Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Can You Ever Forgive Me? struck a chord with me — it brought back those times being down-and-out and/or drunk in New York City.  I wanted a little more plot-wise with this true-life story, but then it is a true-life story.  I would have welcomed more about the earlier parts of our heroine’s life and career.  Still: this is one of the better movies of 2018, on the high end of 7/10.

PS Kudos again to Fox Searchlight.

Comparison Notes: Norman, The Visitor (2007)

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Film Brief: The Old Man & the Gun

The Old Man & the Gun, possibly Robert Redford’s last picture, had some problems along with its requisite charm.  It also had a lively spirit more times than not.  A high 6/10

Film Brief: American Animals

American Animals mixes actors and the real-life characters they portray in a sometimes very effective and other times distracting suboptimal way.  On top of that, the movie dragged out too much.  There’s no reason for it not to have been 30 minutes more compact.  But the performances were good and compelling, and the movie redeemed itself at the end.  The climax and immediate aftermath swung American Animals back into positive territory.  6/10

Comparison Notes: every heist film ever, Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Bernie, Donnie Darko

I, Tonya Will Kick Your Ass. Literally.

Sometimes it takes a true story to make the best movie of the year.  This is one of those times.  The first half absolutely soars.  Once the movie shifts to “the incident,” it gets a little off track and bogs down, but is redeemed by the end.

I, Tonya opens with the following blurb:

Based on irony-free, wildly contradictory, totally true interviews with Tonya Harding and Jeff Gillooly

Like a Michener account, and the disclaimer above speaks to this, there is a sense that is not necessarily the verbatim truth of everything exactly the way it happened — but boy it sure feels like it is.  It really puts you there — and it’s highly compelling.

Propelling I, Tonya is a glorious tour de force by Margot Robbie — clearly the best female performance of the year.  Allison Janney as her mother is utter perfection as well.  Both should be winning Oscars on March 4th — but sadly won’t.

With the Winter Olympics next month, the timing could not be better.  You’ll definitely come away with an understanding of the tricky triple axel that you didn’t have before.  And one final note: make sure to stay for the end credits.

Best of the year, but shy of a ‘perfect 9’.  8/10

Film Brief: Jackie

jackie-poster

I am hardly a Jackie Kennedy scholar, but there seemed something a bit odd in Natalie Portman’s performance, something where I wasn’t sure if it was dead-on or off in a bizarre direction — one of my initial thoughts was, of all people, Marilyn Monroe.  And there was a certain detachment.  However, a brief look at Mrs. Kennedy’s White House tour (highlighted in the film) makes me think Natalie Portman might well have nailed it.

Jackie raises the obvious comparison to Sofia Coppola’s much superior Marie Antoinette.  Tragedy, we know, is in the offing.  I was severely disappointed by Jackie, but I admit the film held me, and that goes a long way.  I kept waiting for the film to reveal itself, to show me a door I had not previously known.  By the end of the film, that door was yet to be found.  6/10

Comparison Notes (Recommended): Frost/Nixon

Lion Does Not Roar

My opinion of Lion is colored by the 60 Minutes report on the story.  The CBS treatment was much tighter, obviously — filling in a 14-minute segment length.  The overly drawn-out film suffers in comparison to the concise and dynamic presentation by CBS.

A question that comes to mind about the evaluation of a film based on a true story that I am more or less familiar with ahead of time is “How can I fairly criticize this movie when the dramatic punch, especially as the film reaches towards its climax, has necessarily been diminished by my knowledge of the events herein?”  All I can answer is that I do my best to wash out preconceived ideas, and go with the flow of the film the best I can.  Knowing the outcome did not diminish my feelings toward the great Bernie (one day I’ll post on that one), Sully, Captain Phillips, The Theory of Everything, or last year’s best movie, The Walk.  You can click on my “true story” tag and look at other examples for yourself.

Back to Lion.  I enjoyed the first part, when our subject Saroo Brierley was a boy lost in India.  But the longer adult stage lost me — it’s the much less interesting part of the story, yet the film spends an inordinate amount of time on it.  Still, the performances and production values were good — I especially enjoyed Rooney Mara and the consummate Nicole Kidman.  So I offer a marginal recommendation, with a more vigorous advocacy instead for the 60 Minutes segment.  Unfortunately, there appears to be a subscription requirement for that.  6/10

Film Brief: Deepwater Horizon

Like Everest, Deepwater Horizon fails at the most most crucial point.  But at least Everest was an engaging picture.  I still don’t know what or how the explosion(s) occurred, and I don’t want to reverse-figure out the movie on Wikipedia.  A good documentary on the subject would have been infinitely better — so I guess I’ll wait for that on PBS.  I did like the parts that weren’t just a bunch of banging, and John Malkovich was perfection.  4/10

Comparison Notes (recommended): Captain Phillips, Sully, Gravity, Everest