Moving On

Posted on March 16, 2023 at 5:50 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated R for language

Copyright 2023 Roadside Productions
Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are back for the second time in two months, following “80 for Brady,” and if there is ever a Jane and Lily movie-of-the-month club I will be the first to sign up. The screenplay of “Moving On” is not up to their level, but hardly anything is. Despite the unevenness of tone and some sags in the narrative, the two of them are a delight and their way with a line is so irresistible.

Claire (Fonda, looking gorgeous in white hair) and Evelyn (Tomlin looking like an aging flower child) were close friends in college but have been estranged. They meet at the funeral of another college friend. Claire announces to the friend’s mourning widower, Howard (Malcolm McDowell) that, now that her friend is dead and cannot be hurt by it, she intends to kill him. That weekend. And her next step is to try to reconcile with Evelyn to bring her on as an accomplice. The rest of the film takes place over the next few days, as we learn something about the past that separated the friends, what they have been doing since, how their various plans to carry off this homicide develop, and spend time on another reunion. Claire’s ex-husband Ralph also attends the funeral, and he is played by Richard (“Shaft”) Roundtree, so you know there will be some romantic sparks.

Speaking of reunions, this film reunites Tomlin with Paul Weitz, the writer/director of her underseen film “Grandma.” That film did a better job of juggling a very serious theme, a teenager asking her grandmother for help getting money for an abortion, with drama (there is also a complicated reunion of a formerly married couple) and some dark humor. This one sets a tone at the beginning that, even with the threat of murder, is off-kilter with the trauma of what happens later.

But on the way there, we get the truly enjoyable performances of two veterans at the top of their game, who, after seven seasons of “Grace and Frankie” are exquisitely attuned at bringing out the best in each other. Evelyn, a retired cellist in an assisted living facility, has most of the best lines and Fonda has most of the character work, and both are never less than sublime.

Parents should know that this movie has very mature material including the plotting of a murder, with references to rape. There are sexual references and a non-explicit sexual situation. Characters use strong language and drink alcohol.

Family discussion: Why didn’t Claire tell Ralph what happened at the time? Why didn’t Evelyn tell Claire the truth? What advice would you give Claire?

If you like this, try: “9 to 5,” “Grace and Frankie,” and “80 for Brady”

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Luck

Posted on August 4, 2022 at 5:52 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Kindergarten - 3rd Grade
MPAA Rating: G
Profanity: None
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Fantasy peril and slapstick
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: July 29, 2022

Copyright 2022 AppleTV+
Writer Carolyn See likes to say that what’s bad for you is good for you. That’s not necessarily because what is difficult or painful is often a good lesson in humility, resilience, or a path to a better outcome than you could have imagined, all of which is true, but because bad is where the good stories are. “Luck” is a vibrant animated Alice in Wonderland-style story about an 18-year old named Sam who follows a black cat to the lands of good and bad luck and learns neither is really what she thought.

Sam (sweet-voiced Eva Noblezada) has aged out of the orphanage where she has been her whole life. She feels unlucky in big ways — never having found a “forever family” and in small ways, toast falls jelly-side down, lose your keys down the grate annoyances. “You can come back Friday for visiting hours,” a not-unsympathetic staff member tells her. Sam is very close to a little girl named Hazel (Adelynn Spoon) and wants a forever family for her even more than she wants one for herself. Hazel has a box full of good luck charms, everything but a space left for a lucky penny.

“Will you be checking in on me weekly?” Sam asks as the social worker drops her at her new apartment. “Someone from the agency will check in with you next month. Otherwise you are on your own.”

Oversleeping, stuck bathroom door, and the toast falling jelly side down and a flat tire on her bicycle notwithstanding, Sam makes it to her new job on time. “Take that, universe!” Her first day on the job involves a lot of chaos but her kind-hearted boss, Marv, assigns her to shopping cart patrol. “You’ll have better luck tomorrow.”

Sam is determined too get some good luck for Hazel. So when the black cat she shares her panini with leaves a special penny behind, she grabs it. And it is lucky! The toast lands right side up and the first two socks she takes out of the drawer match! But she loses the penny. When she sees the cat again and learns that he can talk, she follows him through a portal down to the Land of Luck.

The story gets overly complicated and at times is more video game than story, but Sam’s endearing optimism and kindness and the beautifully imagined different environments and appealing characters keep it from getting bogged down.

Parents should know that this film concerns children without parents. There is some mild fantasy peril.

Family discussion: Is there a time you have felt lucky? Or unlucky? Why are people better at seeing their bad luck than their good luck? Was there a time when something you thought was bad luck turned out to be good for you?

if you like this, try: the Garth Brooks song “Unanswered Prayers” and “Alice in Wonderland”

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Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Tiffany Haddish, Regina Hall, Natasha Lyonne, Maya Rudolph, and Jane Fonda: On Comedy

Posted on June 29, 2019 at 8:00 am

Alex Borstein (‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’), Natasha Lyonne (‘Russian Doll’), Regina Hall (‘Black Monday’), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (‘Fleabag’ ‘Killing Eve’), Maya Rudolph (‘Forever’), Jane Fonda (‘Grace and Frankie’), and Tiffany Haddish (‘The Last O.G.’) join Close Up with The Hollywood Reporter for this season’s lively, uncensored, Comedy Actresses Roundtable.

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Actors

Book Club

Posted on May 17, 2018 at 5:11 pm

B-
Lowest Recommended Age: Mature High Schooler
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sex-related material throughout and for language
Profanity: Some strong and explicit language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Comic peril
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: May 18, 2018
Date Released to DVD: August 27, 2018
Copyright 2018 Paramount

Hey, people behind “Sex and the City,” you might want to call your lawyers. Maybe those of you behind “The Golden Girls,” too. “Book Club,” starring three Oscar winners and an Emmy winner from the last century, is pretty much an AARP version of SATC, with four women who endlessly confide everything in each other, mostly about sex and some about romance. How does a movie with these magnificent, strong, smart stars fail the Bechdel test?

In this mix, Jane Fonda plays Samantha, I mean Vivian, the luxury hotel owner who has a lot of sex but only with men she doesn’t care about. “I can’t sleep with people I like,” she says referring to the literal act of slumber. “I gave that up in the 90’s.” Mary Steenburgen plays Charlotte, I mean Carol, happily married to a man she loves (Craig T. Nelson), but not happy about their humdrum sex life. Candice Bergen is Miranda, I mean Sharon, a judge who is long-divorced and resolutely single, living only with a cat called Ginsburg. And Diane Keaton plays a character named Diane who is somewhere between Carrie and “Golden Girls'” Rose, a sweet-natured recent widow with two devoted and over-solicitous daughters (Alicia Silverstone and Katie Aselton), who want her to leave her home and move in with them in Arizona.

The women have had a book club together for decades, mostly an excuse for them to get together. When Vivian hands out copies of the naughty bondage and discipline Fifty Shades of Grey novel by E.L. James, it causes all four of them to rethink their own romantic and sexual options. Vivian reconnects with the guy she almost married four decades earlier (Don Johnson, whose daughter starred in the movie version of Fifty Shades). Diane meets a very handsome man on a plane (Andy Garcia) and has to decide if she is open to a new relationship. Sharon decides to try swiping right with a little online dating and ends up having dinner with a tax lawyer (Richard Dreyfuss, every bit as charming as he was in “The Goodbye Girl“). And Carol tries to spice it up with her recently retired husband, who seems to have no interest in sex.

This provides many opportunities for the foursome to get together to discuss each other’s situations in detail. And if you think that they might omit the makeover scene with everyone weighing in on what one of them should wear on a big date and a scene of triumph over the ex’s new young love, rest assured they did not.

It is good to see these brilliant stars give it their best, which is what it takes to overcome the drippy screenplay, co-written by director Bill Holderman (with Erin Simms), and pedestrian direction. It’s like taking a Hallmark Romance Channel movie script and instead of casting the farm team (1990’s television series stars), it sends in the All-Pro heavy hitters. Or a “Love Boat” episode from the days when one segment always featured some 80-something former movie star. This group is able to carry it pretty far, especially Fonda, clearly relishing her role, and Garcia, who is able to give some grounding to a thinly written Prince Charming character. But the silly premise, Bumble product placement, clunky double entendre, unimaginative soundtrack, and Viagra humor make us long for the more reliable middle-age female empowerment fluff of Nancy Meyers.

Parents should know that this film has extensive and explicit sexual references and situations, including the visible results of a double does of Viagra, played for comedy, as well as some strong language and alcohol.

Family discussion: Why were Diane’s daughters so worried about her? Why was it hard for her to tell them no? Why was Vivian reluctant to become close to Arthur? Did the books have an impact on their choices?

If you like this, try: “The Jane Austen Book Club” and some of the earlier films of these stars like “Barefoot in the Park,” “Starting Over,” “Melvin and Howard,” and “Annie Hall”

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Comedy Date movie DVD/Blu-Ray movie review Movies -- format Romance

Our Souls at Night

Posted on September 21, 2017 at 1:29 am

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Not rated
Profanity: Mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol, drunknenness
Violence/ Scariness: Sad death, family troubles
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: September 29, 2017
Copyright 2017 Netflix

Our Souls at Night was the last novel written by best-selling author Kent Haruf, published after his death, and it has an elegiac quality. The film, the fourth pairing of Robert Redford and Jane Fonda and the first in 38 years, has a rare quality in film, quiet grace. Movies love to tell us the story of young love, impetuous, volatile, and thrilling. But there is something even more moving about last love, the love that happens when you are old enough to understand how precious it is and old enough to know how foolish it would be to waste any more time.

Addie (Fonda) and Louis (Redford) are longtime neighbors. They know each other a little in the way people in small communities do. He was her daughter’s teacher. Both widowed, they have been living alone. And then, one night, she knocks on his door to ask him a question: would he like to come over to her house and sleep with her? Not sex, she assures him quickly. It’s just lonely in bed, and it would be nice to have someone to talk to at the end of the day.

He asks for time to think about it, and then says yes, coming over to her house with his pajamas in a paper bag and going to the back door to keep the neighbors from gossiping. They get to know one another, in simple, spare, but profoundly honest conversations about their most painful experiences, told without rancor and told with a simple generosity of spirit.

When Addie’s young grandson comes for an unexpected visit, she and Louis become even closer as they give the boy a chance to open up. They have an idyllic moment, almost as though it is a second chance for them to correct the mistakes they made in their first families, and learning more about each other through him. Then other ties and complications return.

It is a joy to see these two marvelous actors with their chemistry undimmed, performers with a deep understanding of craft and a deep trust in each other, take on these roles. Like the characters they are playing, they are beyond pretense, with the sureness of experience and the joy of cherishing each moment that only comes with age.

Parents should know that the film has references to sad and difficult family situations including the death of a child. Characters drink and one drinks too much. There are sexual references and a non-explicit sexual situation and characters use some mild language.

Family discussion: Why does Addie pick Louis? Why does Louis say yes?

If you like this, try: “On Golden Pond” and “Barefoot in the Park”

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