Saturday, December 28, 2019


Starring: Charlize Theron, Nicole Kidman, Margot Robbie, John Lithgow
Director: Jay Roach
Running Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes
Rating: R

Three of my favorite actresses in one riveting movie. I was highly anticipating seeing "Bombshell", which tells the true story of female employees at Fox News taking down the late Roger Ailes for sexual harassment. While it started off a little hokey with Megyn Kelly (played by an unrecognizable Charlize) breaking the fourth wall to give us a tour of the studio, it is an engrossing, disturbing, and finally at the end, encouraging story of several women's plight to end sexual harassment in the workplace. This film has an incredible cast, and a few scenes that will make your skin crawl. Overall, I thought it was very enjoyable, and it's more likely that the actors will be recognized during the upcoming awards season, as opposed to the film as a whole.

As aforementioned, Charlize plays Fox lead anchor Megyn Kelly, and the prosthetics do a killer job of making you think it's actually her. (I was hoping they'd do a little more prosthetic work to Nicole Kidman, who only vaguely resembles Gretchen Carlson.) We're introduced to Kelly on the night of the Republican Debate in 2016, during her now-infamous public quarrel with Trump. She becomes the target of many Trump supporters and the receiver of many threats. Ailes sadly, does not come to her defense, claiming it makes for high ratings and good TV.

Meanwhile, Carlson has recently been "demoted" from a prime spot on Fox's popular morning show to the "dead zone" afternoon hour. She's also been keeping a notebook of countless incidents of harassment from both her co-workers and her boss, Ailes. After she is let go from Fox entirely, she calls her lawyers and says it's time to act. She brings forth a lawsuit against Ailes, assuring her team that more women will come forward. It's months before anyone else speaks up.

Margot Robbie plays our third leading lady, a fictional character named Kayla, who represents every other woman who has been at the receiving end of Ailes' harassment. Kayla's dream to be not just on TV, but on Fox, has her doing immoral things she never dreamed of. The film tries to make sense of this vicious cycle and power struggle, and as an audience member, it's pretty repulsive.

While this is an eye-opening film about the toxic work environment at one specific company, it makes you question what other major corporations nurture this inappropriate behavior. No matter your beliefs, you'll leave the film proud of these women (and several men) for standing up for what is right.

Little Women

Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Timothee Chalamet, Emma Watson, Laura Dern
Director: Greta Gerwig
Running Time: 2 hours, 14 minutes
Rating: PG

*Some of the things I've alluded to in this review may be construed as spoilers.

Let me begin by stating my adoration of the 1994 film version of "Little Women," and my attachment to Winona Ryder as Jo and Christian Bale as Laurie. I'll also say that if any two actors today could have taken on these iconic roles, it's undoubtedly Saoirse and Timothee. My bar was so high for this film, and while I thought the movie was fine, I did have a few issues. It was too long for starters. But if you're a fan of the story, you'll enjoy this timely rendition of the film. It's a classic for a reason.

If you're new to the story, first of all, welcome to the world, but secondly, you might have trouble keeping up with the plot because of the numerous flashbacks and flash forwards. The primary way Director Greta Gerwig let the audience know if we were in the past or present is by the color of the film. The flashbacks used bright, colorful, rich tones, while present day was more gray and dreary. I would have appreciated more physical appearance changes to differentiate the seven years past. The 1994 film used a different actress to portray Amy, who we meet at age 12, versus age 19, when we follow her through Paris. Florence Pugh, while she does steal the film as Amy, looks exactly the same the entire time.

I also think all this back and forth hurt the audience's opportunity to bond appropriately with the characters. Jo and Laurie's relationship didn't seem nearly as strong as Amy and Laurie's, because we get much more screen time with the latter two. The climactic scene when Jo rejects Laurie did not come across as devastating as it should, because we've already seen a connection between Amy and Laurie in the future. The film also shows Beth getting sick for the first and second times, at the same time, which made that plot line less emotional for me.

Gerwig is definitely in her element here, but what I thought should read as a boisterous family of loving sisters at times comes across as manic. I couldn't keep up with the insane amount of dialogue being thrown at me, but thankfully this pace slowed down. Gerwig also took more time to explore things that I didn't think were totally necessary and that were grazed over in the 1994 film (Meg as a debutante, Beth's bond with neighbor Mr. Laurence) but I did appreciate more time with Aunt March. Meryl Streep can do anything, and while the makeup made her look like a corpse, she brought a realistic humor to the role, encouraging the women to "marry well" since they won't be able to make any money for themselves.

This review is clearly very picky, because it is a story so near and dear to me. Was it necessary to remake this film again, 2 years after BBC released it as a mini-series? Maybe not, but it's as good a time as any. Jo argues that women have minds and souls and should do more than just fall in love and get married, but then breaks down in tears saying she is so incredibly lonely. It's a dilemma faced by many young women today, proving that this is a timeless tale. It's hard not to love this story and these characters, but the 1994 version will always be my favorite.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Marriage Story

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Adam Driver, Laura Dern, Alan Alda
Director: Noah Baumbach
Running Time: 2 hours, 16 minutes
Rating: R

I have to admit, the first thing I thought of while watching this movie was, "I'm glad I'm not married." My second thought was, "Thankfully, I've dodged a few bullets." You'll view this film with a furrowed brow the entire time, watching two desperately lost people navigate a divorce, while also arguing over custody of their only son. I didn't think Scar Jo and Adam Driver had the best chemistry or were necessarily the right picks for this film. I also thought the movie was a little too "indie for indie's sake". Strong supporting cast members were a welcomed departure from watching the two main characters scream at each other and look miserable. Aside from one super-high stakes scene and some nice moments from Mr. Driver, I wasn't too thrilled by this movie. It was just too stressful. I won't be watching it again, or rooting for it during awards show season.

Charlie and Nicole met doing theatre in NYC, fell in love, got married, had a kid, fell out of love and decided to get a divorce. They initially agree to separate amicably and involve no lawyers. It's apparent that the two still care for each other, her so more than him it seems. You can imagine how contentious things become when Nicole decides to move to LA to be closer to her family, taking their son Henry with her. Charlie just got word that his play is opening on Broadway, but instead spends his time flying back and forth across the country to spend time with his son. On one trip, he gets served divorce papers, throwing a wrench in their plan to do things cordially.

Nicole's powerhouse lawyer Nora (played by Laura Dern) is a no-nonsense gal, determined to get full custody for her client. Charlie's mild-mannered but experienced lawyer (played by the lovely Alan Alda) explains how complicated things will be for them if Charlie chooses to maintain a residence and work in NYC. Charlie's ego gets the best of him, but we question Nicole's motives and whether she has been intentionally vindictive. Blink and you'll miss a few great scenes with the inimitable Ray Liotta.

Oddly choppy dialogue or too-long monologues combined with obvious and in-your-face symbolism was a real turn off for me. But I do think the director did a good job with making you simultaneously sympathize with and despise both of these characters. I've enjoyed these two actors in several other films, but this just didn't click for me. I also think there are better films to come this season, so you might hold off on screening this one.

Monday, December 2, 2019

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Starring: Tom Hanks, Matthew Rhys, Susan Kelechi Watson, Chris Cooper
Director: Marielle Heller
Running Time: 1 hour, 49 minutes

Rating: PG

Whether or not you grew up watching "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" on TV, surely you're aware of the magnitude of Fred Rogers' impact on multiple generations and their childhood education and development. He is beloved among Gen Xers and Millennials alike, including their parents and the people who raised them. In "A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood," America's Sweetheart Tom Hanks stars as the inimitable Fred Rogers and transports the audience to a simpler time. His calming onscreen presence is shockingly accurate, and you're certain to leave the theatre whistling the iconic theme song. The film did fall a little short at times, but overall, just hand Hanks the Oscar and go see this film.

The film begins and we're welcomed into the old, comforting living room as Mr. Rogers changes his sweater and his shoes (my personal favorite part of the show as a child!) Soon we're introduced to our protagonist, Lloyd, and transported to NYC 1998. Matthew Rhys delivers a strong performance as Lloyd, a writer for "Esquire" magazine whose assignment is to profile Mr. Fred Rogers. Lloyd is known for being a tough journalist who many people now refuse to be interviewed by because of his harshness. His wife Andrea (the fabulous Susan Kelechi Watson) begs him not to "ruin her childhood" and encourages him to write up a fluff piece honoring the man that is so cherished and admired. Meanwhile, we get a brief peek into Lloyd's troubled relationship with his distant father, setting up a conflict that inevitably takes the lead for most of the film.

When Lloyd and Mr. Rogers meet, Lloyd is equally frustrated and in awe of this man and his patience, kindness and way with children. Though Lloyd begins the interview, Mr. Rogers slowly turns the questions back to Lloyd, allowing their conversations to become somewhat therapeutic as he explores his feelings about his father. Enter Jerry (played by Chris Cooper) and his attempt to reconnect with his son. I would have liked more of the film's focus to be on Mr. Rogers and his family, as opposed to the Lloyd and dad storyline. I found the majority of those scenes to be dark, dimly lit and a bit slow. More Mr. Rogers please!

Scene transitions take place like they did on the original show, which I thought was very cool. This film was inspired by a true story, but there are countless other people who were affected and impacted by Mr. Rogers. If you've seen the "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" documentary, you'll enjoy this film too. You'll definitely leave inspired and hopefully, encouraged to give more grace to others and to yourself.