I AM NOT ADVOCATING TO THROW caution to the wind, but within reason to allow yourself to experience at least one indulgence. Since I was a little boy, I have loved and always wanted a particular European sports car. Now I know chances are I will never be able to afford to buy one, but I still dream about it. Maybe I can splurge at some point and rent it while on vacation. From time to time, an article of clothing or a small electronic device has caught my attention. If it grabs a strong hold on me, I will obsess over it to the point where I feel everything would work out in my life if I just had that item. There was a time, years ago, where I would act on these compulsions and immediately buy it on a charge card, whether I could afford it or not. Just having that thing brought me immense joy and it was something I did not expect anyone else to understand. For example, getting a sweater that I thought was so cool looking gave me such pleasure because, in my mind, I thought I would look great in it. Not having a substantial level of high esteem, this was my way to make myself feel better. I think that is one of the reasons it is hard for me to get rid of clothes; I do not want to throw away the magic that article of clothing provided me. WITH MATURITY, I LEARNED TO CONTROL my habit for finding happiness in material things. Not that it was necessarily a negative thing, it needed to have a coating of reason with it. While I was still living at home, I decided I wanted to have a house I could call my own. One thing you can say about me is I have an incredibly strong sense of determination. If there is something I want, I will laser focus on it and do whatever I need to do to make it a reality. For several years, I took on extra hours, worked overtime and saved every penny I could so that I would be able to put a healthy down payment on whatever house I found. Sure, I did not accept every invite to go out to dinner or a show; but sometimes I would make alternate plans to meet for lunch or just to hang out which would cost less money. My plan worked and it was well worth doing because I was able to fulfill my dream of having my own home. This is one of the reasons why I feel indulging oneself within a reasonable limit can be a positive thing. There is a wonderful example of it you can see in this lovely comedic drama. SEEING FOR THE FIRST TIME A Christian Dior dress was all cleaning woman Ada Harris, played by Lesley Manville (Phantom Thread, Another Year) needed to fall in love with it. She would find a way someday to own her very own haute couture Dior dress. With Isabelle Huppert (About Joan, Greta) as Claudine Colbert, Lambert Wilson (The Matrix franchise, Timeline) as Marquis de Chassagne, Alba Baptista (Patrick, Warrior Nun-TV) as Natasha and Lucas Bravo (Ticket to Paradise, Emily in Paris-TV) as Andre Fauvel; this movie was a treasure. Set in the city of London during the 1950s, Lesley was magnificent as Ada; she drove the story beyond the predictable. The pacing was perfect throughout every scene; I felt I was transported back in time. And the ultimate compliment belongs to the writers; their story brought me into a situation that I initially thought was impossible. Yet, with their words, I soon was rooting for everyone in the cast. If there were more films out of this caliber, I would indulge my love of movies by going to the theater more often.
3 ½ stars
FOR YEARS I THOUGHT I WAS JUST a suspicious person, but it turns out I was being instinctive. I used to get teased because out of all my friends I was usually the last person to trust someone. I have no explanation why I was always cautious around new people; maybe, just the things I experienced in life. Though I never thought about this before, I wonder if there is a connection to my biggest pet peeve: telling me you will do something then not doing it. Now ever since I can remember I always would say, “Trust is something a person earns; it is not given out freely.” There is something about a person being “super” sweet that makes me leery. I tend not to trust someone who is always happy; who never shows any other emotion besides happiness. In college I had a friend who grew up in a family where no one talked about their feelings. No matter what was going on in their lives their standard answer was, “I am fine,” or “All is good.” My friend would tell me about some of the issues taking place in the family but on the surface, no one would have ever guessed there was turmoil. THROUGH THE YEARS MY CAUTION AROUND sweet people served me well. There was a woman I used to work with who was on equal footing with me at the company. She appeared to be everyone’s friend; passing out homemade cookies and lending an ear to anyone who wanted to talk. I was not convinced, so I remained careful but cordial around her. She must have thought I was a challenge because the more I kept my distance, the more she would pour on the sweetness. One day she came up to me and asked if I wanted two tickets she had to a concert, because something came up and she would not be able to use them. I thanked her but declined. I do not know if this caused something but as time went on I noticed some of the work information she would give me was incorrect. If I had not been paying attention and checking her work, I would have been turning into my boss the wrong data. It came to a point where I had to confront her, by showing the incorrect information she had given me. She denied making the mistakes, trying to in a kind way blame someone else in her department. I did not believe her and felt good that I had never given her my trust. The same thing took place as I watched this dramatic mystery. RETURNING A LOST HANDBAG TO ITS OWNER found Frances McCullen, played by Chloe Grace Moritz (Let Me In, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising), in a position of making friends with the sweet owner of the bag. A sweet older woman named Greta Hideg, played by Isabelle Huppert (Elle, Happy End). Their budding friendship would come with some conditions. This movie also starred Maika Monroe (The 5th Wave, The Guest) as Erica Penn, Colm Feore (Chicago, The Prodigy) as Chris McCullen and Stephen Rea (The Crying Game, The Heavy) as Brian Cody. I thought casting Isabelle in this type of role was inspirational, since I consider her an excellent actress. Do not get me wrong; she and Chloe were wonderful, but the script was silly. There were things taking place that I felt were ridiculous. Without any character development the whole story seemed odd. It is too bad because there were a few scenes and surprises that were well done. The only other thing I can say about this picture is it reinforces my belief to be careful around someone who is heavy-handed in doling out the sweetness.
THERE are some people who grow into their identity while there are others who seek out one and take it on. I have become more aware of people’s choices on how they describe themselves and/or how others do it for them. Let me ask you, how often do you hear these days individuals being described as kind, compassionate or sweet? The adjectives I have heard recently are mostly of a negative nature such as racist, workaholic or sexist. Then there are others I have heard that are associated with the person’s career. A banker, a flight attendant; they all seem to come with preconceived notions. AS a matter of fact I know a guy who is a lawyer who used to be a pleasant person. Something about the job changed him however. He turned into all the negative, stereotypical features assumed for a lawyer. He became brusque, cutting off anyone who was not giving him a fast enough answer to his query. Oh and heaven forbid if an item advertised on sale did not ring up the lower price on the cash register; he would cut down the checker who probably had no idea the item was even on sale. It was ugly to watch as he would not let up even when a floor manager would come to override the price. Maybe my small, little world is not representative of society as a whole, but there seems to be a heightened intensity or harshness to people’s personas from what I can tell. I cannot tell if these traits were inherently buried inside the person or outside influences such as career had this effect on them. SUCCESSFUL businesswoman Michele Leblanc, played by Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher, Amour) found her life taking on aspects of her company’s work after she was attacked in her home. This film festival winning dramatic thriller directed by Paul Verhoeven (Basic Instinct, Total Recall) was all Isabelle’s stage. She was unbelievable in the role as she dominated over other cast members Laurent Lafitte (Little White Lies, The Crimson Rivers) as Patrick, Anne Consigny (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, A Christmas Tale) as Anna and Charles Bexling (Summer Hours, Ridicule) as Richard Leblanc. Don’t get me wrong they were all good, but Isabelle was amazing as Michele. As for the story all I can say is it was a twisted tale. I found each story line interesting and surprised myself when I came to the realization that 2 of them were in a way mirroring each other. The script was well done, putting in a bit of humor here and there to balance out the levels of intensity. Now I will say there were a few scenes that seemed odd that left me feeling puzzled. It was after the film was over when I thought I figured a couple of them out, but nothing concrete. The subtitles were not a distraction, nor did they interfere with the ability to view the action in the scenes. There were a few scenes of violence that were uncomfortable to watch. This picture did make me wonder if life was imitating art. French was spoken throughout with English subtitles.
Some of the strongest individuals I have ever met did not have a large amount of physical strength. There were some events that could not be fixed with just the person’s brawn. Teaching in a health club I am constantly exposed to people who test themselves with a variety of weights and cardiovascular machines. Slow and steady they work to increase the amount of weight or duration of their aerobic activity. Essentially everything is under their control which to me makes it easier to build up one’s strength. What demands a tougher strength are affairs of the heart that involve some type of tragic event. Sad occasions weigh the heart down, slowing down its beats, causing the body to buckle under the weight of gravity. I remember a time where my eyes were constantly replenishing water tanks that kept spilling tears over my face, keeping it red and raw. My brain could barely retain any of the images my eyes captured; it felt like my head was turning into an abandoned cold storage locker. Every thought had the life sucked out of it as my heart continued its slide towards a sludge of darkness. At the time I thought my heart would never strike a cheerful chord, but I underestimated it. The heart truly is the strongest muscle in the body. STAGNATION and heaviness was where Conor Ludlow and Eleanor Rigby, played by James McAvoy (X-Men franchise, The Last King of Scotland) and Jessica Chastain (Mama, Lawless), found themselves in their relationship. Remembering what they once had, they could not tell if their hearts would be strong enough to get them through and bring them back to what they once had. This film festival winning drama had a couple of extraordinary actors, Jessica and James, who were able to bare real raw emotions. They really stood out in the cast which also included Viola Davis (Beautiful Creatures, The Help) as Professor Friedman and William Hurt (Into the Wild, A History of Violence) as Julian Rigby. A bit of a surprise was seeing Bill Hader (The Skeleton Twins, Her) as Stuart; he has been making smart film choices since leaving Saturday Night Live. With such a strong cast I am sad to say the script and the direction killed any hope of making this movie a powerful piece. This film was a combination of 2 previous movies, from Eleanor’s and Conor’s perspectives called Her and Him. I had to wonder if what was left on the cutting room floor would have helped this film from being a drag. It took a while for me to get into this picture. When I thought about it, it was strange to feel heavy during the movie but it was not coming from my heart.
2 1/2 stars
My revenge was fueled by all the past years’ wrongs. From the older neighbor boy who threw a rock at me to the former boss who enjoyed being mean. The anger I had inside made up what I refer to as my dark side. Members in my class cannot believe I had a dark side. I point out to them that I am a credit manager during the day. Also, I tell them I never forget a customer who promised me a check then did not send it. This is preferable than telling them some of the things I did in the past when my dark side was dominant. Like the time the mean boss was calling for help from a bathroom stall as I walked into the restroom. I turned right around, shut the lights off and closed the door behind me as I walked out. So you see I am familiar with revenge and maybe that is why I enjoyed this movie thriller. From the director of the original The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo movie; Niels Arden Oplev directed this, his first English speaking film. Colin Farrell (Seven Psychopaths, Total Recall) played Victor, a rising criminal who reluctantly agreed to help Beatrice, played by Noomi Rapace (Prometheus, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), get revenge on the man who disfigured her face. There was a problem; Victor was in the middle of enacting revenge on someone else already. He was doing this while being a member of a gang led by Alphonse, played by Terrence Howard (Red Tails, The Brave One). The story was nutty, a little too crazy for me. But you know I did not really care because I enjoyed Colin and Noomi in their roles. There was graphic violence with blood, explosions and careening plot twists. Then right in the middle of it all you got a budding romance. Go figure; maybe it is because I know revenge, but I do enjoy a story where the underdog gets a fair chance to win one. Also, I prefer watching a movie about revenge than being that person who used to act out with the dark side years ago. Scenes of blood and violence.
2 1/2 stars
” …until death do you part” is a powerful commitment. I have seen couples last together to the end of their lives, as well as couples where one of them chose not to be around to see their partner’s last breath. From the time my parents were married, every night at bedtime they would lie in bed holding hands. Even as my mother went deeper into the fog of Alzheimer’s disease, they still held hands. The older generation of my mother’s family were made of couples who had been married for 60 to 70 years. Throughout that span of time each of them faced times of joyfulness as well as sadness. In this moving story the couple in their 80’s had been married for many years. Georges and Anne, played by Jean-Louis Trintigant (The Conformist, Those Who Love Me Can Take the Train) and Emmanuelle Riva (Mon fils a moi, Three Colors: Blue) were retired music teachers, enjoying life as well as each other’s company. Their daughter Alexandre, played by Isabelle Huppert (The Piano Teacher, 8 Women), lived abroad. One day as Anne and Georges were having a meal together, Anne became momentarily unresponsive. From that moment on, the couple’s emerging new reality would constantly test the bond of their relationship. Writer and director Michael Haneke (The White Ribbon, The Piano Teacher) created an unapologetic view of an elderly couple’s life that millions today face on a daily basis. Having just been nominated for an Oscar in the best actress category, Emmanuelle Riva was incredible. I had to keep reminding myself that she was an actress playing Anne because her performance was so starkly real. Playing off of her in a more muted but just as powerful performance was Jean-Louis. My only criticism was the slow pacing in parts. By the time we were into the last quarter of the film I had seen enough. But then maybe that is exactly what the director wanted the audience to experience, to feel time from an elderly perspective. A moving story that reminded me of my uncle’s saying: Growing old is not for the weak. French with English subtitles.
3 2/3 stars