Showing posts with label Olivia Hussey. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Olivia Hussey. Show all posts

Friday, August 3, 2018

"Three Identical Strangers" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the documentary "Three Identical Strangers" as well as DVDs "Blockers" and "Double Lover."  The Book of the Week is actress Olivia Hussey's memoir "The Girl on the Balcony."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Once Upon a Time in China."]

Three Identical Strangers

A documentary about triplets separated at birth who found each other at 19 and uncovered a conspiracy.

Hyped as "a documentary for people who don't like documentaries," this film tells the stranger than fiction true story of Bobby Shafran, David Kellman and Eddy Galland, triplet brothers who were born in 1961 to a single Jewish mother and separated at birth.  They were placed in different homes by the Louise Wise Adoption Agency, an agency that primarily placed Jewish children, never knowing that they had identical siblings.  

Bobby, now 56, tells the story of how he discovered he had a twin.

When Bobby went to college as a freshman, he kept getting called Eddy by people who seemed to know him, yet he had never been to this college before and knew no one.  Eventually one of his classmates told him that there was this other guy, Eddy, who looked exactly like him.  The two excitedly called Eddy and when Bobby and Eddy compared notes - that they were born on the same day and adopted from the same adoption agency - they realized they were twin brothers.  Later, when a newspaper article appeared about that chance meeting, David saw it, and he, too, realized he had identical brothers.  

When the three reunited at 19 there was a media blitz.  They appeared on all of the talk shows where they shared that they all liked the same color, smoked the same brand of cigarettes, and even had the same taste in women despite the fact that they were raised apart.  The three moved in together and eventually opened a restaurant. It was a happy time.

But there was a dark side to all of this.

Turns out the three were part of a secret and unethical "nature vs. nurture" twin study begun by psychiatrist Peter B. Neubauer and sponsored by the 
Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services.   At least five sets of genetically identical siblings were separated and placed in differing economic circumstances and their progress was tracked over many years.  Bobby was placed with a physician and his wife, Eddy with a teacher and his wife and David with a blue collar family.  Each also had an adopted sister who had been placed with those families on purpose by the same agency.  Neither the parents nor the boys knew about the experiment nor about each other. 

When this all came to light, the boys said they felt like lab rats and that this smacked of something out of Nazi Germany.  They also realized why they all suffered from depression. They may have liked the same colors, clothes, cigarettes and girls, which tended to support the nature side of the nature vs. nurture debate, but they were also very different and each had their particular demons to deal with. Their being separated from each other at birth and raised in economically different households by parents with very different parenting beliefs, took its toll and showed that nurture may play the biggest role. 

But, despite the emotional and psychological cost of the study on the "children," ironically and mysteriously, the results of the study were never published and all of the research materials languish at Yale University not to be opened until 2066 without authorization from the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services. So the nature vs. nurture debate goes on.

The film directed by Tim Wardle consists of a combination of talking heads - the boys and those who knew them - as well as home movies and film footage, and it's a sad tale with a tragic ending (and don't Google it)!  

This has been a great year for documentaries.

"RBG" and "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" were standouts but so is this one.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a dramatic and riveting stranger than fiction story that sparks the nature vs. nurture debate. Expect a tight race for Best Documentary Feature at the Oscars next year.

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


Blockers (2018)

When parents discover their teenage daughters plan to lose their virginity on Prom Night, they set out to block them -- and you can guess where that title comes from, right?

I have been so disappointed in comedies this year that I did not start to watch this film with a positive attitude, especially after seeing the previews.  I think it was the butt chugging scene that turned me off, but I am happy to report that this film is quite funny, and better yet, quite sweet.

The film begins by showing three little girls on their very first day at school saying goodbye to their nervous parents.  Little Julie, Sam and Kayla bond and so do their parents - Mitchell (John Cena), Lisa (Leslie Mann) and Hunter (Ike Barinholtz) - who are standing together tearfully waving goodbye to their little girls.

"If our daughters are friends, I think that means we are friends."

There is a montage showing the girls growing up and maintaining their friendship. Fast forward to high school, and Kayla (Geraldine Viswanathan), Sam (Gideon Adlon) and Julie (Kathryn Newton) are still besties.

As for their parents:

  • Mitchell is Kayla's Dad.  Kayla is a jock and he's the overprotective Dad.  He is also very emotional.  When he exhibits an emotional reaction, Kayla says, "It's like when he watched 'Frozen." You get the picture.

  • Lisa is a single Mom and thinks she is the cool mom and that her daughter is her best friend and tells her everything.

  • Hunter is divorced and hasn't really been there for his daughter but wanting to make it up to her, and Mitchell and Lisa don't particularly approve of Hunter because of his party lifestyle.

All three parents have grown apart over the years but when they find out that the girls plan to lose their virginity on Prom Night, they bond once again with a common purpose - to not let that happen!

There are two kinds of comedies.  Smart ones with subtle, dry, intellectual humor like Woody Allen films and then there are ones where everyone talks loud just in case we might miss the joke and lots of physical humor and over-the-top acting.  This one eventually falls into the latter, and I don't usually like those kinds of comedies, but I have to give it a pass, because the screenplay had some very sensitive and sweet moments and the actors won me over.  The girls are believable - Viswanathan is a standout - and John Cena, Barinholtz and Mann are really funny and remind all of us parents how hard it is to accept that are kids are growing up.

Cena has gone from wrestler to actor and made a name for himself in comedy.  I have been a huge fan of Barinholtz ever since his "Madtv" days and Mann, married to Judd Apatoe, is a staple in comedies as the quirky sweet character with the squeaky, childlike voice that belies the crazy situations she gets herself into.

As I said, the screenplay by Brian and Jim Kehoe is actually quite sensitive to the difficulty parents have letting their children go though it's done in a humorous way, and they are not judgmental about teen girls wanting to have sex.  It is handled very well and not in the usually cliched way where the boy is either overpowering the girl or the only one enjoying a sexual encounter. And when one of the girls admits to being gay, it is treated as no big deal.

Directed by Kay Cannon (it's also part of the Seth Rogan/Evan Goldberg comedy franchise), it's a one note joke but underlying the joke is a sensitive commentary on parents trying to deal with the fact that their children are growing up and away. Older kids (it's R-rated) and parents will be able to relate to this, though I think teenagers would probably be mortified to see this with their parents.

I have to say, though I feared the butt chugging scene, it was actually hilarious.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a bittersweet and funny look at parents trying to stave off their childrens' independence, and better yet, a comedy that actually funny.

Double Lover (2017)
(Orig. Title: "L'Amant Double)

This review is going to be short and sweet because I don't think you would really like this film anyway.  Let's just say it's very "French."

Ah, the French.  They have a way with sex in movies.  You know you are in for it when the movie begins with the heroine naked on a table in a doctor's office with her legs in the stirrups and you can see practically everything and I mean up close and personal.  Yes, it's one of THOSE movies. I'm still wondering how this film ended up on my Netflix list.

Chloe (Marine Vacth) is having stomach problems and the doctor implies that after all of the tests that have been done, perhaps, it's all in her head?  She doesn't appear to live a very happy life.  She is 25, lives alone, doesn't have a job and feels incapable of love.  Not a good combo.  But she seeks out a psychiatrist, Paul Meyer (Jeremie Renier), who seems to be helping her because her stomach pains go away.  And then he really helps her.  They fall in love.  She moves in with him but feels he is hiding something from her.  She snoops around and finds his passport with a different last name on it - Delord.  He explains that he uses his mother's name for work because it is easier.

But when riding the bus home one day she thinks she sees him outside a building and he denies ever being there, she goes to the building and finds another psychiatrist, Louis Delord (also played by Renier), who looks exactly like her guy and has the same last name as Paul's passport.  Turns out it is Paul's soon-to-be-revealed evil twin.  Chloe makes an appointment under an assumed name - Eva - and begins treatment with Louis. Louis likes to use rough sex as a cure for what ails ya and Chloe/Eva seems to like that better than Paul's ho-hum love making so Chloe/Eva embarks on a kind of double life.

Needless to say her stomach pains come back.

Paul and Louis are mirror twins and ironically she went to them for psychiatric help and the two end up driving her crazy. Well, actually she was crazy all along. Or was she?

Vacth is a lovely actress but her character was so unpleasant and the movie so strange that it's difficult for me to give her any props.  As for Renier, let's just say I liked Paul and despised Louis. Jacqueline Bisset makes an appearance which was actually the best thing about the film.  Those French actresses sure know how to age well.

"Freely" adapted by Francois Ozon from a Joyce Carol Oates book called "Lives of the Twins" and directed by Ozon, the film reminded me of that Jeremy Irons film "Dead Ringers" directed by David Cronenberg. That one was very weird and so is this one. But this is also another one of those movies where you are not sure if what you are seeing is really happening or it's all in Chloe's mind.  Are there really twin brothers?  Is she really pregnant?  Is she nuts?  Actually I didn't need to know because by the end of this thing I didn't care.  

And I didn't need to know what a "cannibal twin" was, either.  I may never get that image out of my mind.

Rosy the Reviewer says...despite the fact that this film won the Palm D'Or at Cannes in 2017, which I find unbelievable, no need to see this one.  Trust me.

(In French with English subtitles)

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

132 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Once Upon a Time in China (1991)

It's 19th century China and legendary healer and martial artist Wong Fei-Hung (Jet Li) is not happy about the influx of Westerners into China.  

Maybe it has something to do with their enslaving Chinese men and taking them to California to work in the gold mines. Or maybe it's the Catholic missionaries, Western clothing, guns and the intrigues between the British and the Americans.  To make matters worse, the local government is also corrupt.  But Wong really gets upset when his favorite Aunt, with the unfortunate name of Aunt 13, is kidnapped and forced into prostitution. 

So Wong and his motley militia have a lot to sort out to save China. Time for some martial arts ass-kicking! 

Wong has been the subject of several of director Tsui Hark's films dating back to the 1960's. Here he uses that character to begin his "Once Upon a Time in China" series, and this time Wong faces off against, Americans, British exploiters and corrupt Chinese businessmen.

This is a martial arts extravaganza starring Jet Li, who was a Wushu master at a young age and which led to his becoming an actor and a staple in martial arts films.  But it also has an almost incomprehensible plot, silly slapstick humor and unpleasant stereotypes such as Buck Tooth, a stuttering bumbler.  However, I could appreciate the choreography required for the fight scenes which were quite spectacular and which looked almost like break-dancing.  Even the slapstick appeared to have a rhyme and reason to it.  It's all very stylized but way, way over the top and goes on too long.

Why it's a Must See: "This is popular Hong Kong cinema at its most breathless, aided by the suberb athleticism of Li, who makes his entry into world stardom as the poised and stoical hero...[There is] a gravity-defying duel fought with ladders, and a standoff between an unarmed Wong and an opponent with a gun. Underneath the twisting plot and relentless action, however, is a palpable melancholy -- a lament for a China about to change forever under Western influences."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...I can appreciate the martial arts sequences but the plot was convoluted and over-the-top and the film just doesn't stand up well today.
(In Chinese with English subtitles)

***The Book of the Week***

The Girl on the Balcony: Olivia Hussey Finds Life After Romeo and Juliet by Olivia Hussey (2018)

If you are a Baby Boomer, you probably remember what a sensation Franco Zeffirelli's movie version of "Romeo and Juliet" was back in 1968.  Here is a memoir that provides a behind-the-scenes look at the film and its stars and what happened afterward.

Olivia Hussey is not a household name today but in the late 60’s, she was Hollywood's "It Girl," when at 16 she was plucked from obscurity to play Juliet opposite Leonard Whiting in Franco Zeffirelli’s ground-breaking film version of “Romeo and Juliet” which became a pop culture phenomenon.  It was the first time Juliet was played by someone who was Juliet's actual age and the brief nude scene in the film caused a bit of a scandal.  In this memoir, Hussy, now 67, reflects on that iconic role and how it affected her life.

Born in Argentina but raised in London, Hussey lived a rather hardscrabble life with her mother until she was discovered by director Franco Zeffirelli at a casting call to play Juliet in his 1968 film.  Her fame was literally overnight and she was proclaimed the most beautiful woman in the world.  But Hussey didn't feel beautiful.  She felt fat and ugly and suffered from bulimia.

Her youth helped her hit the pinnacle of success but it played against her in real life as her immaturity and lack of experience led her to fall prey to the pressures of Hollywood and to make bad decisions regarding love, her career and money. She had a relationship with actor Christopher Jones (he died in 2014), who she says abused her, and that after their relationship ended, he broke into her house and raped her.  She became pregnant from that encounter and had an abortion.  She later married Dean Martin’s son, Dino, who died tragically in a plane accident while serving with the National Guard. Two more marriages followed for Hussey; she battled cancer; and lost all of her money to unscrupulous managers. Her life seemed to be a Shakespearean play!

In her memoir, Hussey brings us up to date with her life and what happened to some of the others she met along the way, but despite the ups and downs, Hussy is happy to report that in her later years she has a fulfilling family life (her son is the co-author of this book), and she was able to find peace with the help of a guru. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...a cautionary tale with some Shakespearean elements but thankfully Olivia's life did not end in tragedy like Juliet's.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 


"Mission Impossible: Fallout"


The Week in Reviews
(What to See or Read and What to Avoid)

 and 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.