This is a transcription of an episode of my podcast, Japan On Film
*Firstly, I just want to make it clear, I love Crazy Ex Girlfriend and I absolutely ADORE Rachel Bloom. I'm just bitter about something...*
Award season is upon us. While most of the previous calendar year was full of tentpole movies that were hit or miss at the box office, now is the time when the film industry pats itself on the back for the few weeks when they released good products upon unsuspecting audiences. And now that Netflix has officially been agreed upon as a studio worthy of being nominated for major awards (much to the chagrin of Steven Spielberg), the streaming service has not one, but two aces up its sleeve for Best Picture, among other possible awards. The first, I already reviewed, in the form of the much hyped “The Irishman”, but then there’s the more downplayed drama that I’ll be talking about in this review, “Marriage Story”.
After having my heart ripped out earlier this week by Marriage Story I went back to a film about connection and relationship that propositions a different question. Can hate lead to love?
As the new year is becoming a thing of the past. I was searching for the inspiration for my first article for this new decade. I found that inspiration through 'Can You Keep A Secret?', and the surprisingly moving performance by Alexandra Daddario (Emma Corrigan).
Jane Austen’s, Pride and Prejudice and Oscar Wilde’s, The Importance of Being Earnest, set in eras when respectable values were honoured, examines the struggle with conflicting issues created by love. Common conflictions arise from love, as both authors challenges society’s conventions of the non-existing relationship between love and marriage. The idea of the pursuit to acquire a love, is delved into as deceiving charismatics are developed by Austen’s serious tone opposed to Wilde’s satirical language. Both texts evidently confront the traditional expectations of women provoking the audience to evaluate gender equality and discrimination towards women. Through the idea of love creating conflicting issues both authors endeavour to challenge their audience to question the worth of love compared to the ideals within current society.
While brand specialist Chelsea Simms (Vanessa Lengies) is good at her job, she feels as though everyone takes advantage of her--particularly after her idea for a Christmas themed dating app is stolen by her work rival Blythe (Julie McNiven) and she has to work with her on building the app's promotional campaign. In addition to problems with her wandering-eyed boyfriend Rod (Taylor Frey) and her roommate Keegan (Katherine Bailess), Chelsea finds respite from her troubles in her friendship with her next-door neighbor, Fisher Dougherty (Evan Williams).
Opening with a pair of deceptively warm intra-diegetic voice-overs from each partner in this imploding relationship, Marriage Story’s cut to the reality of the pair in couple’s counselling with Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) refusing to read her version aloud is brutally effective. The loss of love and sentimentalism is portrayed immediately but perhaps would evoke more shock in viewers if it wasn’t the basis of all the film’s marketing. But still watching these two eloquently describe their profound affectation for the other and be unwilling to share these feelings in present day is pretty soul destroying especially with the level of romanticism within these monologues thanks to Noah Baumbach’s endlessly witty dialogue. Although the film is touching on some pretty harsh subject matter, Baumbach’s light touch alleviates much of the tension felt with a balanced sense of humour that is surprisingly laugh out loud for a film about a particularly nasty divorce. It also helps that the film is graced with one of the finest ensembles of the year with standout performances from Johansson, Adam Driver and Laura Dern. The latter of which provides one of the most humourous moments in the film in a brilliant speech about how unfair the perception of mothers is ever since the Virgin Mary that is so on point that I imagine, between this and Renata Klein, Dern portrays the most quotable character of the year in her current career hot streak. While Dern is undoubtedly a scene-stealer in her portrayed of her gleefully manipulative divorce attorney Nora, the film is mostly an acting showcase for Johansson and Driver as the couple enveloped in a widening rift.
This movie hits Netflix in less than two weeks, but I saw that it was playing in the Paris Theater here in New York City, an old single-screen theater that closed but reopened just for this film.
The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a wonderfully quirky drama with fascinating characters and a story that meanders in a way that is incredibly charming in its own way. The story goes that Jimmie Fails, played by Jimmie Fails, is obsessed with his childhood home in a now gentrified part of San Francisco. Though Jimmie was only in the home when he was very young, he recalls vivid memories of living there and the comfort he found there.
Starring Ruth Goodwin and Kristopher Turner as Natalie and Mark, respectively, Stuckis one of those drama shorts that explores difficult dynamics of a complicated relationship.
Forgive me while I root for the underdog. One Last Night is certainly an underdog of a movie. This low budget movie has four principal cast members, maybe two locations and a budget that could not have been more than a shoestring. What it does have however, is a clever and likable group of actors to pass a very short running time with.