Archive for the ‘Drama’ Category

Judy – **

Posted: January 19, 2020 in 2019, biopic, Drama, Musical, UK, USA, XX

Renée Zellweger is really good. There you go. Everyone writes it and it’s true.

The movie isn’t bad either, but it may not be what you expect after having seen the trailer. It’s a tragic story of a Hollywood icon at the end of her career. Bankrupt, homeless and addicted to all kinds of medication. When she is kicked out of a hotel suite because the bill hasn’t been paid, she drags her two youngest children to their father and asks him if they can stay there for a while. It’s a desperate act, because she and her ex aren’t on speaking terms. Without money and a house, she can lose custody. So, she reluctantly picks up a gig in London…

It’s a tragic tale. There are very few uplifting moments. Sure, there are some songs and performances, but that’s not the focus of the movie. No, this is the story of a woman who is so addicted to being loved and receiving attention and having other people tell her what to do, that she completely neglects taking care of herself. That’s the focus and they should have dug even deeper into this troubled soul. The flashbacks to the troubled childhood of Garland are good as well and nobody mentions her, but Darci Shaw is good too as the young Judy.

Wunderkinder – *(*)

Posted: December 27, 2019 in 2011, Drama, Germany, WW2, XX

1941. Hanna Reich is growing up in the Ukraine as the daughter of a German beer brewer. She has no friends and loves to play the violin, so with a little help of her wealthy father she gets private lessons from a teacher who also brings the so called wonder kids to her house. These kids are on the verge of a tour around Russia and maybe even America until the war interrupts their dreams.

While Hitler is waging war in the West, Stalin is controlling power in the east. Hannah and her new found friends are growing up in a relatively safe area, until the Nazis decide to expand their territory towards Russia. First, Hannah’s family is a target for the NKVP (the Sovjet gestapo), but once the Nazis take over it’s the family of the wonder kids that become a target. They are, you’ve guessed it, Jewish.

Though the story is fascinating and probably a good read as a young adult historical novel, the movie isn’t all that good. The storytelling is rushed. Moreover, it’s told as a long flashback, allowing the first scene to spoil the end of the story. Why did they decide to do that?

The acting and more precise, the character depiction, leaves much to be desired for as well.You can’t blame directors for depicting Nazis as one dimensional assholes. But you can blame them for depicting any other character as soulless. Especially the kids who are the main characters.

Best scene: the semi nazi sympathizing mother who pulls off her swastika at the end and bleeds.

Thirty years ago a female jogger was left for dead after having been molested in Central Park, New York. During the same night a group of young kids had gathered in the park for some wilding, attacking and mugging random passers-by. The investigating police made a link between the two events and arrested dozens of these kids, interrogating them about the rape. Five kids were left to their own devices at the police station and somehow ended up confessing to crimes they didn’t commit. A mediatized trial followed and even though the kids were minor and there was a lack of evidence, all of them were sentenced to years in prison. Four were minors and got five years detention, starting in a juvenile centre. One was sixteen at the time of the events and went straight to the adult prison system.

Most Europeans, and a whole generation of Northern Americans as well, were unaware of this case until this four part series became one of the main releases on Netflix this year and received critical acclaim.

Unfortunately, by end of the year, so many articles have been written about this production, that it becomes very challenging to watch the series without expectations. Yes, it’s a great series and a must-see. But no, it’s not the best series of the decade. You want this to be a mix between The Wire and The People vs O.J. , but it is not. It’s way too short. It is generating more questions than providing answers. It’s a show that will stick with you days after having watched it. So, that’s good. But it does feel like so much more could have been told.

Episode 1 is tough to watch. The characters are introduced and you immediately find yourself in the same mess they get themselves into. Dozens of kids are arrested, yet there are five of them that are detained longer and coerced into admitting to a crime they didn’t commit. These kids were at the wrong place at the wrong time and didn’t get the support they needed. Easy victims for the interrogating police…. The creators of the series clearly want the viewer to feel empathy for the innocent kids and anger towards the judicial system. It works, but it also annoys. This is where the series is flawed. The kids are sweet and innocent and adorable even. The police, judges and prosecutors are heartless monsters. It’s predictable tv making. This is also where an hour episode just isn’t enough.

Episode 2 is better. However as a court room drama it is not detailed enough. This is very intriguing stuff. We get snippets of the story. We learn that each kid had a different lawyer. We learn that each family of these kids deals differently with the accusations. We learn about the discussions amongst the prosecutors. We get to see some witnesses. All very briefly. This may have been the way the accused kids saw the trial (and it’s their story), but as a viewer you want to learn more. What about the jurors? The judge? This part of the story needs an 8 episode series alone.

The second half of the series is excellent though. In the third episode the show focuses on how the four minors get released from detention and have to struggle all over again. It’s a sad episode, but a very necessary one, because it focuses on how getting out of prison isn’t always a gift and how it’s very hard to rehabilitate in society. Episode 4 focusses entirely on the story of the one kid that was sent to adult prison and it is superb television, mainly because of the tour de force of Jharrel Jerome, who deservedly won an Emmy for his performance.

The acting in this series is top-notch. It makes up for the fragmented storytelling. Whoever did the casting deserves another award. A special shout out to Asante Blackk (playing the kid who is left alone at the police station: the moment you realize this will be a tough watch), Caleel Harris (the kid who is forced to lie by his own dad!), Niecy Nash (the troubled mother of the kid who will suffer the most) and Michael Kenneth Williams (the dad who told his kid to lie and has to suffer the consequences) !

This is a good introduction to the case and the series:

Palmeras En La Nieve – **

Posted: December 14, 2019 in 2015, Drama, Romance, Spain, XX

Browsing through the Netflix catalogue, I came across a Spanish movie, which story is set in…  Equatorial Guinea! Hm.

It’s a good movie. A bit long and rushed at the same time. Long, because it’s longer than 2,5 hours, but rushed, because it’s a story that needs more depth, more background, more details.

A young woman wants to learn more about the past of her deceased dad and her uncle’s time in Spain’s former African colony. As she embarks on her adventure, the viewers get to see the secret story in long flashbacks.

It’s very dramatic. DRAMA in capital letters. And a lot of questions arise. All the time. Why this? How that? But it’s interesting and intriguing. Even though there’s a silly far fetched plot twist somewhere half way through. It’s relatively well acted, but just because the story is rushed you feel like it’s all very superficial. This is the kind of story that needs 12 episodes. With a better direction and a better script, this could be a top show. Now it kind of feels like a telenovela at times, which can’t really have been the plan.

The questions already start in the beginning. A young woman, whose dad has passed away, visits her uncle, who has Alzheimers. Fine so far, then the woman finds a diary and gets curious. She gets even more intrigued when she finds half of a torn picture and a letter. She confronts a family friend who also lived in the colony at the time and that’s where the questions arise. Even when the movie is over. Like, why did the niece never confront her dad with the diary and the torn picture? It’s on his desk, it’s not like it’s hidden in a box somewhere. And why does the acquaintance not tell more of her memories to these two women? She ends up playing a real important role, but no, she lets this young woman go figure things out for herself.

Anyways, it’s a good thing though. When the first five minutes of the movie make you get intrigued.

And the actress who plays the main lead in the flashbacks is gorgeous! just saying.

Good, but it could have been so much better.



Grâce A Dieu – ***

Posted: December 12, 2019 in 2018, Drama, France, XXX

Francois Ozon is a remarkable director. He is one of the more versatile directors out there and often excels. His latest movie tackles a pedophile (better formulated: pedosexual) case in the diocese of Lyon. The movie is setup really well. Maybe it’s a spoiler to mention it, even though it has nothing to do with the story, but it’s quite fascinating to watch this drama as a three acts, referring to three main characters who are each introduced in a new act. All of them have one thing in common: they were abused by a priest who joined them during scouts camps. When one of them, now a father of five, realizes that the priest is still working with kids, he wants to confront him. This leads to a complaint, which leads to an investigation, which leads to contacting an other victim, which leads to more complaints, which leads to the founding of an victim organization, which leads to… etc…

It’s very well acted (by every single person in the cast) and incredibly well told. The characterization is excellent. You don’t get everything explained, which leads to a weird tension, but makes sense. Quite a remarkable feat. It’s a difficult topic and even though the actual story isn’t spectacular or complicated, it’s really well told with lots of intimate acting and images in an exceptionally non-judgemental way. Maybe, the best movie of 2019.

Marriage Story – **(*)

Posted: December 8, 2019 in 2019, Drama, USA, XX1/2

Sometimes it takes friends to convince or trigger you to watch a particular movie that was not really on your radar. Such is the case for this Netflix Oscar contender about a young couple going through the (legal) proces of a divorce. The movie gets a lot of buzz and rightfully so. But is isn’t the instant classic lots of critics claim it to be. The quality of the scenes is just not consistently excellent. Some are extremely well written and acted. Some are just painfully bad. Adam Driver is surprisingly good. Scarlet Johansson is, as usual, great. And Laura Dern is excellent. They all should get a nomination. This is definitely an actor’s movie.

But in the end it pretty much feels very familiar to Kramer vs Kramer and is not all that original. It’s a good attempt by Hollywood to show some realism though with addressing the insane legal consequences of getting a divorce. But it still feels like a Hollywood movie. This would feel much more real if it was done in French, by a French director with French actors. Or Polish. Or Swedish. Or Korean. Or British even. That’s a biased opinion. True. But somehow this story craves for realism without spending money on a soundtrack or make up artists. Scarlet looks gorgeous in every single scene. They all look so polished. Even the few tears that are shed look calculated.

But hey, check it out. It’s not an all too serious drama. It’s not a tearjerker. Which is good.

Werk Ohne Autor – ***

Posted: November 19, 2019 in 2018, Drama, Germany, Romance, War, XXX

European critics didn’t like it. The artist whose life it’s based on didn’t like it either. But lots of moviegoers did and somehow the members of the Academy as well, because this German biopic was one of last year’s nominees for best foreign language film.

It’s a great movie though. Just assume it’s fiction and forget about the artist’s complaints. And expect a simple, superficial overview of what Germany has gone through the past couple of decades. Nazism, communism, capitalism… it’s all briefly mentioned, which bothers a lot of critics, but is well done for an audience who may not be too familiar with the details of Germany’s history.

It does rise some questions about art & artists and governments & ideologies who have their own interpretation of art. It’s very topical right now in a region like Flanders, where subsidies for art projects will  be lowered by 60%. A politician claimed that modern art has lost its beauty and the new artists are too focused on individual expressions, a statement which caused even more controversy than the financial cut.

The movie starts with a young kid visiting an exhibition of entartete Kunst. It’s quite ironic to think that the Nazis showed degenerate art to the masses to mock and condemn it. It must have been a great exhibition to visit if you were interested in different art. Later in the movie the kid has become an adult and paints socialist realism in the DDR under the rule of communists who hate the egocentric aspect of Western art as well. A few years later the artist arrives in Dusseldorf having fled across the border and is confronted with modern expressions of art, which ignore the craft of painting and focus on installations and performances.

It’s an easy movie to love (and for critics to hate). It’s filmed in a very conventional way, but there’s nothing wrong with old-fashioned drama. Art doesn’t always have to shock. It can also be just beautiful. And this movie is. The love story is refreshingly simple. The only obstacle in the young couple’s romance is the father of the girl, a conservative opportunist and vile doctor with a dark past.

Watch it.

Unless you don’t like mainstream movies appealing to the masses aged 9 to 99.