Collateral Beauty

Going to the movies has always been a wonderful experience because they are a way for a person to get away from their lives… possibly from big problems in their life.  Movies offer an escape for you to get to be someone else for awhile or at least push reality aside for a bit, right?  In “Collateral Beauty”, Will Smith plays Howard, a man in such deep pain, you hope that he will leap from the screen and the two of you go find a joyful comedy to watch.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily saying the movie isn’t worth seeing at all, but maybe take some antidepressants before you go if you do. 

“Collateral Beauty” is written by the very adept and creative, Allan Loeb, who has scores of credits to his name, so with David Frankel directing, the story is in good hands.  He has won an Emmy and an Academy Award and he directed “Devil Wears Prada” but then we should remember he also directed “The Big Year” so it’s hit or miss.  I think this time it’s a miss… more or less.  The trailer misleads you to a point but in the end, I think that was wise; it got you to consider going. 

Howard owns a company with his friends, Whit (Norton), Claire (Winslet) and Simon (Peña).  Howard is the driving force for the company and when his daughter dies, he checks out of life and being involved at all in the company.  Of course, things begin to go south.  Howard has 60% of the voting shares and, even after being begged to, he will not help save the business.  Without Howard’s initiative and his innovative spirit, not to mention his vote, Whit, Claire and Simon, who have their entire lives and well-being riding on an upcoming offer, do not stand a chance of surviving the impending failure of the company.  What makes this film ultimately a DVD watch only is what happens next.  Howard’s friends and partners, knowing he’s struggling with depression after the tragic loss of his daughter, want to, for all intense and purposes, do away with him.  That’s appalling!  But watching Howard walk around totally lifeless and staring off into space, unless he’s setting up dominoes, which is explained later but still doesn’t have true function in the film, perhaps you would, too.  The dominoes are a symbol for breaking down walls but nah… I’m just not buying it.  The time spent on those dominoes is painstaking to sit through, too, but then so is my mentioning it for this long, so I’ll continue with the review. 

Howard believes there are three things that connect everyone on earth and those are time, love and death.  Not particularly happy with his time anymore, losing the one thing he loved most and wishing to die but still existing, he writes a letter to the three of them.  The knuckleheads in the office have been scheming and hired someone to follow him.  She brilliantly retrieves the letters from the mailbox he dropped them into.  Now partaking in a federal crime, the three of them take the three letters to three actors.  Three… I’m sensing a pattern here.  The actors played by Knightley, Latimore and Mirren are offered a unique opportunity to represent one of the words and confront Howard with the letters he wrote.  As well intended on recreating “It’s A Wonderful Life” as Allan Loeb and David Frankel, as well as the three actors playing death, time and love are, the story of a man losing a child but then choosing to give up everything else that might give his life some meaning, simply doesn’t makes sense.  He refuses help, he can’t say his child’s name… it just doesn’t add up.  You’re more or less frustrated through the entire film.  

There are a few glaring twists that make it a see it on cable or DVD watch, but I wouldn’t recommend spending your hard earned money on running to the theatre this weekend.  I do think that Smith, toward the end, Mirren (always delightful) and Naomie Harris’s grief support group leader, Madeleine, sort of lend the film more purpose but the more I thought about it after seeing it, I wasn’t impressed at what they were trying to accomplish and that was a big emotional response from you and some tears.  If you lay down ten or more dollars at the theatre this weekend, the response and tears will more come from you asking, ‘why did I spend the money for this?’, than from the film itself.

La La Land

“Here’s to the fools that dream.”  That is the theme of this comedy, drama… musical. Yes.  This is a musical but I would like to ask that you don’t fear the musical!  It’s not in the style of “Cats” or the like so be willing to go.  If you love a good story and a good film that’s well done in almost every way possible… don’t worry.  You’ll love this movie!  Now, on to the review.  I can’t remember the last time we saw this but with “La La Land” we have a musical for the big screen that’s not based on a hit Broadway show!   “La La Land” stars Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as an aspiring actress and jazz pianist, respectively, who fall in love.  Both have dreams very different from the other but the desire and ambition they see in one another, calls out to each other and attracts them even more.  The music and the romance at the heart of this story are alluring and will tantalize you, and the love… you will feel it.  In fact, it’s hard to believe Gosling and Stone aren’t a real couple.

To shed some light on where this came from, here’s a bit about the writer/director.  Damien Chazelle, is only thirty-one yet has accomplished so much.  Not only did he write and direct, “La La Land”, which is a very unique to these times piece, but he also wrote “Whiplash” and “10 Cloverfield Lane.”  J.K. Simmons won the Oscar for his performance in “Whiplash” so for Chazelle, after graduating Harvard, the Oscar win for Simmons is yet another feather for him to add to his cap; a cap that may be riddled with feathers really soon.  I’m looking very forward to his next project but let’s get back to this one. 

The love story is classic in that it starts out as anything but and becomes two people crazy about one another but Chazelle gives us, ultimately, what feels and looks real because not only is there a bond between the two with all the hopes they share freely but their chemistry is palpable.  Great job casting these two as Sebastian and Mia.  Another thing that gives the audience a connection is this; when have we not all desired something so greatly that we’d give up almost for it?  These two beautiful creatures love their goals as they do one another but the vital and fundamental question here becomes, would you give one of them up for the other?  

 The music is amazing. Oscar will be nice to them…”
Shari K. Green

Sr. Film Writer and Community Manager, tmc.io

As far as dancing, I’ll admit that they aren’t Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, but the choreography doesn’t ask too much of them and they handle themselves gracefully.  The footwork is impressive and they’re cute together; she not as polished as he but it works. 

Regarding musical taste Mia tells Sebastian that she doesn’t like jazz, his true love, and he takes it upon himself to show her that she doesn’t understand the complexity of it; that you can’t just hear it, you have to feel it by watching someone play.  He wants Mia to see its conflict and get excited because it needs help… ‘It’s dying’ he fears.  Well, he does until his friend, Keith (Legend), explains to him that Jazz is about the future, not the past.  Sebastian has always held onto what Jazz has always been and here, he discovers a bit about himself as well as what pushes him… that things change.  He decides to tour with Keith and Mia learns quickly that tours aren’t overnight.  She realizes dreams of becoming an actress aren’t either.  Maybe it’s time to move on?   

I’ll leave it there.  You need to go and experience “La La Land” to find out what happens.  Visually, the film beguiles but it’s not perfect.  You’re not going to hear their songs on the radio, however, the opening song, “Another Day of Sun” and the score won’t soon be forgotten, nor will Sebastian singing “City of Stars”… okay, the music is amazing.  Oscar will be nice to them.  The dance numbers can be a little clunky but overall the film is pretty extraordinary; sweet and innocent.  As much as it is a musical, it often feels like a play, which was another aspect that I adored.  You’ll never get bored and the final act will whisk you away to another place, and in today’s world, we need a little of that.  Comedies and Musicals don’t usually win Oscar gold for Best Picture but it wouldn’t surprise me if Chazelle’s effort pays off with a few statues.  If it walks away empty handed, it’ll be a travesty. 

Office Christmas Party

“Office Christmas Party” is directed by Josh Gordon and Will Speck, who both directed “Blades of Glory” and “The Switch”, as well.  Their strength is comedy but when a movie is good just not good enough, it doesn’t surprise me when I find out there was more than one director.  I can imagine the back and forth they might have about how to go about a certain scene and you can definitely tell when one man’s option should have won over the other.  However, I could be reading into it too much.  Don’t get me wrong.  This is a good, dirty and off-colored little picture, just in time for your holiday cheer, and one you will enjoy watching if you’re a fan of the genre… but had they put a little more effort into originality, you would have applauded the effort and most likely added it to your ever growing pile of every year holiday favorites.  As it is, this is a one time watch and one time only.  It’s your atypical party flick with one advantage… almost the entire cast of SNL has a spot in the film.  Think, “The Hangover”, “Superbad” and the like.  You’ve seen this before but not only have you seen the film, you’ve seen the actors play the same characters time and time again.  I’ll admit, I love it when I see Aniston play a cold, calculated b*tch but wasn’t “Horrible Bosses 2” out not that long ago?

This is a good, dirty and off-colored little picture, just in time for your holiday cheer”
Shari K. Green

Sr. Film Writer and Community Manager, tmc.io

Moving on.  We meet the boss of the company ZenoTek, Clay Vanstone (Miller) and his right hand man, Josh Parker (Bateman) directly before the moment CEO, and Clay’s sister, Carol (Aniston) walks in.  We’ve established that Clay and Parker love to have fun and don’t necessarily adhere to company rules very well, despite the efforts of human resources head, Mary (McKinnon), but Carol is not sweet on the branch, nor is she thrilled with her brother.  Forever the butt of his jokes and constantly reminded by him that he was dad’s favorite, she uses the fact that their father made her CEO and not him, against him.  After this latest visit it’s time to show Clay why.  She will keep the company a success at any cost… even if that cost is him.  After cancelling their Christmas bonuses and party, she gives him two days to turn things around or he would face cuts or possibly branch closing.

His only hopes of saving the branch is to catch a major client, Walter Davis (Courtney B Vance), and to impress him, they throw the party of a lifetime; two birds with one stone.  Proud of himself, Clay is certain it’ll all work out to plan.  What could go wrong?  The employees get Christmas joy and he saves the branch.  What could go wrong?  Everything!  When a fun office party becomes a drunken brawl with alcohol, drugs and pimps having a bad day, what could go right?  Actually, several things do go right, and they are the reasons to see this nonsensical comedy.  The cast is great, T.J. Miller does a good job as he steadily gets drunk and Jillian Bell is hilarious as a pimp with a personality disorder.  The script has its fun moments but it goes overboard at times.  You will cherish the efforts from the cast to stand out, but there’s not enough of a discernible difference between it and films of the genre to say its worth paying a high ticket price for.  This is matinee at best. 

Miss Sloane

From “Shakespeare in Love” director, John Madden, comes “Miss Sloane”, a furiously clever film that has today’s politics in mind but is not its only theme.  It’s the story of a very efficient and skilled, nay cutthroat, lobbyist, Elizabeth Sloane, played by Jessica Chastain, who takes no prisoners when she wants to win for a client, putting any and everything in peril, including friendships, to do so.  One thing the film does more than anything, especially at a time when the country seems to really need it, is make it clear to a filmgoer exactly what a lobbyist does.  Let’s start with the definition of a lobbyist; one who engages in “lobbying”; trying to influence public officials to support a position on legislation.  It’s fairly obvious where the term may have derived from which is from these particular individuals waiting in the lobby outside a public official’s office.  Yes.  A story about a lobbyist just became compelling

Screenwriter Jonathan Perera penned such a monumental script that Madden had to direct and knew right away who to cast.  It’s so intense that he knew the very diverse Chastain had to be in the lead role.  He had been searching for the right project for her and this was it.  Of her as Sloane he told me, ‘Okay, now we have it!’  You’ll agree when you see her transformative performance; the best I’ve seen from her to date. 

This will most likely be considered a political thriller as it centers on the D.C. lives of lawyers and lobbyists but it’s much more.  Sloane is a master manipulator and at the heart of this movie is the ambition within her to win at any cost.  This cold, hard woman who could be placed in any position, anywhere; who would have any ruler at her feet, doesn’t have to be pegged into a certain hole nor does the film.  It’s a thriller, plain and simple and you get to see Chastain work both ends of the spectrum.  I’ll let you discover that on your own.  There is so much I want to tell you but I refuse to spoil it all the same.

“Chastain will get an Oscar nod.  Her character is brilliant and her performance is, possibly, twice as good as the film.”
Shari K. Green

Sr. Film Writer and Community Manager, tmc.io

Madden’s cast is exceptional.  Chastain will get an Oscar nod.  Her character is brilliant and her performance is, possibly, twice as good as the film as she goes deep to find this steely woman inside of her.  Perhaps some of the tedious language of the political rhetoric in the film would have you thinking you’d rather skip this movie.  Don’t make that mistake.  A lobbyist advocating for or against gun control may be a point in the film; it’s no way the main topic but rather a catalyst to move Miss Sloane forward.  The pacing of the movie is such that you’re always consumed, helped by Madden’s foresight to capture you further with the perfectly chosen music so make “Miss Sloane” your choice this weekend at the theatre… no waiting until Netflix for this one.  

jackie

Jackie

“Jackie” is a film about what Jacqueline “Jackie” Kennedy had to endure directly after the assassination of not just the President of the United States of America, the country she loved so much and the man she most admired, but the assassination of her husband, Jack Kennedy, who was that President.  It’s an accurate portrayal of a woman in agony.  She loses the husband she always had to share with the world and has to share the pain of this, as well.  Nothing can be personal; nothing private.  The delicate nature of the story itself is handled beautifully.  To your joy, what is evident from the first moment she speaks is that Portman will not only get a Best Actress nomination but quite possibly win the Oscar this year.  She is Jackie. 

To begin the film the theatre goes dark and sounds of gun shots fill the house.  It’s November 22, 1963.  Dallas.  We also spend time in 1961 when the First Lady is giving a tour of the White House.  This is broadcast on television and is, some would consider, the defining moment for the American people, who fell in love with Jackie when Kennedy first took office, that she was their queen.  Why we’re flashing back to her life becomes clear when we are suddenly in a room on her estate in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts with “the journalist” (Crudup) from Life Magazine who is there to talk to her for his publication about the assassination and her life since. 

Many have told the Kennedy stories in books and on film but not so have they delved quite so deeply into the woman behind the man especially when it comes to touching the sensitive subject of her life directly after the his death. 

Quite addled, she clings to what she has left of the soon to be past position she held of First Lady with more than high acclaim in the world.  There are key moments in the film where we see her pain and if you’ve done any Kennedy reading you’ll recognize the truth telling of this piece, especially about why she wore her blood-stained dress, ‘Let them see what they’ve done’, and how difficult it became for, not only her, but for the Johnsons’ to get her to leave, which is why I appreciated this movie even more.

It isn’t the tale of Camelot but a reminder of how it all ended”
Shari K. Green

Sr. Film Writer and Community Manager, tmc.io

Using real clips mixed in with those of director of photography, Stéphane Fontaine, who also shot this years, “Captain Fantastic”, one of my top five for 2016, Larraín creates for us the real trauma that was happening at the time.  The story may not be pretty but it does her justice in a way that it shows not only her vulnerability and vanity but her misery and contempt for what “they” did to her.  Writer Noah Oppenheim tells of one of the darkest times, the story of Jackie planning Jack’s funeral procession.  She wants the world to know that a good man was murdered and much to the chagrin of all around her, she wants the parade to be long and large, one like that of Lincoln.  Being, clearly, a very intelligent woman, she knew her children were at risk so she takes certain precautions with them during this time.

As I previously mention, Portman is fascinating in this role.  Billy Crudup isn’t really given much to do but be a character for Portman to act opposite of.  His character could have been a lamp and it wouldn’t have mattered.  Sarsgaard isn’t the best Bobby but again, the film was not about him; it’s about Jackie and if you want to see a film where only one role is sufficient enough for the film to stand on its own, it’s this.  Only she is truly necessary to move the story along.  This is a must see for anyone who likes biography’s and for anyone who lived through the Kennedy era and like to peek inside the dynasty that once was.  It’s a brave film.  It isn’t the tale of Camelot but a reminder of how it all ended; how one woman suffered through it and how we as a country were never the same.

Man Down

Is there an issue with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? Of course there is, and it needs to be addressed. Is there a potential for family issues when a solider comes back to his family from the war front? Yes, and it can be quite severe. Is the best way to present these problems wrapped up in a movie that cannot decide if it is a serious look at the situation, or an overly dramatized version of the warrior’s mental disconnect?

That is “Man Down”, which follows the solider named Gabriel Drummer (Shia LaBeouf) who is married to Natalie (Kate Mara) and has a young son named Jonathan (Charlie Shotwell). He joins the Marines with his best friend Devin (Jai Courtney). Gabe gets sent to Afghanistan, while Devin recovers from an injury back in the States. Devin soon joins him over there in the thick of the nasty action.

 

Later, Gabe has a sit-down session with Captain Peyton (Gary Oldman) about ‘the incident’. It is finally revealed that a mistake by Gabe led to an ambush attack that had killed Devin. But then, later on when Gabe is back with his family, Gabe shuns his wife and his son to hang around with Devin. Eventually Gabe and Devin prowl about the bleak apocalyptic landscape for his son. But Devin did not make it back…

The late Devin is Gabe’s closest friend and Gabe’s metal state is in question. Captain Peyton talked with Gabe about his reaction to ‘the incident’, and Gabe is still in denial. So now Gabe and Devin are searching a destroyed cityscape searching for his son. They meet a guy named Charlie (Clifton Collins Jr.) who says he knows nothing. But there are many clues that he knows Gabe’s son, and where he might be hiding.

But how much of Gabe’s post-war travels with Devin are real? Exactly what happened in ‘the incident’? And what happened back on the home front between Devin and Kate, when Gabe was deployed overseas? Does Captain Peyton know how broken Gabe is on the inside?

Any of these questions could be enough to construct a deep and meaningful movie. But the way that the various incidents and episodes are put together on the screen make a little too jumbled. The connection between the bleak deserted place and the happy home front does get revealed, and it is done in a very subtle way. But the various sequences do not seem to tie up as neatly as they should.

 

Shia LaBeouf does a workable job as Gabe. He is mostly very understated, but then at some points he is a little bit overemotional and melodramatic. Kate Mara and Jai Courtney have very cookie-cutter roles, and they do the best that they can.  Gary Oldman puts some empathy into his character and makes a very good impression. Clifton Collins Jr. has a brief role, but is creepy and odd-ball as that character.

A movie a few years back about the mental tribulations of John Nash was called ‘A Beautiful Mind’. This movie might be called ‘A FUBAR Mind’. That would describe the nightmare of delusions that Gabe finds himself in during the movie. It is truly scary place to be. But is might not be the best way to bring attention to the real problems of soldiers.

bad-santa-2-feature

Bad Santa 2

“Bad Santa”, back in 2003, unleashed quite a few “Bad” types of movies (“Bad Teacher”, “Bad Moms”, etc.) It brought a very hard edge to idea of a ‘Christmas movie’. Well, 13 years later, the raunchy comeback kid returns with “Bad Santa 2”. This is the movie that will put the “X” in X-Mas.

Willie Soke (Billy Bob Thornton) is living in Phoenix, still as bad-tempered and mean-spirited as ever. He drinks all day holding crummy jobs until he again meets up with Marcus (Tony Cox). Marcus is his diminutive friend in the thievery business who tried to kill Willie during the last heist. Marcus is out of jail and knows about a big score they can pull off up in Chicago.

 

Willie is a small-time safe-cracker, but the drinking and hard living has made problems for him. One of his problems is Thurman Merman (Brett Kelly) who got to know ‘Santa’ in the first movie. Willie cannot get rid of the lovable little cherub with the angelic face. Marcus is a creepy little dwarf, but he promises a big money payoff in Chicago.

Once there, Willie and Marcus get hooked into a large charity organization that raises lots of dollars. There will be many Santas collecting the loot, and if they get into the company safe, the cash will be theirs. But then Willie meets the person who organized this heist, Sunny Soke (Kathy Bates) his long estranged mother.

Sparks fly and insults hurl and put-downs become the order of the day. Thurman follows Willie to Chicago to be with him. The charity owner’s wife Diane (Christina Hendricks) finds a new ‘friend’ in Willie, because her husband in cheating on her and stealing from the charity.

The final day of the robbery is planned out, and the three main participants are planning to double-triple-cross each other. The safe is full of cash and the characters are all ready to get rich. Or perhaps dead…

 

The movie producers waited for this many years to make a sequel, and this sort of takes a lot of wind out the sails. The whole thing is a retread of the original, and they think that it will be ‘better’ with many of the same actors and with many more curse words and insults. Well, most of the lines are maxed out on the crudeness credit card, and there are a few that are pretty funny.

But mostly it is a failed trip down the memory chute of better forgotten characters and dialog. Billy Bob Thornton can slum down his acting ability, and Kathy Bates also leaves the award-winning ways in the dirt. The addition of Tony Cox and Brett Kelly make it resemble the original, but without the same motivations as the first one.

This is another entry in the curmudgeon Christmas movie, a small group of movies that take the light, peacefulness, and hope out of the holiday. When the title even reminds you that it is ‘Bad’, there is not that much to expect. If you are looking for disgusting behavior, crudity and vulgarity, all wrapped up in a dull brown paper, then this is the one for you.

Merry Eff’n Christmas, as Willie would say…

Rules Don’t Apply

In 1958, the sweet and innocent Ms. Apple Blossom Queen from Virginia, Marla Mabrey (Collins), with dreams of making it big in Hollywood, steps into the world of Howard Hughes and her life is never the same.  For four-hundred dollars a week, a house to reside and a driver she, along with many other woman, are actresses, singers and dancers, kept under contract and available at all times for screen by Hughes, ready for screen tests at a moments notice and at his whim.  What becomes evident and quickly is he may not have anything for them, but nobody else can have them.  They are what he sees as the best and he, the great and powerful Howard Hughes, has them.  It makes the point of the opening scroll clearer; a quote by Hughes, “Never check an interesting fact.”  Being very paranoid Hughes keeps close check on everyone he employees yet is emotionally close to few.  Of his many drivers, Frank (Ehrenreich), a young and deeply religious Methodist, grabs the attention of the virginal Baptist Blossom, Marla.  Frank is not only religious but engaged, however, he notices her, as well, struck by her ability to stand out in a crowd; to be different, speak as an individual and not try to fit into a mold.

“Perfect holiday release…Give it a watch!”
Shari K. Green

Sr. Film Writer and Community Manager, tmc.io

Hughes has strict rules about his drivers having affairs if they’re married, in fact, rule #1 is no employee is allowed to have any relationship whatsoever with a contract actress.  He doesn’t want them getting too close in any capacity but Frank can’t help himself and breaks the rule.  Frank and Marla, having an almost immediate attraction to one another, get closer and closer and defy the rules of not only Hughes but of their church.  Perhaps this is the only way they find comfort in the abnormal life they cater to each day.

Paranoia grips the eccentric billionaire for which they work.  Frank and Marla become a lifeline to Hughes as he teeters on the edge of madness.  He sees almost no one and he lives in the shadows; in the dark and secrecy.  Once you’re in, you give up your life for his and his desires, his dreams.  His needs are always met and whether fake or fiction in the heart of the person doing it, everyone coddles him and indulges him, laughs at every joke and is at his beckon call.  Frank and Marla change who they are as time moves on, to please their boss but soon it comes clear his interest is only in himself.

The film is quite fascinating.  With rumors of his quizzical personality and the opening quote, “Never check an interesting fact,” the question is what or if any of the film is factual.  Did he really have to have certain ice-cream instantly at any given moment and insist on flying himself across the world at the drop of a hat?  Curiosity of Hughes himself is what makes this movie so riveting but the sweet love story, the old fashion style it’s presented and the music Beatty uses makes it that much more delightful.  Beatty is larger than life and it’s great to see him back with this particular project.  He also wrote and produced it so he chose cinematographer, Caleb Deschanel (The Natural, Hope Floats, The Passion of the Christ) who has everyone in a special glow that befits the time period and the ambience Beatty was going for.  “Rules Don’t Apply” is the perfect holiday release and I suggest you give it a watch this Thanksgiving weekend.

Nocturnal Animals

Tom Ford, a fashion designer turned filmmaker, gives us “Nocturnal Animals”, his second feature film.  Ford clearly knows beauty when he sees it and makes this film a stunning piece of art to gaze upon, to say the least.  “Nocturnal Animals” is unusually artistic, intoxicatingly dark.  It’s a stylistic and clever drama/thriller that contrasts one scene with the other, one feeling with another and doesn’t give its audience an opportunity to feel vindicated in either of them.

 

At the beginning, we’re led into the tale of Susan (Adams) and her ex-husband Tony (Gyllenhaal).  She is now a successful art dealer married to the rich playboy, Hutton Morrow (Hammer), whom she left Tony for; the playboy who is never home and who sleeps around on her.  If she isn’t at an opening, she’s generally alone.  Unexpectedly, she receives the proof of Tony’s new book to read.  Having always encouraged him to write better she’s excited to begin reading it.  As she reads, she is spooked by how good he has become and terrorized by the narration.  As she reads, the tale unfolds before us.  It flashes back to Susan with Tony when they were younger and we after his face is established, we see that she has interjected her ex-husband into the lead character of the book in her hands.  The story is about loss.  Perhaps Tony’s new book is a message to her.  Maybe it’s just a book but all writing is ultimately about the writer in some sense or another and the loss in this frightening novel is clear and quite brutal… maybe how Tony felt when he lost his wife.

“Florence Foster Jenkins” is enchanting!  The cast is delightful. This is an absolute must see!
Shari K. Green

Sr. Film Writer and Community Manager, tmc.io

Ford opens the film with a live art exhibit and closes the film the same way.  Though the players are different, it is obvious they are on display.  You’ll be moved by the opening and touched by the end.  The first might incite you to smile and giggle a bit at wiggling pounds of flesh dancing before your eyes and the later will stir you to sadness and despair.  Played beautifully with the music, we see Susan, a living art piece of her own, but I’ll not spoil all of that.

“Nocturnal Animals” is a movie you have to experience.  It’s simply not like all the rest.  It will pull you into the story as Tony’s book does to Susan.  Every background is contrived, locations are perfect, and the performers are good but if you didn’t already believe Michael Shannon is an acting deity, here’s another reason why so many do.

edge-of-seventeen

The Edge of Seventeen Interview with actress Haley Lu Richardson

“The Edge of 17” is not exactly what it’s sold to you as.  By the looks of it, from the title, poster and the trailer, you’d think this was a film for young girls and young girls only.  It’s far from that.  Yes.  It is a tale of teen angst but is so much more in that we see not only Nadine’s (Steinfeld) low opinion of herself from the get go and her fighting or giving up, but we see a story built around that, with characters who are more than willing to indulge her in her self-loathing and the consequences of that decision.  Most affected by her parent’s decision to look the other way as Nadine wallowed in self pity is her slightly older brother, Darian (Jenner).  At the time of their father’s death, he not only became the man of the house, he had to also become his mother’s friend which turned into a job for him.  There are fights between brother and sister which are quite amusing but not what is at the core of issues the family faces.

Being a very difficult person to be around, Nadine has only one true friend and that’s Krista (Richardson).  Since they were little they did everything together.  Nadine loved her like family; trusted her more than anyone.  When her father died, it was with Krista’s help that Nadine survived.  Krista, like Nadine is a young woman now with a likable personality, pretty face and hormones that rage… something that doesn’t go unnoticed by one particular individual.  Nadine gets incensed and feels betrayed when Krista begins to date Darian.  She is no longer her friend and cuts them both out of her life.  Being a spoiled brat and getting her way when she throws a fit has worked so far… why not now?  To Krista she says, ‘It’s him or me.  Pick.’  Nadine the Terrible is surprised at the response.

“It’s a really fun movie…I highly recommend this film”.
Shari K. Green

Sr. Film Writer and Community Manager, tmc.io

She does learn some sense.  She bothers her teacher, Mr. Brunner (Harrelson) every chance she gets.  He’s both a father figure and friend but doesn’t want to be either.  In a very Woody Harrelson way he damn near makes this film his own as he listens and responds to her tales of woe.  It’s a really fun movie and it feels as if it’s almost an honor to watch this character grow.

I highly recommend this film.  The writing is inventive, it gives a chance to female actors to play the characters given to males in a setting such as this and they handle their roles like the professionals they are; job well done, ladies!  One other reason to see this that stands out… it’s produced by James L. Brooks, writer of “Terms of Endearment,” “As Good As It Gets” and “The Simpsons”.  It’s hard to see through a keener eye than his when it comes to a hybrid of heart and hilarity.  Be ready for the rollercoaster.  This is heavy on the emotion sprinkled with laughs but then… so is life.

Haley Lu Richardson

Haley Lu Richardson

Plays Nadine’s best friend, Krista

Haley Lu was raised in Phoenix, AZ by right-brained creative parents, Valerie (graphic designer) and Forrest Richardson (golf course architect). She attended Villa Montessori school where she was encouraged to think outside the box and find self-motivation. She then went on to graduate from Arcadia High School in the top 10% of her class.

 

Haley Lu Richardson, who played Nadine’s best friend, Krista, and I had a chance to chat.  She was very bubbly and sweet and talked with her hands, often pounding the table to stress a point.  Here is some of that conversation:

Q.  How much input did you and you have?

A.  We had two weeks of rehearsal time where I literally just spent time with Hailey and we did our scenes and Kelly was super open to improvising in those rehearsals and what happens before the scenes and after not being stuck to the page to really figure out what’s going on in the scene and how people say that.  I didn’t do much improving on the day on set but all the work we did in the rehearsal period kind of changed… you could see the scenes change a little bit to how we would naturally do it.

Q.  Were you at all intimidate working with this group of people.

A.  My character was cast later.  Most of the characters were cast already, by the time they had auditioned me which was cool for me because sometimes when you audition for a movie you have no idea who you’re going to be acting opposite but I got to see who was cast and what producers were working on it and I got to see… so yeah, I was like, yeah… I was very intimidated but also equally or more so excited to just get the opportunity to learn from them.

Q.  How did you work on establishing this great friendship when you barely had a chance to do it on screen?

A.  I think the rehearsal period and Hailey and I got along really well in person.  She’s so cool.  I think the writing was great… just going with it and being there in the moment.  We both know what it’s like going through all that stuff in high school and how important that is and we just wanted to commit and bring it… the justice a friendship like that deserves.

Q.  Do you think a friendship is more important than a potential boyfriend or is all fair in love and war?

A.  We didn’t want to make Krista the stereotypical villain that ruins the protagonist’s life, you know?  We didn’t’ want to make her that.  She had reasons for what she did and also she’s not a bad person and she’s not even doing anything that bad.  She’s been such a selfless friend for so long and she realizes she could possibly have this really great connection with this guy and it’s like, you kinda have to do something for yourself at some point… I don’t even view it and maybe this is just biased because I had to get in this headspace to play Krista but I don’t view it where it had to be a choice between a relationship or a friendship.  I feel like, in the end, it actually could be a great thing if you’re looking at the big picture because if it does end up working out, we could just all be one big happy family.  (laughs)  If it’s not something full on crossing a line and disrespectful of a friend, I don’t think there really has to be a choice.  I think you can make it work.

Q.  When Krista and Nadine have a falling out in the second act, what was Krista thinking?  We saw her story but not yours.

A.  That was interesting.  It sets up a bunch of different challenges when you’re playing a supporting character because you don’t have the pressure of carrying the movie but also you have this different pressure of making your character well rounded even though the audience doesn’t see all of that person’s life… and also I’m kind of bummed, when you do a movie, you film probably about five hours worth of movie and have to cut a bunch of things out and there were a couple scenes with me and Blake who plays Darian that actually show us, cuz he’s not a bad guy either in the movie… you see everything he has to brush aside to take care of the responsibilities he has.  There was a scene where we were in his room and giggling and we hear Nadine coming in downstairs and we both stop and look at each other and there’s this moment that sums up where they were… that they both wished it wasn’t happening but had to follow their hearts and do some things for themselves.  She initially reached out to Nadine and Nadine didn’t answer but she just knew she needed to give her some space before they could ever come together.

Q.  It’s not a teen comedy but this is one of those movies that can define a generation like “Breakfast Club”… what are some of your favorite teen films?

A.  People are asking me a lot and I keep saying “She’s the Man” with Amanda Bynes.  (She laughs)  I know it’s a lame answer but I really love that movie.  I cracked up during that movie more than I have ever.  Whenever I have a bloody nose I use a tampon and sop it all up.  (Laughs)  That’s disgusting.  (Laughs)  Honestly, I love that movie.  Obviously, I love Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off but I feel there’s stupid ones I like even more.  Mean Girls I really like.  So there’s my lame answer.

Q.  You’re a dancer… are we going to see some of that talent soon?

A.  I feel like you’re seeing dance so much on reality shows, the dance mom things, the step it up movies, there’s ballet movies but I feel like the story of like a training contemporary dancer hasn’t been told yet and I’d love to make that happen somehow.

Q:  What about you making it?

A.  I know!  I’d have to make it before I’m thirty-five before I can’t dance anymore.  That’s my goal.  I’m still dancing all the time.  I have a couple of injuries.  I’m twenty-one but my body is like a seventy year old because of all my dance injuries.  (laughs)  I have feet problems, hip problems and knee surgeries.  But that will happen!

She stands up and knocks on wood.  I for one believe this dance film will happen.