"An interesting story, about this past blog post. I was on the phone with my mother and had asked her if she had read my latest blog because of a movie review I had written she then proceed to inform me that she was sitting in front of the computer as we spoke and she wanted to go line though line on what I did wrong and how I can improve my post. She then wanted me to remove parts and her comment was “If she can think of something better then what I wrote she'll send it to me to replace my words.” Our mothers do they ever stop being Momma Rose?"
"So for her I cleaned it up and this weekend plan on brushing up on my grammar skills."
After being stuck in the house without the power of the Internet, and which I guess has replaced all my other addictions in life. I decided to use the next form of entertainment that I had to offer which was my netflix membership. I brushed up on my some of my strong female performances with from this last season to this current one with the following movies.
The Kids Are All Right
I had to keep asking myself, was this movie special because it was a topical or is it a special film. After the stereotypical kids going though their issues at the start of the movie I realized the power in this was how normal the couple of Annette Bening and Julianne Moore was. One half drinks and blurts out things about her financial dominance in the relationship, the other feels lost in life and that she's not achieving her dream whatever that might be at this moment. This is a wonderful film the only problem is that this film is filled with quite gem’s all around it. It's too normal for its own good. As the "sperm donor" Mark Ruffalo has this ability or possibly a liability of always making his acting look so natural that he blends into the story. The kids had a California naturalness to them that didn't make you think they were prepping for their own sequel but going on their own journey once the film ended. I thought Julianne Moore was effective in her role even though it's not a flashy role but opposite Annette Bening's emotional seesaw performance it's what was needed. I love Annette Bening but what I have learned is she is better at being a scene stealer instead of a scene dominater and in this movie she dominates every scene she's in. The others make acting look so easy that it makes her look like she's pushing. Almost in the same way her performance in "American Beauty" was. It's a quite film that stays with you a lot longer then some of the flashier ones do.
Winters BoneIn this “Deliverance” meets “Erin Brockovich” tale Jennifer Lawrence stars as Ree Dolly a 17 woman who has to endure a tremendous amount in life in order to protect her family and land from being taken away from her when her father skips out on bail. I call Ree a woman even at if she is at that tender age of 17 when she should still be just called a girl. The things she goes though and the tests she has to endure are things that only someone with strength, courage, and a lack of fear would ever do, something even an adult might not be able to face down but someone who needs to survive does everyday.
She's a survivor who no matter how many times you knock her down she'll get right back up and keep going until she gets the issue resolved. The movie starts out with her taking care of everything in the house including her mentally absent mother, her brother, sister and even animals they find running past them. They survive day to day on her ability to act as an adult and the kindness of their neighbors who supply them with food. One bleak day a bounty hunter comes calling to tell her that her father has skipped bail on charges of cooking meth and that he's used the home and the land they live on as collateral.
This put's her on a mission to find him and you believe her that regardless of whatever frighting path she must go down she'll do down there and find him before times runs out on her.
In this performance, Jennifer Lawrence who is a 19 year old newcomer is fierce, relentless, proud but all internally without a showy performance. It's funny the things that hold back "The kids are All Right" are the things that shine in this film. Early in the movie she tells her brother that “There's a bunch of stuff your gonna have to get used to being scared off” and you believe every word from her. At one point she tells the someone that “I don't talk about you men ever” and you believe that she lives with a lot of secrets in her. She's just a good person who takes care of the people she loves no matter what the cost to herself is.
This is a film about one woman's journey and how high she hold's her head up when she takes that journey no matter how scary the path and the people that are there are.
The land she lives in is removed in a way from what we see as our everyday world and its filled with very few likable characters but characters who have learned in their own way and in their own justice how to survive on their own. It's interesting that not for one second does any of the supporting players turn into a caricature but they all come across as living breathing people including a dazzling turn from John Hawks as her meth snorting uncle Teardrop.
You know at the star that there will be an outcome in Ree finding her father your just not sure how it's going to end but let me tell you by the end you find yourself sitting at the edge of your seat.
At the end of the movie Rae tells her brother in one of the tender moments “I'd be lost without the weight of you on my back” and with that and for them you believe her.
Eat, Pray, Love
This movie is based on a best selling book by Elizabeth Gilbert that my mother “Star” has read several times and in some ways actually lives. I wanted to live this life for the most part because who gets to pick up and leave to go around the world to discover themselves? At the start of the movie Julia Roberts character Liz is told a prophecy for the rest of the film by a wise old man she doesn't fully understand but it's there so we can remember it for future reference. After that we then get Julia trapped in a kinder but still depressing version of her “Sleeping with the Enemy” husband. She's in a safer spot but not by much more exciting of a lifestyle. She's married to Billy Crudup who's good looking but we've already learned to hate him for being both a "Golden God" from "Almost Famous" and that Mary Louise Parker baby drama years ago but now we also hate him because he can't make a decision in life or even hold a baby the right way. I understand a job is a job but at what point does he start worring about his "q" rating as an actor? He constantly tells her about what's his next goal in life is without settleing on anything which leads her into depression. She stops and does the first of the three words in the title of the film for dramatic effect. She prays and tells him she wants a divorce.
This chapter in her life ends due to him always waiting for something to happen to him she goes out and does it. Julia Roberts character spends the movie constantly searching, moving forward in hopes of finding something meaningful. On the way she meets people who are generally stuck in their own situation while moving past them. Think of it as obstacle course with emotions!
As she spends the movie in a journey she finally finds “something” meaningful she finds it with Richard Jenkins that makes her feel grown enough to experience her true movie star love with Javier Bardem. Because in film as we know, Richard Jenkins isn't movie star love, he's lucky enough not to be playing her father.
I believed the pain that Julia was going though, and thought she handled a difficult role quite well with grace and humor. It felt like she was invested more in this performance then she has been in a while.
However my biggest problem was watching this and still not able to get The Florence & the Machine's “Dog Days are Over” song that was played all during commercials out of my head. The other issue I had watching this movie was that sadly after an Oscar Nominated explosive turn in the film "Doubt" Viola Davis was now reduced to playing the Thelma Ritter best friend with one or two one liners.
Okay I'm dipping into last years picks of films but since this column is about strong women who have personal journeys and since I just recently signed up to netflix. I wanted to check out all of Meryl Streep's Oscar competition from last year so I rented this movie, “The Blind Side” and since I already owned “Precious” I figured I'd include it in this column.
"An Education" is sort of like a fairy tale version of that great sixties film “Darling.” However where "Darling" was a bleak tale this had a self aware character growing from her past mistakes.
The story for those who haven't seen the movie is about a young 16-year-old girl who falls for a 35-year old man in the 60's when things were more innocent and even uncomfortable things were handled with great style and she didn't see the bad side of everything.
As Jenny Carey Mulligan takes the reins from Audrey Hepburn and gallops forward in the category of coy fashionable waif in great Ralph Lauren looking outfits with a 60's waif and then goes back to the bleakness of school instead of living the excitement of life. Ms. Mulligan handles this role with a ton of grace and elegance. She's Jayne Eyre who turns into Eliza Doolittle when she meets a handsome older man Peter Sarsgaard who offers her the world. Her parents and her classes offer her a life of structure that stifles her. At sixteen what would you pick? She spends her days living in boredom and her nights living in excitement with him and his friends played by Dominic Cooper and a delightful yet slightly always a step behind Rosamund Pike.
After watching this movie, I couldn't help thinking this tale would have been told from the perspective of one of Ms. Jean Brodie's pupils.
Jenny might have left this film older, and wiser then most but she also got to look like a Vogue cover girl and how many of us can say that?
“Precious: Based on the novel Pushed by Sapahire”
Which leads me to the next film in my list which I watched last night to cheer myself up. In this tale everything including the television set is thrown at this poor girl and yet like our other strong women she keeps sticking her head above the water and keep going on.
Some of these other characters I've featured in this article have overcome adversary due to a lack of education, lack of love, meaning in life, parental supervision, and later in the case of Ms. Bullock a lack of a good Target by her house with an over priced salad but Precious Clarice Jones has overcome more then any of them and could stare any of these women down, with the exception of Ms. Lawrence (and when you see the end of “Winters Bone” you'll know what I'm saying!)
She's overcome everything and I'm not even talking the subtle stuff like the abuse, incest, and welfare but also the deeper meanings in life like having a 3 minute music video better then her actual life, though I thought the film's use of slipping into fantasy took us out of the power of this girls life.
In all of this bleakness and with nothing she overcomes it and to steal a line from “Entertainment Weekly” (Hey, I'm a subscriber so I've already bought and paid for that) “You feel like your witnessing the birth of a soul.”
It did get me thinking while watching this movie if Mariah Carey who's good in a small role wanted to put a song on the soundtrack until the director thought that her trademark "Touch Me's" might not work in this film. Mo'nique is able to take a truly despicable character and in one scene make you feel something for her.
The Blind SideI must admit having a dislike for this film but watched it with an open mind because when people, namely my sisters and I run into an argument around awards season of who should and shouldn't have beat Ms. Streep I want to be able to say that I saw the other persons performance. I thought that Sandra Bullock turned in a movie of the week performance in a movie of the week type of film. I knew when the movie wanted me to feel sad, I knew when it wanted me to feel happy, and I even knew when it wanted me to be proud of the ugly child running around giving catch phrases that haven't been heard since “Jerry McGuire.” It was the type of film that wanted you to root for the botoxed white women who is trying an imitation of Shirley McClaine that just not quite as good as Shirley but more "Real Housewives of Georgia". It was like watching Erin Brockovich without a bigger cause and a lot less cleaveage.
As I finished my journey with these women, I wondered out of this current crop of real life strong women and the occasional only as strong as a Hallmark timeslot which are the ones I'd recommend. I'd say “Winters Bone”, “An Education" (besides Jenny has a point, there's a lot of girl power and just for the Vogue style alone and for those who know what the films "Darling" and "Jean Brodie" are), and “Precious” with a slight recommendation to “Eat, Pray, and Love.” I would skip "The Blind Side" and watch "Julie & Julia" instead.