MOTIVATION IS A KEY INGREDIENT IN a person’s journey through life; I firmly believe this. It is the reason one has for behaving or acting a certain way. For example, I wanted to feel better about myself and be able to buy clothing off the rack from any store; so, I went on a diet to lose weight. Another example was my dream to visit all 50 states. I let pass social opportunities so I could save money to fund my travel plans. As long as I can remember, whenever I was motivated to do something I never had a completion date associated to it. In other words, if there was something I wanted to do or get I would stick with it until I reached my goal. Is this the norm? I do not know. From my experiences, I have seen so many variations in a person’s motivation. Now let me say upfront I found it difficult to be sympathetic to an individual who wanted to achieve something but was not motivated to go get it. I had a friend who desperately wanted to be in a love relationship; not a conversation would go by without him mentioning what he would do if he had a significant other. The problem as I saw it was he did nothing to try and meet people. I do not know if he was expecting people to come knocking on his door. WITH THE LAST EXAMPLE I DESCRIBED, the other aspect that contributes to me being unsympathetic is when the person blames others for the predicament they placed themselves in. Recognition is the first step in solving a problem. The friend I described above once in a while would meet someone by happenstance, while grocery shopping or riding the train. If they struck up a conversation and eventually went out on a couple of dates, my friend would already start to think ahead of what might happen. However, if the few dates went nowhere, he was always quick to place blame on the other person. They were conceited, stuffy, high maintenance were some of the excuses he would express to me. After hearing the same excuses over time, I had to finally suggest to him that maybe he should take a look at the things he was doing. You would have thought I was accusing him of murder or fraud; he said he was doing nothing wrong. At that point I was done and knew there was no sense in trying to reason with him. I believe I would have come to the same conclusion with the main character in this comedy. WITH NO JOB AND NO SOURCE OF INCOME; Susan, played by Sean Hayes (The Three Stooges, Will & Grace-TV), had to rely on getting money from her mother. However, the arrangement wouldn’t last if her brother had something to say about it. With Carrie Aizley (For Your Consideration, Transparent-TV) as Corrin, Margo Martindale (The Hollars, August: Osage County) as Mary, Allison Janney (Hairspray, The Girl on the Train) as Velvet and Danny Johnson (Daredevil-TV, Shades of Blue-TV) as Leon; I thought the story was interesting at the start. The cast was well suited for their roles, but I felt the script dragged on for a good portion of the film. Sean was just okay in the role; there was nothing unique to his acting. I would have preferred knowing more about how the dynamics between Susan and her family came to be. As it stood, the story did not go anywhere for me; everything seemed to stay on one level. Except for the occasional humorous scene, my pulse did not get a rise from this picture. Maybe it was expecting me to find the good parts to the plot?
1 ¾ stars
Unless there is something seriously dramatic going on there is no way to know your family may be different from other families. This is one of the reasons we initially grow up believing we are just normal. However once you start experiencing the dynamics within other families it can be eye opening. I remember the first time my best friend invited me for dinner when we were in 3rd grade. Sitting there I knew something was just different about his family. His older brother sat at the dinner table with us and the parents, but he never said a word to me or his younger brother. He only would talk to the parents but just barely. To an outsider they would say that brother was just being rude, but to a young me I thought he was mean. As I grew and had more opportunities to be around other families I actually started to enjoy the experiences. I wonder if that was the start of my interest in pursuing interests in psychology. A college friend invited me to their home for the weekend where I wound up feeling like I was on one of those old family television shows from the 1950s or 60s. Every family member would get dressed up for dinner; I could not understand how the mother could cook an entire meal yet look like she was ready to go out on the town. There was another family I experienced that cursed at each other like they were just having a friendly conversation. Oh and how could I forget the family that shared a meal with me where all and I mean all the home cooked foods were barely edible to me? I do not want to sound ungrateful but nothing tasted like it was supposed to taste and some things did not look like they were cooked enough; yet all of the family members carried on about the food as if it were the best thing since sliced bread. It just goes to show there really is no such thing as a “normal” family. ONLY after his mother was admitted into the hospital did John Hollar, played by John Krasinski (Away We Go, 13 Hours), travel back home to be with his family. One tends to forget about their family when they are away from them. This film festival nominated comedic drama also starred Margo Martindale (The Hours, August: Osage County) as Sally Hollar, Sharlto Copley (Elysium, District ) as Ron Hollar and Richard Jenkins (The Visitor, The Cabin in the Woods) as Don Hollar. I thought Margo and Richard were the best out of the cast. The story had fun moments in it but there really was nothing that moved me to think I was watching a good movie. Maybe because there were a variety of issues taking place I felt nothing stood out except for Margo’s character. The actors tried their best I believe and John who also directed did a decent job; but the ending left me with a blah feeling. I do not know if it is because I have seen my share of dysfunctional families that I did not think this film was any big deal.
Before I write this review I want to say it is not my intention to offend or ridicule anyone’s beliefs or religion. I follow the advice given to me by my very first employer; never discuss politics or religion in mixed company. With that being said, I have noticed the older people get the more comfort they find with the idea there is a heaven. Most people like to know where they are going in life so it makes sense they would want to know in death. I have heard a variety of interpretations from several people on what heaven means to them. For me heaven would be a place where there are no calories in food. Being able to eat something without thinking how it will affect me sounds like total bliss. I have attended funerals where someone commenting on the deceased will say they are now with the person’s significant other or family members and I can see this is meant to comfort the living. Since heaven is not some tangible item that one can hold or visit on vacation, it is open to anyone’s interpretation. Four year old Colton Burpo, played by newcomer Conner Corum, had a very distinct and vivid recollection of heaven in this dramatic movie based on a true story. Greg Kinnear (Little Miss Sunshine, Thin Ice) played Colton’s dad Todd. After a near-death experience Colton began speaking of heaven as if he had visited it during the time of his surgery. His father who was a preacher began to question his own beliefs as people in their small town began reacting to the news. The movie studio scored big time by choosing Connor to play Colton in this film version based on the best selling book of the same title. Connor was so good that I started to believe he was Colton. Greg Kinnear and Margo Martindale (The Hours, August: Osage County) as Nancy Rawling were way above the rest of the cast in regards to acting skills. The direction was okay but I felt there were passages that slowed down as the story at times verged on becoming preachy. I hope what I say next does not make me appear to be stereotyping people, but the movie audience I was sitting with seemed almost reverent. Everyone and I do mean everyone sat quietly in their seats. There were no sounds from people munching on food or commenting to each other. At the end of the movie a good portion of the viewers applauded. I think this will be of those movies that will draw in a specific crowd. Heaven knows if viewers will find this film entertaining.
A great line a former boss of mine used to say was, “I came loaded for bear.” I know this implies a hunting reference, but that is not the intention. They would use the loaded bear line when they knew a meeting was going to be an intense verbal struggle. Aware they were going to be grilled about an issue or procedural operation; they had studied up on all their facts, ready to answer any questions that would get volleyed at them. I prefer using that perfect bear line when it comes to attending a variety of friends or family functions. If I know there is going to be a guest at a dinner party who wants to pick a fight with me, there is nothing wrong with me preparing for any possible antics on their part. There have been family dinners where I have seen sisters fight or cousins yell at each other and all I am interested in is if we are still going to have dessert. If you know you are going to be in a toxic environment there is nothing wrong with insulating yourself from it aka come loaded for bear. I believe in preparing for the worst but even I would not have been ready for the ferocious fighting done by this Oklahoma family. Based on Tracy Letts’ (Killer Joe) Pulitzer Prize winning drama, the story takes place as family members come together due to a death in the family. Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada, The Iron Lady) played the widowed matriarch Violet Weston. Julia Roberts (Notting Hill, Closer) played her daughter Barbara whose husband was contemplating divorce. Those of you who have seen the play will have a different reaction than the ones who are not familiar with this story. I saw the play and enjoyed it more than this dramatic movie. Everyone in the cast was excellent with their acting. Meryl was not a surprise to me, but Julia Roberts and Benedict Cumberbatch (Star Trek into Darkness, Atonement) shined in their roles. Tracy wrote the screenplay to this film and though there was nothing negative about it, I felt some of the energy dissipated when the focus was taken out of the house. Some viewers will become tired by all of the verbal fighting; if I remember correctly the play had more humor. Either way this multi-nominated movie is worth seeing; just come prepared for one heck of a fight.
2 3/4 stars