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Lyonne is the daughter of a divorced father raising 3 kids. Dad (Arkin) is “between jobs” & Aunt Rita (Tomei) is “between fiances,” but Vivian still has to deal with her first bra, her first boyfriend & her 2 teenage brothers. The bittersweet moments are balanced by a deft comic touch. More on THE SLUMS.
Entertaining romantic comedy about a widower whose young son tricks him into pouring his heart out on a nationally broadcast radio talk show. Letters pour in from far & wide, but his true soul-mate is about to marry someone else in Baltimore. Best of several Hanks/Ryan pairings. More on SLEEPLESS.
Slice-of-life drama set in Tbilisi, Georgia, where the characters struggle to adjust to the post-Soviet capitalist economy. A widow who lost her husband in Afghanistan shares an apartment with her mother & her daughter. The grandmother pines for her son Otar who left them to seek his fortune in Paris. More on SINCE OTAR LEFT.
The Dixie Chicks run afoul of their country music fan base when lead singer Natalie Maines publicly mocks President Bush in the early days of the War in Iraq. Almost everyone & everything in this documentary was new to us, but the directors stitch together a highly compelling narrative for both novices & aficionados. (JLH: 4.5/5.) Click […]
Brilliantly-executed doc digs deep into the dynamics of the 03/04 Broadway season leading up to be one of the most dramatic TONY races in recent memory. TONY-winning producer Berinstein has incredible “insider” access & captures the stress & sweat behind-the-scenes as well as audiences & eye-opening “Greek chorus” of critics. More on SHOWBUSINESS.
Gyllenhaal’s powerhouse performance anchors this grim drama about a drug addict trying to get her life back on track after she’s paroled. Tiny Simpkins plays her daughter, wary of the embrace of an over-eager woman who’s almost a stranger. Gyllenhaal manages to push every button: we weep for her, but also still fear her. More […]
Delightful surprise: Screenwriter Audrey Wells took a Japanese charmer & transformed it into an American paean to married love. Gere’s a successful attorney living a “perfect life” with wife Sarandon, but a chance encounter with Lopez leads him to reach out for more. Terrific ensemble cast pulls it all together. More on SHALL WE DANCE? […]
Breillant is known for her intense & provocative psychological dramas in which the sex act is depicted as a power game between warring parties. In this playfully self-referential exercise, Parillaud plays a director manipulating both cast & crew to capture one such moment. Fascinating but also creepy – & appropriately so. More on SEX IS […]
Charming adaptation of Jane Austen’s novel about 2 sisters adapting to strained circumstances after their father dies. Emma Thompson received an Oscar for her screenplay & also plays the lead. Kate Winslett received her first nomination as the younger sister. Ang Lee’s sensitive direction was completely overlooked by the Academy. More on SENSE & SENSIBILITY. […]
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.
England at the end of the Empire. Stevens (Hopkins) is a butler; he treats “service” in the household of Lord Darlington as a calling, running the staff with the precision of a military officer. When WWII ends, everything changes, and Stevens has nowhere to turn. Elegant drama – nuanced & implicit. More on THE REMAINS […]
“Big Brother is Watching You” when a government employee (Kate Dickie) begins stalking a man (Tony Curran) she’s recognized on one of her surveillance cameras. Tension is almost unbearable as she puts herself at ever-greater risk, including a sexual encounter that’s as disturbing as it is integral to the story. Excellent psychological drama. Read FF2 […]
Well-intentioned coming-of-age dramedy about an LA Latina who has Ivy League potential… if only she can persuade her family to see the “big picture.” The look & feel have more truth than the speeches. Cardoso & Ferrera) try hard, but RWHC, while likeable, is too “politically correct” for its own good. More on REAL WOMEN.