Remember “Big?” When a boy wished to be big and turned into Tom Hanks? Well, this is the other way around in “Little,” with Issa Rae as an executive assistant, Regina Hall as her tyrannical boss, and Marsai Martin (Diane on “Black-ish”) as her, well, Tom Hanks. Three of my favorite performers. I can’t wait.
I had the great pleasure of speaking to two of the people behind my favorite film of the year, “If Beale Street Could Talk,” breakout star Kiki Layne and writer/director Barry Jenkins, who adapted the film from the James Baldwin novel.
The love in that family is just so, so powerful. We see the beauty of having those people to lean into and having those people around that are nurturing you and nurturing your growth. Tish has some growing up to do. Her family encourages that but it’s not all, “You’ve got to get over this.” It wasn’t that type of energy. It’s just like, “Hey, this is a situation that you’re in but really we’re all in it together,” and I think that was the beauty of the family dynamic in this film.
Another one of my favorite scenes is the one where they’re in the loft with the young landlord after so many rejections. It is so delicate and charming.
The character was in the book but it’s one of the few places in the translation that I’ll say I felt it didn’t go just far enough for me and so as I was walking around the space I just had this thought in my head like, “How in the hell could you possibly see a way to turn this into a home?” Then I realized, “Oh, but what says love and faith more than a lover saying, ‘I promise I can do this’ and you say ‘Okay, yes I believe you,’” So that’s when we added this whole thing of how we’re going to make this into a home and then him showing where he’s going to put all these things and then I was like, “Oh, it feels kind of cute let’s just go all the way with this pantomiming with the fridge,” and when we did it, there was something so lovely about watching Dave Franco and Stephan James perform this kind of joke in a certain way which was rooted in love and faith that when we got to the roof it also seemed like, “Okay, and now these characters feel connected. How can we take it one step further?”
This idea of mothers in the film is so important. Tish has a mother and she is pregnant, Fonny has a mother, Victoria Rogers, the woman who’s been sexually assaulted, she’s pregnant. She’s not showing but she’s pregnant. It’s all this idea of mothers. I thought, “Oh, here is something that I can see uniting these characters,” and that’s when we gave Dave Franco the line, “I’m just my mother’s son.” Sometimes it’s that idea that makes the difference between us and them; not black and white but people who have been loved and the people who haven’t.
This was adapted with I think much respect and deference to Mr. Baldwin, but that was one of the places where I’m really proud of how I was able to fuse my voice and his.
What I look forward to most every year, as I examine the list of upcoming films, is the surprises. Of course I am excited about more from the actors and filmmakers I love — the big blockbusters and earnest dramas, the comedies and romances. But it is the actors and filmmakers I have never heard of in January and will not be able to imagine life without in December I am eagerly anticipating most. With that in mind, I really enjoyed Rotten Tomatoes’ list of the biggest breakout stars of 2018, and I agree that every one of them is now in my pantheon of greats, including “Leave No Trace’s” Thomasin McKenzie, “Deadpool 2′” Zazie Beats (who also gets the coolest name award), Awkwafina (“Crazy Rich Asians” and “Oceans 8”), Cynthia Erivo (“Bad Times at the El Royale,” “Widows”), and Noah Centineo (“To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” and “Sierra Burgess is a Loser”). I’d add Amandla Stemberg (I was already a fan but she was sensational in “The Hate U Give”), Kiki Layne (“If Beale Street Could Talk”), John David Washington (“BlackKklansman”), and Elsie Fisher (“Eighth Grade”). To the people who will surprise me this year — I can’t wait to meet you.
The best surprise I had at the movie theater last year was “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and I am delighted that the filmmakers have made the screenplay available online. Take a look at the fresh, clever, jubilant writing that made this movie such a delight.
This fascinating video essay shows us what the Oscar-winning Billy Wilder film “The Apartment” would look like without the actors, revealing the role that the setting plays in telling the story. After all, that is the name of the film.