Thursday, September 18, 2014

Love is Strange

Tonight I saw Love is Strange, starring John Lithgow and Marisa Tomei.

Ben (Lithgow) has loved George (Alfred Molina) for nearly 40 years. When we meet them, it's their wedding day; a joyous occasion celebrated intimately with close friends and family. A short time later, we see them gathered with the same group of people for a more somber reason: George has lost his job.

As a longtime music teacher in a faith-based school, the higher-ups can no longer ignore his homosexuality and let him go. As a result he and Ben have to find someplace to live, but the only one of their loved ones that has a spare room lives over two hours away, so they must split up.

George remains close to their prior home with friends, sleeping on their living room couch; Ben moves in with his nephew and his family, bunking with his grandnephew, teenage Joey. It's not an ideal situation, but they appreciate the kindness they are shown and do their best to be good houseguests.

Life goes on, but the strain is hard on everyone including Kate (Tomei) who can't focus on her writing with her houseguest always around. And poor George, who can't sleep because his hosts like to perpetually party.

At first, it feels like the film isn't really going anywhere, it's slow pace begging to be accelerated, but when it nears the end, your heart is undeniably full.

The touching performance by Lithgow, complemented by the conflict reflected in Tomei's eyes make you ache for a better solution for all of them. It's a cast of likeable, humble characters just trying to get through life's injustices without feeling sorry for themselves.

They're doing the best they can with the bad hand they've been dealt and that's a feeling I suspect all of us have had at one time or another.

It's also a lesson to keep love close to your heart if you're lucky enough to find it.


Tuesday, September 09, 2014

The Guest

Tonight I saw The Guest, starring Dan Stevens and Maika Monroe.

When David (Stevens) arrives at the doorstep of the Petersons, they believe him when he tells them that he's a soldier who once served with their now-deceased son. They welcome him into their home, and their family, with open arms.

Soon he's helping their son fight off bullies, protecting women at parties and helping Mom negotiate a lighter punishment at school for her suddenly violent son. He's a peach!

Until ... he isn't.

Of course, there's soon a fair amount of bloodshed, there's a lot of loud music (warning you of the upcoming bloodshed) and David develops a habit of coldly staring at pretty much everyone.

I'd be lying if I said I didn't love seeing the former Downton Abbey star with his shirt off, sporting a damn fine American accent; but I'd also be lying if I said I didn't know exactly how this was going to end before it was even half way over.

Sure, there's some jumpy scenes, and at one point you may find it difficult to root for the good guys, but above all else, this is just silly.


Sunday, September 07, 2014

Forrest Gump

This morning I saw Forrest Gump, starring Tom Hanks and Robin Wright.

The 20th anniversary presentation in IMAX showcases the classic in better-than-ever visual clarity and sound. And somehow I thought my multiple viewings of the film these past two decades would make me immune from the obligatory flow of tears that always accompanies it, but I was mistaken.

The triggers for me are the same as they always have been (SPOILERS):  Forrest can't find a seat on the bus; the kids throw rocks at young Forrest; Jenny says goodbye to Forrest in Memphis; Mama's sick; Lieutenant Dan arrives at the wedding; Forrest talks to Jenny under the tree; little Forrest boards the school bus.

I can still smell the stale room in gritty New York before the New Year. I can still feel the heavy Southern air as Jenny and Forrest dance to "Sweet Home Alabama." I can remember the fear in the world as John Lennon and President Reagan were shot (those historical parts of the story I'm actually old enough to remember).

I grieve for those who lost soldiers in Vietnam; for anyone who was abused by a parent or a school bully; for everyone who has felt that they are not adequate; for children who miss their mothers; for years lost with a romantic love; for all who were lost to AIDS before we knew how to treat it.

For a movie that is so often lighthearted and funny, it really can wreck you.

It wrecked me today as harshly as it did when I saw it as a college student in 1994. And I'm okay with that—it's simply my primal response to the genius of Robert Zemeckis and Tom Hanks and Robin Wright and tragic music by Alan Silvestri.

Regardless of what the haters might say, it still holds up.