Showing posts with label Biopics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Biopics. Show all posts

Sunday, June 2, 2024

Musical Biopics!

[I review "Back to Black," the new biopic about Amy Winehouse, as well as "Bob Marley: One Love" and "Beautiful Rebel," the story of Gianna Nannini, a rock star you have probably never heard of]

 Back to Black (2024)

The life and career of singer, Amy Winehouse.

Sadly, the life of Amy Winehouse was short.  She is a member of the 27 Club, dying too soon from alcohol poisoning.

This biopic follows Amy (Marisa Abela) from her adolescence, growing up in a Jewish family, with her father Mitch (Eddie Marsan) and her grandmother, Cynthia (Lesley Manville) aka Nan who herself had been a singer - to Amy's untimely death at 27. Though she had some early critical and commercial success in the U.K. with her expressive jazz, soul, blues and reggae vocals, it was when she wrote her album "Back to Black" that she found international acclaim.  In the meantime, she met the love of her life (more like an obsession), Blake Fielder-Civil (Jack O'Connell), and it was a volatile love affair.  Blake was into cocaine and Amy disapproved but she had her own issues with alcohol and bulimia and possibly mental illness. It was when he left her and her beloved grandmother died, that Amy was inspired to write that second album, "Back to Black." It was a black time. That album was one of the best-selling albums in UK history and in 2008 she won five Grammys, tying the then record for most wins by a female artist in a single night and becoming the first British woman to win five Grammys.  She and Blake reconciled and got married but after he went to jail and then wanted a divorce, Amy fell further into alcoholism and drug addiction, and despite a stint in rehab, she relapsed and died of alcohol poisoning at 27.

Though the film, written by Matt Greenhalgh and directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, covers all of that, there are no real earth-shattering revelations here. Interestingly, Amy's father, Mitch, who was a controversial figure in her life comes off as benign and seems to get a pass, and the film doesn't really offer much in the way of why Amy abused alcohol and drugs and died young, though there is an implication that her husband, Blake, wasn't much help to her (he was kind of a bad guy - he introduced her to crack). The film also implies that Amy relapsed when she found out Blake's girlfriend had a baby because, despite her success, Amy just wanted to be a wife and mother.  

We will never know whether that is true or not or what led Amy to drink herself to death, but what makes this film worth seeing is the Oscar-worthy performance by Abela. From the moment the camera sees her, she lights up the screen and you believe she is Amy.  She channels Amy from her beehive hairdo and tattoos to her singing, and believe it or not, Abela has said she didn't really think she could sing.  And the music throughout is wonderful.

Is this the defining story of Amy Winehouse?  Probably not, but it's an old-fashioned linear biopic, a small film with huge impact, a good story with great performances.  It's my kind of film and thank you to the British film industry for continuing to make these kinds of films and not completely pandering to fans of superheroes, horror and epics.  They keep putting out serious films for serious fans like me.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a tour de force performance by Marisa Abela that is not to be missed.  We will be seeing more of her. (In theatres)

Bob Marley: One Love (2024)

An homage to Bob Marley.

Watching this movie, I realized that as much as I enjoyed Bob Marley's music, I didn't really know that much about his life except that he died young.  Sadly, this movie doesn't really reveal that much about the man or his life.  I don't want to say it's a puff piece, but it is clearly an homage.  

The film itself is also confusing at times, telling his story in short flashbacks that are actually distracting and don't do much to enlighten about how Bob became famous and, if you don't know much about Rastafari or Jamaican history, it can be confusing.  

But this is what I got - In 1976 Bob, played by Kingsley Ben-Adir, is already a star in Jamaica and wants to put on a concert called Smile Jamaica to promote peace because various factions are at war.  But as he prepares for the concert, he and his wife, Rita (Lashana Lynch), and Bob's manager are shot.  Though they recover and the concert goes on, Bob sends Rita and the children to the U.S. to stay with his Mom (never explained why that happened), while he goes to London to record an album, which turns out to be "Exodus," inspired by the film of the same name.  The album is a hit and popularizes reggae and brings the Rastafari movement to the forefront. Bob goes on tour, enjoys his fame but it is short-lived.  He develops skin cancer and dies in 1981 at the age of 36.

Written by Terence Winter, Frank E. Flowers, Zac Baylin, and Reinaldo Marcus Green and directed by Green, the film feels more like a moment in time  than a biopic. The story would have benefited from a more old-fashioned linear treatment.  It all just never really went anywhere nor managed much drama or had a point of view. Though the performance by Ben-Adir was believable, I didn't feel the film enlightened us much about the man.  Though there are hints about his peccadillos, as in philandering, nothing much is made of that or anything else, other than the guy was a good guy, and so good, he even forgave the guys who shot him! Lynch as Marley's wife, Rita, had little to do. Let's just say that the highlight of this film was the music.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a Marley fan and like reggae music, you might enjoy this, but in general, the film was a disappointment. I came away from the film still not knowing much more about him than I already knew. (For rent on Amazon Prime. If you still want to watch it, wait until it streams somewhere for free). 

Beautiful Rebel (2024)

Meet Gianna Nannini, the most famous rock star you have never heard of!

Well, she is famous in Europe, anyway.

Directed by Cinzia TH Torrini, this is the story of what Gianna Nannini (Letizia Toni) went through to make it as a rock star in Italy. It's the typical story of a father who thought it was more appropriate for his daughter to play tennis than write and sing, but isn't that how many of our greats get going? They rebel. It's the old "I'll show you" thing.

Nannini went off on her own with no family support and endured setbacks and humiliations until she found her voice and industry support. She was a provocateur with such songs as "Death by Self-Inflicted Abortion." 

Nannini scored her first domestic hit in 1979 with the single "America" and the album "California," which became a success in several European countries. Her international breakthrough happened in 1984 with the release of her sixth album, "Puzzle," which peaked in the top 10 in the Italian, German, Austrian and Swiss charts.  

She was also sexually fluid, something not supported in the Italy of the 1980's, but when she had a mental breakdown, her family rallied round, she overcame that, too, and came back even stronger, later performing with Sting, Bocelli and others.  The film ends with actual performance footage of Nannini.

Brando is effective as Nannini and the story is dramatic and engaging, though it moves fast through her life and career and you might have some "Huh?" moments. It's an old-fashioned linear biopic, and you know by now, I like those, and, though it tries to cover too much ground without going too deep, it's an introduction to Nannini who deserves to be introduced.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a sometimes poignant story of living life on one's own terms and making it. If you love music, expand your horizons into this world of European rock and meet Gianna Nannini. (In Italian with English subtitles - Netflix)

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, X, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

And 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, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critics Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

"Barbie" and "Oppenheimer"

I just couldn't bring myself to name this post "Barbenheimer."  I didn't want to jump on that odd couple bandwagon but turns out it was a genius marketing ploy because the film industry was able to turn the openings of two disparate films into one of the top five biggest opening weekends in film history.

But I was not lured into seeing the two as a double feature.  Even I, Rosy the Reviewer, can't do five hours in a row, but I managed to see both films within four days of each other (c'mon, I'm old.  I need to recover from things).

So...What did I think?  Well, I am glad you asked.

Barbie (2023)

Barbie has an existential crisis and must enter the Real World to save her perfect Barbieland.

I was 11 or 12 when I got my first Barbie doll.  I know.  I was still playing with dolls at 12! But little girls weren't as sophisticated in the 50's as they are now. No Internet to warp our little minds.  Just Walt Disney.  Anyway, I think of that doll often, particularly what she might be worth today if I still had her.  I had the black velvet evening gown and the pink party dress and all of her accessories.  I kept her safe for years but when I went to college my mother said my niece wanted my Barbie.  I hesitated but then said okay but I wanted her back when she was done playing with her. Guess what?  I never saw her again.

But Barbie had an impact on me.  And that's what this movie is also trying to do.  Yes, it's silly - I mean it's about a doll coming to life - but there is a message.

Barbie (Margot Robbie) lives in Barbieland, a perfect world where she gets up every day in her pink bed in her pink room in her pink Dream House.  Looking perfect, she greets her fellow Barbies and flies out of her house into her pink Corvette to go do whatever perfect dolls do. Barbieland is a society where the women run things.  They are self-confident and successful and hold all of the important positions, from doctors and lawyers and astronauts to positions on the Supreme Court to President.

Margot Robbie plays "Stereotypical Barbie," but Barbieland includes all of the various Barbies that Mattel has created over the years - from Midge, the pregnant Barbie (never knew about her) to Share a Smile Becky, the Barbie in a wheelchair.  Tanner, a toy dog that actually poops, is also there (didn't know about him, either) along with Ken's long forgotten friend, Allen (Micheal Cera), a running joke throughout the filmAnd, yes, then there are the Kens, but they hang out mostly at the beach. They don't have much to do. Beach Ken (Ryan Gosling) only feels good when Barbie acknowledges him.  He wants to have a relationship with her but Barbie prefers her independence and girl sleepovers. It's all a perfect Barbie World.

Until one day Barbie suddenly thinks about... DEATH!

What!!!  And then her naturally high-heeled feet go flat and horrors of horrors - she has cellulite.  What is going on?  She goes to see Weird Barbie (Kate McKinnon). In case you didn't know, Weird Barbie is a Barbie who has been tortured and mistreated by her child owner as in having her hair cut off and her face painted with markers.  Anyway, Weird Barbie tells her that there has been an opening in the dimension separating Barbieland and the Real World and it has been caused by a child playing with her and feeling bad and Barbie needs to go to the Real World and find that child to solve the problem.

So off she goes and wouldn't you know, Ken has stowed away in the back seat of her Corvette.  She reluctantly lets him tag along.  Not good.  When they get to the Real World, which in this case is Los Angeles, Ken discovers the patriarchal system so rampant in the Real World and likes it. Here it's men who run things and he likes that. He feels respected for the first time.  He heads back to Barbieland to institute his own version of the Patriarchal System, which to him is more about horses and little beer fridges, but he also manages to subjugate the other Barbies to handmaiden status.

Meanwhile, Barbie has located the cause of her doll version of an existential crisis.  It's Gloria (America Ferrera), a Mattel employee, who was depressed about her daughter rejecting her so she started reminiscing and playing with her daughter's Barbies, thus transferring her angst onto them and causing our Barbie's issues.

Still with me?

When Barbie returns to Barbieland with Gloria and her daughter, she is horrified to learn what Ken has done and become.  He has become a mansplaining bro and turned her Barbie Dream House into the Casa Dojo Mojo House. 

Barbie needs to extricate her fellow Barbies from Ken's control and at the same time bring back her own self-esteem and help Ken with his.  Will she be able to do it?

Gloria gives Barbie a great speech about what we women have to live with and it helps shake Barbie out of her stupor.

"It is literally impossible to be a woman...Like, we have to always be extraordinary, but somehow we're always doing it wrong...You're supposed to stay pretty for men, but not so pretty that you tempt them too much or that you threaten other women because you're supposed to be a part of the sisterhood...You have to never get old, never be rude, never show off, never be selfish, never fall down, never fail, never show fear, never get out of line... I'm just so tired of watching myself and every single other woman tie herself into knots so that people will like us. And if all of that is also true for a doll just representing women, then I don't even know."

Needless to say, you can image how this message would fly with certain male politicians and pundits.  Well actually, it hasn't flown. They are already objecting to the feminist themes and the portrayal of men in this movie, but of course the oppressors don't want the oppressed to talk about their oppression.

Margot Robbie is the perfect Barbie.  She is a really good actress but also beautiful.  Funny moment when toward the end of the film, Barbie says "I'm not pretty anymore" and narrator Helen Mirren says "Note to filmmakers: Margot Robbie is not the actress to get this point across."

As for Ryan Gosling, at first I thought he was an odd choice for Ken.  I think of him as a serious, even grumpy actor, who would never deign to play Ken, but he is quite wonderful and, if anything, steals the show (and I'm not talking about his abs).  He is funny and all in (and those abs are real)

Funny story about Ken playing second fiddle to Barbie.  When our daughter was growing up, she had Barbies but one day came home from a friend's house and said, "She has the MAN!" So, Ken, you had some fans out there!

The Barbie Doll has been a controversial figure because of...well, her figure.  Some have said she gave little girls unrealistic expectations about womanhood, but Barbie was also a feminist icon that showed little girls that they could aspire to any role.  Barbie was an early female astronaut, a doctor, even President!

There are some great moments in the film with lot's of pop culture references but the opening sequence, homage to "2001: A Space Odyssey" is particularly funny as is Ryan Gosling's Bob Fosse dance number. Also Mattel makes fun of itself with its all male Board of Directors headed by the clueless (and very funny) CEO (Will Farrell).

The film was written by Greta Gerwig and her partner, Noah Baumbach, and directed by Gerwig. It was the biggest weekend opening for any female director, which happily plays right into the theme of this film which is female empowerment and a reminder that the Real World is still a male dominated society, but we women don't do ourselves any good living in a bubble wishing for perfection.  It's all about dealing with the vagaries of life and going for what we want.

Rosy the Reviewer's very silly at times and uneven, but it's also vibrant and fun, the production values are fantastic and so is the message to young girls.  Mothers, take your daughters! (Now streaming on Max and available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime). 

Oppenheimer (2023)

Biopic about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the inventor of the atomic bomb.

The younger generation probably knows little about Oppenheimer but also doesn't know much about The Cold War and what Baby Boomers went through during those years because of his bomb, how we had nuclear war drills at school which consisted of diving under our that would save us from an atomic bomb.  But the fear of a nuclear war was very real in those days and it seems we came very close during the Bay of Pigs.  But I'm not blaming Dr. Oppenheimer.  In the end, he actually felt guilty about his bomb.

But this film begins way before that.

J. Robert Oppenheimer (played by Cillian Murphy) is often called "The Father of the Atomic Bomb."  After getting a B.A. in chemistry from Harvard, he studied in Germany at the University of Gottingen where he received his doctorate and brought quantum physics to the U.S. He became a professor at UC Berkeley in 1936 and made significant contributions to theoretical physics. 

As portrayed in the film, Oppenheimer was highly intellectual and a brilliant scientist, but he was also arrogant and had a very messy private life. His wife, Kitty, played by Emily Blunt, was not a happy camper for a variety of reasons. 

And, in the end, Oppenheimer appeared to have had reservations about his part in dropping the atomic bomb on Japan to end WWII. To make matters worse, in the 1950's during the Red Scare, he was also denounced as a traitor because of his past with the U.S. Communist Party and his opposition to the development of the hydrogen bomb which led to the revocation of his security clearing. The film also gets into the whole issue of jealousy within the scientific community, especially related to his association with Lewis Strauss (played by Robert Downey Jr.), the Atomic Energy Commission chair, who turned out to be his arch nemesis.

So the film, based on the book "American Prometheus" by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, does a good job of covering Oppenheimer's life and career, but, sadly, it was very slow to get going and was an hour too long. There just wasn't enough drama for such a long film. 

Writer/director Christopher Nolan seemed to realize he needed more drama, so it felt like he tried to drum up some drama with a distracting score that was sometimes so loud it obstructed the dialogue and special effects that were irritating.  And speaking of the dialogue, it was either the kind of snappy dialogue you find in a sophisticated comedy or it was overdramatic. The editing was also distracting as it jumped around from Oppenheimer's personal story to one Congressional or court hearing after another and changed back and forth from black and white to color, the purpose of which was fuzzy. There was a lot of scientific talk which we civilians sometimes can't quite understand, so a little less jumping around might have helped us process all the big words and concepts like molecular wave functions and neutron stars.

However, the acting was first rate. 

Cillian Murphy was understated but fine and actually looked very much like the real Oppenheimer. Matt Damon, who played General Leslie Groves, the Los Alamos military advisor, was also good and believable, but I kept waiting for Robert Downey Jr. who I had heard was wonderful in this, and so was floored when I realized at the end of the film that he played Strauss!  I would never have suspected that it was he in a million years.  And it wasn't just the make-up.  In every way, he was someone other than Robert Downey Jr.  Expect Oscar nominations for him. Gary Oldman was also unrecognizable as Truman as was Florence Pugh in a small role that probably didn't really need to be in the film. Other big names came and went. But special kudos to the make-up department led by Luisa Abel.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...though I give this film props for its historical significance, all in all it was disappointing. There was not enough drama to sustain a three hour movie.  I would have enjoyed it more as a documentary (Streaming on Peacock Feb. 16).

Final thoughts: "Barbie" depicts a world run by women.  In "Oppenheimer," the world is run by men.  No bombs in Barbie's world.  I'm just saying.

Thanks for reading!

See you next time!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

And 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, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

(NOTE:  If you are looking for a particular movie or series, check out this cool site: JustWatch.  It tells you where you can access all TV series and movies)

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

"Elvis" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new "Elvis" biopic as well as the movie "Stillwater" and the documentary series "Bad Vegan." The Book of the Week is "Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of an American Fortune"]

Elvis (2022)

Director Baz Luhrmann's two hour and 39 minute take on the life of Elvis Presley.

This movie could also have been called "Colonel Parker" or "Colonel Parker and Elvis," because it is as much, if not more, about Colonel Parker as Elvis.  He was Elvis's manager, almost a Svengali, and is the narrator of the film as he tries to prove that he wasn't a crook and didn't abuse Elvis.  

Or the film could have been called "The Baz Luhrmann Show" because Luhrmann throws everything he's got at this long, long film - split screens, animation, film footage, flashbacks, flash forwards, ominous music, and an epilogue of footage of the real Elvis from his early days to the end, in case you weren't paying attention during the first two and a half hours. It's frantic, over-the-top and A LOT! But there is a lot that's good.   

The film follows Elvis from his early days as a boy living in a mostly black neighborhood, attending black tent revivals and being filled with the holy spirit, which Luhrmann attributes to Elvis's wild, hip swinging movements when he performed. And it was Elvis's love of rhythm and blues that popularized him with white folks.  But it was that very same thing that got him in trouble in the segregated South.  The white girls loved Elvis but their white Daddy's did not. They didn't like Elvis the Pelvis singing that devil music. Supposedly Colonel Parker made him join the Army to clean up his image. Was that really true?  Who knows?  

After the army, Elvis's story is fairly well known.  He married Priscilla (Olivia DeJonge), they had little Lisa Marie, he became a movie star and then when his star began to fade he had a famous comeback.  You know the one - the black leather Elvis period.  And then there was the residency in Las Vegas, that also according to Luhrmann, is what killed him because Colonel Parker just would not let him stop.  Elvis was Colonel Parker's meal ticket to cancel his debts and allow him to gamble at will.

And it's Parker's story that is probably unfamiliar to the general public.  He was always there with Elvis and guided his career (taking 50% of everything), but he was a shadowy figure.  Here we learn he was an ex-carny who was known as The Snowman because he could "snow" anyone and that's what he sold to Elvis. He was also not a colonel, nor was his name Tom Parker.  He was born Andreas Cornelis (Dries) van Kuijk, was from Holland and his American citizenship was dubious.  Hence the plot line where Elvis wanted to tour abroad but Parker did everything he could be prevent it, probably because he had no passport. Yes, he made Elvis a star, but according to this film he also contributed to Elvis's death. Luhrmann made sure we knew he was a bad guy because whenever Parker was around or made a trenchant statement, ominous music played. 

Tom Hanks chews the proverbial scenery as Parker.  He's all padded and pancaked up and if the make-up team that did what they did to make him look like Parker doesn't get an Oscar nod, I will be surprised. I enjoyed Hanks' performance and I will also be surprised if he doesn't get an Oscar nod as well.

But the real kudos go to Austin Butler who plays Elvis.  

He embodies Elvis at all stages of his career, from the hip-swiveling 50's to his stint in the army to his film roles to his TV specials to his Las Vegas residency to his last bloated appearance.  He is believable at every turn.  He supposedly studied Elvis for two years, read every book about him and watched every movie and special and it paid off.  I thought I was watching Elvis. This guy is going to go far and I see an Oscar in his future as well. 

But speaking of bloated. The unhealthy, aging, drug-addicted Elvis is given less than 30 minutes of this bloated film, and before I go on, let me rant a bit. No movie should be two hours and 39 minutes unless it's "Gone With the Wind," and I am even having second thoughts about that one.  Movies seem to be getting longer and longer and directors more and more long-winded.  They can't seem to edit themselves. Luhrmann could have pulled this film in at two hours and he would have still been able to say what he wanted to say.  And he had a lot to say about the influence of blues and gospel music on Elvis, about racism, segregation, capitalism, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, and more. Maybe he tried to say too much.  

Despite my wondering if everything in this film was true about Elvis (I think Luhrmann used some dramatic license here and there), the film, written by Luhrmann, Sam Bromell and Craig Pearce has the blessing of Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley and I see why.  Priscilla is shown in the best possible light and as the real love of Elvis's life. No marital fights and no mention that she was only 14 when they met. Elvis is shown in the best possible light too. There was no mention of Elvis's obsession with Nixon or his really bad eating habits which led to his weight gain and bad health, and his womanizing, shooting up TV screens and drugs are given short shrift. It's Parker who is not portrayed in a good light.  In fact, he is portrayed as the villain. 

Despite some of my reservations, if you loved Elvis and you don't mind really long films, Butler does him proud and the music and performances are wonderful.  The film is also beautiful to look at though at times frantic.

Rosy the Reviewer says...wait, let me catch my breath...I was kind of out of breath after seeing this film because it was A LOT.  It was stylish and beautiful to look at, the kind of epic experience that only Baz Luhrmann can deliver. If you like A LOT and you love Elvis, you will enjoy this. Just don't have too much to drink before you go! It's a loooong movie! (In theatres)

Stillwater (2021)

An Oklahoma father moves to France to try to help his imprisoned daughter.

Matt Damon is Everyman because he can play every man.  Here he plays Bill Baker, a sometime oil worker, a sometime construction worker, a sometime handyman from Stillwater, Oklahoma.  He has had a tough past with drinking and drugs and has been estranged from his daughter, Allison (Abigail Breslin), but now he's clean and he wants to help her.  She is in prison in France for murdering her girlfriend but claims she didn't do it.  She also says she has new evidence that will clear her if only her lawyer would reopen her case. Supposedly there is prison gossip that a guy named Akim did it, so Bill travels to Marseilles to talk to her lawyer. When her lawyer says she can't help, Bill takes the case into his own hands.

Bill is a religious good old boy who not only doesn't speak French, he doesn't have much concept of European culture. The first thing he does when he gets to Marseilles is get a Subway sandwich to eat in his Best Western hotel room. But he's a good guy who fortunately meets Virginie (Camille Cottin) and her precocious young daughter, Maya (Lilou Siauvaud), who help him navigate Marseille and the French legal system.  And let's just say, Marseille isn't a charming French village.  It has its rough edges and there are people who don't like nosy Americans asking about a guy named Akim.

And then there is the whole murky issue of Allison's guilt or innocence that hangs over the film.  Did she do it?

Written by Tom McCarthy, Marcus Hinchey, Noe Debre and Thomas Bidegain and directed by McCarthy (who also directed the Oscar winning "Spotlight"), one can't help but draw a comparison here to Amanda Knox, the American girl studying in Italy, who was convicted of killing her roommate, despite her protestations of innocence. 

But there is more to this film than the guilt or innocence of Bill's daughter.  This is also a story of family relationships, a clash of cultures including those within France itself, a fish out of water, and second chances with some vigilantism thrown in. Bill may be from Stillwater, Oklahoma, but "still waters run deep."  Get it?  With that said, perhaps this film tried to do too much, and as the film wrapped up, there were several unbelievable plot twists that left me saying "Huh?"

But Matt Damon's performance saves the day.  He is one of those actors who is believable no matter what he plays.  He can play an astronaut marooned on Mars ("The Martian"), a zookeeper ("We Bought a Zoo") or an ex-CIA assassin on the run (the Bourne series) and you believe him.  French Actress Cottin is also believable.  You may recognize her from "Killing Eve" and "House of Gucci." And Abigail Breslin is all grown up.  I didn't recognize her at first but she has matured into a fine actress, though she doesn't have very much to do here.

Rosy the Reviewer says...though there are a few "Huh?" moments, all-in-all this is a satisfying, though perhaps overlong, film experience thanks to the wonderful performance by Damon.
(On DVD, Showtime, and for rent on most platforms)

Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives (2022)

A successful NYC vegan restauranteur meets a guy who says he can make her dog immortal and then everything goes to hell.

Sarma Melngailis seemingly had it all.  She was beautiful, smart and had a popular New York City vegan restaurant called "Pure Food and Wine."  Celebrities like Alec Baldwin were regulars and he actually met his wife, Hilaria, there (after actually flirting a bit with Sarma). Both Forbes and New York Magazine named it one of the top restaurants in New York City.  Everything was going along smoothly until Anthony Strangis AKA Shane Fox slid into Sarma's DM's.  

Anthony or Shane was a con man and gambler who used elaborate mind games on Sarma and convinced her that he could make them both immortal, including her beloved dog, Leon. She just had to believe him. So she married the guy, they stole money from her own restaurant and went on the run. You can't make this stuff up, people.  

As crazy as all of this sounds, director Chris Smith (who also brought us "Tiger King") does a good job of telling this story, how someone as smart as Sarma could be lured into the nutty world Anthony created. This four-part docuseries follows Sarma through her meeting Anthony or Shane or whomever he was, marrying him, embezzling money from her own restaurant, ($1.6 million) and going on the run, leaving the restaurant and her employees high and dry.  The story is told through a series of interviews with past employees, investors and celebrities. 

Sarma herself cooperated with this docuseries and tells her story without the help of Anthony, who wasn't happy about it. She claims it was all him, he brainwashed her and just wore her out so much she couldn't think. Turns out, in the end, Sarma wasn't happy with the docuseries either.  Check out how it ends. You will have to decide just how culpable she was.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this series shows that reality really is so much stranger than fiction and why it's so much fun. And here's the most fun part. The two were eventually caught after using a credit card to buy a pizza from Dominoes! I wonder if it was vegan!

***The Book of the Week***

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of an American Fortune by Bill Dedman

Who was Huguette Clark and why did she have so many empty mansions?

F. Scott Fitzgerald said "...the very rich...are different from you and me."  You got that right, F. Scott.  They have more money.  Though actually, I don't think they are that different. They just have enough money to allow themselves to give into their personal craziness.

And here is just such a story.

This is the fascinating story of Huguette Clark, a woman who inherited millions of dollars when her father W.A. Clark died.  It's strange that W.A. Clark is unknown today because in his day he was probably richer than Rockefeller.  During the late 1800s, he was one of the "Copper Kings."  He was also a politician, was involved in banking and railroads and was one of the founders of Las Vegas.  He built a "palace" in New York City, on the corner of Fifth Avenue and Seventy-Seventh, right in the middle of Millionaire's Row, "up the avenue from Vanderbilt and Astor, down from Carnegie. By the time it was finished in 1911, was 'without doubt the most costly and, perhaps, the most beautiful private residence in America" and was estimated to have cost the equivalent of $250 million in today's dollars. It was nine stories high and consisted of 121 rooms - 26 bedrooms, 31 bathrooms, five art galleries, a Turkish bath, swimming pool, a storage room for furs and more, with 17 servants in attendance and that is where Huguette lived from the age of five to eighteen. Yes, the very rich are different from you and me.

Huguette was one of two daughters that Clark had later in life when he married his second wife, Anna Eugenia La Chapelle.  He was 62 and she was 23. The first daughter, Andree, died at 17 of meningitis, leaving Huguette as the only child of that marriage. 


Huguette spent her early years in France but eventually moved to New York and after a marriage and divorce and inheriting millions when her father died, became a recluse, collecting dolls, watching "The Smurfs," and spending the most of her later years in a hospital, even though she wasn't sick. Why?

Despite owning estates in New Canaan, Connecticut ("Le Beau Chateau") and Santa Barbara ("Bellosguardo" which will soon be open to the public) and several floors in an apartment building on Fifth Avenue in New York, in later life, Huguette never lived in any of them, though she spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to maintain those residences as if she would return at any moment. But she never did. They remained empty. Why?

Huguette lived to be 105 and left $300 million and two wills, one that shared her fortune among relatives, the second left most of it to charity, but $30 million to her nurse and $12 million to her goddaughter.  Mmmm.  Needless to say, the second will was contested. Was she coerced by those closest to her at the end to change her will?

With the help of one of Huguette's cousins, Paul Clark Newell, Jr., one of the few people to be in contact with Huguette through the years, Dedman attempts to answer those questions and shed light on this very rich and eccentric but practically unknown heiress. But this is not just the story of Huguette. It's also the stories of her father, W.A. Clark, her mother, those who surrounded her...and those empty mansions.  It's a piece of little known history.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are interested in The Gilded Age, enjoy historical biographies about eccentric people with architecture as a theme or you just like a fascinating story, this is for you.  And it's not surprising that the film version of this book has been optioned by Ryan Murphy!
(Check it out from your local library)

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

And 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, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

(NOTE:  If you are looking for a particular movie or series, check out this cool site: JustWatch.  It tells you where you can access all TV series and movies)

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Biopics! - "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," "Being the Ricardos" and "What Happened, Brittany Murphy?"

[I review biopics "The Eyes of Tammy Faye," "Being the Ricardos," and "What Happened, Brittany Murphy?"]


The Eyes of Tammy Faye (2021)

A biopic about Tammy Faye Bakker and her televangelist husband, Jim Bakker.

Watching this film, I couldn't help but wonder... why?  Why was this film made?

Why are we supposed to care now about Jim Bakker and his wife, Tammy Faye, 20+ years after they fell from grace in the midst of financial and sexual scandals?  And what led Jessica Chastain to want to play this role, portraying a woman who became a cartoon of herself? Oh, don't get me wrong. The film is well-done and Chastain channels Tammy Faye and Andrew Garfield, who plays Tammy Faye's husband, evangelist Jim Bakker, channels him too, but I don't feel that you would be able to appreciate Chastain's performance if you didn't know who Tammy Faye Bakker was (she died in 2007). So what is the deal?

Turns out, according to an interview with Chastain in the LA Times, while filming "Zero Dark Thirty" back in 2012, she came across a documentary on Bakker by Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey (2000) and connected to it.  She secured the rights and went on a ten year journey to get it made.  When asked what she thought of Tammy Faye she said,

"I had this judgment against her, and I realized it's so fascinating how the media can give everyone a collective memory that may not really be the truth.  It's not right.  I wanted to do something about it to honor her...there's shade of me in [her]...Tammy Faye doesn't write anyone off.  I love that she believes everyone is deserving of love without judgment."

So that is how it came to be but again, I can't see that Tammy Faye Bakker is relevant today.  Maybe Jessica has a Tammy fetish because her next role is playing Tammy Wynette!

Tammy Faye and Jim met in college and decided early to devote themselves to God. Their work spreading The Word began with a puppet show ("Get the kids and their parents will follow") and eventually turned into their famous, or infamous, PTL Club.  Despite Tammy Faye's giggly personality, according to this film, she was the brains behind Jim and the power behind what was to be their evangelical empire.  

Chastain was amazing in this - the makeup, the mannerisms, the Minnesota accent.  She got it all spot on.  Likewise, Andrew Garfield was Jim Bakker.  Speaking of the make-up. Tammy Faye was made fun of for, er, famous for, her elaborate make-up, especially outrageous eyelashes and eye shadow.  So the title is apt, though it's also a metaphor for how she saw things. Despite her very conservative religious beliefs, she was also amazingly accepting of the LBTGQ community and the rights of others to be happy, even if she didn't agree with them. 

But is Chastain and the make-up enough to make this film work?  Yes and no.  If you didn't really know who the Bakkers were, you could take this film at face value - a film about a sweet televangelist who just wanted to love people - but if you do remember them, then you may feel that this film didn't go far enough about their deeds and misdeeds and you may ask the same question I did.  


Rosy the Reviewer says...adapted from the aforementioned documentary by Abe Sylvia and directed by Michael Showalter, this is an interesting film that is worth a look, particularly because of Jessica Chastain's "outside of the box" performance. (Netflix)


Being the Ricardos (2021)

A week in the life of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.

You young-uns out there (anyone born after 1960 is a young-un to me), might not know who these people are or ever seen an episode of "I Love Lucy." But back in the day, that show was a household staple, and the star, Lucille Ball, is arguably considered one of the greatest comic actresses in history, mostly because of her amazing physical humor.  Who can forget Lucy doing a commercial for the supplement vitameatavegamin and getting drunk on it (she didn't know it had alcohol in it) or her stint working in a candy factory where the assembly line got the better of her?  I could go on and on.  "I Love Lucy" was not just a household staple during the 1950's, it was also a staple of my childhood.

This film begins with Lucy (Nicole Kidman) already at the top of her game, but behind the scenes she is anything but the silly Lucy character she plays on her TV show.  In real life she is all business as she works to make her show better, deal with her husband, Desi's (Javier Bardem), suspected infidelities and fight off an accusation from Walter Winchell (no, not the donuts, he was an influential gossip columnist) that she is a Communist at a time when the House Un-American Activities Committee was going after actors suspected of liberal leanings. She was also pregnant and worried about how that would affect the show since TV not only never showed pregnant women, the word itself was taboo.  

And all of that was just one week in her life! 

And that perhaps is the weakness of this film written and directed by Aaron Sorkin.  It's all over the place and tries to tackle too many issues.  Yes, Lucy was a shrewd business woman who belied the nutty character she played on TV.  Yes, Desi was a cheater.  And yes, she "checked the wrong box" once on a voter registration card.  But there was more to all three of those stories and the film just didn't delve deep enough, though we do learn some things about Lucy that perhaps we didn't know such as why she never became a big movie star and why she wanted to do a TV show (so she and Desi could be together).

That said, I thought my biggest reservation was going to be Nicole Kidman as Lucy.  I just couldn't see it. But she lowered her voice just enough to approximate Lucy's gravelly voice and was particularly skillful at reproducing some of Lucy's most famous antics on the show. And though she is way too skinny for Lucy or any other 50's woman for that matter, she pulled it all off. I found myself believing she was Lucy.  Nina Arianda as Vivian Vance and J.K. Simmons as William Frawley were also believable.  However, Javier Bardem as Desi?  I didn't buy it.  Much as I respect him for his acting, he was just too beefy and didn't exude the charm that Desi inately had that would explain why he was such a ladies man.

Rosy the Reviewer says...despite some reservations, this was still a satisfying film experience that honored Lucille Ball and brought back many happy memories of my childhood, though I could do without being reminded of the House Un-American Activities Commission (Amazon Prime).

What Happened Brittany Murphy? (2021)

An investigation into the mysterious death of actress Brittany Murphy.

Brittany Murphy was a successful actress in the 1990's who made her feature film debut as Tai Frasier in "Clueless" and went on to have critical success in such films as "Girl, Interrupted" and "8 Mile" among others. This two-part docuseries investigates her untimely and mysterious death at the age of 32. And to make matters even more mysterious, her husband died several months later of the same illness under the same mysterious circumstances.

Murphy was a successful actress whose career seemed to take a turn for the worse when she met her husband Simon Monjack, who appeared to be a con man and one of those guys who needed to run things.  Not having much going on before he met Murphy, when they married, he not only took over her career but appeared to take over her life, isolating her from others.  He also seemed to be one of those guys who liked wraiths. She lost a lot of weight after marrying him and didn't look well.  Let's just say that when she met him, she lost much of the joie de vivre for which she was known.  

Her death was a shock to those who knew her.  

An autopsy report said that the manner of death was "accidental" and the cause of death was pneumonia with secondary factors of severe iron-deficienty anemia and multiple over-the-counter drug intoxication meant to treat a cold or respiratory infection. Even more shocking was the death of Monjack soon after of seemingly similar causes. But huh?  There was no real reason for a seemingly healthy 32-year-old woman to just die. Murphy's mother lived with them and, after Brittany's death, she and Monjack went on a talk show tour of sorts, being interviewed about Brittany and there was a decided "ick factor" to that and their relationship (she would supposedly crawl into bed with Monjack to comfort him after Brittany died - double ick).  What was Brittany's mother's role?  We will never know.

This series, directed by Cynthia Hill, tries to figure out just what happened and though, frustratingly, there are no easy answers offered, the implication here is that Brittany was yet another young woman who had everything going for her but was vulnerable to her insecurities and met the wrong guy.

Rosy the Reviewer says...If, like me, you are a sucker for true crime and unsolved mystery stuff, especially when it involves celebrities, you will like this. (HBO Max)   

Thanks for reading!

See you again soon!

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to like it and share it on Facebook, Twitter, or other sites; email it to your friends and/or follow me on Facebook at 

And 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, find the movie you are interested in.  Scroll over to the right of the synopsis to where it says "Critic Reviews" - Click on that and if I have reviewed that film, you will find Rosy the Reviewer alphabetically on the list (NOTE:  IMDB keeps moving stuff around so if you don't find "Critics Reviews" where I am sending you, look around.  It's worth it)!

(NOTE:  If you are looking for a particular movie or series, check out this cool site: JustWatch.  It tells you where you can access all TV series and movies)