FlixChatter Review: Little Women (2019)

As a fan of period dramas with strong female protagonists, naturally I’ve been looking forward to seeing the new Little Women adaptation. I remember loving the Gillian Armstrong’s 1994 version, but 25 years is a long enough time to see a new adaptation from Louisa May Alcott‘s autobiographical novel about her own life with her three sisters in post-Civil War America.

After the success of Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig was undoubtedly poised to helm this adaptation that’s packed with a stellar cast: Saoirse Ronan as Jo, Florence Pugh as Amy,  Emma Watson as Meg and Eliza Scanlen as Beth. She re-teamed with Ronan once again, who apparently asked to be cast as the headstrong, modern protagonist Jo March. The film is told from her perspective as she reflects on her life in a non-linear narrative. It took some time for me to figure out which timeline is being told, as one has to really pay attention to details whether a scene takes place in flashback or present. But once the film gets going, it’s easier to follow and I was immersed in the March sisters’ journey.

Lady Bird was beloved by critics and audiences alike, but I must say I enjoyed Little Women more and Gerwig’s direction has the right amount of flair to make the story really come alive. Ronan is a consistently excellent actress, but she clearly reveled in this role. She’s so lively, passionate and fiery as Jo March, and her independent spirit shines through. The March sisterhood is endearing and emotionally moving, each woman’s journey is handled with care and most importantly, each is given a ‘voice’ that most women is deprived of in that era. Jo’s relationship with each of her sister is well-developed, especially the sibling rivalry between her and Amy. 

Pugh has quickly become one of my favorite actresses and the incredibly gifted miss Ronan has truly met her match in this casting. Of course I was as furious as Jo when she found out Amy had done that heinous thing to her (you know what I mean if you’ve read the book or seen the film). Their relationship is the most explosive, for a lack of a better word, without being over-dramatic, with each young performer fiercely holding her own. The speech Amy made about how the inequality of women of that time is a defining moment in the film. Though delivered almost in a matter-of-fact manner by Pugh, it packed an emotional punch. Apparently that whole speech was written in the last minute just before shooting, at the suggestion of Meryl Streep who played Aunt March.

In terms of casting, Laura Dern is wonderful as the kind, caring mother of the March girls. Streep is always great to watch and she even became a comic relief at times, but it’s Chris Cooper who’s absolutely devastating as Mr. Laurence. He imbued SO much heart in the role with barely any word spoken… and relationship with Beth, who reminds him of the granddaughter he lost, is particularly heart-rending.

I remember having a bit of a crush on the 1994’s version of boy next door Laurie (played by Christian Bale, natch!), but I absolutely adore Timothée Chalamet in the role. The Hollywood’s boyfriend of the moment has always been extremely watchable, but the way he looks at Jo with his longing look… oh my! And that proposal scene just breaks my heart.

Now, if I have to nitpick however, is the relationship between Jo and Friedrich Bhaer, the professor. Now, I can forgive casting a French actor (Louis Garrel) playing a German character (or someone with a German name), but I just didn’t feel much connection between the two and the scene feels rushed somehow. I remember swooning over Gabriel Byrne as Bhaer and the ‘my hands are empty’ scene was far more emotional.

Overall though, this is definitely one of the best literary adaptations and it’s a shame Greta Gerwig and the film was overlooked at the Golden Globes and BAFTAs. Let’s see if the Academy would rectify that. It’s a film with an inspiring message for girls and women alike, and a good one for boys as well to serve as a reminder that the journey for women equality still continues. In terms of production values, there are plenty to admire as well. The production design by Jess Gonchor is excellent, setting it in Louisa May Alcott’s family home where she wrote the novel adds so much authenticity. So is Jacqueline Durran‘s costumes that look era appropriate and fits each character well. The gorgeous cinematography by Yorick Le Saux and lush music score by Alexandre Desplat all makes Little Women a feast for the senses and one I think I’ll want to watch over and over for years to come.


Have you seen Little Women? Well, what did you think?

FlixChatter Review: On The Basis Of Sex (2018)

guestpost

“You couldn’t have existed until now.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s teenage daughter has just told off a cat calling construction crew. RBG stares at her daughter, who is striding into the street to call a cab. Oblivious to the rain and to the cab which her daughter is now impatiently waiting by, RBG sees her daughter with new eyes. Jane Ginsburg is an entirely new kind of woman: a woman that RBG could never have conceptualized, much less become, in her teenage years.

This is one of two running themes of On the Basis of Sex. The movie never strays from its biographical storyline, but the movie is also clearly built to remind its audience that everyone is a product of their time. Bader Ginsburg was one of the first women to ever attend Harvard and yet she found herself shocked by her own daughter’s ability to stand up to a perhaps less institutionalized part of the patriarchy. The groundwork laid by our predecessors allows us to become something that they could never have dreamed and sometimes that shocks our predecessors.

The second theme regards the importance of family and a strong partnership. Martin Ginsburg prepares meals, comforts his children, and encourages his wife to pursue her ambitious dreams. RBG also puts in her fair share of work around the house, is willing to sacrifice a degree to support her husband, and puts in twice as much work as any other Harvard students when her husband gets sick. Most notably, the give and take of the Ginsburg’s relationship is not something that the movie asks its audience to be impressed by.

Aside from Armie Hammer’s unfortunately benign interpretation of Martin Ginsburg, the cast of On the Basis of Sex is spot on. Felicity Jones’ performance (as Ruth Bader Ginsburg) is strong-willed, reserved, and funny. Her performance, which is great all around, was downright heart stopping when she curled up in a hospital bed with her husband: the love, sadness, and hope exuded in that moment has lingered in the back of my mind in the week since I saw the movie.

Jones with Cailee Spaeny and Kathy Bates

Justin Theroux excelled as an almost likable, smarmy Mel Wulf. Cailee Spaeny (as Jane Ginsburg) was a perfect teenager: self-righteous, emotional, and ultimately full of love for her family. Sam Waterston was…Sam Waterston. He was a believable Dean of Harvard, but I doubt that Waterston captured Erwin Griswold’s essence in any meaningful way.

The costume and set design were gorgeous. From the very beginning of the movie when Bader Ginsburg is highlighted as a bright blue spot in a sea of black suits, the movie is visually stunning. The clothing, furniture, and city scape of the 50s and 60s are lovingly and colorfully recreated, making the movie an absolute treat to watch.

Ultimately a feel-good movie by director Mimi Leder, On the Basis of Sex is well worth seeing. Much of Bader Ginsburg’s life and work go unaddressed, which, considering the scope of her life’s work, is to be expected, but the film paints a beautiful portrait of Bader Ginsburg and her family.


hollyHolly P. is a twenty-something millennial who enjoys shouting at people on the internet, riding her bicycle, and overbooking her schedule. She prefers storytelling that has a point and comedy that isn’t mean. Her favorite movies are Aladdin, the Watchmen (even though the book was way better), and Hot Fuzz.  She’s seen every Lord of the Rings movie at least a dozen times. You can follow her @tertiaryhep on twitter or @hollyhollyoxenfreee on Instagram. She’s also on Tinder, but if you find her there she’ll probably ghost on you because wtf is dating in the 21st century.


Have you seen ‘On The Basis Of Sex’? Well, what did you think? 

FlixChatter Review: You Were Never Really Here (2018)

Lynne Ramsay’s movie making career could’ve ended after she abruptly quit Jane’s Got A Gun and sued that movie’s producers. That kind of public dispute between a director and producers probably would’ve ended many filmmakers’ career in Hollywood. But after a seven-year hiatus, Ramsay is back with another dark-themed film that could put her career back on track.

As the film begins, we see Joe (Joaquin Phoenix) finishing up some sort of a task and we later found out he’s rescued a kidnapped child from some very dangerous people. With small clips of flashbacks, we learned that Joe is a disturbed person who has a rough childhood. As a grown-up, his career as a military man also scarred him. He keeps hearing the voices of the dead people he’d witnessed while in the service and constantly contemplates suicide. The only thing that keeps him going now is caring for his elderly mother (Judith Roberts). To earn a living, he uses his special skills to rescue young children from sex traffickers. For his next job, his handler John (John Doman) tells him that a senator’s daughter has been kidnapped and he’s willing to pay big bucks to get her back. Joe took the job and was able to locate the senator’s daughter Nina (Ekaterina Samsonov). But once Joe rescued Nina, things went south quickly, and he realized he’s in over his head and some very powerful people wants him dead.

Based on the short novel of the same name by Jonathan Ames, Ramsay who also wrote the screenplay, kept the story solely on Joe’s point of view and his thoughts. Some scenes played out like a dream and other times, it’s something from Joe’s memory. This is my first time seeing Ramsay’s work and I do like her style. She’s obviously channeling the films of Kubrick, Malick and especially Scorsese’s Taxi Driver. In fact, some might call it a Taxi Driver for the 21st century. While I agree these two films shared similarities, I do think Scorsese’s version is a much better film. I’ve never read the book version, so I don’t know how faithful it is to the source material, but I felt like Ramsay could’ve expanded the story a bit more and give us some details of what’s really going on. I understand this is more of a character study, but I would’ve liked to see more characters’ involvement and thicker plot. I felt like when the plot finally gets going, the film is almost over. Now, maybe I think Ramsay just didn’t want to tell a straight-up revenge action thriller story and went the opposite of what was expecting. I respect her decision, but I still prefer to see story expanded a little bit more.

Performance wise, Phoenix is very good as the silent and violent character. He tends to mumble a bit too much though. It wasn’t an over the top performance and I appreciate that. He’s pretty on the screen 100% of the time and he kept my attention. The supporting characters didn’t have much to do since the story is all about Joe, but I did like Roberts’ and Samsonov’s performances.

I also have to give praises to Jonny Greenwood’s excellent score and Tom Townsend’s great cinematography. I thought the haunting score and beautiful cinematography really helped the film.

I really had high hopes for this film and even though it didn’t meet my expectations, it’s still a solid thriller. I found it to be a frustrating film but admired Ramsay for not going the generic thriller route. Maybe with a better screenplay, it could’ve been something special.

TedS_post


So have you seen You Were Never Really Here? Well, what did you think?

Weekend Viewing Roundup & Updates on my pledge to #52FilmsByWomen

Hello everyone, hope you had a pretty nice and relaxing weekend. Those in the Northeast, hope you’re doing ok and not buried under the snowmageddon! It’s crazy that we Minnesotans have been enjoying relatively uneventful Winter lately, I mean we got the subzero temps last week but as far as snow, there’s really not much to write home about.

Well, I haven’t been to the movies since before New Year but starting this coming week, there’ll be at least one press screening a week, starting with Pride + Prejudice + Zombies this Thursday! Yep, I’m a big Jane Austen fan, but I’m not really a purist so I enjoy mixing of genres, especially as bizarre as this one!

I did see quite a few movies at home, mostly rewatches though:


Learning to Drive
is a cross-cultural comedy drama by Spanish filmmaker Isabel Coixet that’s instantly elevated by the two charming cast. Sir Ben Kingsley once again played an Indian man, and for some reason I just learned that the British thespian is actually half Indian. Did you know his birth name is Krishna Bhanji? In any case, Learning To Drive is sweet and poignant, albeit rather predictable. Patricia Clarkson is lovely as a woman ditched by her husband. Her character seems insufferable at times, but she displays such affecting vulnerability that you instantly root for her. I haven’t seen too many films of hers but I certainly will do so now.

I still LOVE Notting Hill and my hubby and I actually watched it right after Learning to Drive. He said he’s forgotten most of it but he loved the movie. I think Richard Curtis is one of those rare directors who can make fun rom-coms that appeals to both men and women. Rogue Nation is of course so immensely watchable, glad that my hubby bought the Bluray last week!

GosfordPark_cast

As for Gosford Park, it’s been ages since I saw this one so it’ll feel like the first time. I’ve always been fascinated by films about the English class system and this was written by the writer of Downton Abbey, Julian Fellows. It’s part of the three films we’ll be discussing at Cindy’s Lucky 13 Film Club on Feb 13. The cast is filled with the who’s who of British cinema: Maggie Smith, Helen Mirren, Kristin Scott Thomas, Derek Jacobi, Michael Gambon, Clive Owen, etc. Ryan Phillippe seems out of place in this lineup, playing a Scot no less!

52FilmsByWomen

I’ve mentioned this when I posted my 2016 Blindspot list earlier this month. Well, I’ve seen the first one of my Blindspot film which happens to be directed by a woman: Marie Antoinette (review upcoming). If you haven’t heard of this *movement* yet, well head to WomenInFilm.org announcement here, hope you can take part!


Well, so far I’ve watched three films by women this month, but one is a rewatch (Belle by Amma Asante). I hope to watch another one by end of this month. Most likely it’ll be another cross-cultural drama, Cairo Time, which also stars Patricia Clarkson, directed Canadian filmmaker Ruba Nadda.

TallulahMovieSpeaking of movies directed by women, my good friend Kirsten Gregerson‘s in Sundance this weekend and one of the films she’s been talking to me about is Tallulah. It’s a drama by female director Sian Heder starring Ellen Page, Allison Janney, Tammy Blanchard and Zachary Quinto, which has just been picked up by Netflix!

No trailer yet but the film’s been getting great reviews, including this one by Variety. I’ll be blogging more about Sundance films later this week.


Well, what did you watch this weekend? Anything good?