Ebullient musical version of John Waters’ transgressive classic about a chubby teen (Blonsky) whose joie de vivre topples racial barriers, aka DIRTY DANCING goes Baltimore. Travolta plays Mom (!); Walken play Dad; Efron plays the love object. Pfeiffer has great fun as the skinny blonde nemesis, & Walters gets his Hitchcock moment. More on HAIRSPRAY.
From my column for The Woman’s Papers: It’s summertime. Sometimes the best plan is to avoid the heat and sing your heart out at home! GRACE OF MY HEART is director/screenwriter Allison Anders’ musical tribute to the ‘60s. Illeana Douglas stars as “Denise Waverly,” an aspiring singer and gifted composer of pop melodies. Jennifer Leigh […]
The Governess Directed & written by Sandra Goldbacher Principal Actors: Minnie Driver with Tom Wilkinson & Harriet Walter Overview: The Governess takes Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre and turns it inside-out and upside-down. Minnie Driver stars as “Rosina de Silva,” a girl from a prosperous middle-class Jewish family living in London circa 1830. Rosina is […]
Dohan stars as a free-spirited Israeli woman circa 1975. Is she in love with Nagim (Mer) or her own fantasy of Bedouin life? Regardless, her attempts to “go native” have tragic consequences for them both. Jan was mesmerized by characters, cinematography & soundtrack; Rich found emotions overwrought & “mysteries” annoying. More on GOD’S SANDBOX.
Diana (Rodriguez) has every right to the huge chip she’s carrying on her shoulder, but it’s weighing her down. Her future looks bleak until she stumbles on a teacher who helps her channel her aggression into boxing. She finds herself in breaking down old barriers. Raw. Intense. Inspiring. More on GIRLFIGHT.
Director Shainberg re-teams with his SECRETARY collaborator screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson on a very lose adaptation of Patricia Bosworth’s biography of photographer Diane Arbus. Fascinating attempt to depict artistic inspiration succeeds best as a meditation on the birth of ‘60s sensibility, but Jan thinks Kidman isn’t quite “dark” enough to carry the lead. More on […]
FUNNY GIRL (1968) is now in re-release with a new dye transfer process that makes the colors in the new print incredibly vibrant. Barbra is pure electricity. We laughed! Jan cried! We were fully satisfied. Drive as far as you have to — this really is “an event film”!!! More on FUNNY GIRL.
Click here to read my two reviews of Frida from 2002 (one for DVD WOLF & one for the LA arts site PICKLEBIRD): FridaReviews2002 Director Taymor (famous for Broadway’s multiple-Tony award winner The Lion King) has a fabulous eye. Her life partner, composer Elliot Goldenthal, has a fabulous ear. Together, they’ve created an aesthetic masterpiece celebrating […]
Three women (American, Israeli & Palestinian) cross paths for intense one day. Each one is simultaneously herself (with her character’s backstory & complex relationships) as well as a national archetype. Listen to the soundtrack: that’s Chava Alberstein singing her infamous version of CHAD GADYA, so pay attention to the words. More on FREE ZONE.
Very sweet, extremely conventional Disney story about a mother & daughter who, by exchanging bodies for a day, come to understand the world from the other’s point of view. There are no surprises, but the leads do such a good job of impersonating each other that it’s easy to enjoy. More on FREAKY FRIDAY.
New bride (Das) enters household already containing husband’s aged mother, elder brother & wife (Kharbanda+Azmi), & longtime servant (Chowdhry). Both arranged marriages are fragile, & the sisters-in-law turn to each other for ever-deepening, eventually-sexual companionship. Closely-observed exploration of “ordinary” middle-class Indian women confronting tension between traditional expectations & contemporary options. More on FIRE.
Knowing the “back story” helps (Breillat’s older sister is a popular French actress), but this is still a pretty unpleasant experience. The eponymous younger sister is treated with contempt & hostility by both her mother & her sister, but is avenged (well, kinda sorta) at the end. Brutally frank sexuality. More on FAT GIRL.
German-Jewish teenager runs east from the Nazis. He manages to talk his way into a Russian orphanage, but when the region falls under Occupation, he somehow convinces a group of soldiers that he’s a German being held against his will. Improbably tale that’s fact-based – he actually lived to tell it. More on EUROPA, EUROPA.
Aging ex-Miss Wichita (Julia Roberts) bamboozles her way into a file clerk job @ a law firm & then starts reading between the lines. To everyone’s surprise, including her own, she turns out to have a sharp mind as well as a dynamite body. Julia grins & the audience cheers. More on ERIN BROKOVICH.
A film about the conflict between Hindus & Moslems in post-colonial India that humanizes the epic “partition scenes” in GANDHI. A prosperous Parsee family watches helplessly as their world collapses around them & former friends choose sides. Haunting. More on EARTH.
Dramedy about a Chinese-born woman coming of age in Canada. Her immigrant parents want her to retain some “old country ways,” but she’s determined to find her own balance. Her budding romance with a white boy sparks a family crisis. More on DOUBLE HAPPINESS.
Vivi (Ellen Burstyn) & her eldest daughter Sidda (Sandra Bullock) are at war, so her three bosom buddies (Fionnula Flanagan, Shirley Knight, & Maggie Smith) concoct an “intervention.” The plum in this bowl of cherries is Ashley Judd, luminous & heart-breaking by turns as Vivi in her prime. Without her, it’s funny fluff. Click here […]
Jewish intellectual from a Hasidic family creates a future for herself that honors her past even while acknowledging the pain & rage which result from being banished by traditionalists who reject her for her choices. A resonate story for tribe members like Jan but too much insider baseball for Rich. More on DIVAN.
DIGGERS 2006 Lovely little film set at the end of the Bicentennial (1976) as the Ford Administration gave way to Jimmy Carter. Four buddies now in their 30s struggle to get serious about their diminished prospects as a large corporation threatens their livelihood. Nothing new here, just very well-done, affectionate, & thought-provoking. More on DIGGERS.
Split Decision: Rich liked PRADA well enough, but Jan (who once worked 24/7/365 in a rabbit-sized office on 345 Park Ave) absolutely loved it. Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna has transformed Lauren Weisberger’s fashonistas into icons of the Enron Era. Whatever the business, no place on earth tops Manhattan for money & power games! Click here […]
Some guy’s looking for his missing girlfriend, so NJ housewife (Arquette) joins the search. The kooky Manhattan chick has no idea she’s being followed, nevertheless, like a sexy White Rabbit, Susan (Madonna) becomes Roberta’s guide on a magical voyage of self-discovery. Ground-breaking feminist comedy transformed Madonna from wannabe to “STAR.” More on DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN.
Superlative doc artfully combines archival footage with personal reminiscences, capturing specific time & place (post-Imperial Brittan) full of contemporary resonance. Seven sailors set out in 1967 to circumnavigate the globe single-handedly with no stops. See it on the big screen & you’ll feel surrounded yourself by waves & endless sky. More on DEEP WATER.
Mortimer’s wonderful as a guarded & severe woman with a young son who has to learn how to live in the world again after running for years from an abusive relationship. While the “mystery” of her predicament is a bit overplayed, Mortimer’s inner glow makes the film itself truly heart-warming. More on DEAR FRANKIE.
Splendid ensemble cast conveys shock waves emanating from horrific murder, deeply affecting women who never knew “Krista” (Collette discovers body, medical examiner Byrne processes it) as well as most intimate mourners (mother Harden & best friend Washington). Brittany Murphy’s heart-breaking as “Krista,” ditto Hurt as the wife of the perp. More on THE DEAD GIRL.
Another dream came true last night when I had my second chance to chat real time with one of my idols: Maggie Renzi. I chatted with Maggie the first time when John & Maggie came to Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center as part of their “John Sayles Retrospective” tour in 2002. This was the very FIRST interview […]
Director/Screenwriter John Sayles & Producer/Partner Maggie Renzi show their new film HONEYDRIPPER to an exuberant CIFF crowd at the Music Box Theatre on 10/15. FF2 Haiku: Deep South circa 1950: dawn of electrified R&B. Huge ensemble cast is uniformly excellent with breakout performance by Gary Clark Jr., augmented by period songs knit together by Mason […]
Intensely-compelling film follows a suicide bomber for 48 hours. She’s got no name, no backstory, & no explicit convictions. What seems clear to her as she plans for her mission becomes a chaotic jumble when she leaves her ideological bubble & re-enters the real world. Shocking, sobering, & completely heart-breaking. More on DAY NIGHT DAY […]
Biopic about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of one of America’s great classics: THE YEARLING. Marjorie is determined to be a writer, but she’s locked into derivative Gothic drivel until she leaves her comfortable Manhattan marriage & heads off alone to rural Florida… where everything she sees is new to her. More on CROSS CREEK.
Light & fun, especially for people like us who love Broadway musicals. We enjoyed the extravagant (albeit very silly) production numbers. OK, there’s nothing new here (with the plot basically stolen from Billy Wilder’s SOME LIKE IT HOT), but Vardalos, who also wrote the screenplay, has charmed us yet again. More on CONNIE & CARLA.
On first viewing, the rehearsal scenes in this film about Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet are fascinating & the actual performance scenes are breathtaking. But see it again to appreciate how screenwriter Barbara Turner has cued up one of Altman’s most evocative microworlds, an exquisite auditory/visual tableau comparable to McCABE & NASHVILLE. More on THE COMPANY.