GLORIA BELL (2019)

March 21, 2019

 Greetings again from the darkness. Having previously mentioned my general annoyance at the frequency of which the ‘Americanization’ of World Cinema projects occur, I was initially dismayed to hear about the remake of the excellent Chilean film GLORIA. That 2013 featured a terrific performance from Paulina Garcia, and provided a grounded look at life of a single woman of a certain age. However, when it was announced that the American version would be directed by Sebastian Lelio, who also directed the earlier version, and that it would star Julianne Moore in the lead role, the idea became much more palatable.

Oscar winner (and 4 time nominee) Julianne Moore has been one of our more interesting actors since she jumped off the screen (in a supporting role) in 1992’s THE HAND THAT ROCKED THE CRADLE. She’s now approaching 60 years of age, and is a true master at capturing the essence of a character. She brings Gloria Bell to life in the most believable and grounded manner possible. Rather than a movie caricature, Gloria is a real woman. She plugs away at her daily work in the insurance business. She belts out the songs on the radio as she drives her car. She gets annoyed at the stray cat who sneaks into her apartment. She smokes and drinks. She tries to be part of her adult kids’ lives. She tries to ignore, but ultimately reports the loud noises from her upstairs neighbor to her landlord. She loves dancing in clubs with men she doesn’t know, or even alone. In conclusion, Gloria lives her life.

Much of the film focuses on the odd developing relationship Gloria has with Arnold (John Turturro). Their eyes meet across the dance floor, spend some time chit-chatting, and soon, his Velcro-back brace is being ripped off. As with many folks, Arnold’s baggage is more burden than history. He seems to be in an unhealthy marriage with ultra-dependent grown daughters and a wife who can’t get through a day without his help. The cell phone ring becomes a running gag … one Gloria finds little humor in.

Supporting work is provided by Sean Astin (a Las Vegas mistake), Brad Garrett (Gloria’s ex), Jeanne Tripplehorn (Garrett’s new wife), and Holland Taylor (Gloria’s mom). Each of these characters get a brief sub-story, as do Gloria’s grown kids, played by Michael Cera and Caren Pistorius. With the son’s marriage in shambles, and the daughter heading to Sweden to live with a man, Gloria experiences the trials and tribulations of life while still looking for meaning and companionship … each a search worth pursuing.

Alice Johnson Boher adapted the screenplay for this version from the original by director Sebastian Lelio and Gonzalo Maza. She refrains from the usual American melodrama or corniness, and instead delivers something to which the actors and viewers can easily relate. The fine line between independence and loneliness is in a delicate balance, and one that’s deftly handled here. And of course, there are scenes that are elevated thanks to the brilliance of Julianne Moore’s performance. All in all, fans of GLORIA will not be disappointed … just lay off the post-yoga cigarette.

watch the trailer:


UNLEASHED (2017)

April 29, 2017

USA Film Festival 2017

 Greetings again from the darkness. Quirky is an overused word to describe far too many offbeat independent movies and unconventional actors. However, sometimes no better word exists, and that’s exactly the situation with writer/director Finn Taylor’s latest. A full moon cosmic event results in a collision between astronomy and astrology, and just like that … Emma’s faithful pet dog and cat are transformed into hunky human boyfriend material.

Adding to the high level of quirk (in the role of Emma) is the extraordinarily multi-talented Kate Micucci (“Garfunkel and Oates”) – an actress, comedian, writer, musician and artist. Plus, she is just so darn likeable and nice! In fact, “nice” may be the only challenger to quirky in how best to describe this film. Sure it’s cute and sweet and delightful, but above all, it’s a nice movie whose nice characters will leave you with a nice feeling.

Steve Howey and Justin Chatwin (both from “Shameless”) are spot on in their portrayals of Sam and Diego – the humanized dog and cat, respectively. Howey and his bleach blonde hair and boundless energy capture the devoted pooch, while Chatwin is downright hilarious with his feline tendencies that attract a public following. Given much leeway with the roles, we never lose sight of their original connection to love-lost Emma.

While the premise may offend some (though nothing else in the film will), the humor stems from this being a woman’s fantasy. Her beloved pets, with full knowledge of her likes and dislikes, and with blind commitment, take on beautiful male human form without losing the lovable pet traits. What more could a women-done-wrong desire? It’s also quite a scathing commentary on modern day dating, with the ne’er-do-well Luke (Josh Brener, “Silicon Valley”) contrasted to the too-nice Carl (Sean Astin). Hana Mae Lee (Pitch Perfect) is Emma’s spunky best bud and co-worker, and Illeana Douglas plays their boss.

There are some terrific Bay Area film locations utilized, and the music is so perfectly matched that we find ourselves saying “of course” as each new song pops up. Filmmaker Taylor certainly could have gone a bit harsher with the commentary and humor, but let’s enjoy this quirk for what it is … a really nice time.

watch the trailer:

http://themovieunleashed.com/?page_id=12

 

 


THE SURFACE (2015)

May 25, 2015

surface Greetings again from the darkness. Survival movies come in many shapes and styles. There are classy ones like All is Lost (with Robert Redford) and Life of Pi (Academy Award nominee). There are thrilling ones like The Edge (with Alec Baldwin and Anthony Hopkins). And of course there are the kinda trashy ones that usually feature beautiful and clueless people stuck on an island somewhere like in Turistas (with Josh Duhamel).

What we rarely see are survival movies that just don’t have much going on. Open Water is about the closest to this latest from director Gil Cates, Jr and writer Jeff Gendelman, but at least that one offered the constant threat of a shark attack.

Sad sack Mitch (Sean Astin) visits his Alzheimer’s-stricken mom in the nursing home before heading out to the middle of Lake Michigan in what he plans as his final voyage in life. At the most inopportune time – given his goal – it’s his boat that is rendered lifeless thanks to the scattered pieces of a plane crash. Mitch drags the survivor Kelly (Chris Mulkey) aboard and the two fellows proceed to prove that their philosophizing and reminiscing are no match for the conversational skills of a boy and his tiger (Life of Pi).

Flashbacks are the key to us understanding the reasons these two crossed paths in such an unusual manner. We see Mitch’s guilt and inability to be a worthy partner in a relationship, and we see pilot Kelly’s desperation in trying to making ends meet for his family and regaining his confidence as a man.

There are a couple of funny “guy” moments (the poet comment made me laugh), yet somehow the conversation of these two men in a life-threatening situation pales in comparison to the exchanges of two gents over a meal in My Dinner with Andre. Where is the danger?  Where is the stress?  Where is the soul-searching?  It’s unfortunate that the extended periods of two guys in a boat just don’t have much to offer for the 86 minute run time, because the stage was set for much more than melodrama.

watch the trailer: