I WAS GREETED AT THE DOOR by 2 overly excited dogs. They were sisters who my friends adopted when they were puppies. Being familiar with me, they were happy to see me because they knew I was the one who gave them body massages; well, at least that is what I hoped they thought. Whenever I would tell the two of them it was time for a doggie massage, the chocolate colored dog would lie down on her side, in preparation for her massage; the vanilla colored dog remained standing with this quizzical look on her face as she continued to watch me. I would have to gently hold her as I brought her down onto her side and even then, she would try to get back up. It was only when I started rubbing her side that she would calm down and relax, allowing me to continue my ministrations. The other dog did nothing but wait there for me to massage her. It was quite comical. This was not the only difference between the sisters. It was easy to fake out the vanilla colored sister. I could pretend to throw one of their toys across the room and the vanilla sister would run down the length of the room looking for the toy. The other dog was too smart and would stay in place with this look of anticipation on her face, as if telling me to throw the toy already. Two dogs from the same litter, yet so different. I REALLY WAS NOT SURPRISED BY one dog being smarter than the other. The same type of thing has happened in human families, I have noticed. I knew two brothers who had 4 years difference between their ages. The younger brother was the smarter one who got good grades and achievement awards. The older brother’s school grades were a mishmash of passing and failing grades. He also got in trouble a lot. Now you would think 2 boys being raised in the same house under the same conditions would be more similar, but it was not the case. I have always been curious about this disparity between family members. There is this family I know where the parents only had a high school education. Their focus was staying employed; they did not read anything or try to learn something new. Their only son received zero encouragement from them since his aspirations for higher education were a foreign concept. I do not know whether it was despite or because of his parents, but early on he displayed high intelligence which was quickly noted by his teachers. Where his parents could barely write a clear sentence, he became the editor of his elementary school’s newspaper, besides being a winner in state driven English contests. This type of dynamic is something I find so fascinating, which is why I was intrigued with this dramatic film. WHILE ATTEMPTING TO GET AN INTERVIEW lined up, Yale law student J.D. Vance, played by Gabriel Basso (Super 8, The Kings of Summer), found himself being pulled into his Appalachian family’s drama back home in Ohio. With Amy Adams (Arrival, Big Eyes) as Bev, Glenn Close (The Wife, Alfred Nobbs) as Mamaw, Haley Bennett (Music and Lyrics, The Girl on the Train) as Lindsay and Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire, Immortals) as Usha; this movie based on a true story was all about the acting. I thought the cast was outstanding and felt Glenn could get nominated for her role. The story is surprising I grant you; however, I thought the script was not as strong as it needed to be to support the story. There was an element of predictability and at times I felt there was too much melodrama inserted into the scenes; I would have preferred learning more about each character on a deeper level. Despite these misgivings, my interest did not waiver as I observed the dynamics in this generational family story.
2 ½ stars
I DO NOT KNOW HOW IT happens, but I almost consider it a strange phenomenon that takes place between two people in a love relationship. Prior to forming their union, each of them was an independent adult with their own livelihood and own place to live. What takes place does not happen quickly but over time, where one of them takes on the identity of the other. In my experiences I have noticed more women doing it instead of men. I have been told that people in a long-term relationship start to look like each other, but I am not referring to this. What I have discovered is the wife or husband starts to lose the ability to have thoughts independent from their spouse. There is a woman I know who did this very exact thing. Prior to getting married she was not a prejudicial person or at least I thought not. She married a man who I knew had prejudices and in time she took on the same prejudices. Her speech changed where she started to quote her husband most of the time as a response to any conversation she was part of; it was the weirdest thing to me. It was as if her brain stopped functioning and she became a parrot, I am sad to say. THERE IS THAT SAYING ABOUT “OPPOSITES attract” and there is some truth to it. Personally, I believe a thriving relationship needs both similarities and diversity. I simply do not understand how a person relinquishes the things that are part of their make-up and live in the shadow of their partner. Think about the cliché “Behind every man is a strong woman.” This is true, but I wish to add it can also be reversed where the strong one is the man. I know a couple where the wife is in the forefront while the husband takes care of things in the background. Since I have a strong personality I have always been most comfortable with someone who is similar. I will never forget this one relationship I had to end because they started to take on my likes/dislikes and preferences; let me tell you it was freaky. All I am saying is I find it odd when this phenomenon or maybe I should say personality trait takes place with one person in a relationship. If you want to see a fascinating example, then feel free to watch this film festival nominated drama. HAVING SUPPORTED HER HUSBAND’S CAREER her whole life Joan Cattleman, played by Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction, Albert Nobbs), was on the verge of seeing his ultimate success, becoming a recipient of the Nobel Prize. The event would offer more than prize money to them. With Jonathan Pryce (Tomorrow Never Dies, Glengarry Glen Ross) as Joe Castleman, Christian Slater (True Romance, Mr. Robot-TV) as Nathaniel Bone, Max Irons (The Host, Woman in Gold) as David Castleman and Elizabeth McGovern (Once Upon a Time in America, Downton Abbey-TV) as Elaine Mozell; this movie’s strength was all due to the acting between Glenn and Jonathan. They were so good together that it made up for the porous script. I enjoyed the story but found some events taking place without much backstory. They were great for drama but almost seemed out of the blue. If it wasn’t for the acting I may have had a different experience watching this picture. Glenn had such penetrating screen presence there were times I felt I was feeling her smolder. Oh, and I will say I found the ending a bit too convenient. But despite my complaints I still stayed engaged all the way to the end of the story, even though I never had such an experience in my relationships.
I WAS SYMPATHITIC TO the sisters’ plight. Each from the same mother had been adopted at birth; raised by their adoptive parents in the same home and yet they were nothing alike, except in appearance. Where daylight is different to nighttime, so were the sisters in temperament, personality and mannerisms among other traits. As the two girls grew older they found something in common; this was a rarity in itself. They each became curious about who were their birth parents. Having matured with more self-awareness, the sisters felt this need to seek out their birth parents; if not in person, at least hopefully to get medical and health backgrounds on both. You see one sister had health issues besides having an addictive personality; the other one had a different type of health issue regarding a disease. I could only imagine what was going through their minds having to deal with adult issues without having any family history about them. I know when I go to the dermatologist he always asks me about my parents’ health history when looking at something on my skin. I am sure if I were to tell him my parents had the same thing, he would act more cautiously in his assessment. If the sisters’ were in the same position I am sure it would be upsetting if they had to tell the doctor they did not know. PULLING OUT THE GENES from the family gene pool is at best a crapshoot. Just like the two sisters I mentioned, I find the whole genetic aspect to humans fascinating. One thing that intrigues me is how one family’s children all look like one of their parents, while another family has children that look like they were conceived by completely different parents. Now what do you think about a family who has both birth and adopted children, where they all share common characteristics? There is a current popular television show that has this very same scenario and I find myself getting drawn more and more into their stories. I have said this before: babies come into this world with a blank slate; they do not know about hate or prejudice, they learn it. With that in mind I can understand why many children are curious or not interested to know the individuals responsible for bringing them into this world. That feeling was quite evident in this comedic movie. TWIN BROTHERS KYLE AND PETER Reynolds, played by Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers, No Escape) and Ed Helms (Vacation, The Office-TV), were stunned that their mother Helen, played by Glenn Close (Air Force One, 101 Dalmatians franchise), kept a secret from them about their father for all these years. The only thing the brothers wanted to do was find their birth father. Among the celebrity cast, this film had J.K. Simmons (The Bachelors, Whiplash) as Roland Hunt and Katt Williams (Norbit, Scary Movie 5) as the hitchhiker. I was surprised with such a prominent group of actors that the movie studio approved such a dismal script. The story may have sounded fun but I am here to tell you there was little fun in this picture. Between slapstick humor to touching brotherly love I could not tell what the writers wanted to create, a heartwarming story or a funny road trip one. It was embarrassing to see some of the actors in this mess; though I enjoyed J.K. Simmons’ part. As for Owen he was a generic version of himself; it was the same thing I have seen before. Sadly I had no sympathy for the brothers or the story in this movie.
1 ½ stars