Now that the end of the year film releases have opened the spigot and flooded theaters, it’s time to hit the cinema. I’m eager to satisfy curiosity and test the offerings—and to make comparisons and observations—so off I trotted to the nearest cinema.
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
I waited a long time for this one. I’ve said it before and will most likely be saying it again, if you can do comedy, you can do anything. Melissa McCarthy is brilliant. Her sympathy for the abrasive, abusive, and broken Lee Israel is utterly absorbing. She made accessible a thoroughly unlikable person and will be a strong award contender and should be a frontrunner for the SAG. Richard Grant is also marvelous. He and McCarthy bring to life the strange and desperate friendship between Israel and Hock.
I’m not sure why this film isn’t doing better at the box office. Perhaps it’s some industry-insider thing, which is shameful. The story is entirely character-driven, which makes some Hollywood exec types crazed, much the same way they used to bash Spielberg when he made “serious” films, which reminds me, HBO and Susan Lacy did a fabulous documentary about Spielberg.
Already slated for numerous awards, I mainly went to see Viggo. The man has the ability, as does Olivia Spencer, to communicate reams of information in silence. Those eyes. He killed me with them in History of Violence, and this movie has some comparisons when it comes to violence, understanding and forgiveness. It’s a story about how defensive, and ingrained, prejudice can invert itself, remold to become acceptance and admiration, an outcome unbelievable, except that it did happen. Tony Vallelonga (Viggo Mortensen) and Dr.Don Shirley, (Mahershala Ali) were vastly different men. Tony was raised in a close-knit community that denigrated blacks, and Shirley well-educated and gifted, could barely tolerate Tone’s crassness.
The film title comes from The Negro Motorist Green Book, written by Victor Hugo Green. The screenplay is co-written by Nick Vallelonga, Tony’s son. There has been some backlash from Shirley’s family, who disagree with the eventual relationship between the two men and are of the opinion that Ali does not portray the terror evoked then, and still today, living and traveling in the south for blacks. They have their opinion, but mine is that Shirley, or the storyline, seeks to portray the dignity and courage it took to do that tour. The two men aren’t worlds apart, it’s more like universes. Tony, so violent and gross of manner, is so blessed with love for his family, while Shirley, so gifted and elegant, is estranged from his. Shirley learns to accept and allow himself to see underneath Tony’s persona, a man who accepts who and what he is, adores his family and yet thinks nothing of smashing somebody’s face into a bloody mess. That which horrifies Shirley is just another day on the job for Tony Vallelonga.
Don’t get so involved in the story that you miss the connection made between these two fiercely brilliant actors. It’s the sort of interplay that makes for a SAG award.
I Think We’re Alone Now (DVD)
I’ve adored Peter Dinklage since his portrayal of a scary on-the-edge-of-freaking-out children’s book writer in Elf. And what sort of asshat doesn’t love the wickedly droll Tyrion Lannister?
This dystopian story dissects the emotional fallout of a catastrophic planetary event with none of the disaster/violence theme. Its haunting and quiet until it gets ugly. Character motivation is deep and complex with a few surprising twists. What you think is weird at the beginning is given relevance as the story unfolds. Buy it, rent it, whatever. It’s worth your time and money. I have yet to see My Dinner with Hervé, a story Dinklage wanted told.
Next up, I’m itching to see The Favourite.
M.L Rigdon (aka Julia Donner)
Follow on Twitter @RigdonML