Whitney

Whitney (2018)

IMDB Synopsis

An in-depth look at the life and music of Whitney Houston.

There’s not a lot to say by way of a narrative here. Most of us have a rough idea of the life story of one of the most famous stars of all time – and it’s a tragic one, obviously.

What Whitney does is fill in a few blanks and gives us an impressive collection of early documentation to pour over – as well as a lot of private video footage. Spliced with current day interviews with Whitney’s mother, brothers and various loved ones, it has the tendency to slip into dullness – during the lower key parts, one of my movie buds started to fall asleep! That said, it isn’t bad at all – and is a must see for anyone who grew up on the sounds of this phenomenal woman.

My personal favourite Whitney period, apart from 80’s Whit is The Bodyguard Whit, and it’s really sad to think about what else she could have achieved if things had been different. She lights up the screen whenever she’s on it – and has so much charisma, it’s almost supernatural.

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Whitney isn’t a fluffy watch by any means and it goes in hard on addiction by showing Whitney’s painful public interviews at the height of her sickness, as well as behind-the-scenes clips of her acting strangely while under the influence of drugs.

Her relationship with Bobby Brown is examined closely and echoes in some ways the journey of Amy Winehouse in Amy. Both were troubled women let down by, and heavily influenced negatively, by the men in their lives. We also learn that Whitney, along with at least one of her brothers suffered abuse as a child, which serves to explain at least a part of her later issues.

This is also cited as one of the reasons Whitney wouldn’t let her daughter out of her sights, even on tour. Some of the footage of poor Bobbi Kristina over the years is hard to stomach – and the later knowledge that she met her own tragic end just a few years after her mother is truly heartbreaking.

All in all a good documentary with a few details most of us might not have known. It does leave you feeling very bummed out though – all three of us left the theater feeling pretty low. But the music – OBVS – is wonderful.

My Rating

3.5/5.

Ps. I rewatched The Bodyguard the day after and it is perfect.

Evolution

I’m sorry to say I’ve been struggling to keep up with my film reviews here, what with having a job, my main blog and a podcast to produce as well.

I love logging all my cinema visits though and don’t intend to stop so I will be trimming it way back, posting bitesized reviews instead. If time is on my side and I feel like it maybe I will expand more but until then, expect short and sweet.

If indeed anyone is reading at all.

Peace x

*Starts on the six films currently on the To Do list*

The Leisure Seeker

The Leisure Seeker (2018)

Directed by: Paolo Virzì
Starring: Helen MirrenDonald SutherlandChristian McKayJanel MoloneyDana Ivey

IMDB Synopsis

A runaway couple go on an unforgettable journey in the faithful old RV they call The Leisure Seeker.

Where: Odeon Brighton
When: Thursday 26th April
Snacks: White chocolate and macadamia nut cookies from Subway

*Minor spoilers*

My Review

I don’t know if I can immediately think of anything more tragic than losing a loved one to dementia. All those memories and all that life built around a person who at times can’t even remember your name or the names of your children. It must be heart-breaking.

For Ella Spencer (Mirren), who is losing her husband John (Sutherland) to the disease, it certainly is. And while she cares for her beloved, she is also battling her own illness – a cancer that is slowly killing her.

One day, her children Will and Jane rock up to visit their folks only to find them gone, AWOL in their trusty rust-bucket Winnebago, the titular Leisure Seeker. Panic stricken, the kids find it very hard to understand the motivation of our geriatric heroes but all Ella wants is to take her husband down to Hemingway’s house and spend one last vacation just the two of them.

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What follows is a heart-warming road trip that brings our couple closer than ever while simultaneously testing their bond and flipping what Ella knows of their relationship on its head. It’s funny, sad and empowering at the same time and I really enjoyed the ride, though I must admit it took me a little while to get into it.

While the cinematography is stunning – all those burnt sunsets and late night outdoor dates – the dialogue sometimes gets a bit dull. The acting could never be faulted in the hands of two such seasoned acting veterans but the actors playing the kids aren’t great (not that they get much material). The ending is shocking and very bleak but also kind of perfect, when you really think about it.

Not a first date movie, maybe but there are worse ways to spend a couple of hours contemplating your own mortality.

My Rating

3/5.

Funny Cow

Funny Cow (2018)

Directed by: Adrian Shergold
Starring: Maxine Peake, Stephen Graham, Paddy Considine, Diane Morgan, Lindsey Coulson

IMDB Synopsis

A comedian uses her troubled past as material for her stand-up routine, trying to rise up through the comedy circuit by playing Northern England’s working men’s clubs.

Where: Duke’s @ Komedia
When: Tuesday 24th April, directly after Beast
Snacks: Homemade Victoria sponge cake, Cawston Press Rhubarb

*Minor spoilers*

My Review

Funny Cow isn’t really the comedy you’d expect. Shot through with tragedy and pain, it’s more a clawing to the top of the comedy game by way of a lifetime of disappointment, violence and regret.

Maxine Peake (one of the UK’s greatest treasures) plays the titular Funny Cow, a working class Northern lass dragged up with her brother by a troubled single mother following the passing of her violent father.

Her mother, in ‘present day’ is played by Eastender’s Carol Jackson (Coulson) which frankly feels like genius casting and the role of Funny Cow’s Mum is a poignant one. She’s all at once deeply frustrating and utterly vulnerable – you want to slap and protect her at the same time. And her scenes with Funny Cow are among the best.

As Funny Cow grows up and leaves home to starting building a nest of her own with her future husband, the years pass by in a flash and things are never quite as grand as she’d hoped. Trapped in a violent relationship that echoes that of her parents’, Funny has ideas above her station but little outlet to realise them. Not if her imposing husband Bob (Tony Pitts) has anything to do with it, either.

The years flutter by and Funny suffers punch after slap after kick at the hands of her so-called partner. One day she catches Lenny’s (Alun Armstrong) stand up routine at the local club and this drives her forward on her quest to perform comedy.

Lenny himself is an unlikely mentor, an old-skool blue comedian who tells Funny she’s better off removing her clothing than trying to be funny, because well, women aren’t. This somehow doesn’t put Funny off and the two develop an odd-companionship.

At one point Funny makes it to a talent contest under threat of a broken nose but when faced with an open mic and opportunity, she sadly freezes up. This doesn’t make the ensuing violence at Bob’s hand worth it but does finally give her the push she needs to leave him.

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Pretentious book seller Angus (Considine) is on hand to rescue this damsel in distress and things are better for a while, Funny moves into his grand home and they share a life free of violence and distress. But his apparent need to My Fair Lady her becomes unappealing and Funny finally goes out on her own, free from men and ready to embark on the career she wants.

I really loved this because of the central performances. Paddy Considine never lets me down and Peake is such a talented, nuanced actress. While Funny Cow leads a hard life, she never once presents as a victim. She’s a bit of a shit-stirrer actually, even from childhood and you get a sense at times that she’s trying to see the funny side of all of that turmoil, even enjoying it. There’s a scene where she visits her brother and his family, and simply relishes winding up his wife.

All of Funny Cow’s comedy stems from her own experiences (I guess as with most comedians) and while this film is unlikely to have you laughing out loud, it will cut straight to your heart-strings.

The violence is hard to stomach and some of the jokes told on the circuit come straight from the Bernard Manning school of comedy, so are offensive af and not funny at all but I found the conclusion really heart-warming as Funny Cow is able to offer closure to her mother and find a slice of peace for herself.

I liked.

My Rating

3.5/5.

Love, Simon

Love, Simon (2018)

Directed by: Greg Berlanti
Starring: Nick RobinsonJennifer GarnerJosh DuhamelKatherine Langford

IMDB Synopsis

Simon Spier keeps a huge secret from his family, his friends, and all of his classmates: he’s gay. When that secret is threatened, Simon must face everyone and come to terms with his identity.

*Minor spoilers*

Before I went in to see this movie I must admit to being a little bit ignorant. Not in any huge way but I mentioned to my viewing partner Darren that I was surprised this film was such a big deal in the year 2018, because isn’t the world so much more broadminded these days? (Yes, I know as I type this how far off we still are). What, of course I wasn’t taking into account, is the experience of being gay and not feeling as though you can come out to your loved ones, something I have never and will never experience.

From a position of privilege as a cis heterosexual white woman I hadn’t realised just how truly important this movie is, especially given that it’s aimed at a younger audience than say, Call Me By Your Name (2017). This was reinforced when a teenager stood up as the end credits rolled and announced to the audience that she had just come out to her family because the film had given her the strength she needed.

Proof that we don’t always know everything and there is always room to learn, even from the most unexpected places – and this is a film I thoroughly enjoyed.

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Simon is a popular high schooler with a great and supportive family, a dope group of friends and a bright future ahead of him. Everything is peachy in Simon’s World but for one thing, and it’s kind of a big deal: he’s gay.

When an anonymous post by a fellow gay classmate appears on the school community blog, Simon creates a secret identity and replies to him. The two begin to chat regularly online, both unaware of the identity of the other. Life around Simon carries on as normal as he and Blue continue to communicate but everything is threatened when his fuck face acquaintance Martin (Logan Miller) stumbles upon his secret and threatens to out him. 

Martin’s plan is to blackmail Simon into fixing him up with his friend Abby (Alexandra Shipp) and as it actually seems to be coming to fruition, Simon finds himself telling lie after little white lie to keep him on side. Not just for himself but for Blue, who has placed the ultimate trust in Simon. Well, this wouldn’t be much of a film if it didn’t all implode on our hero – and implode it does. As the decision to come out is taken out of his hands, Simon must come to terms not only with who he is but with everybody else’s opinions too. 

Meanwhile, Simon has to work out who his new pen pal Blue really is – who could he be and could there ever be a happy ending for the two of them? And will his friends forgive his mistakes?

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God. This is a very lovely story with an accomplished young cast who really make you feel all the things. Not only are we rooting for Simon, we’re also forced to give a shit about the feelings of his BFF Leah (13 Reasons Why‘s Langford), who has her own romantic challenges to contend with. Martin too is a nasty little shit but by the end you might even have sympathy for him, especially if you’ve ever been rejected publicly/been to school and not been one of the cool kids.

Simon’s parents are played flawlessly by Garner and Duhamel, while his little sister is a dream. Sure this is on the must nicer end of the scale of coming out but it’s still relevant and still important. You never know what people are going through, even when they seem to have everything. While I usually like my LGBT cinema grittier than this, I was happy to spend Sunday morning with Simon and friends – and yes I bawled at the end.

My Rating

4/5.

Loveless

Loveless (2017)

Directed by: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Starring: Maryana SpivakAleksey RozinMatvey Novikov

IMDB Synopsis

A couple going through a divorce must team up to find their son who has disappeared during one of their bitter arguments.

*Minor spoilers*

Fuck me. This movie was so enthralling, so bleak and so genuinely moving that it’s taken me until now to properly unpack it. I went on a whim late one evening and sat between two old ladies, one of whom spent most of the show with her head on my shoulder. (So she could read the subtitles she claimed but I’m not convinced – I do give great shoulder).

Alexey (Novikov) is caught between two warring parents and things are far from great. Virtually invisible, he gets to listen to Zhenya and Boris (Spivak and Rozin) argue about who gets to take him when they finally sell their apartment and split for good. That is, Zhenya doesn’t want custody and neither does Boris.

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Both parents have already started to move on. Zhenya has been dating a wealthy older man, while Boris has already impregnated the lovely Masha (Marina Vasileva). While he has to keep his rocky marital status to himself at work, due to a devoutly Christian boss with an idealistic attitude to family life, he splits his time between Masha and her mother’s apartment and the sofa at ‘home’. 

This all means that Alexey is largely ignored and one day, he just doesn’t come home. This forces the parents to come together again to find him, which will prove difficult since they don’t seem to know him at all. The film focuses on our two leads as they battle to put their past and their differences behind them to locate their only son before it’s too late. How the hell will this pan out?

Loveless is so devastating, genuinely with plenty of truly cutting dialogue. Young and beautiful Zhenya violently resents her soon-to-be-ex husband Boris and in turn, regrets ever having Alexey. She has a wicked way with words and doesn’t mince them. Will she live to regret her scathing language when it comes to her son?

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Technically, this film is breathtaking – with lots of sweeping shots of a frozen urban landscape, it feels cold and bleak. Perfect for a film this sad. And in the search for Alexey we get to explore abandoned buildings and forest floors for clues, which is right up my street.

Will we find Alexey? Well, one things for sure – you’ll be tsking at the utter selfishness of his parents whilst sort of sympathising and feeling conflicted about that. I recommend this film hard but it’s no fairy tale, believe.

My Rating

4.5/5.