Beautiful Boy (NOW PLAYING) starring Steve Carell, Timothee Chalamet, Maura Tierney, & Amy Ryan

Based on the best-selling pair of memoirs from father and son David and Nic Sheff, Beautiful Boy chronicles the heartbreaking and inspiring experience of survival, relapse, and recovery in a family coping with addiction over many years. -Film Synopsis

The title of this film (and the book) comes from John Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)”. David Sheff, a successful freelance writer, interviewed John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1980. This emotional, sensitive, and timely film (opioid addiction is a VERY serious/common issue today) is a BIT more from the viewpoint of the father, Dave (Carell), than his teen son, Nic (Chalamet- now 22 y.o.) I would’ve liked to see more of the mom, Vicki (Ryan); there are a few nice scenes w/ the stepmom, Karen (Tierney). Nic’s parents divorced when he was quite young; every Summer, he traveled from San Francisco to LA to spend time w/ Vicki. (We don’t know what her career is, BUT are lead to believe that she’s quite busy and also successful.)

As Nic got into his high school years, he became more withdrawn (spending a LOT of time alone, writing and drawing). Dave didn’t realize that his son was ALSO getting into hard drugs; he assumed that it was only marijuana that Nic was experimenting w/ (like MANY teens/college students). There was something missing w/in Nic which he couldn’t explain; drugs filled that void. Dave thought that he and Nic were closer than most fathers and sons. When Nic runs away from a rehab facility (for the second time), Dave sets out to learn exactly what kind of damage could be happening to his child. (Timothy Hutton has a cameo as an M.D. who specializes in addiction.) There are some fine, nuanced performances here, esp. from Carell (aging quite well/stretching his dramatic muscles) and Chalamet (who lost 25 lbs. for his role). There is more to this story, so check it out yourself! 

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The Hate U Give (NOW PLAYING) starring Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, Anthony Mackie, Issa Rae & Common

It’s not everyday that you watch a film re: the development of an individual’s race consciousness! This isn’t just for fans of the YA book (which many adults also read); it’s for anyone who has had to  deal w/ unfairness, violence, and/or navigate two worlds (cultures, languages, etc.) and come out resilient on the other side. In my audience a week ago, there were viewers of ALL ages, incl. several families (black, Latino, Asian) w/ pre-teens and teens. It’s realistic, emotional, intelligent, and still hopeful re: our future (and that of the protagonist- Starr). Like ALL good films, it takes the viewer on a journey (BUT this time it’s through the eyes of an intelligent, sensitive, and curious 16 y.o. black girl). After the film ended, a black woman in her 50s commented (in a pleasantly surprised tone) to her gal pal: “This is what happens when there’s a black writer, producer, and director.” You don’t need to be black (or in a minority group) to appreciate this film (of course), BUT it does speak esp. to a modern, American, black audience. 

I was impressed by all the actors, esp. Stenberg (who is already quite experienced for a 20 y.o. in Hollywood) and Hornsby (who I saw on Broadway several years ago in Fences). The Carter family (which is blended) is such a strong and loving unit- this is VERY rare to see in modern film! Hall gets a few moments to shine; she’s NOT just the one-note wife/mom. Common (known for his music) does pretty well w/ his role as Starr’s uncle (and cop). It’s good to see Issa Rae getting more exposure (on big screen). The chemistry between the kids and parents was really good. The costumes, music, settings, and extras ALL contribute to giving this film its authenticity. Don’t miss this film- it has its pulse on what’s (sadly) going on now in our society! 

Brief Encounter (1945)

What to say re: this film? It’s simply magical (even when you view it for the second time)! I saw it again (on TCM) last week; it’s also available on DVD from The Criterion Collection. The lead actors (who are in their early to mid-30s) are Brits who actually look like regular people. An upper-middle class housewife, Laura Jesson (Celia Johnson), meets doctor, Alec Harvey (Trevor Howard), at a train station cafe when he helps remove a piece of dirt from her eye. Laura doesn’t think much of it, but then they keep running into each other in town. They talk, share lunch (and laughs), and go to movies (matinees) on Thursday afternoons. They (and the audience) realize that this relationship can’t go anywhere; they’re both married w/ two young kids. In fact, Laura’s husband (Fred) is depicted as a nice man; Alec’s two sons and wife are unseen (though she is described as “small, dark, and delicate”). Laura and Alec soon fall in love- neither can deny their feelings! 

I’m an ordinary woman. I didn’t think such violent things could happen to ordinary people. -Laura (in voiceover) re: falling in love w/ Alec

It’s awfully easy to lie when you know that you’re trusted implicitly. So very easy, and so very degrading. -Laura (in voiceover) re: lying to Fred for the first time

Unlike most movies of the ’40s, we hear Laura’s perspective (in voiceover), getting us into the mind of a woman. David Lean (who went on to direct some epic films) decided to shoot this like a film noir. Laura and Alec are sometimes partly obscured by shadow. Perhaps this is done to show the danger in their pairing? Music is an element used very effectively as well; it adds to the drama in pivotal moments. 

Though this film is emotional, it doesn’t come off as showy or cloying (which is an achievement in itself). When Alec and Laura share their first kiss, the camera (perhaps respectfully?) pulls back to give them space. Fitting w/ the morals (and maybe also censors), their relationship is unconsummated. Brief Encounter has inspired many films (and spoofs) over the years. Check it out if haven’t before- you won’t regret it!  

[1] Johnson’s soulful eyes and capacity for displaying emotion is brilliantly used here… 

[2] Lean uses only a few sets and locations. It’s as if Laura and Alec are caged in by their surroundings and their emotions and can never escape…

[4] The story wonderfully explores the idea that sometimes it is easier to feel close and understood by someone you meet by chance as opposed to those who are close to us. People may not like the truism, but it’s human nature. 

-Excerpts from IMDB comments

 

Two (Lesser Known) Films Starring Rita Hayworth

Miss Sadie Thompson (1953)

[1] It’s always interesting to stumble on old movies like these that resonate more than 50 years later. How much and how little has changed when it comes to religious zealots…hhmmm?

[2] Sadie Thompson is a woman of questionable repute… trying to re-make her life. The Jose Ferrer character is effectively odious. A man hung up on projecting his moral issues on the nearest target. This happens to be Miss Sadie. 

[3] Look for a studly young Charles Bronson in a minor role, listed in the credits as Charles Buchinsky.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

At a remote military outpost on American Samoa, it’s either hot/humid or raining. A ship quarantine strands a small group of Americans, incl. Sadie Thompson (Hayworth), on the way to a new job on another island. She’s a “breezy dame” who ALL the Marines want to get to know, including Phil O’Hara (Aldo Ray). As she steps on the dock, men clamor for a bit of her company. As Sadie sings, some of the natives (even little kids) leave church to go to the bar next door, ignoring their preacher. Mr. Davidson (Jose Ferrer), the powerful/wealthy head of the Mission Board, suspects Sadie is one of the women who worked at the Emerald Club in Honolulu. He calls her a bad influence (on the Marines and local natives), who must be shunned. 

This island looks volcanic. -Dr. MacPhail comments 

It is – in more ways than one. All these isolated islands where our servicemen are stationed are volcanic. It takes constant vigilance to keep them under control. -Mr. Davidson replies

Hayworth looks gorgeous (as usual); she’s a redhead here who wears a lot of red (associated w/ evil, love, and during this era- Communism). Sadie is independent, tough, unapologetic, and quite jaded (though she puts on a fun-loving front). Phil, who will soon be finished w/ his service, suggests going to live in Australia. He quickly falls in love w/ Sadie and asks her to marry him; she is surprised, but pleasantly. Meanwhile, Davidson has put the gears into motion to get Sadie deported back to the States. 

This is a “Personal Pick” of Robert Osborne, who was host for TCM. It starts off as light and comedic (w/ songs), but takes a serious (and quite dark) turn. While it’s an uneven film, there are timeless themes w/in (based on a short story by W. Somerset Maugham).

The Story on Page One (1959)

[1] You’ll never see a movie with such long scenes again. It’s a shame, because they were very absorbing, with Franciosa really ratcheting up the fireworks.

[2] People who knew her say she was much like the character of Josephine – quiet, shy, insecure and sweet. Hayworth doesn’t exhibit much personality in this, but then, probably the unhappy Josephine wouldn’t have either.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

An elderly woman, Mrs. Brown (Katherine Squire), approaches a surly, down-on-his-luck  lawyer, Victor Santini (Anthony Franciosa), desperate for representation for her daughter. Mrs. Brown knew Victor’s (deceased) mother, who told her that he was a Harvard grad and experienced w/ trials. Victor (who’s more interested in drinking) tries to dissuade the woman, but she’s insists on him hearing out her story. 

L.A. housewife/mother, Jo Morris (Hayworth- then 40 y.o.), is very unhappy; her husband/police detective, Mike (Alfred Ryder), is emotionally abusive. Hayworth’s looks are underplayed in this film; she comes off as a bit tired, anxious, and isn’t dressed glamorously. Jo feels sympathy for an accountant/widower, Larry Ellis (Gig Young), and they start seeing each other. They break up, but Jo’s mother (Mrs. Brown) urges her to reach out again. Larry and Jo meet; she learns that his young son was killed in an accident. They finally spend one night at his hotel, and realize that they still love each other. Larry’s  mother, Mrs. Ellis (Mildred Dunnock), shows up on Jo’s doorstep one day, just as Mike is going to work. Jo is stunned when Mrs. Ellis explains that she hired a private detective to follow Larry; she threatens to reveal all to Mike (unless Jo stays away). One weekend, the family goes to a wedding, where Mike gets very drunk. When they get home, Larry is waiting to speak to Jo (after the others are asleep). She lets him into the kitchen and Larry explains/apologizes about his mother. Mike comes down the stairs (holding his gun), thinking there could be a burglar. When he sees Jo embracing Larry, Mike fights w/ Larry and the gun goes off. Mike is dead; the adulterous couple find themselves on trial for their lives (yet refuse to turn against each other). 

It turns out that Victor (who cleans up nice) is a fine lawyer; he’s confident in the courtroom and passionate about getting justice for his client. He faces some tough opposition from a tough/elderly prosecutor (played by Sanford Meisner, known as an acting coach). While Meisner was exposed to method acting (w/ its emphasis on “affective memory”), his approach was based on “the reality of doing.” Since most of this film is the trial, it will appeal to those who like courtroom dramas (and a lot of dialogue). There isn’t any flair w/ the direction; it was done by the writer, Clifford Odets. As several viewers have noticed, the supporting characters, esp. Victor and the two mothers, are more interesting than the leads. 

Reviews of Recently Viewed Films

Terminal Station (1953) starring Jennifer Jones & Montgomery Clift

Last week, I saw this rare little gem of a movie one afternoon (on TCM); the David O. Selznick cut is titled Indiscretion of an American Wife. Then, I decided to check out the slightly longer version from the Italian director, Vittorio De Sica(Amazon Prime); it contains a a few more (ambiguous) lines/scenes. De Sica’s films are known for romantic neo-realism. My parents (fans of Sophia Loren) really enjoyed Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (1963) and Marriage Italian Style (1964) which both won Oscars. 

If my art seems pessimistic, it is a consequence of my continuing optimism and its disillusion. At least I have enthusiasm. It is necessary to all professions to have enthusiasm in order to have success. -Vittorio De Sica

Why did you come with me? -Giovanni asks Mary

You didn’t look very wicked. I’m not an imaginative woman. It was you. It was Rome! And I’m a housewife from Philadelphia. -Mary replies

A married American woman, Mary Forbes (Jennifer Jones) has been involved for a month w/ a slightly younger Italian-American teacher, Giovanni Doria (Montgomery Clift), in Rome while visiting relatives. One rainy morning, Mary suddenly decides to return home to her husband and young daughter, but w/o telling anyone (aside from her nephew, played by a young Richard Beymer). She goes to the (newly built) train terminal, realizes that she is not at all sure about leaving, and agonizes over her decision. Giovanni joins her at the station, very confused and hurt, as she had just told him “I love you” the previous night.  

[1] This is such a contained, focused film, and demands so much of its two actors, every little nuance matters in a kind of exciting dramatic way. The closest thing this compares to, as two lovers or would be lovers talk in a train station, is Brief Encounter (1945), and that’s a masterpiece of acting and cinema both. Here, with Montgomery Clift and Jennifer Jones, it comes close.

[2] Jennifer Jones, beyond radiant in her prime-of-life womanhood, exudes a sensuality that both contrasts strikingly with her 1950s-prim exterior and celebrates the troubled woman within…

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

There is plenty of drama behind this film! Producer Selznick (then married to Jones), wanted to have a slick romance depicted; De Sica wanted to show a ruined romance (which was fully supported by Clift). De Sica favored realism, so wasn’t interested in Hollywood-style close-ups; Selznick eventually hired cinematographer Oswald Morris to film some of these. Each day on the set, Selznick had critical letters for De Sica (who didn’t know English). The script was altered several times, as the two men had such different visions. Two scenes were written by Truman Capote, who gets screenplay credit. 

The Violent Men (1954) starring Glenn Ford, Barbara Stanwyck, & Edward G. Robinson

Never meet the enemy on his terms. -John says to his ranch hands

I’ll fight for the privilege of being left alone. -John explains to Lee 

A former Union Army officer, John Parrish (Glenn Ford), fully recovered from his war wounds, plans to sell his ranch to the wealthy owner of Anchor Ranch, Lew Wilkison (Edward G. Robinson) and move east w/ his fiancee, Caroline (May Wynn). However, the low price offered by Wilkison, and his hired mens’ bullying tactics, make Parrish think again. When one of his young ranch hands is murdered, he decides to stay and fight, using his battle know-how. At Anchor Ranch, Lew’s shrewd wife, Martha (Barbara Stanwyck), has been having an affair w/ his handsome younger brother, Cole (Brian Keith), who has a Mexican girlfriend, Elena (Lita Milan), that he supports in town. Lew and Martha’s 20-something daughter, Judith (Dianne Foster), has become distant and angry; she has suspected deception in her home.

I know what you’re thinking- whoa, there are a lot of ladies in this Western! I was watching this at my dad’s; even he noticed this fact. Well, not all of these women are well-developed. Caroline seems like she’d marry any guy to get out of her hometown. Elena loves Cole desperately, but we don’t know much about her; her sudden/violent action at the end is quite unexpected (bordering on soap opera). Judith, who’s very much a “daddy’s girl,” is intrigued by Parrish, yet also abhors the violence that ensues during the stampede. Some viewers commented that in order to get a big star like Stanwyck, the role of Martha must’ve been bulked up by the writers. Who doesn’t like Stanwyck!? But I was expecting this film to be more about Parrish. 

[1] The Fifties was the age of the adult western, themes were entering into horse operas that hadn’t been explored before. There’s enough traditional western stuff …and plenty for those who are addicted to soap operas as well.

[2] …the actors in question deserved a better story from which to work from, it is, when all is said and done, a plot that has been milked for all it’s worth, and then some. …still a very rewarding film regardless of the missed opportunities evident with the production.

I learned that this film was shot partly in Old Tucson; my dad noticed this before I did! The cinematography is well done, which is a must for a Western. The best action scene is the one between the unapologetic/violent cowboy, Matlock (one of Lew’s men), and Parrish in the saloon. Ford plays it so cool; he can handle himself w/ a gun man-to-man. This isn’t quite a hit, but worth a look.

The Candidate (1972) starring Robert Redford

…one of the many great movies about the world of politics. It holds up as well today as it did in 1972 (maybe even better). 

A sad commentary on the way things work. Very relevant. I recommend it for fans of Robert Redford or anybody interested in politics 

It’s fair to say that many Americans are fed up w/ politics these days- LOL! It’s refreshing to take a day (or even a few hours) avoiding the news, even if you’re a news junkie (like me). This film was recently shown on TCM; I’d heard much about it, but never watched it. Also, who doesn’t love Redford!? Peter Boyle plays the political expert who convinces Redford to run for Senate (Democratic side, of course). Look out for cameos from journo Mike Barnicle (currently seen on MSNBC’s Morning Joe) and Redford’s real-life pal, Natalie Wood (playing herself).