By Judy Grant
In the past two weeks I’ve seen four movies for grown-ups. By that, I mean movies that don’t explode, have death-defying car chases with explosions, are not based on a Marvel or DC comic, and have no singing fish. One of the movies I am reviewing is currently showing in the Valley, two should have been shown for a couple of weeks and one belongs in the art house where we saw it.
First, “The Light Between Oceans” is a Derek Cianfrance film based on the M.L. Stedman novel. My book club read and loved this book and we were anxious to see the film, and were not disappointed.
The story is set in Australia, near Tasmania where the Indian and Pacific Oceans meet. WWI is over and soldiers are returning home. Tom Sherbourne is one such man. He has survived four years in the trenches in Europe and just wants to go somewhere quiet.
Janus Rock needs a lighthouse keeper and Tom takes the job knowing it will be six months to a year between visits to the mainland, and that’s fine with him. Harry, bringing supplies and mail, will visit him four times a year.
On one of his visits to the village, Tom meets Isabel and they are attracted to one another. They begin writing to each other. The attraction turns to love and when Tom is on the mainland again, they marry.
Isabel seems quite content to be his wife and live at Janus away from everyone. But she becomes pregnant and loses the baby; a second miscarriage follows and she is in a deep depression.
One day, a rowboat washes up with a dead man and a baby girl in the boat. Isabel begs Tom to keep the baby and he reluctantly agrees.
One can figure out where the story goes from here. When the real mother of the child is identified, Tom is torn between the love he has for Isabel and what needs to be done for the grieving mother.
The high-quality acting in this film keeps the story from becoming overly mundane and predictable. The on-screen chemistry between Michael Fassbender (Tom) and Alicia Vkander (Isabel) is beautiful to watch.
Rachel Weisz (Hannah) gives a believable performance as the young mother who thinks she has lost everything and then has to accept and perhaps forgive Tom and Isabel for what they have done. I enjoyed seeing Brian Brown as the wise grandfather, Spetimus. He’s able to reach young Lucy-Grace and helps her make the transition to her new life.
The film is gorgeous to watch. The scenes of the oceans at sunrise and sunset are impressive. You can actually see where the two bodies of water come together.
This is a good movie that tells a good story. There is even a great lesson about forgiveness and revenge from Hannah’s deceased husband that fits the end of the story. Like I said, the film is not playing here, but is showing in Yuma and Palm Desert. Make the drive and go see it. Then come home and ask our theater’s corporate fold, “WHY CAN’T WE GET A MOVIE LIKE THIS HERE?”
My second review is on “Florence Foster Jenkins,” a Stephen Frears film, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.
I will admit it, I’m a Meryl Streep junkie and will go see her in any film she’s in. I adored “The Devil Wears Prada,” and yes, I enjoyed “Mama Mia” and watched the sing-along version at home.
Once again, Streep delivers an amazing performance as Florence Foster Jenkins, a tone-deaf singer who gave a one-night performance at Carnegie Hall.
Hugh Grant, finally back on the screen, is terrific as her husband, St. Clair Bayfield, who protects and encourages Florence in her dreams to be a singer. Simon Helberg rounds out a good cast as Cosme McMoon, her accompanist.
The story raises the question of how far we go for those we love and just how many “white lies” can we tell to keep that person happy? In the case of Jenkins, the answer is, “as many as it takes.”
The film is never as funny or as happy as it is in the previews. Florence is very ill and wants to sing on stage one more time. The reason for her illness is revealed in the story and that’s sad too.
Her husband and McMoon work together to make this dream of hers possible because they love her dearly. In fact, all the people who know Florence love her, and seem to ignore the fact that she can’t sing a note.
Streep performed her own singing for the movie. Ironically, she can sing beautifully, and it was difficult for her to sing this off-key. The film has lovely sets and costumes and is enjoyable. The underlying sadness does not overpower the story. It was good to see Hugh Grant in a movie again. This movie is not playing here in the Valley either, but is still in Palm Desert. The Cinemark people did have it at some of their other properties, just not ours.
Third, “Max Rose” is a Daniel Noah film starring Jerry Lewis.
This is one of the saddest and most depressing movies my husband and I have ever seen. We came close to leaving in the middle, but I wanted to see how the plot question was answered, so we stayed.
Jerry Lewis stars as Max. Max’s wife of 65 years has passed away. There were several scenes of Lewis coming home and trying to make sense of where his life is to go now that he is alone. His granddaughter, Annie (Kerry Bishe) is trying to help him. One day he is cleaning up and sorting out some of his wife’s things and he picks up the compact she always kept with her. He opens it and finds an inscription from someone named Ben. He immediately thinks somewhere along the way, his wife, Eva, had an affair with Ben, who ever he is.
The film hits too close to home for those of us who have more days behind us than ahead of us. We did not enjoy this sort of drama. It is difficult to watch people you remember as young and youthful on screen who are now old and decrepit. The film is playing in Palm Desert and can stay there.
Fourth, “Sully” is a Clint Eastwood film starring Tom Hanks.
This is a good movie which again recounts the story of airline pilot Chesley Sullenberger, who becomes a hero after landing his plane in the Hudson River and saving all 155 passengers and crew.
The film is short by today’s standards, and interesting. Hanks gives another one of his good performances as Captain Sullenberger. Aaron Eckhart is just as good as the co-pilot, Jeff Skies.
The film’s focus is on the investigation by the safety board as to whether the plane could have made it back to an airport instead of landing in the Hudson. Co-pilot Jeff Skies (Eckhart) makes a comment to Sully (Hanks), “Have they forgotten that no one died?” The viewer gets the feeling that yes, they have forgotten that no one died.
Hanks’ face shows the anguish Sullenberger felt waiting to know if all 155 passengers were alive. In one scene, he’s at the dock and people are trying to take him away and into dry, warm clothes. He keeps putting them off until someone comes up and says, “Captain, the count is 155! They’re all alive!” The look in his eyes and the way his face relaxes is what makes Mr. Hanks one of our finer actors.
Eastwood has made a film that shows the value of teamwork and of people doing extraordinary things when called upon. We all hope that when we fly, our pilot and co-pilot and flight crew are capable of the same type of heroism, if the need arises.
This film is playing here in Imperial Valley and doing well at the box office. It is worth seeing.