Lee’s family hides its demons behind a perfect surface. Then she (Gyllenhaal) meets a man (Spader) who not only sees but comments on her every flaw. Exposure exhilarates her. Meanwhile, of course, he’s got problems of his own. Beautifully stylized, highly erotic, psychologically acute “romantic comedy.” NOTE: Adults only! More on SECRETARY.
Another triumphant performance by Polley as a withdrawn woman slow to reveal the trauma buried away in her past. Writer/director Coixet develops characters who are deeply engaging: we want to know their secrets & we’re shocked & sad when the answers eventually pour forth. Patience well rewarded! More on THE SECRET LIFE OF WORDS.
“Ma” (Chen) is a Chinese-speaking widow locked in her Flushing enclave. “Wil” (Krusiec), her American-born daughter, is a doctor (great!) & a lesbian (oops!). Then Ma gets pregnant, her patriarchal father expels her, & she moves into Wil’s Manhattan apartment. Charming film: feminist/humanist messages artfully placed with warmth & humor. More on SAVING FACE.
Lalia’s in her early ‘40s. She feels young & full of life, but bewildered by the narrow role her culture assigns to widows. This is a small, beautifully-assembled story of middle-class life in Tunisia. Every moment feels right & true. Wonderful musical soundtrack. Kudos to Amari & star Abbass. More on SATIN ROUGE.
A horrific traffic accident reverberates thru the lives of neighbors in a comfortable suburb. Close is enormously moving as the mother of one of the victims, slowly unraveling & then pulling herself together at the end with heart-breaking dignity. All the other actors, adults & kids alike, are also superb. More on THE SAFETY OF…
Sidney Lumet made many fine films @ the edge where the personal & the political meet. This is the best. Two 60’s radicals cobble a successful life together underground, until their teenage son comes of age. Christine Lahti & Judd Hirsch are the parents. Oscar-nominated River Phoenix plays the son. More on RUNNING ON EMPTY.
Holocaust drama directed by left-wing German feminist focuses on ordinary people caught in the maelstrom of history. Contemporary framing story about a Manhattan Jewish family works to emphasize shades of gray in a story typically told in b&w. Bottomline: German people did know what was happening. Some protested. Most didn’t.***** For more, see the “Columns”…
Sukowa received numerous awards for her moving incarnation of this fabled left-wing heroine. While von Trotta’s biopic does a brilliant job of psychological exploration (showing how RL managed to thrive during years of imprisonment), she’s less successful at explicating the complex politics of the early 20th century. More on ROSA LUXEMBURG.
Bev (Barrymore) is a bright high school misfit who gets a little careless & winds up pregnant. It’s 1965 & she’s from a Catholic working class family, so she bows to convention & marries the guy. A solid film about family life — rebellions, betrayals, & reconciliations. Excellent performances all around. More on RIDING IN…
This romantic comedy has a soft sweet core, so Director Hunt wisely surrounds her couple (Driver & Duchovny) with lots of lively banter from a large cast of accomplished character actors, including her own sparring with “husband” Jim Belushi. Driver is always good, & Duchovny provides real chemistry here. More on RETURN TO ME.