May/December is a film garnering all sorts of rave notices and complimentary commentary from folks whose opinions I regard highly. I do not want to argue, except to say, this movie is just not for me.
There have been lots of good remarks about the performances from all sorts of credible folks, but frankly, I do not give a lot of points for that. The players are professional actors. There are no notable stretches here that I could discern. I will grant that credibility counts for something, but are we giving kudos for that these days? I am not so sure we should.
By now, everyone sort of knows the story. A young actress comes to town to study the woman who twenty years before was the age the actress is now and in the long ago, was the focal point in a scandal that brought shame and a prison term to this self-same woman, who still resides in the small town in which the original transgression took place.
You know what bothered me? No one… anywhere, or at any time in the movie… asks the woman the simple/obvious question: “Why are you doing this? Why are you allowing them to make a film about this part of your life and bring back into focus all the misery that was created for you and your loved ones and this community all those years ago?”
That simple omission put me off the movie. As I indicated, apparently this did not bother a great many others. Or maybe it did… given the short amount of time the film played in theatres before landing where it can now be found on Netflix.
American Fiction is a terrific idea but something less than a terrific movie. I wanted to like this send-up of the publishing business, academia, and an upwardly mobile Black American family more than I did… and almost, but not quite, fell under its spell. I did like the ending… a lot. And, oh yeah, the performances were quite good as well. To sum up quickly, it is a small, but smart motion picture. You could like this one which is now playing at a theatre near you.
A Haunting in Venice (Hulu) is one of those Agatha Christie/Hercule Poirot whodunnits that were a lot more fun when I was younger. And just maybe because back in the day, the filmmakers left a little more of the mystery to our imaginations. I dunno. It was hard for me to take this séance driven mystery seriously either as a mystery or as a motion picture. It is the kind of flick you should see if you have an extra-long plane ride and you have seen everything else that is being offered by the airline, including any lost episodes of Cagney & Lacey.
Amazon Prime (along with several other platforms) has something much better than the Venice flick in A Hard Problem… the only science fiction pic I can remember with no pyrotechnics and a non-apocalyptic theme. Well, maybe some of the latter if you are one of those who fear the A-I future.
A Hard Problem is an apt title; the proof of that being that the film produces few, if any, answers. Paucity of plot aside, there is plenty of poignancy in this present-day Pinocchio. (Sorry, just could not resist all that alliteration.) Solid performances, beautiful photography, nice direction by the newish writer/director team of Kyle Hasday and Matt Stewart (under the name Hazart) and, credit where credit is due, the NY Times deems this smart little movie “elegantly directed, acted, and designed.” It is all of that albeit on the slow side getting started (like many films, the movie would be better at 95 minutes instead of its nearly two-hour running time). Nitpicks aside… still well worth seeing.
And then there is The Holdovers. It is not only a pointless bore of a motion picture, it is without style or substance. It does not entertain, enlighten, nor does it have any reason that I could discern to even exist. Should you be determined to watch privileged white kids immersed in academia, better you should go to MAX and watch Good Will Hunting or to Apple TV to rent Dead Poets Society.
Should you be stubborn enough to take on the previous paragraph as a challenge, or you value the over-inflated two Golden Globes the flick received for a couple of acting performances (Paul Giamatti [yawn], Da’Vine Joy Randolph [the sound of one hand clapping]) then, undiscouraged, I present you with a reasonable antidote that can counteract the somnambulate state you will no doubt experience once you have absorbed The Holdovers:
See Ferrari… and do so almost immediately after The Holdovers. It just might be the cure for the lethargy induced by Paul Giamatti and this two hours of tedium in which he is featured.
Ferrari is by no means a great film…. car racing flicks seldom if ever are… but it is a very good one. Director Michael Mann knows how to make a movie and how to tell a story…something I would question in the case of The Holdovers’ director, Alexander Payne. Mann’s cast… especially Adam Driver and Penelope Cruz… are almost always worth watching and I feel comfortable commending this film to you. Should you be so inclined, you can purchase The Holdovers on Prime Video and Peacock. Ferrari can be seen in theatres or on Peacock.
Finally, and by far the best of these smallish movies, is Anatomy of a Fall (available on Apple TV or Amazon Prime). Well made, by all concerned with the story fully fleshed out and made uncomfortably real. Sandra Huller is brilliant, but it is teenager Milo Machado who all but steals the movie… and your heart. If you are into courtroom dramas this is better than most. It has already won the Golden Globe as Best Foreign Film (over the, I think, much better Past Lives) but then, as you may have already discerned, I gave up trying to outguess the Globers years ago.
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