Tag Archives: Homelessness

Movie Review: Tallulah (2016)

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Rating: A-/Just more evidence of Netflix’s growing legitimacy as a original film and television distributor. She might have her share of naysayers, but I’ve always liked Ellen Page, ever since she made a lasting impression in the Oscar-nominated but divisive indie comedy-drama Juno (which I thought was an excellent movie; there, I said it. Go ahead and start telling me how stupid and wrong I am, come at me bro!) Continue reading Movie Review: Tallulah (2016)

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Movie Review: Blue Ruin (2013)

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Rating: A/  As far as I can tell, one of the great mysteries of the modern age is why Macon Blair’s career didn’t go wild after being in this movie. Blair plays Dwight, and let me tell you, he makes one hell of an entrance. A traumatized homeless vagrant with achingly sad, lost eyes, Dwight is a guy for whom jumping out of a window naked after sneaking a bath on the sly is the extent of his criminal activity, but that’s before a compassionate police officer takes him to the station and gently informs him that ‘he’ has gotten out of prison. Continue reading Movie Review: Blue Ruin (2013)

Movie Review: The Lady in the Van (2015)

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Rating: B/ Based on playwright/writer Alan Bennett’s memoir of the same title, The Lady in the Van is a stranger-than-fiction true story with an excellent lead performance from Dame Maggie Smith as the titular character.  Alex Jennings plays Bennett, a lonely middle-aged gay man who reluctantly allows a crusty homeless woman (Smith) with a haunted past to park her canary yellow van in his driveway. Continue reading Movie Review: The Lady in the Van (2015)

Movie Review: Stuart- A Life Backwards (2007)

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Rating: B+/ Based on homeless advocate Alexander Masters’ biography of his late friend, Stuart Shorter, this movie is an emotional roller coaster. Stuart (Tom Hardy) is the kind of guy people cross to the other side of the street to avoid. Drunk, drug-addicted, physically handicapped and mentally unsound, sporadically homeless junkie and Muscular Dystrophy patient Stuart is a man many would pity, but few would have the inclination to call ‘friend.’ Yet Alexander (Benedict Cumberbatch) reluctantly befriends him, after much initiating on Stuart’s part. The two men campaign together to release two homeless shelter aides wrongfully imprisoned by the courts, and along the way Alexander begins writing a book about Stuart’s troubled life story, which includes physical and sexual abuse, bullying, and early brushes with violent crime. Continue reading Movie Review: Stuart- A Life Backwards (2007)

Movie Review: Midnight Cowboy (1969)

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Rating- A / Even though it seems fairly tame by today’s standards in terms of violence, language, and sexual content, it’s easy to imagine Midnight Cowboy making waves in 1969. Both controversial and extremely daring for it’s time, the film, based on the novel of the same title by Leo James Herlihy, deals with hot-button issues such as prostitution, rape, homosexuality, and childhood sexual abuse. And it transcends the constraints of time and setting to tell an incredible story of innocence lost and outcasts eking out a hardscrabble urban existence that is both archetypal and vitally original. Continue reading Movie Review: Midnight Cowboy (1969)

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

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Truth is truly stranger than fiction, and Jeanette Walls, the wildly talented author of The Glass Castle‘s childhood being ‘raised’ by nomadic, outrageously negligent parents, was weirder than most. The said parents (if you could call them that, since parenting or even being adults was not their perogitive), Rex and Rose Mary Walls, were an anomaly- self-taught and highly intelligent people who had no concern for their childrens’ welfare and made no effort to make those awkward adolescent and pubescent years any more tolerable. The Glass Castle reminded me of Augusten Burrough’s blackly comic account of familial insanity Running With Scissors, only less sensationalistic.

This memoir will move you, make you angry, and kick your parental instincts into overdrive. Jeanette Walls and her siblings move from place to place, on the run from the ‘FBI’ and ‘the Gestapo’ (i.e. the tax collectors and the authorities.) Jeanette’s mom is an flaky, unstable artist who wants nothing to with her children. Her dad is a big-talking B.S.-er who can weasel himself out of any tough situation, except for the disintegration of his family unit. Together- the Walls children must take care of each other, facing sexual abuse, poverty, bullying, and other hardships.

I respect Jeanette’s unconditional love for her parents, but I really had no sympathy for them, even when they ended up on the streets of New York. The author really is a born storyteller, but there were times I had my doubts that she really remembered the events she was documenting with the lucidity she claimed. Walls gave detailed descriptions of things that she recalled from childhood; sometimes I wondered if she was taking liberties with her material. This isn’t really a criticism- a lot of memoirists do add improbable details- just an observation.

Walls develops her three siblings well so that you almost feel like you knew their childhood selves. Brian was my favorite- he was a tough cookie. It doesn’t take just any seven-year-old to chase a pedophile out of their house with a hatchet. At least one kid was irreparably damaged by the events of their childhood, the rest seemed to make the best of it as well as they could.

The bizarre thing is that the author only records her father hitting her once, so calling the parents ‘abusive’ might seem like a bit of a stretch to people who haven’t read the book. But between the dad’s abuse of the mom and both parties’ total disregard for the safety of their children, in the end, it’s hard to consider the parents anything other than abusive. Some of the aspects of their childhood seem desirable- freedom, being encouraged to read great literature- but others are atrocities that stand up against the hardest childhood memoirs.

I would highly recommend this book because it is beautifully written and has a fascinating story. Some scenes might be triggering to victims of sexual abuse- I’d nearly run out of fingers if I counted how many times the Walls children are mishandled, either by neighborhood kids or family or strange adults, and their parents’ apathy is infuriating. What is best is Jeanette Walls keeps a certain distance from the material and avoids self-pity. With tenderness, wit, and deft touches of dark humor, she tells the story of a childhood that would break the hardest individuals.

 

Wendy and Lucy (2008)

This movie is not for everyone. Curious art-indie buffs, you know who you are. Others, look elsewhere. “Wendy and Lucy” is ‘real’ in such a way that it will delight a certain audience and bore the pants off everyone else.

Drifter Wendy (Michelle Williams,) camping out in Oregon on her way to find work in Alaska, travels alone except for her beloved dog, Lucy. So when Lucy goes missing in a small podunk Oregon town, Wendy vows not to leave until she finds her best friend and traveling companion.

Invested in her plight is a kind, otherwise unnamed Security Guard (Wally Dalton) who doesn’t seem to do much work but instead gives her advice and comfort while she tries to find her dog. Wendy comes into contact with other people, some helpful, some detrimental, and in the end must make a painful and difficult choice.

Although the grainy imagery can be a little frustrating, “Wendy and Lucy” is a touching, and above all, real little tale. It’s the kind of film that doesn’t have a hook, but wins us over with it’s true-to-life characters and situations, and makes us wonder what’s going to happen.

Michelle Williams is extremely convincing as flawed protagonist Wendy, and Lucy is a very cute and charming canine. This is the kind of movie people will argue has no ‘point.’ Since when does a film have to have a lesson, a glossy twist ending, or an revelation at before the end credits?

Isn’t a depiction of real, believable people and honest plot developments enough to to keep the audience watching? Since when did we become a legion of people who need a robot, a superhero, farting animated animals, or a masked killer to keep us invested in a story? Maybe I sound pretentious. But I can’t help but wonder if peoples’ interest in the movies is regressing.

I’ve seen Michelle Williams in two movies recently. “Take This Waltz” had its moments, but was also often glib and sitcom-ish, despite a painfully effective ending. “Wendy and Lucy,” the more effective of the two films, was never unbelievable and never simplistic, a testament to the power of kitchen sink realism in film.

“Wendy and Lucy” also excels in the way that it portrays poverty without the morbid vision of filth and decay many movies strive for. Overall, it’s more “Winter’s Bone” than “Requiem for a Dream,” and delivers pathos and sympathy rather than cheap shocks.

Not that it doesn’t have tense moments, such as when Wendy sleeps in the woods and comes face to face with an unexpected intruder. It just doesn’t overplay its hand trying to be disgusting and gratuitous, and portraying Williams as a wretched drifting waif. I hope you see it.

Rating-
8.0/10