Toy Story 4
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Gloria Bell (Julianne Moore) is a middle-aged divorcee living in Los Angeles. When we first meet her, she's at a club dancing to 70's era disco music. Next she's in her car belting out the lyrics to a disco song. It was only when I saw her speaking on a modern phone that I realized that the movie isn't set in the past.
Gloria has two grown children also in LA. Though she's on good terms with them, they have lives of their own and she obviously sees them less often than she'd like.
One night, Gloria meets a recently-divorced guy named Arnold (John Turturro) at the disco and the two start dating. Arnold seems like an OK guy, but he's extremely involved in the lives of his ex-wife and two grown daughters. Not only is he always at their beck and call, he refuses to even tell them about Gloria, giving her some cockamamie excuse as to how his relationship with her is none of their business.
It was at about this point that a light bulb came on above my head and I realized that I'd seen this movie before. Not this exact movie, but a version of it in which Gloria speaks Spanish. Same oversized glasses, same love of disco music, same lily-livered boyfriend. Turns out this is a remake of a 2013 Chilean movie called simply "Gloria". I suppose this is what I get for not reading movie reviews in advance.
What I mostly remember about my first viewing is feeling a sense of offness about the character that I had originally attributed to cultural differences. But American Gloria has the same anachronistic vibe about her as if she were plucked straight from the year 1977 when John Travolta was strutting his stuff in "Saturday Night Fever". The whole disco craze was dead a few years later and was but one of several competing musical styles even when it was hot. Did Gloria's radio break 40 years ago?
One recurring "theme", if you can call it that, is that Gloria is regularly visited by a neighbor's hairless white cat that keeps magically getting into her apartment even though she keeps all of the doors and windows closed. "Now how did you get in here?" she'll say wearily as she lugs its mass of feline boniness back outside only to have it be there again when she returns. Symbolism, am I right? But just what does the inability to rid yourself of a magical bony ghost cat symbolize? (If I knew the answer I might have earned more than a C minus in Freshman English.)
All in all, I was a bit disappointed in this movie. I like Julianne Moore and the idea of a movie about a single woman around my age appealed to me, but then came the inevitable letdown when I realized that the industry has apparently already reached its quota in the "single middle-aged woman" genre and are just making the same damn movie over and over again. Maybe next year they can make "Gloria Smirnov" and she can do the hustle in Moscow, then "Gloria Schmidt" can cut a rug in the discos of Berlin.
Looking at the movie on its own merits and ignoring Gloria's bizarre obsession with disco music and the fact that no one drags her to a LensCrafters to update her frames and the freaky white cat of unknown symbolic value, I still don't really get it. I mean I get that Gloria undergoes some sort of transformation during it because near the end she's sitting alone at a wedding looking glum but when she hears the song "Gloria" (by Laura Branigan) she slowly emerges from her chrysalis of sorrow and starts boogieing down on the dance floor like its 1982.
But why? She's been divorced for twelve years already. Has she been unhappily searching for a mate the entire time? Is this the joyous relief of someone who's finally decided to throw in the towel because she doesn't need a man to be happy? Or is this some sort of pick yourself up by your bootstraps and get back on the horse sort of thing that she does after every failed relationship? Will she be back in the club the next weekend or lying in bed with the cat eating a pint of mint chocolate chip and watching reruns of "Three's Company"?
One measure of how much I like a movie is how much I think about it in the coming days. Despite my lukewarmness about this one, I was reminded of it constantly in the week that followed because I couldn't get that damn "Gloria" song out of my head. This was made worse by the fact that the only words I know besides the name "Gloria" shouted over and over is the line "I think they got your number".
In this case, that number would be a 6. As in six stars.
A family of five shares a cramped apartment in a seedy section of Tokyo. There's grandma, her 20-something granddaughter, a married couple, and the husband's pre-teen son, who sleeps in what appears to be a small storage cabinet. The husband and wife both work but money is tight. To make ends meet, the father and son regularly shoplift together, which not only puts food on the table, but also serves as an enjoyable bonding experience.
On the way home from one such expedition, the two spot a little girl outside in the cold. They invite her home for a hot meal and plan to return her later that night, but when they overhear her parents fighting about her and notice that she's covered with burn scars, they decide to just keep her. Soon she's part of the family, tagging along on shoplifting trips and slurping noodles on the floor with the rest of them.
The theme of "Shoplifters" is kind of like that saying that you can pick your nose but you can't pick your family, except the opposite. Or sort of the opposite. Not only can you pick your family but presumably you can also pick your nose, which couldn't possibly be any grosser than the noise the father makes when he slurps noodles.
It's always best to go into movies with low expectations, but unfortunately I'd been looking forward to this one for a few weeks after seeing a preview and was a little bit disappointed. By the end of the film I'd accumulated a whole list of niggling loose ends that had confused me along the way and were never really cleared up.
Add to that one of those super-abrupt endings that are almost always annoying. I'm OK with Tony Soprano eating onion rings as "Don't Stop Believing" plays and his daughter ineptly parallel parks but this is no Tony Soprano eating onion rings or even Tony Soprano slurping noodle soup. It's more like, OK, I think I'll just randomly stop filming now.
Bam. Fin. Or whatever "fin" is in Japanese.
It's 1960. Jerry and Jeanette (Jake Gyllenhaal and Carey Mulligan) have recently moved to Montana with their 14-year-old son, Joe. Jerry works as a golf pro. Carey is a housewife. Jeanette is extremely supportive of Jerry and the two seem very much in love. Both parents dote on Joe, never failing to tousle his hair or touch a shoulder as they walk by. The whole thing feels very Ozzie-and-Harriet-esque, like these aren't real people but characters in an old sitcom. Is this how real people acted in 1960? I don't know. In any event it doesn't last.
After Jerry gets let go from the golf course for what seems like no fault of his own, Jeanette remains supportive. When they call the next day to off him his job back and he refuses to take it, some cracks begin to appear in her facade. But it's not until he says he's signed up to help fight some distant wildfires that Jeanette starts really losing her sh*t.
Apparently the family has done quite a bit of moving to chase Jerry's dreams which never seem to pan out, and the idea of him dragging them to Montana, only to run off on a high-risk, low-paying adventure is a bit too much for her.
With Jerry away, Joe becomes the man of the house, biking to the store to buy canned spaghetti and replacing the innards of a running toilet. And Jeannette becomes the teenager, acting impulsively, irrationally, and irresponsibly.
The movie is shown mostly through the eyes of Joe, who's forced to watch his mom behave in ways that no kid would ever want to see. I get how Jeannette might be angry at Jerry, but why would that make become so indifferent with respect to her son? Kid's going to need therapy is all I kept thinking.
Besides my incredulousness at Jeannette's overnight transformation, I was also thrown by the stilted-language staginess that seemed to creep in once things started going south. My mind kept wondering, "Is this really what people talked like in 1960?" before deciding the answer is no, probably not; it's what people talk like in plays.
This isn't a terrible movie. The acting is good, the kid does a credible job with his increasingly disturbed reaction shots, and it was something to do on a rainy day. Not exactly a ringing endorsement, but there you have it.
(Incidentally, I have no idea why it's called "Wildlife" instead of "Wildfire" and my inferior reading skills didn't even pick up on this until I tried to post the review.)
Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy) is a 51-year-old writer who achieved some degree of success penning celebrity biographies earlier in her career, but has fallen on hard times. She can't pay the rent on her Manhattan apartment, she can't afford to take her beloved cat to the vet, and her agent isn't interested in her latest project (a book about comedian Fanny Brice). Desperate for cash, she sells a framed personal letter from Katharine Hepburn to a dealer.
Not long after, quite by coincidence, she finds a couple of letters from Brice tucked in the pages of a book while doing research at the library. She sneaks them home and brings one to the same dealer, who offers her quite a bit less than for the Hepburn letter due to its relatively bland content. This flicks on a proverbial light bulb over Lee's head and she soon embarks on a new career: forging punchy letters purported to be written by now-dead celebrities and selling them to dealers all over town.
In case you didn't know (I didn't), Lee Israel was a real person. Having never heard of her before, it's hard to know just how accurate this depiction of her is, but the movie doesn't paint her in a very positive light. Not only is she abrasive, hard-drinking, and foul-mouthed, but she also seems to do rotten things just for the sake of doing them. Like taking someone else's coat from the coat check at a fancy party apparently because she wants it. Someone did this with my best friend's shoes at a roller rink once and she had to go home in her socks. Not a victimless crime!
One of Lee's few redeeming qualities is that she loves her cat. Even though I myself am not a cat-lover, I'm extrapolating from my experiences as a dog lover when I say that you probably have to have a pretty good heart in order to love a creature who treats you with complete indifference and can't even fetch a tennis ball.
Though the story about the forged letters is interesting in an "I can't believe someone got away with this" sort of way, the film is really more of a character study. As the movie unfolds, Lee's personality is revealed to be a bit more nuanced and less despicable than it seems at first blush. Though her redemption isn't quite so dramatic that she winds up carving the rare Who roast beast at Christmas dinner, she does manage to forge a friendship with an equally misanthropic hustler and even dabbles a little in romance with one of her unwitting swindlees.
Apparently, Mellissa McCarthy is a legit actress. Who knew?
Nick Young and Rachel Chu have been dating for about a year. Rachel is an economics professor at NYU and a first generation American raised by a single Chinese-immigrant mom. Nick was born in China but raised in Singapore, where his family still lives.
The story begins with Nick inviting Rachel to accompany him to Singapore for his best friend's wedding. It's not until they get to the airport that she discovers that his family is actually filthy rich. The giveaway is that their airplane seats not only fully recline into beds but are also in a private suite. I didn't even know this was a thing. I wonder if they're insulated from the pervasive odor of feet that permeates coach when the huddled masses simultaneously remove their shoes.
When Nick and Rachel arrive in Singapore (extremely refreshed, I might add), they're picked up by the bride- and groom-to-be and run around a market sampling food like they're in an episode of Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown, but without the acerbic wit.
Next, Rachel meets up with her wacky college friend Peik Lin who just happens to also live in Singapore. Peik Lin is the only one in the whole movie who's the least bit funny, but unfortunately she's not the only one who's actually trying to be funny. The supporting cast includes a whole slew of colorful characters whose job is apparently to imbue the movie with forced zaniness.
The gist of the story is that it's always been the plan for Nick to move back to Singapore and take over the family business, something he never bothered to tell Rachel. Also, Nick's mother doesn't approve of her. And since he's Singapore's most eligible bachelor, all of the other single women hate her guts.
This movie didn't sound like something I would particularly like, but for some reason, it was really well-reviewed. What that reason is, I can only speculate. Perhaps critics felt that the all-Asian cast and exotic locale elevate its otherwise trite love story from its intrinsic banality. Or perhaps they found the ostentatious displays of wealth by non-white people refreshing. Whatever the case, it didn't work for me except as a travelogue regularly photo-bombed by really annoying people.
Rachel and Nick are likable enough and I did enjoy seeing how dumplings are made, but somehow the overarching theme of "Hey look, Asians can be crazy too!" didn't cut it for me.