February 23, 2023

Greetings again from the darkness. When it comes to death, everyone hopes to go out on their own terms. Perhaps that’s at an advanced age surrounded by family. Or maybe it’s before the loss of physical or mental capacities. And then there are those who just want to pass quietly while sleeping. Whatever terms one might envision, the odds are we will have little say in when, where, or how. Co-directors Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon previously collaborated on THE FAREWELL PARTY (2014), and here they are working on Rona Tamir’s adaptation of the stage play by Anat Gov.

Andie MacDowell stars as Julia Roth, a once famous actress who is attempting to receive medical treatment while remaining incognito. Arriving for her first chemotherapy session, she admits to not having told friends, family, or even her loyal assistant Nancy (Tamsen Grieg). The three women currently receiving chemo all recognize Julia, but it becomes clear that no one being treated for cancer cares much about spotting a celebrity. It’s interesting to watch as Julia is brought down a notch or two from her arrogance as she realizes two things: these folks aren’t impressed, and her own cancer is much more advanced than she originally thought.

This little chemo support group provides the heart of the film. Screen veteran Miriam Margolyes plays Judy, a retired teacher and lifelong single. Sally Phillips plays Mikey, a former rocker and the most optimistic of the group. Rakhee Thakrar plays Imaan, a young Muslim mother hoping to be cured so she can watch her kids grow up. They are all being treated by Tom Cullen, who they’ve nicknamed, “Dr Handsome”. Julia’s motivation is the upcoming wedding of her daughter, and the mood shifts quickly when Nancy shows up to “take care of this” for her boss.

There are times in life when we must be open to the help and guidance of others. Julia is a bit slow on the uptake, but soon enough, figures out that listening to those who have been going through what she’s about to go through provides the insight she needs to make up her own mind … finding a way of doing things on her own terms. Given the subject matter, the film from Granit and Maymon offers a good dose of humor, and it’s also effective in reminding us that taking a “vision trip” can be the holiday that leads to clarity and making decisions that work best for ourselves.

Opens in theaters on February 24, 2023



April 1, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Dinner parties are ripe for generating just about any kind of conflict between characters … loud and rude, or subtle and passive-aggressive. Many filmmakers have used the setting to their advantage, and from that we’ve heard some sharp dialogue and seen some tremendous acting performances. And yes, we’ve suffered through the other end of that spectrum as well. The first feature film from writer-director Charles Dorfman (producer on THE LOST DAUGHTER, 2021) comes from a story by Statten Roeg, and it awkwardly morphs into a blend of dinner party and home invasion.

The morning sun shining through the window causes a couple to slowly awaken. Eva (Catalina Sandino Moreno, MARIA FULL OF GRACE, 2004) and Adam (Iwan Rheon, “Game of Thrones”) are in the stunning home on which they expect to finalize the purchase this same evening when the real estate developer (and friend) and his girlfriend arrive for dinner. Our first exposure to Lucas (Tom Cullen) is an infomercial where he’s ‘selling’ the beauty, serenity, and history of the property. It’s located near the Gaeta (Gateway) Stone, which holds historical (and possibly mystical) relevance. Through the advertisement, we immediately recognize that Lucas is not exceptionally trustworthy, and may even be a bit of a scammer. We soon enough have clarity on Lucas’ carefully constructed online image contrasted with reality.

The dinner party is not just to finalize the purchase of the home, but also to celebrate Adam’s birthday. Eva is a renowned artist who has been crafting a sculpture for the property – it’s a replica of the nearby Gaeta Stone. Adam is a director who struggles not just with his career, but also with the truth. Dinner begins okay as Lucas and his girlfriend, Chloe (Ines Spiridonov) arrive. Wine is consumed and some friendly needling occurs. After a few minutes, we realize these are self-centered and entitled folks who can’t even be honest with each other. When the confessions begin to roll, things get ugly … but then the home invasion hits, and with it, an abrupt tonal shift.

Some similarities exist between Mr. Dorfman’s film and THE FEAST, with a touch of Kubrick’s classic A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, but unfortunately, it never reaches the level of either. While we learn the motivation for the home invasion, it comes at a time when we’ve already given up caring about any of the four main characters. It just doesn’t matter other than seeing what might trigger someone to live up to the film’s title – as if they hadn’t already done so. Composer Marc Canham teases us with the score and purposefully overuses dramatic musical booms. For a thriller to work best, the audience must have someone or something to root for – a not so minor detail missing here. But, oh my, what a cool house!

In theaters and On Demand beginning April 1, 2022