8/30/2018

Movie Review: The Bookshop (2017)


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Fans of Lasse Hallstrom's Chocolat should flock to Spanish writer/director Isabel Coixet's lovely adaptation of Penelope Fitzgerald's novel The Bookshop, which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1978 (and which the author won the next year for Offshore).

Set in a coastal East England village in 1959, The Bookshop centers on Emily Mortimer's headstrong bibliophile Florence Green who – just like Penelope Fitzgerald and the underrated Coixet for that matter – is a passionate woman ahead of her time.


Determined to open a bookshop in the village's historic Old House to not only honor her late husband (who loved to read as much as he loved her) but also follow through on a dream she'd had since she learned the trade as a girl, as the film begins, Florence puts her plan in motion.

With her banker and solicitor dragging their heels, Florence butts heads with the community's old guard, especially the village's wealthy Queen bee Violet Gamart (played by Coixet's Elegy and Learning to Drive star Patricia Clarkson). Violet, we discover, aspires to turn the Old House into an arts center.


On the surface two like-minded proponents of arts and culture, it isn't hard to imagine that under different circumstances Violet and Florence might've been friends. However, in a subtle commentary on the way that women in a male dominated society are forced to compete with one another and doubly so with the added prejudices of class and status, as soon as she senses that Florence won't bend to her will, Violet vows to block her at every turn.

Refusing to budge, the fiercely patient Florence instead uses Violet's threats to derail her as the fuel she needs to drive home her goal. Settling into the Old House, our unflappable heroine soon gains both a new assistant in hardworking schoolgirl Christine (Honor Kneafsey) as well as a loyal customer in the form of the town's much gossiped about bookworm and hermit, Edmund Brundish (Bill Nighy), who places orders with Florence by way of written correspondence.


With their burgeoning relationship strengthened by the building blocks of shared experience and taste, Florence finds an unlikely ally in the reserved man, eventually asking him if he believes in Vladimir Nabokov's newly published Lolita as much as she does to purchase a large quantity of stock for the shop.

Making the most of Nighy's deadpan delivery to drive home the meaning of a few key lines rather than employ him merely for ornamental comedic distraction, when Nighy's Brundish tells Florence he supports her plan for Lolita and adds "they won't understand it but that's for the best. Understanding makes the mind lazy," it serves once again as a nice metaphor for the town.


A beautifully understated picture with fine performances as well as painterly cinematography (by Jean-Claude Larrieu) so crisp you can almost feel the drops of water from the sea coming through the breeze in the trees, The Bookshop is a solid if at times slightly pedestrian adaptation of Fitzgerald's novel.

Yet even if the plot arc on its own is a bit static, Coixet's interpretation of it makes things exciting as you can view her Bookshop as a feminist allegory about "a woman with a vision" (as she wrote in the press notes) who must contend with pushback, obstacles, and condescension while working twice as hard to get half as far.


Additionally touching on issues of censorship while of course, celebrating the love of the written word – especially in print – Coixet's small film is filled with big ideas.

Stressing the importance of legacy while passing on the torch to the next generation or inspiring those her wake, just like Florence argued that nobody feels alone in a bookshop, Coixet knows everyone has a dream. And in her intelligent (if slight) feature, she and the always terrific Mortimer might just encourage you to take Florence's lead and pursue your own passion as well – Violet Gamarts be damned.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

8/27/2018

Movie Review: American Animals (2018)


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As Mena Suvari's Angela Hayes said in American Beauty, "I don't think there's anything worse that being ordinary."

Released in 1999, this same type of existential yearning that used to be reserved for teenagers coming-of-age started to recur in the various forms of popular culture we consumed with haste. Right on the verge of the millennium – when the world was more visible and more connected than ever online – we began questioning more than ever just what if anything would set us apart from the rest of the pack.


It's this exact same sense of panic that prefaces The Imposter director Bart Layton's Darwinian tinged true crime docudrama about four Kentucky college students in 2003 who spend their time looking out of the windows of their classes, dorms, jobs, and cars for that "special" thing they need for their lives to begin.

Finding if not their than at least a sense of purpose in the form of twelve million dollars worth of rare books housed in the Transylvania University library, what starts out as a hypothetical discussion of "if we were going to steal the books, how would we do it?" turns into their ticket out of suburbia battle cry.


Renting every single heist movie available at Blockbuster and putting the skills of talented artist Spencer Reinhard (Barry Keoghan) to good use sketching the entire layout of the Transylvania Library, eventually the casualness of the What If game falls away, leading to the start of a plan.

And after Spencer's risk-taking alpha male friend Warren Lipka (Evan Peters) begins building bridges to the outside world in preparation, which gives the two the chance to trade their local surroundings for the big bad world (however briefly), they return to Kentucky invigorated.

Bringing like-minded friends into the fold, they recruit no-nonsense problem solver Eric Borsuk (Jared Abrahamson) and wheelman Chas Allen (Blake Jenner) who’s essentially just in it for the cash.


Rather than simply turn fact into fiction, Bart Layton offers viewers the best of both worlds. Falling back on his strengths as a documentary filmmaker, he weaves footage from interviews he shot with the group of four, the Transylvania University librarian, as well as their family and friends into the narrative.

Daring to use one mother's heartbreaking admission that she felt like she woke up in a nightmare when she heard the news of her son's crime, Layton infuses the film with a sense of doom and remorse right from the start.

Nonetheless fighting against that to create a great piece of thoughtful entertainment about the twenty-first century's new lost generation who today you might see trying to get their fifteen minutes of YouTube fame or fifty thousandth Twitter follower, in American Animals, Layton gives us a very real, very earnest look at peer pressure and masculine identity in coming-of-age.


Cinema usually saves existential questioning and societal alienation for middle-aged males and adolescent angst for beautiful young women (think Kevin Spacey and Mena Suvari in American Beauty respectively). Yet writer/director Layton's willingness to work these themes into an already complex, multi-character driven storyline helps set the film apart by devoting more time to questions of who and why as opposed to the heist genre's obsession with where, when, and how.

Using actors who embodied their real life counterparts more in spirit than opting for mere lookalikes, led by frequent American Horror Story scene stealer and character acting chameleon Evan Peters, Animals features a uniformly excellent cast from Keoghan (in a particularly heartrending turn) to The Handmaid's Tale's Ann Dowd as the librarian with the misfortune of safeguarding the collection they've made their raison d'être.


Representing the competing and often contradictory recollections of Spencer and Warren in particular, there are times when the roughly two hour feature struggles in its ability to balance enough plot and supporting players to rival the animal kingdom, thus sending viewers online to do a Warren style deep dive in order to fill in the blanks.

Yet while this might've been lessened the success of the film if it had been a complete work of fiction, the fact that we leave Animals wanting to know more about these boys is a sign that – more than anything – Layton's docudrama has completely reeled you in.


A technically stellar effort, throughout its running time (and especially in both the beginning and end), American Animals uses cool fast cuts and a first rate soundtrack to elevate the picture's heist movie elements. But it's in the intimate human moments of how they cope with a life-altering family announcement or respond to the pressures of life for the first time as an adult that this film proves just how special it really is as, in the end, fighting past the bravado to zero in on the ordinary is what makes Animals – minor flaws and all – extraordinary.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Blu-ray Review: First Reformed (2017)


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There's something immediately lonely about Robert De Niro in that Taxi Driver hallway, something so Christ-like about Last Temptation's man on the cross – Willem Dafoe – that you know in this world he must be a Light Sleeper, and something potent enough about Ethan Hawke's voice and speech rhythms that make you think he could've been a priest.

And it's a role the actor has said he wanted to play in real life, had – fortunately for us – he not received an altogether different calling to perform. It's also a thing that he has in common with his First Reformed writer/director Paul Schrader, who grew up as a self-described "church kid" and even entered the seminary (like Martin Scorsese, who directed Schrader's most iconic scripts) before he too left for a life in film.


Schrader's first screenplay aside from his adaptation of Christ and an unproduced transcendental work he penned forty years ago that deals with the struggles faced by a man of faith, in First Reformed, Hawke's Reverend Toller carries on the legacy of a Schrader leading man.

A loner, a light sleeper, a man in his room – at the start of the film Toller begins keeping a diary he intends to destroy in a year. Evaluating what we come to recognize as a Christ-like existential crisis of faith after Mary, a beautiful young, pregnant parishioner (played by Amanda Seyfried) asks him to counsel her troubled husband Michael (Philip Ettinger), we learn fairly quickly that Toller is one man upon whom life has indeed taken a toll.

Much like Robert De Niro's bickering traveler Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, Schrader has always loved using wordplay in his names. Film as a treasure hunt, sure enough in and beneath every frame, Reformed drips with enough symbolism that with only a mere two years of Catholic school more than twenty years ago, I was able to identify at least some of it.


From Seyfried's unexpectedly pregnant Mary to a reference to Joseph, a lustful Esther, and most crucially Michael – whose archangel-like fight to protect the environment from hypocritical corporations including the one that almost single-handedly keeps Toller's small historic church financially afloat raises revelatory, Revelations worthy reactions in Hawke's reverend – the excellent First must play even better on a second or third viewing.

In other words? It's Schrader's Stations of the Cross and a film about which the less you know going in the better.

With Hawke sharing a name with the German expressionist playwright Ernst Toller who met with tragedy (and whose life might help you see First Reformed's ambiguous ending in a different light), the unadorned, straightforward work is as old-fashioned as Toller's eponymous two-hundred and fifty year old, Dutch colonial First Reformed Church in Snowbridge, New York.

Using very little music and mostly static shots save for the glorious bookends of the film and one utterly thrilling, expressionistic sequence infused with transcendentalism (the kind the real Toller would've loved) which leads us perfectly into Reformed's third act, Reformed is a square framed Bergmanesque production. It's also that rare film where there is an actual reason for the wash of color and light visible in each shot.


Reminiscent of The White Ribbon in spirit and style, First Reformed is essentially a black and white film in color. Using all of the cinematic tools at Schrader's disposal to underscore First's questions of conscience and faith, the shades in Toller's formerly black and white but increasingly gray world are muted throughout, save for a few key moments when the ethereal Seyfried manages to throw back the shutters and let in the allegorical sunlight.

Anchored by Hawke, who like De Niro and Dafoe in Schrader's works before him at last gets a chance to turn up the dial in what was already inside of him, First Reformed makes the most of the brooding, wise beyond his years, pastoral philosopher that's been there since Reality Bites and Before Sunrise.


A quality that drives one of my best friends nuts but thrills his fans, while the thing I like to call Hawke's Hawkeness is on full display here, it's amazing to see – especially given the skills of the man penning the script – just how much isn't even spoken but instinctual, internalized, and evident in not Dafoe this time but Hawke's light sleeping eyes.

While the film itself might divide those looking for easy answers, it features not only one of the actor's most powerful performances but one on the opposite end of the spectrum from his delightful shaggy dog, laid back rocker turn in 2018's Juliet, Naked (which I also saw for the first time and reviewed this week).


Serving up an eye-opening commentary track with the helmer on the newly released Blu-ray (that's essentially film school in a box), Reformed is a daring American picture that you'll immediately want to discuss.

Schrader's strongest film as a writer/director since the underrated Affliction, while blessing his fans with another one of what Travis Bickle called God's lonely men (only this time literally), he's created a work that will be remembered as one of not just 2018's but Schrader's very best.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Movie Review: We the Animals (2018)


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Made with an artistic sensibility befitting of its narrator, Jonah (played by Evan Rosado) – the youngest of three tight-knit brothers growing up wild, free, and frequently unsupervised in the wilderness of upstate New York – this lovingly crafted, visceral valentine to the highs and lows of childhood is based on the acclaimed eponymous novel by Justin Torres.


Inspired by the work of Ken Loach, the first fictional effort from documentary filmmaker Jeremiah Zagar, who cowrote the film with playwright Dan Kitrosser, relies primarily on a cinéma vérité (or fly-on-the-wall) approach to chronicle the daily lives of Jonah and his brothers as well as the often tempestuous relationship of their Irish-Italian Ma (Sheila Vand) and Puerto Rican Paps (Raúl Castillo).


However, with flashes of magic realism as Jonah's secret diary of drawings and notes come briefly to life onscreen as well as a richly inventive soundscape that punctuates the imagery in unexpected ways, We the Animals makes it known right from the start that this is one experimental coming-of-age journey the likes of which we haven't seen.

Yet, developed over the course of more than four years, the fact that Animals still feels as buoyant, uninhibited, and surprising as it does now in its 2018 release is a testament to the amount of effort put into the film behind-the-scenes by both a committed cast of actors including its three young first time stars as well as its talented crew.


A budding sensitive and creative youth, over the course of the movie, we watch as Jonah struggles to find his own identity in a family where he doesn't fit as easily into the masculine example set by his volatile father as his older brothers do, while also wanting to break free from his loving mother's protective shell.

Pieced together from the sights and sounds of life as seen and heard from the eyes of its youngest protagonist, although the film's freewheeling narrative challenges viewers reared on traditional storytelling who naturally want to know more about the characters at the heart of the movie, Animals is stitched together with the same care, warmth, and attention you'd find in an heirloom quilt.


Feeling like family, frequently we find ourselves wanting to reach into the film to rescue, feed, and shield its characters only to be charmed or startled by them moments later. Like looking at old home movies and wishing you could go back and redo things (while at the same time feeling as though you are suddenly living inside your memories), We The Animals might alternate from painful to delightful in tone but it's always bittersweet.

Reminiscent of holding up a mirror to life only to realize moments later that we're still dreaming, although the award winning picture is hindered slightly by its ambitious nature, Zagar's expressionistic portrait of an artist as a very young man has to be seen to be believed.



Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Movie Review: Juliet, Naked (2018)


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High Fidelity, About a Boy, and Juliet, Naked author Nick Hornby's characters have always been my kind of people.

Like looking in the mirror, whenever I read his books, in the sentences on the pages staring back at me I see not just myself but my friends, family, crushes, and loves – passionate people Jack Kerouac might've called "the mad ones" – who can talk books, movies, music, art, and life for hours.

And that's exactly what Duncan (Chris O'Dowd) was like when Annie (Rose Byrne) first met him in Jesse Peretz's big screen adaptation of Juliet, Naked.


Arriving in her small English seaside community full of ideas from the outside world – the exact same way she had when she returned from university in London to take her dad’s post at a small history museum and care for her younger sister after he grew ill and died – Duncan's passion mirrored her own.

But although the film and media studies professor swept her off her feet early on, now fifteen years later, Annie has started to realize that just like film, she is her boyfriend's second love.

Still hopelessly devoted to early '90s alternative singer/songwriter Tucker Crowe (Ethan Hawke), whose Jeff Buckley meets Jeff Tweedyish breakout breakup album "Juliet" he considers a masterpiece, in his spare time, Duncan has created a shrine to the singer in the couple’s basement as well as a website dedicated to the man and his work.


The ringleader of roughly two hundred middle aged men (as Annie describes in her witty offscreen voice-over), Duncan and his fellow fanatics obsess over Crowe's words and music, while sharing their theories as to where they think he is today after mysteriously walking out of a Minneapolis club two decades earlier in the middle of a set without looking back.

The source of a number of fights between the couple including yet another disagreement when she opens and listens to an obscure cut of the album called "Juliet, Naked" that had been sent to her boyfriend, Annie finally has enough and posts a negative review of "Naked" on his website.


And while it helps precipitate their breakup, ironically this action also winds up causing her to obsess over Tucker as well when the musician sends her an email agreeing with her critique, leading to a back-and-forth correspondence between the two that grows more revealing and flirtatious over time. Fortunately for viewers, gradually life and fate intervenes and the two finally come face-to-face.

Adapted by screenwriters Jim Taylor (Sideways), Tamara Jenkins (The Savages), and Evgenia Peretz (Our Idiot Brother), despite the plot similarities, the utterly charming Juliet, Naked has less in common with the delightfully old-fashioned Pride and Prejudice infused Shop Around the Corner update You've Got Mail and more with both Notting Hill and the two most famous big screen Hornby translations of High Fidelity and About a Boy.


Though obviously a romance in spirit (and just one of several recent releases breathing fresh new life into one of film's very first genres), similar to Marc Turtletaub's 2018 American remake of the Argentine film Puzzle, at its heart, Juliet, Naked is the story of a woman who falls in love and sees herself a bit more clearly when mirrored back in her lover's eyes.

With the Duncan sized obstacle out of her way once and for all, Annie realizes just what it is she does and does not want out of life.

A love letter to Rose Byrne, in Peretz's Juliet, the actress steals the viewer's heart as easily as she always does.


While the passionate dialogue that fills the film's first half drops off a bit in its understandably awkward second half as it's always harder to communicate in person as freely as you had in print, Juliet's vulnerabilities admirably wind up taking us in a direction we did not expect.

Following in the footsteps of other British romantic comedies that fill your screen with irresistibly offbeat characters, Juliet boasts a fine, understated turn from a more laid back than usual Ethan Hawke as well as a terrifically funny O'Dowd, whom, much like Annie is a Hornby character you immediately feel like you know.


As breezy and warm as the nearby seashore, Peretz's Sundance favorite is the film you didn't know you needed to make summer last a little longer.

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Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

Blu-ray Review: Bleeding Steel (2017)

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I’m glad I don’t write techno Sci-fi novels. I mean, you never know when a hacker in drag will make their way into your apartment under kinky pretenses before a woman who looks like the evil sister of Trinity from The Matrix breaks in and attacks you, all because the out-of-this-world premise of your new book involving bio-enhanced villains hit a little too close to home.


It's moments like this and in the laughably insane opening sequence of Bleeding Steel where Agent Lin (Jackie Chan) receives two life or death phone calls in the span of five minutes that sum up the problem with Leo Zhang's film.

A virtual choose your own genre moment where each of those calls could've spun off into two completely different movies, Zhang and his co-writers Erica Xia-Hou and Cui Siwei initially decide to lead us in the direction of an action thriller before dropping in a villain that feels like he'd wandered to set after learning his scenes were cut from Marvel's newest Guardians of the Galaxy sequel.


Unsure exactly what it wants to say (or do), Steel's scripters throw every idea they have at the screen at once, resulting in a campy Sci-Fi action thriller comedic drama with a side of slapstick.

Of course, any Jackie Chan fan knows that the uniquely gifted movie star has excelled in every one of those genres in the past (as well as some selection combinations of a few).

Unfortunately, no matter how many times Bleeding Steel literally name drops the actor in his own movie, all the king's horses and all the Jackie Chans can't suddenly force the film about a cop whose daughter is surgically implanted with “a geneticist's lost biochemical invention” to make sense.


Injected with an abundantly high dose of camp, one can't help but think it might've worked infinitely better if they'd given into the action choreographer's penchant for pratfall induced slapstick and played the damn thing for laughs.

Instead, trying to meld this approach with a script built from the plot-points of multiple Philip K. Dick adaptations as well as The Matrix, Star Wars, and Marvel universe doesn't get them, Chan, or the audience very far.


Though it features first rate costume and set design in the hopes of filling your eyes with color to trick your mind into thinking you're having a good time, Steel makes another mistake by relegating Jackie Chan's character to a supporting storyline.

Opening in a car in the middle of traffic before two calls force Chan to put the pedal to the medal, the best thing that can be said for Steel – as it jumps continents from Asia to Australia and gets crazier with every scene – is that at least it moves quickly.

All the same, instead of veering in and out of genres and plotlines, much like those sharing the road with Chan from the start, by Steel's end, we wind up wishing he (or rather the film) would've just picked a damn lane.



Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

DVD Review: The Escape (2017)



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Called Babe or Mummy throughout a majority of The Escape, it isn’t until roughly sixty minutes into Dominic Savage’s intimate, largely improvised marital chamber drama that Gemma Arterton’s depressed married mother of two stops sleepwalking through her life long enough to reveal that her name is actually Tara.

Stating this fact in a calm, clear, and loud voice (for the relatively meek Tara that is) to a train ticketing agent, this otherwise seemingly inconsequential exchange is suddenly given the weight of the world.


Vital enough as it is for directly corresponding with the idea of escape promised by the film's title, Arterton’s simple assertion said to a fellow woman who – unlike her husband and children – wants nothing from her is, by contrast, loaded with meaning.

Brilliantly performed by its talented cast, it's in these small moments where, much like Tara, Savage’s searing film breaks out of its claustrophobic shell and allows its viewers to not only take a moment to reflect on everything that's happened but breathe.

An infinitely difficult though incredibly humanistic offering, The Escape features a potent against-type turn by Arterton's close friend and Tamara Drewe costar Dominic Cooper as Tara’s emotionally myopic, self-absorbed husband Mark.


Feeling both isolated and far removed from her husband as well as her children, Arterton's bored, stifled, and uninspired lead finds herself suffering from Thomas Hardyish levels of melancholia which increase slowly like a roller coaster making its way to the top of the first hill before the inevitable plummet.

Initially forcing herself to go through the motions with her family, as the film continues Tara prioritizes flight over fight and opts to walk away from them all.

Yet intriguingly, even though we mainly see the world of The Escape through Tara’s point-of-view, Savage refuses to give us a one-sided look at marriage and motherhood or let us think for a minute that an escape (no matter how long) will solve her problems or give her an easy way out.

A film you'll definitely want to see with a friend and chat about, The Escape is a fascinating experiment in cinéma vérité.


And while the lack of plot momentum does make the 101 minute running time feel much longer in its meandering second half, which isn't helped by a character appearing out of nowhere to dole out anticlimactic expository advice, it's still an above average docudrama.

Augmented by Arterton and Cooper's fearless commitment to their characters (which makes you keep watching long after it makes you squirm), unfortunately post-escape, the film loses the glue that was holding it together when the actors don't share the screen.

Reminiscent of a Tennessee Williams or Eugene O'Neill play translated to film by John Cassavetes, while it doesn't quite flow naturally from start to finish, thanks to the mesmerizing turns by our leads under the guidance of Savage, much like real life, we find we just can't look away, even when it hurts.


Text ©2018, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.  FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I may have received a review copy or screener link of this title in order to voluntarily decide to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique. Cookies Notice: This site incorporates tools (including advertiser partners and widgets) that use cookies and may collect some personal information in order to display ads tailored to you etc. Please be advised that neither Film Intuition nor its site owner has any access to this data beyond general site statistics (geographical region etc.) as your privacy is our main concern.

8/16/2018

Netflix Movie Review: To All the Boys I've Loved Before (2018)



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Accused of having "the references of an eighty-year-old woman," sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Covey (Lana Condor) is a heroine after my own heart. An avid reader of romance with an overactive imagination and a passionate sensibility, Lara Jean is the second of widower Dr. Covey's (John Corbett) three tight-knit girls living in Portland, Oregon.

Opening the night before her beloved big sister, Margot (Janel Parrish) is slated to leave for college in Scotland, in the beginning of director Susan Johnson's first rate adaptation of Jenny Han's eponymous young adult novel, Lara Jean watches in shock as her sister breaks up with her boyfriend Josh (Israel Broussard).


Still carrying a torch for the boy next door who was her best friend long before he became Margot's beau, even though she knows she'd never hurt Margot by confessing her feelings to Josh, the emotional upheaval throws her for a loop nonetheless.

Intelligent and resourceful, fortunately we discover that the introverted Lara Jean has developed a secret system for dealing with this very issue by writing an epic love letter to the four other boys for whom she'd fallen before. With a total of five letters hidden inside a hat box in her bedroom closet, Lara Jean is horrified when they're put in the mail and sent to the five objects of her past (and neighborly present) affection.


Hoping to avoid the emotional landmine waiting for her if she has a heart-to-heart with Josh (as well as Margot), she improvises the best way she can – grabbing and kissing Peter (Noah Centenio), the past crush nearest her – when Josh catches her line of sight, letter in hand.

Conveniently brokenhearted himself after getting dumped by Lara Jean's best friend turned frenemy Gen (Emilija Baranac), Peter agrees to help her out and hopefully make Gen jealous at the same time. Falling back on the familiar romcom trope of the “fake couple,” the two create a contract of rules and promises from no kissing to films they must watch, which is where a majority of the fun begins in this adorable teen romance.


Needless to say, given the aforementioned summary, Johnson's sophomore directorial effort is far more complicated than most grown-up romcom fare. However, right from the start of this instantly likable and surprisingly sophisticated feature, it's obvious that to her credit, Boys was made with the utmost of care.

From the attention to detail displayed in the intricate design of Lara Jean's colorful books and knickknack filled cozy bedroom sanctuary to the warm atmosphere of the Pacific Northwest setting (complete with a Gilmore Girls like diner), the film welcomes viewers to the fully realized world of author turned executive producer Jenny Han's YA series with ease.


Free of the rude humor usually relied upon in the romantic comedy genre, Sofia Alvarez's well-written, fast-moving, laugh out loud script is compelling enough to attract viewers of all ages. Suitable for tweens on up, despite some sexual references, To All the Boys I've Loved Before is vastly more wholesome than a majority of small screen teen shows.

Filled with an affable young cast, including our MVP lead Lana Condor who handles a wide range of emotions from embarrassment to determination admirably, Boys is so entertaining that I watched it twice in the months leading up to this review.


Referencing Sixteen Candles onscreen, it's evident that – although it will delight fans of '90s and '00s contemporary teen classics from Clueless to Mean Girls – much like those movies, on page and screen alike, the storytelling building blocks and the filmic roots of Boys can be found in the universally appealing era of John Hughes.

Coincidentally released on the very same weekend that another Asian-American film hits the big screen (in the form of Hollywood's splashy adaptation of Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians, which marks Tinseltown's first Asian-American film in twenty-five years), Boys makes a perfect stay-at-home follow-up film to create a Crazy romantic double feature.

The second female helmed title (after Lauren Miller Rogen's Like Father) and third terrific Netflix original (also including The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society) to hit the streaming site this month, To All the Boys I've Loved Before is further proof that for women in the summer of 2018, some of the most entertaining filmmaking is happening on your TV.



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