Saturday, September 29, 2018

Puzzle (2018)

Jack and I loved this lovely story of a timid old-fashioned housewife whose world opens up when she finds she has a knack for jigsaw puzzles. So old fashioned that, for the first ten minutes or so, I thought the movie was set in the 1950s--her print shirtwaist dress, cluttered house, cooking, cleaning, catering to the males in her family.

Kelly Macdonald (last blogged for Goodbye Christopher Robin) adopts a vaguely New York accent to play Connecticut resident Agnes (Jack didn't buy her accent at all) with subtlety and grace. Irrfan Khan (most recently in Jurassic World) is delightful as Robert, the jaded millionaire in the spectacular Manhattan digs who appreciates Agnes' skill. Agnes' mechanic husband Louie, who does not appreciate her, is played with range by David Denman (best known to me for 31 episodes of The Office and eleven of Parenthood, as well as small parts in Men, Women & Children and Logan Lucky). Their sons Ziggy (Bubba Weiler, who is new to me) and Gabe (Austin Abrams, who co-starred in Brad's Status), are more sensitive than their dad, especially Ziggy.

This is the second time directing for Marc Turtletaub (he produced Everything Is Illuminated (2005), Little Miss Sunshine (2006), Sherrybaby (2006), Sunshine CleaningJack Goes Boating, Safety Not Guaranteed, Loving, and more--I didn't see his other directing gig). Oren Moverman (last blogged for The Dinner) and Polly Mann (her debut) adapted the script from a 2009 Argentinian movie called Rompecabezas (it means puzzle in Spanish) written and directed by Natalia Smirnoff. One spoiler-prone Village Voice reviewer wondered how Agnes can be so sheltered. I didn't, really. It's just the style of the story, and probably comes from the source material.

About Robert's New York house: I've been looking online but cannot find info on it. The circular room with the engraved walls and starburst floor is worth the price of admission. Props to the location team, as well as production designer Roshelle Berliner (her work includes Choke, Precious, and Life During Wartime, to name a few).

Composer Dustin O’Halloran's (most recently in these pages for scoring Lion) soundtrack can be streamed from this spotify link and is available for sale on iTunes and Amazon. Ave Maria is sung twice, once as source music on a subway by a blind busker, sung by blind countertenor Matthew Shifrin (not available online, so here's something else).

Rotten Tomatoes' critics are averaging 83% and its audiences 85. Assemble at the theatre and see this.

A Simple Favor (2018)

I loved this stylish thriller/comedy about a nerdy obsessive single mom who meets a mysterious woman when their sons become friends. Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively are terrific as Stephanie and Emily and were last blogged for The Accountant and Café Society, respectively. Henry Golding (in his second movie role after Crazy Rich Asians) is good as Emily's smitten husband Sean.

The comedy makes this extra good, not least from the Greek chorus of judgy kindergarten parents, led by Andrew Rannells (he was the first Elder Price in The Book of Mormon on Broadway and also played Bob Gaudio in Jersey Boys, both on Broadway and touring; I also watched all 22 episodes of The New Normal and his 35 of Girls, where he played Elijah), with Aparna Nancheria (familiar because of various episodes of Inside Amy Schumer, Crashing, Master of None, and High Maintenance) and Kelly McCormack (new to me).

Comedy is what we expect from director Paul Feig (most recently in these pages for helming Ghostbusters). The trailer says "from the darker side of Paul Feig." From the script by Jessica Sharzer (her feature without a co-writer), adapted from the 2017 novel by Darcey Bell, he brings laughs and suspense in equal parts.

The wardrobe by Renee Ehrlich Kalfus (profiled for her work in Hidden Figures, for which she won the Costume Designers Guild award for Excellence in Period Film) is both laughable--for some of Stephanie's fashion crimes--and spectacular--Emily looks smashing in everything.

Stephanie is a video blogger AKA vlogger. Whenever we see her video page of mommy vlogs, there's a list on the right of all her previous videos. I'd like to know how to do that--I manage a youtube page for a nonprofit and it never shows a list of only the videos we've uploaded, instead suggesting viewers look at others' work. If anyone can tell me how to fix that please write me at babetteflix at gmail.

Theodore Shapiro's (last blogged for The Polka King) sultry and exciting score, which can be streamed on spotify, is supplemented by a list of songs, many of which are French.

Jack couldn't go with me this week, which is why his opinion isn't recorded. But Rotten Tomatoes' critics are solid at 84 and its audiences 80%.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Eighth Grade (2018)

This delightful independent dramedy about an against-all-odds optimistic, though shy, girl will remind most of us of the pain of adolescence and give us a little hope for the next generation.

Elsie Fisher is marvelous as Kayla (she played one of the coach's kids in McFarland, USA, though I failed to write that, and, beginning at age five, did voices on the first two Despicable Me movies, though I failed to see them). Photography began the week after she finished eighth grade. Josh Hamilton (last blogged for Away We Go) is her befuddled and against-all odds patient dad.

Director/writer Bo Burnham makes his feature and fiction debut and apparently took script suggestions from Fisher.

This is the second soundtrack for composer Anna Meredith and it can be streamed from this spotify playlist. Listen and see if you agree with writers who've called her music uncategorizable.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics agree with us, averaging 98% and its audiences aren't far behind at 87.  It has left theatres in this area, but will be available for rent this week, beginning September 25, 2018.

Madame (2017)

I liked this cringy screwball comedy a lot. Toni Collette is very good as the tightly wound American Anne who invites her maid to a fancy dinner party in her Paris home so as to have an even number at the table. This is the best of the three movies I binged on the flight home from Europe last month.

Collette (last blogged for Hearts Beat Loud) is joined by Harvey Keitel (most recently in Youth) as her more relaxed husband Bob. The distinctive Rossy de Palma (one of Almadóvar's favorite actresses, she's been in his Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989), The Flower of My Secret (1995), Broken Embraces, and Julieta, to name a few) is wonderful as the maid Maria, as is Tom Hughes (best known to me as Prince Albert in 16 episodes of Victoria) as Bob's pot-stirring son Steve. Michael Smiley (I've seen many of his projects but couldn't place him) has the pivotal role of the art dealer.

This is the second time directing and third feature script for French director/writer Amanda Sthers (I had not heard of her and could guess how to pronounce her name but have no idea).

Matthieu Gonet's (also new to me) lovely soundtrack with the usual accordions and acoustic guitar solos to make it sound French can be streamed from this spotify link.

Rotten Tomatoes' critics do not agree with me, averaging 39%, and its audiences come in at only 57. It can be rented or bought on iTunes and Amazon right now.

All I Wish (A Little Something for Your Birthday - 2017)

Even the engaging Sharon Stone can't rise above this fluffy, trite story of a woman trying to find success and love, told one day a year, beginning with her 47th birthday.  This was not a good choice for my transatlantic movie binge last month, although I did watch it to the end.

Stone's (after I covered her in Fading Gigolo, she had a cameo in The Disaster Artist) Senna is beautiful, natch, with free-spirited style and wardrobe to match. Tony Goldwyn (dozens of credits, from Ghost (1990) to 124 episodes of Scandal) is a bit stuffy as Adam. I can't, however, ever complain about Ellen Burstyn (last blogged for Nostalgia), here as Senna's critical mother. And Liza Lapira (first came to my attention in 21 episodes of Huff, and was also good in the movie called 21 (2008), five episodes of Dexter, and Crazy, Stupid Love) is reliable as Senna's best friend.

Director/writer Sharon Walter makes her debut after a number of assistant director jobs, and is one of thirty producers, earning this picture a spot, but not a win, on my Producers Plethora Prize list

I don't remember Chris Horvath's music but have been streaming some of his other work from his website.

The critics of Rotten Tomatoes hated it even more than I did, averaging 15%. Its audiences came in at 48. Sharon Stone worshippers can rent or buy it on iTunes or Amazon.

The Boy Downstairs (2017)

I can't really recommend this story of a millennial woman and her relationship, during and after. I never warmed up to the heroine Diana and the ending didn't make sense.

Zosia Mamet (covered in Wiener-Dog) works hard as Diana, as does Matthew Shear (I've seen some of his work but don't remember him in them) as boyfriend and then ex-boyfriend Ben. Deirdre O'Connor (ditto, though she looked familiar) is warm as Diana's landlady/friend/mentor Amy and Deborah Offner (quite familiar, though not as much for her work--she's been in Crossing Delancey (1988), one episode of thirtysomething, three of Six Feet Under, a small part in Black Swan, and one episode each of High Maintenance, Orange Is the New Black, and The Jim Gaffigan show--but for the fact that she was in my elementary school class in New York City) is protective as Ben's mother. I didn't identify Sarah Ramos (60 episodes of Parethood as Maddie Braverman) but still enjoyed her curt portrayal of Meg. Diana Irvine (new to me) brings much-needed comic relief as Diana's BFF Gabby.

Director/writer Sophie Brooks makes her feature debut after one short film. Original music is by David Buckley (last blogged for The Nice Guys). No tracks, original or otherwise, are available online, and I remember little, since this was the first of three movies I watched in a row on Air France returning from Europe a month ago.

Though Rotten Tomatoes' critics average is 63% and its audiences' 43, today I've read several rave reviews--one of them calls Mamet's character "charismatic." To see whose opinion you believe you can watch it on HBO or rent or buy (!) it on Amazon or iTunes.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Love, Gilda (2018)

Jack and I loved this documentary about comedienne Gilda Radner, combining lots of archive footage with commentary by friends, family, and a flock of funny actors, writers, and producers--too many to name here and many unnamed on screen--some of whom read from Radner's own writing. There is some frank discussion of her eating disorder but Jack noticed that the movie didn't mention the word or even the concept of drugs, even in the depictions of the heady Saturday Night Live days.

This is director Lisa D'Apolito's feature debut, while composer Miriam Cutler scored RBG and dozens of other documentaries. I wish I could find streaming examples for my own, if not your enjoyment, but none of the music is available as far as I can tell.

It helps to be a fan of vintage SNL. I laughed, I cried, I could watch it again. Be alert. Some pictures are grainy and many go by quickly. Rotten Tomatoes' critics and audiences are a little cooler than we are, averaging only 83 and 82%, respectively.

And stop leaving before the credits are over! There's a bonus at the end.