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Rating History

The Cobbler
The Cobbler (2015)
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

When I saw the first trailer for this film I was actually quite impressed. The concept looked visually appealing and seemed to deal with questions of morality in an intelligent way. Even some of the gags in the trailer gave me a little chuckle. Shortly after I stumbled upon the trailer, I found out that the film had been yanked from theaters, and given immediate VOD release in September of last year. This is nothing new in a spiking trend of Adam Sandler bombs and missteps, but unlike "The Interview" this film stayed buried.


The Women
The Women (2008)
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Murphy Brown creator Diane English tried to get this film made for fifteen years. Many of the choices in casting were exceptional, especially Meg Ryan as Mary Haines, who was the perfect relatable woman done bad by her hubby. Eva Mendes is an effortlessly salacious vixen, as the revamped Crystal Allen, as well.

Otherwise, many of the characters and complex plot points were completely changed, for the better. Sylvia Fowler (Bening) is no longer a chatty gossip with a penchant for ruining lives. Now she is the editor-in-chief of a fashion magazine, completely single and loving it, and motivated by ambition rather than petty jealousy. Debra Messing's character seems to be an amalgamation, who represents motherhood, fertility, and the complexities of the American family. Jada Pinkett Smith's character is also a blend of characters, a welcome change as she is also a strong lesbian character, which was only hinted at in the original.

Of course, the Reno angle was scrapped, as we live in a world where divorces can be much simpler and reasonable. Instead of plotting and planning her imminent reconciliation with her husband, Mary changes herself and becomes a stronger and more thoughtful designer and mother. This is much better in comparison, because the film is no longer geared at the idea of having a man, getting a man, losing a man, or missing a man. Instead it is a film about how women can thrive and move forward, and the importance of female friendships. Of course, the problem with this change is that we have seen it before. (Sex and the City, Diary of a Mad Black Woman, Crazy, Stupid, Love, The Other Woman etc.) There's nothing new about the narrative of woman can do bad all by herself. Without the original's biting wit, sophistication, or the idea that cattiness and tearing down other women gets you what you want, this doesn't work. It's simply gimmicky and stale.

It's understandable that English would try and remove the grotesquely backward thinking of the original and create a unique and thoughtful adaptation that would celebrate women instead of canonize men. A better way to accomplish this is to keep the gimmick but completely change the story. An even better accomplishment would be to create a woman driven story without drawing attention to the fact that she's a woman, which is what Murphy Brown did when it premiered twenty years before this film was released. As much as I would like to tout this film as a decent feminist adaptation of a work in the male gaze, I can't.

The Women
The Women (1939)
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

The concept and execution is very much of its time. (Other timely examples of comedy of manners include The Philadelphia Story and Trouble in Paradise.) The film featured all of MGM's biggest female stars: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Paulette Goddard, Rosalind Russell, and Joan Fontaine. The story focuses on Mary Haines (Shearer) a wealthy wife and mother who discovers that her husband is cheating on her with a perfume girl (Crawford). Mary then decides to divorce him, goes to Reno to get said divorce (since this is 1939), and the rest of the film features partner switching, infidelity, scandal, and intrigue as other female characters face the same issues as Mary and her daughter.

Though the casting gimmick makes for an interesting watch, and the film does focus on basic issues that women have, it's not revolutionary. The women all depend on men. Their issues all stem from men. Their livelihoods, interests, careers, and aspirations are constantly linked to the men around them, even though they are completely unseen. Even when the women are alone, men are their only obligation. Perhaps Clara Boothe Luce and screenwriter Anita Loos were trying to slipin some commentary about the lack of agency in women's lives. A more likely explanation is that executives thought a film solely about women wouldn't interest anyone unless it was solely about finding and keeping men.

The one scene that is supposedly solely intended just for women viewers is a fashion show, which is the only color section of the entire film. Director George Cukor hated it so much that he tried to have it cut from the film. It definitely feels forced and kind of patronizing, since the entire sequence is a lengthy 10 minutes, and it does nothing for the plot. It's as if the film doesn't trust women to be entertained by wit and humor, and decided we needed a palette cleanser, which is obviously ridiculous.

What the original has over all subsequent remakes is a sense of poise and sophistication. Norma Shearer wins because she is a woman of substance, who cannot be replaced by the sultry Joan Crawford. Shearer was clean and concise, and she was known as an actress for her historical roles up until the advent of Turner Classic Movies. Any remake is going to be subpar, because this is a film very much of its time, and we no longer possess the same views on sexuality, marriage, equality, or feminism that we did in the Depression era 1930s. Of course, this didn't stop the 2008 remake from happening.

Everything, Everything
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Sick-lit has become a formidable genre of YA ever since the blockbuster success of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. It's spawned similar books, films, and television shows, and there's generally an element of romance attached. Some of these properties have been respectful of real diseases and disorders, but a lot have not been. I strongly feel that this may fall into the latter. I feel that books like this promote the idea that people with unique medical issues don't enjoy life as much, and their only option is either death or a flirtation with death. (This exact attitude made me throw my copy of Me Before You across the room). In the US every year, between 40-100 babies are diagnosed with SCID, which means that though this is a rare disorder, there are people out there living with it the best way they can, and they may not have the fancy equipment that our protagonist does. Using SCID for the purpose of melodrama is not only insensitive, but dangerous.

Putting aside my general disgust (which is overwhelming) it's just not a good story. Comparing again to The Fault in Our Stars, I can say this was not as interesting or candid. While Stars is also a story about being young and sick, and living life to the fullest, it's also honest. Gus is a character with issues, and those issues lend to succumbing and dying of cancer. John Green does not mess around. Instead of truly showing the effects and issues with SCID, this film blatantly twists the truth. This film posits that happiness stems from heath, romantic love, and freedom, three things that people with SCID will never have.

While I'm glad that this is an adaptation from a female penned book, directed by a woman of color, and starring a woman of color, I can't justify recommending this film. As much as I want to celebrate representation, I also don't want to promote exploitative melodrama. While I thought Amandla Stenberg and Nick Robinson did a lot with a little, and in the least they do try to explain SCID in an authentic way, it was not an enjoyable film. It was slow, overly ridiculous, and not really all that interesting. If you want something similar, again I tout Stars, as well as the Netflix film The Fundamentals of Caring, which centers on a paraplegic teenager who also wants to live life to the fullest. It doesn't pretend to understand human suffering, it's funny, and it has heart.

The Hollars
The Hollars (2016)
4 years ago via Rotten Tomatoes

Heart is an undervalued commodity in filmmaking. Big films try to sneak it in, like they do humor and romance, but it always comes off as sloppy and insincere. In John Krasinski's second directorial effort The Hollars, heart is the base of this small yet thoughtful indie. Centering on a family coming together in the face of their mother's illness, the cast is quite talented, and up to the task of creating memorable and multifaceted characters.

Our main character is John (Krasinski) a stagnated graphic novelist who is called back home after his mother (Martindale) is found to have a brain tumor. He leaves behind his pregnant girlfriend (Kendrick) to find that his father's (Jenkins) business is close to bankruptcy, his brother (Copley) has lost his way with his ex-wife (Dyke) and kids, and John's ex-girlfriend (Winstead) wants him, while her husband (Day) hates his guts. It's a lot to take in and process, especially in a film with a short running time of 89 minutes. All these elements create a layered and intricate series of events that say a lot about John's character, a man who hides from his past, doesn't understand his future, and thinks he's failing everyone, including himself. The screenwriter is James C. Strouse, who also directed the highly entertaining People Places Things and The Incredible Jessica James. Strouse is great at melding the realism of family life, in all its complexities, and the humor of being a unique person thrown into unique circumstances.

Looking at the film critically, of course there are flaws. The film needs a lot more runtime to explain the backstories of the brothers, who leave a lot unsaid. The entire sequence with Mary Elizabeth Winstead could have been cut and we really wouldn't have lost anything. Having Anna Kendrick's character come from a rich family doesn't do anything for her character and doesn't truly move the story, except a single opportunity to show her morality. Other than that, she is two-dimensional and only serves to add to John's character arc. Other than these obvious points of contention, it's a sweet film that celebrates life, and hopefully Strouse will continue writing these films, because I will definitely keep watching them.