Showing posts with label WR. Show all posts
Showing posts with label WR. Show all posts

Friday, December 14, 2018

"Dumplin (Netflix Original)" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the Netflix Original movie "Dumplin" as well as the DVD "Juliet, Naked."  The Book of the Week is Chrissy Teigen's new cookbook "Cravings: Hungry for More (the sequel to her first book "Cravings").  I also bring you up-to-date with my "1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "WR: Mysteries of the Organism"]


Willowdean Dickson (Danielle Macdonald) is a plus-size teen who has the unfortunate nickname of Dumplin,' and the unfortunate circumstance of an ex-beauty queen mother who just happens to run the local Miss Teen Bluebonnet Pageant. But Willowdean is no shrinking violet and decides to enter the pageant herself -- as a protest. 

Thank god for Netflix! Sometimes there just isn't anything playing in the theatres that I want to see.  And this was such a week,
so after seeing Jennifer Anniston and Dolly Parton making the talk show rounds promoting this Netflix Original film that started airing last Friday, I decided that would be my feature film this week.  And thanks to Netflix, I could watch a first-run film in the comfort of my home.  I also have always had a bit of a thing about beauty pageants ("What I've Learned from Beauty Pageants") so this one was right up my alley.

Texas doesn't do anything by halves and Texas beauty pageants are no exception.  It's a big part of the Texas culture, just like football. And in this film, the Miss Teen Bluebonnet contest takes hold of the little town of Clover City every year and Willowdean's mother, Rosie (Anniston), is not only also obsessed with the pageant but runs it.

However, Willowdean does not share her mother's enthusiasm for the pageant nor does she feel close to her mother who irritatingly calls her Dumplin' and seems to love the beauty queens in her pageants more than Willowdean.  Well, that's what Willowdean feels anyway.  Willowdean had been closer to her Aunt Lucy (Hilliary Begley), partly because, unlike Willowdean's mother, Lucy was also a plus-size girl but mostly because Lucy was a happy, free spirit, who loved Dolly Parton's music and Dolly's message to be yourself and live life to the fullest (though Dolly doesn't appear in the film, she is very much in evidence. Her music plays a big role in this film with some old favorites and some new songs and there are even some Dolly Parton drag queens)!  Lucy was also responsible for Willowdean's friendship with Ellen (Odeya Rush), who became her best friend and shares Willowdean's love of all things Dolly.  But sadly, Lucy died.

One day, while going through Lucy's things, Willowdean sees a pageant application that Lucy had started to fill out, which surprises Willowdean but then gives her an idea. She knows she is not the typical pageant girl but decides to compete in the pageant herself as a sort of protest - "a protest in heels" - but deep down (and she doesn't know this but I do) to compete for her mother's love. Willowdean teams up with her pal, Ellen, and a couple of other misfits - Millie (Maddie Baillio), another big girl who loves everyone, thinks the pageant would actually be fun and takes it seriously as in she thinks she can win it and Hannah (Bex Taylor-Klaus), a hard-core feminist who is also protesting the pageant.  But what starts out as a way to make a statement to her mother, Willowdean ends up empowering herself, with some help from some drag queen friends of Lucy's and a pageant performance to a Dolly Parton song that actually made me cry. And Rosie, who didn't really understand her daughter but loved her all along, realizes that her daughter may not look like her and want the same things but she has her own beauty and talents.

Speaking of drag queens, how can you miss when you have Dolly Parton and drag queens in one movie?  Dolly once famously said, "Good thing I was born a girl or I would have been a drag queen!"

Based on the 2015 young adult novel by Julie Murphy, this film is an all-ladies effort, directed by Anne Fletcher, with a screenplay by Kristin Hahn and starring mostly ladies, well, except for the drag queens but they are kind of like ladies, right? 

Danielle McDonald is a wonderful young actress.  I loved her in "Patti Cake$," but where "Patti Cake$" was unsentimental, I found her struggling a bit to rise above the schmaltz inherent in this film.  But that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it.  I did.  And I look forward to seeing more of her. The other young actresses are also enjoyable, and the film plays with some important themes: the mother/daughter relationship; loyalty and friendship; the definition of beauty; and female empowerment.  

Anniston is also good. As popular as Jennifer Anniston was in "Friends," you would think she would have gone on to super stardom in feature films.  But she didn't, which is a curiosity. I mean she was a phenomenon in "Friends." We even copied Rachel's hair, right? And she was married to Brad! She is really a good actress, but perhaps Rachel is her curse, that she will always be the ditsy young Rachel in the eyes of the public. It's difficult for audiences to see her as anyone else.  It's also difficult to believe Jennifer is turning 50 and playing the mother of a teen and yet, I guess that's age appropriate. It's also an interesting role for Anniston since she herself had an actress/model mother who made her feel inferior and she was estranged from her mother for many years of her life. Some catharsis for her, no doubt, playing this role.  

But what I liked was the fact that Rosie, though seemingly obsessed with the beauty pageant and sometimes clueless about what was going on with her daughter, truly loved her daughter, didn't mistreat her and meant well.  That works because Anniston has a real warmth that comes across from the screen, even when Rosie is being clueless, and that rings true because mother/daughter relationships are never just one way or the other. Even when there is a lot of love, they can be all over the place.

Rosy the Reviewer says...some important themes and, hey, sometimes we just all need a little inspirational schmaltz.

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


Juliet, Naked (2018)

No, it's not about a girl named Juliet who is naked (Hubby was disappointed)!  It's about Annie, the long-suffering girlfriend of the pompous Duncan who is obsessed with Tucker Crowe, a once-famous rock star who mysteriously disappeared from the music scene but who just as mysteriously pops up again and starts a transatlantic correspondence with Annie.

The film begins with Duncan (Chris O'Dowd) broadcasting on his Tucker Crowe fan vlog:

"Hello! Welcome to 'Can You Hear Me?' your source for all things Tucker Crowe.  If you're here, you're probably already a fan of Tucker's music.  But if you're merely 'Crowe-curious,' or you clicked on the link by accident, allow me to introduce you to one of the most seminal, and yet unsung, figures of alternative rock."

Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke) was big back in the day as in the 90's, especially with his album "Juliet," but then he just gave up the music scene and disappeared.  Rumors abounded about what happened and where he ended up, most famously that he grew a beard and retired to a sheep farm.  Duncan teaches a college class on television, the kind of class where one might draw a parallel between Shakespeare and "The Wire," but his main focus is all things Tucker Crowe.  He runs a fan page and spends hours on his computer chatting with others who are also obsessed with Crowe, much to the chagrin of his long-time and long-suffering girlfriend, Annie (Rose Byrne), who couldn't care less about Crowe. She runs a local museum in a small British seaside town and takes a backseat to Duncan's obsession, and has pretty much resigned herself to her rather dull life with Duncan sans kids (he doesn't want them). But then, Duncan embarks on an affair and justifies it by saying it's because the other woman likes Crowe too!  Duncan is actually a clueless pompous ass but he is actually kind of likable times.

One day Duncan is sent what appears to be a rough demo of the "Juliet" album called "Juliet, Naked." He is in fanboy heaven.  He reviews it and puts it up on his web page and invites discussion.  However, one person makes a snarky comment about it and, wouldn't you know, it turns out it was Annie having a laugh.  Duncan has a fit but it also turns out that there is one other person who agrees with her review - Tucker Crowe!  He surfaces to write Annie a self-deprecating email and the two embark on a correspondence, one that Annie does not share with Duncan.

Crowe hasn't been on a sheep farm.  It's worse than that.  He lives in his ex-wife's garage and takes care of their son.  He also has many other children with other women, some of whom don't even know each other.  He is taken to task by his pregnant adult daughter who has come to visit him from London which will turn out to be a convenient plot device for Crowe to eventually travel to England and see Annie.

I didn't realize that Rose Byrne was Australian nor did I realize what a good actress she is.  She has played so many American wives of guys in comedies I have overlooked her but she is quite lovely in this film. She is in fact the centerpiece that carries this film along.  We are rooting for Annie to get out of her boring life and find herself. Chris O'Dowd is also really good here and, though he often plays kind of clueless guys, his Duncan is rather poignant. Though he can be an ass, you want to take care of him.  And Ethan Hawke, who I didn't recognize at first (really like him with facial hair), is perfect for this.  He has matured into a wonderful actor, not to mention he is aging well.

Written by Evgenia Peretz, Jim Taylor and Tamara Jenkins (based on the Nick Hornsby novel) and directed by Jesse Peretz, this is a sweet romantic comedy that reminds us not to give up on life.  But it's also about idolizing artists and what that means to us common folks and that perhaps we might be disappointed if we ever actually met our idols, especially ones shrouded in mystery.  Once Duncan meets Crowe and finds out what he has been doing over the last 20 years, he no longer has a purpose, that being speculating with his fan friends about Crowe's life and music.  But when Tucker is cynical about Duncan's fandom, Duncan makes a point for us groupies, "Art isn't for the artist no more than water is for the bloody plumber."  Mmmm - deep.  Duncan also chastises Tucker for his cynicism when he says that people like Tucker don't value what comes easy to them - for Duncan, Tucker's music meant something and gave his life purpose.

Rosy the Reviewer says...we need more movies like this: good story, well drawn characters and heart.  Lovely, sweet film.  One of my favorites of the year. Don't miss it.

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

115 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

WR: Mysteries of the Organism (1971)

This one actually DOES have naked people in it -- and lots of sex! A documentary on the work of psychologist Wilhelm Reich coupled with a story about a Yugoslavian girl's affair with a Russian skater.  I know, weird.

The film begins by stating that we humans will have 4000 orgasms in our lifetime (I wish)!

Reich was an Austrian doctor and psychoanalyst whose teachings were some of the most radical in psychiatry.  He believed the orgasm was the key to happiness and might even cure diseases. His promotion of sexual liberation made him an increasingly controversial figure in the psychiatric community (he coined the term "sexual revolution"), mostly because of his orgone accumulators (devices he believed could harnass "orgone," a term he used for sexual energy which in turn he likened to God), but which the media called sex boxes. When they reported that Reich claimed he could cure cancer with them he ultimately landed in jail and his writings were burned.  He died in prison. 

I completely got that part of this film which clearly was an homage to Reich who I had heard of (of course he was big in the 60's), but I didn't know that much about him.  So that part was interesting though watching people in therapy sessions gyrating and seemingly in orgasmic trances, I couldn't help but get a little judgy and think how susceptible we humans can be as we search for the quick fix for pleasure and happiness. But beyond the documentary about Reich, the film is also a mishmash of footage of Stalin; Tuli Kupferberg of The Fugs wandering around Manhattan in an orange jumpsuit and brandishing a rifle; and a woman making a plaster cast of a guy's penis. 

However...there's more.  There's this other weird part of the film, a movie within a movie, about a sexually liberated feminist-communist named Milena who  seduces a conservative Russian ice skater and then he beheads her with his ice skate. That's when they lost me.  Well, that's not quite right.  Kupferberg and what he had to do with anything in this film lost me.

I know this was supposed to be a comedy and it was probably supposed to shock.  I usually like comedies if they are funny, but this was just absurd, and I wasn't particularly shocked, but I at least like to know what is going on when I watch a film and most of the time I didn't. 

Why it's a Must See: "Dusan Makavejev's most critically acclaimed film... a magnificently obscene parody of Cold War politics and social mores...[This film] may be the only avant-garde slapstick communist documentary sex romp ever made. That alone makes it a must-see."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...a better title would have been "Mysteries of the Orgasm or What The Hell is Going on Here?"

***The Book of the Week***

Cravings: Hungry for More by Chrissy Teigen (2018)

The latest cookbook from Chrissy Teigen.

I know you probably think I'm being lazy when "The Book of the Week" is a cookbook, but you would be wrong because I really READ cookbooks.  I love to cook but I also love to read cookbooks.  And in this case, I also love Chrissy.  She isn't one of the hottest stars on Twitter and Instagram for nothing.  She is very, very open and funny and her cookbooks are no exception, not to mention her great food.  I reviewed her first cookbook, "Cravings," and loved it but I think this one is even better.

In case you don't know who Chrissy Teigen is, she is the daughter of a Norwegian father and Thai mother, was a successful model and is now married to singer John Legend.  And she has also made a name for herself as a fun and funny cookbook author.

Here is an example. 

For her "Blueberry Cream Cheese Pancakes" she writes:

"I am no stranger to the chain restaurant.  I tried, and failed, to work at Red Robin just for access to their steak fries.  I was, for a moment, a Hooter Girl hostess.  I remember running food for one of the other girls (A HUGE HOSTESS NO-NO IN A TIP-BASED RESTAURANT) and almost getting smacked in the face with a pair of double G's...I am not the biggest fan of desserts, EXCEPT for the sour cream blueberry pie at Marie Callender's...These pancakes remind me sooooo much of that pie behind that glass..."

See?  Lots-o-fun!

The book is divided into Breakfast & Brunch; Soups; Salads; Sandwiches; Snacks; Potatoes & Their Friends; Supper and Sweets.  But she also celebrates her mother in the chapter "Thai Mom," with some delicious Thai recipes: "Tom Yum Noodles," "Crab Fried Rice," "Red Chicken Curry," and more.

I am going to try every single recipe in this book and I might even tag Chrissy on Instagram as I do it.  

The first one I want to try is her "Taters, Shrooms & Peas with Parmesan Cream.  She and I are on the same page about frozen peas!

"Aren't frozen peas just the best?  They're sweet, they're perky, and they're always ready for a good time (are they on Tinder?)  Please exit now if you even thought about popping fresh ones out of their little shells -- with peas, it's all about the bag. Besides, the potatoes (don't overcook 'em!) and mushrooms (hard to mess up) are fresh, so your foodie cred is covered...Serve this with fried eggs for a simple meal."

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like to read cookbooks  and you love great food, this cookbook is for you!

Thanks for reading!

   See you next Friday 

"The Mule"


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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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.