Showing posts with label Fox and his Friends. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Fox and his Friends. Show all posts

Friday, December 7, 2018

"Boy Erased" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Boy Erased" as well as DVDs "7 Days in Entebbe" and "Destination Wedding."  The Book of  the Week is "Brutally Honest" by Melanie Brown (Remember The Spice Girls?).  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Fox and His Friends."]

Boy Erased

After being outed to his religious parents, a young boy is sent to a gay conversion program to "pray the gay away."

Arkansas teen Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) is a typical young man in that he is trying to find himself. Isn't that what we are all doing when we are 18?  Things don't feel right with his relationship with his girlfriend, and he has thoughts that disturb him. He thinks about boys. Not good since his father, Marshall (Russell Crowe), is an evangelical Baptist minister. But Jared is a dutiful son.  He attends church and tries to be what his parents want him to be. His mother, Nancy (Nicole Kidman), is loving and also dutiful and doesn't have a clue about what is going on with her son, Jared. 

When Jared goes off to college, he meets Henry (Joe Alwyn) and the two form a friendship that eventually goes too far, too far meaning Henry tries to rape Jared.  Henry admits to Jared that he has this rape problem.  He tried it with another kid, too, so when Jared distances himself from Henry, fearing that Jared will tell on him, Henry contacts Jared's parents, pretends to be a counselor from the college and outs him.  Shocked, Marshall calls in some older minister friends and they all decide that the best course of action is to "pray the gay away," and send Jared to a church-related gay conversion program. Jared feels guilty about his impulses so once again is dutiful and goes along with the plan.

There, he meets a motley group of teens and adults, some more submerged in the program than others.  The program is led by Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton), who tells them that homosexuality is a choice caused by poor parenting and the sins of the parents and other family members. Sykes puts his charges through a series of shaming exercises and "moral inventories" and tells them to maintain silence about what goes on in the sessions, but after weeks in the program, when Sykes demands that Jared admit he hates his father, which he won't do, Jared, with the help of his mother, frees himself from the dutiful son role and gets the hell out of there. 

It would be easy for a story like this to go over the top, with very black and white characters - the evil, overly religious parents who only care about themselves and their beliefs and a kid who knows who he is and fights to overcome the oppression.  Thankfully, Edgerton, who also directed and, with Garrard Conley, adapted the screenplay from Conley's memoir, didn't fall for that but instead created a film full of depth and humanity with no real good and bad guys. (Well, Sykes seems to be a bad guy but don't miss the "Where are they now?" epilogue to see what happened to him, something I suspected all along).  

Nancy loves her son and thinks that sending him to a conversion therapy program is the right thing to do, that it will help her son.  She has no real idea what Jared will go through, but when the chips are down she is on his side.  Marshall is the last hold out but, hey, he's a Baptist minister in the South. He preaches against homosexuality. What do you expect? But even he comes to understand his feelings and accept Jared.  There is never any doubt that Marshall and Nancy love their son and want to do the right thing to help him. And Jared goes along because he loves his parents and is not sure of himself.  This isn't a kid living an unashamed gay life.  He is young and doesn't yet know who he is and how he feels about himself, his sexuality, his faith and even his relationship with his parents.  As these three characters come to accept the cards they have been dealt, we see them grow and it's all very real and human.

Lucas Hedges is a young actor to be reckoned with.  Ever since "Manchester By The Sea," for which he received an Oscar nod, he has made his mark in Hollywood. I would guess he will be nominated again. But it's Nicole Kidman for whom I have renewed respect.  She has always been a good actress but here her role is not flashy, not showy.  It's a quiet role and it would be easy for her to be swallowed up by the other actors and the story itself.  But instead she is the centerpiece of the film.  Her Nancy's love for her son is apparent and when called upon, despite her not yet understanding what her son is going through, she shows steely resolve to save her son.  

Rosy the Reviewer can tell it's Awards Season.  The performances are first rate and, this is one of the best films of the year. Not to be missed!

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


7 Days in Entebbe (2018)

Re-creation of the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris and the subsequent rescue mission, considered one of the most daring ever undertaken.

The film opens with a dramatic dance performance by the Batsheva Dance Company which strangely is more exciting than the "daring rescue mission" that ends the film. Following the opening dance sequence, the film segues into a written on-screen exposition of the political situation in Israel at the time, that when Israel became a state in 1947 the Palestinians were displaced. Naturally, they were not happy, tensions ensued and the Palestinians started attacking Israeli citizens (and vice versa).  A movement grew around the Palestinian cause and radical groups from around the world joined them in their fight. The Palestinians and their radical counterparts called themselves freedom fighters. Israel called them terrorists.

The film then progresses in a day-by-day account of the hyjacking and the subsequent rescue mission.

On Day One, we meet the terrorists, Bridgette Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike) and Wilfried Bose (Daniel Bruhl), two Germans, who board the plane during a stopover in Athens.  There is a flashback to six months earlier when the planning was taking place. Air France was targeted because France was seen as pro-Israel which was not a good thing because the hijackers saw Israel as fascist, Zionist and racist. After takeoff, the two Germans and two pro-Palestinian terrorists take control of the plane as well as the 239 passengers, 83 of whom were Israelis.  Their destination is Uganda which at that time was ruled by Idi Amin, a notorious nut job.  Once in Uganda, as the passengers leave the plane, he is there to greet them, which if I was one of the hostages, would have scared me even more.

The ultimate plan is to bargain with Israel for the release of all of their political prisoners.  Unfortunately, Israel is known to be a country that does not negotiate during hostage situations. The film shifts back and forth from the terrorists and the hostages to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) trying to decide what to do. The Prime Minister wants to negotiate and the Defense Minister, Shimon Perez (Eddie Marsan), wants to send in a rescue team.  They eventually decide on the latter resulting in the aforementioned daring rescue mission which disappointingly only takes up a few minutes of screen time, resulting in a very lackluster and undramatic finale.

There is little attempt to give much background on the terrorists or the hostages.  The terrorists are clearly driven by their ideals even if their methods are questionable. Bridgette says "I only fear a life without meaning." But that's about it.  We never get to know them, how they ended up there nor do we get to know any of the hostages other than some brief moments.

Directed by Jose Padilha with a screenplay by Gregory Burke, this is a dramatic historical incident and should have made a compelling film but the film was strangely cold.  Despite the good actors, they don't really have much to do and the film feels more like a documentary than a dramatization. There is a lot of sermonizing and the rescue mission itself takes only minutes and is not particularly thrilling. The dance sequences that begin and end the film, though repetitive, are far more dramatic and compelling than the film itself. 

However, as we see the back and forth at the top, with Rabin and Peres arguing about the best course of action which will ultimately determine the fate of the hostages, I was struck by the puppet strings that control people's fates, pulled by people who are far removed from danger, something that continues today.

Factoid: Five Israeli commandos were wounded and one, unit commander Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyanhu, was killed. Netanyahu was the older brother of Benjamin Netanyahu, who was spurred by this event to get into politics and became Prime Minister of Israel in 2009.

Rosy the Reviewer says...what should have been a thriller had no thrills.

Destination Wedding (2018)

Two wedding guests are drawn together through their mutual distaste for love and romance.

If you have ever wondered what happened to Wynona Ryder, wonder no more.  Here she is in what the Brits call a "two-hander."  It's just Ryder and Keeanu Reeves talking and interacting for the entire 90 minutes.

But before I dive in, I need to interject my personal opinion (so what else is new, right)?  

OK, sigh. Destination weddings, where guests fly all over the world to see their friends get married. I actually think that destination weddings are a huge pretension and a huge pain in the neck for the guests.  I mean, unless you are paying for my plane ticket and hotel, I don't think I can afford to fly to Venice to see you marry the man of your dreams on a gondola.  

So that was what I was expecting with this film, a wedding in some exotic location. So imagine my dismay to discover that THIS destination was in Paso Robles, California.  For those of you who don't live in California, that might seem like a destination wedding to you but it's only a three and a half hour drives from L.A!  If that is a destination wedding, then EVERY wedding would be a destination wedding because most of the guests have to usually do some kind of traveling to get to a wedding, right?  I kept thinking that maybe it was supposed to be ironic.

Anyway, Lindsay (Ryder) and Frank (Reeves) first meet at the airport as they get ready to board a plane from LA to San Luis Obispo where they will continue on to Paso Robles for this so-called destination wedding. After arguing about who gets on the plane first or how to pronounce Paso Robles, Lindsay and Frank settle into their seats on the plane where no one appears to wear seat belts. It soon becomes clear that they are both heading to the same wedding.  It's Lindsay's ex-fiance who is getting married and the groom is also Frank's half brother.  Frank hates his brother and is only attending because his mother made him and Lindsay is attending for "closure."  Cynical bickering and insults ensue as the two are constantly being thrown together until they - what? - inexplicably kiss and then have sex, albeit bickering and unpleasant sex.

The entire film is just Frank and Lindsay at the rehearsal dinner, the daytime activities, the wedding and the reception with them cynically commenting on what they are seeing.  I kept wondering why two people who clearly didn't like each other would end up spending so much time together, but then I guess we wouldn't have a movie about two unpleasant people meeting and sort of falling in love.

Lindsay: "I have so much to give."
Frank: "No you don't."

These two are not very nice people.  Frank has the unpleasant habit of clearing his throat, bringing up saliva and wiggling his ear to bring up mucous in his mouth and then gargling it - I know, ugh - and Lindsay is just kind of a dip.

Writer director Victor Levin might have said: "It's supposed to be funny."

Rosy the Reviewer actually says..."But it wasn't."

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

116 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Fox and His Friends (1975)

When working class Franz, also known as Fox, wins the lottery he suddenly discovers he has many, many friends...of the wrong kind.

Franz (Rainer Werner Fassbinder looking like a young and less handsome Jeremy Renner) is an openly gay circus worker in a sideshow called "Fox, The Talking Head," but when his partner in the sideshow enterprise is arrested for tax fraud, the sideshow is shut down and Fox loses his job.  But he isn't down and out for long. Franz is a bit of a scam artist who lives by his wits.  And then he wins 500,000 marks in the lottery!

He also wins a new boyfriend, Eugen (Peter Chatel), a handsome, dapper upper class fellow who sports those wide 70's ties and looks just like Rick Springfield with a porn mustache.  He seduces Fox, physically and mentally, as Fox navigates Eugen's cold, upper class world. You would think that Franz is the scammer but turns out Eugen, who seems like the least likely scam artist, is the biggest one of all. The energetic and street smart Fox is no match for Eugen's manipulations and condescending treatment as Eugen works to save his family's business by swindling Fox out of his lottery winnings.  

This film is about wealth vs. class (Remember, "Money can't buy you class?"), and it exposes the pretensions of the upper classes.  Fox realizes too late that he has been trying to be someone he is not, to rise above himself, and he is slapped down in a very troubling ending.  Let's just say that Fassbinder has a cold view of life.

No one would ever accuse director Rainer Werner Fassbinder of holding back. Regarded as the catalyst for the New German Cinema movement, which included Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders, his films are large, lush and loud, and this one is no exception. I still haven't gotten over the scene where one of the characters is talking and right there, over his shoulder, large and loud is a nude male in all of his full frontal glory staring back at me...for a long time! 

This film drew me back to the late sixties and early seventies when I was a young woman and movies took a lot of risks. They were raw and edgy and full of sex, nudity and adult themes.  I mean, remember "Midnight Cowboy?"  It won the Best Picture Oscar in 1969 and it was about as raw and edgy as you can get. But then I think we went into a sort of puritanical period and movies settled down a bit.  I wonder if "Midnight Cowboy" would win a Best Picture Oscar today.

Anyway, I was really into this film for the first hour, but then it started to drag and go on and on. But Fassbinder is a good actor and always an interesting director creating original films, and the film holds up well today, if you can get over those wide 70's ties and porn mustaches and the long drawn out story. 

Why it's a Must See: "The film poignantly dramatizes the ways in which the mass media has marketed desire for social status and wealth to the postwar working class through commercials, glossy magazines, and soap operas...[It's also] one of the most powerful descriptions of death in a society where human value has a price tag."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...yes, the ending is profoundly disturbing.  

***The Book of the Week***

Brutally Honest by Melanie Brown (2018)

Remember The Spice Girls?  Well, Melanie was one of then ("Scary Spice") and life hasn't been that pretty since then.

If you are a fan of my blog, you know that I have some guilty pleasures.  OK, I can be very shallow, and I admit that from time to time I enjoy an episode of Dr. Phil.  I guess I sometimes enjoy involving myself in the misery of others.  Anyway that must be it because otherwise I can't explain why I was drawn to this book.  I was never a Spice Girls fan and Brown gets on my nerves on "America's Got Talent," where even she admits she is kind of thick, but when Wendy Williams talked about this book and Brown's terrible, abusive marriage (OK, yes, I watch The Wendy Williams Show too - celebrity gossip is another one of my, er, guilty pleasures), I had to find out more.

Is she brutally honest?

Let's just say if you are into juicy celebrity memoirs, this one fits the bill, but I will give her credit, though, for what she says is her main reason for writing this book - to help other women who are in abusive relationships.  It's one of those "if this could happen to Scary Spice" sort of books.

She grew up poor in Leeds with a black father from the Caribbean and a white English mother which didn't make it easy growing up in Northern England.  She was a ball of energy who found an outlet in dancing and at 16 left home to dance in Blackpool and musical shows around England.  When she saw an ad for a new girl group being formed, she applied and The Spice Girls was formed.

We get the details of her roller coaster life as a Spice Girl, her first marriage, and her up and down relationship with Eddie Murphy (with whom she has a daughter - a daughter that for many years he denied), but the book is mostly about what happened to her after she married Stephen Belafonte (no relation to Harry), who she claims isolated her from her family and controlled her to the extent that she tried to take her own life, all of this playing out as she tried to remain the loud and funny Melanie Brown on "The X Factor."

Rosy the Reviewer says...Yes, the book is a potboiler to a certain extent, but it is also a cautionary tale and I learned something - that Simon Cowell is actually a really nice guy. But I never learned why she was called Scary Spice.  I had to look it up!

Thanks for reading!

   See you next Friday 

for the

Netflix Original



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


the latest on

"My 1001 Movies I Must See

Before I Die Project" 

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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.