AFTER SPENDING A good portion of one’s life making decisions for others, a person may have forgotten how to make one for themselves. Ideally you grow up and learn how to be self-sufficient, in other words to be a responsible adult. Depending on your life’s course people and/or children can come into your life so your decisions will then have to incorporate them. It only makes sense if you are in a relationship the two of you would consider each other in your decisions. I had a friend who saw most things in black and white; you may know this type of person where all of their decisions come out of a pool of two options: yes or no. There was no room to negotiate with them. After several years they fell in love and soon after the two of them moved in together. I do not know what happened but from that point on this person could not make one decision without getting approval from their partner; it was the oddest thing to me. HAVE YOU EVER noticed how some decisions are influenced by peer pressure? I cannot recall the exact percentage but I read a study where at least 25% of mothers alter their parental decisions in public due to peer pressure. For me this falls into the same category of decisions that get based on statements with the word “should” in them. For example, “you should act your age” or “you should lose weight,” would fall into that category where someone is trying to dictate what they think you should be doing in your life. I am all for friends sharing their opinions about something that affects my life; but I hear them better when it is a discussion with feelings involved instead of just being told I should do such and such then everything will be fine. No, I do not operate that way; if they can tell me the reasons why they feel I should make a change then of course I would give consideration to what they were saying to me. The challenge is when you have more than one person telling you what they think you should do and it is not the same advice; somewhat similar to what was going on in this comedic, romantic drama. MOVING ACROSS THE country after separating from her husband Alice Kinney, played by Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line, Wild), found her life taking a different course when she had too much to drink while celebrating her birthday and found herself in bed with Harry, played by Pico Alexander (A Most Violent Year, Indignation). He came with friends. With Nat Wolff (Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars) as Teddy, Michael Sheen (Passengers, Midnight in Paris) as Austen, Jon Rudnitsky (Patchwork, Saturday Night Live-TV) as George and Candice Bergen (Rules Don’t Apply, Gandhi) as Lillian Stewart; the cast was fine for this story. I would have preferred more scenes with Candice and Michael however. The idea behind the story had some valid components, but I found the script was not able to carry them throughout the movie. There was a hodgepodge of scenes were some were cute, others unrealistic and some were simply bland. My overall feeling for this film was “meh;” for me there needed to be more story so I could find some connections to the characters. I do not want this to sound like I am telling the writers what they should have done; I only want to share my feelings with them and with you.
In our adult life the romantic relationships we form are based on trust, empathy and honesty among other attributes. I hesitate to quickly say love since I have seen examples where some people are in love with the relationship but not necessarily the person. However how many of us even thought of these things when we were younger? Can you remember what attracted you to your first crush or first love? I know I wasn’t wondering if we had similar attributes; I just remember how much fun we would have together. Where some kids were attracted to the star athletes or the smartest ones, I remember my attraction would accelerate if they could make me laugh. Writing this now sounds silly at firs to me; but the more I think about it I see humor has always held a strong position within my relationships. There were friends I had back then who even after their relationship ended with their first love continued to hold onto the memory of it, using it as a measure of judgement for all their future relationships. Not only can I still remember mine, but I can even tell you what events we attended together and what we wore; how crazy is that? There really is some type of exotic, strong power those first loves or crushes have on the majority of us, isn’t there? Just take a look at the main character in this dramatic mystery to find out how much. SINCE he was a young kid Quentin, played by Nat Wolff (The Fault in our Stars, Palo Alto), always had a special place in his heart for his next door neighbor Margo, played by Cara Delevingne (Anna Karenina, The Face of an Angel). The problem was she never knew it; so the day she mysteriously disappeared, Quentin could do only one thing and that was to find her. Based on John Green’s (The Fault in our Stars, Looking for Alaska) novel of the same name, this romantic movie had a capable cast. With relative newcomer Justice Smith as Radar and Austin Abrams (The Kings of Summer, Gangster Squad) as Ben, I thought they all captured the essence of high school life. However as I was watching this film I kept getting the feeling that the writers and director were trying real hard to make this picture as powerful as John’s previous work on The Fault in our Stars movie. This caused the film to come across in uneven patches. There were parts I enjoyed and others that were dull. This may have all started from the premise of the story, for it was a little far-fetched to me. Not that I want to make comparisons but I still remember The Fault in our Stars film; I just do not think I will remember this one as much.
2 1/4 stars
It started out as a simple cough, nothing more. The advice given was to push fluids and rest. The cough got deeper, sounding as if it was trying to peel layers of lung up like faded paint chips. Everything that tried to suppress it only seemed to make it stronger. The color of their skin began to fade into the atmosphere around them and their facial expressions softened. Those little creases at the edges of their mouth got shallower and shallower as the eyes sunk further back into their skull. Besides hearing about it in the news, I have heard about people in a relationship who leave it when their significant other becomes ill. It is hard to imagine anything lower in a human being in my opinion. To love someone for life comes with a lot of responsibilities, it takes work; but the rewards enrich and color our experiences with added shades of hues from the palette of life. Unconditional means not subject to any conditions. The only way I know how to love someone is unconditionally. In this romantic drama decide for yourself if the love you see was an unconditional one. Shailene Woodley (The Spectacular Now, Divergent) played Hazel, a teenager whose only close friend was an oxygen tank due to her illness. Wanting to just live an ordinary life, Hazel felt stuck in a support group where she met Gus, played by Ansel Elgort (Divergent, Carrie). Her with her tank and him with his prosthetic leg, they made an odd couple. The major reason this film worked was the chemistry between Shailene and Ansel. Having played brother and sister in their recent movie Divergent, they were outstanding; I believed every word uttered by the two of them. What accentuated their roles was having Laura Dern (Wild at Heart, Tenderness) and Sam Trammell (Autumn in New York, True Blood-TV) play Hazel’s parents Frannie and Michael. Only recently being aware of the acting from Nat Wolf, he was quite good as Gus’ best friend Isaac. There was no getting around the fact the story was a tearjerker. I have not read the book but part of the script seemed to have an extra layer of melodrama, some of it predictable. On the other hand if you know how I rate the films I review, this movie allowed me to enter into the lives of Hazel and Gus, leaving my life behind. I cried like everyone else in the theater and despite my few minor gripes, I loved this film unconditionally.
3 1/2 stars
It was only 4 years, except for the 2 who started that riot, but that time in high school was a prelude to adult life. In those years i began to understand there was this invisible ranking system, more like a hierarchy, where each of us were being assigned a place. I had no say in the matter and assumed there were others like me. One of the toughest parts was when students would get stuck with a label. Among teachers I always figured they had their own list of labels they assigned to students; such as difficult, trouble or quiet. However, the words that were used and got stuck to the students had more bite to them. There were girls who had to live with derogatory words like skank, whore or bitch. For some reason the labels given to boys were not as harsh or maybe it was just my opinion. There were those who were called nerds, druggies, queers or jocks. These words were not always based on any factual information; many times it was just an eyeball observation. High school already had its challenges without the added pressure from one’s peers and this dramatic film unapologetically depicted that life during those years. Based on the book of the same name by James Franco, the film focused on several students as each one was working through a personal struggle. Part of the cast included Emma Roberts (We’re the Millers, Hotel for Dogs) as April, newcomer Jack Kilmer as Teddy, Nat Wolff (Stuck in Love, New Year’s Eve) as Fred and James Franco (This is the End, The Iceman) as Mister B. All did an adequate job of acting, coming across in an honest way. I did not have an issue with the directing, but jumping from one story line to another became tiresome. There were a couple of scenes that made me uncomfortable which was the reaction I felt the director was trying to achieve. However, there was not enough story to engage me. After a short time I became bored with the characters, not caring what happened to them. I did not read the book, but I have to assume the stories read better than being depicted here on the big screen. Some of you already know my high school years were filled more with nightmares than pleasant dreams, so I wanted to make sure I was not reacting to this film on a deeper, personal level before beginning my review. The answer is I am far removed from that chapter in my life and this movie did not offer anything new from what has been done before.