9/13/2019

Netflix Movie Review: Tall Girl (2019)


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Whether it's the way you laugh too loud when you're nervous, stammer when you're shy, or seem to forget everything you've ever studied when you're handed a test, everyone has at least one thing that they wish they could change about themselves. And while most of us have figured out how to cope with or adapt to this perceived flaw as adults, there's nothing like high school to magnify these insecurities even more and doubly so when the thing we wish we could change about ourselves is something physical.

In nearly six foot two inch sixteen-year-old Jodi's case, although a simple search on the internet reveals that there is such a thing as height reduction surgery, the excruciatingly painful procedure isn't exactly a practical solution for the New Orleans high school junior played by Ava Michelle. Hoping for the same effect, she tries slouching her way into invisibility to avoid all of the snickers, stares, and inane comments by classmates who ask her how the weather is up there, even though that line is older than the Civil War battles she reads about in her American history textbook.


Establishing the theme, first as she describes the alienation experienced by the main character in A Confederacy of Dunces to a classmate and then in her voice-over narration, Jodi serves as an pleasant, immediately relatable stand-in for any hangup the viewer might have about themselves. However, as well drawn as the three-dimensional Jodi is, the rest of the film's characters are thinly sketched caricatures of retro teen movie archetypes by comparison.

And this is evident right from the start as we meet her fiercest supporters including the fashionably hip Fareeda (Anjelika Washington) who puts bullies in their place with one well spun line and the Duckie inspired Jack Dunkleman (played by scene stealer Griffin Gluck) who's had a crush on Jodi for as long as Kimmy (Clara Wilsey) has tormented her since they were children. Suffice it to say that, despite the affability of the actors bringing them to life, everyone in Tall Girl's orbit seems like they've wandered over from film sets of decades gone by, which basically makes them the "how's the weather up there?" of teen movie characters.


Although screenwriter Sam Wolfson tries to update the proceedings with escape rooms and gluten free bakeries, it feels mostly stale. Inconsistent in its characterization as it undercuts Jodi's mom (Angela Kinsey) as a passive aggressive prom queen and makes her dad (Steve Zahn) a hyper focused alarmist waiting for his tall daughter's health to fail in their earliest scenes before they mellow into almost entirely different people later on, it's to Kinsey and Zahn's credit that we remain interested in their roles.

While it's refreshing to make Jodi's beautiful pageant perfect older sister Harper (Sabrina Carpenter) so supportive of her "big little sister" instead of making her another object of misery in Jodi's life, with Harper's laughable grasp of history and pleas that Jodi should slap her if she eats carbs, she quickly turns into yet another stereotype.


Hopeful when Stig (Luke Eisner), a dreamy Swedish exchange student arrives who's even taller than she is, Jodi experiences her first serious crush and turns to Harper for help attracting the boy who's staying with Dunkleman. Pursuing Jodi in very different ways to differing degrees of success, Eisner and Gluck play off each other very well and share some unexpectedly funny, awkward scenes in the process. Things get even more complicated when her nemesis Kimmy sets her sights on and lands the handsome Swede, but when the two find they have a musical connection, the first of several love triangles develops.

Unwisely relegating Jodi's best friend Fareeda to extra status as the film goes on when some of the makeover scenes with Carpenter and Kinsey might've benefited from a young comedic buffer as opposed to the requisite mini dressing room montage and a lame in-film ad for Mac Cosmetics, it's clear that the film just doesn't know how to make adequate use of its lively ensemble. Not the only gimmicky scene, Tall Girl features a cringe-worthy moment where Jodi's parents host a Tip Toppers tall person's club party that goes nowhere. Likewise, infusing the film with a questionable message where each time Jodi starts to have confidence, it's inspired by a guy either finding her attractive or doing something selfless for her, by the time we reach the obligatory Mean Girls reminiscent big moment at the dance where our heroine literally tells us what she's learned, it doesn't seem remotely genuine or earned.


Still entertaining enough to watch in bed on a sick day or up late at a sleepover, despite Tall Girl's wholly original main character with whom many viewers will easily identify thanks to their own hangups, it's one of Netflix's weakest original YA romcoms. Taking a backseat to the streaming giant favorite To All the Boys I've Loved Before, Tall Girl also pales in comparison to the similarly themed, infinitely better structured (and likewise '80s inspired) Sierra Burgess is a Loser.

Yet with the color blocked background on display in Tall Girl's opening frames as Jodi discusses Dunces, the keen visual eye of first time feature filmmaker Nzingha Stewart makes for some truly memorable scenes that keep our interest even when the film itself starts to meander.


A romcom loving tall girl myself (and one who — just shy of six feet — was actually taller than her male first grade teacher when she was in the first grade), needless to say, I was easily the ideal audience for the film. Unfortunately, no matter how much I wished otherwise, in the end the Netflix movie plays like a version of teen movie Cliffs Notes where everything stays on the surface and, save for one moving scene with Steve Zahn, never gets too deep.

Though Tall Girl comes up short — to use a criticism that's sure to be the critic's version of "how's the weather up there," — it's still an admirable attempt to walk a mile in a sixteen-year-old girl's size thirteen men's shoes. Bolstered by a charming cast, while it's obvious that the film's heart is in the right place, unfortunately, Girl needs more authenticity and less artifice to make it count.


Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. https://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.

9/06/2019

Movie Review: Genèse (2018)


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AKA: Genesis

I know he likes me but does he like me? How do I ask her to be my girlfriend? What does he mean we should stay together but see other people?

Three Québécois teenagers navigate their first twinges of love, the devastation of heartbreak, the mysteries of desire, and other affairs of the heart in Philippe Lesage's new film Genèse, which follows in the footsteps of his previous pictures Copenhagen: A Love Story and The Demons in blending together memoir and fiction.

Often letting the camera linger on the behavior and body language of its main characters and the way that it changes when they're in front of a classroom, crowd, or alone, Genèse uses sumptuous, languorous visuals and its moodily atmospheric soundtrack to deposit us into the heart of the film in a way that recalls the work of Sofia Coppola and Wong Kar-wai.


Drawing on his background as a documentary filmmaker to establish the film's setting in and around private schools, colleges, and camps in Quebec, Lesage paints a picture of three teens, different both on the surface and in personality, who are looking for love.

In the film's strongest and most emotionally arresting storyline, we meet Guillaume (Théodore Pellerin) who, though always up for a laugh or impression as the class clown at his private boys school, is rather introspective and insecure deep down. Reading J. D. Salinger and listening to The Smiths, Guillaume is the type of dreamy eyed boy we would've had a crush on in high school, only to discover later on that he has a complicated crush of his own that might redefine his entire life.

Startled when her first serious boyfriend tells her that he thinks they should be free to sleep with other people, Guillaume's older half-sister Charlotte (Noée Abita) is sent reeling, moving from one relationship to the next (and always with the wrong guy), which has devastating consequences as the film continues and editor Mathieu Bouchard-Malo weaves the two plots together.


Venturing away from the city into a nature based coda, we're introduced to the stand-in for the filmmaker in the form of adolescent Félix (Édouard Tremblay-Grenier), who faces the first stirrings of love for a girl he becomes enamored of at summer camp. Though still filmed in a lush, contemporary style by cinematographer Nicolas Canniccioni, there's something delightfully old fashioned about the pacing and mood of the final section of Genèse, which feels as though it could be played side by side with François Truffaut's frothy 400 Blows follow-up and tale of first love, Antoine and Colette.

A welcome shot of instantly relatable nostalgia, Genèse's last act is played in a higher, lighter key than the rest of the picture. Yet, coming as it does after a shocking act of violence takes place, which is immediately glossed over by ignoring the aftermath, it takes a minute for the film (as well as the viewer) to convincingly ease back into the innocent reverie of summer flirtation and romance.

Inspired by real stories of assault that had been shared with Lesage by friends, while the stark, matter-of-fact portrayal alarms us enough, the film’s real misstep was in leaving these characters much too quickly before we truly know how they are, which gives the scene a cavalier aura that I can't imagine the filmmaker had intended. Yet tonal and structural misstep aside, Genèse manages to fall back into place when its last young protagonist falls in love.


Using music — especially "Outside" by Tops as a motif throughout — much like Xavier Dolan's Heartbeats, Genèse boasts a superb soundtrack that you'll find yourself wanting to Shazam multiple times throughout the film. Translating the characters' inner lives in a way we can easily understand through not only its musical counterpoint but also the way in which the camera holds on the faces of the trio as they try to reconcile reality with their hearts, Lesage invites us to take the journey as well — walking beside the teens in good times and bad. Like a secret diary come to life with all of its highs and lows, and the little things we know that will stay with us forever, Philippe Lesage's Genèse feels like the cinematic equivalent of a memory.


Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. https://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: Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (1978)


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Shopping for a new lover for his depressed wife, Raoul (Gérard Depardieu) gets more than he bargained for when the man he picks up, Stéphane (Patrick Dewaere) not only falls in love with his wife but becomes his new best friend in the process. And while normally this would be a recipe for disaster, in writer-director Bertrand Blier's hands, it's just the beginning of what turns out to be a beautiful friendship.

Highly verbal in the streets and easygoing in the sheets, in Blier's freewheeling sex comedy Get Out Your Handkerchiefs, the two men bond over Mozart (who they feel would've been their third amigo) as well as their devotion to the sweet but chronically ill Solange (Carole Laure) who they're sure they can cure with sex, if not with them than perhaps someone else.


Treated as little more than a neurotic sex object by the men in her life who are desperate to give her the baby they're convinced will fix everything, the inarguably underwritten and frequently cavalierly nude Laure is easily the most shortchanged participant in Blier's daring ode to l'amour. Still, once you give into the shenanigans, it's hard to deny the effervescently irreverent film's charms.

And indeed Handkerchiefs' success is entirely dependent upon the laissez-faire attitude of the first half of the film in order to adequately prepare viewers for the startling turns of the second, which finds Solange seduced by a genius outcast who, despite acting even more mature than her other lovers, has barely entered his teen years. A flabbergasting development, it's to the cast's extraordinary credit that they're able to sell Blier's ribald, increasingly satirical twists without derailing the picture completely as a gender swapped spin on Lolita rather than a remarkably frank romcom.


Intriguingly, Handkerchiefs sent shockwaves in the American media with its one step forward, two steps back depiction and treatment of Laure more than anything else when it was released at the height of the sexual revolution. Nonetheless, the film, which garnered the director and France the Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award was also named the National Society of Film Critics Best Film of 1978 over The Deer Hunter and Days of Heaven.

A light as a feather ode to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, with little regard to social mores or laws, Blier's film operates like a contemporary fairy tale as opposed to anything even remotely steeped in reality. Using everything from Solange's knitting to the way that her lovers gaze at her in her sleep and their taste in classical music as motifs that pay off later in unexpected ways, Blier's background as a playwright and novelist undeniably enriches the film as it continues.

Newly released to Blu-ray in a brilliant fortieth anniversary restoration, Handkerchiefs, which also features a memorable Cesar award-winning score by Georges Delerue, remains as uncompromisingly subversive as it is impossibly entertaining.


Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. https://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: Back of the Net (2019)


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Before she accidentally got on the wrong bus and wound up not at Harold Academy Australian Semester at Sea but Harold Soccer Academy instead, the only experience that young gifted American science student Cory Bailey (Sofia Wylie) had with the sport was spray painting soccer balls for her AP solar system diorama.

Forced to get a lot more acquainted with soccer since, by the time she's discovered her mistake her ship has literally sailed and her parents are practicing medicine in New Dehli at the moment, Cory has no choice but to make peace with the ball she'd much rather paint than kick.


Thrilled when she finds out she'll be able to study chemistry — as all student athletes are required to take classes at the academy as well — although soccer takes some getting used to, Cory is determined to make the best of it. Buoyed by a great group of new friends including cute, talented player Oliver (Trae Robin), though she's tested throughout Louise Alston's jubilant feature Back of the Net, Cory's positive attitude goes a long way when she makes an enemy out of Tiarnie Coupland's queen bee, Edie.

While there's nothing original about TV movie veterans Alison Spuck McNeeley and Casie Tabanou's admittedly paint-by-numbers script which adheres very closely to the underdog sports movie playbook established over the last five decades of cinematic storytelling, Net stays afloat with its upbeat spirit and breakneck pace.


Planting the seeds for actual depth and/or stronger subplot potential early on, such as when we learn that Oliver's financially strapped family has been going through a tough time, unfortunately the eighty-two minute feature doesn't give moments like these the time or support needed to let them bloom. Yet although it might not win over adults who've seen so many underdog sports movies that they've gotten the mechanics of the plot down to a science, by refreshingly centering its tale on a young woman of color and hiring women behind-the-scenes to bring it to life, this girl power movie's heart is definitely in the right place.

A surprisingly effective — if ultimately underwhelming — combination of science and sport, Alston's film is sure to strike a chord with its target audience who may have seen the Australian feature on the Disney Channel before its recent DVD release. While Back of the Net doesn't manage to transcend its predictable formula, by moving as fast as a soccer ball down the field, its irrepressible enthusiasm and infectious energy is hard to deny.



Text ©2019, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. https://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.