MOST INDIVIDUALS CONSIDERED HIM THE LIFE of the party and I suppose to the untrained eye he was; however, there was something about him that did not set right with me. If I were asked to describe him in one word, I would have used the word “manic.” When he was “on” there was no off switch; he would remain the focus of attention for the entire night. Whether it was a couple of people or a large party, he was always set to put on a performance. I will say he could be quite funny at times, but sometimes people just wanted to chill out and not be forced to play his fall guy or enthusiastic audience member. I use the word enthusiastic because if you did not play along to his style of humor, he would be quick to pounce on you; of course, in a humorous way just to get more laughs out of the situation. Whenever we were at the same event, I always made sure I was off to the side, somewhere on the edge of his peripheral vision. I discovered if I was not in his direct line of fire, which mostly was everything in front of him, I could get by without being pulled into his show. THE AMOUNT OF ENERGY HE WOULD expend during his performances was not natural; I was convinced there had to be something fueling him on, because rarely was there anyone who could do such a feat without artificial help. In a period of 2-3 years of his over the top personality, I noticed a change taking place in him. His complexion had drained into paleness and his weight loss had become noticeable. You might recall my philosophy of there being no accidents, there is a reason for everything? I was at the right place at the right time when I made a comment to a close friend of his about the physical differences I had noticed. It was as if I had the key to open up her feelings because she teared up as she told me how concerned she was about her friend. It turned out my suspicions were correct because she said she was certain he was addicted to a street drug. I did not take any pleasure in being right; a coat of sadness enclosed me as I tried to comfort her. She explained she was trying to convince him to seek out help but all he would do is promise her then continue on with his day. I felt sad for her and him, telling her she could not do it alone; it would take a major near-death experience or sudden change in the way people respond to his antics. To give you an idea of what it felt like being around him, I was getting the same feelings I used to experience back then as I watched the main character in this film festival winner. BEING THE FRONT PERSON TO A PUNK rock band required a great deal of energy. Luckily for Becky, played by Elisabeth Moss (The Invisible Man, The Handmaid’s Tale), she had an unlimited amount of help from the things she would ingest. With Cara Delevingne (Paper Towns, Suicide Squad) as Crassy Cassie, Dan Stevens (The Guest, Beauty and the Beast) as “Dirtbag” Danny, Agyness Deyn (Clash of the Titans, Sunset Song) as Marielle Hell and Virginia Madsen (Dune, Burn Your Maps) as Ania Adamcyzk; this music drama’s prime focus was Elisabeth’s performance. She was eerily excellent in the role which only made me uncomfortable to watch what was happening to her through the story. The script did not do her any favors because I felt many scenes were repetitive. It was not until the last third of the movie where I felt fully engaged with what was taking place. Honestly, there really were not any surprises in this story; but, with Elisabeth’s convincing performance I could not look away from the train wreck that was taking place right before my eyes.
AT WHAT POINT DOES YOUR TOLERANCE for disruptive behavior end? I can go for a while depending on the situation, but then I am done. Let me give you an example: there was a friend of mine who enjoyed going to the movies with me. I thought I did as well until she started talking during the film. Once or twice I am okay with, especially if they did not hear a line of dialog; but, asking questions and talking during the show is totally unacceptable in my world. She would ask me things like, “What do you think will happen?” or “I do not think that dress looks good on her.” Really?!?! This is a reason to open your mouth and talk during a movie? I thought not responding would stop the talking, but that was not the case. She kept up the chatter even after I pointblank asked her to stop it. Because she was a good friend, I had a dilemma on my hands. Do I stop going to the movies with her or find a different option? My solution was simple (at least I thought so); I told her she was more than welcome to join me, but she could not sit next to me because of the talking. She tried by sitting a few seats away from me, but after a couple of times she lost interest in going with me and I was okay with it. THOUGH I AM STILL FRIENDS WITH that person there is someone else whose friendship I chose to end. We knew each other for several years. Since I was the only one with a car, a lot of our time together was down in their area. In those years they only ventured up towards me a few times, using public transportation or a car share. Everything was fine between us, always having a good time together. Then one time I asked if they wanted to see a theatrical production at a theater that was located near me; they agreed to see it. I checked on ticket availability and called them back later in the week. We decided on seats and I said I would go pick them up. They asked again the name of the theater and when I told them they asked if it was located up by me. Saying yes, they said they were not going to go “all the way” up there just to see a play. I realized right then this was a friendship of convenience on their part; it was okay for me to go down to them, but to come up to me was too hard? Since this was not the 1st time, I made the hard decision. Granted, not as hard as the decisions made in this dramatic movie. HOLLY BURNS, PLAYED BY JULIA ROBERTS (Wonder, Secret in Their Eyes), had everything set to celebrate the holidays. But then her son Ben, played by Lucas Hedges (Boy Erased, Manchester by the Sea), unexpectedly showed up from rehab. This film festival winner also starred Courtney B. Vance (Space Cowboys, Office Christmas Party) as Neal, Kathryn Newton (Blockers; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) as Ivy and Rachel Bay Jones (God Friended Me-TV) as Beth Conyers. This film stayed alive because of the wonderful acting done by Julia and Lucas. Their chemistry together blazed across the screen. There seems to have been a few recent films that have dealt with addiction, which put this story at a disadvantage. There was not something to set this script much apart from the others that were done, except for allowing the actors to wring out as much feelings and emotions as they could, and they did. Nonetheless, this picture kept me engaged with its tough choices.
THOUGH THE CLERGYMAN TOLD ME HIS tragic story years ago, it all came back to me as I was watching this emotional film. I was friends with this clergyman, not a person who attended his church. I do not recall how we wound up talking about this individual, but our conversation was about relationships. Let me first say I have not had much exposure to individuals with addictions. Sure, I have some friends who drink in excess from time to time, but they tend to only get that way at a celebration event or weekend party and not on a consistent basis. The clergyman started telling me about a couple he knew, never divulging how or where he knew them. They were together for something like 15+ years, both employed with no children. At some point in time the husband started experiencing mood swings. At first, they were not so dramatic; but as time went on, they became more intense. The husband was losing weight and he was away from home for longer periods of time. I am not sure if the wife tried to find out what was going on, but the outcome was so sad. It turned out the husband was addicted to drugs. Not only did he wipe out their savings account, he lost their house. WHEN THE CLERGYMAN TOLD ME THIS story I could not believe such a thing could happen. On the one hand I wondered how the wife did not know bills and past due notices were being ignored; but then on the other hand, if his responsibilities were the financial dealings, how could the husband let things get so out of hand. You see, I did not know addictions could be that debilitating. I did not, nor do I still know, how dangerous addictions can be. Granted, my exposure to this type of disease pretty much revolves seeing it on the big screen, but still I do have an inkling. Since it has not touched me personally, I feel I have this buffer zone around me that isolates me from experiencing the horrors of addiction. For me, I have always looked at addiction as being a tool to fill a void in one’s life. Something is lacking so the person focuses on trying to fill an emotional need. Drugs and alcohol are the first 2 things that come to mind, but I guess almost anything done in excess can be considered an addiction. This dramatic movie based on a true story allows you to experience the tragedy caused by addiction without being a part of it. NEVER IN HIS WILDEST DREAMS DID David Sheff, played by Steve Carell (Battle of the Sexes, The Big Short), ever think the beautiful boy he raised would wind up being someone he no longer understood. This dramatic biographical film also starred Timothee Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name, Lady Bird) as Nic Sheff, Maura Tierney (Insomnia, Forces of Nature) as Karen Barbour, Amy Ryan (Escape Plan, Gone Baby Gone) as Vicki Sheff and Jack Dylan Grazer (It; Me, Myself and I-TV) as young Nic Sheff. The best part of this picture was the acting, hands down. Steve and Timothee were exquisite together as father and son. Timothee’s acting in particular is something special to watch. His transformation throughout this story was mesmerizing. Not that any of the other actors were slouches; they all did a fine job here. My only complaint was I felt for the topic the emotions on display could have been rawer. There was a slight repetitiveness to the script that came across without much variance. Still I could not look away at what I was seeing on the big screen. Truly a command performance of a brutal addiction.
The outer layer is as fragile as a newborn eggshell. It takes a majority of energy just to maintain its shape. And similar to an Easter egg, one can put anything they want on the surface. The reason why it takes so much effort to keep things together is because just below the surface there is turmoil. Down there lives pain, bellowing and crying at all hours of the day. Sometimes it finds a way out and it obliterates the facade up on top. Only the utmost amount of force can pull back the outpouring of suffering and agony. Some time ago I went through a horrible traumatic event where I did not know if I could pull myself up and out of the house. Most of the life in my heart had been extinguished, yet I had to continue to make a living and teach my classes. Going through the day it took everything I had to focus on my work, pretend I was interested in what people were saying to me. The worst time was at night when I was teaching classes. In that environment I was the upbeat fun person. Ready with a joke or positive reinforcement, I had to be there for each member in my class. On the inside my body was crying out in pain; I just wanted someone to hold me and extinguish all my agony. Over time I may not have conquered all of the misery inside but I was able to manage it. I got through without permanent damage; I know I was and am one of the lucky ones. Laney Brooks, played by Sarah Silverman (School of Rock, There’s Something ABout Mary), was married to the successful author Bruce Brooks, played by Josh Charles (Freeheld, Four Brothers), and had a beautiful family. She had everything but something inside wanted something more. This film festival winning drama was the first time I saw Sarah doing a heavy serious role. I have to tell you I was pleasantly surprised at her ability to carry off the role. She went beyond anything I imagined she was capable of doing in this type of genre. In fact, she was the standout by far though I was also impressed with Skylar Gaertner (Sleeping with Other People, They Came Together) as Eli Brooks. Sadly the script could not hold up with her performance. I found the dark story average and easily able to figure out. In addition there were a couple of times where I thought the story veered off then realized it needed to get back on track. Within the script there were times I felt some things were put in strictly for shock value; though I will say, when it involved Sarah’s character she was the closest to making it believable. If nothing else I did feel Sarah gave an honest portrayal.
2 1/4 stars
A love relationship is very much like a tree. With care and affectionate nourishment the love grows, branching out to reach further up into the sky. Your relationship solidifies when the leaves open up to shelter and protect you from any harmful rays. Times of sadness come like changing seasons; shriveled leaves dropping like colorless tears. You gather them up and place them around the base of the tree to protect it like a warm shawl, warding off the cold effects of somber winter. The love and support you show will rekindle life into a new season of love. Like a tree one cannot pick and choose the parts they love and ignore the rest. Relationships go through many season of change; unconditional love is what keeps them strong. Love gets tested in this dramatic comedy about people and their addictions. The story centered around Adam, Mike and Neil; played by Mark Ruffalo (Now You See Me, Shutter Island), Tim Robbins (Mystic River, Jacob’s Ladder) and Josh Gad (Jobs, Love & Other Drugs), and the effect their different stages of recovery from addiction weighed on their relationships. The chemistry between Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow (Iron Man franchise, Country Strong) as Phoebe was sparkling real; I enjoyed watching both their playful and serious scenes together. There was an even pacing to the story where I never felt it becoming slow. I expected Joely Richardson (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Event Horizon) as Katie to give a good acting performance which she did, but I was surprised at the screen presence from Alecia Moore aka Pink (Get HIm to the Greek, Catacombs) as Dede. Some of the humor was obvious, especially around Josh’s character Neil; it came across as cheap shots regarding Josh’s size. The writers did an admirable job for showing the characters’ addiction as a disease without it becoming a joke. That does not mean it was all seriousness; there were light threads of humor that never reached a higher level of laughter. Without saying it in so many words, I liked the way the theme of unconditional love played out in this romantic movie.
2 2/3 stars