Movie Review : Albert Nobbs

Glenn Close plays Albert Nobbs, a woman posing as a man working as a waiter in a hotel. In the beginning, I found the movie interesting as it reminded me a lot of Downton Abbey. There was a wonderful period feel and a host of colorful characters with saucy behind the scenes gossip. Close, as Albert, looked sufficiently male, but also had the stiff unnatural look of heavy makeup. (AKA a Mrs. Doubtfire vibe.) But since the character lived such a repressed and rigid life, the stiffness seemed to blend. Albert’s life is roughly knocked for a loop when he comes across Janet McTeer’s Hubert, another woman living as a man. When Hubert confesses he’s married to a woman, Albert becomes obsessed with doing the same. And here’s where I got a little confused.

Hubert is clearly in love with the woman he resides with and it’s clear they share the same bed. While they use the premise of companionship often, (as in ‘we were both lonely,’) this was no ordinary ‘friendship.’ But nothing in Albert’s backstory or current story suggests he is gay. Yes, he’s very lonely and longing for companionship, but why does he become so obsessed with specifically wanting a wife? And his choice for wife is a young, pretty, very straight and very sexually active Helen, a woman who makes it clear she isn’t interested in him (but has no problem asking for and accepting his gifts.) All I could think, honestly, was that Albert had been acting as a man so long he couldn’t think straight anymore AND possibly someone once smacked him hard in the head with an iron.

I got so paranoid midway thinking Helen’s true boyfriend, the troubled and sleazy Joe, was going to find and make off with Albert’s money (which he kept hidden under a floorboard in his room,) that more than once I was tempted to fast forward just to get that out of the way. Fortunately that didn’t happen. Although the story sort of floundered about with Albert’s attempts to court Helen and fast forwarding would have spared me a bit of boredom. I just didn’t get that part. Didn’t get it at all. And the ending was pretty bad (disappointing, pointless, wasted) in my eyes.

There were some very good scenes in this, dispersed between the grayish matter, and they all seemed to feature Janet McTeer. Her Hubert commanded your attention when he was on the screen with his tall and attractive presence. Life seemed to exude from him in contrast to the pasty, stiff-faced Albert. And in the end, when we are left with a final impression of Hubert, I almost felt like the movie was more about him.

I bothered to take a peak at the reviews after mine was written, and I wasn’t surprised to find a 50/50 line of loved and hated. I guess it all depends on what you look for in a movie. If performance is your thing, it’s definitely worthy of your time. If story is your thing, save yourself the two hours.

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Movie Review : God Bless America

(Warning : Contains spoilers)

My son is a movie lover and although our tastes don’t always match up, I was intrigued by his enthusiasm for ‘God Bless America,’ currently playing on Netflix. The double ‘OMG’ is what did it. Once again, I knew very little going in, although I recalled having seen the trailer last year and it registered in my brain as a ‘mad at the world shot ’em up.’ Which, it kind of was. But it was so much more than that.

Joel Murray, by virtue of age and face, was a beautiful casting choice as the irritated and troubled Frank, a man who’s reached the end of his rope. He was believable and impassioned, delivering his lines with conviction in his eyes, speaking directly to the heart of anyone who ever mourned the death of old-fashioned decency and kindness. Even mired in the irony of this movie, he connected strongly with me, making it clear that producer/director Bobcat Goldthwait was looking to be taken seriously here – despite the ‘dark comedy’ listing.

From the opening scenes of ‘God Bless America,’ we are on notice that the movie will be unconventional and violent. Frank fantasizes picking off a screaming baby as it’s tossed in the air like a skeet disc, and as the screen is splattered with blood and guts, I laughed. Not a comfortable laugh, but a ‘what in the hell?’ one. The same one that sold me on ‘Breaking Bad’ after they dissolved a man in acid. There is a very delicate edge to morbid humor, but Goldthwait manages to dance on that line by making almost all the victims in this movie decidedly annoying.

Beleaguered Frank is a migraine-suffering no one, walking from his 1/2 address home into a shallow world where ‘people don’t have conversations anymore. They just regurgitate the things they’ve seen on TV – Celebrity Gossip, Sports and Pop Politics.” Long divorced Frank is hated by his screeching daughter, and after being fired from his job and diagnosed with a brain tumor, he puts a gun in his mouth. But in the seconds before he shots himself, he catches a spoiled, whining teen on a TV reality show and gets the gratifying idea that he should take her with him.

There’s a guilty pleasure in seeing irritating people get blown away, let’s face it, and I laughed each and every time he pumped a bullet into someone. It’s the kind of thing that seems okay when it’s all a fantasy, but too often in ‘God Bless America’ you’re reminded of real life psychos, (especially when the shootings occur in a movie theater,) and it starts to get a little harder to laugh.

Frank is joined along the way by the young and wistful Roxy, an adorable if hyper, doe-eyed Gidget clone, played by Tara Lynne Barr. Roxy, too, is mad at the world, but for differing reasons, although reasons matter little by this point. Between the two of them, pretty much everyone is a target as they start to list to each other what type of person they should kill. It’s a list of personality traits we all hate but will never recognize or acknowledge in ourselves. But it’s also a list of things we tolerate in our daily lives.

(*Note: I started to find myself a little annoyed at how long they wanted me to suspend my disbelief, since they are never once pursued or even looked at funny by police, despite their glaringly yellow crime car and unique facial and age characteristics being plastered all over TV. But for the movies needs, it had to be postponed…indefinitely I guess.)

From midway, the movie starts to pick up an overly preachy feel, and that’s where the irony sets in. If anyone should appreciate the idea behind this movie, it is me. I am fully qualified. I don’t own a television and haven’t for nearly five years now. I am as anti-annoying media as you can get. But a human life is a human life and the nit picking starts to grow thin. I guess my point is…if you don’t like what you’re seeing on TV, you have the option of turning it off, and while it’s hard to tune out the mindless media babble of office co-workers, that will always be the better solution than taking their lives. You don’t complain to someone about their propensity for spewing hatred with a gun pointed at their face. That is not the ‘kindness’ Frank truly sought at the beginning of this film. It’s the descent of a soul already lost.

The killing spree continues until Frank’s rage reaches an apex, when he kills a man not with his gun but with his bare hands. That our heroes go down in a hail of bullets at the end is appropriate, despite an ‘Of Mice and Men’ dream of restarting their lives on a small farm in France. It has to end that way. By this point, they’ve killed a few innocents, and their crimes cannot go unpunished. While not exactly the modern day Bonnie and Clyde an idealistic Roxy likes to pretend, they are a brutal representation of human folly, both for and against.

This movie was so much deeper than I imagined it would be and I completely understood it. I appreciate that it never patronized by adding any kind of relationship between the two of them and for Frank’s unrelenting values. It was a sad movie for a comedy really. And very much unforgettable.

I loved it.

Movie Review : The Accidental Husband

After I watched this Netflix movie, I looked at its reviews, curious if anyone had the same opinion of it as myself. I’ll get to their ratings in a moment.

I picked ‘The Accidental Husband’ (2008) as my view of the day because it had Colin Firth in it and I love Colin Firth, so this film had at least one star going in just for his presence. It also stars Uma Thurman and Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Morgan is mainly a TV star and, since I don’t have a television, I had no idea who he was. Uma I knew well, but never warmed up to, even as extraordinary as she was in ‘Pulp Fiction.’

Based on the cover, I made the easy assumption that Uma would be dumping the rough looking Morgan in favor of the debonaire Firth. So I was a little surprised right off the bat when it was Uma and Firth that were the couple, and Morgan, as NY Fireman Patrick Sullivan, who plays the outside love interest. It just seemed so unlikely. I watched from this point with a cocked eyebrow, my cynical side already prepared to hate this film. For starters, it was sooo contrived. Uma is Dr. Emma Lloyd, a radio talk show host who dispenses love advice, and when she talks Sullivan’s girlfriend out of getting married, Sullivan gets even, by letting a hacker friend of his get into the city archives, creating a fake marriage license for Emma and him.

Wait…what? I was so annoyed at this point because the idea of it was so stupid. You’re gonna get even with a woman by making it seem she’s married to you? But, then, I have to admit, this was also the basis behind one of my favorite movies of all time, ‘Overboard,’ and since it worked there, I chose to let it go. Moving on…

Emma, who is engaged to Firth, discovers this mess when they go down to city hall to get their own marriage permit. And she promptly seeks out Sullivan, a man she still does not know, to get this whole mess straightened out. After following a trail of pointing neighbors, she finds him in a local bar, and while she tries to talk to him about this ‘mix up,’ he proceeds to get her very drunk and, when she passes out, takes her home. It all gets kind of silly from there.

On one hand, I was still irritated at the dumb premise, but on the other hand, you start to get a better sense of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and there was something very interesting and real about him. Despite his being oafish, he was also quite charming and his humor and unpredictability was appealing. It was smart really, because the movie’s entire theme is that you can’t always judge a relationship by perceived compatibility. Even when a man is perfect, there still has to be a spark. Something that fuels the fire between you. Something that Uma finds she has with the fireman and doesn’t have with Firth. And it’s believable.

I liked Uma in this movie, much more so than in others. Maybe it’s because she’s broken down a bit and the more natural person underneath the facade is easier to relate to. There’s a part of her that enjoys and clearly craves the crazy world Sullivan has around him and, despite Colin’s lovely disposition, Sullivan has the straight up animal magnetism that Uma’s relationship with Colin is missing.

While the rest of the movie is formula romance with a pretty typical ending, I liked it. A lot, actually. ‘The Accidental Husband’ is a bit slow at times and annoyingly frantic in others. The characters aren’t well defined and the entire story is moronic, but…there were wonderful moments of humor, adorable scenes of pure madness and both male leads were certainly worthy of their screen time.

I gave the movie four stars. However, the other reviewers weren’t as kind. One and two star reviews littered its front page on Netflix, and on the half dozen pages that followed. It was pretty roundly panned as being dull and boring. Colin was wasted here, they say, and in a way, I agree with that sentiment. Knowing his immense talent, it’s hard to see him in such a so-so movie, and any half-decent, good-looking actor could have done the job just as well.

I would say this was worth watching if it was a rainy day out and you were somewhat bored, because, while there are way better movies out there, it was still entertaining enough in the long run.

Movie Review : Charlie Bartlett

This was possibly one of the worst movies I have ever seen. Where to even begin? 

Anton Yelchin (channeling his inner Matthew Broderick) plays Charlie Bartlett, a troubled rich kid who’s been kicked out of several private schools for various illegal doings. (Making fake driver licenses, etc.) His motivation for doing these illegal things? He wants to be popular. But now, his rich, alcoholic Mom (all adults in this movie are apparently alcoholics) will have to send him to public school. Charlie attends this school wearing his old school’s uniform… suit with crest on pocket, tie, attache, and is promptly beaten up by the school bully. (A standard, mohawk wearing punk named Murphy who looks like he’s thirty years old.)

The principal, Robert Downey, Jr., walks in while this bully and his friend are dunking Charlie’s head in a toilet and he completely ignores the clear case of bullying in front of him, casually asking Charlie if he’s okay before walking out again. A few hours later, Charlie is violently beaten again by the same boys while they tape it. The lawsuit that could be levied at this moment…I shudder to think, and it’s made all the more bizarre by the school’s announcement that it’s installing security cameras for liability issues. (Hell, maybe it will help innocent kids report adults in charge who turned a blind eye in the first place.)

Charlie’s mom has him see a psychiatrist after he comes home from school with a black eye, and the doctor prescribes him Ritalin. Really. Charlie then entices the bully who beat him to help him sell Ritalin to fellow students, who then begin to run naked through the halls between loud, wild classroom parties. Does it sound like I’m making this all up?  Does it? We’re only about twenty minutes into this movie. I haven’t even begun to make shit up.

Charlie is now suddenly very popular because he is selling drugs to his classmates. When a disturbed young man asks Charlie if he has anything for depression, Charlie visits his psychiatrist again (his Mom conveniently has one on call) and secures wellbutrin and assorted other anxiety meds for him. 

Charlie starts counseling students in the boy’s bathroom, listening as they talk about their problems in the next stall like it’s a church confessional. He begins dispensing prescriptions to them, selling them pills he’s acquired from now seeing a host of different doctors. Of course, any astute pharmacist would immediately flag this, but the movie world is full of inept adults who smile and remain clueless. 

Students actually applaud Charlie now as he struts each day into school wearing dark sunglasses, accompanied by bad rap music. And we’ve reached the half hour mark.

Remember how the school bully taped it when he beat up kids? Now Charlie decides to make additional money by selling a collection of these beatings on a video, and we are shown a comedic montage of those beatings while Charlie promotes it like it’s “Girls Gone Wild” or something. It was so incredibly cringe worthy…I couldn’t even fathom what responsible adult movie maker would think this was okay. But, hey, it’s okay, the principal sees a copy of this tape and he suspends Charlie for three days. The bully, the kid shown beating other school kids in the videos, not a thing happens to him, mind you.

So…Now we learn Charlie’s dad is in prison for tax evasion and poor Charlie is mentally torn over this. Also, Charlie is dating the principal’s daughter. Here, we learn from his daughter that the Principal has a drinking problem, and once waved a gun around suicidally while undergoing therapy. Dad’s biggest fear is that Charlie will screw her and announce it to half the school. The daughter is mortified by her father’s concerns. How dare he suggest this would happen! It’s unfathomable. Disgusting! Of course, a few scenes later, when EXACTLY that happens, she is shown laughing, as if Charlie’s announcement to his schoolmates that they just had sex is just another of his crazy antics. At the same moment as that is occurring, the depressed boy Charlie has given meds to – attempts to commit suicide by swallowing them all.

The Principal suspects the meds have come from Charlie but he can’t prove it, but when he asks Charlie why he’s doing this, Charlie answers he’s just trying to be popular. That’s…kind of an admission of guilt, no? But… we’ll gloss over that. Charlie does the right thing and flushes all the meds down a toilet. (An entire school will now cold turkey off its Welbutrin. I will interject here that I once tried to go cold turkey off Welbutrin. Within a day it felt like claws were squeezing my brain. The anxiety was so bad I seriously couldn’t think straight. I immediately started taking it again. It was that or take a fast leap off a bridge. So you have fun with that, Charlie’s high school friends!)

It only gets worse from here. Charlie accidentally punches the Principal. Then the Principal is fired, so he goes home and drinks heavily and waves a gun around. Not just waves it. Actually shots it into the air and holds it to his head. Fun stuff like that. But Charlie saves the day! They have a heart to heart chat and everything turns out okay. What a feel good movie, huh?

Director Jon Poll tried to make this Ferris Bueller and failed miserably, because, unlike John Hughes, he completely missed the part where you add human dignity and class. There is no negative scale of stars that exists for me to rate this film. It should be banished from filmdom quickly, its name wiped out of the history books before it becomes a cult classic. 😦