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The Weekend Warrior, June 2, 2023
PAST LIVES, YOU HURT MY FEELINGS, FALCON LAKE
Trying to get the ball rolling on writing a weekly column again, after taking all of May off, though we’ll have to see how things go. Hopefully, you’ve already read my Box Office Breakdown over at Above the Line, or some of my box office pieces at Gold Derby, because most of my box office analysis will be for those two outlets.
If you read this week’s previews, you know that there are two wide releases, the animated sequel SPIDER-MAN: ACROSS THE SPIDER-VERSE (Sony), which I already reviewed here, and the horror film, THE BOOGEYMAN (20th Century Studios). You can read my review of that here.
So I probably don’t need to write more about those, and can get into reviewing a few smaller movies, but before I do so, here’s what the Top 10 should look like:
1. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Sony) - $93.6 million N/A
2. The Little Mermaid (Disney) - $40.5 million -58%
3. The Boogeyman (20th Century) - $14.8 million N/A
4. Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3 (Marvel/Disney) - $11 million -47%
5. Fast X (Universal) - $10.8 million -53%
6. The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Universal) - $3.5 million -45%
7. The Machine (Sony) - $2.2 million -56%
8. About My Father (Lionsgate) - $1.9 million -56%
9. Kandahar (Open Road) - $1.2 million -50%
10. You Hurt My Feelings (A24) - $750k -47%
Although Past Lives is this week’s “Chosen One,” there’s some good stuff to find in all three movies I’m reviewing this week…
PAST LIVES (A24)
Hopefully, you heard of Celine Song’s film after it debuted at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, although I didn’t get to see it until more recently. It’s a difficult movie to talk about or explain, not due to spoilers or anything silly like that, but it’s hard to put it into words why it’s so effective at achieving what it does.
The story revolves around childhood friends, Nora and Hae Sung, who manage to go out on a date before she and her family move to Canada, leaving Hae Sung distraught. 12 years later, Nora (Greta Lee) discovers that Hae Sung (Teo Yoo) had been looking for her, and they reignite their long-distance friendship via Skype, at least for a short time. Nora breaks it off, because she doesn’t think this kind of long-distance relationship is healthy for either of them. She soon meets John Magaro’s Arthur at a writer’s retreat, and they get married, but Nora still wonders about Hae Sung, and if he was really the person she was meant to be with.
Past Lives opens with an enigmatic scene of the three main characters talking at a bar, and a casual observer trying to figure out the relationship between the three. I’d be curious to know what that narrator thought of they knew the backstory, as told through the film, since it’s such an intriguing way to start the movie when you go into it not knowing much about it. Despite having not even watched the trailer, I knew that Song’s film was quite tear-inducing from talking to people who had seen it.
Greta Lee is absolutely brilliant in this, and I would not be surprised if she ends up getting some awards love at the end of the year, and at this point and so far, I really see this as being A24’s best chances at the Oscars. Song’s terrific screenplay and the performances she gets out of the three main actors is aided byChristopher Bear and Daniel Rossen’s score, which does so much to bolster the dialogue without detracting from it. The cinematography by Shabier Kirchner (Bad Axe), also does an exemplary job making the scale of the movie (mostly set in Seoul and New York) seem much larger than your average two-or-three handed character drama, as well.
It’s a little surprising that this is Song’s first feature as a director, because there’s some real genius that goes into how well this works without ever hitting the viewer over the head with the melodrama one usually might get from this sort of story.
More than anything else, Past Lives deals with things I truly believe in, like fate and finding your perfect soulmate, but it tackles said subject in such a subtle and subdued way, the emotions are likely to wash over you without you even realizing how much the story is affecting you. I can definitely see myself going to see this two or three more times just to try to analyze how and why it worked so well. Like I said earlier, it’s a difficult movie to explain, but more than anything else, it just works.
YOU HURT MY FEELINGS (A24)
Although this opened last weekend, I have been anticipating filmmaker Nicole Holofcener’s return to theaters for the first time (at least as a director) since 2013’s Enough Said, and I was pretty excited that she was reuniting with Julia Louis-Dreyfus. (I’ve been watching a TON of Seinfeld in the last few months, so I’m endlessly fascinated with Louis-Dreyfus transitioning to do more movies.)
In this one, Louis-Dreyfus plays author Beth, who is putting the finishing touches on her next book, when she finds out that her husband Don (Tobias Menzies) actually doesn’t like her book and has been lying to her. She then has to decide whether to tell him or just keep it between her and her sister (Michaela Watkins), but we also learn that Beth has often coddled her teen son (Owen Teague) by lying to him about how great and talented he is, so there’s a double standard at work there.
Now I’m not sure I’d ever be one to declare Holofcener to be a great director when it comes to the films she makes, but she is an excellent writer, and she’s able to get terrific performances out of her entire cast, though it doesn’t hurt when you have the likes of Louis-Dreyfus and the extremely underrated Watkins portraying your characters.
Even though I’ve never been married nor do I have kids, I can totally see how some of the scenarios Holofcener creates might really ring true with married couples with or without kids, because one presumes their relationships are based on honesty. But as the film’s title implies, sometimes it’s worse to hurt someone’s feelings by being honest.
The thing is that Holofcener’s social observations are so on point and her dialogue is so cleverly-crafted that there’s a lot to enjoy in Don’t Hurt My Feelings even if the particular situations don’t directly apply to you.
FALCON LAKE (Yellow Veil Pictures)
Opening at the Metrograph in NYC and at roughly 11 other theaters on Friday – you can find where on the official site – is Charlotte Le Bon’s directorial debut, a coming-of-age drama about a French teenager named Bastien (Joseph Engel) on summer vacation with his family, who develops a crush on the older Chloé (Sarah Montpetit) who is staying with them. Despite their fast friendship, Bastien has to deal with the usual angst and worries teenage boys have when it comes to pretty and seemingly unavailable girls.
This is a terrific coming-of-age film ala Call Me By Your Name, and I was quite impressed with Le Bon’s two leads, who really do carry this film, and while there are things in the movie that have been explored in other indie films, it’s obvious that Le Bon has quite a distinct voice while showing the world of these young people.
There’s also a very subtle supernatural element involving a girl that drowned in the film’s titular lake, but this isn’t really a horror movie persé, as those aspects are played down quite a bit.
I don’t have a ton more to say about the film except that it’s similarly as effective as the two movies above, and it’s one of the better versions of the type of indie film we’ve seen many times before.
LYNCH/OZ (Janus Films)
Probably not going to review this, but Lynch/Oz is a new doc from Alexandre O. Philippe (78/52: Hitchcock’s Shower Scene, The People vs. George Lucas), which looks at the obsession filmmaker David Lynch had with the classic 1938 film, The Wizard of Oz, and how it influenced his own work. The film is narrated by a number of film critics and others from the cinephile world.
Hitting theaters and On Demand this Friday after a month-long run on DirecTV is April Mullen’s sci-fi thriller, starring Robbie Amell, Jordana Brewster, Alicia Sanz, Simu Liu, and Sam Worthington. Set in the near future, Amell plays Evan, an android simulant created for Brewster’s Faye to replace her dead husband. Evan hires a hacker played by Liu to get past the restrictions put on him as a simulation, inadvertently unleashing an A.I. uprising. Wait a second, this isn’t a documentary?
SHOOTING STARS (Peacock)
Although I didn’t have a chance to see this, this movie adapting basketball superstar LeBron James and Buzz Bissinger's book “Shooting Stars” takes a look at James’ younger life as he was getting into basketball.
I’m very excited to get back to sharing some of the repertory stuff going on in my favorite city in the world:
The Metrograph continues its “Filmcraft” series on below-the-line crafts with “Filmcraft: Judy Becker” starting on Saturday, showing off some of the work of the production designer behind Brokceback Mountain, I’m Not There, and We Need to Talk About Kevin, showing these three movies, as well as Rosemary’s Baby and Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show.
Since Charlotte Le Bon’s new movie Falcon Lake is debuting at the Metrograph, she also has programmed a few other films, including Jonathan Glazer’s Birth (2004), A Place in the Sun (1952), and the Swedish vampire thriller, Let the Right One In (2008).
This weekend as part of the odd series, “Animal Farm: Ants” (following up a series involving mules and donkeys), is Bert Gordon’s 1977 movie, Empire of the Ants, which I was hoping to catch but might have to miss.
Playing on Thursday and Monday as part of “Brunch at Metrograph” is the ‘90s classic, Clueless (1995), and this weekend’s offering for “Late Nites: Wanna Bet?” is Robert Altman’s California Split (1974).
Metrograph is also showing Matthew Barney’s “Cremaster Cycle” but most of those single screenings have been sold out almost immediately after they went on sale, so…
Going on for the past few weeks has been this series called “The City: Real and Imagined,” the city being New York, and there being over 60 features included. This weekend and next week, you can see the likes of Mel Brooks’ The Producers (1967), Woody Allen’s Annie Hall, Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, and more.
On Sunday, “Film Forum Jr.” is screening Tim Burton’s 2005, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which I actually quite liked when it first came out. (Granted, I did visit the set and got to do the junket in the Bahamas, but I think those three things were unrelated.)
IFC Center has been doing a comprehensive “The Films of David Lynch” retrospective, although let’s face it that IFC Center tends to show David Lynch movies year-round. Some of the movies playing through the weekend include Blue Velvet, Inland Empire, Lost Highway, and Mulholland Dr. There’s lots of other stuff shown through the weekend, some of it having been shown quite regularly.
Some of the cool things to be seen at the Roxy include a new 4k restoration of Lars von Trier’s Dogville (2003), but they’re also screening The Trial from 1962, Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element (1997), Clint Eastwood’s The Gauntlet (1977).
Next week, I’ll hopefully have another column, as well as a review of Transformers: