The Lost Daughter
Much to the Republican Party’s dismay, the birth rate in the United States has been gradually on the decline, hitting an all-time low in 2020. Couples are not only waiting longer to have children, they’re having less of them, with an average of 1.6 per family. While climate change and cost of living expenses are the primary factors in the decision to have fewer children (or none at all), a small part of it can also be attributed to more people accepting a difficult truth: that raising children can be an incredibly hard and thankless task. Maggie Gyllenhaal makes an assured debut as a writer and director in her adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter, a complicated and strangely moving psychological drama/thriller about two women who bond over this truth. Continue Reading →
The Power of the Dog
Contains spoilers about The Power of the Dog (read our spoiler-free review here) Continue Reading →
Back in 1998, Gus Van Sant released his remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. It wasn’t a good movie, but it provided two decent critical talking points. Firstly, was it actually a remake, or was it another adaptation of Robert Bloch’s novel? Given that Van Sant’s film was a shot-for-shot recreation of its 1960 predecessor save for two or three differences, it was a rarity in that, given its context, it ended up being the former. It, for all its failures in execution, used semiotics to circumvent the aforementioned semantics of its identity. Continue Reading →
West Side Story
While audiences and critics often bemoan the plethora of sequels and remakes that litter the media landscape, retelling a familiar story isn’t inherently bad. After all, Shakespeare’s most famous play, Romeo and Juliet, was based on earlier works, and in 1957 playwright Arthur Laurents (along with composer Leonard Bernstein and lyricist Stephen Sondheim) adapted the tale into West Side Story, which Robert Wise turned into a classic musical in 1961. Sixty years later, Steven Spielberg has thrown his hat into the ring with a new adaptation of the material. But can he make a familiar plot relevant to the 21st century? Continue Reading →
Paul Thomas Anderson set out to make a love story with Licorice Pizza, and ended up creating his most joyful flick to date. Seemingly lacking is the dark heart so many of his stories contain, whether it’s in the wildly toxic relationship between designer and muse in Phantom Thread or brutal depictions of loss and loneliness in Magnolia. Instead, Licorice Pizza has a lightness he hasn’t truly approached since Punch-Drunk Love. Continue Reading →
Pablo Larraín’s sympathetic “fable” about Diana, Princess of Wales, also compassionately addresses the secret shame of eating disorders.
CONTENT WARNING: this article addresses eating disorders and self-injury. See our spoiler-free overview of Spencer here.
If Pablo Larraín’s Spencer doesn’t change your mind about royalty being aspirational, then nothing will. Sure, you’ll have access to wealth and fancy clothes, but at the cost of your time and privacy. Every part of your life, every holiday, even “off time” with your family, is scheduled down to the last minute, and everything you do is judged according to tradition and propriety. Maybe it’ll be you who breaks tradition, who makes things different through sheer force of will. But probably not. You’ll be a dress-up doll in a glass case, to be taken out and shown off whenever the occasion calls for it, whether you want to be or not. Continue Reading →
House of Gucci
There’s a word that exists in the Italian language that doesn’t quite have a counterpart in any other language: sprezzatura. What it essentially boils down to is the art of looking like you don’t care – a style of perfectly-studied imperfection. This idea goes back at least to the Renaissance, a time when the Gucci family earned its reputation as skilled saddlemakers to the rich and aristocratic. Or at least that’s how Aldo Gucci, the powerful and powerfully at-ease paterfamilias played by Al Pacino, relates the family history in Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci. It is against this backdrop – of wealth, power, history, and above all, style – that Scott and screenwriters Roberto Bentivegna and Becky Johnston weave their story, an uneven yet compelling story about the only person who became a Gucci through their own making rather than by an accident of birth, and yet was forever an outsider. Continue Reading →
tick, tick... BOOM!
New York City. January 29th, 1990. Composer and playwright Jonathan Larson (Andrew Garfield) turns 30 at the end of the week. SUPERBIA, the dystopian science fiction musical he's spent most of a decade writing, is about to have its first-ever full workshop. It's a critical moment for Jon, one that could well make his career (or break it irreparably). If SUPERBIA bombs, Jon will be washed up before he ever set out to sea. To crank up the pressure, the show is missing a critical song, a tune that the whole affair will turn on. Continue Reading →
The Eyes of Tammy Faye
Have you ever spoken to a friend who was tangentially involved in a big event? They know the players, they saw some of it go down, but they’re missing pieces of information. They lack the perspective of someone directly involved and the insights that come with that. That’s the experience of watching The Eyes of Tammy Faye. Continue Reading →
Kenneth Branagh directs a moving film about a working class Irish family impacted by the Troubles.
Historical films — especially those about devastating and traumatic events — require a precarious balance. If you focus too much on the events themselves, you risk erasing the humanity of the people who experienced them, coming across like a dry textbook. Dive too deeply into the personal — especially if your characters are fictional or fictionalized — and there’s always a chance you’ll make a maudlin melodrama that uses history as little more than a backdrop. This balance becomes exponentially more difficult to maintain when your audience’s main point of access to your story is the eyes of a child, because you’re at constant risk of nostalgia muddying up the proceedings.
Given the subject matter of Belfast and Kenneth Branagh’s deep connection to it (although the film is not a memoir, there are a great deal of similarities between the fictional family and the Belfast-born writer and director’s own), he could have easily faltered with this particular story. It would have been easy to forgive him if he did. Hell, he probably would have made a decent film even if it got too sentimental. This is Kenneth Branagh we’re talking about, after all. But what he’s done instead is craft a film that’s as measured as it is miraculous. Continue Reading →
In the Heights
During his sophomore year at Wesleyan University in 1999, Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote a draft of his debut play. At first, he “had one song and a title: In the Heights.” Soon after, the musical would premiere at the school’s student-run theater. John Buffalo Miller and Quiara Alegría Hudes helped revise it in the following years, and then it snowballed. It premiered off-Broadway in 2005, went to Broadway in 2008, and had international tours throughout the 2010s. A film adaptation felt like the natural next step, and over two decades after its inception, it arrives with a screenplay from Hudes and Jon M. Chu directing. Continue Reading →
Sian Heder directs a touching & funny story of having to choose between dreams & obligation.
The reason why so many movies about teenagers don’t work is because they often feature too-old actors playing characters who talk like jaded 35 year-olds (or rather, like the people who wrote them). Every once in a while, however, you find a real gem, like Sian Heder’s Coda, a low-key, moving story about a teenage girl who finds herself caught between doing the thing she loves, and having to help keep her family’s business afloat.
17 year-old Ruby, played by Emilia Jones (in what will hopefully be a star-making performance) is the only hearing member of her Massachusetts fishing family. On top of trying to get through school, she must also work on the family fishing boat, serving as the ears and voice of her father, Frank (Troy Kotsur), and older brother Leo (Daniel Durant), as they try to avoid (with mixed success) getting ripped off by the local fish buyer. It’s quietly expected that Ruby, who has no real plans for college, will simply stick around as long as Leo, Frank, and her mother Jackie (Marlee Matlin) need her. Continue Reading →