Films, Late January/Early February

Tuesday 5th February 2019

More films.

I went to see Glass, as I mentioned in my last film review post.  It was *OK*.  Better than Split and not as good as Unbreakable.  It has the feel of a very low-budget film (aside from the fees to the three lead actors, I assume), as almost all the action takes place either in disused factories, or a secure unit for psychiatric patients (prisoners) which looks like a disused hospital. The climactic moments are shot in the car park, in what I thought was maybe supposed to be an ironic or even actually funny ending.  For example, one of the characters drowns in a six-inch deep puddle, having first been dunked in a plastic water tank like the one I used to have on the allotment.  But I don’t recommend it.  I only went because I didn’t want to see Mary, Queen of Scots (FYI, America, Mary and Elizabeth never met); and I am a Completer-Finisher and had by that time, seen the first 2 films.  I also went because at Bridgwater, it is cheap.  If I had been invited to pay fancy Weston-s-Mare prices, I would have not bothered. If I had those 2.2 hours back, I’d knit a hat at home.

Next I went to see Can You Ever Forgive Me.  This is the true story of an American writer called Lee Israel and her ‘friend’ Jack.  Lee was an autobiographer, who had some success in the 1980s and then fell out of fashion, got ‘block’, started drinking a lot (well, she does in the film) and whose life was spiralling rapidly downwards by 1991, which is the start of the film.  This is one of the best films I have seen in a long time.  It’s funny and sad, it’s clever and stylish.  The two lead actors are Melissa McCarthy (Gilmore Girls, lots of films – some not so good, great impersonation of the odious Sean Spicer, former press aid to the repugnant D’Trump); and Richard E Grant.  They are both fantastic.  Grant is louche, poignant, the character being painfully revealed in harsh, unforgiving close-up.  McCarthy is just wonderful as Israel – vulnerable, awkward in a way that is off the awkward scale, a real bitch, funny and clever.  There are no special effects.  No laughs.  No CGI.  Just a host of well-drawn characters and a really impressive script.  It’s about 10 minutes too long.  What Lee did was fraud.  She forged 100s of documents which were ‘attributed’ to famous and deceased celebrities such as Noel Coward and Dorothy Parker.  A quote that Lee attributed to Parker is the title of this film, and also Lee’s own autobiography which she wrote after she had been convicted.  The film does not celebrate the crimes.  Lee and Jack did not get rich.  They paid rent, paid vet bills, bought booze.  Lee just had the idea, borne from desperation and luck and she did it very well.  I really do love this film because it is different and intelligent.  I think you should go and see it.

Free on Amazon Prime now is a 2018 film called Madame.  This has a great cast, and a clever story line hook.  The maid of a rich American couple is forced by her Madame to pose as a mysterious Spanish noble-woman at a dinner party because Madame is superstitious and otherwise has 13 guests.  Maria, the maid, is an instant hit.  I really enjoyed it, mainly because of Maria and the beauty of the settings – Paris.  The story does fizzle out though and the end is weak.  That said, it is a good find and I really enjoyed it.  It is also the perfect length.  

Roma is a Spanish language film, with sub-titles, free on Netflix now.  It was made in 2018, and has been Oscar nominated and that is why I watched it.  It is far from ideal for me as I watch all my home-films while knitting or cooking, things I do A LOT and for which I need my eyes to be on the work/knives most of the time. So I watched this while just, you know, watching a film.  Which may be one of the reasons I did not love it.  It is quite boring for me to sit and watch a film with no activity.  Even at the pictures I knit until it is impossible and if the film is 2+ hours, I really fidget and even get up and leave the screen-room for a break.  So, I watched Roma.  It is shot in black and white, and is set in 1970s Mexico.  It is a film of domesticity, bondage and trials.  It is sad – very sad.  I can see why it has been nominated though, it is thought provoking and very attractive to look at in parts. I did not, on balance, enjoy it.  But it is good.

Finally, for now, The Bench, free on Amazon Prime.  Very low-budget (such as micro-budget, I bet no-one got paid) 2017 British short-ish film.  It would be easy to ridicule this film, and God knows, I can ridicule if I am baited by a terrible film – see my review of The Bookshop, for example – but I won’t.  That is because it is a sweet and innocent little film, which, if you had say six lots of veg to prepare for eight guests, or a small pile of ironing, I would say is worth having on in the background.  I watched it while cleaning, cooking and generally pottering about.  I didn’t even watch it all, some of it I just listened to because I walked away from the iPad.  The acting sounds like people reading from a book and there is no set, other than a London park bench.  But despite the rather hackneyed premise of ‘oh! if only a bench could tell the tales it has seen!’ I have sat on a lot of London benches, notably around St Paul’s because I work with a lot of clients thereabouts and am often early, or have some free time.  And it is true that a lot of potentially very interesting things do seem to happen on benches.  Arguably a lot more interesting than in this film.  But there we are – it’s not good, but it is oddly appealing.  Like a really well-made student media project. I liked the busker. 

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