Sunday, June 3, 2018

BEAST (2018)



Rated:  R

STARS: Jessie Buckley, Johnny Flynn
DIRECTOR: Michael Pearce
GENRE: Mystery/Romance/Horror

It's in there. That beast. In all of us, I suppose, and could rear its fangs at any moment given the right set of circumstances--or in this case the right person--to bring it to the fore. And as I write this I'm idly channel surfing and happen to land on the cheesy looking monster from An American Werewolf In London wreaking havoc on the rent-a-crowd of movie extras running screaming through the streets. 

What we're dealing with in Beast is a subtler kind of demon that inhabits the bodies of Moll (Jessie Buckley), a 27 year-old living at home with her family--a timid girl by outward appearances--and her boyfriend Pascal (Johnny Flynn), a hunter and illegal poacher of small animals who, with his haunted eyes, looks the part from the get-go. 

Teenage girls are being murdered on their English Channel island of Jersey, and Pascal becomes a suspect. Maybe it's because serial killers often start with animals. Or that he just seems strange and walks around looking menacing with a rifle for half the movie. But as Beast incrementally reveals more of who Moll is, we start to suspect that yeah, she just might have that in her too. (There was that attack with a pair of scissors on one of her young peers that she claims was in self defense.) They are kindred spirits, these two, and a passionate romance between deeply screwed up people is always fascinating to watch. Moll is like a Hawaiian volcano always on the verge of erupting, and in fact she does literally blow chunks in one of the film's did-we-really-need-to-see-that moments. That and a scene of animal cruelty that is gratuitously graphic might make you question first time writer/director Michael Pierce's judgement. 

But the reason to see Beast lies with Jessie Buckley. This is her movie, and she has the acting chops to bring off this controlled burn performance in a way that foreshadows some blazing fireworks at the end. And if that's your thing, you're in for the full 4th Of July treatment.

Grade:  B


JILL'S TAKE

A couple of reviews ago, I remember writing that I didn't like unclear endings, that too much thinking gave me hives. (Disobedience)  Well this who-done-it left me, my movie buddy and the man walking in front of us, as we left the theater, in disagreement about who the killer was.  But really, that isn't the point of Beast. Tim summed it up beautifully when he wrote 'a passionate romance between deeply screwed-up people.'  For anyone who thinks they're in a dysfunctional relationship, this movie will make you feel much better!

The actress who plays the female lead is breathtakingly good.  I looked her up on IMDb and got a kick out of her journey to cinematic stardom. And I quote:  "Jessie Buckley is an Irish singer and actress, who came in second place in the BBC talent show-themed television series "I'd Do Anything."  It kind of reminded me of Jennifer Hudson's success after coming in seventh in ABC's "American Idol."  She went on to win a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her stunning performance in Dreamgirls. (2007) I'd love the same fate to befall Jessie Buckley. 

But Beast isn't a flick for the faint of heart. Lots of violence, lots of tension. And a mother that would drive any sensitive young girl to the brink of madness. Or at least into the arms of an equally unstable boyfriend.  For all their scenes of sensuality, nobody took off any clothes. This irked my male companion.  And I must admit he  has point.  After all, nothing else seemed off limits to this demented duo.  Why such modesty in the sack?

I'm torn about grading Beast.  It was an unsettling film and there were a few slow moments where my eyelids got heavy. I still don't know who the killer was.  But the weirdness of the story, the haunting cinematography, the originality of the script deserve high marks.

Grade: B-


Monday, May 28, 2018

BOOK CLUB (2018)



Rated: PG-13

STARS: Candice Bergen, Jane Fonda, Diane Keaton, Mary Steenburgen

DIRECTOR: Bill Holderman
GENRE: Romantic Comedy

I'm sitting inside a theater that's at least half full for a matinee performance, and having scanned the crowd, I'm quite certain I'm the only one with a member in attendance at this showing of Book Club.  (To point out that it's a total chick flick would be like belaboring the obvious about a bear in the woods.) But the chance to see four icons of the silver screen--Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, Diane Keaton, and Mary Steenburgen-- playing off of one another in a never to be repeated event is too good to pass up.

Vivian (Jane Fonda) is a successful hotelier--cynical to the bone, who "never sleeps with anyone she really likes." Sharon (Candice Bergen) is a federal judge who is dabbling judiciously in online dating. Diane (Diane Keaton) is a widow with two condescending daughters who think that mom is ready to join the I've-Fallen-And-I-Can't-Get-Up crowd. She is far from that. And Carol (Mary Steenburgen) is a chef whose longtime marriage to Bruce (Craig T. Nelson) is in a real rut--and it's rutting that seems to be the issue.

The tie that binds the four ladies together is their book club, and this time they've selected Fifty Shades Of Grey to be their titillating read. This sets the table for some raunchy one-liners when they get together, none of which I thought were that funny, but it's "cute" because of their ages, right?  In real life Steenburgen is 65; Fonda is 80; Keaton and Bergen are 72, but they pass off as contemporaries due to the wonders of cosmetic surgery that have kept Ms. Fonda looking like Barbie (or Barbarella) for all these years.

What works in this romantic comedy is not the comedy, but the romance, and the four separate story lines provide a lot of poignant moments. Richard Dreyfuss, Don Johnson, Andy Garcia, and Craig T. Nelson as the counterparts or potential partners for these ladies would be an impressive list of stars in any other film, were they not yielding the spotlight to these four heavyweights (oh go on...I mean that in a good way!) That and a soundtrack full of uplifting tunes that fit so well and hit all the right notes at the right times to manipulate your emotions. But you won't mind.

One scene that is funny is Richard Dreyfuss and Candice Bergen's characters out on a date--the chemistry between them is awesome. And a sight gag with Craig T. Nelson's character after his wife has slipped Viagra into his drink is particularly pointed.

So here we have a film that would be your run of the mill rom-com in every way, except that it's out to prove that love is ageless. And that's what sets it apart in a you-go-girl way. On the "negative" side, Book Club displays a bit too much of the jaw-dropping beauty of my home state, Arizona. I can hear the sound of folks packing their bags and heading west as we speak. All right then, if you must. I've been thinking of hiring out as a tour guide anyway.

Grade:  B


JILL'S TAKE

Unlike Tim's movie experience, the AMC theater I attended was packed full of  enthusiastic seniors ready to giggle their wrinkles away at four women dealing with the realities of sex after a certain age.  Of course, not all over-70 ladies look like these four glamour gals. Nor do they find themselves on a plane, seated next to some ridiculously sexy pilot played to perfection by Andy Garcia (age 62). Nor do they bump into an old beau (Don Johnson, age 68) who, after a 40 year absence, looks like he belongs on the cover of GQ. (I had my own senior giggle, knowing that Johnson's daughter Dakota plays the female lead in the movie versions of Fifty Shades!)  As unrelated as this feel-good film is to real life--  especially the online dating scene -- I'll bet my bloomers it'll be a box office biggie. 

The dialogue is crisp.  The situations, funny.  And the ensemble acting is worth the price of admission. (Shockingly high here in southern California, I might add.)  But the gal I went to the movie with pointed out how Jane Fonda seems to always be Jane Fonda in every role she plays.  I'd have to agree with her.  Then again, acting has never been a strong point with this uber in-shape daughter of a Hollywood legend. (The only film where I felt she exhibited some serious acting chops was On Golden Pond.)

There's a line Candice Bergen says that will remain with me long after I forget The Book Club: (and I'm paraphrasing here): "Love is just a word until someone makes it real."  To me, that's right up there with "Love means never having to say you're sorry." (Love Story, 1970)  "Hate put me in prison.  Love's gonna bust me out."  (The Hurricane, 1999) And, going way back, "Love is a song that never ends."  (Bambi, 1942)

For something escapist with nary a car chase, or a robot taking over the universe, I highly recommend this romantic comedy.  "Love never goes out of style." (Jill, 2018)

Grade: A

Monday, May 21, 2018

DISOBEDIENCE (2018)



Rated:  R

STARS: Rachel Weisz, Rachel McAdams, Alessandro Nivola

DIRECTOR: Sebastian Lelio
GENRE: Drama

Pay close attention to the opening monologue in Disobedience, because the theme of the film is encapsulated there.  Rav Krushka,  the elderly spiritual leader of an orthodox Jewish congregation in London, is pouring it all out--as if these would be the final words he would ever speak. Immediately afterwards, he croaks. This sets up the return of his estranged daughter, Ronit (Rachel Weisz), a New York photographer who was exiled from the community due to her youthful penchant for her own gender--in particular her childhood friend, Esti (Rachel McAdams). Ronit is not welcomed back with open arms into the closed--and closed-minded--community, but she is invited to stay with Esti and their mutual school days chum, Rabbi David Kuperman (Alessandro Nivola), who is now Esti's husband.

It doesn't take long before the repressed passions between Ronit and Esti are rekindled, leading them to consummate their love for each other on the sly, which will set up the inevitable conflict for Esti to choose between desire and duty--whether to flee with Ronit to New York or stay and be the good wife for her husband and support him in his ambition to take over the leadership position that Ronit's father has vacated.

What to do. What to do.

Disobedience is about life in a closed conservative religious community, and it feels as real and authentic as you can get, right down to some great singing in Hebrew that even someone like me can appreciate. It's also about lesbian sex, as there's a really hot lovemaking scene between Weisz and McAdams. Oh wait a minute...it's not between the actors, it's between their characters--Ronit and Esti. Because in real life these two have male partners, and so of course they're just acting. Decide for yourself on that one.

But the central theme of the movie is what lies at the heart of existentialism, and it harkens back to Rav Krushka's monologue at the beginning of the film: Free will. The freedom to choose. The main tenet of existentialist philosophy is that with freedom comes responsibility. This plays out beautifully in Disobedience, as Esti has a lot more to consider in making her decision than just her own happiness. It all leads to a climactic scene (no, not that one) that's as touching as any I have seen on film. And while the first half hour or so of Disobedience is as slow as the molasses in January, the story will draw you in with three remarkable turns from Weisz, McAdams, and Nivola, and you'll be hooked in short order.

For me to reveal more than that just wouldn't be kosher.

Grade:  A


JILL'S TAKE

People who read our joint reviews tell me they much prefer it when our opinions are diametrically opposed. Well, get ready, folks! Maybe it's because I didn't like studying existentialism in college.  Or I have an automatic mad-on for stultifying religious communities.  But Disobedience left me disappointed and disgruntled.  

The film took forever to get started, as director Sebastian Lelio (who also directed A Fantastic Woman) wanted us to understand every little nuance of the plot.  I'm a great believer in bookends, i.e. starting and ending a film with the same visual. Disobedience followed this cinematic premise to the letter. But as a romantic (and a fan of Hollywood schmaltz), I believe love should triumph over anything else. Especially when the other choice is so depressing.  

When Casablanca first came out, the producers aired two separate endings:  one where Bogart and Bergman stayed together; the other where war and duty triumphed. (I didn't like that ending either!)

The acting is superb and that sex scene Tim refers to is tastefully done albeit highly erotic.  For you trivia buffs, it might interest you to know that Rachel Weisz (the wife of Daniel Craig aka "007") is having her first child at age 48. Obviously, she's a rebel in real life, too!

Too much thinking gives me a headache. I like my movies to be entertaining.  They can be violent.  Or scary.  Or even sad.  But when a philosophical  concept drives the storyline it makes me break out in hives.

Grade: C -

Sunday, April 29, 2018

LEAN ON PETE (2018)



Rated: R

STARS: Charlie Plummer, Steve Buscemi, Chloe Sevigny, Travis Fimmel
DIRECTOR: Andrew Haigh
GENRE: Drama

I once read a review by a prominent film critic who was so disgusted by the ending of Pay It Forward that he revealed the ending in the review, reasoning that what happened was a cheap and shitty thing to do to viewers who had invested their money and emotional energy into something that up to that point had been an uplifting experience, and that they were better off knowing. I'm about to do something similar here, though I'm not revealing the ending...just the ending of my caring anything about what happens in this film from that point forward. 

Imagine if King Kong were not about a gorilla, but more about one of the Skull islanders who threw bananas at him from afar, and the gorilla was just incidental to the story...a prop, basically. You'd wonder why the hell they named the movie King Kong, now wouldn't you? And you might be pretty pissed at the film makers for the misleading way they advertised the movie to get gorilla lovers to fill the seats. That, in essence, is Lean On Pete, purportedly a story about a boy and his horse. It's not. It's a violent, mean-spirited film masquerading as a lyrical tale about a boy and a horse. The horse is just incidental to the story--expendable not only to the cold-hearted racing industry that uses the animals up and then sends them off to the glue factory when they no longer make money for the owners, but expendable to the plot of this film as well. And I don't consider my revealing this a spoiler so much as a public service for animal lovers and parents with children who love horses. This is not your kind of movie!  

Charlie Plummer is Charley Thompson, the Oregon teenager who gets hired on as a stable hand for a grizzled, cynical trainer of the low-rent quarter horse racing circuit, Del Montgomery (Steve Buscemi). Lean On Pete is the  name of the horse Charley takes a shine to. Despite repeated admonitions to not get emotionally involved (good idea for you too), Charley is crestfallen when he learns Del is about to sell Pete and that the horse will end up in Mexico and become dog food. Charley loads Pete into the trailer and takes off, embarking on a cross-country odyssey, roaming through picturesque fields that make for some great cinematography. He's trying to find his estranged aunt, who lives somewhere in Wyoming, and maybe have a place to call home.        


It is here where the film breaks the covenant with viewers who are expecting something more than just killing off characters for convenience. (Charley's dad dies earlier in the film as well.) Killing off characters is the easy way out if you don't know what to do with them. What's hard is bringing their screen time--synonymous with their time on this earth--to some sort of existential vista where they, and the viewer, can gaze back from and ponder how it all fits into the what's-it-all-about-Alfie narrative of their life. 

In fairness, the film makers were just being faithful to the 2010 novel by Willy Vlautin, so they're not responsible for the plot elements. What they are responsible for is the graphic, jarring and manipulative way they showed Pete making his "exit," which comes about two-thirds of the way through the film. After which, as stated above, I cared not a whit about what happened the rest of the way--just sat through it because I was going to review it. 

Still, this is a hard one for me to grade. Because there are good turns here from the young Plummer, who gives an understated performance that makes him seem real. And Steve Buscemi, demonstrating the versatility of his acting chops as the crusty trainer. And the film should maybe win an award for sound editing, because when those quarter horses come thundering past you, it puts you right there. I'm torn between what I want to give it on a heart level and what I want to give it on a head level. So I'll average the two out. 

Grade: C


JILL'S TAKE

Well, readers.  Get ready for some big disagreements. Lean On Pete is a film about survival.  And the title is both the name of a racehorse and a metaphor for Charley's journey.  Yes, I assumed when I entered the movie theater, that I'd be seeing a grittier version of My Friend Flicka. But even as the stark opening credits rolled and the unfamiliar production company announced itself, I knew it wasn't going to be a kiddies' film. 

There are so many unexpected twists and turns in Lean On Pete that I defy even the most knowledgeable film goer to predict any of them in advance.  Because they were so unpredictable, I actually felt like I was experiencing them along with Charley. (Not an altogether pleasant feeling but certainly an engrossing one.)  The kid who played Charley was brilliant.  Since his last name is Plummer, I wondered if he was any relation to Christopher. No, he isn't.  But he did play John Paul Getty's grandson in All The Money In The World. (The other Plummer played Getty Sr.) 

The rest of the cast was also excellent.  Steve Buscemi...Chloe Sevigny...and especially Steve Zahn, as a homeless psychopath. Reality was rampant in this nugget of a film  Whether witnessing PTSD victims at their very worst.  Or the smarmy side of horse racing.  I was hooked -- like a morbid onlooker at the scene of a car crash. 

Another disagreement with Tim?  I thought the sound editing sucked. Too loud in places, inaudible in others.  But a minor criticism.  On the whole, I really liked this movie.  My subtitle for Lean On Pete? (It ain't The Kentucky Derby....)

Grade: B+



Sunday, April 15, 2018

CHAPPAQUIDDICK (2018)


Rated:  PG-13

STARS: Jason Clarke, Ed Helms, Kate Mara, Bruce Dern
DIRECTOR: John Curran
GENRE: Historical Docudrama

Recalling my youthful impressions of what the Chappaquiddick incident was about: It's 1969 and Senator Ted Kennedy is driving home from a party late at night...possibly drunk...with a young worker from his late brother Bobby's campaign--Mary Jo Kopechne--when he runs off a bridge...the car is submerged...Kennedy escapes...she doesn't...he claims to have made valiant efforts to rescue her...he waits eight or so hours--pondering how to handle the situation--before reporting the incident to the authorities. He may have been boinking her.

As it turns out, my recollections were spot on according to the known facts as they are presented in Chappaquiddick. What remains unknown---and forever so--and the speculation surrounding it to this day is what keeps the film from being a boring documentary style retelling of old news.   

But if you're looking for fresh insights to lead you to one conclusion or another as to what really occurred on that fateful night, you won't find them--save for a couple of brief scenes that suggest the senator and Mary Joe may have engaged in some hanky-panky earlier in the evening. 

Chappaquiddick cuts Kennedy no slack, portraying him as shallow and more angst-ridden over the political ramifications to his possible presidential bid than he was over the snuffing out of a young life due to his negligence.  Jason Clarke, as the senator, brings these qualities out in spades. Kate Mara, as Mary Jo, doesn't get enough screen time (as you might expect) to bring any depth to the character of Ms. Kopechne. Bruce Dern, in what has to be the strangest and most WTF role of his career, plays a grotesque, near mute papa Joseph Kennedy, whose guttural utterances demonstrate his disdain for his only surviving son in scenes that are played to their maximum dramatic potential. Ed Helms, as cousin Joe Gargan--one of the senator's "fixers"--gives the strongest performance of the ensemble crew.  

Down the aisle from me, a coterie of older folks tittered away...derisively yukking it up virtually every time Teddy came on screen. In other words, the entire length of this brooding film--revealing themselves as being obviously from the "other side."  Reveling gleefully again in the man's misfortune! There's plenty of grist for them here too. Some will even interpret Chappaquiddick as a straight up hit piece on the Kennedy clan, and by implication, the progressive ideology they embraced--the timing of its release no coincidence in this critical election year. Anyway, prepare to be annoyed by such boisterous folk in the theater, depending on the random luck of where you are seated.  

If I were them, I'd have piped down and observed and taken a lesson from the master spin doctors who helped to resurrect Ted Kennedy's political career to where he was reelected to the U.S. senate continuously for another forty years until his death in 2009. Because when it comes to the art of the spin, their current heroes are tripping all over themselves. 

Grade:  B

JILL'S TAKE

As someone well acquainted with the environs of Cape Code and Martha's Vineyard, I felt Chappaquiddick portrayed both beach life and the world of the not-so-idle rich to perfection.  Kudos to cinematographer Maryse Alberti.  In watching the story of young Ted's self-serving neglect, I kept hoping none of the surviving Kennedys would watch this cinematic hatchet job on their uncle.  We all make mistakes....Granted, not as horrific as this one was....

I think the screenplay took certain liberties.  For example, it is widely known that Joseph Kennedy never spoke another word after his stroke. But the scene -- whether accurate or not -- where two of Ted's closest pals went diving in the water trying desperately to save Mary Jo while Ted lay prostrate on the dock was a definite shocker. 

An odd bit of casting was comedian Jim Gaffigan as states attorney Paul F. Marham.  A close friend of Teddy's, he willingly bent the truth for his drinking buddy. Be that as it may, I couldn't help watching Gaffigan in the role and recalling many of his comedy bits.  ("hot pockets," etc.)

I wasn't the least bit bored by this rehashing of history.  I did, however, wonder who Ann (Joseph Kennedy's caretaker) was.  A relative?  A nurse? Because she wielded quite a bit of power in this family drama, her relationship should have been explained. 

Not a film for everyone, especially if you're a  Kennedy worshipper.  But Jason Clark's performance is worth the price of a ticket.

Grade B+

Friday, March 23, 2018

DEATH WISH 2018



Rated:  R

STARS: Bruce Willis, Vincent D'Onofrio, Elisabeth Shue, Camilla Morrone
DIRECTOR: Eli Roth
GENRE: Action-Adventure/Drama

Remakes are seldom as good or have the same pizazz as the original (a notable exception was The Thomas Crown Affair). And if we're going to compare and contrast (which we are) Death Wish 2018 with the original 1974 film starring Charles Bronson, the latter version is a misfire. You can't call it a remake, really, so much as something loosely based on the original. 

Paul Kersey (Bruce Willis) is a Chicago surgeon with a nice life. Beautiful wife and daughter. When three intruders break into his home, his wife is killed and his daughter ends up in a coma. Thus begins the transformation, and the irony, of a man who has dedicated his life to saving lives turning into "The Grim Reaper"--cold-blooded judge, jury, and executioner of the violent street scum that have turned Chicago into the murder capital of the country. 

Charles Bronson had the ability to be debonair and dangerous at the same time, and that's what made him intriguing. Bruce Willis is a blue collar guy all the way, and thus hard to swallow as a surgeon from the get-go. He plays it deadpan pretty much throughout, and without the smirking wise-ass persona we've come to know and love, there's not a lot of charisma there. The producers are counting on name recognition alone to put butts in the seats.

The original Death Wish was pretty shocking. It contained one of the most brutal and graphic rape scenes ever for a major film. Wisely, the new version doesn't go there. Which is not to say it doesn't have a ton of violence and gore--whether it's in the operating room or mowing down the bad guys with an increasingly deadly arsenal of firepower. Bruce's Paul Kersey not only offs the perps, he tortures them as well. Bronson's vigilante had too much class for that. He just did what he had to do...plugged 'em and got the hell out of Dodge. All the way to Tucson, with its  established historical precedent for the kind of frontier justice he was meting out. It was a fitting backdrop. Our contemporary vigilante never makes it out of Chicago, and I guess that might turn anybody into a monster.

The similarity is in the message. Fight fire with fire. The end justifies the means because it's often a long wait for the cops to arrive. Only the timing for Death Wish 2018 couldn't have been worse, as a wave of anti gun sentiment now sweeps across the nation.  Even so, you may catch yourself rooting for Mr. Kersey and his do-it-yourself approach...until you stop and say: what am I thinking? 

That's the times we live in.

Grade:  C 

JILL'S TAKE

I kind of knew what to expect from my co-reviewer (since the original Death Wish was one of his very favorite films) but I didn't expect that I'd like this latest version as much as I did.  Of course Bronson's Paul Kersey as an architect was a lot easier to buy than Willis' surgeon role.  But when payback time began, and Die Hard Brucie got down to the business of killing, he became totally believable. Still, the choice by screenwriter Joe Carnahan to make our main character a surgeon was a tad dicey.  (Can you picture any of the surgeons on "Grey's Anatomy" behaving in such an unsavory manner?)

But I was definitely seat-of-the-pants involved with this thriller. The part of Kersey's somewhat shady brother Frank was beautifully portrayed by Vincent D'Onofrio. (He's one of these actors you've seen on TV and in movies but can't quite place.) 

And in an eerie example of life imitating art, the actress who plays Kersey's wife, Elizabeth Shue, was just in the news recently, pleading for any information leading to the arrest of the person who repeatedly stabbed her 20-year-old nephew on the streets of London.

My only nitpicking comment?  We should all be as quickly healed as Bruce Willis was from all his serious bodily injuries.... 

Be forewarned -- there's a lot of maiminig in this movie.  So if the sight of blood makes you queasy, go see Sherlock Gnomes instead.  

Grade: B +

   

  

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A FANTASTIC WOMAN (2018



Rated:  R

STARS: Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes
DIRECTOR: Sebastian Lelio
GENRE: Drama/Arthouse

The screen is a very powerful tool for social acceptance.
--Andie MacDowell

There still seems to be some confusion these days about transgender folks. I'm not sure that the Chilean drama, A Fantastic Woman, clears any of that up, but it is a poignant and sympathetic character study of one individual.

A transgender person is someone whose gender identity differs from their biological sex at birth. 
(Or as I like to say: the biology doesn't match the psychology!Simply put, one's sex is about the body...one's gender identity is in the mind. A transsexual is someone who has taken steps to more physically resemble the gender they identify with through the use of hormones and/or surgical procedures. So, if anyone should ask... 

Were you to begin watching a A Fantastic Woman with no prior knowledge of what's what, you'd be in for a surprise as it is slowly revealed that Marina (Daniela Vega) is not a biological woman. Ya coulda fooled me, as the saying goes. There's no indication as to whether it fooled her ostensibly straight older lover, Orlando (Francisco Reyes), in the beginning, so we don't really know how or why they hooked up. But they have real passion for one another. Orlando croaks unexpectedly after they share an evening in bed together, with Marina rushing him to the hospital where a tense life or death drama plays out. It's the beginning of an odyssey of suspicion and bigotry directed toward Marina by the authorities--who suspect she may have had something to do with her lover's death--and Orlando's family, whose attitudes and subsequent actions toward Marina reveal that Chileans may have farther to go than even we here in the U.S. do in developing a live-and-let live attitude toward those who fall out of the mainstream.    

28 year-old Daniela Vega, who gets to display her impressive singing talents in the film, gives an understated (with occasional bouts of explosiveness), perfect pitch performance. She was the first openly transgender person in history to be a presenter at the 2018 Academy Awards broadcast. 

A Fantastic Woman won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film. And while Jill and I frequently fall outside the mainstream with our opinions (yeah, I gave The Shape Of Water a C +), this time I'm falling right in line.
Grade: A   


JILL'S TAKE

And I'm falling in right behind you.  Almost.  Whenever I go to see a foreign film, I have to adjust my mindset. The leisurely pace, original camera work, unglamorized actors catch me off guard at first.  But I soon forget about the escapist entertainment Hollywood churns out and drink in those subtitles with unquenchable thirst.

A Fantastic Woman is a fantastic film.  And I loved the fact that the lead actor Daniela Vega is herself a tranny.  As appealing as she was as a woman, there were some dead giveaways that made me think "Not so fast."  Her large masculine hands, for one.  And her overly broad shoulders, for another.  Still, the one thing most men (who transition into women) can't hide is their Adam's apple.  Ms. Vega's managed to remain unnoticeable.  

I would quibble with the opening of the film.  The whole bit about the key and finding the locker (I'm not giving anything away here) seemed totally unnecessary.  I would have started the movie when our heroine was singing in the club.  But my far-more-intellectual movie buddy pointed out the symbolism: by confronting her own masculinity, she found her true identity.  To me, it was an anti climactic subplot.  (Sorry, I hate people who go into too much detail about a film I haven't seen yet!)

The score was seamless.  And that aria Daniela Vega sang at the end?  Oh, my.  It kept circling around in my head for hours after A Fantastic Woman was over.  Kudos to composers Nani Garcia and Matthew Herbert.  Because I don't want to parrot Tim's grade and I think the ex wife, ably played by Amparo Noguera, was miscast (too young-looking to have a grown son), I'll go down half a grade. After seeing this film, I'm going to make a concerted effort to see more foreign-made movies in 2018!

Grade: B+