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Mr. Pip wants to be a better film than it actually ever is and this is disappointing because it had a chance to offer an audience a glimpse of life in a section of the world few know much about. Taking place on Bougainville Island in Papua New Guinea in 1990, it is the story of the last white man on the island who inspired his students with the writings of Charles Dickens and his interpretation/reading of 'Great Expectations' whose main character is known as Pip. During the second outbreak of civil war on the island within a fifty-year span, the teacher, Mr. Watts (Hugh Laurie - 'House') finds himself threatened by some militants who don't like the inspirational readings he recites to his class. One of his students, Matilda (Xzannjah Matsi) takes his readings to heart and becomes enthralled with the world of Dickens and imagines herself in some of his writings. The story is mostly a sad one as the history of the island has also been pretty sad (it survived a decade cut off from the rest of the world) but it is a cinematic display of the power of story and what imagination can do in a time of war -- having both positive and negative consequences. There is good and bad here but the film itself isn't ever as inspiring as the writings of Dickens as most of this is rather forgettable. It has generated interest in myself of the history of Bougainville so that in itself is a good thing; but it'll most likely make the actual history of the place much more interesting than this story.
Deciding to take on a film like Obvious Child with such polarizing subject matter for one's feature directorial debut says a couple of things about Gillian Robespierre ... which are actually none of my business. Jenny Slate (The Means War) stars as overly-honest comedienne Donna Stern who uses her everyday life -- and those immediately within it -- as fodder/material for her stand-up routine. She doesn't have much of a filter and here she quickly finds herself on the receiving end of another break-up as (her now ex) boyfriend featured prominently in her latest stand-up routine. After a drunken rant became one heck of an inspired routine, Donna's decision-making capacities were practically down to zero and she ends up having a one-night stand with a very nice, funny, charming and polite young man (Jake Lacy) named Max. Because of where Donna believes she is at in life, she does not believe she can be an adequate mother at the time. While people onscreen my not agree with the choice Donna is making, the film is wise and mature enough to acknowledge some tactics don't work. While Slate has rarely taken center stage with her routine, she shows us that she is a capable actress as she laughs and holds back tears while saying some of the most ridiculous comments I've heard onscreen in years. The film will have a lot of haters and I do understand why that is so but I think some prefer it this way. Why get along and try to understand when sitting back and casting judgment is so much more fun?!!?