Rhapsody of Love is an ensemble but feels like the thematic potential gets short-changed in order to make room for too many plotlines. The stories don’t ever really get the chance to thrive or take root. Despite the warmth and good-natured intent here, the numerous conflicts presented lack nuance and wind up feeling amiss … Lives, loves, and ambitions subsequently clash and the film concludes in direct-to-camera interviews — abrupt given that director Hopwood only introduces them at the very end … Most of the women are growing in their careers and have big dreams, and yet––apart from Jess—they are often depicted as selfish, insensitive, or spoiled … The most powerful moments are the most understated, frequently platonic (rather than romantic), or containing very little dialogue at all.
My review for The Starling on Film Festival Today. Many other reviews that have come out for this film have been fairly negative – even brutal. While I didn’t adore this film and I can even see why those critics are saying what they’re saying, I, personally, found The Starling quite moving and would, in fact, recommend it.
The Starlingis a jumble of emotional turmoil and bizarre encounters. Ostensibly, the plot revolves around married couple Lilly and Jack in the aftermath of the death of their daughter, Katie … The beginning delivers a powerful, emotional presentation of loss. The film doesn’t explicitly state what happened but nails the smaller details: the impressions of the crib’s feet in the carpet, the encompassing silence, the loneliness … The cast is terrific, especially Melissa McCarthy in dramatic mode, and Kevin Kline is charming as ever, even in a smaller role. Sensitivity to this subject matter may differ from viewer to viewer but the ending falls short compared to the opening’s emotional punch. Perhaps, though, it is the intention … not to leave you in a pile of weeping pieces but rather to conclude in a slightly lighter place than we began; to breathe and smile a little easier.
With the support of his loving mother (Sarah Lancashire, the BBC’s Last Tango in Halifax), best friend Pritti (Lauren Patel), and self-appointed mentor, Hugo (Richard E. Grant, Can You Ever Forgive Me?), Jamie commits to developing his identity, connecting with his distant father, and preparing for one unforgettable Prom. Based on the stage-musical of the same title, which is based, in turn, on the BBC Three documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16, some of this film does trend towards the theatrical: in large crowd scenes, onlookers often stop and focus on the main characters as they deliver moving soliloquies. It suits the film’s own inner workings and style, though, and the musical numbers feel far more organic. Transitions from speech to song and dance are consistently seamless, in large part due to the cinematography (Christopher Ross, Cats). The fashion is likewise stunning. Wardrobe is almost a character in this film and the costume design by Guy Speranza (The Last Vermeer) sparkles in every possible way… Director Jonathan Butterell lands a startlingly impressive feature debut. Coupled with Tom MacRae’s screenplay (based on his own book and lyrics from the stage show) and Dan Gillespie Sells’ music, they deliver a film that’s fresh and highly entertaining. Everybody’s Talking About Jamie probably won’t convert any viewers who don’t generally like musicals, but for those that do, this one will undoubtedly leave you humming, dancing, and smiling.
The trailer for Best Sellers features a fast-paced edit with rousing rock-and-roll backtrack and several of the most comedic and wacky moments from the film. However, the stakes run much deeper than one might expect. Lina Roessler’s directorial feature debut presents a slow-burn journey of material, emotional, and physical struggle for her two leads, Lucy (Aubrey Plaza, Black Bear) and Harris (Michael Caine, Twist). This is not a quirky, off-beat dark comedy, but a wistful and often heavy-hearted tale of pride, purpose, and family legacy.
My review for Dating & New York on Film Festival Today! If you like rom-coms (especially those of the 80s/90s/Nora Ephron variety) then definitely don’t miss Dating & New York!
Wendy and Milo…are courtship-weary millennials still pining for romance and…Wendy, a pragmatist, concocts an idea (and a contract): best friends with benefits. Milo, an idealist, is dubious of the arrangement at first, hoping for a real connection. Still, despite warnings from friends and Milo’s own misgivings, they proceed … From the jump, this is an of-the-moment story about dating-app culture and overall virtual communication … Nothing happens, plot-wise, that you can’t at least predict from the start. The surprises are found in smaller moments within those expected beats: when characters break through the digital haze, call each other out, zero in on mistakes, flaws, and quirks. The tonal shift should be jarring but it actually draws you further in. Much of this is owed to Reale and Young-White’s performances.
The five Meyerson children, their mother, their grandmother, and, eventually, their father, introduced through a series of vignette-like scenes during which they go about their day-to-day life and ponder their past, their future, their existence, and the existence of God. The exhibition is not as solemn as such a premise might imply. In fact, it almost goes over a little too breezily…
The big “twist” element introduced in the middle of the film, hinted at in the trailer, barely registers in the overarching story. It’s possible that it’s intended to serve as a metaphor for the absent father, Morty, but it’s not strong enough to make its inclusion worthwhile. The film attempts to evoke a curiosity in the past, and specifically Morty’s abandonment of the family, largely through late-introduced flashbacks, but their history is never quite made fully clear. It would seem that the more natural direction of the film would have been to focus on who the kids grew up to be in Morty’s absence, rather than dwelling so heavily on the past…
My review for Charming The Hearts of Men on Film Festival Today. This one was tough to write about. I find myself thinking and saying this a lot when I’m writing reviews, but this film really had such potential that never got fully lived up to. I say as much in the full review, but I really do believe Charming the Hearts of Men have worked better as series, limited or otherwise.
The seeds of an innovative premise can be found, though they don’t get the chance to mature … the film calls out sexism more directly than racism, which winds up feeling disproportionate and awkward. First-time director S.E. DeRose examines the concurrent struggles of multiple oppressed groups and outsiders, as well as the parallels, the distinctions, and the insidious way that prejudice can affect the very oppressed people, themselves. It’s not a new idea, but worth investigating further and, sadly, the film doesn’t invest in an equally nuanced payoff … Where the film takes a bolder approach, it works … it hammers home the reality of how little has changed since the 1960s…
I enjoyed it very much but it also really shocked me. It’s surprisingly intense, emotionally-speaking. This is a spoiler, but I think it’s important for anyone considering watching it: Vivo is primarily a grief story.
Vivo boasts absolutely stunning animation… the soundtrack is catchy and charming and the songs span a wide range of genres… the real magic occurs, though, when Vivo and Gabi harmonize, musically and narratively. It’s worth noting, however, that this is a grief story, which hits unexpectedly hard. Moments in which multiple characters express regret and desperation reach Pixar levels of potency in their ability to conjure tears... Yet, at other times, the story careens into side-quests, almost like a series of Odyssey-style vignettes, needing to overcome obstacles and, sometimes, literal monsters.
This film was a real experience. As part of the “stunning visuals” I mention in my review, the stunning black-and-white presentation was a real surprise and metaphor in and of itself.
Very rarely does one come across a truly unique interpratation of the mermaid mythos. They usually fall into a trope of one sort: the sweet, feminine ideal; the monstrous siren; or some unsettling mix of the two. However, in Scales, Saudi Arabian writer/director Shahad Ameen explores the mermaid concept in a fascinating new way. Here is a depiction of mermaids as nightmares and deep-seated beliefs made uncomfortably real. The story, or what there is of one, takes place in a dystopian landscape and commences with the disturbing ritual in which the citizens of a fishing village must sacrifice one daughter to the “sea maidens.”
“Chasing Childhood primarily questions the lack of ‘free play’ and independence from parents among children today, in tandem with a ferocious drive towards the best grades and the best sports’ statistics, all in pursuit of admittance to the top colleges … the focus is mostly on white and upper-middle class families. The documentary would have benefited tremendously had it leaned more into how this problem is shared across economic, racial and cultural divides.
Additionally, the impact of social media is almost entirely absent … How can it possibly not factor into this conversation?”