THE CHARACTERISTICS DETERMINING WHO or what a person is makes up their identity. My question is how much of that identity is affected by outside influences. Recently I had a lunch date with a father and daughter. They had similar facial features but that is not so unusual; their shared characteristics however really intrigued me. Besides having similar personality traits they both had common likes and dislikes, along with some interesting quirks. I was fascinated seeing them together since it was my first time meeting the daughter. Later in the day I remember thinking about the similarities between those family members and wondering how much of my identity was created by outside forces. When you think about it aren’t you usually surprised when a couple has more than one child and each one is so different? You would assume being raised in the same type of environment their children would have similar temperaments, but it is not true. ONE OF THE CHARACTERISTICS I feel a child needs to go out into this world is to be independent. This is a trait that can come about from having parent(s) active in child rearing or on the other hand not having parents involved. I have seen children grow up fiercely independent from both home environments. Not that I would ever cringe if a young adult said they wanted to be just like their mother or father, unless their parent was a serial killer; but being able to discern between positive and negative characteristics is important and I do not believe everyone can tell the difference. In previous reviews I have talked about abusers more than likely having been abused themselves. There is a family I know where the parent neglected their child for the most part. That child grew up and when they had children they did the same thing by neglecting them. On the other hand you can have a parent and child who are so much alike they might not even be aware of it, just like in this film festival winning dramatic comedy. NOT WANTING TO BE the same like everyone else Christine McPherson, played by Saoirse Ronan (Brooklyn, Hanna), chose to become “Lady Bird.” It would be her way to escape her hometown of Sacramento, California and her mother Marion, played by Laurie Metcalf (The Big Bang Theory-TV, Roseanne-TV). Written and directed by Greta Gerwig (Jackie, Mistress America) this was one of the best coming of age stories I have seen this year. With Odeya Rush (The Giver, Almost Friends) as Jenna Walton and Timothee Chalamet (Love the Coopers, Interstellar) as Kyle Scheible, I thought the entire cast was perfect with their characters. Laurie was so outstanding I believe she could get a nomination for her role. What I appreciated most about this movie was the authenticity of the dialog and action. Without giving much away let me just say the scene where Lady Bird and her mother are shopping for a dress was pitch perfect. Now granted I have no experience regarding the mother daughter connection, but I have been privy to the dynamics of it through friends and family. I felt Greta did an excellent job capturing the feelings and flavor of the turmoil being experienced by the McPhersons. In a field of comedies and coming of age stories this one certainly stands out as being different, which is a good thing.
3 ½ stars
WHETHER there are one or two parents, raising a child is a daunting experience. Some parents use the way they were reared as a blueprint to raise their baby; others use their family members to assist them with their children. From my experiences I have witnessed such a wide variety of methods I cannot say one works better over another way. I have known some parents who worked diligently to shelter their children from everything they did not approve of in the world. Take for example slang words or as some refer to it as “swear” words. There was a couple who forbade their kids from ever uttering such words, to the point of checking every movie first before allowing them to watch it. When the children reached that age where all kids start to enforce their independence, they were ridiculed when they would tell one of their friends they said a “bad” word. SADLY I knew parents whose children grew up with the same prejudices their parents unwittingly displayed in front of their kids during their formative years. A method I have seen done successfully more times than not is exposing the child to most everything in life and explaining it. When these parents first heard their children say a slang word, they did not show anger or discomfort; the parents sat down and explained why saying such words would be hurtful and ugly. I have been impressed with the parents who take their children to volunteer at soup kitchens and shelters, exposing them to people and things their children may not experience in their local environment. Another thing I have noticed is the difference in children who were raised hearing their given language spoken properly to them instead of being talked to in “baby talk.” To me it seems these kids have an easier time articulating their feelings and thoughts. Being a fan of exposing a child to the world around them I feel I had a better understanding about the mother in this dramatic comedy. RAISING her son Jamie, played by Lucas Jade Zumann (Sinister 2, Chicago Fire-TV), without his father made Dorothea, played by Annette Bening (Rules Don’t Apply, Danny Collins), decide to expose her son to other points of view. Though they did not know it Julie, Abbie and William; played by Elle Fanning (The Neon Demon, Ginger & Rosa), Greta Gerwig (Mistress America, Maggie’s Plan) and Billy Crudup (Jackie, Big Fish); would all be contributing to Jamie’s journey to adulthood. This film festival winning movie’s story was set in southern California during the 1970s. I thought the acting was excellent with Annette making this one of her best roles. The script did not focus much on the character’s history, instead providing the viewer with snapshots of the characters’ current lives. One of the things about the story I appreciated the most was taking what was essentially a coming of age story and turning it into something new and different. In a way I found the story more authentic; in turn, I felt more connected to the characters. There were some scenes that did not work as well however, but nothing in a major way. I may not have agreed with everything Dorothea was doing in regards to raising her son, but I did walk away respecting her choices.
EACH person experiences grief in their own way. There are some who put no filters on it, letting their emotions flood out in a public way. Other individuals believe they need to maintain a “stiff upper lip” so they keep their emotions in check, only allowing them out in private. During my years of teaching I have experienced several major losses that affected me deeply. None of my classes knew at the time because I chose not to express my grief. It was hard at times especially when I was teaching a class where the members were looking to me to be upbeat and motivating, but inside I was a blubbering mess. A couple of times I nearly broke down when a song came on that triggered a memory of the person that was no longer in my life. THEY say there is comfort in numbers which can be seen when friends and family come together to share in their grief. Sitting at a stoplight while a funeral procession drives by, I used to look at the passengers in each passing car. It was curious to see the different ways people were handling their journey. Some would be silently sitting, not interacting with each other; while others appeared almost jovial. I know in some cultures death is looked upon as a gain, not a loss. The deceased individual is headed to a better place. One thing I have found interesting is the older a person becomes the more receptive they are to the idea of being reincarnated; I guess it brings comfort to them, knowing they will get to come back. The one thing I think everyone agrees on is when someone young has their life finished early. ACROSS the land citizens were all sharing in their grief from losing their young president to an assassin. At a time when privacy would be expected the president’s widow had to compartmentalize her priorities to satisfy her children, the nation and the world. This dramatic biographical movie was led by the outstanding performance from Natalie Portman (Jane Got a Gun, Your Highness) as Jackie Kennedy. Whether she had the speech and mannerisms down accurately, it did not matter to me because the character on screen as far as I was concerned was Jackie. I never once thought I was watching Natalie. The other actors such as Peter Sarsgaard (The Magnificent Seven, Orphan) as Bobby Kennedy, Greta Gerwig (Francis Ha, Mistress America) as Nancy Tuckerman and Billy Crudup (Spotlight, Watchmen) as the journalist were all quite good and I felt all of them were authentic in their roles. The script moved back and forth in time in an easy way for the viewer to follow. I found myself reacting with sadness to several of the scenes; the way they were reenacted and played out came across in a real way for me. If the script had told this story in chronological order I do not think it would have been as powerful as the way it was done in this film. I felt I was given an inside look behind all the actions that were on display for the public. This was an eye opening experience for me and left me with a few tears of sadness.
3 ½ stars
No matter how hard one tries to plan things out, life is always the ultimate decider. Take it from someone who does his best to plan everything to the minute (people can set their watches by me); life has a way of saying, “Not so fast there, here is something you can deal with first.” As I get older I am finally learning to let go and as they say, “Go with the flow.” This reminds me of a woman I knew who was married with 2 children. I met her husband only once or twice, but really did not know much about him since she rarely talked about him. They had been married for years and were quite settled as they were heading towards their senior years. According to her it came out of nowhere; her husband filed for divorce. She told me he did not want to be with her anymore; there was no other reason given for his decision. She was devastated by it. Here she thought she had most of her life planned out with her husband and now, as she would constantly say, she was alone. I told her that was not true; besides her children and friends, she may want to look at her situation as a place where she could redefine herself. Of course, I waited awhile before I expressed these thoughts at a time where I thought she would be more receptive to hearing them. And do you want to know something? She branched out and started trying new activities and meet up groups, where she eventually met someone who was as passionate as she was about dancing. They started going together to see ballet performances and enrolled in several dance classes; it was such a hoot to hear about this from her. She was happier than she had ever been before. Isn’t it funny how your version of life may not be what is in store for you? MAGGIE, played by Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha, Mistress America), had everything planned out it to become a single parent. That is until she met John, played by Ethan Hawke (Born to be Blue, Good Kill). This film festival nominated comedic drama had a wonderful cast of actors. Along with Greta and Ethan there was Julianne Moore (Seventh Son, Still Alice) as Georgette and Bill Hader (They Came Together, Trainwreck) as Tony; each one made their role memorable, but I have to say Greta was incredible. I found this romantic story to be intelligent and quirky at the same time. It had adult conversation coming from messed up people, making them more real to me. There were a few scenes that I felt did not work, besides one story line that seemed odd to me. It is not easy to blend comedy and drama but the script pulled it off; the humor was more of an amusement level than a laugh out loud one. For me this film simply felt like a slice of life, where I could just sit and watch someone else’s drama without feeling like I needed to participate and be supportive.
I always enjoy meeting friends of friends and relatives or the significant others of friends. There is this fascination I have regarding how different people form relationships. In regards to friends I do not expect that all of their friends have similar traits, but I actually look at what I think is their stronger attributes and how they fit in with our common friend; it is like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle. I had a friend who had a friend I felt was an irritating individual. Whenever we were together in a social setting we remained polite, but kept our face to face time down to a minimum amount to avoid getting on each other’s nerves. At the other end of the spectrum, there was a friend who introduced me to their best friend and we immediately bonded as friends. It was not too long before we felt we were each other’s best friend, we had so many similar traits. Our mutual friend actually became jealous of our relationship. Now have you ever noticed how two people in a relationship can be opposite of each other, where one is an introvert and the other an extrovert? This fits so well into my thinking the world is made up of pluses and minuses; sort of on the same lines as that theory about there is an opposing force for every force or something like that. I think that is one of the reasons why I found the main characters interesting in this comedy film. FINDING herself alone and in a new city; college freshman Tracy, played by Lola Kirke (Gone Girl, Reaching the Moon), decided to reach out to her future stepsister Brooke, played by Greta Gerwig (Frances Ha, No Strings Attached). Starting in Times Square Brooke would take Tracy on a wild adventure through New York life. I have been a fan of Greta for some time and give her credit for her work on this film where she also co-wrote the script. There were some fun exchanges and great lines in the dialog. Unfortunately it took a long time for this movie to grab me; I found the first half slow and boring. Once Heather Lind (A Single Shot, The Weekend) as Mamie-Claire came onto the scene I found myself becoming more interested in the characters. The role of Brooke was a fascinating study for me; I enjoyed the idea of chasing one’s dreams and creating plans while not letting any setbacks pull you down attitude. The issue I had with this picture was trying to decide if it was purposefully trying to be shallow because I never felt totally invested in the characters. I still cannot tell. Like I said earlier it took a long time for me to get into this film and by the end I was left with a feeling of, “That is it?”
2 1/2 stars
Residing in one of the rooms of my mind are colorful balloons, each one filled with a dream of mine. In my 20’s the room was nearly full with all types of balloons. Some had streamers of anticipation attached while others floated high above on the currents of hope. Through the years I would periodically enter this place to pick up the shriveled balloons of broken dreams, strewn across the floor. Replacing them with new dreams that would inflate fresh balloons, I would sit back to watch them gently rise to the others above me. The room is not as full as it used to be, but I still can recall my past dreams. Young, full of aspirations and dreams was the colorful Frances, played by Greta Gerwig (Greenberg, Lola Versus). In her late 20’s she still had hopes of being a dancer, having a fabulous place in New York City, finding real love and to always have Sophie; played by Mickey Sumner (Last Chance Harvey, Missed Connections), as her best friend. Despite the changes that took place in life, Frances continued to hold onto her optimism. Filmed in black and white, this dramatic comedy showed the perfect slice of Frances’ daily life. Directed by Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Greenberg) and written by him and Greta, they really conveyed the essence of life’s ups and downs. This was Greta’s best performance to date; I found her character to be honest and real. Besides her’s and Mickey’s endearing performances, Michael Esper (All Good Things, Loggerheads) as Dan, Adam Driver (Lincoln, J. Edgar) as Lev and Michael Zegen (The Box, Adventureland) as Benji also did justice to the smart script. There was a wonderful style and vibe to this movie; in a way, it had the flavor of a Woody Allen movie but for a younger generation. No matter what reality may bring, dreams are the fuel to propel us forward.
3 1/2 stars
Everyone has their own way of dealing with the heartache from a breakup. For me, I lose my appetite, fall into a depression and if you can believe it, watch more movies. It is a real challenge when I still need to be upbeat and motivate the members in my classes. Lola, played by Greta Gerwig (Greenberg, Damsels in Distress), was only a few days from being married when her fiance called off the wedding. The story followed Lola as she free fell into a chaotic life filled with eating, drinking and a whole lot of confusion. I have enjoyed Greta’s performances in the past and though I thought she was okay in this film, I felt she was directed poorly. Her character was not as sympathetic as it could have been; I lost interest within the first half of the movie. Interestingly, I thought her fiance Luke, played by Joel Kinnaman (Safe House, The Darkest Hour) did a sufficent job with his role. I am not comfortable with things that are extreme. With Lola, I felt she was acting out in such a drastic, negative way that it was not likable to me. By the end of the movie I felt ambivalent, just grateful I did not have friends like that around me.
1 3/4 stars
At every social gathering there usually is one person who is the know it all, has an opinion about everything. At least that has been my experience and the reason why I enjoyed this movie. Ben Stiller (Tower Heist, Tropic Thunder) as Roger Greenberg was one of those annoying individuals. He was quite good in this character, that was not a typical role for him. Without the stereotypical sight gags and humor from Ben, his Roger was someone you could hate. Recovering from a nervous breakdown, Roger agreed to fly out and house-sit while his brother and family went out of town. Available to help Roger was Florence Marr the family’s personal assistant, played by Greta Gerwig (no Strings Attached, Arthur). It didn’t take long before she became a target for Greenberg’s mood swings. As Roger tried to navigate the responsibilities needed, he attempted to reconnect with old friends who’s memories were different from his own. Since there was not much action in the story, this film will not appeal to everyone. The acting, however, was what moved the minimal plot; for every actor was strong in their character. If nothing else, my poor opinion of Ben Stiller after seeing his Tower Heist movie has improved after seeing this DVD.
2 2/3 stars — DVD
When it was time for me to go to college, I had to go to a weekend orientation prior to the start of school. During that time I had my first contact with fraternity guys. It took only 2 days to realize I was not cut out to be part of a fraternity. Not that I had anything bad to say; it just was not my thing. I am more comfortable with individuality instead of trying to be part of a group mentality. I wondered if this would be a hindrance for me to review this movie about college life. It was not, for this film had a strong quirky style to it with offbeat characters. A group of girls ran a suicide prevention center to help their fellow students with depression and suicide. The leader of the group was Violet, played by Greta Gerwig (Greenberg, No Strings Attached), who believed tap dancing and musical numbers would be the cure. Transfer student Lily, played by Analeigh Tipton (The Green Hornet; Crazy, Stupid Love) was taken under the girls’ wings as they navigated their way through campus life. There was a darkness to this movie, that was kept in check with some great lines. I found the humor off the wall; not to a laugh out loud level, but certainly chuckles and smirks. However, the inconsistent script was all over the place. At times clear and focused, other times muddled and slow. Though there was an independent flair to this comedy, I don’t think you would get a detention for cutting this showing.
2 1/4 stars