THOUGH OUR CONVERSATION TOOK PLACE YEARS ago, I still carry the elderly man’s words with me. The details surrounding our talk are faded and fuzzy after all these years; however, I know we were talking about the death of a mutual friend. It was a sudden death and we were saying how hard a sudden death is for those left behind. The man said something that was profound to me; he said the longer a person suffers towards their end, the easier it is for the living at the time of death. These are words that have been tested for me and it is true. I never want to see someone suffering before their time is done here. The first time I saw where these words were tested was at a nursing home. Seeing the person wilt away in an antiseptic environment, losing their awareness of everything around them; it was heartbreaking. Though they were not suffering in the traditional sense, for it appeared they had no pains or aches, those of us around them felt defeated and beaten because there was nothing, we could do to change things. This was not living, and they were not the person I knew in my younger days. The life in them was draining out to the point where no one would argue with you if you thought they looked like a breathing carcass. THE ELDERLY MAN MENTIONED THAT THE time of his death would be part of the natural order most people have come to expect. He liked to refer to death as a walk into the sunset. What he was saying made sense to me because the grief I was experiencing concerning our mutual friend was different than what I feel towards someone who had lived a long time. When one is living in their younger years, death usually doesn’t have a seat at their table. But, when someone is living in their twilight years, death not only has a seat but eventually becomes an active participant in your mind’s tabletop discussions. When the man was telling me about order, he said in the natural order of things a parent never wants to see their child die and a child always expects their parent to die before them. I thought about that and it made perfect sense to me. From our conversation, I realized grief is not a simple, clear cut function; grief is multifaceted, there are many shades to it and every single person handles grief in their own way. I hope my talking about this subject is not upsetting you; I am simply preparing you in case you choose to watch the incredible performance in this dramatic, film festival winner. A TRAGIC EVENT SENDS A COUPLE into a world of grief that each one handles differently. Will their paths meet during their grieving process? With Vanessa Kirby (Kill Command, The Crown-TV) as Martha, Shia LaBeouf (Honey Boy, The Peanut Butter Falcon) as Sean, Ellen Burstyn (Requiem for a Dream, American Woman) as Elizabeth, Iliza Shlesinger (Instant Family, Spenser Confidential) as Anita and Benny Safdie (Good Time, Person to Person) as Chris; the beginning of this movie was one of the toughest things I have had to sit through and watch. Right from the start, I felt engaged with Vanessa and Shia; they were tremendous in their acting abilities. The story may not be original, but the way it was acted out and directed gave it a fresh perspective. Now there were times where I felt the story drifting, particularly more so in the last half; but Vanessa was a force in this picture, she carried the bulk of the work needed to keep the viewers interested in what was taking place. This was not what I would call an “up” type of film, but it was a good example of seeing someone go through the grieving process.
3 ¼ stars
Others may find it morbid, but among my close friends it is not unusual for us to tell each other we want to be the one to go first. I am not referring to queuing up for an amusement park ride; I am referring to dying. Before you say, “eeewwww,” let me explain. We are like family to each other; some of us have been friends since elementary school. When one of us says he/she wants to be the first to go, we are saying it would be awful to watch someone else go through the process. It is this way because we love each other so much. Some of us had relatives who lived for a long time that we saw go through the aging process and it was not always easy. On the other hand we have seen through the years some incredible things. We also have talked about what we would like to see in the future. Imagine if one of us could live for a very, very long time. Surely there would be great strides made by mankind; I still have a hope to see a flying car in my lifetime. However, to know you will be seeing everyone you know and love die before you would be a tough thing. I have some friends who are in relationships who hate to even see their significant other ill; they would rather be the one with the illness. Life would take on a new meaning if one never became sick or grew old. ADALINE Bowman, played by Blake Lively (Savages, The Town), stopped growing old. No one could know so she had to keep moving throughout the years, never allowing anyone to get close to her. She had not expected Ellis Jones, played by Michael Huisman (Wild, World War Z), to be so persistent. This dramatic romance presented an interesting quandary both to Adaline and the viewer. I thought the movie was beautifully filmed. The different time periods were well represented. The cast received some heavy hitters in the form of Harrison Ford (Blade Runner, 42) as William Jones and Ellen Burstyn (The Fountain, The Exorcist) as Flemming, which tried to get the rest of the cast to act better. For the most part there was no issue for me with the change in time periods; however, I did tire of the narrator early on. There were a couple of slow and predictable parts to the story. As long as one was able to suspend their belief in reality, then the story could provide a charming tale that would draw the viewer into its world. I may not be wiser but after seeing this intriguing drama I have different thoughts about aging.
2 2/3 stars
It is important to hear encouragement but how much of it is heard depends on the person. I have seen people on those reality shows where their family and friends have told them they can sing or dance and it is obvious they do not have talent. They believe every compliment they are receiving, even if it is only being given out of kindness. I personally do not think it is fair to mislead a person unless the whole family or friends do not realize they are all tone deaf or lack rhythm. Being a defensive pessimist on top of being my own worst critic, I am in a different category. Any compliment I receive I tend to discount. Though appreciative of encouraging words, they actually are the fuel that drives me harder to do better. All these years I thought it was a stubborn streak that kept me pounding away to succeed at the task at hand. I have come to realize there is a voice inside of me that has high standards, pushing me to prove wrong the other voice in my brain that tells me I am a failure. The same can be said for those people who told me I could not do something; it only made me fight harder to prove them wrong. The first thing I heard inside of me when my first short story was published was that 7th grade teacher who told me I would never be a writer. It all comes down to believing in yourself and that inner drive was something I admired in general manager Sonny Weaver, played by Kevin Costner (3 Days to Kill, Mr. Brooks) in this sports drama. Hoping to rebuild the Cleveland Browns football team, Sonny would butt heads against strong opposition for his NFL Draft pick from Coach Penn and team owner Anthony Molina, played by Denis Leary (Sand, Rescue Me-TV) and Frank Langella (Robot & Frank, The Ninth Gate). Even with his mother Barb, played by Ellen Burstyn (Another Happy Day, The Fountain), questioning his moves Sonny was determined to do what he thought was right. I found the NFL Draft story exciting and thought Kevin was believable in his role. The part that did not ring true was the story involving Jennifer Garner (Dallas Buyers Club, Elektra) as Ali. There was little chemistry between her and Kevin’s character and I just found it phony and unnecessary. If the writers would have stayed with the football story, including the back stories for the hopeful picks, this movie would have been better in my opinion. Keep in mind I am not a fan of team sports but I enjoyed all of the drama and tension revolving around the team franchise. Whether Sonny made the right choice or not did not matter to me; his drive and conviction was what I admired in him the most.
2 1/2 stars
With wide open eyes that look almost too big for their head and their body shivering, how can one not feel sorry for their skittish pet? There are some pets that are afraid of lightning and thunder while others get freaked out by a running vacuum cleaner. All one can do is hold and comfort their scared pet if they let them. In the human species there are some people who have a predisposition to be easily scared or high-strung. They get frightened being a passenger in a car. I am sure there are times where they have a legitimate reason to jump in their seat; but sometimes it is just a different style of driving from their way. I tend to be a quiet walker and I am always amazed when I walk up to an employee. If they did not see of hear me they jump with a start. I always wonder who they think would be coming into their office in the middle of our department. Lastly there are some individuals who fall into the intense or high maintenance category. Now there is a difference between the two; with intense people one has to exert effort to try and maintain the relationship, to keep it satisfying for both parties. As for people who are high-strung, one needs only to accept and love them. In this Sundance Film Festival winning movie, it will take a whole lot of love and patience to maintain a civil relationship with this intense family. Ellen Barkin (Sea of Love, Ocean’s Thirteen) played high-strung Lynn who was traveling with her family to the Annapolis home of her parents Doris and Joe Baker, played by Ellen Burstyn (The Exorcist, The Fountain) and George Kennedy (Cool Hand Luke, Naked Gun franchise). The occasion was to attend her estranged son’s wedding who was raised by Lynn’s ex-husband Paul, played by Thomas Haden Church (Sideways, Easy A) and his 2nd wife Patty, played by Demi Moore (Ghost, Margin Call). Mix in dysfunctional relatives, money, addiction, hurt feelings and what could possibly go wrong? I really enjoyed this comedic drama in the beginning. The cast was excellent and Ezra Miller (We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Perks of Being a Wallflower), who has cornered the market in playing a teenager in distress, played Lynn’s addictive son Elliot. As the movie played out I felt overloaded by the yelling and crying to the point I lost interest in the characters. It was too much which is exactly what I say when having to deal with someone who is high maintenance.
2 stars — DVD