ONE CAN NEVER HAVE TOO MANY PARENTS in life, for each one brings a different version of love. There are some people who have an abundance of love that they share with children, besides their own. They may not be there when you fall and scrape your knee or when you ride your bicycle for the first time without training wheels; but, they leave their handprints on your heart. I feel fortunate that I grew up with a few extra mothers in my life. You may have had one or two yourself or just as easily an extra dad since either gender provides equal amounts of love. One of my extra mothers was a neighbor who lived in our building. She lived a couple of floors below us which resulted in me learning how to get down flights of stairs earlier than other kids. Before I could walk I would crawl to the edge of the staircase, turn myself around on the edge and begin crawling down backwards. After navigating the two flights of stairs I would crawl to the door of her apartment and pat my palm on it. I never knew how she always heard me when I thought about this years later, but she would open the door every time with a big smile on her face. She always had time to play with me and for those times she didn’t, she would sing to me. THERE WAS ANOTHER WOMAN WHO WAS like an extra mother to me. She was a friend of the family who had grown up with one of my parents. She was quick to give me a deep hug that made me feel protected and safe. Though she did not know how to bowl, she loved coming to the bowling alley, taking pleasure in simply watching us try to get a strike. Her house always had the exact types of food you craved on any particular day; for example, if you wanted something sweet she had cookies or if you wanted something salty she would have pretzels. When I was little she would always write an amusing poem inside my birthday cards. Despite decades having past I still have vivid, fond memories of these women who were prominent in my life. They each had their own families; yet, I was treated as part of the family because that was the type of love they each had inside. And to a child, having that type of extra love is like a fresh coat of paint on the walls of their heart. WITH THE DEATH OF HIS WIFE and jobs scarce during the depression Michael Banks, played by Ben Whishaw (I’m Not Here, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer), had little time to watch over his children. Though things looked bleak, there was an opportunity for someone special to step in and help; that someone was Mary Poppins, played by Emily Blunt (A Quiet Place, Into the Woods). This comedic family fantasy also starred Lin-Manuel Miranda (The Odd Life of Timothy Green, Looking for Maria Sanchez) as Jack, Emily Mortimer (The Bookshop, Harry Brown) as Jane Banks and Julie Waters (Billy Elliot, Harry Potter franchise) as Ellen. Taking the original movie and moving the characters thirty years forward allowed for a whole new generation of characters to populate this theatrical musical film. I thought the acting was excellent, though Emily’s version of Mary Poppins seemed to have more of an edge to her. This picture was fun to watch but I feel those not into theater may think it is over the top. For me this updated story did not have the magic of the first movie; but part of my warm feelings came from the nostalgic aspect I have towards the original film. Besides, having another encounter with Mary Poppins is always a welcome visit.
SITTING AT THE TABLE WITH no one to talk to was making me uncomfortable. There were at least a dozen people sitting around the long table, but I did not know any of them. I was supposed to meet a friend at this gathering but after I arrived at the restaurant they texted they were still stuck at work. Since I was already there I tried to make the best of it. The group met once a month at this particular restaurant but throughout the year they planned different cultural events; my friend and I thought it would be something worth checking out. After I was seated and introductions were made all around, it became apparent to me that everyone there knew each other. I was the odd man out. Some of the individuals sitting around asked me a couple of questions like where I was from and what did I do for a living, but afterwards their attention was drawn back to their friends or people they already knew. THOUGH THIS WAS NOT THE type of venue where I would bring something, I should have brought my old standby anyway. There is this little bakery I know that has been open more than 50 years. It is sort of like an old world type of place where they bake a variety of items. One in particular is my favorite and whenever I bring them to a gathering the folks there gather around and talk to me about the item. Light and airy, shaped into curved oblong commas, they have a sprinkling of sugar on top. I know a majority of people would bring a bottle of wine; I prefer bringing baked goods. It is difficult to attend a party where you hardly know any of the guests and I have found this item can break the ice with most people. Personally I quickly withdraw from a party when I see guests have gathered into their own little cliques. It reminds me of the divisions that were in place in high school. And since I am not a drinker, when guests at a party start acting silly from too much alcohol I wrap things up and say my goodbyes. Nothing worse than being at a party with an out of control guest; so I better warn you the guests at the party in this dramatic comedy are one intense group. ON THE NIGHT JANET, PLAYED by Kristin Scott Thomas (The English Patient, Four Weddings and a Funeral) throws a dinner party her husband Bill, played by Timothy Spall (Mr. Turner, Secrets & Lies), waits until the guests arrived before making an announcement. This film festival winning movie also starred Patricia Clarkson (The Station Agent, The Green Mile) as April, Emily Mortimer (Match Point, Lars and the Real Girl) as Jinny and Cherry Jones (The Perfect Storm, The Village) as Martha. Hands down Patricia was the star of this film, though the rest of the cast was excellent; she stood out for me. I am sure part of it was due to the acidic script. The direction was fine but as the story unfolded I never quite felt engaged with any of the characters. At one point it just seemed like a lot of chaos was taking place; I found myself wanting to tune out. It was too bad, because I enjoyed the picture being filmed in black and white along with some of the wicked lines in the script. By the time the movie was over I was glad I was not invited to this party.
There is a particular strength of the fiercest kind that emanates from a mother protecting her young. I cannot count how many documentaries about animals I have seen that showed situations where the odds were stacked against the mothers and their children. It made no difference for those mothers used everything they had to push back an adversary. When I was a tutor in college I saw many mothers arguing with their children’s instructors; even when it was clear, at least to me, the mothers were in the wrong. They would argue and yell sometimes at the professor, demanding certain conditions, wanting what they thought was best for their child. I realized right there that a parent’s protective instincts may not always serve them well. Like anything in life there is always an extreme to every situation. Where a parent could be the biggest advocate for their offspring; on the other end of the spectrum,a parent could be detrimental to their child’s well-being. EMILY Mortimer (Lars and the Real Girl,Hugo) played Lizzie, a mother who would do anything to protect her deaf son Frankie, played by Jack McElhone (Nowhere Boy, Young Adam). Afraid to tell Frankie the truth about his dad, Lizzie had secretly been writing letters to Frankie, pretending to be his father who was traveling the world aboard the HMS Accra. All was good until Frankie discovered the ship was scheduled to return back home to port. Lizzie would have a hard time trying to explain why Frankie’s father was not on that boat. This film festival winning movie had a special gentleness that filtered up out of the story. I thought Emily and Jack really blended well together, creating a loving relationship between mother and son. Gerard Butler (Law Abiding Citizen, Machine Gun Preacher) surprised me as the stranger; there was a sweet softness to his character that played well with the rest of the cast. I want to especially point out the scenes where Frankie went to school. The writers did an honest and believable job of showing how children encounter and react to a peer with a handicap. If there were parts where the action slowed I was not much aware of it because I enjoyed the way the story unfolded, revealing a couple of surprises for me. A person does not need shared bloodlines to become a parent. One only has to start with love, care, support, encouragement and protection to form a bond with a child. The mother in this dramatic picture was just as special as her child.
3 stars — DVD
My mind was blown by this amazing movie about a man and his inflatable life-sized doll. Before you jump to conclusions; trust me, this wonderful film was nothing what you are thinking now. The movie for me was a perfect reminder that when confronted with someone different or out of the ordinary, acceptance and kindness could have a powerful affect on them. Troubled Lars Lindstrom, played by Ryan Gosling (Drive; Crazy, Stupid Love) had a hard time relating to people. Not until he ordered and received his blowup doll did he begin to come out of his shell, with the added help from his family and neighbors. Emily Mortimer (Hugo, Our Idiot Brother) was especially sympathetic to Lars, playing his sister-in-law Karin, as he began introducing “Bianca” as his girlfriend. Most of you know I am a big fan of Ryan Gosling from my previous reviews of his films. His performance in this unusual story was brilliant. The mix of emotions throughout this tender, funny film were just perfect. This movie was a testament to the power of acceptance and kindness.
3 1/2 stars — DVD