Ondine-An Ode to Fables

The first time I saw this movie was probably when it was released in 2010 and bits and pieces lodged themselves in my mind. I recently watched this again out of random curiosity and I was actually quite impressed. The film is classified as “drama, mystery, romance”, but I would add Indie and Foreign tags as well.

The movie centers on the mysterious appearance of a woman on the Irish coast. She calls herself Ondine, and her arrival changes the lives of Syracuse and his daughter in unexpected ways. Of course her identity is “the third act twist”, and it actually might surprise a few unsuspecting viewers.

The main thing to remember with this movie is that it is a fairy tale above all. I would classify it as magical realism, even though no one has actual powers. Every character is playing by the rules of a scripted fairy tale, but it’s unclear who believes in the story and who is going through the motions. There are many mature aspects to the story, but they all retain a “bad guy” sense. By that I mean even the situations, the non-physical enemies, simply feel like obstacles that will easily be overcome.

For anyone doubting Farrell and Bachelda’s chemistry, they did have an actual son together as a result of this movie, so they clearly connected.

The standout actress of this movie, and the only one besides the two leads who matters, is Alison Barry who plays Syracuse’s daughter Annie. This precocious 10-year old child has kidney failure for a majority of the movie, but it isn’t meant to be a tragedy or elicit pity. It’s just an obstacle to overcome. Annie is eventually given a new kidney, through a series of unfortunate events. Throughout the movie she maintains her curiosity, her sharp wit, and her infallible optimism and idealism.

Overall it’s a sweet story that celebrates the power of fairy tales and destiny and love. Recommended for fans of romance movies and Ireland, but not for teens under 15.

Age of Adaline-Brilliant Ideas, Subpar Execution

The 2015 romantic drama could be described as a gender flipped Tuck Everlasting for adults, centering on 108-year old Adaline Bowman, whose routines of loneliness and drifting are upended by charming Ellis.

Let’s start with Adaline and her sympathetic story. She’s spent over 60 years of her life alone, with only a dog for company. The movie tells us she changes identities every decade, and gives us some interesting content relating to that. A majority of the relatable emotion of the film comes from Adaline dealing with her life and doing what she has to in order to survive, until Ellis comes along with his charm and changes her worldview.

Here’s the problem: Ellis isn’t actually all that charming. The NYE elevator meet-cute is actually cute, but Ellis follows up with mild stalking after “Jenny” repeatedly rebuffs him. This type of behavior is common in romantic movies, particularly ones released before #MeToo, but it is not acceptable behavior in the real world.

I felt that while Adaline and Ellis have some charming banter, the pace of the relationship seems a little rushed. Adaline is meeting his parents all of 30 minutes into the movie-maybe two or three weeks of chronology. He tells her he loves her shortly after this, adding unnecessary stakes to an already tense dynamic.

I don’t want to explain the major plot conflict of the movie, but suffice it to say it is not something many rational humans would approve of. The movie tries to pass off some differing ages as an excuse, but it doesn’t work for me.

I will commend the two standout supporters for their work. Ellen Burstyn shines as Adaline’s 80-year old daughter Fleming. The strange age reversal does nothing to alter the sweet mother-daughter dynamic between the two, although Fleming is at times more wise than her mother. The other standout role goes to Harrison Ford-yes he was a supporter. He plays the third character in the strange plot conflict. He brings a good sense of confusion and yearning to the role.

As my mother said, “the movie is a vehicle for Blake Lively to wear outfits from different eras”. The idea of a woman drifting through time but never changing is very intriguing, but the movie puts all the focus on the romance that changes her and not enough on her life as an immortal.

The movie is good at musing about time, and mortal relation to it, and other deep topics, but the love triangle gets in the way of this being a serious, philosophical movie. 7/10 for a dash of philosophy, decent main actors, and stunning supporters. A full points lost for the weird plot conflict, one for each person involved, as well as pacing issues. Watch it, but don’t expect as much philosophy as Passengers or City of Angels.

Love Actually-A Christmas Tragedy

Hi! Welcome to part 2 of the Christmas series. So this movie is interesting because it’s one of the most popular modern Christmas movies, and yet….I don’t like much of it. It’s on Netflix so it’s easy to find, and I’ll break down why I don’t like it.

The film follows nine different plot lines in London in the weeks leading up to Christmas. I’ll review each individually. (The movie would be better with three or five plots, nine feels quite overstuffed) To be honest, I can’t remember most of the character names, but they’re all A-list actors.

Mark and Juliet- Juliet is marrying Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor pre 12 Years) and his best friend Mark is the videographer. Of course, Mark harbors a secret obsession for Juliet (Kiera Knightly does what she can with the role). Everyone knows the card scene, don’t get me started on how berserk that is. No. Just no. Marriage is a line that you do not cross Mark!!!! Juliet shouldn’t have kissed him, that was hella stupid.

yes Mark, enough of your stalker antics.

Laura Linney plays Sarah, the lovelorn accountant who can’t act on her crush because all her time is taken up with her mentally unstable brother. The one time she brings hot accountant Karl home (hot accountants only exist in movies, wtf?) they’re interrupted by said brother. This is the most tragic to me, because I’ve watched a lot of caregivers around me sacrifice their wants and desires to care for others. SARAH DESERVED BETTER!

Bill Nighy plays a washed up pop star recording and promoting a Christmas remix. The role seems (to me) like a parody of Mick Jagger or other aged rockers, and it’s actually kinda funny. His recording manager Joe serves as his companion and the movie makes a very clear point that they aren’t attracted to each other-fragile masculinity and homophobia anyone?

Colin Firth is a heartbroken novelist who has a weird, non-communicative relationship with his Argentinian housekeeper (this one bugs me so much). Spoiler: after about a month of stunted communication across a language barrier, this loser proposes because…Christmas romance and miracle? I’m a hopeless romantic but there’s this little thing called COMMON SENSE!!!

Liam Neeson plays a widower with a lovelorn 10-year old son (who apparently went on to star in Game of Thrones). This one is less about romance and more about family, which is really sweet. His sister (Emma Thompson) gives this gem: “No one’s gonna wanna shag you if you cry all the time”. Insert fake retching at how outdated and inaccurate this is. MALE VULNERABILITY IS BEAUTIFUL AND HEALTHY!!! End PSA/rant. Also he’s a recent widower….

Hugh Grant plays the prime minister (of course) who falls for his house servant Natalie (clearly this movie was made before #MeToo, with all the romancing of coworkers and subservients). There’s a nice little dig at Bill Clinton in the beginning, and that classic “Jump” dance that everyone loves, but overall this storyline isn’t too deep or grounded in reality. I thought it was very cute a while ago, but as I age the storyline loses its charm.

Colin-oh man, this one is just thrown in there randomly. A server for weddings, he suddenly has the epiphany that he’ll get laid in America because “American girls are easy”. Good lord, I cannot stress how “frat-bro-esque” this is. It’s just nauseating, and of course it works because it’s a movie…

Jack and Judy are stand ins on a movie, and all they’re filming is sex scenes…Martin Freeman is cute in this role, but it’s just so….cringe that I forgot about it.

Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson play Harry and Karen, a married couple in a rough patch. The rough patch is due to Harry’s wandering eye for his slutty receptionist Mia. (I am not against women having fun, but 1) he’s married and 2) her innuendos are so far over the top)

The movie has enough stars for a constellation, but that doesn’t make up for a dated plot and abysmally shallow characters. Also, shoving nine plots into a movie is bound to result in at least half of them falling through the cracks. The writers tried to update and revitalize the story with “Red Nose Day Actually” two years ago, but it felt too short and too similar to the original.

A Simple Favor-Psycho Barbie Commits Fraud, Mommy Vlogger is Shady

Ok so I went with a neighbor to see this new thriller and….I cannot make heads or tails of it. Blake Lively stars as the aforementioned psycho who goes missing 20 minutes in. Anna Kendrick plays Stephanie Smothers (yes her name is indicative of her personality), the over-eager mommy blogger trying to find her. Both women have shady secrets and nothing is what it seems. Literally nothing, the whole plot is upended about seven times.

First off, the two stellar femme fatales. While Kendrick plays “pretending to be naive but secretly shady” with perfect pitch, the show is Lively’s through and through. Yes yes, literally every review says this, and that’s because it’s true. But the intriguing thing about Emily Nelson is her insidious abusive nature. She consistently manipulates her husband into abandoning his family and friends, treats her “best friend” like a convenient assistant, and leaves her son behind “for his own good”. This raises an important question: can an abusivo, manipulative, pathological liar genuinely love their child? On the other side of the coin, Stephanie Smothers is quite clearly a doting, hardworking mother, but she isn’t as innocent as she seems. Throughout the movie she becomes more willing to lie and manipulate, and she pretty much steals the life of her missing friend. Both women believe the terrible things they do are for the good of others, but are either right?

Emily Nelson is married to Sean Townsend, a former writer who can cook and actually gives a damn about his kid. Sean is played by newcomer Hollywood prince Henry Golding. Both characters he has played so far are interesting but Sean is a bit more gullible than Nick Young. Sean is unwittingly a pawn in Emily’s insane insurance fraud scheme, and sleeping with Stephanie doesn’t make him any smarter.

A major point of interest in this film is the soundtrack. One of the songs on my September playlist, “Crier tout bas” was featured in the trailer, but not the movie. Despite the irritating lack of that song, there are other beautiful French pop tunes to underscore the lavish indiscretions of these desperate housewives.

The whole movie basically centers on a $4 million insurance policy, yet the final destination of this money isn’t quite clear. This is just one example of the many plot points heavily stressed but unresolved, or resolved badly. The last ten minutes of the movie will give viewers whiplash and then probably leave them severely disappointed. Overall the movie had amazing production and actors, but tried to shove too many plot twists into only 2 hours. 8/10 for stellar cast, beautiful set and costumes, and a great French Pop soundtrack. Two points docked for too many plot twists and an unsatisfactory ending .