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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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, December 7, 2018

"Boy Erased" and The Week in Reviews

[I review "Boy Erased" as well as DVDs "7 Days in Entebbe" and "Destination Wedding."  The Book of  the Week is "Brutally Honest" by Melanie Brown (Remember The Spice Girls?).  I also bring you up-to-date with "My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project" with "Fox and His Friends."]

Boy Erased

After being outed to his religious parents, a young boy is sent to a gay conversion program to "pray the gay away."

Arkansas teen Jared Eamons (Lucas Hedges) is a typical young man in that he is trying to find himself. Isn't that what we are all doing when we are 18?  Things don't feel right with his relationship with his girlfriend, and he has thoughts that disturb him. He thinks about boys. Not good since his father, Marshall (Russell Crowe), is an evangelical Baptist minister. But Jared is a dutiful son.  He attends church and tries to be what his parents want him to be. His mother, Nancy (Nicole Kidman), is loving and also dutiful and doesn't have a clue about what is going on with her son, Jared. 

When Jared goes off to college, he meets Henry (Joe Alwyn) and the two form a friendship that eventually goes too far, too far meaning Henry tries to rape Jared.  Henry admits to Jared that he has this rape problem.  He tried it with another kid, too, so when Jared distances himself from Henry, fearing that Jared will tell on him, Henry contacts Jared's parents, pretends to be a counselor from the college and outs him.  Shocked, Marshall calls in some older minister friends and they all decide that the best course of action is to "pray the gay away," and send Jared to a church-related gay conversion program. Jared feels guilty about his impulses so once again is dutiful and goes along with the plan.

There, he meets a motley group of teens and adults, some more submerged in the program than others.  The program is led by Victor Sykes (Joel Edgerton), who tells them that homosexuality is a choice caused by poor parenting and the sins of the parents and other family members. Sykes puts his charges through a series of shaming exercises and "moral inventories" and tells them to maintain silence about what goes on in the sessions, but after weeks in the program, when Sykes demands that Jared admit he hates his father, which he won't do, Jared, with the help of his mother, frees himself from the dutiful son role and gets the hell out of there. 

It would be easy for a story like this to go over the top, with very black and white characters - the evil, overly religious parents who only care about themselves and their beliefs and a kid who knows who he is and fights to overcome the oppression.  Thankfully, Edgerton, who also directed and, with Garrard Conley, adapted the screenplay from Conley's memoir, didn't fall for that but instead created a film full of depth and humanity with no real good and bad guys. (Well, Sykes seems to be a bad guy but don't miss the "Where are they now?" epilogue to see what happened to him, something I suspected all along).  

Nancy loves her son and thinks that sending him to a conversion therapy program is the right thing to do, that it will help her son.  She has no real idea what Jared will go through, but when the chips are down she is on his side.  Marshall is the last hold out but, hey, he's a Baptist minister in the South. He preaches against homosexuality. What do you expect? But even he comes to understand his feelings and accept Jared.  There is never any doubt that Marshall and Nancy love their son and want to do the right thing to help him. And Jared goes along because he loves his parents and is not sure of himself.  This isn't a kid living an unashamed gay life.  He is young and doesn't yet know who he is and how he feels about himself, his sexuality, his faith and even his relationship with his parents.  As these three characters come to accept the cards they have been dealt, we see them grow and it's all very real and human.

Lucas Hedges is a young actor to be reckoned with.  Ever since "Manchester By The Sea," for which he received an Oscar nod, he has made his mark in Hollywood. I would guess he will be nominated again. But it's Nicole Kidman for whom I have renewed respect.  She has always been a good actress but here her role is not flashy, not showy.  It's a quiet role and it would be easy for her to be swallowed up by the other actors and the story itself.  But instead she is the centerpiece of the film.  Her Nancy's love for her son is apparent and when called upon, despite her not yet understanding what her son is going through, she shows steely resolve to save her son.  

Rosy the Reviewer can tell it's Awards Season.  The performances are first rate and, this is one of the best films of the year. Not to be missed!

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


7 Days in Entebbe (2018)

Re-creation of the 1976 hijacking of an Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris and the subsequent rescue mission, considered one of the most daring ever undertaken.

The film opens with a dramatic dance performance by the Batsheva Dance Company which strangely is more exciting than the "daring rescue mission" that ends the film. Following the opening dance sequence, the film segues into a written on-screen exposition of the political situation in Israel at the time, that when Israel became a state in 1947 the Palestinians were displaced. Naturally, they were not happy, tensions ensued and the Palestinians started attacking Israeli citizens (and vice versa).  A movement grew around the Palestinian cause and radical groups from around the world joined them in their fight. The Palestinians and their radical counterparts called themselves freedom fighters. Israel called them terrorists.

The film then progresses in a day-by-day account of the hyjacking and the subsequent rescue mission.

On Day One, we meet the terrorists, Bridgette Kuhlmann (Rosamund Pike) and Wilfried Bose (Daniel Bruhl), two Germans, who board the plane during a stopover in Athens.  There is a flashback to six months earlier when the planning was taking place. Air France was targeted because France was seen as pro-Israel which was not a good thing because the hijackers saw Israel as fascist, Zionist and racist. After takeoff, the two Germans and two pro-Palestinian terrorists take control of the plane as well as the 239 passengers, 83 of whom were Israelis.  Their destination is Uganda which at that time was ruled by Idi Amin, a notorious nut job.  Once in Uganda, as the passengers leave the plane, he is there to greet them, which if I was one of the hostages, would have scared me even more.

The ultimate plan is to bargain with Israel for the release of all of their political prisoners.  Unfortunately, Israel is known to be a country that does not negotiate during hostage situations. The film shifts back and forth from the terrorists and the hostages to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (Lior Ashkenazi) trying to decide what to do. The Prime Minister wants to negotiate and the Defense Minister, Shimon Perez (Eddie Marsan), wants to send in a rescue team.  They eventually decide on the latter resulting in the aforementioned daring rescue mission which disappointingly only takes up a few minutes of screen time, resulting in a very lackluster and undramatic finale.

There is little attempt to give much background on the terrorists or the hostages.  The terrorists are clearly driven by their ideals even if their methods are questionable. Bridgette says "I only fear a life without meaning." But that's about it.  We never get to know them, how they ended up there nor do we get to know any of the hostages other than some brief moments.

Directed by Jose Padilha with a screenplay by Gregory Burke, this is a dramatic historical incident and should have made a compelling film but the film was strangely cold.  Despite the good actors, they don't really have much to do and the film feels more like a documentary than a dramatization. There is a lot of sermonizing and the rescue mission itself takes only minutes and is not particularly thrilling. The dance sequences that begin and end the film, though repetitive, are far more dramatic and compelling than the film itself. 

However, as we see the back and forth at the top, with Rabin and Peres arguing about the best course of action which will ultimately determine the fate of the hostages, I was struck by the puppet strings that control people's fates, pulled by people who are far removed from danger, something that continues today.

Factoid: Five Israeli commandos were wounded and one, unit commander Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyanhu, was killed. Netanyahu was the older brother of Benjamin Netanyahu, who was spurred by this event to get into politics and became Prime Minister of Israel in 2009.

Rosy the Reviewer says...what should have been a thriller had no thrills.

Destination Wedding (2018)

Two wedding guests are drawn together through their mutual distaste for love and romance.

If you have ever wondered what happened to Wynona Ryder, wonder no more.  Here she is in what the Brits call a "two-hander."  It's just Ryder and Keeanu Reeves talking and interacting for the entire 90 minutes.

But before I dive in, I need to interject my personal opinion (so what else is new, right)?  

OK, sigh. Destination weddings, where guests fly all over the world to see their friends get married. I actually think that destination weddings are a huge pretension and a huge pain in the neck for the guests.  I mean, unless you are paying for my plane ticket and hotel, I don't think I can afford to fly to Venice to see you marry the man of your dreams on a gondola.  

So that was what I was expecting with this film, a wedding in some exotic location. So imagine my dismay to discover that THIS destination was in Paso Robles, California.  For those of you who don't live in California, that might seem like a destination wedding to you but it's only a three and a half hour drives from L.A!  If that is a destination wedding, then EVERY wedding would be a destination wedding because most of the guests have to usually do some kind of traveling to get to a wedding, right?  I kept thinking that maybe it was supposed to be ironic.

Anyway, Lindsay (Ryder) and Frank (Reeves) first meet at the airport as they get ready to board a plane from LA to San Luis Obispo where they will continue on to Paso Robles for this so-called destination wedding. After arguing about who gets on the plane first or how to pronounce Paso Robles, Lindsay and Frank settle into their seats on the plane where no one appears to wear seat belts. It soon becomes clear that they are both heading to the same wedding.  It's Lindsay's ex-fiance who is getting married and the groom is also Frank's half brother.  Frank hates his brother and is only attending because his mother made him and Lindsay is attending for "closure."  Cynical bickering and insults ensue as the two are constantly being thrown together until they - what? - inexplicably kiss and then have sex, albeit bickering and unpleasant sex.

The entire film is just Frank and Lindsay at the rehearsal dinner, the daytime activities, the wedding and the reception with them cynically commenting on what they are seeing.  I kept wondering why two people who clearly didn't like each other would end up spending so much time together, but then I guess we wouldn't have a movie about two unpleasant people meeting and sort of falling in love.

Lindsay: "I have so much to give."
Frank: "No you don't."

These two are not very nice people.  Frank has the unpleasant habit of clearing his throat, bringing up saliva and wiggling his ear to bring up mucous in his mouth and then gargling it - I know, ugh - and Lindsay is just kind of a dip.

Writer director Victor Levin might have said: "It's supposed to be funny."

Rosy the Reviewer actually says..."But it wasn't."

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

116 to go!

Have YOU seen this classic film?

Fox and His Friends (1975)

When working class Franz, also known as Fox, wins the lottery he suddenly discovers he has many, many friends...of the wrong kind.

Franz (Rainer Werner Fassbinder looking like a young and less handsome Jeremy Renner) is an openly gay circus worker in a sideshow called "Fox, The Talking Head," but when his partner in the sideshow enterprise is arrested for tax fraud, the sideshow is shut down and Fox loses his job.  But he isn't down and out for long. Franz is a bit of a scam artist who lives by his wits.  And then he wins 500,000 marks in the lottery!

He also wins a new boyfriend, Eugen (Peter Chatel), a handsome, dapper upper class fellow who sports those wide 70's ties and looks just like Rick Springfield with a porn mustache.  He seduces Fox, physically and mentally, as Fox navigates Eugen's cold, upper class world. You would think that Franz is the scammer but turns out Eugen, who seems like the least likely scam artist, is the biggest one of all. The energetic and street smart Fox is no match for Eugen's manipulations and condescending treatment as Eugen works to save his family's business by swindling Fox out of his lottery winnings.  

This film is about wealth vs. class (Remember, "Money can't buy you class?"), and it exposes the pretensions of the upper classes.  Fox realizes too late that he has been trying to be someone he is not, to rise above himself, and he is slapped down in a very troubling ending.  Let's just say that Fassbinder has a cold view of life.

No one would ever accuse director Rainer Werner Fassbinder of holding back. Regarded as the catalyst for the New German Cinema movement, which included Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders, his films are large, lush and loud, and this one is no exception. I still haven't gotten over the scene where one of the characters is talking and right there, over his shoulder, large and loud is a nude male in all of his full frontal glory staring back at me...for a long time! 

This film drew me back to the late sixties and early seventies when I was a young woman and movies took a lot of risks. They were raw and edgy and full of sex, nudity and adult themes.  I mean, remember "Midnight Cowboy?"  It won the Best Picture Oscar in 1969 and it was about as raw and edgy as you can get. But then I think we went into a sort of puritanical period and movies settled down a bit.  I wonder if "Midnight Cowboy" would win a Best Picture Oscar today.

Anyway, I was really into this film for the first hour, but then it started to drag and go on and on. But Fassbinder is a good actor and always an interesting director creating original films, and the film holds up well today, if you can get over those wide 70's ties and porn mustaches and the long drawn out story. 

Why it's a Must See: "The film poignantly dramatizes the ways in which the mass media has marketed desire for social status and wealth to the postwar working class through commercials, glossy magazines, and soap operas...[It's also] one of the most powerful descriptions of death in a society where human value has a price tag."
---"1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die"

Rosy the Reviewer says...yes, the ending is profoundly disturbing.  

***The Book of the Week***

Brutally Honest by Melanie Brown (2018)

Remember The Spice Girls?  Well, Melanie was one of then ("Scary Spice") and life hasn't been that pretty since then.

If you are a fan of my blog, you know that I have some guilty pleasures.  OK, I can be very shallow, and I admit that from time to time I enjoy an episode of Dr. Phil.  I guess I sometimes enjoy involving myself in the misery of others.  Anyway that must be it because otherwise I can't explain why I was drawn to this book.  I was never a Spice Girls fan and Brown gets on my nerves on "America's Got Talent," where even she admits she is kind of thick, but when Wendy Williams talked about this book and Brown's terrible, abusive marriage (OK, yes, I watch The Wendy Williams Show too - celebrity gossip is another one of my, er, guilty pleasures), I had to find out more.

Is she brutally honest?

Let's just say if you are into juicy celebrity memoirs, this one fits the bill, but I will give her credit, though, for what she says is her main reason for writing this book - to help other women who are in abusive relationships.  It's one of those "if this could happen to Scary Spice" sort of books.

She grew up poor in Leeds with a black father from the Caribbean and a white English mother which didn't make it easy growing up in Northern England.  She was a ball of energy who found an outlet in dancing and at 16 left home to dance in Blackpool and musical shows around England.  When she saw an ad for a new girl group being formed, she applied and The Spice Girls was formed.

We get the details of her roller coaster life as a Spice Girl, her first marriage, and her up and down relationship with Eddie Murphy (with whom she has a daughter - a daughter that for many years he denied), but the book is mostly about what happened to her after she married Stephen Belafonte (no relation to Harry), who she claims isolated her from her family and controlled her to the extent that she tried to take her own life, all of this playing out as she tried to remain the loud and funny Melanie Brown on "The X Factor."

Rosy the Reviewer says...Yes, the book is a potboiler to a certain extent, but it is also a cautionary tale and I learned something - that Simon Cowell is actually a really nice guy. But I never learned why she was called Scary Spice.  I had to look it up!

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