So holidays end, new seasons begin (i.e. school/fiscal/fashion) and after a couple of weeks of down time, we’re back on track, so let’s get started.
Last weekend gave us the punch of Jonathan Demme’s latest outing starring Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline, Ricki and the Flash, the title referencing the name of Meryl’s character and her band. In this film, Meryl plays an ageing, low-end rocker who, when confronted with the reconnection to her ex and children after some fam dram, faces things in a different way than most ladies her age. This film is not about age however; it’s about testing conventions. I could not watch Streep in this film and not wonder how she does it? This is a woman who is 66 and could quite literally play a Jamaican dancehall instructor, and one would be hard pressed NOT to believe she was truly a teacher from the island. She sings in this one, as well as, rocks out on her guitar alongside Rick Springfield (yes him!) as her lover and with a biting script by Diablo Cody, a few of the pieces that define a decent film are knocked nicely out of the ballpark. The audience is given a treat with so many great character actors, and Mamie Gunner, Meryl’s real-life daughter (their third time acting in a film together), slays with her harsh if quiet persona. Cody and Demme tell a US-American family tale but instead of serving the samo samo upper middle-class drivel, we get a sorted, diverse package that is surprisingly refreshing, funny and with some great musical moments to boot. Meryl…keep rocking, woman! ***-1/2
This weekend brings us the latest Ben Stiller flick to hit our shores courtesy of indie darling director Noah Baumbach, he of The Squid and the Whale, Kicking and Screaming and Frances Ha fame. The film is called While We’re Young and it tackles the new-age question of the transitional phase from just past 40 into the acceptance of one’s reality at mid-40s parenthood…or not. It’s also a comical take on how the newer generations of today relate to those just a bit older than them. When protags Josh and Cornelia Schrebnick (Stiller and the always great Naomi Watts) are faced with the reality that their best friends are quickly turning into doting parents of a baby while they slowly make friends with a younger aesthetically-driven couple in their 20s who inspire them, things take a turn into a new reality for them. What’s nice about this film is the complex way Baumbach has taken the audience into the realm of users, matchers and takers in life and relationships, all under the guise of documentary filmmaking as a sort of antagonist. Adam Driver and Amanda Seyfried make up the young couple antagonists (or so we are to believe, anyway) while <aria Dizzia and Beastie Boy Adam Horovitz play their best friends on the other side of the bill. Baumbach has always had a knack for presenting real relationship dynamics in a real and comical manner. Here, he succeeds again and anyone over that certain age, even those in their 30s bringing up the rear, will like taking this somewhat gestalt ride into Baumbach’s simple and genuine world of storytelling. ###-1/2
All I could think as I watched the new American indie film (shot completely in B&W with Persian dialogue) A Girl Walk Home Alone at Night was that its creator and director Ana Lily Amirpour is a new wunderkind to keep an eye on…and the film is veeeeery early David Lynch or Cronenberg…and that is a damn eerie and good thing. At first, when all of the dialogue comes out as Persian despite the USA production team, it’s easy to think you’re being taken on a dramatic, Middle Eastern journey. Alas, the film was actually filmed in a small, industrial crap town in California, which only adds to the creepy feeling that surrounds this vampire, faux spaghetti-Western film…yes, you’ve read me right! As the viewer gets into the story, mostly after the first killing happens, it’s easy to note that a new star director has been born. Using the stalking vampire imagery in B&W, the moody soundtrack which almost acts like a music video concept, and the impeccable acting by Sheila Vand and Aras Marandi, “newcomer” Ana Lily Amirpour, we the audience are taken on an art-house cinematic excursion into the border of the dark side. Fusing all the elements of a quiet noir thriller with a sense of Western feel to the palate, vampire(s) running amuck and superb, simple acting with a shot of romance, Amirpour has turned an indie experiment into pure art. A Star is Born. ###-1/2
Lastly today, more great actors…this time with the illustrious presence of Diane Keaton and Morgan Freeman, playing long-time married couple Alex and Ruth Carver…and their little Border Terrier, Dorothy…que linda la baby. When this ageing Brooklyn couple are faced with the necessity of downsizing and selling their apartment, other realms of their life are brought to the fore. From the start, Brooklyn plays a role and that seriously put some mist in my eyes. Oh the change from the BKLYN of yesteryear…sigh! The film is a spot on telling of too many love-in-NYC stories, but it is the acting and scenery (even despite the sometimes cheesy flashbacks) and extreme, real situations that put it in a place of its own…namely due to the energy between the two lead actors. The movie 5 Flights Up (here, Atico Sin Ascensor) is a very simple but beautiful NYC tale that gives a peek into the reality of what seems to be happening in every major city in the world…inflated real estate and gentrification. Welcome to the New World! ###-1/2
This weekend, with so many great movies out there, take a moment to soak up the last rays of summer and relax. See you very soon, lovelies!