MY FRIEND INSISTED I WATCH THE video clip because he was sure I would agree with him afterwards. The video was of a musical group that was his new favorite band. I sat alongside him and watched the group perform their song. It had a decent beat and I agreed that the band members’ voices were good as well as the song. When the video clip ended my friend did not give me a chance to say anything before he said he wanted me to listen to another of the band’s songs. He quickly pulled up another clip for me to watch and I did think this song was just as good as the first one I watched. Knowing what he was like, my only concern was my friend would continue showing me clips while talking up the band’s virtues, as if he was trying to sell them to me. Before the video ended, I told him I could see why he was enamored with the group. I then told him I wanted to show him one of my favorite performers and took over his computer. The only reason I did this was to stop him from showing me another video clip; I wanted to get out of the house and do something. LATER IN THE WEEK I WAS exploring the internet and decided to look up the history of my friend’s favorite musical group. What I found surprised me. The group had a television show, but what shocked me was the fact the members did not know how to play their musical instruments. I saw them playing them in the video; but it turns out they pretended to play the guitars and drums. This reminded me of a scandal about a duo who lip synched their songs. And if I am not mistaken, they even had won an award for their singing that was taken away, once the news about them pretending to sing came out. At least my friend’s group were using their own voices for singing. That is one thing that does not sit well with me; singers who lip synch their songs in concert. I always feel cheated when I go to a concert to see a musical artist who does not sing all their songs live. If I am sitting there listening to a recording, I could have easily done the same thing sitting at home without spending the money for the concert ticket and parking. As far as I could tell, the band in this documentary were always singing live. STARTING OUT IN LOS ANGELES’ PUNK scene, a group of females formed a band that would make history. Directed by Alison Eastwood (Laurel Canyon: A Place in Time, Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place), this film was the equivalent of a gold record; I not only enjoyed watching the band perform in archival clips, I learned so much about them. Much of the movie focused on the band’s formative years, which I felt shortchanged the following years as the members transformed themselves into a successful, multi-platinum selling band. There were a few scenes that were sad to watch as hard choices were being carried out by various band members. But the thing I appreciated was the honesty that came across from the various film clips and interviews. The director did a wonderful job of keeping the viewer engaged throughout the picture, while still teaching those viewers who might not know much about the band. For myself, I knew the band was a success; however, I did not know about their rightful place in history. From watching this film, I do not know what makes a band great as opposed to a one hit wonder; but I will say after seeing this band in this movie, I would have bought a ticket to see them in concert.
3 ½ stars
THE CARDBOARD BOX SITTING ON A SHELF in my basement said it was some coffee brand; I do not drink coffee. When I took the box down, I could see a layer of dust that almost looked like gauze fabric was covering the lid. Placing it on the floor, I opened the box and saw crumpled newspaper packed inside. This told me whatever was in this box had come from somewhere else. I began pulling the clumps of newspaper out, but not before looking for a date listed on the paper. The paper was decades old which explained its yellowish hue and fragile state of decomposition. Something deep down in the box reflected a spark of reflected light coming from the bare lightbulb that was hanging down from the ceiling above me. I reached inside, dug my way down, and touched something that was cold and smooth. What in the world had been residing in my basement all these years I wondered? My hand was able to engulf nearly all of the object, but something attached to the surface was blocking my thumb and finger from touching each other. As I pulled this thing out of the box, bunches of crumpled newspaper tumbled to the basement floor like expired carnations. Lifting it up to my face, to be bathed in the glow of the single lightbulb, I held in my hand a silver creamer. MEMORIES INSIDE OF ME AWAKENED FROM their long slumber. This silver creamer with the black Bakelite handle was from the Art Deco era and I remember it only being used when guests were in the house. I put the creamer down on the ground and returned my hand back into the box because I knew the creamer always had a companion. And sure enough, I found the sugar container that was identical to the creamer except it had 2 handles. The times were so different when this set was sitting out on the dining room table. It was a different era where married couples formed couples club; a once a month get together, where the men played cards and the woman played games using small ceramic tiles. The term “coffee and” was popular; it meant coffee and some kind of dessert item(s) would be served during the evening. The tablecloth was set out; the coffee was brewed and stored in a big fancy percolator; platters of cookies, doughnuts or sweet rolls were placed around the table; and the required frosted cake presided over all the desserts from its lofty pedestal cake stand. There were even ashtrays available that were always accompanied by a book of matches. It was a different era and time, just like it was in this dramatic Academy Award winning film. DIRECTOR BERNIE DODD, PLAYED BY WILLIAM Holden (Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17), had always admired the work of Frank Elgin, played by Bing Crosby (High Society, Going My Way). Bernie was determined to get Frank to star in his play, but he would have to contend with Frank’s protective wife. With Grace Kelly (Rear Window, To Catch a Thief) as Georgie Elgin, Anthony Ross (The Gunfighter, Suspense-TV) as Philip Cook and Gene Reynolds (Boys Town, Andy Hardy’s Private Secretary) as Larry; this film festival winner came out of a different film era. Personally, I loved the feeling of traveling back in time to experience a Hollywood classic with its famous actors and abundant musical soundtrack. The acting was excellent but did come over a bit outdated or maybe I should say with over the top expressions with little subtlety. I did not mind this over dramatic flair because it was so fascinating watching the actors tell the story that threw the viewer a couple of curveballs. Images of old Hollywood with actors who were bigger than life; I felt as if I had visited a bygone era by watching this memorable movie.
3 ½ stars
MOST INDIVIDUALS CONSIDERED HIM THE LIFE of the party and I suppose to the untrained eye he was; however, there was something about him that did not set right with me. If I were asked to describe him in one word, I would have used the word “manic.” When he was “on” there was no off switch; he would remain the focus of attention for the entire night. Whether it was a couple of people or a large party, he was always set to put on a performance. I will say he could be quite funny at times, but sometimes people just wanted to chill out and not be forced to play his fall guy or enthusiastic audience member. I use the word enthusiastic because if you did not play along to his style of humor, he would be quick to pounce on you; of course, in a humorous way just to get more laughs out of the situation. Whenever we were at the same event, I always made sure I was off to the side, somewhere on the edge of his peripheral vision. I discovered if I was not in his direct line of fire, which mostly was everything in front of him, I could get by without being pulled into his show. THE AMOUNT OF ENERGY HE WOULD expend during his performances was not natural; I was convinced there had to be something fueling him on, because rarely was there anyone who could do such a feat without artificial help. In a period of 2-3 years of his over the top personality, I noticed a change taking place in him. His complexion had drained into paleness and his weight loss had become noticeable. You might recall my philosophy of there being no accidents, there is a reason for everything? I was at the right place at the right time when I made a comment to a close friend of his about the physical differences I had noticed. It was as if I had the key to open up her feelings because she teared up as she told me how concerned she was about her friend. It turned out my suspicions were correct because she said she was certain he was addicted to a street drug. I did not take any pleasure in being right; a coat of sadness enclosed me as I tried to comfort her. She explained she was trying to convince him to seek out help but all he would do is promise her then continue on with his day. I felt sad for her and him, telling her she could not do it alone; it would take a major near-death experience or sudden change in the way people respond to his antics. To give you an idea of what it felt like being around him, I was getting the same feelings I used to experience back then as I watched the main character in this film festival winner. BEING THE FRONT PERSON TO A PUNK rock band required a great deal of energy. Luckily for Becky, played by Elisabeth Moss (The Invisible Man, The Handmaid’s Tale), she had an unlimited amount of help from the things she would ingest. With Cara Delevingne (Paper Towns, Suicide Squad) as Crassy Cassie, Dan Stevens (The Guest, Beauty and the Beast) as “Dirtbag” Danny, Agyness Deyn (Clash of the Titans, Sunset Song) as Marielle Hell and Virginia Madsen (Dune, Burn Your Maps) as Ania Adamcyzk; this music drama’s prime focus was Elisabeth’s performance. She was eerily excellent in the role which only made me uncomfortable to watch what was happening to her through the story. The script did not do her any favors because I felt many scenes were repetitive. It was not until the last third of the movie where I felt fully engaged with what was taking place. Honestly, there really were not any surprises in this story; but, with Elisabeth’s convincing performance I could not look away from the train wreck that was taking place right before my eyes.
THE DANCERS ON THE DANCE FLOOR looked to me like one large flower with its petals spreading apart to reveal its stamens; except in this case, the stamens were a man and woman swirling around each other. The people around them moved to the outer edges of the dance floor to give the couple plenty of room to “perform.” The event was a holiday party that was being held at a hotel’s ballroom; everyone was dressed up for the evening. This couple had been dancing together for decades and was not the least shy about being the first ones on the dance floor. Watching them dance, I had to wonder if they had either asked the DJ to play a certain song or hand him one that they brought along with them to the event. They were flawless as they let the music guide them around the floor, perfectly in synch at all times. Where some people dance to be seen; I did not sense that in this couple. They genuinely seemed to be enjoying each other as they ebbed and flowed into a variety of dance steps and movements, letting the music flow through them and come out of their feet. As I continued to watch them, I recalled a time when I used to go out dancing almost every weekend at a club. THERE WAS A PARTICULAR SPOT I liked to stand in, at this one club, where I could see everyone on the dance floor. It was an elevated area that had a long ledge made of steel to match the walls around the dance floor. From this point, I had the crowded bar to my back while I could lean on the ledge to scan the never-ending flow of people coming on and off the dance floor. After a time, I was able to recognize certain “dancers” who stood out for various reasons. There was one guy who danced to be seen. Rarely did he ever pay attention to his partner because he was too busy looking for approval from everyone around him. There was another dancer who enjoyed themselves despite rarely being able to dance on the beat. This was a person that intrigued me because I wanted to find out what they were hearing that caused them to miss the beat. What I loved about the dance floor with its dancers was seeing the utter abandonment many displayed in just letting their bodies move to the music and enjoying themselves. They were not looking for approval, acceptance or acknowledgment; they simply wanted to dance. For those interested, you can see what that looks like in this musical comedy. DURING THE COLLEGE ADMISSIONS INTERVIEW HIGH school student Quinn Ackerman, played by Sabrina Carpenter (The Hate U Give, Horns), saw an opportunity to increase her chances for acceptance. The only issue was she would have to learn how to dance. With Keiynan Lonsdale (The Finest Hours; Love, Simon) as Julliard Pembroke, Liza Koshy (Tyler Perry’s Boo! A Madea Halloween, Freakish-TV) as Jasmine Hale, Briana Andrade-Gomes (Suicide Squad, The Next Step-TV) as Trinity and Naomi Snieckus (Saw: The Final Chapter, Mr. D-TV) as Maria Ackerman; this movie’s motivation was all due to the dancing. Though I enjoyed the dancing scenes, the story was in step with better made dance films such as Footloose and Flashdance. There was some fun, humorous scenes; but overall, the story was predictable, and I am sad to say, the acting was only average. Now despite all of this, I would not say watching this movie would be a total waste of time; however, for those who are not interested in dance, you will find this film keeps stepping on the wrong beat and on your feet.
2 ¼ stars
I WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF PICKING out songs for a playlist to give to a close friend. There was one song I remembered from a movie I saw many, many years ago. The song has always stuck with me, though I never knew the title. Searching online I sought out the movie first to see if I could get a list of its song titles. I remembered an older woman in the film sang the song as she stood still in place. It did not take me too long to find the song I remembered and see its title. Once I had it, I typed the title into my computer’s search engine to see what would come up. Little did I realize this was a popular song, because the choice of artists who sang this song went on for pages. Besides having a list of artists, there were also music videos of artists performing the song. I found myself going from one video to another to see what the musical artist would do with the song. It was interesting to hear the multitude of variations; every artist was trying to put their own spin on the song. I was enjoying this musical journey despite it causing me confusion in not being able to decide which performance I wanted to include in my playlist. TIME WAS SLIPPING AWAY AND I was no closer to completing my project. I had no idea how many renditions of the song I had seen or heard; but somewhere in the list of artists I saw this name that I had heard, but I had never heard her perform. I clicked on the link and out of my computer speakers came this rich, earthy, passionate voice. At times it delved into the alto range but would veer right into a tenor level; I think her voice would be considered a contralto. Her voice captivated me because I could not recall hearing a female voice with such a strong lower register. It was as if I was listening to this song for the very first time; it was something fresh and new as the notes hung in the air around me like Spanish moss. Who was this woman who could take a song from the past, from a film musical, and make me feel as if our hearts were beating in synch? As soon as the song ended, I replayed it several times. And once I had my fill, I sought out other songs this musical artist performed. Having this as my introduction, there was no way I was going to miss the opportunity to learn more about Nina Simone. WITH PLANS ON BECOMING A CLASSICALLY trained concert pianist, one night performing at a nightclub would change the course of Eunice Kathleen Waymon’s life. Directed by Liz Garbus (Girlhood, Bobby Fischer Against the World), this film festival winning documentary delved into the life of Nina Simone. With archival footage, interviews and performances; I found myself yearning for more musical performances as the movie went on. This biography touched on many aspects of Nina’s life, from childhood to adulthood to political activism; all of it was interesting, but part of me wished there would have been more details offered in the non-musical scenes. The interviews with her daughter, I found to be telling. I read somewhere the daughter was upset about a film that came out about her mother, so she got involved in the creation of this documentary. I am glad she did because not having any knowledge per se of Nina’s life, this film was a beautiful way to learn about her. And I have that playlist I made for a friend to thank.
IF HE HAD NOT SAID ANYTHING to me, I would not have given it a second thought. My friend was expressing how his dad could never make the parent/teacher conferences because of his work. I was not aware it bothered him since there were many students who came to these meetings with only one parent. When I mentioned this to my friend, he told me he just wanted his father to show up once to one of his school functions; that his dad worked all the time. I thought about this for a minute and realized I might have only seen his father once or twice at the most through all the years we have been friends. Mentioning this to my friend, he told me his dad only thought about his job and how he could advance himself. According to my friend his dad was driven by this one thought; he did not think of anything else but what he could do to get promoted and earn more money. I felt sad for my friend; it was like he had an absentee father because within our conversation my friend told me his dad missed family birthdays, anniversaries and even some holiday get togethers. There was nothing I could say to make him feel better. THE THINGS HE SAID TO ME about his dad were not unfamiliar to me; I have known several people, including myself, who were driven by a single-mindedness to reach their goals. When I started teaching fitness, I pretty much put myself on call to make myself available when anyone needed a sub to teach their class. Rarely would I ever request a sub; I felt it was my job, so I needed to be there to teach class. There were many occasions when I could not join my friends and family in a celebration because it was my time to teach. I know my one mindedness had an affect on my relationships. Some of the people I dated ended our relationship with the excuse I was not easily available to them. At the time it was hurtful to hear because I could not see things through their eyes. I felt they were essentially asking me to choose between them and my job. Now granted, though fitness was my part time job I treated it with the same importance as my full time one. There were instructors who did not have an issue taking off time from teaching whenever they felt like it; I could not do it, that is how driven I was with teaching. After many years, I now finally understand I was not seeing the big picture of my life; I was out of balance. It was the same, I felt, for the main character in this musical comedy. NOTHING ELSE MATTERED TO LARS CRICKSSONG, played by Will Ferrell (Downhill, Holmes & Watson), then to compete in the Eurovision Song Contest. His singing partner and family were certainly aware of his drive, even if they did not understand it. With Rachel McAdams (A Most Wanted Man, Game Night) as Sigrit Ericksdottir, Dan Stevens (Beauty and the Beast, The Guest) as Alexander Lemtov, Mikael Persbrandt (In a Better World, The Hobbit franchise) as Victor Karlosson and Pierce Brosnan (Some Kind of Wonderful, Mama Mia! franchise) as Erick Erickssong; this movie could have used some fine tuning. I am not a fan of Will Ferrell; for me, he was doing a role that he has been doing since his Saturday Night Live days. There was nothing new or fresh about his character. On the other hand, Rachel was impressive; her comedic timing, acting and possible singing voice hit the right notes for me. Dan Stevens was another standout for me; he was crazy good in this role. There were patches where the story and script were amusing; but then there were times where things felt flat. Gratefully these 2 actors hit the right notes and made this movie easier to watch for me.
2 ½ stars
EXCEPT FOR A COUPLE OF PARTICIPANTS WHO came with a friend none of us knew each other as we sat in the room, waiting for the instructor. The class each of us signed up for was a pottery class at the local community center. I was interested in pottery after seeing a potter at an art fair use a potter’s wheel to make a bowl. Watching him take a lump of clay, throw it onto the wheel and with some water and wooden utensils turn it into a beautiful etched bowl; it was mesmerizing to me, as it seemed to be pure magic. The instructor walked into the room and introduced himself to us. After explaining what he planned on us achieving, he asked us to come up and get some clay to work on for the day. With a quick succession of instructions and encouragement, the instructor asked us to talk to each other and left us to explore the possibilities with our clay. Before we turned on our potter’s wheels a member in the class asked what people were thinking of making with their clay. I planned on doing a bowl, but I was surprised by all the different comments. The creative ideas some of the participants expressed were fueling the conversations as we began our projects. It wasn’t until after the potter’s wheels were on and everyone’s lump of clay were halfway towards completion that I realized how exciting it was to be sitting in a room with engaged and creative “artists.” THE CREATIVITY THAT CAME OUT OF THAT classroom could be seen by the variety of objects that each of us made and designed. I surprised myself by how quick I adapted to the environment. Almost all of the time, I need time to process a situation. As you can imagine being spontaneous is not something I do often, or maybe ever. When I have attended aerobic workshops, I always have a fear the presenter is going to ask us to break up into smaller groups and create an exercise routine. I am horrible in these types of scenarios. Now granted, I am aware and can feel the excitement participants experience while working together to create a routine to present in the workshop; I, on the other hand, experience an undercurrent of dread as I feel I am put on the spot to come up with something to share with the rest of the group. I do see the merits of working together to hash out ideas and there have been times where I do contribute once I feel more comfortable; however, I prefer sitting back and think over the variety of possibilities that begin to pop up into my head. This is why I totally understood what the musical artists were experiencing in this musical documentary. DURING THE 1960S, A GROUP OF MUSICIANS found an area in Los Angeles that not only allowed but also encouraged them to take creative license with the music they were creating; it was called Laurel Canyon. This film festival winning movie had a variety of interviews and performances by Fiona Apple, Ringo Star, the Byrds, the Beach Boys, Eric Clapton, and The Mamas and the Papas. This film’s journey was “hosted” by Jakob Dylan who also performed. I did not mind him being the interviewer, but wished he had asked more questions of the musical artists instead of simply nodding his head. I enjoyed watching and listening to this documentary because of the historical significance and the personal stories being told. At times, I felt I was being taught a history lesson as I listened to the artists explain their connection and influences to the creation of a particular song; it was so cool. For music lovers in particular, this would be a worthwhile viewing experience. It reminded me of my younger days in winter when I would sing to myself “California Dreamin’” to stay warm.
3 ½ stars
SOON AFTER WE BECAME FRIENDS IN 1stor 2ndgrade, we became best friends. I lived on the northwest corner of a square, city block and he lived on the southeast one; we would use the alley to go to each other’s house. He had an uncle who was some type of farmer; so, every summer he would always bring over a grocery bag of his uncle’s fruit to our house each weekend. We would go through the bag picking out the ripest fruit to eat right away before putting the bag in the refrigerator. All through elementary school we remained the best of friends. During that time, we were there for each other during a parent’s health scare, the surprise birth of his baby sister and the rise of bullying as we advanced in school. By the time we graduated and started high school we were sure nothing would change between us. With the school population tripling between elementary and high school, besides going from a small school to a block long building, we assumed we would still see each other through the school’s hallways. As it turned out that was not the case and as time went on, we started drifting apart. Our circle of friends was expanding and diversifying on top of it. I WENT OUT OF STATE FOR college and that was the last time I saw my friend; we lost touch with each other. Fast forward now 20 years, where I am living down in the city in my own place. There was a store in my neighborhood that I had read about in the newspaper; they carried “funky” retro stuff. I decided to check it out one Saturday and walked down to it. The newspapers were right because the store was cool looking with a variety of items from different eras. As I was gazing down into one of the glass display cases a staff worker came up to me, to see if I needed any help. When I lifted my head up to reply I was stunned. The man standing across the case from me was my best friend from elementary school. He recognized me immediately as we both started laughing. He asked what I was doing there; I asked him the same thing. It turned out he was the owner. While we were talking, I noticed something odd; he was talking with a British accent. Listening to the scope of his business dealings, he was heavily involved in the entertainment business. He went by one name, deciding his last name sounded suddenly “to ethnic.” I found all of this bizarre, to say the least. AFTER THAT STORE VISIT, WE STAYED in touch sporadically. I felt like I was talking to a different person whenever I would see him. He had turned himself into this persona with the one name to make an impression with the Hollywood people he was dealing with now. His business expanded so much he had to acquire multiple warehouses to store his burgeoning inventory. He became the “go to person” whenever Hollywood studios needed specific styled props and costumes. His lifestyle became fast paced and crazy to match the people he was now hobnobbing with, from coast to coast. I had bumped into him at a play one day and knew immediately he was high on drugs. His speech was slurred, his eyes were halfway shut, and he kept swaying from side to side. That was the last time I saw him until I read his obituary in the paper. DESPITE BEING UNINSURABLE AND BROKE LEGENDARY performer Judy Garland, played by Renee Zellweger (Chicago, My One and Only), flew to London in 1968 for several sold-out concerts. This biographical drama also starred Jessie Buckley (Wild Rose, The Tempest) as Rosalyn Wilder, Finn Wittrock (Unbroken, American Horror Story-TV) as Mickey Deans, Rufus Sewell (The Illusionist, Hercules) as Sidney Luft and Michael Gambon (Harry Potter franchise, Quartet) as Bernard Delft. Whether the story was accurate in this film did not matter to me because ultimately it was all about Renee’s performance. Not once did I think it was Renee acting; she was utterly convincing in the role. Doing her own singing, I had to give her credit because I knew it was not going to be easy; however, she did an incredible job. Her mannerisms, her posture, her gestures; all of them were Judy. As for the story, many viewers already know it; so, let me just say, it is sad. However, don’t let that stop you from seeing this film because I believe you will be hearing Renee’s name this upcoming awards season.
INSTEAD OF REHASHING MY STORY ABOUT the school teacher who told me I would amount to nothing if I decided to become a writer, let me tell you about a friend’s son. When the boy was little, he loved playing with all kinds of building block type toys. He could sit and play by himself for hours with these toys. As he got older the simple building blocks were replaced with more complicated toys; toys that gave him more options in the way he could connect pieces together. He would build these elaborate structures. Some were recognizable as being a castle or a bridge; but others were more freeform and creative. During the latter part of elementary school and beginning of high school, the father began hoping his son would join the family business. Though the son had never shown an inclination to be involved in the business, the father persisted in steering his son into following in his father’s footsteps. This created a wedge between the father and son. From the first set of building blocks the son had received when he was young, all he wanted to do was to build things. He was inclined to go into the field of architecture or construction. The father could not understand why his son wanted to venture into such work when a successful career was right there waiting for him at the family business. WHAT THE FATHER DID NOT UNDERSTAND was the fact that his son had zero passion for the type of work his father did. And I believe that is the key when it comes to deciding what a person wants to do in life. Without passion a person becomes more like a robot, lifeless and unemotional. They just go through the motions at their job, but really do not care about it. I have worked with several individuals who had mentally checked out from the job. They were at the company simply to collect a paycheck; they had no concern for the health of the company as long as it did not affect their paycheck. Those individuals lacked passion in my opinion. As I watched my friend and his son play this tug of war game about coming into the family business, I knew the son would never abide by his father’s wishes. The reason being, I saw how passionate the son was when it came to building things. Those early building blocks when he was a baby planted the seed that let his passion flourish through the years. A similar situation can be found in this musical, comedic drama. NOT FEELING CONNECTED TO HIS SURROUNDINGS British teenager Javed, played by Viveik Kalra (Beecham House-TV, Next of Kin-TV Mini-Series), found someone who understood how he felt; it was the Boss himself, Bruce Springsteen. Inspired by a true story, this film festival winner also starred Kulvinder Ghir (Bend it Like Beckham, Still Open All Hours-TV) as Malik, Meera Ganatra (Three Dots and a Dash, PREmature-TV Mini-Series) as Noor, Raron Phagura (Doctor Who-TV, Him-TV Mini-Series) as Roops and Dean-Charles Chapman (Game of Thrones-TV, The Commuter) as Matt. Set in the 1980s, the story was familiar to me, having seen it done in other films. The movie started out slow, but I soon was drawn into this picture due to the charms of the cast. There was a sweetness to the script that felt right to me. I also appreciated the underlying story involving the dynamics of Javed’s family within the surrounding area. And of course, there was Springsteen’s music. Though I am familiar with Bruce’s music, I do not own any of his albums. However, I was surprised how well his songs worked within the story. The combination made for an enjoyable viewing experience. To take a familiar story and tweak it enough to make it feel fresh takes true passion. I could totally relate.
IT TOOK ME A LONG TIME to realize dreams are not written in stone. They are more like clouds; they do not necessarily have definitive edges and they are never static. Part of living my life is having dreams hanging ahead of me. Think of it like a carrot hanging in front of a horse. I am always trying to make my way towards my dreams. Having lived in rental apartments for most of my life, my dream of home ownership was a large one that had a hold on me. Working two jobs for extra income was tolerable, because I knew there would be more money to devote to building a hefty down payment for a house. It took me some years to reach this dream, but I finally did it. Another dream of mine was to have a brand-new car. The only cars I had to drive were used ones. One of my earliest cars cost $500; it had over 90,000 miles and a houndstooth interior. So, after driving many hand me down autos, I was able to buy a new car. Seven weeks later while parked in front of the post office, a man backed into my car while trying to get out of his parking spot in front of mine. My front bumper was dented and my thrill of having reached my new car dream evaporated in front of me. FROM MY SUCCESSES AND FAILURES IN achieving my dreams, I never judge someone else’s dreams. I may feel the person will have a tough challenge to get to their dreams, but I would not discourage them from trying at least. An acquaintance of mine contacted me about fitness. They wanted to change careers from finance to fitness. Partially based on their comments to my questions, I felt they were not completely aware of the work needed to become successful and earn a decent living. All of their questions I answered to the best of my ability without any judgement. I, also, did not gloss over anything; expressing the work it took to meet club members’ and clients’ needs. When I reached my dream of being a fitness instructor, I had no idea of the amount of preparation and planning it took to conduct a safe, fun class. The training and studying were nearly overwhelming for me. Learning about all the safety protocols alone was a monumental task. However, from a kid who flunked PE class twice to becoming a fitness instructor; I never let the naysayers discourage me and that is why I was rooting for the main character in this musical drama. THOUGH SHE HAD A GOOD VOICE, the idea of Rose-Lynn, played by Jessie Buckley (Beast, The Tempest), moving from her home in Glasgow to Nashville to become a country singer sounded crazy to most; but, that wasn’t going to stop Rose-Lynn from fighting for her dream. With Julie Walters (Harry Potter franchise, Mama Mia!) as Marion, Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda, Martian Child) as Susannah, Jamie Sives (Let Him Talk to the Greek, Valhalla Rising) as Sam and Craig Parkinson (Four Lions, Control) as Alan; this film festival winner took me by surprise. Not spending much time listening to country music, I was moved by the songs and vocals, which were provided by Grammy winner Kacey Musgraves. The acting from Jessie and Julie came across with depth and emotion; I was brought into their world. I will say there were periods of time where I had a tough time understanding the dialog when the Scottish brogue got thick. Yet, it did not distract me enough to lose my connection with the story. There have been previous films about a nobody becoming a somebody; however, there was a freshness to this picture that made me smile and tap my toes to the beat.
3 ½ stars