Imagine if every cellular, radio and other invisible electronic pulses each had a distinctive color we could see; we would all be walking through a brightly hued fog in our daily lives. It seems as if the separation between man and machine has narrowed over time. What with the passwords, computer screens, key strokes, computer glasses, ear buds, tablets, smart phones and computer watches; no wonder we need to unplug once in a while. One of the ways I unplug is to visit a national park. I do not know if it is true but I had heard the United States is the only country that has a national park system, where the lands are protected to avoid any harm at the hands of mankind. There is nothing like walking along a tree covered trail where suddenly the trees momentarily part to reveal a tall, tumbling waterfall with a veil of trailing mist; it is a breathtaking yet peaceful sight to me. Seated at the rim of a deep canyon, where violent weather had mauled its walls while the setting sun casts its bright eye on slow moving dark shadows, provides me endless battery free entertainment. What I tell the members in my yoga class applies to me as well when I am visiting various parks, let the mind soften and release all the should do’s, have to do’s and supposed to do’s; so I can be in the moment and let my whole body relax. ALONE except for 4 camels and her dog, Robyn Davidson, played by Mia Wasikowska (Albert Nobbs, Only Lovers Left Alive), decided she needed to walk. Her walk if successful would cover nearly 2000 miles of western Australian arid and deserted lands, taking her all the way to the Indian Ocean. This film festival nominated movie was based on the true story of Robyn’s sojourn that was turned into a bestselling book. The scenes of Australia with their wide expanses were beautiful; it really made me yearn to see the country. Mia was excellent playing Robyn, showing equal sides of vulnerability, strength and courage. Adam Driver (This is Where I Leave You, Girls-TV) as National Geographic photographer Rick Smolan started out as a minor interest for me; however, as the film progressed his acting brought out a truthful and real side to his character. Be prepared for this film took its time to stroll out the story and especially for animal lovers, there were a couple of scenes that were hard to watch. My methods of unplugging may pale by comparison to Robyn’s, but after watching this picture with its incredible story, I felt as if I had been unplugged in a whole new way.
There was a time when family members lived close to each other because they wanted to, not out of necessity. I had an aunt & uncle who lived in the same apartment building where I lived and my grandmother lived a couple of blocks away. It was nothing to come home and have visiting relatives sitting around the house. The world may have been big and the neighborhoods small back then; however, times seem to be different now where the world has become small and the neighborhoods have gotten bigger. Children can live on a different continent than their parents, relatives can be scattered across a country like confetti on a windy day. With distance comes the possibility of less shared experiences. It may not seem like a big deal at first but before you know it there could be long stretches of time where unfamiliarity rises up and devours a niece’s first soccer game or a cousin’s 1st place winning high school science project. When the younger generation begins creating the next generation it can stretch the weeks of absence into months, eventually years. It is sad to say that families wind up getting together only at a happy or sad occasion; what I refer to as a wedding or funeral event. DEATH was what brought the Altman family back together. When Hillary Altman’s, played by Jane Fonda (Coming Home, Monster-in-Law), husband passed away she insisted her children stay in the house and sit shiva with her for 7 days. Judd, Wendy, Paul and Phillip Altman; played by Jason Bateman (Bad Words, Horrible Bosses), Tina Fey (Muppets Most Wanted, Admission), Corey Stoll (Midnight in Paris, Non-Stop) and Adam Driver (Frances Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis); would soon discover it was not as easy to live together again like they did when they were kids. The first thing that stood out in this comedic drama was the amount of star power in the cast. Jason Bateman with his impeccable comedic timing and quick change ability to become sincere was in top form for this film. Tina and Jane easily kept up with him. Now what made this film harder to watch was having this talented group of actors try to bring life to such a poorly constructed script. I could not believe how bored I was during parts of this movie; the script was dull and lifeless. In my opinion the script hindered the actors from creating chemistry among themselves. Watching this picture felt like being trapped with a distant relative who would not stop talking about their children.
The most casual of settings with a group of people mingling about the room. There was sporadic laughter in the air that mixed in with chattering voices spanning across the musical scales. Standing at the beverage table you made eye contact with the person next to you, who was in the middle of tasting their drink. An exchange of greetings easily flowed into talking about who you knew at the party to likes and dislikes to world topics; each subject discussed seemed to peel away layer after layer of nervousness until you felt completely at ease in your own vulnerability. You had not expected to meet someone at the party but you sensed something special was happening. Your body felt as if it had been injected with a dose of pure caffeine that was making your blood speed through your body, rushing up to your brain to form bubbles of joy. Things were moving smoothly and you were even happy to say you were single when asked if you were seeing anyone. In turn you asked them if they were dating and the most dreaded words you could have imagined plopped out of their mouth: “Yes, my boyfriend was not able to make it here tonight.” You felt your heart pop inside of your chest, eliminating the rarified blood of anticipated happiness. Of course, you avoided showing disappointment in your face and as the night progressed the 2 of you continued conversing as if nothing dramatic had happened–at least in your mind. When you were asked if you wanted to exchange contact information and hang out sometime, not only did you immediately say yes; you exclaimed you would enjoy being friends with both of them. Did you really think that was possible? THIS was a similar dilemma Wallace, played by Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter franchise, Kill Your Darlings), faced when he met Chantry, played by Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks, Fracture), at a party. This award winning film worked well because of the cast. Each of the characters were interesting and the actors, including Adam Driver (Frances Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis) as Allan, played off of each other in a realistic way. The script for this comedic drama was essentially good; however, parts of it were predictable which slowed down the action for me. I will say I have been impressed with Daniel’s film choices, because it never crossed my mind I was watching Harry Potter in this romantic movie. Take it from someone who has been there, I was glad I was not the one having Wallace’s predicament in this cool film with the indie vibe.
2 3/4 stars
Residing in one of the rooms of my mind are colorful balloons, each one filled with a dream of mine. In my 20’s the room was nearly full with all types of balloons. Some had streamers of anticipation attached while others floated high above on the currents of hope. Through the years I would periodically enter this place to pick up the shriveled balloons of broken dreams, strewn across the floor. Replacing them with new dreams that would inflate fresh balloons, I would sit back to watch them gently rise to the others above me. The room is not as full as it used to be, but I still can recall my past dreams. Young, full of aspirations and dreams was the colorful Frances, played by Greta Gerwig (Greenberg, Lola Versus). In her late 20’s she still had hopes of being a dancer, having a fabulous place in New York City, finding real love and to always have Sophie; played by Mickey Sumner (Last Chance Harvey, Missed Connections), as her best friend. Despite the changes that took place in life, Frances continued to hold onto her optimism. Filmed in black and white, this dramatic comedy showed the perfect slice of Frances’ daily life. Directed by Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg) and written by him and Greta, they really conveyed the essence of life’s ups and downs. This was Greta’s best performance to date; I found her character to be honest and real. Besides her’s and Mickey’s endearing performances, Michael Esper (All Good Things, Loggerheads) as Dan, Adam Driver (Lincoln, J. Edgar) as Lev and Michael Zegen (The Box, Adventureland) as Benji also did justice to the smart script. There was a wonderful style and vibe to this movie; in a way, it had the flavor of a Woody Allen movie but for a younger generation. No matter what reality may bring, dreams are the fuel to propel us forward.
3 1/2 stars