Showing posts with label book reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book reviews. Show all posts

Friday, October 20, 2017

"Victoria and Abdul" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the new movie "Victoria and Abdul" as well as DVDs "Cloud 9" and "Certain Women."  The Book of the Week is actress Katey Sagal's memoir "Grace Notes."  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "The Actress."]

Victoria and Abdul

This film tells the "mostly" true story of Queen Victoria's relationship with a young Indian.

Judi, Judi, Judi.  Why did I doubt you?  When I decided to see this film, I had this idea that you were going to camp this part up.  The trailers played up the humor so it's not entirely my fault but I should never have doubted you.  You are a Dame for a reason. You are Britain's national treasure and this role shows that you are not only deserving of being a Dame (the female equivalent of a knighthood), but it showcases an actress at the top of her game. 

Dame Judi Dench has aged like a fine wine and this is a role of a lifetime. She is known for winning an Oscar for one of the shortest screen times on record (Best Supporting Actress for "Shakespeare in Love" - 8 minutes) and now she may very well win a Best Actress Oscar for one of the longest (Dench is in practically every scene).  Where she could have gone for laughs or over the top in her impersonation of Victoria, instead Dench chose restraint, subtlety and nuance - facial expressions and that twinkle in her eyes - to create the character of Victoria. But that doesn't mean there is no humor here.  There are many humorous moments.  At every turn her choices are spot on and you can't take your eyes off of her.  A stunning performance.

"Victoria and Abdul" is the story of Queen Victoria who, entering her 80's and at that time the longest reigning monarch in the world, is declining and just basically bored with the pomp and circumstance of being a monarch.  Her beloved Prince Albert has been dead for over 30 years, her Mr. Brown is gone (there was a rumored romance between Mr. Brown, her groundskeeper, and Victoria during the early part of her widowhood - Dench also played Victoria in a movie about that relationship 20 years ago) and her nine children are a pain in her royal arse.  She is basically just going through the motions and waiting to die.

Then along comes Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal), a young Muslin sent from India to present Victoria with a commemorative coin from her Indian subjects in celebration of her Golden Jubilee.  Abdul is chosen for this honor because he is tall, and he is accompanied by another Indian, Mohammed (Adeel Akhtar), because he's, well, for the purposes of this film, funny. But he also represents a voice of those who hated the oppression of British rule. 

Abdul is told to present the coin to the Queen during a State dinner, but to not, under any circumstances, look at her. Naturally he does look at her and their eyes meet briefly.  Later, Victoria makes a comment about Abdul being handsome and requests his presence.  Abdul does not toady around the Queen as her household does, and she recognizes in him a source of companionship and joy.  He becomes her "munshi," a teacher.  She may be the Empress of India but she has never traveled there, forbidden to go because of a fatwah against her, so Abdul particularly piques her interest and she is eager to learn about India.  She gives Abdul royal household status, and he teaches her Urdu and about the Koran; they go on long walks together; and he is always by her side, her friend and confidant.  Victoria gets a new lease on life.

However, the royal household is not happy to have an Indian in their midst, especially one who is accorded status and especially an Indian who is not high born.  The royal household all work to discredit Abdul and turn Victoria against him which gives screenwriter Lee Hall, who adapted the book by Shrabani Basu, and director Stephen Frears the opportunity to explore the racism and class consciousness that abounded not only in the royal household but in Britain as a whole.  Queen Victoria might have been the Empress of India and the British may have ruled over India for almost 100 years, but that didn't mean the British had any understanding of those they ruled nor did they respect them.  There is a running joke early in the film where Abdul and Mohammad are called "The Hindus," when in fact they were Muslims, showing a lack of understanding by the British of the diversity that was, and is, India.

The British  really know how to make these historical films and director Stephen Frears in particular does a good job with royalty (he was nominated for Best Director for "The Queen" in 2007).  He also directed Dench in "Philomena" in 2013.

Besides Dench, other veteran British actors abound - Michael Gambon, Olivia Williams, Simon Callow - as well as an almost unrecognizable Eddie Izzard as Victoria's errant son Bertie, the Prince of Wales, who can't wait for his mother to die so he can be King.

But newcomer Ali Fazal as Abdul holds his own among these British veterans.  His eyes twinkle as he charms Victoria and you are never sure if he really cares for her or has decided she is his ticket to a better life.  That dichotomy gives his character and the film some weight.  I look forward to seeing more of him.

Rosy the Reviewer says...Ring, ring.  Dame Judi, there's a phone call for you.  Oscar calling.  (Oh, and I cried at the end, and you know what that means)!


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


Cloud 9 (2008)

A 67-year-old woman who has been married for over 30 years enters into an affair with a 76-year-old man.

I know I talk about French films and their obsession with sex.  Well, I should throw German films into the mix too.  The French have nothing on the Germans when it comes to sex in movies, if this film is any indication.

This is one of those films where you not only have to suspend disbelief - but actually there isn't much to disbelieve here - but you will need to suspend your prejudices against body fat and old people having sex because there is a lot of both in this film.  I seem to be on a roll these days reviewing movies about people of a certain age falling in love, struggling to find love and engaging in sex: "The Lovers," "Our Souls at Night," "How to be a Latin Lover," and "In the Courtyard," are just some of the recent films I have reviewed. on those topics.  And why shouldn't we see films like this?  Young, old, fat, thin, beautiful, homely, everyone wants to love and be loved and to, yes, have sex.

Inge (Ursula Werner) is a seamstress married to Werner (Horst Rehberg).  She is seemingly happily married in her routine life with Werner.  However, when she goes to customer Karl's (Horst Westphal) apartment to give him some trousers she has tailored for him, he makes a move on her and she immediately reciprocates.  Now Inge is not unattractive, but she is a rather plain, overweight, middle-aged woman who needs to comb her hair.  Karl is even older.  I mean OLD, but that doesn't stop him from making a move on her and she doesn't seem to mind because they get it on right there in his apartment with little foreplay.  And let's just say that the sex is up close and personal - wrinkles, wobbly flesh and all, and to cap it off we get to see Karl in full frontal, so steel yourselves.  I think I said "Yikes" to myself a couple of times.

Inge has been married to Werner for 30 years and though she is not unhappily married, she is bored and I don't blame her.  Werner's idea of fun is to listen to records that play the sounds of various train engines and to go on train rides to no particular destination.  Inge on the other hand is a horny 67-year-old who washes her husband's hair, supervises his exercising and sings in a choir and clearly wants more out of life. She embarks on an affair with Karl, and of course, new love always seems better and the old love starts to tarnish, and lots of sex ensues.  I couldn't help but wonder, where does this woman's libido come from?

The affair continues and Inge confides in her daughter, Petra (Steffi Kuhnert), who tells her to enjoy herself but not to confess to Werner.  Unfortunately, Inge doesn't listen to Petra and tells Werner to tragic effect.

This film is probably not for everyone. If seeing old people naked scares you, you should probably stay away.  I call this "Old people soft porn."  But I couldn't help but think while watching this that if this film starred young attractive actors with tight bodies instead of white hair, wrinkles, flab and everyday looks we would have no problem. The film makes the point that old love can be just as exciting as young love, at least for the participants anyway.  You might not want to watch them do it, but know they are.

As Inge said, "What's my age got to do with it?  If I am 16 or 60 or 80?"

But no matter the age or how long the marriage, the film captures the pain that an affair can cause.

This film is so real I felt like a voyeur.  The actors hold nothing back so the film has a "fly on the wall" reality to it.  We see Inge looking at her naked self in the mirror (don't we all do that? You don't?); we see her having sex with both Werner and Karl (not both at the same time. Dirty mind!); talking on the phone to her daughter and going about her life while at the same time in the midst of a mid-life affair. 

Written by Andreas Dresen, Jorg Hauschild, Laila Stieler and Cooky Zeische and directed by Dresen, it's all very stark and matter-of-fact but surprisingly compelling. 

Rosy the Reviewer says...Is this story a new one?  No.  Have I ever seen anything like it before?  No.  Did it move me?  Yes.
(In German with English subtitles)

Certain Women (2016)

Three separate stories about four Montana women whose lives loosely intersect.

Michelle Williams, Laura Dern, Kristen Stewart and Lily Gladstone are the "certain women."

The film opens with a train making its way across a long and empty plain setting the scene and giving the stark Montana landscape a starring role and then the camera pans to a nondescript town.

Laura Dern is Laura Wells, a lawyer, who is trying to help Mr. Fuller (Jared Harris), who has been injured on the job and who wants to sue the company he worked for.  Laura tries to tell him that he can't sue because he accepted a settlement from the company.  She is frustrated with Fuller because she can't seem to get rid of him and because he won't believe her.  It isn't until they both get a second opinion from a MALE lawyer that Fuller believes her. She is also frustrated because she is coming to the end of an affair. Later, Fuller becomes suicidal and threatens to kill a bunch of people and the next thing she knows he is in a standoff with the police and is holding a cop hostage.  Now Laura finds herself negotiating a hostage situation with Fuller.

Michelle Williams is Gina Lewis who is building a house out in the country, building a new house being an interesting metaphor in light of her crumbling marriage.  You see, we recognize that guy that Laura Wells is having an affair with - it's Gina's husband.

Lily Gladstone plays a lonely Native American ranch hand.  One night she drives her truck into town and sees people going into the school so she follows them into a classroom where Elizabeth (Kristen Stewart) is teaching a class on school law.  She is a young lawyer who has taken on teaching a class in a town two hours from her town.  When she agreed to teach the class she thought the town was closer and is now bummed because she has to drive four hours twice a week to teach the class and has to work the next day. 

The young ranch hand sits in on the class and is clearly taken with Elizabeth and after class they go to a diner together.  This becomes a ritual.  The rancher shows up at the class even though she has not signed up for it. Elizabeth teaches the class and then the two go to the diner.  There is a touching scene where the young ranch hand picks Elizabeth up on her horse and they ride the horse together to the diner.  But then one night when the rancher shows up for class, Elizabeth is no longer there, having found a replacement to relieve herself of that long and tedious drive.  The rancher travels to Elizabeth's town to find her and discovers that their encounters did not mean as much to Elizabeth as they did to her.

Written and directed by Kelly Reichart (based on stories by Maile Meloy - Coincidentally, I reviewed Meloy's latest novel "Do Not Become Alarmed" last July), this film is actually three short films within a film. You keep watching to see how these three disparate stories are related.  Each segment is a character study, and the film as a whole is partly successful, the story of the rancher being the most compelling and the Michelle Williams' piece less so.  But when you have really good actors with really good faces, the actors could read the phone book and you would be captivated. 

This film isn't like reading the phone book, but it's leisurely paced and saved by very real performances and the formidable, barren, unforgiving beauty of Montana which also plays a big role highlighting the themes of loneliness, our inability to connect and emotional isolation - an isolated unforgiving land as backdrop to an unforgiving isolated world that many of us live in.  No matter where we live, no matter how small our world, we all have our stories.

Gladstone is the heart of this film.  Her face tells her character's whole story. She and Stewart are a good team.  Since the "Twilight" films, Stewart seems to be more interested in smaller projects like this and such films as "Personal Shopper," "American Ultra" and "Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk" which in my opinion haven't done much to further her career.  But somehow I don't think she cares. Dern and Williams are also good as we have come to expect.  All of the actresses in the film are skilled at their craft and can carry a quiet, thoughtful film like this.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a reminder that no matter where we live, no matter how small our worlds, we all have our stories.  If you like quiet, female-driven character studies brought to life by wonderful actors, you will enjoy this film.

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

165 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Actress (1991)
(Original title: "Yuen Ling-yuk" or "Ruan Lingyu")

NOTE:  This film is variously titled.  It is listed as "The Actress" in "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" with the Chinese title "Yuen Ling-yuk."  However, in IMDB, the film is listed under "Center Stage," original title Ruan Lingyu."  I also purchased the title under the name "Center Stage."

Biopic of famous Chinese actress Ruan Ling-Yu.

Maggie Cheung plays Ruan and herself in this two-and-a-half hour epic that explores the life of silent film star Ruan Ling-Yu, who was the most famous Chinese actress of the 1930's. She was known as the Garbo of Chinese cinema starring in twenty-nine films by the time she was 25.  She was also dead by the age of 25, having tragically killed herself supposedly because of the malicious treatment of her by the tabloids for her affair with a married man.

The film has a documentary feel combining documentary footage with re-creations of Ruan's life and film roles. Cheung, her co-star Tony Leung, and director Stanley Kwan (and others) playing themselves talk about Ruan's life and her influence on Chinese film.

Ruan had a love affair with Chang, an immature rich kid who liked to gamble. Much was made of the fact that Ruan's mother was a maid for the Chang family and that's how Ruan and Chang met.  However, he loses his fortune and when her interests turn elsewhere he sues her for alimony. Then she gets involved with Tang, a married man, and scandal surrounds her.  How is it that famous, powerful women always seem to get saddled with losers and users?

The film is slow to get going and a bit difficult to follow as it jumps around in time and much is left unexplained, but the film is buoyed by the performances, and I was pulled in by the moodiness and the lush beauty of the film itself.  The recreations of Ruan's famous movie scenes are fascinating as well as Cheung talking about playing the role of Ruan and is asked to compare herself to Ruan. 

Ruan was haunted by the attacks in the press and would ask her friends "Am I considered good?" 

"What can I do except to only fear is malicious gossip." 

It is speculated that Ruan killed herself because of the scandalous tabloid reports, but there are no easy answers here as to why she did it.

Cheung won a Best Actress prize at the 1992 Berlin Film Festival for her performance as Ruan.  She was the first Chinese actor to win a major European acting award and that was a turning point in her career.

Why it's a Must See: "Stanley Kwan's 1992 masterpiece is quite possibly the greatest Hong Kong film ever; perhaps only some of the works of Wong Kar-wai such as Days of Being Wild (1991) and In the Mood for Love (2000) are as comparable in depth and intensity."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

I wouldn't go so far as to say this is as good as "In the Mood for Love (which Cheung also starred in)," but this film has the same moody feel. The set design and costumes are beautiful with an abstract motif that reminded me of Picasso's Cubist period. 

Unfortunately, if you want to see this film, it does not appear to be readily available, though you might find it at your local library.  I had to order it from a company in China via Amazon.

Rosy the Reviewer says...despite some issues I had with this film, I am a sucker for biopics about actors and fell under the spell of Maggie Cheung's performance.
(In Mandarin with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

Grace Notes: My Recollections by Katey Sagal (2017)

The real life Peg Bundy reflects on her life.

Who can forget Peg Bundy of "Married... With Children" fame?  

Katey Sagal starred as Peg Bundy, and she and the show took TV by storm in the 1980's and helped make a name for the fledgling Fox Network.  However, Sagal probably wouldn't like my mentioning Peg Bundy at the beginning of this review because she makes it clear in her memoir that her role as Peg Bundy was her blessing and her curse.  You know, that whole type-casting thing.  People thought she really was Peg Bundy but she makes it clear that she was anything but.

Sagal was born into a wealthy but tortured family.  Her father was a well-known and successful TV show director and her mother was a smart, talented woman until her health issues took over.  Both of Sagal's parents died when she was a young woman so she made her way in the world pretty much on her own. 

Sagal never planned to be an actress. Sagal's gift was singing and that's what she planned to do - become a rock star.  She had success with that but her father urged her to try acting so she tried to do both but her real love was always the music.

However, when TV came knocking she took the opportunity and created the role of Peg Bundy on the fledgling TV show "Married... With Children" on the then very new Fox Network.  When that ended, she struggled  to rid herself of Peg until scoring the role of John Ritter's wife in "8 Simple Rules" in 2002 and then eventually a recurring role in "Sons of Anarchy," a TV show that ran from 2008-2014.  She was married three times and had two children with husband #2 - musician Jack White - and a daughter via surrogate with her current husband, Kurt Sutter, who was also the creator of "Sons of Anarchy." 

In what is really a series of vignettes rather than a linear tale of her life, Sagal shares the deaths of her parents, her struggle with alcohol and drugs and successful sobriety, her three marriages, the stillborn birth of one of her children and the highs and lows of her acting career (after many Emmy nominations for her role in "Married... with Children" she finally won an Emmy for "Sons of Anarchy). 

In the second half of the book, Sagal talks about each of her children, she shares her child-rearing philosophy and waxes about life.  When she talks about her early life and career in the first half of the book, especially her trying to make it as a woman in the Los Angeles music scene, the book is interesting but less so when she talks about her personal feelings about mothering, her kids and her husband.

However, to give her some slack, Sagal forewarns the reader early on that this book is more about putting down her thoughts about her life so it's there for her kids. Unfortunately, as the book wore on, that's what it felt like.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a fan of juicy celebrity gossip type memoirs with lots of name-dropping, this isn't for you, but if you are interested in Sagal, this is a candid memoir and there are some surprises here about her life.


Thanks for reading!
See you next Friday 

for my review of  

"Blade Runner 2049"  


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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Check your local library for DVDs and books mentioned.
Next time you are wondering whether or not to watch a particular film, check out my reviews on IMDB (The International Movie Database). 

Friday, October 6, 2017

"American Made" and the Week in Reviews

[I review the new Tom Cruise movie "American Made" as well as the new Jane Fonda-Robert Redford film currently streaming on Netflix "Our Souls at Night" plus the DVD "Shall We Kiss?"  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Playtime."  The Book of the Week is "Love and Trouble" by Claire Dederer]

American Made

The true story of Barry Seal, who went from a TWA pilot to working for the CIA to smuggling Colombian cocaine to gun-running for the Contras.  How did that happen?

Well, good old American guts and ingenuity, I guess.  Or maybe he was just greedy and stupid.

To give you an idea of what kind of guy Barry Seal (Tom Cruise) was, while flying a commercial jet during an all-night flight with his co-pilot asleep next to him, he thought it would be fun to take the plane off of auto-pilot and do a nose dive, just to shake people up a bit. Oh, and he liked to smuggle Cuban cigars into the country too. That's the kind of guy Barry Seal was so when he was approached by Monty Schafer (Domhnall Gleeson), a CIA guy, to do covert photography over Central America filming communist-based guerrilla groups, it's not a stretch that Barry would say yes especially when Schafer also offered him a fast little tricked-out spy plane to do the job in.

Likewise, when Barry was later approached by a member of the Medellin drug cartel to smuggle cocaine out of Colombia, that was also believable.  But as he himself says in the film, it started to get unbelievable when the CIA asked him to not only start supplying guns to the Contras (remember that whole Iran-Contra thing in Nicaragua during the Reagan administration?), but to actually bring the Contras themselves to the U.S. for training in his back yard!  And that's not all.  He then started giving the guns to the drug lords and the cocaine to the Contras and America became complicit in the drug trade while Nancy Reagan was telling young people "Just say no!"  Whew!  Only in America!

Barry is married to Lucy (Sarah Wright), and they have a couple of kids and the money is rolling in so fast and heavily that Barry has his own vault at the bank.  Bags of money are buried in the backyard, falling out of closets and peeking out from under the beds.  Barry and Lucy are living the high life in their small town of Mena, Arkansas until Lucy's redneck brother, JB (Caleb Landry Jones who was so good in "Get Out") shows up.  Everyone has an Achilles Heel and JB is Barry's.  It all starts to fall apart until it all ends tragically.

Now don't get me wrong.  This is not a dark drama at all nor is it really an action film.  It's a true story with some action - especially in the air - but it also has a comic, devil may care feel to it much like "War Dogs" and "Catch Me If You Can."  Barry narrates, there is some animation to help us understand the political climate, and Barry's cheeky, though you could also say clueless, attitude is fun to watch.  The film is fast-moving and full of twists and turns and double-crosses. 

However, my problem with the film is that it doesn't really seem to be saying very much other than revealing a part of American political history that we shouldn't be proud of.  And it doesn't help that Barry was a bit of an arrogant jerk.

But the actors do a good job of pulling this film off.

I know being a Tom Cruise fan is no longer very popular.  I think it all went downhill for him when he jumped on Oprah's couch.  And what with his mysterious divorces from Nicole Kidman and Katie Holmes and his connection to Scientology, his star has started to fade a bit, despite that mega watt smile.  Now when I proclaim my fandom for Tommy, people shake their heads.  But I don't care.  He will always be my Tommy.  He had me at "Taps," and I remain loyal, and this movie suits him.  Despite the fact that he is 55 and a bit frayed around the edges, his smile still fills the screen and even in extreme close-ups he is still swoon-worthy.  And this is Tom's kind of film where he can not only flex his acting muscles but spread that special charisma of his all over the screen.

The rest of the actors do a good job of filling in the cracks when Tom isn't doing his thing. Sarah Wright is a beautiful actress to watch and I love the twitchy Jones. Likewise Gleeson is a good actor who can seemingly do anything.

Written by Gary Spinelli and directed by Doug Limon, who also directed "Edge of Tomorrow," this is a film that both men and women will enjoy.  I just wish it had a bit more depth to it.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you are a Tom Cruise fan you will be in Tom Cruise heaven (he's still got it), but even if you are not, this is still an enjoyable adventure film that won't tax your brain too much.


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

Streaming and on DVD

Our Souls at Night (2017)

A widow and widower, who have been neighbors for years but never really knew each other, enter into a relationship.

This film is new and can only be seen on Netflix.  It is billed as a Netflix Original, and since I wondered what that actually meant - I mean, did Netflix produce this movie starring two of our most famous actors? - I thought you might wonder too. 

Netflix does produce some of its own content such as "House of Cards."  But other shows such as "Arrested Development" are continuations of cable shows that Netflix bought.  As for this film, it falls into the category of a film that Netflix paid a lot of money for so you couldn't watch it anywhere else.  This movie comes to us via Netflix straight from the Venice Film Festival, and I loved every minute of it.

Louis Moore (Robert Redford) and Addie Waters (Jane Fonda) are neighbors.  They have both lost their spouses and live alone.  Though they both live in a small Colorado town, they never really had much of a relationship.  They knew OF each other, but didn't really know each other.  One day, out of the blue, Addie knocks on Louis's door and proposes to Louis that they start sleeping with each other.

"We are both alone.  We've been on our own for years.  I'm lonely and I'm thinking you might be too."

Now, don't get the wrong idea.  This is NOT about sex.  It's about getting through the night.

"Nights are the worst, don't you think?" she says to Louis. 

And she goes on to ask him if such a proposition would be of interest to him.  They would get into bed together and talk, and then, hopefully, fall blissfully asleep.

Louis is taken aback, naturally, but he says he will think about it.

After thinking about it, Louis lets Addie know that he would like to try sleeping together so they make a date.  Louis tells Addie "I'm not much of a talker," which is funny since Redford has made a name for himself playing laconic characters. It's charmingly awkward as the two get ready for bed, Addie in her nightgown buttoned up to her chin, and Louis in his pajamas, and before Louis can say anything to Addie, she is sound asleep, snoring quietly.

The two continue meeting with Louis carrying his paper bag of belongings and knocking on Addie's back door so that the neighbors won't talk until Addie demands that Louis enter through the front door - to hell with the neighbors! - and of course it's not long before word gets out about the two of them and the neighbors do talk.  Each night as they prepare for bed, they share their stories with each other and that's how those of us watching learn about them too. Slowly their relationship flowers. 

In the meantime, Addie's son, Gene (Matthias Schoenaerts), arrives.  He is having business and marital problems and asks Addie to care for his seven-year-old son, Jamie (Iain Armitage) for awhile until he can sort things out.  Jamie doesn't know his grandmother very well and is shy, which reinforces what I have said about long-distance grand-parenting.  It doesn't work very well.  Jamie is also a child who appears to not have had many experiences.  He has never been to a baseball game, doesn't know how to throw a baseball and is addicted to his computer games on his phone, but it isn't long before Addie and Louis both win him over and wean him off his phone.  Louis produces his prized train set.  What little seven-year-old boy can resist a train set?  And then they get him a dog!

It's no surprise that Addie and Louis fall in love and eventually get it on. Thank goodness we are spared the gory details of the act itself, not because I don't want to see old people having sex but because in general I find sex scenes boring.  That happens after a certain age.  And the fact that there was mutual attraction that led to sex reinforced my controversial belief that men and women can't just be friends. I should write a blog post on that some time.

Anyway, we knew Louis and Addie were going to fall in love, right? But that doesn't matter because, remember, it's the journey, not the destination, that matters.  And the journey is a delight.  I believed every minute of it and loved every minute of it.  

Fonda and Redford first acted together 50 years ago, when they starred together in another love story, "Barefoot in the Park," and Louis and Addie could be Paul and Corie from that film, 50 years later because Addie is impulsive, just as Corie was, and Louis is quieter and solid, like Paul.   I am of an age where I like seeing people my own age (actually they are older than I am) portrayed in the light of reality, and by that I mean, no old people movie clichés such as breaking out with the F-bomb or having trouble with the computer or suddenly doing a break dance, all things that some filmmakers seem to think are funny when old people do them. 

Whatever you might think of this film, it's always good to see actors at the top of their game and these two actors are about as on top of their game as actors can get, and because of that, you are drawn to them and their story. And they both look great. Redford's face looks lived in which I appreciate, and for an old dude, he still has a nice head of hair.  Jane may have had some work done but her plastic surgeon knew what he was doing.  And when Jane was in bed without her nightgown on, I couldn't get over the fact she had no back fat! 

The film written by Ken Haruf, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber and directed by Ritesh Batra (who directed "The Lunchbox," which I loved - see the "Featured Post" on the sidebar for the full review of that) captures what it must be like to be old, alone and lonely, a place I am probably not too far from, and the barriers that keep people from connecting.  And this film isn't just for us old folks.  I think the younger generation should see this so they can see that our bodies may have aged but inside we old folks still care and talk about the same things we did when we were younger, feel the same things and seek love just like the younger generation.

Now I have to eat a bit of crow. 

I know that I yammer on endlessly about how much I dislike child actors.  I had a bit of an epiphany watching this film.  I realized that it's really not the child actors who actually annoy me but the screen writers who write the precocious crap they want the children to spew.  I particularly thought this while watching young Iain Armitage who played little Jamie.  You might also remember him from his amazing performance in "Big Little Lies."  This kid is adorable and a wonderful young actor.  I believed him every step of the way, too, and, believe me, I was watching him with an eagle eye, waiting for him to turn into one of those child characters I dislike so much.  But he didn't miss a beat.  And kudos to the writers who wrote a believable child.

I also have to point out the film's score which is spot on.  It has a western vibe which highlights the Colorado setting but it also is tantalizing as we wait to see what is going to happen between Louis and Addie.

If you blink you will miss Bruce Dern who plays one of Louis's cronies that he hangs out with in the coffee shop.  If he gets nominated for an Oscar, he will beat Judy Dench who won one for less than eight minutes on screen. You never know.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you Baby Boomers are yearning for a movie you can relate to, this is it. It's quite wonderful.  And you younger folks can see what your parents are really up to!

Shall We Kiss? (2007)

A romantic comedy about a kiss offered, a kiss declined and the reason why.

Two strangers, Emilie (Julie Gayet) and Gabriel (Michael Cohen), meet in Nantes, France, and share an evening together. She is there on business and knowing that they will probably never meet again, Gabriel asks to kiss Emilie, a kiss with "no consequences."  She wants to kiss him but explains that a kiss can have very big consequences.

"Before a kiss has been given, no one knows if it will be big or small."

Emilie then proceeds to tell Gabriel a story to explain why they should not kiss, and through a series of flashbacks, the story of Judith and Nicholas (Emmanuel Mouret, who also directs) unfolds, and we learn that one kiss can have wide-ranging consequences.

Judith (Virginie Ledoyen) is a lab technician happily married to Claudio (Stefano Accorsi), a pharmacist. Nicholas was Judith's high school friend and is still her very best friend.  They meet often and talk about everything.  Nicholas had a girlfriend but they broke up and one day, Nicholas confides in Judith that he lacks physical affection (a euphemism for the fact that Nicholas is horny), and he is so starved for it that he is obsessed.

Judith recommends that Nicholas see a prostitute, and he tells her that he already has in a story within a story where he relates his bad experience with that. Turns out the prostitute does not allow kissing and without kissing Nicholas doesn't have a, er, good experience, so that didn't work for him.  He couldn't go through with it because he needs to kiss.  

So Nicholas shyly proposes that he and Judith get together, and Judith, being the good friend that she is, decides to help Nicholas out - just this once.

There is a long scene of awkward foreplay with the music from "The Nutcracker" playing in the background and then --- THE KISS! --- once again confirming my theory about the fact that men and women can't just be friends (see review above).

However, the two part, Nicholas acquires a girlfriend, Caline (Frederique Bel), and Judith and Nicholas don't see each for awhile, but when Nicholas and Judith do meet again a month later, they both confess that since the kiss things have not been the same for Judith with Claudio and Nicholas isn't really feeling it with Caline.  So now they decide they have to have sex again to make sure that the first time wasn't a fluke and to try to do it mechanically so as to break whatever spell might have been cast on them.  They decide to do it on the floor so it will be uncomfortable but, yes, you figured it out.  IT WAS EVEN BETTER THAN THE FIRST TIME!  

Horrified that they want each other so much, they realize they are in love and embark on a full-blown affair.  But an affair is one thing.  "Should one overturn one's life for kisses and caresses?"  The reality of leaving a marriage is another, so Judith and Nicholas concoct a plan for Claudio to meet Nicholas's girlfriend, Caline, hoping that Claudio will fall in love with her and leave Judith.

Well, my peeps, we all know about those best laid plans right?

The film continues back and forth between Emilie relating the story to Gabriel and Judith and Nicholas as their worlds fall apart and a twist is revealed by Emilie as to why she won't kiss Gabriel.

After seeing this film, I feel bad that I have been bashing French films so much lately.  This is the kind of romantic comedy I love.  The story is funny and appealing, the comedy is subtle and the characters are engaging. Gayet looks like a young Catherine Deneuve and Mouret has not only directed a film reminiscent of a Woody Allen romantic comedy, he looks and acts like a young Woody.  It's a sweet love story where even the music - Tchaikovsky and Schubert - play important roles.

And now we all know why prostitutes don't kiss.

Rosy the Reviewer says...utterly charmant (I didn't know how to say utterly in French).
(In French with English subtitles)

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

167 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

(Note:  In case you are the kind of person who notices such things, I know there is a discrepancy between the number of movies I still need to see from what I reported last week.  That is because I did a recent inventory and realized that I had miscalculated somewhere along the line and I had in fact seen 20 more films than reported so now onwards and upwards!)

Playtime (1967)

Monsieur Hulot (Jacques Tati) gets caught up with a band of American tourists as they wander around a high-tech Paris.

Jacques Tati is practically a national treasure of France and "Monsieur Hulot" is his trademark character, a silent gentleman much like the U.K's Mr. Bean or Chaplin's "Little Tramp" stomping around Paris with his sideways walk, his trademark hat, pipe and overcoat befuddled by technology and the changes around him.

Here Monsieur Hulot finds himself entangled with a group of American tourists who are shown around "modern Paris," which seems to consist mostly of a modern office building and an area of modern buildings, never the sights we have come to associate with Paris.  Paris is presented as bureaucratic and modern and Monsieur Hulot is struggling with all of that, embodying the human isolation that technology and the changing times can bring.  

The film is beautifully produced and very stylized and Tati shows off his silent comic skills without speaking a word.  Lots of physical humor of which I am not a big fan, but I could appreciate the set design, the music and the look of the film, all of which Tati reproduced at great expense, which at the time was the most expensive movie in French film history and which eventually bankrupted him.  He built the entire set outside of Paris - an airline terminal, office buildings, even a traffic circle - which became known as Tativille, and it is something to behold. 

Despite the amazing look of the film, there is no real plot and no characters to grab onto, just hundreds of people moving on and off the screen, no real dialogue and a series of strange scenes. It was all shot in 70mm using only medium and long-shots and there is a lot going on at all times in every corner of every frame on the screen.

However, I see this film as one man's personal expression, an historical film curiosity rather than a satisfying film experience.  Personally, I found this film boring.

Despite what Tati was trying to do, the film was just too impersonal and chaotic for me.

Why it's a Must See: Playtime is less a film than one man's successful attempt to encourage us to see with new eyes.  Indeed, director Jacques Tati's timeless masterpiece is concerned, from start to finish, with imbuing the viewer with a totally new set of sensory experiences.  Like no other movie, Playtime has the power to make us question our very faculties of eyes and ears...The gags in [Tati's] films aren't really gags at all, but odd little moments that add up to an overall tone of a world being slightly askew."

Rosy the Reviewer I'm not liking French comedies again.
(In French and English with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

Love and Trouble: A Midlife Reckoning by Claire Dederer (2017)

A Gen-X'ers midlife memoir.

I remember reading the book and writing about "The Mad Woman in the Volvo," which takes on the topic of menopause and how menopause is supposed to be a time of returning to the carefree feelings of our youth.  Our children are grown and we don't have to worry about having any more.  We only need to take care of our own needs.  We become middle-aged teenagers.  But when we wait to have children, we throw the natural cycle of things off so when we should be enjoying our new freedom we find ourselves caring for little children and possibly aging parents as well.

I thought of that book while reading Claire Dederer's memoir and thought that she might be having some of those "mad" episodes as she enters middle age and reflects back on her younger years.  She is 45 (oh, to be 45 again), a seemingly happily married mother of two, ages nine and twelve, but she finds that her mind is returning to her younger years when she discovered sex, was wildly boy crazy and eventually wildly promiscuous. She is unsettled by these feelings appearing again and shares a series of essays as she tries to understand what is happening to her. 

This memoir shifts back and forth between her present experience as a middle-aged mom in the grip of mysterious new feelings and herself as a teenager and young adult punctuated by passages from her diaries that she kept in her younger years.

I was originally drawn to this book because Dederer "lives on an island near Seattle," and I always enjoy books that draw on locations where I have lived or been.  And she doesn't disappoint.  People who live in the Seattle area or who have been here will enjoy her references to growing up in Laurelhurst, remembering cool places on The Ave (University Way) in the 1980's and her chapter "How to be in Seattle in the '90s."

"Move to Phinney Ridge because it's cheap and you can have a yard."

Ah, if only.  Phinney Ridge is no longer cheap in Seattle, the fastest growing city in the U.S.

On the occasion of her daughter's 13th birthday, Dederer writes a letter to Roman Polanski about his rape of a 13 year old girl; there is a chapter called "A Kiss May Ruin a Human Life (see movie review above and be reminded that you shouldn't be kissing people willy nilly because it can lead to problems);" a list of things she didn't want to think about that kept her up at night - "My children talking about me the way I have talked about my parents," taxes, rats and flossing" - and her experiences at Oberlin College, which weren't very good.

We believe in the midlife crisis that men experience and mostly give them a pass, but we give little thought to the same thing happening to women.  Believe me, it does, and Dededer is here to testify to that fact in a witty and engrossing memoir.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a candid and intriguing look at the female experience from a Seattle Gen X-er's point of view.


Thanks for reading!

See you TUESDAY 

for a Rosy the Reviewer
special edition  

"What's in a Name? -

Making a New Case for Naming Your Children After Friends and Family Members


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