Skip to main content

October Movies Update


Britt-Marie was Here (Sweden 2019)
Adapted from a novel by Frederik Backman (A Man Called Ove) this modestly entertaining Swedish drama centres on the character of the middle-aged Britt-Marie (a wonderful Pernilla August) who exits a 40-year marriage in which she was content with the routine of domestic chores.  A homebody, she has no interest in her frequent traveler husband’s passion which is watching soccer.  But then, in the wake of his suffering a mild heart attack, she discovers he’s been cheating on her with a younger woman.  Britt-Marie abruptly splits and takes a job as a youth worker in the small town of Borg that requires her to coach a team of multiracial kids. It seems improbable at best but we’re on her side as she wins over the hearts of the townsfolk (including a lonely policeman), inspires the kids, and expands her horizons. B+
Brittany Runs a Marathon (US 2019 https://www.brittanyrunsamarathon.movie/home/)
In writer-director Paul Down Colaizzo’s dramedy, Brittany Forgler (Jillian Bell) is an unhappy underemployed chubby single young woman who, counselled to drop the pounds, takes up running as an affordable fitness routine. Brittany has been wallowing in bad habits, and has testy relations with her roommate Gretchen and an intrusive neighbor Catherine.  Still she joins Catherine’s running group where she also bonds with a gay man Seth.  Training for the New York City marathon, they become a mutual encouragement group that lifts her up after she suffers a stress injury.  In a subplot Brittany lands a paying gig as a house/dog sitter for an affluent couple and hooks up with the indolent house-crashing Indo-American guy Jern hired for the night shift. It makes for some amusing if implausible moments. Brittany may be a lovable loser but we want to cheer her on to cross the finish line. B
Matthias and Maxime (Canada 2019)
Quebec actor-writer-director prodigy/enfant terrible Xavier Dolan has not been wowing critics recently. This 2019 Cannes competition feature was not in the Toronto film festival; perhaps wise after his first English-language film The Life and Death of John F. Donovan bombed so badly last year and has barely been distributed.
            Matthias and Maxime is more in Dolan’s homegrown wheelhouse with ensemble episodes accompanied by an eclectic soundtrack.  He again casts himself in a central role—as Maxime, a tattooed dude with a large reddish birthmark on his right cheek who is set to move to Australia. Maxime’s best guy pal is the bearded Matthias (Gabriel d’Almeida Freitas) who’s starting a career in commercial law and gets assigned to schmooze with clients. The film opens with rapidfire slang among their group of bros when Maxime and Matthias are induced into doing a kissing scene for a dumb student film by someone’s sister speaking a Québécois franglais patois. Despite Matthias having a girlfriend, the latent homoeroticism is left to smolder until it blows up at a house party and later catches fire.  Meanwhile Maxime’s dealings with his recovering addict mother Manon (Anne Dorval, who was in Dolan’s 2014 Cannes jury prize winner Mommy) involve screaming matches and transferring guardianship to an aunt. Dolan, who is outspokenly gay, suggests Maxime’s ambivalent queerness through hints of the male gaze leading up to an enigmatic ending—should he stay or should he go?  B
Helmed by Rupert Goold adapting a stageplay “The End of the Rainbow”, this biopic belongs to Renée Zellwegger who inhabits the role of a deeply troubled Judy Garland during her final London performances in 1969 before her death at age 47. Brief flashbacks to her days as a child star (played by Darci Shaw) under the thumb of tyrannical studio mogul Louis B Mayer set up what would become a tragic career beset by addictions and chronic money problems. The girl of The Wizard of Oz (released 80 years ago) never found a yellow brick road. Still Judy was devoted to her two children, fighting an ex-husband for custody (which acquiring a fifth Mickey Deans unfortunately did nothing to help). Even with all these personal demons Judy could touch hearts and a subplot involving a homosexual couple gives a nod to her becoming a gay icon. Don’t be surprised if Zellwegger is rewarded with an Oscar nomination (Garland had two but never won).  B+
Pretenders (US 2018)
Despite a dismal 14% rating on metacritic.com I saw this feature from prolific actor-director James Franco (The Disaster Artist) because it was recommended by film critic and Canadian Film Institute head Tom McSorley who observed its “meta” properties.  How bad could it be?  There are allusions back to the French “New Wave” (especially Godard’s A Woman is a Woman with Anna Karina) and Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Dreamers as a shaggy-haired film student cum critic Terry (Jack Kilmer) falls for an actress Catherine (Jane Levy).  The visual style and the late 70s-early 80s period vibe (in which everybody smokes) is also retro with a love triangle, serial sexual couplings, even an AIDS angle. Eventually the elusive Catherine disappears and a besotted Terry pursues her to England and then France. By that time my patience had run out.  C
*Franco limited himself to a small role in the above.  He is much more present, with a shaved tattooed head, in a subsequent feature Zeroville (https://zerovillethemovie.com/); only released 2019 though shot in 2014) which also includes brother Dave as the ghost of Montgomery Clift. Another mashup of movie geekdom, fair warning it has a 28% score on metacritic.   




Comments

Popular posts from this blog

New Year Post: Best Movies of 2019 and Best Movies of the Decade

The Ten Best Movies of 2019
Below are very brief descriptions of my favorite films of this past year. Most have been the subject of longer reviews.For reference to these I have indicated both the blog post dates and the page number(s) in the 2019 collected reviews document.I have also added a list of a dozen documentaries that most impressed, with information links and review dates and page numbers if applicable. Parasite South Korean director Bong Joon Ho’s savage satire of his society’s class divides earned the Cannes film festival’s top prize Palme d’Or and should be the favorite for the best international feature film (previously best foreign-language film) Oscar to be announced February 9.Don’t be surprised if it also makes it into the main best picture category, nominations for which will be announced on January 13.(Reviewed 30 October, p. 67) The Two Popes Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles’ insightful imagining of this unusual relationship features stellar performances from Jona…

Late January Movie Post

Oscar thoughts About those Oscar nominations announced January 13 ... not a lot of surprises.(See the full list at: https://oscar.go.com/news/nominations/oscar-nominations-2020-list-nominees-by-category.) Although Joker is a controversial choice to lead the pack with 11 nominations.It won’t win, except perhaps for Joaquin Phoenix in the best actor category.He’s as amazing as the movie is deeply disturbing. Good to see the South Korean Parasite included for “best picture” as well as “best international feature”, which it will surely win.The Two Popes should have been included to compete for the top prize instead of Ford v Ferrari (but at least Two Popes has acting nominations for Jonathan Pryce and Anthony Hopkins and one for its screenwriter Anthony McCarten).Also good to see Parasite director Bong Joon Ho recognized in the directing category, though it’s another all-male list excluding Greta Gerwig for her wondrous remake of Little Women.What should win is Scorsese’s The Irishman but …

The Irishman and Marriage Story

Mid-November brings a brief theatrical release for two of the year’s most anticipated movies, both Netflix productions.The Irishman begins streaming on November 27 and Marriage Story on December 6. The Irishman (US 2019) America’s greatest film critic Roger Ebert celebrated Martin Scorsese as America’s greatest living director, and before seeing this on the big screen in advance of its theatrical release I reread his reviews and reflections on Scorsese’s classic gangster films in the 2008 book Scorsese by Ebert—from Mean Streets (1973), GoodFellas (1990), Casino (1995), to The Departed (2006), for which he won an overdue best director Oscar.No one handles such material better than Scorsese who grew up in New York’s “Little Italy” where the intersection of mob subculture and Catholic ritual was part of daily life.This expansive elegiac latest work should earn more Oscar nominations. The real-life central character of the title is Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) who graduated from mafia hit…