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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
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 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 (; 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.   


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