The Truth About Jane (2000)

4.5 stars

Drama, Romance

The Truth About Jane is a movie I thought I had heard about but it was a made-for-tv movie and the imdb page shows only two connections, so i’m not sure if i’m making up memories. Regardless, I’m really glad I did watch it, it’s earnest and honest. It’s 2000’s version of Love, Simon.

The film starts with a a quick run-through of Jane’s (Ellen Muth) life, ages 0-16. We see how close her and her mother (Stockard Channing) are before landing on magical number 16 of her life when Taylor (Alicia Lagano) joins Jane’s class and she begins to grow more distant from her mother while coming to terms that she might be gay.

Her “struggle” with coming to terms with her sexuality is one of the reasons why I did enjoy this movie so much. It’s very clearly a struggle for Jane – she asks if kissing a girl makes her gay – but it’s accompanied by a voice over of Jane’s inner voice which is insightful and funny, and light in tone. It’s balanced. It also follows a cute love story between Jane and Taylor. It’s a novel thing to have such a thing so I enjoyed the representation of lesbians being innocent and really quite adorable.

One more reason why I liked this is the second half of the plot which is about Janice, Jane’s mother, struggling to come to terms with Jane’s sexuality. I don’t know how the general public viewed gay people back in 2000 but it was a lot more progressive than I had anticipated. While Janice does love her daughter (she says so quite a lot), there seems to be so many factors that makes her despair. She does cross that line from being a caring mother to homophobic parent quickly and then you see everybody around her trying to cope with that too. She’s a very complicated character.

It’s not what I expected, that is for sure. It’s perhaps a lot more representative of the reality of having homophobic parents than I have seen before. It was refreshing to see this in 2019, which is to say that this was not exaggerated or given a movie makeover like many movies and tv shows have a tendency to do when it comes to LGBT people and issues.

I wouldn’t watch this with anybody that has homophobic tendencies but it was eye-opening and I would say a part of LGBT film history.

Watch this: with the comfort of supportive friends.

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The Truth About Jane (2000)

Someone Great (2019)

4/5 stars

Comedy, Romance

The thing about Someone Great is that it is not the best movie ever, and it doesn’t try to be either. It’s a very solid film following a trio of best friends the day after Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) breaks up with her long term boyfriend Nate (LaKeith Stanfield). It’s almost like a romantic drama but with the three friends at the core instead.

There’s flashbacks throughout the movie showing the history between Jenny and Nate. At times, cute and warm, and at times, viscerally real. The scenes detailing the break down of their relationship is heartbreaking and honest. Did I root for them as a couple? No. But you feel something like nostalgia for them. There was a couple of scenes later on of them arguing where I couldn’t look away, so caught up in the horror of it. It’s so good.

The movie also spends sizeable time on Jenny’s friendship with Erin (DeWanda Wise) and Blair (Brittany Snow). Like the romantic side, this is real. They have quite crude conversations, they fight, they apologise. I really enjoyed their friendship and this was possibly the reason why there wasn’t a single boring scene in the movie. I can’t say enough good things about them.

All in all: I really enjoyed this movie. I think it’s got heart.

Watch it: girls night in.

 

Someone Great (2019)

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (2019)

Rating: 2.5/5

Comedy, Romance, Drama

SPOILERS, Please do not read if you’re avoiding spoilers. I go through the entire movie for English-speaking audiences so if you want any kind of surprise while watching, don’t read it. SPOILER.

For my first international film, I decided to take on a new Bollywood film that will undoubtedly be seen as historic and important. This is because the title, which comes from a classic song where a man sings about his girlfriend, is used here from a girl’s POV. Funnily enough, the film that featured that song starred Anil Kapoor and now his daughter stars as the leading star in this. It’s also one of the first mainstream LGBT bollywood films and stars several notable Bollywood stars including aforementioned father-daughter duo Sonam and Anil Kapoor and Juhi Chawla in a supporting role.

The story starts with Sweety (Sonam Kapoor) and Sahil’s (Rajkummar Rao) meet cute in a dark and dingy theatre in Delhi. Sahil is a struggling writer who is trying to put on a play at a small local theatre and Sweety happens to hide out there. An unknown man starts chasing her and Sahil helps her get away. This little scene ends with the unknown man and Sahil on the train, watching Sweety on the platform. As meet cutes go, it wasn’t bad. It was tense and comedic and light. Definitely a good start to the movie.

There’s quite a long while before the real point of the movie starts so I’ll summarise it. Sahil follows Sweety to her hometown somewhere in rural India where her family is attempting to get her married off. She’s obviously super gay but only her brother, the unknown man from before, knows and he disapproves. Her brother’s disappointment in her was one of the only serious and dramatic moments in the first half of the film. It’s probably representative of what people in India think of LGBT people, especially in rural areas so in that way, this film is very realistic in that it doesn’t shy away from what a typical audience member might feel (if they’re somehow watching this film without knowing what it’s about).

Eventually Sweety spills to Sahil that she’s gay, that she’s known she was a kid, that she was bullied in school for it. She also tells him that she has a girlfriend who is studying in Delhi. This whole scene was pivotal and very raw. This is one of the few scenes that Sonam Kapoor really acts her heart out. It’s similar to that one scene in Love, Simon. She tells him, she’s crying and it’s cathartic for her, and the audience, to have it spelled out so clearly. This was one of the areas where they handled it better than many English-speaking films do. I was pleasantly surprised at how accepting she already is of herself.

Sahil and Sweety then come up with a plan to do a meta play in their town, where the character is gay as a way to introduce the idea to her dad (Anil Kapoor). Typically, most Bollywood drama films can be split into the first half which is light, and funny like a comedy, and then the second part that is much more of a drama and is sad. This film could be seen like that but because of the play and the shenanigans they get up, it does still feel like a comedy despite the undercurrent of tension.

They also introduce Sweety’s girlfriend Kuhu (Regina Cassandra) at this point and this is one of my biggest issues with this film – that it barely shows their relationship. We get maybe one conversation between the two and it’s small talk. I was disappointed. I understand that this film is subverting the conventions and codes of indian culture and film just by having a LGBT person, and that perhaps it is the best way to warm up an audience but it feels like it’s really behind the times and that it was done in the most shallow way possible.

So they’re rehearsing for the play which is now in its final stages. Sweety and Sahil don’t discuss what their ultimate plan is, about what point they’re planning to share this with her dad but eventually her brother cracks and tells him. Her dad who has, up until this point, been the epitome of a supportive dad, shames her for it and tries to cancel the play. I could see it coming, just because it’s an Indian film but I was still surprised that that was his reaction. Like I said before, I get that the filmmakers are warming the audience up but it’s still so disappointing when I see that they had the chance to make, perhaps a fictional, but a better reality.

Sweety then takes a stand and says that the show is for all of the little kids who don’t see themselves on tv, those that don’t accept themselves, and those that aren’t accepted by others. On opening day, many of the audience members come to the realisation very slowly that it’s a gay love story. “Harold…”. Apparently this was supposed to reflect on how a typical audience would react and I thought it was pretty effective especially the quieter, more subtle moments when they were questioning it.

While Sweety’s character is delivering a soliloquy on stage, her father watches as she talks about her struggles and then comes the most melodramatic moment of the film – as another actor begins to beat Sweety and her girlfriend up, her father jumps onto stage and beats the actor up. And then comes a speech which was both expected and not. Her father comes around to the idea that his daughter is gay, and accepts both her and her girlfriend. There’s even several scenes where Sweety introduces Kuhu to other members of her family (an indication that they’ll be getting married). Awesome.

It sounds so far as if I enjoyed it, and I did. I do, however, have one big problem with it and that is that too much time is spent on Sahil and his POV. Pretty much everything is framed through his mind. How can you make a movie about someone and then feature a secondary character as the lead? It doesn’t make any sense. The film’s main storyline is Sweety’s relationship with her father but Sahil is undoubtedly a lead above them. Bottom line? I don’t care about him. At all.

And that is similar to another thing I had been misled about: this is obviously not a romantic film. It’s about Sweety and her father and yet all marketing pointed to it being a LGBT romantic film, including the title. It’s a little annoying that 1) it’s not what was advertised and 2) that particular thread doesn’t pick up until easily the halfway point.

In summary. It’s an important film to Indian Cinema but I want to get to the point where we can have a lesbian love story outside of any male POVs quicker. We’re not there yet.

Watch it: without any judgemental family members lol.

Ek Ladki Ko Dekha Toh Aisa Laga (2019)

Storks (2016)

Rating 5/5

Animation, Adventure, Comedy

The thing about Pixar films is that they always have a very simple plot line. Storks is about (you guessed it) storks and their “upgrade” into a retail company after a mishap with handling babies. This mishap ended in the breaking of the carrier, which has the address info, and the orphaning of the baby, Tulip (Katie Crown) who grows into a wannabe-stork.

So years later, Tulip has grown up and is getting into general mayhem as the only human on Stork Mountain. The other main character, Junior (Andy Samberg!!), is in line to be promoted to Boss of Stork Mountain and his first task – to fire the incompetent human. As I said, general mayhem, which results in a unauthorized child. Junior reasons that if they go and deliver the baby quickly, nobody will know and he will still get promoted.

The storytelling is cleeean. It’s really easy to get invested in the story, with the characters because you spend so much time with them. Tulip and Junior are essentially the stereotypical pairing in literally any, and every movie made. Tulip is upbeat, and optimistic. Junior is pragmatic and absolutely focused on getting that promotion. Their pairing is obviously great. And while there are some subplots, the film doesn’t spend too much time on them – and they join together beautifully.

Another thing I appreciated about this film is that it is so funny. I don’t watch this genre of film very often but I was genuinely laughing out loud throughout the film. It’s definitely child-appropriate as well, but it doesn’t feel childish. You could easily watch this with a child and enjoy yourself as much as them.

I really liked this film, and I think there’s enough going on that it will keep audiences entertained and surprised. It also doesn’t hurt that the animation is beautiful.

Watch it: this is a very peaceful film, watch it on Sundays.

Storks (2016)

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Image result for four weddings and a funeral

If I was to describe the film in the most sparse way possible, it would in fact be “Four Weddings and a Funeral”. That’s one of the film’s best qualities, it’s direct and doesn’t have a single scene that I didn’t enjoy. I really, really enjoyed this. Romcoms from the 90s hit a different note, especially ones that feature Hugh Grant. So here’s a list of all the reasons I liked it.

  • As mentioned before, it’s direct. It’s a romcom, and almost every scene serves that purpose. There are some subplots, but they don’t feel seperate from the love story. It’s more fleshing out the characters rather than having a storyline that is other. I can’t remember really any other romance that is so direct in its love story.
  • Charles (Hugh Grant) is a brilliant main character. He’s a perpetually late, bumbling, yet clever hero. His first bit of dialogue is “Fuck! Fuck, fuck, fuck!” and yet you’re rooting for him from the very beginning. I care about him.
  • Charles’ friends are great. Well written and well acted. It’s a great supporting cast. I was going to list out my favourite characters but that is actually all of them.
  • Surprise Rowan Atkinson.
  • Sordid matters handled with classic English sophistication.
  • One-liners at every corner. “I think I’d better be where other people are not.”
  • Really, the whole script. It’s funny. “Everybody blames you too.”
  • The more sombre moments are dealt with appropriately.
  • Can see background character’s progression. Nice easter eggs.
  • Has a disabled character – Charles’ brother David. I really, really liked how this was handled. They use sign language throughout the film, and they have a very realistic brotherly relationship.
  • Apparently, the love interest Carrie (Andie McDowell) was once voted the most annoying character. I didn’t hate her but I didn’t care too much for her either. What I did appreciate is that she’s quick-witted and really quite formidable. She’s not a damsel in distress.
  • and HUGH GRANT. Obviously. Here at his most floppy-haired.

I loved this. It’s the right balance of light and thunderbolts. It’s perfect for summer honestly.

Watch it: with friends on summer day before the Hulu (and Mindy Kaling!) produced version releases on 31st July in USA.

Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)

Get Out (2018)

Rating: 5/5

Horror, Mystery, Thriller

SPOILERS, Please do not read if you’re avoiding spoilers. I haven’t spoiled everything but there is one major spoiler. SPOILER.

Jordan Peele’s directorial debut is excellent. Get Out is a horror/thriller/spoof (slash comedy?? according to the Golden Globes) that follows Chris (Daniel Kaluuya) as he meets his girlfriend’s family for the first time at their isolated manor in the middle of nowhere. Once there, the parents (played by Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford) remind them that their annual party will take place that same weekend and so Chris will get to meet all of their closest friends and family.

The beauty of this film is in it’s simplicity. This is a simple story elevated by its actors, by its script. It’s elegant, sophisticated. The simplicity of the plot really allows it to be amped up to another level. We have time to get to know Rose as Chris’ loving girlfriend. we have time to be weirded out by the strange mannerisms of the Armitage family’s guests. And then we have time to really feel the horror of their family secret. And in between is the solid relationships between the characters. Chris and Rod’s friendship is believable (and provides some light humour) despite only sharing a single scene. Chris’ relationship with Rose seems strong, especially when she brings up topics like “is her family racist?” and “that police officer is racially profiling Chris” and “her family are treating Chris differently by virtue of pretending to be black”.

That’s another thing I really appreciate about this film – it really dives into aspects of being a black man having a white girlfriend. Or rather, just what its like being a black man surrounded by white people. There’s a specific dialogue Chris says at one point, that when he’s surrounded by white people, sometimes he feels a little nervous. This horror film is built on reality. That is what makes it so effective. (I’m sure you already knew that though.) I don’t remember watching another film that is so honest about being a POC, and specifically black, so this was interesting and definitely a new viewpoint for me.

There were also some scenes that, when isolated, may lead a person to conclude that this is a comedy. When Chris goes to spud another black man, and he responds with a high five. Or a lot of Rod’s dialogue. This is definitely not a comedy but these scenes were nice, to break up some of the tension. 

Another asset of this film is the acting. It’s phenomenal. Daniel Kaluuya is incredible, and this becomes more obvious in the latter half when he’s realised something is wrong. It’s a subtle thing and perhaps a partnership of being his talent and Jordan Peele’s writing. Chris’ reaction never seems to be too much, or too less, or too unrealistic. It’s directly exactly what the audience is feeling. I think it was Jordan Peele himself that said that the audience is experiencing it through Chris and it’s so true. Allison Williams is also splendid as both halves of her character. She’s warm and likeable as Chris’ girlfriend and then absolutely incredible when she switches. There’s one scene in particular that stands out. When a phonecall from a worried Rod showcases Rose’s voice, trembling in fear and worry, and then the camera switching to Rose at the Armitage house, as she sits expressionless. There were so many, too many to list, little scenes that were so wonderfully done.

My verdict? I wish I had seen it sooner.

Watch: at night, with friends.

 

 

Get Out (2018)

The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)

Rating: 4.5/5

Action, Adventure, Comedy

One of many female-centred films that came out last year, The Spy Who Dumped Me is a new twist on the genre. Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon) are unwilling participants who have to deliver a plastic trophy on orders from Audrey’s ex-boyfriend, the titular spy, Drew (Justin Theroux). Drew’s coworker, Sebastian (Sam Heugan!!) tries to help them against their wishes.  

I really enjoyed this film, it’s a very good comedy, and one of the best parts is the thought that’s been given to the practicalities of being an international spy – the bits that would normally have been slid over with a quick cut. Without any spoilers, it comes up more than once and these scenes were always hysterical and added depth to the “spy” plotline. Screenwriters, take note?

These small “in-between” scenes also served to add depth to the characters. The film is definitely a comedy and without these small respites, it may have been too much. In fact, Morgan is described as that exact phrase at one point in the film (“too much”) by someone she’s just met and the only reason why the audience sympathises with her is because we’ve already seen behind her mask at that point.

That might actually be a good analogy for the film itself. The film is for sure very funny but the heart of it is the friendship between Morgan and Audrey. The two characters are endlessly supportive of one another, even in the fact of life-risking decisions. I honestly can’t even remember a single squabble. It’s heartwarming, and absolutely fantastic to see women portrayed like this, in comparison to something like Bride Wars (2009).

Another character that helped balance the tone of the film was Drew (Justin Theroux), the titular spy. He doesn’t have the best relationship with Audrey and Morgan, given that he dumped her over text. I’m 95% sure he has some animosity with atleast one of them in every appearance he makes and it’s hilarious. In a way, he is a stand-in for the antagonist. However, the flashbacks to when Audrey and Drew met are genuinely cute. Their conversations, and the dialogue in general to be fair, is well-written and appropriate in tone all the time. It’s a tricky line but they’ve managed to do it.

The only, only thing that I think the filmmakers haven’t managed to do it is to pull off an impressive climax after almost non-stop action throughout the film. The last 30 minutes or so definitely start dragging a little and it doesn’t really feel like the end of a movie. I am hoping for a sequel though, so it clearly wasn’t bad enough for me to hate it.

I think there’s only one part left to address and that’s if this really is a spy movie. And I think the most appropriate answer is “…maybe??” and a shrug. Sure, there’s spy stuff going on, but that’s not what’s important. The balance of action scenes and quiet dialogue-based scenes between Audrey and Morgan is what makes this movie so good. And so funny. The whole film is a masterclass on how to be understated funny. This film could be described as so many different genres and yet, I think it’s a perfect mixture of them all.

Watch it: @ girl’s night in 

 

The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)