Monday, July 17, 2017

The Big Sick

On Saturday I saw The Big Sick, starring Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan.

Kumail (Nanjiani) is a struggling stand up comic doing his best to avoid his mother's attempts at setting him up with a Pakistani wife. One night he gets heckled by Emily (Kazan), a white girl who lives nearby and they have a meet cute and fall in love.

Unfortunately, their path to happily-ever-after wasn't so simple: his parents weren't okay with him falling for a white girl so he broke up with her and Emily became severely ill, going into a coma shortly after their courtship fell apart.

While she's unconscious, Kumail realizes his feelings for her and visits her hospital room often. He gets to know her parents (played here charmingly by Holly Hunter and Ray Romano) and grows on them. By the time Emily wakes up, he's ready to resume their relationship, but she hasn't had the same time to process her feelings. So another roadblock emerges.


Sad as this all sounds, the film is a comedy. And, remarkably, it's also true—co-written by the real-life couple (Kumail and his wife Emily V. Gordon).

I have to admit, I'm still on the fence about this one.

I wanted desperately to like it because I tend to embrace stories of love overcoming all odds to prevail. I also appreciate when people with deep cultural values can learn to embrace new ideas and ideals for the sake of love. This has all of that ... but it's not perfect.

First, Kumail playing himself takes me out of the story. Maybe it's because I know him from Silicon Valley or because he always seems to have a smirk on deck even if the scene isn't comedic, but him being him made the rest of the cast feel like they were trying too hard (and they're all amazing actors who delivered stellar performances). I believed Emily was very ill. I got that Emily's father had greatly hurt Emily's mother. But that all felt like a play because Kumail was always there, hanging out, reminding us this was his life we were seeing.

I also found the roommate to be too dumb. They dedicated a lot of screen time to emphasizing how much of a loser he was, then made the audience feel guilty for not feeling worse when he didn't get chosen to be part of something the rest of them did. I would have much rather had that time with the other comedians or happy moments with the couple when all was said and done.

Annoying as well were the moments with Kumail's family. They seemed very one-dimensional since we seldom see them away from the dinner table.

I can't imagine what it must be like to see your life rewound on the big screen and I applaud the couple for the courage to tell their story.

i just wish it went lighter on the stereotypes and deeper into the heart of their love.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Girls Trip

Tonight I screened Girls Trip, starring Regina Hall and Queen Latifah.

Ryan Pierce (Hall) is a successful self-help author on her way to keynote the Essence Festival in New Orleans with her three best college pals in tow: Sasha (Latifah), Lisa (Jada Pinkett-Smith) and Dina (Tiffany Haddish).

Sasha is a celebrity gossip blogger who gets a tip that Ryan's husband Stewart (Mike Colter) is having an affair. She and the other girls share this with Ryan, who already knows about the infidelity, but is keeping up appearances for the sake of their joint brand.

Determined not to let the looming threat of a leak ruin their weekend, the women press on, partying in VIP circles, drinking, dancing and trying to get (uptight) divorcée Lisa laid. To complicate matters, Ryan's agent has set a meeting during the event with the head of a major retail store that's looking to make a lucrative deal with Ryan and Stewart.

That's all I can say without giving it all away, so I'll just say this: although there is one gross scene I desperately wish I could un-see, this isn't your average we-drank-too-much-and-will-pay-for-it party movies. It's a fun, feasible movie about four women with a host of issues just trying to get through life with a little help from their friends.

Because the screenwriters didn't just focus on Ryan's story, the audience develops empathy for all the players, giving each more dimension than a traditional "supporting" cast.

This film had a lot of laughs—but more importantly—a lot of heart.


Sunday, July 09, 2017


Today I saw Maudie, starring Sally Hawkins and Ethan Hawke.

The film tells the story of real-life Canadian folk artist, Maud Lewis (Hawkins).

Born Maud Dowley, the artist was severely arthritic, which limited her dexterity but didn't stop her from loving to paint. After a comfortable upbringing, Dowley was forced to find work when her brother took all of their inheritance and left her with nothing. She became a housekeeper for Everett Lewis (Hawke), though she wasn't able to perform most chores.

Lewis was a grumpy fish peddler who lived a modest life in a tiny home on the outskirts of Marshalltown. Though it annoyed him she couldn't be a totally effective housemaid, he did allow her to paint the house, greeting cards and anything else she could get her hands on. The two later married and shared a simple, but arguably content life together.

Just a few years before her death, her paintings got international attention and she and her husband sold them out of their house. Most were $2 or $5. Really special ones went for $10.

Aside from being heartbreaking at many turns, it's delightful to watch such a sweet spirit make so much of what anyone else would consider a meager life. Hawkins is Oscar-worthy as the title star—everything from her physical posture to her delicate voice so closely mimics that of the real person, when they show footage of Lewis at the end of the film, you have to do a double take to be sure it's not still her.

Hawke is also strong as an unlikable, yet somehow redeeming mean husband who clearly loves his wife but wants no part of admitting to that.

You'll laugh, you'll sob, you'll scour the internet to see where you can find prints of her work (hint: The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia)—you'll be absorbed into this most emotional, tender look at an artist not to be forgotten.


Friday, July 07, 2017


Last night I saw Snatched, starring Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn.

Emily (Schumer) endures a break up with her latest flame right before they're due to take a non-refundable vacation to Honduras. Since none of her friends are readily available to go in his place, she decides to invite her mother, Linda (Hawn), who reluctantly accepts.

Though the dynamic of the trip has changed, Emily is still intent on having a good time, so while her mother rests in their resort room, she hits the bar, striking up a conversation with a local hottie. After a night of fun, it's decided the two will re-convene in the morning and bring mom along for a day trip. All goes well until the host decides to go off the beaten path and the women are abducted by (presumably) a drug lord.

The remainder of the film is the adventure of the two attempting to escape and make it to Bogota, Colombia where the U.S. State department can send for help. Aiding in their retrieval are a nerdy brother/son, a random American they meet at a jungle bar and a pair of eccentric fellow travelers (these two were my favorite, as they're portrayed by Wanda Sykes and Joan Cusack).

There is swearing and exposed body parts and murder and drinking and dancing. There is chemistry between the two leads, excellent comedic timing and way too much screen time allotted to the "angry" state department worker.

I both laughed out loud and shook my head lamenting just how much better it could have been.

If you're looking for a stereotypical, predictable comedy, you could do worse. But lacking in heart, it shouldn't be at the top of anyone's list.


Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Paris Can Wait

Today I saw Paris Can Wait, starring Diane Lane and Arnaud Viard.

Anne (Lane) is the wife of a successful film producer, Michael (Alec Baldwin). They are headed to Paris via Budapest from the South of France when Anne's ears begin bothering her and the pilot of their private plane advises against her flying. Michael's business associate, Jacques (Viard), offers to drive her straight to Paris since he's headed there anyway. She accepts the offer.

At first, Jacques sightseeing stops along the way feel spontaneous, but Anne soon realizes he has no intention of getting to Paris that evening. At what can only be described as an 'intimate dinner' they share, the wine flows and things are revealed and Anne begins to see her travel companion in a different light.

From there they experience car trouble, money issues, a former girlfriend, cultural pit stops and a staggering amount of delicious French cuisine. Throughout the journey you wonder if the feelings they have for one another are mutual; you wonder if they'll act on them; you wonder if they'll ever make it to the City of Love.

The elegance of Diane Lane helps the tension stay enjoyable and Arnaud Viard is a feasible smitten bachelor, completely unbothered by the fact the woman he courts is married to his friend.

Watching this will make you want to take a road trip through the back roads of France to smell the lavender, drink good wine and fall in love.