Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Dearest Review: Love and Death

A crowd pleasing romantic comedy, two bittersweet dramas starring three beloved actors and an idiosyncratic tale of the afterlife all offer up their own unique takes on themes of love, life and death.

The Big Sick:
It's one of those so-far-fetched true stories that if it was fiction you would scoff at the prepostoursness of it all. Shortly after aspiring stand-up comic Kumail Nanjiani (played by... Kumail Nanjiani) and his girlfriend Emily (Zoe Kazan) break up (she finds out his Muslim parents wouldn't approve of her), Emily is struck by a mystery illness that puts her in a coma... and puts Kumail in the path of her parents (Ray Romano and a feisty Holly Hunter, terrific as always). The screenplay, by Nanjiani and his wife, the real life Emily, smartly avoids maudlinism, notably since, after all, this is how they met and fell and love. But the real Kumail and Emily aren't afraid to make the reel Kumail and Emily real, flaws and all. (8/10) Now streaming on Amazon Prime.

Our Souls at Night:
A simple, quiet meditation on finding a connection long after you thought those were behind you, this adaptation of the Kent Haruf novel stars Jane Fonda and Robert Redford in their fourth screen collaboration in over 50 years. Needless to say, they still got it; their chemistry is palatable. Fonda is a widow who visits neighbor Redford one night and proposes that they sleep together – platonically – to combat the loneliness of a half-empty bed. After bonding over the care of Fonda's grandson (2017's pint-sized MVP Iain Armitage; see also Big Little Lies and Young Sheldon), their relationship slowly evolves into a true, quite lovely romance, one that shines even more brighter thanks to its legendary stars. (8/10) Now streaming on Netflix.

The Hero:
In a career that spans nearly five decades, Sam Elliott has been a reliably gruff and scruffy character actor who has lately achieved silver fox status thanks to such projects as I'll See You in My Dreams and Grace and Frankie. In The Hero, Elliott plays Lee Hayden, a gruff and scruffy fading star best known for such westerns as The Hero who finds himself facing his own mortality when he is diagnosed with cancer. His bucket list includes dating a woman more than half his age (Orange is the New Black's Laura Prepon), reconciling with his estranged daughter (Jessica Jones' Krysten Ritter) and smoking lots and lots of pot. Elliott is excellent in a role he was made for; unfortunately, the movie surrounding him fails to rise up to the level of his performance. (6/10) Now streaming on Hulu.

A Ghost Story:
One wouldn't expect that a film featuring a protagonist clad in a child's Halloween costume for nearly its entire running time to be moving, let alone profoundly so. Yet, despite its surface whimsicality, writer/director David Lowery has crafted a compelling, entirely unique take on the afterlife. Casey Affleck, as the recently deceased love of Rooney Mara, inhabits the eye-holed bed sheet in his lonely, wordless post mortem existence, silently wandering around the home he shared with Mara even after she moves on. Purposely ponderous, impatient viewers may find it a bit of a slog to sit through, but for those of you who are open to what it has to say it will haunt you more than any traditional ghost story. (8/10) Now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

Reviews by Kirby Holt, Movie Dearest creator, editor and head writer.

No comments: