Thursday, November 8, 2018

Dearest Reviews: Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown


This year is shaping up to be a great year for actresses, especially those whose characters are doing all they can do to not lose their minds.

In reverse order of their ability to keep their shit together, here are 2018’s “women on the verge of a nervous breakdown”:

Private Life (now streaming on Netflix):
WOTVOANB: Rachel Biegler, played by Kathryn Hahn.
Supportive spouse: Richard, played by Paul Giamatti.
What’s driving her crazy: This middle-aged New York couple’s increasingly desperate attempts at getting pregnant.
How bad does it get?: They resort to asking their step-niece (Kayli Carter) to be their surrogate, drawing the wrath of her mother, another WOTVOANB, played by Molly Shannon.
Oscar Moment: Rachel has a street freak out when Richard supports the previously off-the-table idea of surrogacy.
Review: Fertility issues usually crop up in long-running TV shows when the writers decide to tackle a pregnancy storyline and want to draw it out as long as possible. Thankfully, writer/director Tamara Jenkins (The Savages) nicely manages to make this oft-told scenario fresh and funny. She also smartly cast two warm and wonderful character actors as her leads; it is especially gratifying to see Hahn (easily the best thing in the incredibly overrated Transparent) finally in the spotlight.
Rating: 7/10

Tully (now available on DVD and Blu-ray):
WOTVOANB: Marlo Moreau, played by Charlize Theron.
Supportive spouse: Drew, played by Ron Livingston.
What’s driving her crazy: Already on shaky ground dealing with her two young kids (one of whom is obviously autistic yet the film rather shamefully just labels “quirky”), Marlo is pushed over the edge in the aftermath of the birth of her third child.
How bad does it get?: Actually, it gets better with the arrival of Tully (Mackenzie Davis), a night nanny of the “manic pixie dream girl” variety. But then a diner waitress uniform enters the picture and it gets weird…
Oscar Moment: Sitting on her living room sofa nursing the baby, Marlo wonders if it is her life that is empty or just her right breast.
Review: Eleven years after Juno, director Jason Reitman and writer Diablo Cody revisit the topic of pregnancy, this time from a postpartum perspective, with their sharp comedic sensibility still intact. A once-again de-glammed Theron grounds the story, even when it goes in unexpected directions, with her lived-in performance.
Rating: 7/10

The Kindergarten Teacher (now streaming on Netflix):
WOTVOANB: Lisa Spinelli, played by Maggie Gyllenhaal.
Supportive spouse: Grant, played by Orange is the New Black’s Michael Chernus.
What’s driving her crazy: As the titular educator, Lisa discovers that Jimmy (Parker Sevak), one of her young charges, is a poetry prodigy and becomes determined to nurture his natural talent… no matter what.
How bad does it get?: Plagiarism, adultery and child endangerment are just a few of the many lines Lisa crosses.
Oscar Moment: Lisa confronts Jimmy’s preoccupied father and tries to convince him his son is the next Mozart.
Review: A remake of the 2014 Israeli film of the same name, writer/director Sara Colangelo creates here an engrossing tale of mounting anxiety anchored by a can’t-take-your-eyes-off-of-her, career best performance from Gyllenhaal (who also co-produced the film). Her character starts out with the best intentions and, even though she ends up committing highly questionable acts, we kind of see her point, which is then proven correct by a gut-punch of a final moment.
Rating: 8/10

Hereditary (now available on DVD and Blu-ray):
WOTVOANB: Annie Graham, played by Toni Collette.
Supportive spouse: Steve, played by Gabriel Byrne.
What’s driving her crazy: Where to start? There’s a couple of funerals, a few ghostly sightings, some light witchcraft, plus an unnervingly disembodied tongue click or two, all topped off with some mounting paranoia and a heaping helping of soul-crushing grief.
How bad does it get?: You. Have. No. Idea.
Oscar Moment: When questions of guilt and responsibility arise during a family dinner, an increasingly unhinged Annie verbally lashes out at her grieving son Peter (My Friend Dahmer’s Alex Wolff).
Review: Honestly, the less you know about Hereditary (a masterful feature debut for writer/director Ari Aster) the better the scares, of which there is a plentiful amount. Trust me, this is not for the faint of heart. Yet if you are in the mood for a good dose of terror, this is definitely the one for you. Finally, a horror film that actually lives up to being compared to The Exorcist.
Rating: 9/10

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

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