Showing posts with label City of Girls. Show all posts
Showing posts with label City of Girls. Show all posts

Friday, November 15, 2019

"Last Christmas" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Last Christmas" as well as DVDs "A Dog's Journey" and "Luce."  The Book of the Week is "City of Girls."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Reckless Moment."]

Last Christmas

Kate (Emilia Clarke) is a mess.  Her poor decisions have led her away from the singing career she had hoped for to a job as a Christmas elf. She also does the walk of shame most mornings.  But then she meets Tom (Henry Golding)...

Tis the season...Every Christmas I ask Santa for some really good holiday rom-coms to make my spirit bright, but this movie didn't make my spirit bright.  It made my spirit sad and not for the right reasons.  I mean, if I could have had a good cry that might have worked, but, no, it made me sad because I was all ready for a lovely holiday rom-com, but sadly this film was neither romantic nor a comedy, as in funny, which is a surprise since I have really liked other comedy films directed by Paul Feig.  I mean he directed "Bridesmaids," for gods sake, and it doesn't get much funnier than that film.

But don't get me wrong.  Written by Emma Thompson (who also stars) and Bryony Kimmings, I am sure this film was meant to be funny.  It's just that it's not. So I blame Thompson. I know she's a Brit and British humor is a special kind of humor, which I usually find funny, but somehow she doesn't quite connect here.  And she is old school, as in old, so perhaps she just doesn't realize what is funny now.  But I'm old too, so go figure.  As for the romantic part, it has it's moments but romance is not really what this film is about.

And that's the problem.  The film is about too many things.  It's about having a hard time finding yourself; it's about dysfunctional families; it's about surviving an illness; it's even about homeless people, immigration and Brexit!  It just tries to do too much.

Kate (Clarke) is a young woman whose family immigrated to the U.K. from Yugoslavia back when it was Yugoslavia.  She had promise as a singer there, but has not had success in London, despite many auditions.  Instead, she works as a Christmas elf in one of those year-round Christmas stores, and she and her boss, strangely named Santa (Michelle Yeoh), have an uneasy relationship, partly because Kate is a screw-up and partly because she is always using work time to try to find a place to live. You see, she keeps getting kicked out of apartments because she sets the place on fire, destroys some art work or kills her roommate's pet fish. Let's just say that she is not a very considerate roommate. She also is a bit of a slag - that's Brit talk for a woman who is, how shall I say this?  Easy? So she is often walking around London in her Christmas elf costume pulling a suitcase looking for a place to stay or doing the walk of shame.  She could go home, but that's the last place she wants to go because her mother, Petra (Thompson) is so overbearing.  Even Kate's Dad, Ivan (Boris Isakovic), who was a lawyer in Yugoslavia but for some reason can't practice in the U.K. so is forced to drive a minicab (a kind of Uber), stays out in the cab as long as he can, so he doesn't have to go home.  Kate doesn't get along with her sister, Marta (Lydia Leonard) either.

So like I said.  Kate's life is a mess.

But then she meets Tom (Golding).  He comes out of nowhere on a bicycle and he is one of those irritatingly positive types. He has this habit of dancing around and telling Kate to "Look up."  I guess we have all been missing a great deal in our lives because we don't look up enough.  So he is one of those kinds of pseudo-inspiring guys who wants to help Kate.  He tells her he works at a homeless shelter, but Tom is also a bit mysterious.  He doesn't carry a cell phone (he says he has one but it's in a cupboard) and disappears for long periods of time, only to turn up unexpectantly on his ever present bike with his ever-present positive attitude.

Love ensues...sort of.

But like I said, this film is really not a romance. It's really more of a fantasy.  There is a sort of a romance, but if you are hoping for a full-blown romance, you will be disappointed. This film is more about Kate getting her sh*t together.  However, I will give this film props in one area.  I did not see the ending coming at all, and I usually have fantastic "I know how this is going to end" antennae, but they weren't working here.  I kept wondering what all of the George Michael songs had to do with this movie, but then in the twist ending, it all became clear. But when the twist came, it also made me laugh derisively.  It was the only thing in this movie that did make me laugh, except I don't think I was supposed to.

However, I am going to give Clark and Golding some props.  They are both charming actors.  I liked them even though the two lacked romantic chemistry but, as charming as they both were, they just couldn't save this film. Yeoh's character and storyline seems like an afterthought and is over-the-top and meant to be funny but it isn't and she isn't.  She plays the same character she played in "Crazy Rich Asians," which doesn't really fit here.   As for Thompson, not only did she write a film I didn't like, she completely overdoes her character too, with a cringe-worthy accent and characterization.  And that's after I gave her such a great review for "Late Night."

Rosy the Reviewer says...a major holiday disappointment.  Santa didn't give me what I wanted for Christmas!

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


A Dog's Journey (2019)

Dogs wonder about the meaning of life too!

Okay, let me get this out of the way right away.  THE DOG DIES.  But that's not a spoiler and it's not sad.  That's what this whole movie is about.  According to this movie, our beloved dogs have all kinds of things going on that we don't know about, one of which is the many lives they live.  So, yes, the dog dies but he KEEPS COMING BACK!

We first met Bailey (voice of Josh Gad) in "A Dog's Purpose," which I reviewed back in 2017, so, yes, this is a sequel, and you know I generally dislike those, but I am giving this one a break because it's about dogs and who doesn't love movies about dogs?

If you remember from the first one, or even if you don't, Bailey is a dog who has been reincarnated many times, but his main focus has always been Ethan, who is his person, and as it turned out, Ethan is his purpose.  Ethan was reunited with Bailey in the last film and Bailey even managed to bring Ethan and Hannah together. Now, time has passed, Ethan is a middle-aged man (Dennis Quaid), married to Hannah (Marg Helgenberger), and Bailey is on his last legs, so to speak. Gloria (Betty Gilpin) is Ethan's and Hannah's daughter-in-law.  Her husband, their son, has died and she and her little girl, Charity June AKA CJ, live with Ethan and his wife, though Gloria is not particuarly happy about it. She is distrustful of Ethan and Hannah and she hates dogs. She is not a very nice lady nor is she a very good mother. All of this family interaction takes place under Bailey's watchful eyes and, as in the first film, we get to hear what he is thinking and observing.

But Bailey dies and the whole reincarnation - or "journey" - begins again, and Bailey becomes Molly, a girl Beagle, much to Bailey's consternation.

Now I have to say I would be more likely to believe in reincarnation if after every reincarnation I always knew that I was ME, but that hasn't happened yet, as in, I could remember past lives where I was a Moroccan princess or a prisoner sent to Australia for robbing a man in 18th century London (Mmm, I DO have an affinity for all things British) or some other past life.  If I had those remembrances, then I might believe in reincarnation, but if you can't remember any of your past lives, what's the point?  But this film clears that all up.  Bailey always remembers that he is Bailey.

Anyway, as Molly, he recognizes CJ (Abby Ryder Fortson), Gloria's little girl, and wouldn't you know? CJ adopts Molly.  She has to hide her from her mother, though, because remember?  Gloria hates dogs.  But Molly/Bailey is beside himself, because he is back with CJ and CJ becomes Molly's purpose, just as Ethan once was.  Gloria is not a good mother and leaves CJ alone a lot and when she finds out about Molly she is not happy, but CJ convinces her to let her keep Molly, partly guilt-tripping her about what a bad Mom she is. But then CJ gets into trouble and is assigned community service working with dogs who are trained to sniff out cancer in humans.  By osmosis, Molly becomes a cancer sniffing dog too.  Can you see where this is going?

Directed by Gail Mancuso with a screenplay by W. Bruce Cameron (who wrote the books upon which this film and the first film were based), Catherine Michon, Maya Forbes and Wallace Wolodarsky, yes, it's all very hokey, but sometimes you need a bit of hoke.  Add some cute talking dogs and I am there!

Anyway, enough about Molly. 

We will get back to the cancer sniffing dog stuff later. Life #3, Bailey is Big Dog for a short time, then Life #4, he's a terrior mix named Max, and through all of these incarnations, Bailey is still Bailey and looking for CJ so he can fulfill the promise he made to Ethan - to take care of CJ. 

And now, we find that the adult CJ (Kathryn Prescott) has been having a tough time of it, with bad boyfriends and trying unsuccessfully to get a singing career going despite her stage fright. Max finds CJ, and, naturally it all turns out the way it's supposed to, Rainbow Bridge and all, because this is one wholesome, inspiring film.

Looking at my own dogs, I can't help but wonder what they are thinking and if they have lived many lives, always trying to get back to me.  Am I their purpose?

Rosy the Reviewer says...the film is inspiring and I dare you to try to stay dry-eyed (Hubby cried through the whole thing). It's a reminder that "A person can't be happy without a dog." I agree.

Luce (2019)

Amy (Naomi Watts) and Peter Edgar (Tim Roth) adopted a child soldier from war-torn Eritrea and he has grown into a star student and perfect son.  But is he?

Luce Edgar (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is an all-star school athlete, star debater and class valedictorian.  He is also a young black man adopted from war-torn Etritrea by a white couple.  He is a charming and successful young man and his parents are very proud of him.  Likewise, his history teacher, Harriet Wilson (Octavia Spencer), is also very proud of him, holding him up as an example to the other students.

But when Ms. Wilson reads an essay by Luce that appears to espouse violence as a means of dealing with problems, she uses that as an excuse to search his locker and finds illegal fireworks.  She calls in Luce's mother (Watts) who doesn't want to believe Luce is capable of any of this, so despite the fact that Ms. Wilson asks her to speak with Luce, she doesn't.  Even after she tells Peter (Roth), they don't deal with it. How could their perfect son who they raised be capable of such a thing? So they let it drop, until Luce finds the essay and the fireworks hidden in the kitchen.

Eventually, the parents talk to Luce about it, and he denies that the fireworks are his.  And he also calls Ms. Wilson's character into question and implies that she is out to get him.  The parents believe Luce and feel Ms. Wilson has a vendetta against Luce. Things go from bad to worse as Ms. Wilson questions Luce's character and Luce points the finger at Ms. Wilson for trying to ruin his future.

Now I kind of get how the parents reacted, though I was never afraid to talk to my kids about issues. But it's the parents' dilemma.  We all think our kids are the best and would never do anything wrong. Our son was a high achieving student, involved in all of the sports and was ASB President. He also didn't do things he wasn't supposed to - we thought.  Turns out every time we went away, he threw big parties in our house!  But you know what?  If the neighbors had complained to us, I probably would not have believed them.  Not MY son.  Look at all he has accomplished.  And I know I am not alone in this.  Many parents have a very difficult time believing their little darlings are capable of doing anything wrong.

So some of how the parents reacted in this film was believable. And because Luce is black, it's even more important for everyone that he be this high achiever, this poster boy for a kid taken out of a bad place and who was able to succeed.  It's important for Amy and Edgar because they adopted him from a war zone rather than having their own children, and they raised him. They were on a mission to do good.  As for Ms. Wilson, she wants Luce to succeed because as a young black man, he is an example of black excellence.  However, it is not lost on Luce that his friend, DeShawn (Astro), also black, was kicked off of the team and lost his scholarship when Ms. Wilson found pot in his locker but nothing bad happened to Luce when she found those fireworks. Why the double standard? Because he had been raised by upper middle class white people? Because Luce is an example of black excellence?

Things go from bad to worse between Ms. Wilson and Luce and we wonder - is Luce as he appears?  Is he a good kid who is being unfairly blamed for something? Is Ms. Wilson out to get him? And if so, why? Or is Luce under too much pressure to be the perfect black kid in a white world? Is Luce being held to unrealistic standards? Or is Luce a bad seed hiding behind his charm and accomplishments?

Adapted for the screen by J.C. Lee and Julius Ohnah from Lee's play of the same name and directed by Ohnah, the film doesn't come up with easy answers. This is a taut and searing look at a young man dealing with his black identity, a kid who feels he isn't allowed to fail but doesn't want to be the token successful black man representing his whole race in a white world. The film has many layers: unrealistic expectations; the issue of The Great White Savior; one black person forced to be perfect to represent his race; and being forced to hide one's true self so as to not disappoint anyone.

Luce says, "I only get to be a saint or a monster."

Tim Roth, Naomi Watts and Octavia Spencer are wonderful, their performances believable and nuanced. It's really good to see Roth again, who hasn't been on the big screen much of late. But it's Kelvin Harrison Jr. who is the revelation. He has created a character that is by turns charming and solicitous but leaving the feeling that he is hiding some darkness.

Rosy the Reviewer easy answers here but a powerful and unsettling statement about class and race.

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

54 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Reckless Moment (1949)

An upper middle class housewife becomes embroiled in a cover-up when her daughter's seedy boyfriend is found dead.

Lucia Harper (Joan Bennett) has a problem.  Her daughter, Bea (a very young Geraldine Brooks), is dating a scumbag (Shepperd Strudwick) and, despite Lucia trying to warn him off, she can't get rid of him.  When he shows up at their swanky home on Balboa Island in Southern California, Bea has a fight with him in the boathouse (I said it was swanky!), and when Bea gives him a push, he falls over a railing and dies.  When Lucia discovers this the next morning, she realizes she now has the chance to get rid of him once and for all, so she takes it upon herself to dispose of the body into the ocean.  Unfortunately, it washes ashore and the murder is discovered. Fortunately, no one knows about Bea and her ex-beau...or, duh, duh, Lucia and she think.

Meanwhile, a Mr. Donnelly (James Mason) shows up.  Turns out Bea wrote her boyfriend some love letters and they have fallen into the hands of the mob.  Donnelly wants $5000 or he will turn the letters over to the police.  Unfortunately for Donnelly, he falls for Lucia in true film noir fashion and, sadly, he doesn't really know who he is dealing with - a mother who will do anything to protect her child.  He didn't have a chance and you know things aren't going to end well for him.

I love these old plot heavy melodramas.  Ah, 1949, a time when young boys called their Mom "Mother," and wives called their husbands and children "dear" and "darling," when people knew how to write in cursive, everyone smoked and the only people of color in movies were the hired help.  I like the first three, the last two, no.  But like I said, despite the negatives, I can't help it.  These old chestnuts capture a time long gone or perhaps never was, but they remind me of my childhood and especially sitting up late watching movies like this with my Dad.

And then there is James Mason. There has always been something about James Mason that has intrigued me.  Maybe it's that honey-toned voice of his, but he also exudes a vulnerability not seen much in men in movies back then, especially film noir.  And if you really want to see him at his most vulnerable best, see the Judy Garland-James Mason version of "A Star is Born," in my opinion the best version of all time. His Norman Maine is the most poignant. 

This film was remade as "The Deep End" in 2001 and starred Tilda Swinton and it's one of my favorite film experiences.  What, you ask?  You liked a remake?  I didn't know it was a remake so it doesn't count! Highly recommend both of these films.

Why it's a Must See: "Viennese director Max Ophuls is more interested in irony and emotion than crime and drama, which gives this a uniquely nerve-fraying feel, and he nudges the lead actors into revelatory, unusual performances."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...a true classic of the 40's.
(Available on YouTube)

***The Book of the Week***

City of Girls: A Novel by Elizabeth Gilbert (2019)

Eighty-nine year old Vivian Morris looks back on her life starting in 1940 when she was 19 and lived with her Aunt Peg in New York City in a ramshackle theatre and how those years changed the course of her life.

In 1940, Vivian Morris, the daughter of affluent parents, was just 19 when she was kicked out of Vassar College due to her bad grades and lack of interest.  Frustrated, her parents sent her to live with her Aunt Peg, who owned a seedy, midtown theatre in New York City called the Lily Playhouse. Vivian had a way with the sewing machine, so found her niche making costumes.  Her once sheltered life was opened up by the wild showgirls and other characters she met and interacted with.  However, scandal ensued but ultimately she learned about herself and the kind of life she really wanted to live.

Vivian tells her story via a letter to someone named Angela, hoping Angela will understand.  She starts in 1940 when she was 19 and continues on through the 60's and into the present. We don't know who Angela is or why Vivian is writing to her until almost the end of the book. 

What woman among us didn't read Gilbert's "Eat Pray Love" and want to emulate her by traveling the world and finding ourselves?  But what we might not know is that before she wrote that iconic book of nonfiction, Gilbert was a novelist and short story writer.  So here she returns to fiction to tell a fascinating story of women fearlessly embracing their sexuality. She also sheds light on a time when unmarried women could not get a diaphragm nor could women purchase condoms at all. Since men made it so difficult for us to enjoy sex, it's amazing we ever wanted to have it! But our heroine does and often.  Gilbert gives her characters the ability to have sex and enjoy it without guilt.

Gilbert paints a vivid picture of the New York theatre scene of the 1940's. The characters are well-drawn and the dialogue is snappy.  This would make a great movie, and there is no doubt in my mind that this will become one! 

Rosy the Reviewer says...probably longer than it needed to be, this novel is still mostly a fun romp of a book that celebrates women and their sexuality, the theatre and fashion! 

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday


"The Good Liar"


The Week in Reviews
(What To See and What To Avoid)

as well as

the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 

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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.

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

Go to, 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.