Showing posts with label Missoula (Book Review). Show all posts
Showing posts with label Missoula (Book Review). Show all posts

Friday, August 14, 2015

"Ricki and the Flash" and The Week in Reviews

[I review Meryl Streep's new movie "Ricki and the Flash" and DVDs "It Follows" and "Night Moves."  The Book of the Week is "Missoula" by Jon Krakauer.   I also bring you up to date on "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with Ingmar Bergman's early film "Summer with Monika"]

Ricki and the Flash

A woman, who left her family to become a rock musician, returns to help her daughter get over her heartbreak.
Ricki Rendazzo (Meryl Streep) is an aging rocker, playing with her band The Flash in a Tarzana dive bar at night and working as a checker at Total Foods (read: Whole Foods) by day.  She gets a call from her ex-husband, Pete (Kevin Kline) in Indianapolis, and he tells her that their daughter, Julie's (Streep's real life daughter, Mamie Gummer) husband has left her and she is not doing well, and he asks her to come and help.  Since Ricki (real name Linda Brummell) hasn't been much of a mother so far or back to visit often, she is reluctant.  But she goes.
Diablo Cody's script sizzles at a reunion dinner when the whole family gets together - Ricki, Pete, Julie and her two brothers, Josh (Sebastian Stan) and Adam (Nick Westrate)- and the pent up emotions about theirabsentee mother are released.  It's funny and it's sad, but Ricki remains unapologetic about following her dream.  Later when she laments to Pete about being left out of the family and everything she missed and he reminds her that she left motherhood to become a rock star, Ricki asks "Can't you have two dreams?"

Is Meryl Streep a believable rock star?  Not really, but she is Meryl - frickin' - Streep.  She learned to play a guitar in a month, sang all of her own songs and gave her character the Streep treatment and by the time the film was over, I was a believer.  And she looks damn good for a sixty-something.

Kevin Kline and Streep first worked together back in 1982 on "Sophie's Choice," which was Kline's big screen debut and won Streep an Oscar.  Their chemistry is apparent and Kline holds his own with Streep as her ex-husband, Pete, who seems to still have some ambivalence about the end of their marriage.

Rick Springfield is handsomeness personified.  I used to be a huge fan until I read his autobiography and found out what a womanizing cheater he was most of his life.  But he is aging well and gets to do some guitar solos, though he isn't given much else to do as Streep's love interest.

Mamie Gummer, Streep's real life daughter, does a fine job as Julie, Ricki's heartbroken daughter,r but she does not seem to have yet inherited her mother's acting chops.  She overacts at times, but she is still young and if she sticks to acting, has time to hone her craft.  What better teacher could she have?

Audra McDonald plays Maureen, Pete's wife and Julie's step-mother.  Audra has Tony Awards and Emmys under her belt and more than holds her own in a great scene where the mother and step-mother try to mark their territories. 

But this is Streep's show.

She gets some good speeches about the inequality of parenthood.  Why is it OK for a man to pursue his dreams and his children understand and still love and respect him and consider him a good father?  But when a mother does it, woe to her.

Despite all of this star power and direction by Academy Award winner Jonathan Demme ("Silence of the Lambs") and a script by Academy Award winning Diablo Cody ("Juno"), the film doesn't really break any new ground about the mother/daughter relationship or the expectations of mothers vs. fathers or absentee mothers, but by the time this film was over, I was questioning my own mothering skills and tearing up and that is Meryl working her magic. I also have to say that am also a fan of most films about mature adults aimed at mature adults and will always be because I am one of those.

Speaking of which, there are certainly some negatives to being a Baby Boomer. For one, if you are one, that means you are getting old, and second, Baby Boomers are blamed for everything that is wrong with the world by the younger generation.  But on the upside, there are now so many of us that studios are finally making some films we can relate to, such as "5 Flights Up," "The Clouds of Sils Maria, "Mr. Holmes" and this one, so I am a fan. 

There are some premise issues e.g. if Julie hates her mother so much, it seems a stretch that Pete would ask her to come out and help her daughter.  Likewise, not sure that selling a Gibson SG guitar would pay for airfare for five people, especially last minute airfare these days.

But despite that, the acting is great, especially Streep who has that "thing," that "thing" that draws you in and won't let you go, and the story is engaging. 

Rosy the Reviewer's a feel good movie and if you are a big Meryl Streep fan, you will love this.

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

It Follows  (2014)

A young woman has a sexual encounter that somehow transfers an unknown force to her that follows her with evil intent.

What makes a good horror film?

A seemingly benign location such as a lovely tree-lined suburb with sidewalks and modest homes, ominous music, stark cinematography and a young girl in jeopardy.  Voila!

The movie begins with a young girl running erratically around her neighborhood, saying goodbye to her parents and then driving away in a car only to be found dead later on a beach, her body grotesquely mangled.

Fast forward to our heroine, Jay (Maika Monroe, who I really liked in "The Guest") swimming in her pool.  She has a new boyfriend, Hugh (Jake Weary). All seems to be going swimmingly until they have sex.  He chloroforms her and ties her up (I couldn't get over her having matching underwear.  She must have heeded her mother telling her to always wear nice underwear in case you get hit by a car. In this case, the warning must have been in case you get chloroformed and tied up).

When she wakes up Hugh tells her he passed her the "thing that follows" and if it catches her, it will kill her. 

So it seems if you have the "thing that follows" you need to sleep with someone in order to get it to follow someone else. Talk about paying the price for sex!  He warns her to never go to a place with more than one exit and then drops her unceremoniously back home.

I don't mean to make light of having a demon passed on to you, but just imagine someone only wanting to have sex with you to pass on a demon.  Sheesh. Talk about spreading a disease through sex.  Now we're spreading demons?

But this is not so much about paying the price for sex, but rather the moral dilemma of passing something on to someone that you know will harm them and that is Jay's dilemma, because she is actually a very nice girl.

Soon our heroine starts noticing people following her. They are seemingly innocuous, slow moving people only she can see.  But they are not lovely people.  Some have bloody clothes. There is one wearing just one sock.  I question their fashion choices.

This stands as a testament to what kids get up to that their parents don't know about. Jay hits on everyone she can to try to have sex with someone so she can get rid of the demon. She also tries to find the guy who passed it on to her and she enlists her friends to help.

I am having fun with this, but it is actually quite a creepy, terrifying film that appeared on several "Best Picture" lists in 2014.  The cinematography is awesome, the actors are believable, it has a fantastic score and the script and direction (David Robert Mitchell) are all first rate.

The obvious metaphor here is that sex can be deadly, or at least, ruin your reputation. But it also seems to be saying what you do to others can also follow you, and, since this was filmed in the suburbs of Detroit, - you can flee a crumbling city so you don't have to deal with anything unpleasant, but "it follows."

Rosy the Reviewer says...If you like smart horror films or John Carpenter's "Halloween," you will like this.  I loved this!

Night Moves (2013)

Three radical environmentalists plot to blow up a dam.

Jesse Eisenberg (Josh) and Dakota Fanning (Dena) team up with Peter Sarsgaard (Harmon) to blow up a dam in Oregon to release the water to nature. 

Josh is a quiet guy living on a commune.  Dena is a rich girl who we discover is out of her depth, and Harmon is an ex-vet.  All are involved in the radical environmentalist movement.

The first half of the film is slow and methodical as the three plan to blow up the dam and prepare for the execution. There is tension as they drive their boat "Night Moves" to the dam in the dead of night and set the bomb.  However, the second half picks up speed in the aftermath as things start to go wrong and distrust, jealousy and murder creeps into the equation. 

Here are some themes: People who care about the environment, peace and love, still succumb to human nature - the will to survive makes you do bad things despite your values. Be careful who you team up with for a cause.  Zealots can be nutters.  Loners often choose causes to give their lives meaning.

And there is some irony in the tragic ending - it takes place in a woman's Zen therapy salon.

Written (with Jonathan Raymond) and directed by Kelly Reichardt, an indie darling ("Wendy and Lucy," "Meek's Cutoff"), this film raises the question:  is saving the environment more important than human life?  

This is a departure role for Jesse as the character of Josh is a darker character than we have seen him play in the past.  Fanning and Sarsgaard are also good as usual, but it's Reichardt's direction that stars as she creates a quiet but scary atmosphere in which to explore the psychology of activism, leaving us with much to think and wonder about.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a thriller with a message.

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


297 to go!

Summer with Monika (1953)

An erotic portrayal of young love and an early example of Ingmar Bergman's artistic vision.

Harry works in the stock room at Forsberg's, a ceramic shop.  He's a bit of an incompetent dreamer. Monika (Harriet Andersson) is a bit of a forward girl who loves the movies and dreams of a Hollywood romance.  She meets Harry (Lars Ekborg) and they fall in love.  When Harry is fired from his job and Monika's life becomes untenable at home, they escape with Harry's Dad's boat to a Swedish archipelago (Orno Island) and spend an idyllic, romantic summer there that epitomizes young love.

However, reality sets in and their love is tested when Monika becomes pregnant and they return to Stockholm to face their responsibilities. They marry. Harry takes his responsibilities as a husband and father seriously and pulls himself together to provide for his family.  Monika, however, is uninterested in the baby, hates having no money to spend on clothes and wants to party.  Monika is not a very nice girl.  Things don't go well for either of them, but Harry will always remember that "summer with Monika."

From the way Harriet was filmed, you can tell Bergman was infatuated with her. In fact, he had an affair with her in the later weeks of filming.  He said that there had "never been a girl in Swedish films who radiated more uninhibited erotic charm." But in addition to his infatuation, Bergman has also created a defiant female character who rebelled against convention, something little seen in movies of the 1950's.

This is an early Bergman film, but his artistry was already apparent:  shots framed by windows, his use of light and shadows.  This is what is meant by "colorful black and white." Some of the close-ups where the characters look directly at the camera were innovative for the time and herald Bergman's later films "Persona" and "The Passion of Anna." When Monika stares defiantly into the camera near the end of the film, you wonder if she is rebelling to assert her independence or slipping into a wanton life.

Why it's a Must See: "Nowhere in all of Ingmar Bergman's films is sensual joy more overwhelming than in the long, island-set section at the heart of [the film]...Much of this passion derives from real life -- Bergman had just discovered the twenty-year-old Andersson...The film is virtually a love poem to Andersson; she was to become one of Bergman's favorite actresses, appearing in eight of his films."
---1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die

Rosy the Reviewer says...A must-see for Bergman fans. 
(In Swedish with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer (2015)

Krakauer examines the crime of acquaintance rape on college campuses and illuminates why it is often not taken seriously by law enforcement and why it is so underreported.
Missoula, Montana is home to the University of Montana.  It is not a huge town, but between January 2008 and March 2012, The Department of Justice investigated 350 rape allegations reported to the Missoula Police Department. Few of these reports were handled properly, actually victimizing the rape victim a second time by questioning her honesty. Krakauer turns his critical eye to what happened in Missoula and carefully documents the issue of campus rape.

"College age women are not raped because they are promiscuous, or drunk, or send mixed signals, or feel guilty about casual sex, or seek attention. They are the victims of a terrible crime and deserving of compassion from society and fairness from a justice system that is clearly broken."

Krakauer is the author of "Into Thin Air," about the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster and "Under the Banner of Heaven," a look at extreme religious belief, among other riveting works of nonfiction and here turns his powerful documentary skills to a huge problem.

Many of us see rape as being attacked by a stranger in a dark alley, when in fact most rapes are perpetrated by people known to the victim.  "Date rape" and "Acquaintaince rape" are even more insidious than a vicious attack by a stranger, because the victim often comes under more suspicion than the perpetrator, especially if she is sexually active, was drunk or was attacked by a popular football player.  So it's no wonder that this crime is so underreported.

Here Krakauer tells the stories of several women who were "date raped" or a victim of "acquaintance rape" while students at the University of Montana. Their cases were made all of the more difficult for them because the perpetrators of the crimes were well-liked University of Montana football stars.  No one could believe those boys would have to rape someone to have sex. Because they reported the rapes, the women had to suffer being vilified and shunned in addition to the PTSD, shame and physical traumas they suffered from the rape itself. 

At the end of the book, Krakauer explains why he was driven to write this book.  In 2012 a personal friend told him that she had been raped in her teens and, then, later in life sexually assaulted by a family friend.  As many women do, she did not report it and pushed the assaults away by working obsessively, drinking too much and having indiscriminate sex, which is now recognized as "trauma  recognition," a sexual acting out that is a by-product of the rape experience where women blame themselves and believe they deserved to be raped.

"After Laura told me about what she'd endured, I was angry with myself for being so uninformed -- not only about her ordeal but about non-stranger rape in general. So I resolved to learn what I could about it...Writing this book was an outgrowth of that quest."

"Rapists rely on the silence of their victims to elude accountability. Simply by recounting their stories and breaking that silence, survivors of sexual assault strike a powerful blow against their assailants."

Krakauer is one of the best nonfiction writers alive, my personal favorite, and he is at his best when he is telling the personal stories of his subjects.

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is not as riveting as "Into Thin Air" or "Under the Banner of Heaven," but it's still good and an important book.  We all need to be educated on this issue.

Thanks for Reading!


That's it for this week.

See you Tuesday for

"Why Have a Dog?"


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