RARELY DOES DEATH HAVE A PRETTY face. I hope when my time ends here I die peacefully in my sleep. Surely, I am not the only one who wishes for this to happen. The first time I ever saw the face of death it was on a woman with cancer. I did my best not to show my horror when I walked into her hospital room. She had turned her head towards me when I knocked on the open door of her room. Her eyes once prominent and bright were now dull and sunken deep into her skull. The thing that shocked me the most was her teeth. They looked huge because of the wasting away of her face. Dimples once deep and defined were just vertical lines now, accentuating the prominence of her teeth. I swear, they looked like they belonged to a carnivorous animal. The dry, chapped lips were stretched thin. She smiled at me; I wondered how much effort that must have taken her. A nurse stopped in to check on her vitals and give her a few ice chips to suck on. It took everything for me not to lose control of myself. I knew this was going to be the last time I would see her alive. I COULD NOT STOP THINKING ABOUT her. Though we never talked about it, it must have been brutal to be aware of the cancer that was taking the life away from her. By the time she died there was a sense of relief among her survivors. I realized right then that the longer a person stays in the throes of a disease, the easier it becomes for the survivors to say goodbye. No one wants to see a loved one suffer; by the time a person succumbs, those left behind are relieved their loved one is no longer in pain. On the other hand, I realize when a person dies suddenly it is harder for their survivors to deal with the unexpected death. I had a friend who was driving their sister to an event and the sister, at some point, raised her hand to her head saying she had a sharp pain. That is all she said because she died instantly from a brain aneurysm. Except for the immediate sharp pain in the sister’s head, she did not suffer; however, the other sister did not recover from that experience for years. Not that she would ever recover completely. Death as you can see has been on my mind since I watched this comedic drama. THE DECISION WAS MADE NOT TO tell her grandmother she had cancer; but Billi, played by Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians, Ocean’s Eight), did not know if she could live with that decision. This film festival winning movie also starred Tzi Ma (The Ladykillers, Arrival) as Haiyan, Diana Lin (Australia Day, The Family Law-TV) as Jian, newcomer Shuzhen Zhao as Nai Nai and Ines Laimins (Already Tomorrow in Hong Kong, Lady Bloodfight) as Kathy. Overall, I enjoyed this picture. Many of the themes in this story have been told before; but here there was a different perspective put on them, which I attributed to the Chinese culture. I wish I could say Awkwafina was outstanding in her role, but I honestly wonder if there could have been more drawn out of her. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very different role for her and I thought she did an excellent job; but, I wanted to see more intensity in her character. Again, it may be because I am not completely schooled in Chinese culture. The humor in the story grew organically for me as it came out of family dynamics. If I was put in such a position as Billi, I do not know how I would have handled the situation. Instead, this picture made me think about what I would want done for me if I fell ill. At times Chinese was spoken with English subtitles.
3 ¼ stars
WHEN IS IT THE RIGHT time to share something personal with the person you are dating? I have seen and heard a variety of reactions from my friends’ experiences. Some of them, in my opinion, share too much information too soon. I do not think it is necessary to dispense intimate details about oneself on the first couple of dates. At least for me it takes a few times of being together to see if both parties are starting to get comfortable with each other. Let me add I have never gone into a dating situation with a preconceived notion about the person or any type of expectations. I think that is where a person gets tripped up, when they have expectations. There were a couple of times where I went on a date and realized the person had planned out everything they wanted in a relationship. All they needed was to find someone to plug into their scenario; they really did not care to learn about the person, only if they could fit into what they had laid out for themselves. NOW I WILL SAY I do not have a problem revealing things about myself if a person asks me. I would think if you have been following my reviews you would notice they can be rather personal. When I meet someone new there is usually one thing I will mention early on because I have learned if I do not, the person tends to spend time trying to figure out what is wrong with me. I happen to be hypersensitive to the cold; pretty much anything from the weather to air conditioning to ice cubes. My body reacts to the cold by shunting the blood to the internal organs to protect them; everyone’s body does this by the way. Mine just does it more often because more things make me feel cold. So you see when I am on a date and I do not take my jacket off at the cinema or restaurant, it may look odd to everyone. The same thing happens to me grocery shopping, especially in the frozen food sections of the store. It is summertime and I am walking around in a jacket because of the store’s air conditioning. But do you know what I think? If someone is going to get turned off because of my sensitivity to the cold, do I really want to be with them anyway? It was a similar dilemma for the main character in this dramatic, romance movie. SEVENTEEN YEARS LIVING IN THE same neighborhood and Charlie, played by Patrick Schwarzenegger (Stuck in Love, Grown Ups 2), could not understand how he had never seen Katie, played by Bella Thorne (Blended, Scream: The TV Series) before or at least in school at some point. There was a reason he never saw her. With Rob Riggle (Dumb and Dumber To, 21 Jump Street franchise) as Jack, Quinn Shepherd (Unaccompanied Minors, Hostages-TV) as Morgan and Nicholas Coombe (Imaginary Mary-TV, Cinema Town-TV) as Garver; this film quickly fell into a generic pattern that has played out before. It was too bad because I enjoyed watching the interactions between Katie and Jack. However the biggest distraction for me was Patrick’s performance; his acting was more like sleepwalking. I could not get over how one dimensional he was in this picture; his face barely showed emotion and his eyes were dead looking. Combine this with the melodramatic, heavy handed story and all this film produced for me was boredom.
1 ¾ stars
Maybe it takes a passage of time for one’s perceptions to evolve out of a wider base of experiences. Now when I look back at my school years, though some of them were brutal, I see there were parts of it where I was fortunate. Having gone to school at a time when students were not considered bull’s-eyes I can only recall one incident where a student had died. He was the brother of a classmate who was 1 year behind us in school. There were rumors about what happened to him but it appeared as if he had killed himself. Outside of that the only thing that came close was one student who was an epileptic who had a seizure in the middle of a class and another who was a hemophiliac. I remember when the teacher spent half of the morning explaining to us what it meant to be a hemophiliac; we were told to be very careful around her, especially during PE class and recess. As you are probably guessing this was before the HIPAA law came into effect. In regards to these 3 individuals, it was the only time where the different factions (it is the only word that does justice to what my school was like) in the school came together. Whether one actively sought out a faction or was judged and placed in one; after seeing this stellar film, I think all schools have the same factions. FORCED by his mother to go visit a classmate recently diagnosed with cancer Greg, played by Thomas Mann (Project X, Beautiful Creatures), had no idea what to say to Rachel, played by Olivia Cooke (The Signal, Ouija). Not interested in his pity Rachel and Greg had nothing in common except not being part of a particular group in school. Her journey through her illness would blur the lines. This film festival winning comedic drama was this generation’s coming of age story. With cast members like Nick Offerman (We’re the Millers, Parks and Recreation-TV) as Greg’s dad, Molly Shannon (Analyze This, Life After Beth) as Denise and newcomer R J Cyler as Earl; everyone was believable and gelled so well together. The bond between everyone was cemented by the intelligent script that had street smarts. As I sat in the theater watching this movie, I had various school memories popping up that were similar in theme to what I was seeing on screen. With the outstanding directing that beautifully blended in the absurd, sad, happy and uncomfortable scenes; I was swept into the story of this film and enjoyed nearly every minute being involved with these students. Wow, I wish I could have said the same thing about my time spent during my school years.
3 2/3 stars
They are your last dance partner in life. Rarely can you slip out from their cold embrace once the rhythm of your heartbeat matches their failing beat. There are some who spend a lifetime flirting with it, enticing it to come close; but at the last minute, they spin back away from their advances. Everyone has their own names for it; some call it passing while others refer to it as expired. As a permanent fixture in one’s life, everyone interacts with death in their own way. There are some who cannot even look at it, choosing to change direction in mid-step just to avoid confronting it. Various individuals will not veer from their path, expecting to be taken to a different location assisted by death’s guidance. I am not one to dwell on death since there is nothing I can do about it once it decides to greet me. Sure I exercise and do things to make my life less desirable for death’s tastes; but we both know when death comes to us it does not leave empty-handed. This is why I never judge anyone’s reactions or actions in the way they deal with death. There is some saying about not knowing what a person is feeling until you walk in their shoes, so I never comment on someone’s relationship with death. The writer in my though does observe with mild curiosity at times. DEATH became an unwanted guest in the house of Megan and Tom Stark, played by Marcia Gay Harden (Mystic River, Into the Wild) and Kevin Bacon (Apollo 13, The Woodsman). Already challenged with Megan’s breast cancer, a heavy burden descended on the couple after a woman drove her car in front of a passenger train that Tom was running that day, leaving her son an orphan. This film festival nominated drama had a curious affect over me. As I began watching this DVD I did not feel drawn to the story. However, as the movie continued the acting from Marcia and Kevin started to pull me in. They did an admirable job with the somewhat predictable script, aided by Miles Helzer (Rudderless, Parenthood-TV) who played Davey Danner. Clint Eastwood’s daughter, actress Alison Eastwood (Poolhall Junkies, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil), chose this story to be her directorial debut and she did some decent work here. She had a good eye for framing scenes. Despite the good acting and direction, the script did not live up to its responsibilities toward the picture. At times far-fetched and overwrought with emotional passages, the script failed the actors. I do not recall this movie ever opening at the theaters; it may have died on arrival. But for a home viewing experience I did not mind watching this DVD at all.
2 1/3 stars — DVD