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Yet another movie featuring a filmmaker baring their soul for the audience to celebrate, lament and understand, Noah Baumbach's "Marriage Story" follows in the footsteps of movies like "Lady Bird," "Roma" and the very recent "Honey Boy" in that it's not just an undeniably personal exercise. It's also a supremely well-executed artistic experience on a structural, dramatic, thematic, and technical level. It's rare to have a film operate so meticulously in its characterization process, yet remain so fascinating and emotionally impressive. In many other films, you'd label it a potential issue to have your average scene length be somewhere between 7-10 minutes, and to have most of those scenes involve characters simply talking to one another. But these are very carefully constructed moments of build-up, allowing the audience to breathe these characters in and empathize with every action taken and word spoken, no matter how hurtful or diabolical it may seem on the surface. At the end of the proverbial day, we find we're dealing with nuanced human beings trying desperately to navigate their respective ways through a tragic phase of existence (a kind of death, as the movie so aptly puts it). It's sad, heartwarming, brilliant, and earnest -- an experience I know I'll carry with me for some time.
More misguided and uninspired than it is just plain "bad" in my opinion, Stephen Gaghan's "Dolittle" represents the textbook case of a studio pouring funds into an adaptation of a shaky IP, not being pleased with the results, and then hacking it to bits in order to cut the runtime so it can get screened more often in theaters. The greatest shame, however, lies not in the questionable effects, iffy plotting, or spotty performance work. The greatest shame is that, I think there was something "there" with this one -- a potentially pleasant story, with satisfying ,emotional undertones and a great sense of whimsy to it. It's just that this movie didn't know what it wanted to be. It has the soul of a PG-13 film (see Robert Downey Jr.'s misanthropic, bitter turn as the titular veterinarian and widower) and the frills and feathers of a G-rated romp (see. . .everything else). Do I feel particularly bad for those involved? Not necessarily. It's a misfire, but I'm certain everyone involved will work once more. I just hope they've taken any/all creative lessons they've learned from this experience to heart.
Sophomore slumps are a dime o' dozen these days for writer/directors (i.e. "Us" & "Midsommar," in my opinion) but with her adaptation of "Little Women," Greta Gerwig looks to power through the mediocrity and -- most importantly -- keep the audience on their proverbial toes with something quite different from what was offered an entry ago. This is a sumptuously designed, beautiful-looking saga of love, possibility and the yearning for what could have been, featuring some standout performances from nearly every cast member (though high praise goes to Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh and Timothee Chalamet, in particular) and a truly winsome screenplay and vision from Gerwig herself. Tender, yet pleasant, sad, but still joyous, and challenging and crowd-pleasing all at once, this is most definitely one of the best of the calendar year that was 2019, and yet another reason why Greta Gerwig is one to look out for in terms of burgeoning filmic talents.
It is a rare, rare thing for me to feel as though I need to unsheathe the "M-word" from my vocabulary after seeing a movie. Though, with Sam Mendes's "1917" freshly in mind, I find the experience impossible to describe without dropping it at least once. I don't think I've seen a filmic narrative since "The Revenant" that's more adequately aligned itself with the term "journey" than this one has. It is a wild, traumatic, and relentlessly thrilling, near-real-time chronicling of a fateful day in the lives of so many that I find infinitely more epic in scope and theme than any movie I've seen in the past few years -- and some of those had more than triple the budget Mendes had at his disposal. This is what moviemaking is all about. So many moments come to pass throughout where not only the acting and writing, but the camerawork, production design, music, and thematics are firing on all cylinders, welling up feelings of wonderment, terror, anxiety, despair and grief at various points in a magnificently well-paced 2-hour running time. They absolutely do not make movies like this very often, so do yourself a favor and immediately treat yourself to viewing this masterpiece in the biggest theater you have near you.
Exponentially more troubling than it is as breezy or as cheeky as its promotional material may lead you to believe it is, "Bombshell" is a good, but not great film that suffers from the tragedy of existentiality, albeit slightly. Being a movie that's based on such a well-publicized and recent event automatically amps up the chances of the narrative losing weight, lulling the audience into a trance-like state of, "oh, yeah I remember this" and "yep, here comes this part." And, though it may not be saying or revealing a whole of new information to the audience, it helps that the events are so unflinchingly depicted, creating this inescapably horrific, cloud of uncomfortability for the audience to soak up in the theater. Some of the scenes border on just downright hard to watch -- in the right and most necessary way. The acting checks out, featuring a trio of committed performances, bolstered by convincing efforts from the hair and makeup department. Again, nothing's fatally amiss, but I just can't help thinking that my prior knowledge of the subject matter hampered my overall experience.