CONSIDERING I FIRST SAW HER WHILE sitting inside a shopping cart, it is rather amazing the memory of her is as strong today as it was decades ago. It was the only grocery store I knew as a little boy; she worked behind one of the cash registers and her name was Henrietta. With wire-rimmed eyeglasses and her shiny, light brown hair pulled tightly back into a large bun that was stuffed into a black hairnet; I always perked up when she was the checker for our checkout line. She knew my name which even for my young age, made me feel important and special. Not all the time, but often enough she would give me a lollipop or a small candy bar. Always with a smile on her face, to me she was the kindest and sweetest person I knew. When I got old enough to go to the grocery store myself, I always chose the check out aisle she was working. Though I had outgrown the desire to eat every bit of candy given or bought for me, Henrietta would give me some kind of small trinket or object. One time I received a pencil sharpener that was shaped like a rocket ship; another time I received a bottle of bubbles. She was such a strong fixture at the neighborhood grocery store; I could not think of the store without thinking about her. NEXT TO THE GROCERY STORE WAS a laundromat and next to it was a hot dog place. Once my friends and I were old enough, we would go to the hot dog restaurant for lunch instead of the school cafeteria. The restaurant was a fast-food joint that served hot dogs and hamburgers in these red plastic baskets that were lined with a red and white checkerboard sheet of waxy paper. The cook knew we students had to be back to school on time, so he made sure to get our orders out to us quickly. Sometimes after school, I would stop at the restaurant to get a soft drink before walking a couple of blocks to the local drugstore. The store had the look of an old-fashioned apothecary with its wooded shelves going high up the sides of the walls. Light fixtures hung down by black piping and the ceiling was made of stamped tin. The pharmacists knew me and would let me take family members’ prescriptions home without a signature. Each store in my neighborhood was a familiar and welcome place; many of the store owners knew me. Nearly all the residents in the neighborhood knew each other. The apartment I grew up in never seemed small to me because my home was my entire neighborhood, just as it was for the residents in this musical drama. ONE WAS NEVER ALONE WHEN THEY lived in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood, both in good times and bad. With Anthony Ramos (A Star is Born, Honest Thief) as Usnavi, Melissa Barrera (Vida-TV, Dos Veces Tu) as Vanessa, newcomer Leslie Grace, Corey Hawkins (Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island) as Benny and Jimmy Smits (Star War franchise, NYPD Blue-TV) as Kevin Rosario; this film based on Lin-Manuel Miranda’s (Hamilton, Mary Poppins Returns) Broadway musical brimmed over with singing and dancing. The music was infectious, accompanied by electrifying choreographed dancing. I thought the directing was crisp, providing a few opportunities to create powerful scenes. There were a few scenes that did not resonate with me; either they were offshoots to what I thought was the main story line or the scenario presented was predictable to me. If one is not a fan of musicals, I do not feel they will enjoy watching this movie as much as those familiar with Lin-Manuel’s style of song writing. The sense of belonging within a community, done in a vibrant and bold style, was a nice change of pace from the typical pictures that have come out this year. There was an extra scene at the end of the credits.
3 ¼ stars
OUTSIDE OF MY BEDROOM WINDOW, I was able to see buildings from four blocks away. We lived on a high third floor of an apartment building. The reason I say “high” was due to the first-floor entrance and lobby was not considered a separate floor. You would have to walk up a full flight of stairs from the lobby to reach what was considered the first floor of apartments. We were the only apartment building on our side of the block; there were however 2 others that were on the opposite side of our square city block. I had an unobstructed view, starting with a row of residential houses and their backyards. During the warmer months, I considered myself the silent guest who watched birthday parties and barbeques that took place in the neighbors’ backyards. As a little boy, I made a mental note on the different games party guests played at birthday parties. Part of the reason was me trying to figure out what were the popular games and how to play them, then figure out what were the best ways to try and win at them. During the winter months, only when the backyards were empty; I would see how far I could throw snowballs from out back porch. AFTER SEVERAL YEARS OR SO A developer bought up the row of houses from their owners and built a large four storied apartment building. I was crushed as I watched the building being built, even though I was fascinated by the workmen mixing cement and laying brick. My view was going to be obstructed by a big white rectangular building. After construction was done and landscaping put in, the apartments were quickly rented out. With rows of new windows facing our apartment, I quickly got over my sadness for my lost view. Suddenly, I had multiple people living next door to me, living their daily lives. I felt I was getting a glimpse into a person’s life when I saw one apartment dweller exercising in their living room. Another neighbor cooked volumes of food everyday for her family. I could not get over the amount of pots and pans she used in her meal preparations. Before you get to thinking that I was getting obsessed with watching my neighbors, I have to explain there was little chance to avoid them because the apartments were in clear view whenever I was sitting at the dining room table or when I was watching television. Our TV set had a bank of windows behind it; so, while watching TV, I would see movement taking place in my field of vision. Yes, it was a distraction. I am just grateful I never saw the things the main character saw in this dramatic, crime mystery. HAVING NUMBED HERSELF THE PAST SEVERAL months with pills and alcohol; the reclusive homeowner Anna Fox, played by Amy Adams (Hillbilly Elegy, Nocturnal Animals), saw something outside of her window that forced her to take some kind of action. With Fred Hechinger (Eighth Grade, News of the World) as Ethan Russell, Gary Oldman (Mank, Darkest Hour) as Alistar Russell, Julianne Moore (After the Wedding, Still Alice) as Jane Russell and Wyatt Russell (Overlord, 22 Jump Street) as David; this movie was a poor tribute to Alfred Hitchcock’s film, Rear Window; if indeed that is what it was trying to do. I thought the acting was admirable, but the script and direction turned this picture into a messy pile of scenes. There were times I thought the film was going to be a psychological drama, only for it to change direction and become a scary thriller. The injection of the same repetitive snowy scene over and over was a complete distraction for me. I am sure the novel this movie was based on is much better. The only thing I can say about this misfire it that I am glad I am not a neighbor of these people. There were scenes with blood and violence.
1 ¾ stars
WE BECAME FRIENDS IN COLLEGE; HE lived across the hall from me. Both of us disliked the school’s meal plan; so, we had opted out and went grocery shopping every week instead. There was a communal kitchen on our floor and each room was assigned one cabinet. I mostly had cereal boxes, canned goods and peanut butter in mine. But, in one of the 3 refrigerators I usually had a dozen frozen pizzas. During summer semester, I came back home and got a summer job; he remained at school to take extra classes. When we graduated, he already had a job lined up in my hometown. I planned on working at the same company I had been during the summer months, while continuing with my education. I had become friends with some of the employees at the company and we would get together sometimes on the weekends. On one of those occasions my friend joined us. During the whole night out, I had no inkling of my friend’s interest in one of the employees. It was not until we were driving home together when he told me about his attraction to this one employee and wanted me to fix him up. I remember asking him why he didn’t just go up to her and start talking. He told me he was too shy and couldn’t do it. For the next couple of months, it became my responsibility to plan activities/events that included him and her. BETWEEN MY SCHOOLING, WORK AND SOCIAL director position; I did not know if I was coming or going. My friend was constantly asking me what I was planning next, wanting to make sure he was ready and comfortable to participate. In other words, I could not plan something I wanted to do; it had to be something he approved of first. You might be asking me why I put up with this and to tell you the truth I do not know why. I think a part of me wanted to be a matchmaker so I could always be part of their life story if they became a couple. And if nothing else, I enjoyed being in charge of planning things. Some of the things I planned were bowling, attending comedy clubs, roller skating and going to the movies. Despite all these activities, it took my friend a few months before he built up the courage to ask my fellow employee out on a date. He was so excited when she said yes; the very next day he ran out to buy a new shirt for the date. Sadly, it would be the only time he wore that shirt because when he asked her out again at the end of their evening together, she thanked him and said she would prefer staying just friends. It was tough for him to be vulnerable, just as it was for the main character in this comedy. A CHANCE MEETING OF HIS HIGH school crush sends Chris Carey, played by Eric Andre (Man Seeking Woman-TV, 2 Broke Girls-TV), on a cross country trip to see her again and tell her how he feels. Taking a road trip with one’s head in the clouds may not make for the easiest of trips. With Michaela Conlin (The Lincoln Lawyer, Bones-TV) as Maria Li, Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, Bird Box) as Bud Malone, Tiffany Haddish (Night School, Like a Boss) as Trina Malone and Charles Green (Richard Jewell, Freaky) as the Priest; this movie had some crazy funny parts if you can get past the crudeness and vulgarity. The script was part love story and part Candid Camera show which was clever. The pranking of innocent bystanders was outrageous at times, to the point I wasn’t sure if they were not in on the joke. I kept wondering how no one recognized the actors. Because of this and some of the choppiness I felt between scenes, it took me some time to get comfortable with what was taking place. If one is not a fan of reality prank shows, then this film would not work for you. If you can deal with the foul language and rawness, then you can find some humorous gems within the story.
2 ½ stars
UNTIL I STARTED BELIEVING THERE WAS a reason for everything, I found myself getting stuck in place many times over. Imagine being in a relationship, thinking all is good, then suddenly you get blindsided and you are alone. At that point you have a choice; either feel sorry for yourself and wallow in self-pity or reflect on your actions that led up to the moment, to see if you are following some kind of unconscious pattern or fear. There was a time where I had the same experience being repeated in my relationships. At first, I would only focus on my feelings of hurt and anger. Until I started looking at common traits between the relationships and believing there was a reason this was happening to me, did I start to understand what had happened. A change took place and I found myself reacting differently to dates and relationships. With this new awareness, I found myself being able to also see the patterns my friends were getting into in their relationships. There were many times when friends would tell me about something their date said or did where I would tell them not to take it personally; their date was playing out some pattern of their own making that had nothing to do with them. ONE FRIEND IN PARTICULAR KEPT REPEATING the same pattern of behavior that caused her not to succeed in her places of employment. She wanted to do something specific that she felt she was best qualified to do. The issue was with each job, she did not take full ownership of her responsibilities. The result was she never got promoted. She would become resentful, letting it build up until she quit and looked for a new place of employment. This pattern was repeated several times and with each job she became more hardened and inflexible. I understood she wanted to do something different, but it did not make sense to me to be miserable in the meantime. It is like when I walk up to a store’s customer service counter and am met by a surly employee who is not helpful. I just want to say to the employee if they are so unhappy then quit. Being miserable and feeling bad will not get one to the place where they want to be; at least that is my way of thinking. Sure, it is easy to become cynical and disillusioned, but this is why I feel there are no accidents. Be present, be available and believe in purpose because once you do, you will have an easier go in achieving your dreams. I firmly believer this and think the main character in this comedy comes to understand this concept. DESPITE THE CONTINUAL REJECTION NOTICES JESSICA James, played by Jessica Williams (Booksmart, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald), still believed she could be a playwright. She just needed to convince people of it. With Chris O’Dowd (The Sapphires, Love After Love) as Boone, LaKeith Stanfield (Knives Out, The Photograph) as Damon, Noel Wells (Mr. Roosevelt, Master of None-TV) as Tasha and Zabryna Guevara (Marley & Me, X-Men: Days of Future Past) as Mrs. Phillips; this film festival nominee at first glance appeared to be a typical rom-com movie. However, the casting of Jessica and Chris turned this story into something new and fresh; I thoroughly enjoyed these 2 actors’ performances. The interactions between them was fun to watch, which made this viewing easier to sit through for me. The script had its predictable parts at times, but again due to the writing and delivery of the dialog, I did not mind how the story was playing out. The added benefit in seeing this picture was seeing a little of my old self make an appearance; gratefully only a short appearance.
2 ½ stars
THERE WAS ONLY ONE BRIGHT SPOT for me in that transitional period between summer vacation and the new school year. It was the day when I would get my new school supplies. Up until that day, I loved the freedom of summer vacation. In the early years, I had to endure summer camp programs. There were some I enjoyed but most of them did not interest me. My biggest accomplishment out of all my camp experiences was building a wooden coat rack that I painted in vibrant colors. Once I outgrew the summer camp phase, I was free to hang out with my friends every day. The only part of the day when I was indoors was at lunchtime; otherwise, if I was not playing with my friends, I was either climbing trees or riding my bicycle. As we rolled into the month of August, I started counting the days before I had to go back to school. I also counted how many days until I could go pick out my new school supplies. In one of my earlier reviews, I told you about my obsession with pencil sharpeners; they were always the first item I would pick out at the store. Next item to find were spiral notebooks; I always tried to get left-handed ones because the wire spiral always got in my way when writing. All that was left to get afterwards were pens, pencils and a pencil bag/box to store them. TIMES HAVE CERTAINLY CHANGED AND I NOW understand why all school kids are wearing backpacks. The list of items children must bring to school currently is unbelievable to me. A friend of mine showed me the list she received from her son’s school and I could not get over what has become the responsibility of the child, or should I say of the parents since more than likely they are paying for it. Besides the pens, notebooks and such; the child must bring a box of facial tissues, three rolls of paper towels, a container of cleaning wipes and a ream of computer paper. These along with the rest of the items on her list I found perplexing; since when did the responsibility of facial tissues and paper towels fall on the child? Every company and store that has a bathroom provides these items for their employees and customers; but schools no longer provide, what I consider, these essential items?!?! Are school districts’ budgets so deep in debt that they cannot afford such standard things? I feel the educational system deserves enough funds to properly provide all the tools to create the best learning experience for each child; teachers have such an important role that they should not have to go without or worse, spend their own money to provide items that the class needs. What is wrong with this picture? This crime comedy might explain one of the issues. DETERMINED TO MOVE TO THE TOP POSITION a school district in New York would spare no expense to make their goal a reality. The only problem was they did not know what they were paying for. With Hugh Jackman (The Front Runner, X-Men franchise) as Frank Tassone, Allison Janney (Hairspray, Mom-TV) as Pam Gluckin, Ray Romano (The Irishman, The Big Sick) as Big Bob Spicer, Welker White (Eat Pray Love, Cedar Rapids) as Mary Ann and Geraldine Viswanathan (Blockers, Miracle Workers-TV) as Rachel Bhargava; this story inspired by true events excelled due to the wonderful cast. Everyone fit well into their character and carried the script that needed help in the beginning. The story started out slow for me and though I enjoyed the dark humor/satire, things did not pick up until we got near the midpoint. Not that the first half was boring; it just needed a little more punch and back story to come up to the level of the 2ndhalf of the film. The story as depicted was outrageous; I cannot imagine what that school district could have done for the students if it had known what was going on.
THE FIRST TIME I ENCOUNTERED SOMEONE affected by a divorce was a boy in 5th grade. He and his mother had recently moved to the neighborhood after her divorce. If someone had asked me if I noticed anything different because this boy’s parents were divorced, I would have said not one thing. His mother worked which was no different than many of the other mothers who had a job outside the home. I do not recall any time when this classmate could not attend a school function or activity due to a missing parent or affordability; he was like any other student. It was not until 7th grade before there was another student who had parents that were divorced. Now during this time there were kids in school who had one out of both parents who had to be away from home for extended periods of time, either for work or the military. There would be times when the parent remaining at home would get help from a family member or neighbor; but it was not like that would make any kind of difference. The only time where it would ever make a difference, if you even want to call it that, was when there was a gender specific event like a father/daughter dance or a field trip where parents were needed to chaperone. So, an uncle or older cousin would fill in for the dance and some relative would handle being a chaperone; it was easily workable. HAVING HAD SUCH EXPERIENCES WHILE GROWING UP, made the realization there was another option couples employed when they no longer wanted to be together much more difficult for me to rationalize. In fact, even today when I hear someone say they are staying together for the kids’ sake, I have to cringe. In my experiences I have not once seen where that option does anyone any good. I knew a family where the parents were doing this and all it accomplished was their kids having to go into therapy to deal with the craziness, they wound up experiencing, during what was a toxic environment. One parent started using the kids to deliver messages to their spouse; besides, trying to sway the kids’ opinion about the other parent into negative thoughts. It was sad to see the manipulation that was taking place in that household. Even worse was when I heard through a second party that one parent told one of their children, they were the cause for the breakdown in their marriage. To me that was criminal to say to a child. Because of my experiences; I intently watched this comedic, dramatic romance to see what was happening with the couple’s marriage. MARRIAGE REQUIRES AN ABILITY IN BEING able to give and take; it appeared Charlie and Nicole, played by Adam Driver (Star Wars franchise, The Dead Don’t Die) and Scarlett Johansson (Jojo Rabbit, Lost in Translation), thought they were good at it. With Laura Dern (Certain Women, J.T. Leroy) as Nora Fanshaw, Alan Alda (Bridge of Spies, The Four Seasons) as Bert Spitz and Julie Hagerty (A Master Builder, Airplane franchise) as Sandra; this film festival winner’s cast was brilliant. I enjoyed each actor and the words they spoke. The story may appear to have a theme that is common to many other films; however, this script came across fresh and new to me. Adam and Scarlett were so good that I thought their characters were actual, real people. The dialog was authentic which only added to the realness of the characters. If I have any criticism, I think some viewers might find the beginning of the story sedated. Like a marriage, it can take a little work to get into it; but once you are, it can turn into a valuable lesson.
3 ½ stars
I WANT TO BELIEVE CORPORATIONS ARE NOT intentionally taking advantage of me along with other consumers; but I cannot help feeling they are whenever I make a change to my account with them. For several years, I had an account with a cable company. When I called to cancel my subscription, they asked me why I was cancelling my account. After I explained my reason, they told me they needed to switch me to an account representative to complete the process; I did not think anything of it. The rep came on the line and asked me a couple of questions. After explaining myself again, the rep asked if I would keep the service if the monthly price was lower. This is where I got annoyed because it was not like they were looking at ways to lower my bill; they were simply willing to reduce the monthly charges to keep me as a customer. Hearing this made me feel like they had been gouging me the whole time. Suddenly when they feared they were losing me as a customer, they miraculously can lower the price now? Why couldn’t they start me out at the lowest price when I signed up in the first place? And the thing is, I know they are not the only company that carries out this type of practice; my friends and family members have told me similar stories about their experiences when they went to cancel their accounts. MY EXPERIENCES WITH THAT COMPANY LEFT a bad taste in my mouth. I have never felt comfortable with companies and individuals who I would classify as schemers; someone or something that makes secret plans to benefit themselves, even if it means taking advantage of or deceiving someone else. I had an acquaintance who I classified as a schemer. Whenever a group of us would get together for a meal at a restaurant, he would always order an expensive item off the menu. He knew we would split the bill, so he always came out ahead in how much he owed. Even when he was the only one who ordered an alcoholic drink, he expected the price of it would be part of the split. I do not mind when one goes out with the same group for a meal and splits the bill each time; sometimes you pay more sometimes less than the cost of what you ordered, it evens out over time. However, this person was always coming out cheaper because the rest of the group was picking up more of his tab. It came to a point where we started asking the wait staff for separate checks and suddenly, he started ordering less expensive food. I did not care to be around him anymore; I had the same feeling about the schemer in this film festival winning dramatic, crime mystery. OVEREXTENDED WITH HIS CUSTOMERS’ MONEY jeweler Howard Ratner, played by Adam Sandler (Blended, The Wedding Singer), was trying to complete a major score before the consequences would have a major affect on his business and family. With newcomer Julia Fox as Julia, Idina Menzel (Rent, Glee-TV) as Dinah, LaKeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You, Short Term 12) as Demany and Eric Bogosian (Talk Radio, Cadillac Records) as Arno; this film festival winning feature provided Adam with the perfect role. He was excellent as Howard. For the first part of the movie I thought the script was repetitive; it pretty much was Howard yelling and swearing at everyone. It came to a point where I got tired and bored with it. I enjoyed the 2ndhalf more because there was at least a better sense of emotional depth on display among the characters. I have to say I prefer seeing Adam in these serious roles instead of comedic ones like he has done in the past. Despite not being comfortable around schemers, I did not find the watching of this film to be an entertaining experience.
2 ½ stars
MISERY LOVES COMPANY EVEN WHEN ONE does not know they are miserable. There was a small group of us friends who got together often to go restaurant hopping. Yes, you heard correctly; we would go from one restaurant to another to another. Some people go bar hopping; but for me, alcohol was never my thing. I would rather chow down on food and snacks. The group of us would start the night at one restaurant, where we would have our main meal. After sitting and talking over tea/coffee after the meal, we would leave and go to a restaurant that made great French fries. I would have a whole plate of them with a soft drink. From there, we would drive around for a while deciding where we wanted to go next. One of my friends was fond of this pancake house, so we would usually wind up there to split a couple of orders of pancakes. I have to say they were always good. To end the evening, we would go to one of my favorite places; it was an old diner where they made these dynamite milkshakes. There was nothing better than ending a night out with friends by having one of these milkshakes. My choice was always the chocolate one. IT FINALLY TOOK AN EXPANDING WAISTLINE to make me confront the reality of what I was doing to myself. I had been stuffing my feelings of self-worth by stuffing my face. I hated myself and realized I was the only one who could change it. I still went out with my friends; but instead of digging into the food at every location, I would just order another cup of tea or something small that would have fewer damaging effects on my body. Exercise became a focus for me, so I started introducing cardio into my daily routines. My friends noticed my physical appearance was slowly changing. They were supportive for the most part; however, I could sense something was going on when I would join them on a restaurant run. I could go into my theories about it; but instead, let me just say I got a sense they were feeling uncomfortable having me sitting with them with my cup of tea, while they were devouring large quantities of food. I understood it because I would probably feel the same way. Eventually, I attended our restaurant runs less and less. Some friends would stay in contact with me, others not so much. I just knew I had to make a change in my life; the same way the main character, in this film festival winner, had to do in her life. AS HER FRIENDS’ LIVES CONTINUED TO grow Brittany, played by Jillian Bell (Rough Night, Office Christmas Party), knew she would have to make a change. However, going to a doctor to score some prescription drugs may not have been the best choice when the doctor refused, telling her she was overweight. With Michaela Watkins (The Back-Up Plan, In a World…) as Catherine, Alice Lee (Wish Upon, Sierra Burgess is a Loser) as Gretchen, Lil Rel Howery (Get Out, Tag) as Demetrius and Utkarsh Ambudkar (Pitch Perfect, Barbershop: The Next Cut) as Jern; this comedic drama was made better by Jillian Bell. She was wonderful in her role, authentically coming across as real and vulnerable. There have been similar stories done before; however, I found this script had more of a raw element to it which only drew me more into the story. Of course, with being able to relate to some of Jillian’s issues, I felt a solid connection to this picture. My guess would be more viewers than not would find something to relate to in this movie. By picking this film to go see, you would be making a healthier choice.
3 ¼ stars
SHE INVITED ME OVER TO BE her taste-tester. A home cooked meal was always a treat, so I eagerly accepted the invitation. We had been friends for years; so, I was comfortable with her cooking for me, having had many dinners over at her place before. I insisted on bringing dessert. When I arrived, as soon as she opened the front door, I smelt a warm, homey aroma wafting in the air. Walking inside, I saw she had a bowl of guacamole and chips set out on her coffee table. This was an extra treat for me. We sat and caught up on each one’s life while munching on the food. At some point she asked me what I thought of the corn chips; I said they were fine. She said they were a new brand and she loved their freshness and taste. Honestly, they may have been; but, nothing to the point where I noticed a big enough difference that made them stand out for me. We were close to finishing off the guacamole when a bell sounded off. She said that was the timer, letting her know the food was done in the oven. Asking me to give her a couple of minutes, she got up and went into the kitchen, telling me to take a seat at the dining room table. THE FOOD SHE BROUGHT OUT LOOKED amazing; I could not wait to dig in and start eating it. She poured herself a glass of wine, knowing I did not like the taste of alcohol; I stuck to water for the evening. We each helped ourselves to the food she had set out on the table. It was as good as it looked; I could not have been happier. During the meal she brought up the subject of how she found many of the products that went into the meal. She knew I was teaching myself how to cook, I listened to her describe each product that she used for the meal; in fact, she had excused herself a couple of times to go into the kitchen and bring out some of the ingredients, so I could see for myself. Something rang odd about the whole situation, but I could not put my finger on it at the time. It was not until she insisted, I taste one ingredient, even pouring a little bit onto my plate, that I asked her what was going on. She told me she joined a food club and was positive I would like it; all I had to do was sign up online and pay a monthly membership fee. The whole purpose of me coming over was for her to get me to sign up under her name, so she could get points. I was angry she was not upfront about it before inviting me over. My anger was similar to one of the main characters’ feelings in this dramatic film. IT WAS AN UNUSUAL REQUEST; BUT Isabel, played by Michelle Williams (The Greatest Showman, All the Money in the World), knew she would have to do it if the orphanage was to receive the one-million-dollar donation. She just wanted it to be a quick, short trip to New York; however, there was more to the request waiting for her once she arrived. This dramatic film also starred Julianne Moore (Gloria Bell, Still Alice) as Theresa, Billy Crudup (Big Fish, Jackie) as Oscar, Abby Quinn (Landline, Radium Girls) as Grace and Alex Esola (The Young Pope-TV, Dangerous Lessons-TV Movie) as Jonathan. The strongest asset this movie had was the acting skills from the main cast. Michelle made her character extra special due to her nuanced and thoughtful performance; I could not stop watching her on the screen. Julianne was excellent but the writers and possible director did not provide her with enough emotional punch. The story was predictable and at times unrealistic to me; however, the acting kept me interested in the story. I did however find the story confusing because it did not know whether to be a mystery drama or a tearjerker. This movie could have been a powerful piece if the script had been better, which I believe would have upped the actors’ chances to be considered for an acting award this season. Instead, I felt manipulated and disappointed that this story did not match the quality of the actors.
2 ¼ stars
EVERY STEP A DECEASED FAMILY MEMBER has taken during their lifetime has led to you. I have thought about this from time to time, usually when I learned something new about a relative. When I found out a portion of my family members decided to immigrate to Canada during the war instead of the United States, I wondered what my life would have been like if I had grown up in Canada. Growing up I might have seen a few of the Canadian relatives when I was very young, but I do not have any memories of them. If they were still alive, I would ask them why they chose to go north instead of following the rest of the relatives who came to America. Was there a disagreement or dislike that pushed them to break away, is something I always wanted to know? Or better yet, what would my life have been like if my relatives had never moved from their home? I think about the number of labels one can gain in one’s lifetime; from daughter or son to brother or sister to husband or wife to cousin to aunt or uncle to grandparent and so on. Each of us has a role in the family tree. IN THE SCHEME OF THINGS, I do not think my family tree is much different from anyone else’s family. As far as I know there is nothing too dramatic or outrageous like other families I have heard about. There is a friend of mine who had never met an uncle because the man, in his late 20’s, fell to his death. At that point this uncle’s portion of the family tree ceased to grow. I have another friend who in high school found out she had 2 step brothers living in another state. It turns out her father had a 2nd family no one knew about; including my friend’s mother, the wife. It wasn’t until college that my friend had her first contact with these 2 boys and was stunned to see how much they looked like her (their) Dad. Because of those 2 boys she became a sister, a cousin, a niece and eventually an aunt; all of that simply from this occurrence, though however tragic it was for her and her mother. Newton’s laws of motion could be used to let every family member know, for every action there is an equal reaction; the examples of this can be found in this dramatic romance movie. COLLEGE SWEETHEARTS ABBY AND WILL, played by Olivia Wilde (The Words, The Lazarus Effect) and Oscar Isaac (Star Wars franchise, Annihilation), find themselves on a path that has lasting effects on those before and after them. Written and directed by Dan Fogelman (This is Us-TV, Danny Collins), this multigenerational story had a fine cast such as Mandy Patinkin (Wonder, Homeland-TV) as Irwin, Olivia Cooke (Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, The Signal) as Dylan and Antonio Banderas (The Skin I Live In, The Mask of Zorro) as Mr. Saccione. Where the episodic telling of a story works in Dan’s television show, I found it annoying for this film. There was a heavy-handedness that made for many syrupy actions and scenes; I felt like I was being told how to feel, very manipulative. It was as if scenes were purposely done to get the audience to tear up. Boredom set in quickly for me and it was not until the last third of the film where my interest finally piqued. I liked the idea of the story and had to wonder how things would have played out if there was a different writer. As I left the theater I thought how much my life would change by me having sat in the theater at this particular time and day.
1 ¾ stars