Showing posts with label Spring in a Small Town. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Spring in a Small Town. Show all posts

Sunday, September 23, 2018

"A Simple Favor" and The Week in Reviews

I am back!  Hope you missed me.  I have been in moving hell for the last month and even the movies couldn't save me.  But now I am back in the saddle, or should I say, theatre seat and ready to save you from seeing some bad movies.

But this week, it's all mostly good...

[I review "A Simple Favor" as well as DVDs "Hereditary" and "Tag."  The Book of the Week is "Small Space Organizing" by Kathryn Bechen where I share my own personal story of downsizing and how I ended up making this big move. I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Spring in a Small Town."]

A Simple Favor

Nerdy Mommy vlogger Stephanie Smothers (Ann Kendrick) forms an unlikely friendship with sophisticated tell-it-like-it-is Emily (Blake Lively) and then Emily mysteriously disappears.

You couldn't really tell from the trailer whether this was a comedy or a "Gone Girl" kind of thriller. Well, turns out it's actually both.

This is an original take on the missing person story and, through one of the plot twists, pays homage to "Diabolique," the 1955 French film.  And in case you didn't get it, perky French music plays throughout. The film is also a satire on motherhood and a love letter to strong women.

Stephanie is a widow living in Connecticut with her young son, Miles (Joshua Satine), a first grader.  She is also a stay-at-home Mom who tries to be the perfect Mom.  She volunteers for everything at Miles' school much to the chagrin of the other Moms and Dads.  She also has a vlog where she pitches food and tips to other Moms.  Her son is friends with Nicky (Ian Ho), another first grader, whose Mom is the beautiful and elusive Emily, and one day Stephanie and Emily meet at school. Nicky begs Emily to let him invite Miles over for a play date. Emily is a working Mom, married to the handsome Sean (Henry Golding), and she is clearly not on the Perfect Mommy track but reluctantly agrees and Stephanie and Emily bond over strong martinis at Emily's opulent home with sophisticated French music playing in the background.  Emily is one of those women who is brutally honest and doesn't allow any BS.  Stephanie on the other hand is insecure and an overachiever who constantly apologizes for herself.  She is also clearly in awe of Emily who unlike Stephanie never apologizes for herself and in fact tells Stephanie to never say she is sorry for anything.

One day Emily asks Stephanie for "a simple favor," to pick up Nicky from school which she happily does, but then one day turns into two days and it becomes clear to Stephanie that Emily is missing.  Stephanie adds the mystery of Emily's disappearance to her vlog and also joins forces with Emily's husband, Sean.  But it's not long before Emily's body is found in a lake in Michigan.  What was she doing in Michigan?  And it's not long before Stephanie and Sean get it on.  Where the heck is that going to go?  And it's not long before Nicky says he has seen his Mom and she told him to say hello to Stephanie.  And then Stephanie gets a call from Emily.  Huh?

It didn't take me long to figure out one of the main plot twists but then it just got twistier and twistier.  And did I say it's also very funny?

And it's no wonder there is humor because the film is directed by Paul Feig who is also responsible for those funny Melissa McCarthy movies "Spy," "The Heat," and "Bridesmaids."  Adapted for the screen by Jessica Sharzer from Darcey Bell's novel, the humor is unexpected because this is a thriller.  And the humor also deflects from the fact that the plot goes way over the top at the end but you don't care because you've had such a great time watching Kendrick, Lively and Golding go through their paces.

I have never been a big Anna Kendrick fan.  I always found her to be kind of twitchy, her singing voice very nasal and she had too many annoying mannerisms.  But she is very good here and just perfect for the twitchy, overachieving Stephanie who becomes an amateur detective to solve the mystery of Emily's disappearance.  And Blake Lively is well-named.  She is indeed particularly lively here and I have to say she is one beautiful woman and a good actress. And Henry Golding is hot off his success in "Crazy Rich Asians."  Hard to believe this guy had never acted a day in his life and was discovered while being a presenter on a British travel TV show.  All three form an impressive acting ensemble.

Rosy the Reviewer says...think "Gone Girl," but with a sense of humor.

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


Hereditary (2018)

After the family matriarch passes away, dark family secrets come to light.

And for this one you couldn't tell from the trailer if it was a horror film or something else.  It's kind of something else, but not in a good way.

Toni Colette rose to fame in "Muriel's Wedding," a bit of froth that gave a larger girl some real heft.  Then she lost a bunch of weight and went on to a career playing varied parts including recurring roles on the TV series "Wanderlust" and "Unbelievable."  She seems to specialize now in warm caring roles such as the one she played in the quirky but touching "Please Stand By."  But here she does a 180, playing the hysterical mother of a teenage son and a thirteen-year-old girl.

Ellen Taper Leigh dies at 78.  The film begins with her obituary and funeral and it becomes apparent that Ellen wasn't an easy woman and that she cast quite a shadow over her family.  Toni plays her daughter, Anne, who doesn't quite know how to grieve for her mother because of their complicated relationship.  Anne is married to Steve (Gabriel Byrne) and has a teenage son, Peter (Alex Wolff), and daughter, Charlie (Millie Shapiro).  She also has kind of a creepy job.  She is an artist who designs miniature dolls and dollhouses and appears to recreate her own family's life with them.

Peter is your typical teenage boy, obsessed with girls, sex, drinking and pot.  Charlie, on the other hand is, how shall I say this?  She is not only allergic to nuts and has this habit of clicking her tongue on the top of her mouth but she is also - creepy.   Let's just say I don't think it's normal to cut off the head of a dead bird and put it in your pocket.  Get what I mean?

Anyway, it takes about an hour of loud, ominous music before anything much happens but then Peter is forced to take Charlie to a party with him where he smokes pot.  She eats some cake that must have had nuts in it while Peter is up in a bedroom smoking pot and when Charlie complains that she can't breathe Peter rushes her out to the car and presumably to the hospital and then something truly gruesome happens.

Anne meets Joan (Ann Dowd, playing a much nicer person than she does in "A Handmaid's Tale") who has lost a child.  She is into seances to stay in touch with her dead son and impresses Anne when she contacts him.  She tells Anne she needs to hold a seance with her family and gives her the incantation.

So now we are off and running.

Turns out our matriarch Ellen not only cast a big shadow over her family she was up to some witchy shenanigans.

Written and directed by Ari Aster, this film is not so much a horror film as a really, really strange movie inhabited by really, really strange people.  Gabriel Byrne doesn't really have much to do except get immolated, the little girl is dispatched with early on, which was a good thing because she gave me the creeps, and, Toni, can I give you some advice?  Stick to the caring friend or girlfriend roles where you can do what you do best which is show your warmth.  You don't do hysterical that well. In this film, she runs around throughout the film shrieking and crying and begging her husband to listen to her. It's not a pretty sight. But the story really centers around Peter and Wolff does a good job. I just wish the movie had been better.

The film was shot in digital which I absolutely hate.  Films in digital look like old TV soap operas.  And speaking of soap operas, this was a sort of one if you liked "Dark Shadows."

Rosy the Reviewer says...Toni, I like you better when you do that warmth thing you do.  Get back to that.

Tag (2018)

A group of guys spend the month of May playing tag and go to great lengths to avoid being "It."  Oh, and did I mention that this is based on a true story and real life adult guys actually did this?

There is nothing I dislike more than comedies with all male casts unless it's comedies with all male casts that aren't funny.   But I am here to report that this film is actually kind of fun and kind of funny.

Hoagie (Ed Helms), Sable (Hannibal Buress), Bob (John Hamm), Chilli (Jake Johnson) and Jerry (Jeremy Renner) are all childhood friends who have kept in touch for 30 years by playing a game of tag every May.

"We don't stop playing because we grow old.  We grow old because we stop playing."

Okay. And they all go to great lengths to tag each other, hence the humor this film is going for.  For example, Hoagie, who is a veterinarian, gets a job as a janitor at Bob's company just so he could sneak up on Bob and tag him. But it's Jerry who has reigned supreme as the only member of the group who has never been tagged. He has had an uncanny ability to avoid every situation where he could be tagged.  But now he's getting married and he wants to retire from the game.

"He's the best who ever played and now he wants to retire with a perfect record."

Oh, no he doesn't. The four decide that they have to tag Jerry just once and what better place to tag him than at his wedding? I mean, he can't exactly run out of his own wedding, can he?  Well, we will see about that.

And actually there are some women in the film. The guys are followed around by Rebecca (Annabelle Wallis), a reporter from the Wall Street Journal, who has been looking for a story to spark her career and when she hears about this group of guys who play tag every year together, she knows she has a story.  And then there's Anna (Isla Fisher), Hoagie's wife, who is almost more into the game than the guys.

It's all dumb fun and games as the four (plus Anna) band together to break Jerry's perfect record. 

Based on a Wall Street Journal article by Russell Adams called "It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being It," adapted for the screen by Rob McKittrick and Mark Steilen and directed by Jeff Tomsic, the film is a bit of fluff but also makes a possibly unintentional statement about male friendships.  Yes, these guys have stuck together every year for their game of tag, but how much meaningful time did they actually spend with each other outside of the game?  Mmmm.

If you stay for the credits you will see the real guys (ten of them, not five) who played this game together for 23 years.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you need an escape, this is a dumb but fun little romp that won't do you any harm unless there was something important you were supposed to do.

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

126 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Spring in a Small Town (1948)

A bored and lonely housewife is swept off her feet when her childhood sweetheart comes to visit.

Narrated by Zhou Yuwen (Wei Wei), the wife, we quickly learn that she is unhappy in her marriage to Dai Liyan (Yu Shi).  They hardly speak each day and he is suffering from an ailment, though Zhou thinks it's all in his head.

"I don't have the courage to die and he lacks the courage to live."


Liyan hangs out in his garden and broods.  His little sister (Hongmei Zhang) lives with them and her exuberance and charm is in direct contrast to Liyan's dour personality and Yuwen's depression.

The film takes place in postwar China after it had been brought to its knees by the Japanese and Liyan feels like a failure since the war.

Into this sadness comes Zhang Zhichen (Wei Li), a friend of Liyan's who also turns out to have been Yuwen's neighbor and first love.  Zhichen didn't know she had married Liyan.  Zhichen is a doctor and tends to his friend, Liyan, but he also looks yearningly at Yuwen and vice versa. In fact there are lots and lots of longing looks and many regrets and not much else.  Yuwen confesses that she has never loved Liyan and always been in love with Zhichen and things become even more complicated when Liyan tries to fix Zhichen up with Little Sister.

But when Liyan figures out what is going on and overdoses himself on his medicine, there is a moment when Zhichen and Yuwen think that perhaps letting him die would leave things open for them but feelings change and they realize that they can't let him die.

Directed by Mu Fei, a Chinese director from the pre-Communist era, this is a poignant story of a marriage and unrequited love that was declared by the Hong Kong Film Critics Society as the greatest Chinese film ever made and it still holds up today because there are some human feelings and experiences that transcend time and place.

Why it's a Must See: "This masterpiece of Chinese cinema has only recently received the worldwide recognition it deserves, influencing Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood for Love (2001) and occasioning a respectful remake (2002).  [This film] stands among cinema's finest, richest, and most moving melodramas."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says... a mesmerizing tale that did remind me of "In the Mood for Love." Sadly the only place I could find the film was on Amazon Prime and the film quality was poor which didn't make for a particularly satisfying film experience.
(b & w, in Chinese with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

Small Space Organizing: A Room-By-Room Guide to Maximizing Your Space by Kathryn Bechen (2012)

Who said, "We don't all get to live in large homes?"  I just did.

Why am I reviewing this book? Well, you may or may not know this and you may or may not have missed this blog, but I have been in moving hell for the last six weeks and that's why I didn't publish anything last week and why I am publishing late this week.

We have just moved 1000 miles away from where we had lived for 14 years.  

We have moved back to where we had lived for 30 years before that move 14 years ago and where we raised our family.  When we moved 14 years ago, our kids were grown with lives of their own and there were no grandchildren. We were also 14 years younger.  But now we are older and there are grandchildren.  We wanted to downsize and be closer to family to make it easier on everyone, so now here we are, down from a 2300 square foot nine room house to a less than 1500 square foot town home with five rooms and a kitchen that is about the size of a closet.

Speaking of kitchens, I have this strange pattern of remodeling a kitchen and then moving.  I did that 14 years ago and I did it again this year.  Since we need to remodel our kitchen in our new home, I'm worried what will happen after that!

So how did I find myself here, in a smaller house trying to get ideas on how to organize a small space?

Well, here's my story.

A couple of years ago I confessed to my son that my life hadn't turned out the way I had wanted it to, mostly regretting that I had moved away from my family.  I was really fishing for my son to say "Come live here," but that didn't happen.  Our daughter lives across country so I fished a bit more and said something like, "Well, what if I moved closer to your sister?"  He didn't take the bait but what he did say was that I needed to move into town (we lived in the suburbs where we couldn't walk to anything) so I could walk to a Starbucks.  He seemed to think that all of the friends I needed to make were hanging out at the Starbucks.  But that remark did make me think that part of my troubles were caused by the fact that I couldn't walk to anything so when I went back home I announced to Hubby that we needed to move into town.  So we started looking but it became painfully clear that moving into town was out of our price range and we didn't see anything we really liked anyway. 

So then I said, OK, we will stay here but I need a new kitchen.  So a new kitchen it was (I documented that painful experience in "My New Kitchen, or How I Survived a Kitchen Remodel...").

Did that solve the problem?  No.  There I was in my new kitchen and I wasn't happy.  I missed my family and my old friends so I told Hubby I wanted to move back "home" where we had lived for 30 years and where we had history.

Did I mention that Hubby was amazingly understanding?  He did sigh a lot, though.

But moving back "home" was not an easy thing.  Moving itself is a horror story but trying to go back to a place where we thought we could never return because of the high home prices is its own horror story but we did it.

And that's how we ended up in a smaller place.

So that brings you up to date and we will finally get to the review of this book.

Bechen has put together a nice little book to help anyone who needs to downsize.  There are chapters on the art of downsizing and even on how to live in just one room.  Fortunately, I haven't had to go there yet!  Bechen addresses how to decide if your rooms are functioning at their best with chapters on making the most of your foyer, how to organize your kitchen, dealing with small bathrooms, crafts and hobby equipment, laundry rooms, beverage bars, storage and more all while not giving up on style. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...a small book to help you deal with small spaces.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 


"The Wife"


 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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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.