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Film Reviews

 

"YOUNG ADULT” by Linda Bergman


When Patrick Wilson’s character, “Buddy” says to CharlizeTheron’s, “Mavis,” in Paramount’s “Young Adult”.

 

“You’re better than this.”

 

My first and last thoughts were:“And so is Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman!  What are they doing?  This is so risky! And why would Paramount release this downer as a holiday film? They must be programming against  the season’s joy and happiness.  It’s the anti-Christ, Anti feel good flick of all time.

 

The title “Young Adult” refers to the genre of angst-ridden–coming-of-age books written for teenagers. And angst doesn’t even touch the revulsion an audience feels when they watch Young Adult book writer Mavis’ mental break- down.

 

I am sure it sounded good on paper.  And Diablo Cody (Academy Award winning writer for Juno) admitted last night that even though she wrote it on spec and never thought she’d sell it, she was compelled to write a film about a 37- year-old -woman who is still stuck mentally in high school.  A woman that has not one redeeming quality, who sleeps with men she doesn’t know and even treats her dog terribly, leaves Minneapolis for her Podunk home town.  She’s set to do one thing: separate her high school sweetheart from his wife and new baby. What would happen, Diablo thought, if the “bad-gal” stayed bad?  Even though she did write an alternative comfort-food ending, she tossed it, in favor of a non-twist that boldly says, “This is my disgusting story and I’m stickin' to it. “ Yikes!

 

Director Jason Reitman  (Up In The Air, Thank You For Smoking, Juno) said it best when he reported Theron’s comment after signing on.  She said, “Let’s jump off the cliff together!”  And jump off they did for a fast 30-day shoot and a $12 million dollar budget – peanuts in today’s blockbuster world.  As a producer, I must admit they got all their money on screen and Theron is amazingly committed as the sick, lying bitch Mavis trying to win back the affections of boring as hell but cute, Buddy (played perfectly by Patrick Wilson. (CBS’ A Gifted Man).

 

What Mavis doesn’t count on -- as her career and reputation diminish -- is meeting up with another hometown refugee from high school, fat, disabled geek,” Matt”.  Matt’s locker was next to Mavis’ and he watched her every day.  She admits all she remembered about him was he the victim of a hate crime back in the day.  Poor Matt, who was suspected of being gay in high school, had his legs and male member broken by the same boys Mavis was blowing at lunch.  Played brilliantly by stand-up comic, Patton Oswalt, Matt, is the center of the film and gives us our only relief.  He is the voice of the audience, saying just what we, in our seats, want to cry out, “Go get help, you sick f@#/,”

 

While there were a few very funny sight gags, and I loved looking at Charlize’s ravaged beauty and her considerable acting chops, this comedy made me distinctly uncomfortable which is exactly what the creative team admitted they went for and the studio backed.  All I can reason is, Paramount wants to do future business with this Dream Team of Cody/Reitmna/ Theron, and by letting them make this horrible thing, they now have a bargaining chip for the future. I am sure there is a method to their madness. Who knows?  Who cares? But I have to admit, I am curious to see who buys tickets to this odd bird. If they make a lot of money, I bet it will be off of all the horny, angry Y.A s. out there1

 

 

 

"A SEPARATION” by Linda Bergman


Written, produced and directed by Asghar Farhadi, this relentless drama about a family in Iran has won a number of awards including the New York Film Critics Award for Best Foreign Film.

 

Starring Leila  Hatami, Peyman Moaadi, Shahab Hosseini, Sareh Bayat and Sarina Farhadi, the director’s own daughter, it is the story of an Iranian middle-class couple who separate, and the intrigues which follow when the husband hires a lower-class caretaker for his elderly father. The film is the official Iranian candidate for the Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards.

 

Farhadi’s purpose, he said, was to show ­­a different side of Iran and Iranian life and he does so by showing us a look at urban life in a two family scenario that plays out in the Iranian courts. Having screened the film all over the world at a myriad of film festivals, he says “…the diversities from the audiences are the same. The cultural reactions to this turbulent domestic drama are more similar than different and that it’s a nation’s politics that highlight the difference.”

 

Unusual, I would venture to say, to most Americans, are the religious aspects of Iranian culture and the definitions of honor and dishonor in social situations.  Yes, it was interesting and informative.  Having said that, it’s also 123 minutes of Farsi with English subtitles. Though the performances are so good you think you’re watching a documentary, the dialogue is so repetitive and the scenes so similar in content, this reviewer would rather stick pins in her eyes than sit through it again. It reminded me of other depressing failing marriage films:  Revolutionary Road, The House Of Sand and Fog and Blue Velvet.

 

Very different fare, though, and with a strong winning provenance, it may be an interesting opponent in the Oscar race for best Foreign film.  Me thinks, if the films that touch the heart usually win, this one may have a problem. It’s a little too prickly for my taste and may also be for the Academy voters.

 

This film will be released December 30th

 

 

 

"IRON LADY” by Linda Bergman 11/3011


“I always preferred the company of men.”

 

No, it wasn’t Mae West who said that, it was Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

 

    Last night, at our Cinema Series, our film-finder-extraordinaire, Pete Hammond, boasted that we were seeing the very first West Coast film print screening of a highly controversial movie starring Meryl Streep.  I learned this morning that at the same time, and as a warm-up to her upcoming appearance in D.C. as a Kennedy Center honoree, Streep also presented the film last night.  Maybe that’s why the director Phyllida Lloyd didn’t show at our event for Q and A.  She had bigger fish to impress in the nation’s Capital?

 

Even before cameras rolled, this film was sparking controversy. Describing the film as a ‘Left-wing fantasy’ designed to cast doubt on her political legacy, her adult twins, Mark and Carol Thatcher, are once again having to accept that where Mummy is concerned, art rarely reflects life.  Even though the British are upset that an American was tapped to play their Iron Lady, Streep says, “ This is not a bio pic! It was an honor and a privilege to play her.”  (What actress wouldn’t want to play the most polarizing woman in Britain’s political history?)
   
The term “Iron Lady” is a nickname that has frequently been used to describe female heads of government around the world but was most famously applied to Thatcher in 1976 by the Russian media for her staunch opposition to communism.

 

Directed by her Mamma Mia! muse, Lloyd, and written by TV writer Abi Morgan, the story cleverly uses an aged Thatcher, cleaning out her dead husband’s closets and current events as devices to trigger flash backs. The spirit of her husband, played deliciously by Jim Broadbent (Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, The Young Victoria), sparks memories of her earlier career and sets up the couple’s us-vs-them dynamic that reveals the delusions of old age and Thatcher’s belief she is still the P.M.

 

The flashbacks take us to the 2005 London terrorist attacks and skip through Margaret’s youth as a political minded grocer’s daughter.  Then, we whiz through her Oxford years and courtship by young businessman Dennis (Harry Lloyd); her determined first foot in the door of the boys’ club of conservative politics, and her 1959 entry into Parliament. But the action center of the film is the historical rollercoaster of the 1980s, captured in news clips and video. Thatcher’s hard line policies forged a new and widening gap between Britain’s new class of millionaires and its desperate poor.

 

 

Deeply embodying both the rigid steam roller and the diminished old woman sifting through her past, Streep is riveting, but I kept asking myself: “Who knows the latter’s very intimate details about her to be true?”  “Did someone witness her solitary midnight conversations and dances with her dead husband?” “Did the creators conjure this up?” In my research, I found an interview where Street defends those details by saying, "It's a subjective look back, as close to the truth as fiction will allow.”

 

Well there you have it, then. Fiction is the operative word.
   
Streep’s miraculous transformation into Margaret Thatcher has been called, “… a performance of towering proportions that sets a new benchmark for acting.”  She has already won The New York Film Critics’ Award.  I say look for an Academy Award nomination for her and the other magician in the piece, J. Roy Helland, her makeup and hair designer.

 

The film opens in wide distribution on December 30th.