Thursday, September 24, 2009

Reviews of two old(ish) indie films I just watched

Perhaps it was spurred by my frustration with the fact that I finally found a talk show that I liked (The Bonnie Hunt Show) that I didn't feel like was rotting my brain, and it is now off the air in Sacramento... but I was looking for things to add to my Netflix queue the other day and I typed in Bonnie Hunt. I ended up adding two of her independent films (neither recent) that both affected me and were interesting.

And I have a blog, so... I'm going to write about them. Plus, E is looking at me every time I open the Netflix like did you really have to rent another Bonnie Hunt movie? and I'm like mind your own business and go back to watching whatever karate-related abomination you rented. We're so cute that way.

Anyway, on to the movies. Like I said, I'm a Bonnie Hunt fan. I've liked her in stuff like Jerry Maguire, Return to Me, The Green Mile, and yes--even Cheaper By The Dozen--I'm so hokey. I like when she's on Letterman, I liked her talk show until they took it off the air in Sacramento... SERIOUSLY YOU GUYS. It's still taping and it's showing like everywhere else in the country. Except here. What a stupid thing for me to be angry about, but I liked it, okay? I'm seriously so upset about this. Tomorrow she's having David Duchovny on... yesterday was Michael Emerson from Lost, and Phil from the Amazing Race... and I am missing it all. It's killing me.

See, I interrupted myself again. Movies.

The first one I watched was Stolen Summer, the Project Greenlight/HBO series film. I haven't seen Project Greenlight, but I'd like to after seeing the film. I enjoyed this one a lot. Sweet story about two families--one Catholic, one Jewish--each with a little boy. Pete, the little boy from the Catholic family, decides that he's going to help someone get into Heaven by standing outside the Synagogue and meeting someone Jewish. It would seem that the movie could turn into some dicey religious stuff, but it's actually a very sweet look at how we're more similar than different. Rabbi Jacobsen ends up befriending him, and Pete becomes friends with the Rabbi's little boy, Danny. They spend the summer together with Pete "testing" Danny by a process of imagined feats to see if he can "get into" Heaven. There's a sad twist to the story, but in the end the families are tied together in a way that's very touching. This wasn't a loud movie or a perfect one, but I enjoyed it. Very sweet and a realistic view of 1970's Chicago and into the lives of these two families.

Aidan Quinn and Bonnie Hunt play the Catholic husband and wife, and Quinn's reaction to the Rabbi's family reaching out is done really well. Rabbi Jacobsen is played by Kevin Pollak. The little kids are also great. Worth watching.

The second of these films was another independent film called Loggerheads. For a variety of reasons, this isn't a movie for everyone, but it was one of those movies that stuck with me for several days after watching it. It was incredibly moving. One of those movies that makes you think and makes you feel and is still in your head when you're walking around the next day. And I got a real, authentic cry from it. Sometimes that's just what I need.

The premise of Loggerheads is that it's Mothers' Day in three consecutive years--the time line is a bit confusing at first, but you're seeing three people's lives unfolding simultaneously in 1999, 2000, and 2001 in North Carolina. One of the stories is about Mark, a young adopted gay man in his 20's who has drifted into a small beach town to see endangered Loggerhead turtles. The second focuses on Mark's adoptive mother and father, a minister and his wife who cut their son from their life once they realized that he was gay. The third storyline follows Grace, Mark's birth mother who recently attempted suicide and is struggling with whether or not she should try to locate the son she gave up for adoption (at her mother's insistence) when she was 17. Heavy stuff. Like said, it's not a movie for everybody, but I found it incredibly moving, and incredibly well done.

The movie was quiet, it moved a little slowly, but the performances were so powerful, especially from Ms. Hunt as Grace--and here she's playing such a vulnerable dramatic role with such real pain. The move is interesting because there are no bad guys--everybody seems to be just doing the best they can at the moment, but there's so much between them and so much about regret and decisions we make and the repercussions they have. Each character was very real. I've read some of the criticism related to this film and it says that the Loggerhead turtle metaphor is overplayed--I think that because I could envision this as a novel it didn't bother me. But you could decide for yourself. I liked it.

I feel a little silly reviewing things that have been out in the universe for some time--there's also the fear that everyone has already decided about something that's been around for a while. I thought these movies were both worthwhile, though, so I thought I'd share. Often I stare at the Netflix queue with no ideas about what to watch, so it's sometimes nice to discover something that's been around a while. I also really like when something I watch can affect me on a deep level, and both of these films did that. I had a great cry after Loggerheads. Oh, man. But I'm not afraid of that. Sometimes it's easier to cry about a movie than my real life, you know? And I like when it's not trivial or some sort of contrived story--this one felt real and it touched me as a mom.

Just something to think about.

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