Friday, May 11, 2018

"Tully" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "Tully" as well as DVDs "Winchester" and "Flatliners."  The Book of the Week is "Meghan: A Hollywood Princess," just in time for the Royal Wedding.  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Story of a Cheat."


The mother of two young children and a newborn is having trouble coping so she hires a night nanny who ends up not just taking care of the baby but of her too.

Marlo (Charlize Theron) is pregnant with her third child and she is already struggling with the two children she already has, an eleven-year-old aughter, Sarah (Lia Frankland), and an autistic six-year-old, named Jonah (Asher Miles Fallica), though no one will say the word "autistic." "Quirky" is what Marlo's husband and the principal of Jonah's school like to say.  But the truth of the matter is that young Jonah needs a lot of special attention and is not above throwing tantrums on the way to school by kicking the back of Marlo's seat or having a meltdown if she doesn't park in a particular parking lot.  Marlo is nine months pregnant and it's all down to her.  Marlo's husband, Drew (Ron Livingston) is a nice guy but kind of useless.  

Marlo's brother, Craig (Mark Duplass), is everything that Drew is not and Drew knows it.  Both men think the other doesn't like him and there is something to that. Drew is a hard-working guy with a regular job, Craig is a smug, pretentious rich guy living the high life. How pretentious is he?  Let's just say that Craig's dog's name is Prosecco, for god's sake.  Craig is married to Elyse (Elaine Tan), one of those skinny bitches who seems to have it all together and is also smug saying passive aggressively to Marlo, who is standing there sweaty and nine months pregnant, "I know the ninth month can be difficult.  I found it very hard to go to the gym."  

But despite a somewhat fractious brother/sister relationship with Marlo, Craig is well-meaning and one night when the four are having dinner together, Craig pulls Marlo aside and tells her he has bought her the services of a night nanny as a "new baby gift."  However, Marlo dismisses the offer because, one, she is not keen on having a stranger in her house, and two, does not want him to think she can't do it all, but Craig presses the phone number on her just in case she changes her mind.

And naturally once the baby is born things get much worse.  Now Marlo not only has to deal with Jonah's special needs and try not to ignore Sarah, she can't get any sleep.  Her days and nights are filled with getting up, feeding the baby, pumping out her breast milk, taking Sarah and Jonah to school and fixing meals, over and over again. Did I say that Drew was pretty useless?  Like I said, he is a nice guy but he is at work all day and can't very well get up in the night to breast feed the baby.  But he's also a guy and, no offense guys, but when it comes to babies, most of you are pretty useless, right?

When Jonah is kicked out of his school because they just can't handle him and Marlo finds herself having a screaming meltdown in the school parking lot, she decides maybe it is time to call the night nanny.

And then...there she is.  Tully (Mackenzie Davis).

Tully arrives and that changes everything.  Tully is not only there to take care of baby Mia but to take care of Marlo, too.

Marlo meets Tully, a free-spirited twenty-something who has good advice about everything.  She is compassionate and takes charge. The two become friends and Marlo's life changes for the better. She gets up in the morning to find a clean house and even some decorated cupcakes she can take to school for the kids. The women bond over sangria in an empty hot-tub and Marlo shares what she was like when she was young and didn't have a family to look after. Marlo's life is changing for the better because of Tully. However, as the movie went on, I kept wondering where the film was going.  Is this film just the story of a twenty-something Mary Poppins coming to save a harried new mother?

... and then there was the twist that I did not see coming at all and which turned this film into something else entirely.  

I always pride myself in seeing twists coming a mile away but I must either be getting old and losing my movie smarts or this was a brilliant Oscar worthy original screenplay by Diablo Cody, who also wrote "Juno"  and "Young Adult. I prefer to choose the latter.  Diablo Cody is one smart woman and deserves an Oscar nod for this screenplay.

Directed by Jason Reitman who also collaborated with Cody on "Juno" and "Young Adult," two films about the realities of teens and young adults, this film shows the realities of motherhood and no doubt represents Cody's move into another realm as she had just had her third child herself when she wrote this screenplay.

We have a tendency to glorify motherhood calling it a blessing.  No one dares to say what a nightmare it can also be.  When a woman gets pregnant she gains weight and no longer has control over her own body.  Total strangers want to touch her big stomach and have no problem passing judgments if they think the mother-to-be is doing something that isn't good for the baby. When Marlo orders a decaf at a coffee shop, a woman, or should I say, busybody, standing nearby, feels the need to remind Marlo that even decaf has some caffeine in it.  And then once the baby is born, the weight gain remains (and Theron gained 50 real pounds to play this role) and now there is the accompanying body shaming, and the lack of sleep, the baby's constant crying, the depression, the guilt, - all of this laid at the feet of the mother.  This movie shows the realities of pregnancy and motherhood. 

But don't think this film is a dirge.  It's not.  It also funny because if you don't laugh, you will cry.

As for Charlize, despite her Oscar for "Monster," she is not one of those actresses I think of right away when I think of the best actresses.  If someone asked me who I thought the best actresses of today were, I would most likely say Meryl Streep, Annette Bening or Julianne Moore.  I wouldn't automatically say Charlize Theron, and I don't know why because, like I said, she has an Oscar.  I sometimes think that the actresses who are natural and not that actressy are not thought to be great but after seeing this film I am reminded that Theron is right up there.  And despite her beauty, she is not a cream puff about her roles either. She made herself over to play serial killer Aileen Wuornos in "Monster," bad teeth and all, she shaved her head to play the one-armed Furiosa in "Mad Max: Fury Road" and here she gained 50 pounds, though she still looked damn good.  Theron is right up there with the best actresses and she deserves an Oscar nod for this role.

And let's not leave out Mackenzie Davis as Tully.  She exudes a youthful New Age exuberance that is just right for the character and Ron Livingston may have been the nice but useless Drew but he plays nice and useless very well.  It was just right.  Husbands can be useless but it's often because they just don't know what to do to help their wives.

However, speaking of Oscars, films that show up this early in the year are often overlooked, and I don't think this film was marketed in the best way.  The trailers make it look like Mary Poppins shows up to solve all of the problems of a harried mother - and how exciting would that be? - not!  Sadly, I can't say more because the film does go in an unexpected direction but let's just say it is a direction that will surprise you and one that drives home the realities that mothers face. 

We expect mothers to take care of their families and to live up to some impossible motherly ideal, to be able to do it all and not complain. This film is a reminder of how important it is for us mothers to also take care of ourselves and to never let go of who we once were and who we really are just because we are mothers.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a wonderful movie with a brilliant screenplay and great performances that brings home the realities of motherhood, and it's just in time for Mother's Day.  One of my favorites of the year. Oh, and by the way, I cried at the end.  It was that good.

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


Winchester (2018)

Did Sarah Winchester really keep building her strange mansion because the ghosts of the people killed by the Winchester repeating rifle told her to?

That's what this wannabe horror film wants us to think, but not sure where that came from because I have been to the Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, and I am pretty sure that I was told there that Sarah Winchester kept building her house because a medium had told her that if she stopped she would die.  I don't remember the ghosts.

But what I remember doesn't really matter if this film is a good horror film.  But, sadly, it's not.

We can all agree, though, that Sarah was a bit of a nutter.  If you don't know her story, she was the wife of William Wirt Winchester, the manufacturer of the Winchester repeating rifle and when he died Sarah inherited a vast fortune and 50% ownership of the company.  What started as an eight room house became a seven story structure with stairs that went nowhere and over 100 rooms.  It's a fun place to visit if you ever get to San Jose and some of the movie was actually filmed in the house itself, which, I am sorry to say, was the best thing about this movie.

In this fictionalized version of events, in 1906, Dr. Eric Price (Jason Clarke) is called in by the Board of Directors of the Winchester company to evaluate Sarah's (Helen Mirren) mental state because they want to have a reason to take over her shares.  However, Dr. Price is a bit of a libertine and addicted to laudanum and doesn't really want to take on this assignment, but he needs the money and off he goes to meet Sarah Winchester.  And so begins a haunted house odyssey with things that go bump in the night. 

(And I'm not kidding.  This movie is all about making you jump.  I actually kept track of the gotcha moments - 12 of them - except I didn't jump even though I knew I was supposed to).

When the doctor arrives, he meets Sarah's niece, Marion (Sarah Snood) and her weird little son, Henry (Finn Scicluna-O'Prey), and you know how much I like weird little child actors. Not! Helen Mirren may star as Sarah but she doesn't appear until 20 minutes into the film (you can tell how bored I was that I kept track of the gotcha moments and how long it took Helen to appear), but she makes a grand entrance ensconced all in black.  

Sarah tells the doctor that she is cursed and the house is haunted by the souls of the people killed by the Winchester repeating rifle and she is consumed by guilt. She must make amends. The ghosts tell her what rooms to add and she must keep doing that or die.  She must reconstruct the rooms they died in and then they can come alive again and then rest in peace...or something like that.  Naturally the good doctor sees and hears things but is it ghosts or the laudanum?  You see, the good doctor also has his own issues with guilt about his wife's death that make him kind of nutty too.

For a horror film, I found this amazingly dull despite those gotcha moments and the creepy house and despite the presence of Dame Helen and Jason Clarke. 

Mirren doesn't have much to do except walk around looking dazed and Clarke, who seems to be everywhere these days, has a story line that doesn't really go anywhere.  As a horror film, it's not, and even if this film was just going for gothic thriller, it was still zzzzz, because in the end there really isn't much of a story here.  Sarah Winchester was wacko, plain and simple, and even Dame Helen can't rise above this mess.

I mean, c'mon, one of the lines is "Fear only exists in your mind."  Duh.

Or "Conditions can be cured, Doctor.  Curses cannot."  Duh.

Directed by the Spierig Brothers (who I have never heard of) and written by them and Tom Vaughn, this film plays like a Lifetime Movie, but a bad one and that's saying a lot since Lifetime Movies are supposed to be kind of bad or so bad they are good. This film even had one of those Lifetime Movie endings. You know the kind.  The bad guy is dead...or is he?  The ghosts are all gone now...or are they? 

I actually like Lifetime Movies (check out my homage to them that I wrote a few years ago) and this movie is so bad it's almost an insult to Lifetime Movies for me to compare them.

Rosy the Reviewer says...While watching this film, I said out loud, "Dame Helen, what were you thinking?"

Flatliners (2017)

Five medical students try to experience death by stopping their hearts for short periods of time.

OK, first of all, I have some questions:

Question #1 - Who thought we needed to remake this film?  Wasn't the 1990 version starring Julia Roberts, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, William Baldwin and Oliver Platt enough?

Question #2 - James Norton.  You left "Granchester" for this?

Question #3 - Where the hell has Ellen Page been all of this time and why did she surface for this film?

Question #4 - What kind of a high can you possibly get from dying?  I thought death was the ultimate downer?

Question #5 - Why is it that empty hospital corridors are so ominous?

Anyway, those are some thoughts I had while watching this film, but none of those questions really matter because if you saw the first film, even though the stories are a bit different, you don't need to see this one.  And if you didn't see the first one, you haven't really missed much either.

But for the sake of this remake and this review, I will recap the story.

Courtney (Page) is a medical student who has been studying the part of the brain that experiences near death. Courtney has somehow discovered that she can stop her heart for a short time and can experience death.  I guess everyone is searching for the answer - what happens after death?  Is there a white light? Do we see our loved ones?

Courtney gets some other medical students involved in this: Jamie, the handsome ladies man and trust fund kid; the stressed out Sophia (Kiersey Clemons); Ray (Diego Luna), a guy who looks way too old to be a medical student but we are told he was once a firefighter, which I guess is supposed to explain why he's so much older than the others; and Marlo (Nina Dobrev), the pretty one.  They all hang out in an underground bunker at the hospital.  

OK, I have another question.  How can these kids take over the basement of a hospital with all of the equipment they need to stop their hearts and no one discovers them? 

Anyway, best to not try to go too deep here.

Courtney wants to be able to experience death, map it and document it.  She asks Jimmy and Sophia to stop her heart for one minute and then bring her back.  Wouldn't you know, when she dies she experiences the life she really wants and when they bring her back she seems to have more energy and mind power.  Now they all think she is on to something and they all want to try it.

"It's like her brain has been rewired."

But...don't count your chickens, guys, or should I say brain waves....there are some side effects.

Their competitive natures have them trying to stay dead longer which is not a good idea.  Turns out they all have "demons," in their past. For example, Courtney's little sister was killed in a car crash and Courtney feels responsible for her death.  All of the students have things in their past that haunt them and now those demons have come to life in flashbacks and hallucinations.  Kind of like an LSD flashback (not that I would know what those are).  So now the kids have to find out how to stop them.

I guess the message here is take responsibility for your past actions.  Yawn.

Directed by Niels Arden Oplev with a screenplay by Peter Filardi and Ben Ripley, this film interested me for the first hour but then my mind started to wander and I started to want someone to actually die.  I know, that was bad.

It's funny that Kiefer Sutherland is also in this one as a sort of homage to the first film, I guess, but this time as a doctor.  He overacts like mad and looks and acts like a mad scientist.  Perhaps that was his way to show he didn't really approve of this film either.

Rosy the Reviewer says...another "scary movie" that's not scary and you know how I feel about remakes - this is one I certainly didn't hear people clamoring for.

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

144 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

The Story of a Cheat (1936)

It's all about a charming scoundrel.

Sacha Guitry, who wrote, directed and starred in this film about The Cheat, a man who learned early that dishonesty pays, was a poet, a comedian, a playwright, actor and filmmaker who produced more than 100 plays and 32 movies.

It's a film within a film as the now 54-year-old Cheat narrates and reflects on his life as he writes his memoirs in a cafe.

At the age of 12, the young Cheat is caught stealing money from the family grocery shop, and as punishment, is not allowed to eat dinner, a lovely meal of mushrooms.  However, the mushrooms turn out to be poisonous and his family all die. His mother's cousin takes him in and uses his inheritance for his own benefit showing the young man early that dishonesty pays.

He runs away and works at various jobs, such as doorman and hotel bellhop and eventually a croupier in Monaco. He actually tries to be honest but is drawn into nefarious enterprises. In Paris, he is drawn into a plot to assassinate the visiting Czar, and he meets up with a woman who tries to get him to help her cheat the casino. Later, the Cheat is picked up by a beautiful woman in a restaurant who turns out to be jewel thief. All of these schemes end in failure until after several other jobs of a dubious nature and some humorous adventures, he is finally able to go straight.

The film acts like a silent film because in lieu of dialogue Guitry uses his narration as dialogue while the characters mouth their lines. It's almost as if the actors are Guitry's puppets. It sounds strange but Guitry's tales, observations and bon mots as his character moves through his dishonest life are so charming it will draw you in.

Why it's a Must See: "Widely regarded as Sacha Guitry's masterpiece..."

Rosy the Reviewer says...Despite the film being over 80 years old, it was quite charming and au courant.

(b & w, in French with English subtitles)

***Book of the Week***

Meghan: A Hollywood Princess by Andrew Morton (2018)

Just in time for the May 19th wedding.  Everything you didn't know about Meghan Markle.

If you are a royal watcher, like I am, you already have your fascinator and your teacup ready for the Royal Wedding.  I got up to watch Charles and Diana get married and I am not going to miss this one.  I just hope it has a happier ending than Charles and Diana.

I think it will. 

Meghan and Harry are both mature people who seem to have figured out what they want out of life and that started early for Meghan.  Meghan's choice of quote for her high school yearbook was from Eleanor Roosevelt: "Women are like teabags; they don't realize how strong they are until they're in hot water."  That tells you a lot about Ms. Markle even from a very young age. 

And things have changed within the British Royal family.

As Morton writes:

"When the American actor Rachel Meghan Markle walks down the aisle at St. George's Chapel in Windsor Castle on May 19, 2018, she will be making history.  In the last important royal wedding for a generation, Prince Harry's glamorous bride will be the first biracial divorcee ever to marry a member of the British royal family.  Their union, blessed by Her Majesty the Queen, will make the monarchy seem more inclusive and relevant in an ever-changing world."

And this is all really huge. 

It's no longer necessary for a Prince to marry a virgin (Diana) and even a divorcee is not off limits these days, though when Edward VIII tried to marry the woman he loved, a divorcee, it caused a constitutional crisis and he had to abdicate. Likewise Princess Margaret had to give up the love of her life because Group Captain Peter Townsend was a divorced man. And the fact that Meghan Markle is also biracial is another milestone in the Royal Family bringing themselves into the 21st century.

If you may remember, Andrew Morton also wrote "Diana, Her True Story," which really was Diana's true story as she was secretly feeding him information about what was happening behind the palace walls and within her marriage, and it blew the lid off of the fairy tale marriage of Charles and Diana. Since then he has chronicled the Royals for most of his career (though he has also written biographies about celebrities as well), most recently "Wallis in Love," the story of Wallis Warfield Simpson and her aforementioned love affair with Edward VIII and his subsequent abdication. 

Here Morton presents a thorough and well-balanced look at the life of Meghan Markle, the future Duchess.

I was surprised how much I did not know about Ms. Markle.

  • She was high school homecoming queen
  • Her parents divorced when she was two
  • Her family nickname was "Flower.
  • Her advocacy started young. At age 11, she found a Procter and Gamble TV ad for dish soap to be sexist ("Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans") and wrote letters of protest, not just to P & G but to Hillary Clinton and others.  She thought the ad should say "People all over America..."  She heard from Hillary but not from P & G but soon after the ad was changed to "People all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans." 
  • Her Dad was an Emmy-award winning lighting director for TV shows ("General Hospital," "Married With Children") and Meghan often hung out on the "Married with Children" set
  • She has a B.A. in international relations from Northwestern University
  • She is a goodwill ambassador for the UN
  • She was a suitcase model on "Deal or No Deal"
  • She is a skilled calligrapher and addressed the envelopes for Robin Thicke's and Paula Patton's wedding invitations (hey, it's not easy being an aspiring actress!  You have to make money where you can!)
  • She made five pilots before finally landing her recurring role in "Suits"

But apart from the facts of her life, the book also gives a detailed look at the courtship - how they met, how their love blossomed, how they kept it a secret, how and when Harry proposed - all of the juicy details that we Royal Watchers really want!

So I will be glued to the TV to watch the Royal Wedding with my fascinator perched atop my head, my tea cup with my pinky sticking out, and Hubby at my side because May 19th is also the day WE were married and it's been a (mostly) happy 34 years. 

I can only wish Meghan and Harry the same.

Rosy the Reviewer says...a must-read for Royal Watchers and anyone who wants to know more about the future Duchess.

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of 

"Life of the Party"

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). 

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.

Friday, May 4, 2018

"Rampage" and The Week in Reviews

[I review the movie "Rampage" as well as DVDs "Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool" and "Downsizing." I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die" with "A Day in the Country."]


There is something called "Genetic Editing" and there is a reason it has been outlawed. It has this strange effect: it makes animals very, very big and very, very mean.

Yes, this is a monster movie based on a video game, and I can hear you saying, "What is a sixty-something woman doing at a movie like that?"  Well, I have a confession to make.  I have this huge crush on Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.  If you remember my review of "Jumanji" recently I said that I was not a big fan of ex-wrestlers becoming actors but then Dwayne just won me over.  He has that unusual combination of rugged handsomeness combined with a self-deprecating sense of humor that I find very charming.  And I have to say his baldness is alarmingly sexy and I won't even go into those guns, er, arms of his.

But truth be told, I like to go to the movies early in the morning when I have the theatre all to myself and this was one of the few films that I hadn't already seen that fit that criteria.

Here Dwayne plays Davis Okoye, a primatologist and wildlife activist fighting against poaching and working for a San Diego wildlife sanctuary.  He is also ex-special ops which will come in handy later.  He looks after the gorillas at the zoo and communicates with them using sign language.  He has a special affinity for George (Jason Liles, who can give Andy Serkis a run for his money), an albino gorilla with a sense of humor who he saved from poachers. As I said, George has a sense of humor and finds it hilarious to give Davis the finger. However, Davis's and George's world is going to get turned upside down soon, because there are some bad guys out there messing with genetics.

And those bad guys are Claire Wyden (Malin Akerman) and her brother, Brett (Jake Lacy), who own the Chicago company Energyne.  They have been playing around with "genetic editing," a process whereby certain characteristics of certain animals can be put together to create a super big, super strong and super aggressive version.  This is such a scary process that it's been banned, but that isn't stopping our villains who have sent a lab up into space to test the process in secret.  However, things go wrong up there and canisters of the concoction fall to earth and not only does a wolf in Montana and an alligator in Florida get into them but one falls into George's cage too.  Let's just say all three of those animals start to grow very, very fast and get very, very mean.

Claire and Brett now want those animals so they can do something with them. Not sure what.  Claire devises a high frequency antenna that will lure the animals to Chicago.  Also not sure why she wants to do that since these giant animals aren't going to do Chicago any good.  But anyway, the animals can supposedly hear the sound from far away and it is so annoying to them that they will do anything to get there and turn it off.  Now don't think too hard about how a gigantic alligator from Florida is going to swim from there to the Chicago River or why Claire thinks it's a good idea for three humongous monsters to come to Chicago since they are certain to destroy it, because to enjoy this film you have to suspend not just disbelief but ALL disbelief because, well, it's that kind of movie.

Davis teams up with Dr. Kate Caldwell (Naomie Harris) who once worked for Energyne and feels bad about creating this bad DNA, and the two must save Chicago.  Well, with George's help, too, because George may be big and mean but he's our George.

Written by Ryan Engle, Ryan J. Condle, Carlton Cuse and Adam Sztykiel and directed by Brad Peyton, this is a fun monster movie with some scary moments, some blood and gore, if you are into that kind of thing, and some really good CGI monsters and it allows Dwayne to do what he does best
fight monsters, jump out of buildings and scale walls all while throwing out the casual bon mots.  

Dwayne is a big box office draw.  Most every movie he is in does well at the box office.  Though this one is not one of his all-time biggest films, it's a good monster film that serves him well.  And our ape, George, is a big old sweetheart when he isn't throwing cars around like they are toys and chewing up the bad guys.  Think a scary but deep down, a very sweet King Kong.

Rosy the Reviewer says...if you like "The Rock" he does not disappoint in this silly monster movie that is also a lot fun.

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


Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool (2017)

The story of actress Gloria Grahame's final years.

Does anyone out there even know who Gloria Grahame was?  Probably not.  Does that affect your enjoyment of this film if you don't know who she was?  Not really, because it's the eternal story of a has-been film star on the skids and a May-December romance.  It's a story that many film stars have lived through and will again, but it's brought to life here with stunning performances by Annette Bening and Jamie Bell.  You probably remember Jamie Bell when he splashed onto the screen in "Billy Elliott at the age of 14.  Well, our Jamie has grown into quite a handsome and dashing leading man.

For those of you who are too young to remember, Gloria Grahame was an actress who toiled mostly in "B" movies of the 1940's and 1950's playing gun molls, femme fatales and bad girls, but she also was a good enough actress to win a Best Supporting Oscar actress for "The Bad and the Beautiful."  She is probably not remembered much today and sadly died young of cancer at the age of 58, but Peter Turner, on whose memoir this film is based, remembers her very well because the two shared a May-December love affair when he was in his twenties and Grahame was dying of cancer and her career was on the wane.

The film begins with Grahame's career in decline in 1981 and she is also dying.  She (Bening) is in England starring in "The Glass Menagerie," but her health hinders her so she calls Peter (Bell), an old but much younger lover and she gets him to take her to his home in Liverpool.  She is convinced that under the care of his family she will get better.  

With that, the film flashes back to their first meeting in the late 70's.  Peter is a young actor in his 20's and Gloria is in her 50's. She may be in her 50's, but Gloria still thinks she is the same blonde bombshell she played in so many of her films, as many aging bombshells often do. They live across the hall from each other and she invites him in to dance the hustle with her in a wonderful scene where the two throw caution to the wind as they dance around her apartment, a metaphor for the caution that is going to be thrown to the wind when these two get together romantically.  

You see, Gloria may now be in her 50's, her career may be on the wane and she may be the mother of four children with four ex husbands behind her, but no one told her that women in the their 50's aren't sexy or can't have any lover they want.  She is a tat delusional because she thinks she can still play Juliet but hey, if you think you've got it you do, so she pursues Peter and the two embark on a love affair.

In addition to Bell, other members of the ensemble includ Julie Walters who plays Peter's mother and Vanessa Redgrave who plays Gloria's mother.  And I have to say that those three - Bening, Walters and Redgrave - constitute a trifecta of actresses I really respect, not just for their acting abilities but because all three look like they have decided to let themselves age naturally.  A few wrinkles look far better on a woman than duck lips and a face that can't move.

Directed by Paul McGuigan and adapted for the film from Turner's memoir by Matt Greenhalgh, the film is a great evocation of 1970's and early 80's London and Liverpool with a wonderful soundtrack but this film is all about Bening and her portrayal of Grahame.  She does a wonderful job of channeling Grahame and her struggles, never once devolving into schlock or turning her into a cartoon. She has changed her walk and even her voice to evoke Grahame.  McGuigan, Greenhalgh and Benning are all respectful of Grahame's final days, but this story is not just Grahame's story.  It's Peter's story too, a story of young love that you never get over.

When I first saw the previews, I really, really wanted to see this film.  

This kind of film is right in my wheelhouse.  It felt like those old Lana Turner and Douglas Sirk films of the 50's and 60's, which I loved, but I can't help but wonder why the filmmakers thought anyone would remember Grahame or care that much. But as I said, you don't really have to know who she was to appreciate this classic May-December romance between a young man and a much older woman or Bening's brilliant performance.  

Rosy the Reviewer says...I can't understand how the Academy missed Benning when it came time to hand out Academy Award nominations for Best Actress.  She was phenomenal in this.

Downsizing (2017)

This film gives a whole new meaning to the term "downsizing."

We all long for a better life and will no doubt have to downsize at some point, and especially those of us of a certain age consider downsizing, which in most cases means getting rid of stuff and buying a smaller house.  Not here. This film takes downsizing to an extreme. This is not about having a huge yard sale and getting rid of stuff or selling your four bedroom house and moving into a trailer, this is literally downsizing oneself as in going from six feet to six inches.

It's the future and using a process of cellular reduction, Norwegian scientists have discovered the way to make humans smaller as a way to handle over-population. Communities aimed at smaller humans are cropping up and being touted as Disneylands for adults.

Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig), who have been struggling financially, meet an old friend who has "downsized" and this piques their interest.  Paul is a physical therapist and Audrey works in retail and though they are happily married they are both longing for a better life.  They live in the house Paul grew up in, and Paul had wanted to be a doctor but had to quit school to care for his mom.  When he goes to his high school reunion he reunites with his old friend, Dave (Jason Sudeikis), who has gone through the downsizing process and is now living in a mansion and has lots of money, all because he got smaller.  I guess when you get smaller, everything is cheaper.

Paul, feeling he is in a rut and needs a reset button, is intrigued so Paul and Audrey visit Leisureland, one of the communities for downsized people, which is more like Disneyland than a housing development.  They see the kind of life they can have if they get smaller especially when they discover that $100,000 translates into $12,000,000 in Leisureland.  So they decide to do it but when Paul wakes up small he discovers that Audrey didn't go through with it.  Something about having her head shaved spooked her.  So now Paul is on his own and the film is ripe for satire, which it handles well for the first half of the film at least.

The first half of the film was fun and interesting but when the film devolved into Vietnamese activists and everyone moving underground, the whole thing kind of fell apart for me.

You would think this film would be a comedy.  Though it has some comic elements, it's not.  It's actually more like science fiction with some bits of dark comedy thrown in. This is one of those "what if" movies - what if we could literally downsize ourselves as in become much smaller and thus live a better life.  But there is also a dark side to downsizing, such as using downsizing as a way to deal with refugees, poor people and dissidents, which Paul soon discovers, and that's when the film started to lose me. That whole concept is fascinating but the filmmakers tried to do too much and lost an opportunity for either high comedy or at least a stronger political statement. Because they didn't go all in on either of those, the film hangs a bit in limbo with the viewer not really knowing what to think or how to react and wondering what the point of it all was.

And, the film, directed by Alexander Payne with a screenplay by Payne and Jim Taylor, was way too long for the content.  Ninety minutes in I was looking at my watch and there was still 45 minutes to go.  The filmmakers should have learned a lesson from their own film, because the film itself needed some downsizing.

Along with Damon and Wiig, Christoph Waltz plays Paul's shady neighbor (you see, even if you downsize you can't escape those looking to make a buck).  Never been a big Waltz fan but I liked him here and Hong Chau as a Vietnamese dissident is also notable.

I love Matt Damon but he hasn't made very good decisions about his roles lately.  Though I think he is good at comedy and I love his slow burns and deadpan reactions to the chaos around him, they weren't enough to save this film.  It didn't do well, nor did "Suburbicon," another quirky film Damon did last year.  Both films had interesting ideas but fell short.  It's not Matt's fault, I know, but he deserves better.

Rosy the Reviewer interesting idea that didn't go anywhere.

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

145 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

A Day in the Country (1936)
("Une Partie de Compagne")

The family of a Parisien shop owner travel to the country for the day and the daughter and the mother have romantic encounters.

This is a short film (41 minutes) based on a story by Guy de Maupassant and directed by Jean Renoir, the son of the famous impressionist painter, Pierre- Auguste. Though Renoir meant to make a short film, he was called away to direct "The Lower Depths" before this film was completed and it was only years later that his team finished and released the film.

M. Dufour (Andre Gabriello) borrows a milk cart and takes his wife (Jane Marken) and daughter, Henriette (Sylvia Bataille) and his future son-in-law, Anatole (Paul Temps), out into the country for the day.  They stop for lunch at a road side restaurant where they meet two local laborers, Henri (Georges D'Arnoux) and Rodolphe (Jacques B. Brunius listed as Jacques Borel), who scheme together on how they can get the ladies alone and seduce them. At first it's a country folk vs. city folk situation where the country folk have contempt for the Parisiens but that soon changes.

While M. Dufour and Anatole doze in the sun, Henri and Rodolphe invite the ladies to go for a boat ride on the lake.  Henri tries to kiss Henriette and she initially rebuffs him but eventually gives in and there is a juicy close-up (as my Dad used to say) of a very sensual kiss. At the end of the day, Henri wants to see Henriette again but she tells him she could never venture out into the country alone and they part.  

Years later, when Henriette is married to Anatole they venture out once again into the country and Henriette remembers where she kissed Henri.  And wouldn't you know, there he is.  While Anatole once again dozes in the sun, Henriette and Henri reminisce but with tears in her eyes, Henriette returns to Anatole and her less than happy life.

Why it's a Must See: "It a self-sufficient gem."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...this is a bittersweet but beautifully filmed moment in time about a brief romance remembered wistfully forever.

(b & w, French with English subtitles)

Thanks for reading!

See you next Friday 

for my review of 


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). 

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.