Tag Archives: Marriage

Book Review: The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg

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Rating- B/ A deceptively simple, brief little novel, The Pull of the Moon is the lyrical yet straightforward story of Nan, a fifty-year-old housewife who takes a hiatus from the monotony of her everyday life and goes on an aimless road trip in hopes of ‘finding herself.’ The book, told in the form of Nan’s letters to her husband Martin and her intimate journal entries, is not particularly rife with surprises but contains a peculiar charm and grace all it’s own. Continue reading Book Review: The Pull of the Moon by Elizabeth Berg

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Big Eyes (2014)

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It seemed like a match made in heaven. Outwardly charming and charismatic realtor Walter (Christoph Waltz) wedded the wide-eyed artist Margaret Keane (Amy Adams,) making it possible for her to keep the sexist mid-20th century authorities from deeming her an unfit mother based on her unmarried status and taking her daughter away.

But Walter proved to be an untrustworthy , possessive pig, constantly berating and manipulating the terrified Margaret and taking credit for her work, a series of  slightly unnerving paintings of waifish children with enormous doe eyes. Caught between fear of her husband’s socioeconomic influence and her own happiness, Margaret stayed trapped for years in a loveless  marriage to a egomaniac monster of a husband.

The story of artist Margaret Keane and her fraught relationship with her conniving husband, Walter, seems like it could make a fascinating film, but what can one do with a script as shoddy as this? In “Big Eyes,” Amy Adams is as lovable as ever as the innocent Margaret, initially lulling the viewer into believing that the movie will be much, much better than it actually is.

Christoph Waltz, however, gives an unexpectedly atrocious turn as Walter, rendering all Amy Adams’ efforts to make a good movie out of a mediocre one obsolete. For people such as myself, who adored Waltz in “Inglorious Basterds” and “Django Unchained,” his performance is a devastating betrayal.

We know he can do better, but with his fiendishly cartoonish portrayal of Adams’ abusive husband, we half expect him to spirit a stack of Acme products out of thin air and futilely attempt to blow Margaret and her frightened daughter to Kingdom come. His performance is what transforms a average movie into something much less.

“Big Eyes” is an improvement over “Alice in Wonderland,” filmmaker Tim Burton’s earlier film of recent years? Ha! “Alice in Wonderland” was solid, gaudy entertainment, harmless to take the kids to and relax your brain with. “Big Eyes” tries to take on serious subject matter, and fails miserably.

I was initially really excited to see it because it sounded a lot different from Burton’s other work, but how disappointed I was when it turned out to be a shallow biopic with one-dimensional characterizations and… yes, a mortifying performance by an actor I used to like and respect.

Meanwhile, a supporting characterization by Danny Huston as an interested reporter seems perfunctory and uninteresting, placed haphazardly in the film simply so he can supply some backstory in the form of a voiceover. As “Big Eyes” veers into shameless, albeit star-studded ridiculousness, all I can think of is what a missed opportunity this was. Hopefully Burton will take his next project more seriously and not deteriorate into kitsch like he did in this sloppy and misfortunate misfire.

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Stephen King’s A Good Marriage (2014)

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What can I say about “Stephen’s King’s A Good Marriage?” Bad, bad, and more bad. Care to elaborate you say? “A Good Marriage” is exactly as cheesy and generic as you might expect. Sporting paper-thin characterizations and ludicrous plot developments, it tries to keep from going to complete shit by incorporating a good performance by Joan Allen as the  loving spouse turned terrified housewife.

I haven’t read the novella on which it’s based, but for Stephen King’s sake I hope this doesn’t do it justice. The plot is simple- middle-aged Darcy (Allen, whose character is either very stupid or very naïve but regardless not remotely likable) finds out that her husband Bob (Anthony LaPaglia, impossible to take seriously) is a sadistic rapist and serial killer.

Here’s where the plot goes seriously awry. Darcy doesn’t want her three grown-up kids to know Daddy’s a deranged murderer, so she comes up with a master plan and makes hubby promise not to do any more killing while she bides her time. Yes, you read that right.

Rather than calling the police, Darcy trusts her homicidal spouse not to kill any women for an expanse of time while she formulates a scheme. This seems more ridiculous the more you think about it, especially when you consider that Bob is out all day doing whatever (going to work, but do you really know for sure?) while Darcy stays at home, trusting on a sexual psychopath not to do any more killing or raping.

What Darcy doesn’t realize is, if Bob kills another young girl, it’s on her. She’s the one who didn’t call the police, although she had myriad opportunities to do so. She’s the one who took the evil bastard’s word for it. All for the sake of the children. Jesus Christ, will someone send us a heroine with a brain!

“A Good Marriage” slogs it’s way to a ludicrous confrontation and a bewilderingly obtuse ending, punctuated by spurts of terrible dialogue. The dialogue is awful, cheesy, dumbed-down gobbledegook, but even that isn’t bad enough to be truly funny, just painful.

Despite it’s pedigree of being based on a novella by ‘Master of Horror’ Stephen King, this disaster of a TV movie is a cut-and-paste, unspectacular, artless piece of rubbish. I would not recommend it to anyone.

Mrs. Joan Allen gives a halfway decent performance that is wasted on a terrible script, but nothing about the characters or plot development rang true, and this movie doesn’t deserve to be in the same sentence along with King adaptations such as Kubrick’s “The Shining” or “Stand by Me.”

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Love is Strange (2014)

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“Love is Strange” is a solid little film whose finale nevertheless left this viewer feeling somewhat half-satisfied, puzzling on whether that was ‘it.’ To be fair, the good far outweighs the bad for this project- writer-director Ira Sachs infuses “Love is Strange” with an honesty and a subtlety that is sometimes frustrating, sometimes heartrending, and the leads perform admirably in true-to-life, non-showy roles.

Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) are an aging gay couple who have just tied the knot. Good for them, bad for George’s career- the Catholic School where George teaches music is displeased that George’s sexuality is now made known to everyone by his getting married. George is a believer and a well-loved teacher, but what does that matter to the fat cats who run the show, and are overeager to push George back in the closet?

Nothing it seems. Worse, now Ben and George can’t keep up payments on their apartment, so they are shuffled off to live with friends and family. Absent-minded artist Ben goes to live with a distant relative where he is treated like an unwanted stray and an annoyance in their cramped apartment. George, on the other hand, stays with a gay cop couple who party long and hard day in and day out, befuddling the old man.

“Love is Strange” is a quiet film with lots of static long takes, and it seems ‘real’ to a startling extent. Ben and George’s relationship is very sweet and passionate without being graphically sexual. The movie also has some interesting things to say about fidelity and ageism, and the value (or lack thereof, in some cases) of family.

I would have liked a bit more resolution to the plotline concerning the boy (Charlie Tahan) stealing the French books (though the father (Darren E. Burrows’) hysterical and accusing reaction is priceless.) The lovely Marisa Tomei plays the role of the boy’s mother and the wife of the relative taking Ben in, and the whole cast does a uniformly great job, including the young boy actor as the moody teen who doesn’t take to Ben’s presence famously.

The more I think about the ending, weirdly, the more ‘right’ it seems- the tenderness and the grit and the bittersweet melancholy of it- and my initial miffed reaction to the speediness of the wrap-up has more to do with my own personal response than anything to do with the quality of the writing or directing. That said, I think there could have been a little more added to the conclusion.

I don’t think “Love is Strange” is one of the best gay-themed movies of all time, but it certainly holds it’s own in a subgenre whose movies range from fantastically good to woefully poor. Lithgow and Molina portray aging New Yorkers equipped with a tenderness and a good humor that spits back in the face of mounting obstacles. If you’ve never heard about it until now, you’re not the only one; “Love is Strange” was miserably under talked about, and it’s certainly ‘strange’ that it hasn’t gotten more attention than it received.

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Suspicion (1941)

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I’m not the biggest fan of Alfred Hitchcock. There. Now that I’ve spilled my dirty little secret (and turned in my film buff card,) let’s get this show on the road. Of the few Hitchcock movies I’ve seen, “Suspicion” was the most outdated, watered down, and completely exasperating. The protagonist, a bookish woman (Jean Fontaine) facing spinsterhood who marries good-for-nothing playboy Cary Grant, is a completely ineffectual Mary Sue.

Now, I’m not going to cry sexism (this is 1941, after all) but it’s both annoying and eyeroll-inducing when this particular damsel in distress who’s written to be an intelligent, competent woman vacillates between lovesick euphoria and the abyss of despair. The plot revolves around Lina (Fontaine) suspecting Grant of murder.

This suspicion is exacerbated by the inopportune death of Grant’s none-too-bright business partner Beaky (Nigel Bruce) right after he and Grant close a deal. I suppose Beaky in all his ineptitude is supposed to be comic relief, before he ‘meets with an accident,’ so to speak.

Grant’s character, Johnny, is a smug jackass that repeatedly calls Lina ‘Monkeyface’. She loves this ‘term of endearment’, and coyly sidesteps courtship for a while only to fall head over heels in love with him seemingly seconds later. If a guy called me ‘monkeyface,’ I can tell you he’d be smart to keep his hand cupped over his crown jewels because I know where I’d be embedding the pointy part of my shoe. However harsh my rant might sound, the portrayal of the main character isn’t the biggest problem I have with this film.

But that ending, Man! I know the censors changed it from a less wishy-washy conclusion that was included in the original script and the book on which it was based (though to be honest, the book’s ending sounded pretty lame too.) But in fear of offending 1941 audience’s delicate sensitivities, the censors slapped this with the biggest cop-out I’ve seen in a long time.

I sat through the not-so-great motion picture in order to get to the good part, which was watching Lina sack up to face her odious hubby. All that build-up, and… dang! I was disappointed, massively disappointed, to see that they took the utterly boring way out.

Cary Grant and Jean Fontaine did good jobs bringing this rather flat film to life, I suppose, but their competent performances are not enough to save what is, for me, a sub par Hitchcock excursion into so-so suspense. I heard they might be redoing this, and despite my aversion to remakes, I might like to see the results.

I was thinking while watching this movie that if they took the general premise of “Suspicion” (not necessarily a remake per se,) changed the ending and  added a really kick-ass heroine (or at least a heroine with some common sense,) they might have something here. Oh well. Hitchcock can be good, and I will continue to watch his movies in hopes of finding one I really ‘click’ with.

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Take This Waltz (2011)



“Is that that Seth Rogen guy? What’s he doing?”

“I think he’s… acting.”

“Acting? You mean actually giving a performance without using immature fart or stoner humor as a crutch to compensate for an apparent lack of talent? Well, I’ll be… Do miracles never cease?”

Seth Rogen is, indeed, quite good in this. The scene where he expresses, in various takes, his shock and horror at his wife’s infidelity is revelatory. Overall, though, “Take This Waltz” is so-so, marred by a lack of likable characters and consistent dialogue.

I there’s one thing you can say about this movie, it’s that it doesn’t glorify the act of adultery in any way. Bored housewife Margot (Michelle Williams, who gives a very nice performance here) engages in cutie pie antics and baby talk with her husband, Lou (Seth Rogan,) but longs for passion and intimacy.

When Margot meets Daniel (Luke Kirby,) a handsome artist, sparks fly almost immediately. As it turns out (damn you, fate!,) Daniel lives right next door to Margot and Lou’s place, and temptation for indiscretion may be too much to resist. But what are the consequences for such an act?

I was underwhelmed by the dialogue here… sometimes it was really good, and sometimes it was cringe-worthy. It felt like the movie was divided into two different worlds- one where intelligent characters say intelligent things, and one where a verbal expression comes directly out of a third-rate sitcom.

The relationship between Lou and Margot was interesting. I could neither fully support it, nor deny it’s moments of comfort and familiarity. I can understand Margot’s need for a more intellectually stimulating relationship (as any reasonably intelligent person would presumably have,) as many of the ‘tender moments’ between them were saccharine or just plain icky.

However, we don’t really see a side of Daniel that allows us to understand Margot’s prompt crisis. In fact, some of the dialogue was just as vomit-inducing, and the scary thing is, I’m not even sure it was meant to be. For the most part, the characters were more exasperating then likable.

This would be a much better movie if not for the dives in quality of dialogue. “Take This Waltz”‘s acting is both fresh and powerful, as is it’s refusal to slap itself with a happy ending. However, I have difficulty recommending it and will, sighing, present my ambivalent review.