was speaking German and there were no subtitles. 

As for Lydia's issues, she has acute hearing and keeps hearing noises that keep her awake. She also has a neighbor knocking, she washes her hands a lot, and finds herself running down a dark tunnel.  Guilt perhaps but all devices that are never explained.

Which leads me to question some of Field's directorial choices. That strange opening of the full credits notwithstanding, there were people speaking German, sometimes with subtitles, sometimes not. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to that. There was a mysterious person, never identified, sending text messages.  An unexplained package arrives.  It goes on and on like that, scenes and ocurrences that seemed to be unrelated and never explained. And I won't even rant, like I usually do, about this being almost three hours long.  Well, I will rant a little.  I think it could have been cut by an entire hour.

But despite the fact that I didn't like this film, I can't fault Cate Blanchett's performance.  

She is a wonder. She is right up there in the Meryl Streep echelon.  When she performs I am a believer.  I forget she is acting.  She mastered the conducting and the German so I give her props for that as well. She will no doubt be nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress. But since I noticed, while watching those interminable opening credits, that she was one of the producers, I do have to also give her some of the blame for this film.

Overall, the production values are beautiful, the film has a message - the exploitation that can occur when someone attains a high level of fame - and it's all very arty, and that, in my estimation, is its downfall. It's as pretentious as that accent over the "a" in Lydia Tár's name, and I can't imagine the average moviegoer enjoying this film. In fact, I really can't believe that anyone other than someone heavily immersed in the music world would enjoy it. And if they say they did, well, the word pretentious again comes to mind.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a huge Cate Blanchett fan and want to watch her performance for 158 minutes, you might like this but as for the film itself, I often say, "I see the bad ones so you don't have to."  And you are welcome.



Mack and Rita (2022)


A 30-year-old wakes up to find that she has turned into her 70-year-old self.

Written by Madeline Walter and Paul Welsh and directed by Katie Aselton, this is one of those "body-swap films," like "Freaky Friday" and "Big," where the main character is transformed into a different person and inhabits a new body.  In this case, it's Mack (Elizabeth Lail), a 30-year-old writer, who doesn't feel comfortable in her own skin.  She thinks of herself as an old lady trapped in the body of a young woman. On a whim she goes into a "regression" tent at a fair, which is really an old tanning bed overseen by a seedy hippie and wishes herself to be her 70-year-old Grammy Martin, who she had always admired and had fun with. Not sure how regression makes you older, but, okay, I will go with it.  Mack thought she was doing this for fun, but when she wakes up, she has literally turned into a 70-year-old, her future old self.  

Enter Diane Keaton and all of her recent comic schtick and it's not pretty.  

Now we have ourselves a "fish out of water" story as Mack/Rita (Keaton) tries to navigate a 30-year-old's life in a 70-year-old's body while at the same time trying to find that regression guy again so she can get back into that tanning bed and return to her old, I mean, young self. 

Mack/Rita confides in her best friend, Carla (Taylour Page), who unbelievably believes her about her predicament but Mack passes herself off to the rest of her young friends as her Aunt Rita. Rita gets entangled in a pilates machine; she tries cryotherapy; she even gets to kiss her cute young neighbor, Jack (Dustin Milligan), who for some reason likes to hang around her. Diane Keaton is a nice looking older woman but it's a stretch that she would pull a cute young guy like him. Rita tries to do stuff that a 30-year-old might do and it's supposed to be funny as she falls down and gets flustered (making fun of old people is always good for a laugh, right?), but as a 70+ year old myself, I was offended. But Rita finds a posse of old ladies to hang out with, has that cute young guy and starts having such a good time as an old lady, Rita isn't sure she wants to go back to being Mack. Naturally as these movies are prone to do, Mack learns to value herself. I just wish the writers and director had valued something called character development and originality. Worst of all?  It was a comedy that wasn't funny.

Will Mack be able to get back to her 30-year-old self? I eventually thought, who cares?

Ordinarily, I would like a story like this, but in addition to the lack of character development, my big problem was and is Diane Keaton.  I used to be a huge fan.  I mean she was in "The Godfather" and "Reds" and "Annie Hall," for god's sake, "Annie Hall" being one of the funniest films of all time.  But the problem is, Diane has seemed to turn herself into a real-life version of Annie Hall and that is not funny, especially in a 76-year-old woman.  She has la-ti-da-ed herself into a character that gets on my nerves with her big hats and eccentric outfits. She now plays flibberdigibbets and whenever she appears on a talk show, she acts so dippy that I can't watch.  And I guess she is not embarrassed by that behavior because in this movie she even references her stints on "Ellen" by ordering red wine with ice cubes (when she would show up on "Ellen," that was a thing).  So obviously Diane thinks we like the persona she now gives us. And her movies are just more of the same.  I didn't like "Poms" and I didn't like this one. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a big Diane Keaton fan, you might like this but just remember you will never have this 90 minutes back again.


***The Book of the Week***


Friends, Lovers and The Big Terrible Thing by Matthew Perry (2022)



Matthew Perry, star of the TV show "Friends" shares his story of addiction and redemption.

“Hi, my name is Matthew, although you may know me by another name. My friends call me Matty. And I should be dead.” So begins Matthew Perry's harrowing story of addiction.

If you haven't heard about this memoir, you must have been under a rock or not have a TV.  Perry has been on every talk show and newsfeed running up to publication of this memoir.  He really wants to tell his story and it is a fascinating one. 

Best known as Chandler on the TV show “Friends,” Perry grew up in Canada but his parents divorced when he was very young. His mother was Pierre Trudeau's press secretary and his father was an actor who moved to L.A. and eventually became famous as the original Old Spice Guy.  Perry's mother remarried Keith Morrison of "Dateline" fame. You know, the guy who always purrs "Was it murrrrder?" 

With his mother in Canada and his Dad in L.A. Matty was shuttled back and forth alone on a plane, an "unaccompanied minor" and that fueled his lifelong feelings of insecurity and abandonment, a hole difficult to fill. But he tried. First, by being the funny guy, then with alcohol. That first drink at 14 was a revelation. While his teenaged friends were throwing up after their first big binge, he thought he had died and gone to heaven. That empty hole was starting to be filled.  What he didn't know was that he would almost die and he was already on his way to hell.

Then Perry moved to L.A. to live with his Dad, and he thought fame would solve all of this problems.  He already had a big alcohol habit but toiled in supporting TV roles and eventually landed the role of Chandler in “Friends," and he thought, finally, everything was going to be okay. But then he discovered opioids and his life-long battle with “The Big Terrible Thing,” his addiction, really began. He says in the book that if you watch "Friends," you can tell when he was drinking heavily and when he was mostly on pills. When he was drinking he was heavy; when he was using pills, he was skinny.  During one hiatus, he lost 50 pounds and they had to dress him in baggy clothes to cover that up when the season started up again.  At one point, he was taking 55 opioids a day.  He has been through 65 detoxes.

But it’s not all tragedy. Now sober and self-aware, Perry is grateful for his life and uses his self-deprecating humor to candidly talk about “Friends”, lovers, and yes, The Big Terrible Thing in hopes that he can help others.  Helping others has finally filled that big terrible hole.

Rosy the Reviewer says...celebrity watchers and fans of "Friends" will enjoy the behind the scenes anecdotes and Perry's encounters with other celebrities but this is also a tale of hope for those struggling with addiction.


Thanks for reading!


See you again soon!

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