Accessory to Crime

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Eileen (2023)

While the charming animated movie “Inside Out” made it plain that disgust is one of the core emotions necessary for our survival, it’s also the one people enjoy the least. Therefore a movie about disgust must find a way to portray disgusting things in such a way that audiences are not disgusted themselves. It’s a very, very fine line to walk, and therefore something of an achievement that “Eileen’s” director William Oldroyd does it so well, and no doubt why “Eileen” screened at the Sundance Film Festival. But the human instinct to sniff one’s fingers after masturbating is not to be encouraged.

Continue reading "Accessory to Crime" »

Home Care

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

La Pecera (The Fishbowl) (2023)

Noelia (Isel Rodríguez) is a filmmaker in her early 30s living in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She has a colostomy bag and a boyfriend named Jorge (Maximiliano Rivas), whose cloying concern for her is more annoying than the colostomy bag. A fun night celebrating a friend’s birthday involves Jorge serenading Noelia before the entire bar, but also giving her an unpleasant lecture about her behaviors on the way home. This means when Noelia and Jorge get some further news about her health, she shuts him out completely. Instead she gets on the ferry and goes home to her mother, Flora (Magali Carrasquillo), a widow who lives on an island called Vieques and spends her free time clearing the local beaches of land mines the American military left behind. She wears a homemade suit for protection, so it’s fine. Besides, nobody else wants to do it; and somebody has to.

Continue reading "Home Care" »

Down to Earth


All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (2023)

History wraps around itself while you're watching "All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt," setting the life of one person against those of her parents, grandparents, sister and her own child. Different time periods in the same Mississippi setting mesh together, not urgently for impact but languidly for poetry, events crossing across each other like the wandering tuning of an old radio. Dialogue is sparse but the soundtrack is dense with the noise of rain, insects, running water, while the images are lengthy shots of hands, vegetation and mud. A story about one young rural mother builds up incrementally, a sad story; but the film roots her so firmly into the landscape that she and her pain might be aspects of some larger, more spiritual thing.

Continue reading "Down to Earth" »

On the Rebound

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Rye Lane (2023)

South London rise up for “Rye Lane!” Finally we have a fun movie for us! In the past quarter-century, West London has enjoyed posh romcoms like “Notting Hill” or cheery kids movies like “Paddington 2.” North London has worthy tales for the moneyed set of a certain age like “Hampstead” or “Lady in the Van.” East London can claim endless gangster movies (including “Anti-Social,” a.k.a. the one with Meghan Markle) as well as Hollywood attempts at British realism like “Run, Fatboy, Run” and the latest “Tomb Raider.” All south London previously had to call its own was the standalone excellence of “Attack the Block” (which gave us John Boyega) as well as many grim misery-porn crime flicks. (Despite Bridget Jones famously living in Borough Market, in tone and style those are West London movies.) The general common thread of South London movies was violent cliché, like in 2019’s “Blue Story,” a crime thriller with Micheal Ward in his first lead role, which was a big financial success.

Continue reading "On the Rebound" »

The Awkward Age

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Judy Blume Forever (2023)

Too often as a culture we wait until someone is dead before we say nice things about them. Judy Blume’s books have meant a great deal to a great many people. Since her first one was published in 1969 they have sold over 82 million copies; to put it another way, that’s about 4,000 books a day, nonstop, for over 50 years. Since most young adult literature has a shelf life of a decade – the time it takes for a generation to grow up – this is an earth-shattering achievement. Certainly at this reviewer’s school, Judy Blumes were passed around in secret, with absolute shock that an adult was talking about sex, masturbation and bullying, in ways which understood what we were feeling too. Ms. Blume’s great talent is for dealing with the dramas of being nine as seriously as the dramas of being 19, or 49, and being able to articulate all the feelings kids experience but can’t articulate themselves. Very few have matched her achievements, and on this scale it’s unlikely to happen again.

Continue reading "The Awkward Age" »

Queer as Folk

Michael Lavine/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

It's Only Life After All (2023)

Young people seem to think the open-minded acceptance most queer people currently enjoy has always been the case, instead of the biggest cultural shift most gay people over 40 have seen in their lifetimes. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers met in elementary school in Georgia in the ’70s and admired each other all through their schooling. As teenagers, they realized they had similar interests in music and songwriting, and some time later, when they ended up at the same college, they realized that together they were something special. They both had singing and guitar talent; Emily had the knack for writing catchy songs, and Amy had the drive to make things happen. They called themselves Indigo Girls, and the rest is documentary history.

Continue reading "Queer as Folk" »

The End of the Affair

Guy Ferrandis/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Passages (2023)

Finally, a chaos bisexual. Tomas (the outstanding Franz Rogowski), a German movie director who lives and works in Paris, has just finished his latest film. At the wrap party he complains to a man at the bar that no one wants to dance with him. The random woman next to him overhears and offers. This is Agathe (the incredible Adèle Excharopoulos), a Frenchwoman whose friends worked on the film and who quietly, but with some satisfaction, has just dumped her boyfriend. Tomas grins and meets Agathe on the floor. As they dance, the man with whom Tomas was talking makes his goodbyes; we realize he is Tomas’s husband, the English Martin (a superb Ben Whishaw). Between Agathe and Tomas, one thing shortly leads to another. But when someone is as careless in their personal life as Tomas is, no path is ever straightforward.

Continue reading "The End of the Affair" »

Barely Legal

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Cat Person (2023)

For someone who was a feminist in the ’90s, it is horrifying to wonder if Katie Roiphe might have had a point, but “Cat Person” will do that to you. If you are fortunate enough not to know who that is: in 1993 Ms. Roiphe published “The Morning After,” a book which smugly informed the world that most young women, specifically college students, who thought they’d been raped had actually just had bad sex and, thanks to feminism, didn’t know it. It was reactionary and unkind, primarily a retort to being raised by a prominent second-wave feminist (Anne Roiphe), but also as the attention-seeking little sister to a much better writer (Emily Carter, whose “Glory Goes and Gets Some” is an underappreciated gem), but she didn’t half build a career on it. As a career choice, it was an excellent decision, because the sexual choices of young women are basically the issue. Abortion, gender roles, sexual preferences, childcare, property rights, equal pay for equal work, educational choices, you’re not going out dressed like that: they all boil back to how the bodies of young women are controlled.

Continue reading "Barely Legal" »

Young Americans

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Shortcomings (2023)

Adrian Tomine bounds up the list of comics creators whose books have been turned into films without disastrous consequences, having inspired two decent ones in succession. "Paris, 13th District" reworked some of his stories through the lens of Jacques Audiard and Céline Sciamma, and moved them a fair distance from the source. But now "Shortcomings," for which Mr. Tomine did the adaptation himself, is a direct translation from one medium to the other. Characters, dialogue, and for the most part droll social commentary all survive the trip from Mr. Tomine's 2004-2007 comics essentially intact.

Continue reading "Young Americans" »

Mommie Dearest

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

Bad Behaviour (2023)

Showbiz mothers, already indicted many times for many crimes, are back in the dock in "Bad Behaviour" before being let out on parole. Alice Englert, writing and directing her feature debut after a couple of short films, plays the younger side of a mother-daughter relationship bent out of shape by the influence of the past, in this case by the parent's acting fame from years before. That the daughter, Dylan (Ms. Englert), has followed her mother Lucy (Jennifer Connelly) into the same industry is just one dimension of a tense codependency. Ms. Englert would know something about this kind of potential disaster, although her own mother, Jane Campion, cameos here offering moral support, and the vibe is comedy-drama compassion not confessional.

Continue reading "Mommie Dearest" »

© 2008-2023 Critic's Notebook and its respective authors. All rights reserved. | Privacy Policy | Terms of Use
Subscribe to Critic's Notebook | Follow Us on Twitter | Contact Us | Write for Us | Reprints and Permissions