"About Elly", "Clouds of Silas Maria", "Gemma Bovery", "Love & Mercy", "Spy", "Testament of Youth", "The Farewell Party", "When Marnie Was There", "Wild Tales", "Woman in Gold", Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, Melissa McCarthy, Paul Fieg
Here are mini-reviews of four recent movies we found enjoyable, plus links to some we saw over the past six to nine months that are now available in some theaters.
This one surprised and delighted me.
A mainstream movie, it stars Melissa McCarthy in a ‘take down’ of virtually every spy movie you’ve ever seen, especially the 007 ones. It’s a laugh out loud film about a woman who emerges from the basement of ‘Agency’ headquarters to track down and beat the bad guys.
McCarthy is terrific in her role and somehow walks the line between being funny and absurd. She’s helped by a good supporting cast (Miriam Hart, Jude Law, Rose Byrnem, and Jason Statham) and a script and direction by Paul Ferg that kept me laughing (despite myself).
* * * * *
We saw a double feature on a Sunday afternoon (tho we paid separately for each film). These two were very different approaches to somewhat similar themes — films about young people who don’t fit in and how they ‘overcome’ their unhappiness.
When Marnie Was There ****
I have seen very few animated films and generally avoid them (unless I’m with one of my grandchildren).
This one may make me rethink my prejudice against them (animated films, not my grandchildren).
In When Marnie Was There both the story and the animation grab you and keep you.
The story is of Anna, a 12-year-old Japanese girl who is unhappy, isolated, and withdrawn. Her parents send her to live with a relative in the countryside (Hokkaido), near the sea, and what follows is a mixture of a fantasy, a ghost story, and a mystery. It’s likely based on a fable that is unfamiliar to me.
Even better than the story is the animation. I don’t know quite what makes this film’s production more appealing for me than others I’ve seen. Each ‘scene’ is simply engaging and is a lovely mixture of colors, drawings, and transitions that seem both fantastical and real.
Me & Earl & the Dying Girl ****
The three actors in the picture above make this film worth seeing.
The story is one that has been told before. In this case, it’s about three high school seniors — Greg (Thomas Mann), Rachel (Olivia Cooke) and Earl (R.J. Cyler) — whose lives intersect and who affect each other. Greg has carefully found a way to hide his inability to fit in; Earl, who is black, is Greg’s only friend, tho Greg calls him his co-worker; and Rachel, another senior and someone Greg barely knows, has just been diagnosed with leukemia. Their story is based on a novel by Jesse Andrews (loosely based on his own life?) and who also wrote the screenplay for the movie.
All three of the young actors are engaging, and their interactions ring true. Mann is the star, and we see more of him than we do of Cooke or Cycler. But all three seem to ‘get’ their characters just right. They have a way of making the story legitimate.
I suspect audiences will enjoy this film more than some critics, who no doubt will correctly find parts of the film overdone and implausible. But whatever you might think of how the film portrays this story, the performances by Mann, Cooke, and Cycler are terrific and make for an effective, moving film.
Love & Mercy *****
Ellen and I saw this on a weekday afternoon, where the very young theater employee said, “It’s so cute helping you seniors navigate our new ticket buying machines.”
So, if you’re younger than we are, you might take what follows with a bit of skepticism.
The Beach Boys.
You’ve no doubt heard of them. You might even have grown up with them, or you might think it’s old peoples’ music. No doubt you know more about Brian Wilson than we did when we went to see his story.
If you want to see a biographical movie that is different than most and is truly brilliant, IMHO, check out this one. It’s a story that delves deeply into the psychology of Wilson (the creative genius of the Beach Boys), and it will keep you involved for the two hours that it takes to learn about him. The film focuses on just two periods in Wilson’s life and gives you unusual insights into Wilson’s song writing as well as his struggles with his mental health. It will leave you with a deeper appreciation of his musical genius and what personal torments he experienced over a number of decades.
Wilson is well played by two different actors, Paul Dano and John Cusak. The former portrays him as he ‘was’ in the ’60s’ and the latter as he ‘was’ in the 80’s. The film flips back and forth between the two time periods, but it is not difficult to follow. Dano and Cusak both are outstanding, and several other key actors, Elizabeth Banks as Melinda Ledbetter and Paul Giamatti as Dr. Eugene Landy, also give strong performances.
I don’t know how accurate Love & Mercy is and whether it fairly portrays Wilson and the others around him. Wilson and Ledbetter were consulted during the making of the film, and Wilson is reported to have said the film is “very factual.”
I suspect there is a good deal of truth to what you will see. Plus, the script, the music and presentation of the film makes for a fascinating two hours.
** * * ** ** ** ** ** **
Many of the movies I ‘tout’ on MillersTime are ones we’ve seen in our Sunday Cinema Club, in a couple of the film festivals we attend (Philly & Miami), or in one of the (dwindling) theaters in the metro DC area that show independent or foreign films. If a film is from the first two of these venues, then I know most of you have to wait until those films come out. If your memory is as bad as mine, it’s easy to forget about those films. And not everyone who reads MillersTime, I know, has access to theaters that show independent or foreign films.
So, occasionally, I will mention films that have been nationally released and are now available a bit more widely.
With that in mind, here are some films we enjoyed that are currently being shown in the metro DC area. You can click on any of them to go to the mini review I posted when I saw that film.