Note: I do these reviews out of a sense of — let’s call it — “imagined shared need.” I’m too often at a loss, when evening rolls around, for a good film to watch on Netflix or Amazon Prime. So these suggestions are offered in case readers happen to face the same problem from time to time.
The Homesman: The first word that comes to mind for this film is “ridiculous.” Suspending disbelief becomes impossible. Hilary Swank and Tommy Lee Jones transport three crazy women across the plains of Nebraska Territory to a church-related safe haven in Iowa. There’s plenty to be annoyed about in this film. For one thing, an attractive woman is cast in the role of a homely one — indeed, a character whose plainness of face becomes a key factor in the story. This kind of reluctance on Hollywood’s part has bothered me ever since the attractive Betsy Blair was cast as the unattractive Clara in Marty. Why can’t American films cast genuinely homely women in homely women roles? Homesman has a vaguely Japanese feel to it, perhaps because its drama is decidedly overdrawn. Also reminded me a little of The African Queen, with both films’ pairings of a disciplined and upright woman with an uncouth and roughhewn male travel companion. I cannot recommend this film. But it leaves a kind of haunting aftertaste, too. Life is tough, yes, and the film revels in that. Photography is very good however.
Tracks: True story of a young woman who journeys across Australia’s outback with the help of camels, an old aboriginal man, and a nerd photographer. Don’t miss this one. Very good film.
Gideon’s Army: Very spare, unsentimental, and grippingly genuine documentary account of the lot of the public defender in our criminal justice system. Highly recommended.
Mystery Road: Gritty story of an Australian aboriginal police detective who tracks down his murderer by following a hazy information trail. I had problems with the film’s final 15 minutes and denouement. But these didn’t subtract greatly from its overall success. Definitely-worth-watching crime drama.
The One I Love: This is the kind of film I end up watching when I don’t have a good tip from someone. Silly, Twilight-Zone-ish, foolishness about a couple in need of a romantic restart. (What couple isn’t?) You can very safely skip this one.
Mr. Pip: Stars Hugh Laurie (Dr. House) as a rural teacher in Papua New Guinea. Story is given more weight to carry than it can bear. Skip this one too, I’m afraid.
Common: An unusually personal crime drama. This is a message film, aimed at reforming the UK’s collective responsibility criminal justice conventions. It’s low budget and plainly rendered. But, and despite all that, the film had the ring of truth and is definitely worth watching. Resonated with some painful past experience in my house.
Love Me: A Turkish bridegoom is dragged to a Ukrainian, pre-wedding, last-chance-at-freedom party event by his tradition-soaked and clueless elder male family members. Which in turn leads to a quirky series of events with a prostitute. I liked this film.
The River Why: This is a B movie all the way! A sort of pleasant, escape-to-the-country, get-out-of-town, romantic bit of fluff. The girl in the story captures and packages something important about the magic and intensity of young love — i.e., for the guy! Good watching for an otherwise throw-away evening. But remember: B movie all the way.
The Madness of King George: I liked it. Even liked King George, too.
Guess that’s enough for now! And, yes, you’re entirely welcome!