Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Secret Obsession, or: Pics or It Didn’t Happen?

Sometimes we celebrate freaks and weirdos on the blog. At other times, we wait for them to die. In this week’s film, the latter is appropriate for our stalker, murderer, and buyer of lye in bulk.

The Film:

Secret Obsession

The Premise:

After an accident wipes out her memories, Jennifer returns to her life as a newlywed with her husband…or at least the man who claims to be her husband.

The Ramble:

Running in terror from an unknown assailant, Jennifer is hit by a car when she runs out onto a dark and stormy road. After being rushed to the hospital, a man who claims to be her husband arrives, waiting for news on her condition. Conveniently, everyone just believes him and never asks for proof of his identity (beyond knowing Jennifer’s name and her tattoos???).

Meanwhile, the Allstate guy plays a detective sent to investigate Jennifer’s accident (perhaps appropriately as the face of an insurance company?). Because his daughter disappeared at the age of 10, Detective Frank is determined to solve Jennifer’s case(?). Yeah, I’m not seeing the connection either, TBH.

When it becomes clear that Jennifer’s head trauma has affected her memory, it’s up to husband Russell to fill in the gaps. Or, conveniently, for an impostor to plant a bunch of fake memories in her brain. Don’t worry, though–he has the pictures to back it up. According to Russell, he and Jennifer are newlyweds who have recently moved to a remote cabin. Her parents died a couple of years ago in a fire, and Jennifer has quit her job to start a family with Russell…leaving no connections left in the world.

After making enough progress to return home, Jennifer discovers their house is not even remotely ADA compliant and struggles to get around with a healing leg. Russell is ever so nicely willing to help her get around, carrying her up to their room while leaving her without a wheelchair.

Discovering a witness (or something?) trying to contact Jennifer, Russell makes the obvious next move of following and killing this dude (even though I honestly don’t understand who he is or why he’s around). Of course, this leaves Russell with a body to bury…and he naturally chooses the backyard. Suspicious when she spots him digging around the garden late at night, Jennifer starts investigating.

What she uncovers is a bunch of Photoshopped pictures–in fact, all of the images in their wedding album have been altered. On top of this, Jennifer has a flashback while in bed with Russell, so she pumps the brakes on rekindling their relationship. Losing his temper, Russell reveals his dark and creepy side (or, rather, yet another dark and creepy side).

When we catch up with Detective Frank, we discover that (shocker) Russell provided a fake address to the police. Frank also connects the dots on a white pick-up truck that was spotted at the scene of the accident…and security footage of Russell arriving at the hospital in a white pick-up truck. After identifying Jennifer’s back tattoo as some sort of symbol for the name Allen(?!??!?!?!), Frank is able to locate her parents’ home. Surprise surprise, the occupants of the home are no longer in this world and have been mummified or something? They didn’t have pleasant deaths is the moral of the story. (Which surely would merit, IDK, having more than ONE dude investigating this shit???)

As it turns out, Russell is really Jennifer’s coworker Ryan, who was obsessed with her. After years of yearning for Jennifer from afar, it’s Russell who pulls off the office romance and marries her. On the night of Jennifer’s accident, Ryan attacked the newlyweds, killing Russell and terrorizing Jennifer.

Realizing how fucking creepy her so-called husband is, Jennifer tries to leave the house, but Ryan is one step ahead of her. When Frank manages to track Ryan down, he is caught off-guard with this psycho’s signature move: whacking people in the back of the head. To be fair, it’s a pretty solid choice for a stalker and murderer.

Will Jennifer and Frank be able to take down the unhinged Ryan before he can make use of all of that lye he bought on sale?

The Rating:

2/5 Pink Panther Heads

JFC, this film is bland and not at all suspenseful. It’s very PG-13 for a film dealing with such a horrific concept, and conveniently ignores reality whenever it moves the plot along. For example, neither the hospital nor the police seem too concerned with verifying shit like people’s names and addresses. For fuck’s sake, I have to show my ID to pick up mail–there’s no way Ryan is skating through so many offices without having to prove his identity.

I feel for Jennifer, of course, but she’s so completely devoid of personality that it’s difficult to care about her a whole lot beyond just generally taking a feminist stance against, you know, stalking and murdering people. It may have helped to get more glimpses into her life before the accident, but IDK…Jennifer was probably boring then too.

The most offensive part of this film to me is the absolute pointlessness of Frank’s story. His fictional daughter’s kidnapping has nothing to do with this case, and it’s a major stretch to connect these two events. If you follow the thriller formula, Frank’s daughter should have been murdered by Ryan or at the very least Frank should have known Jennifer in some way. Beyond that, Frank is just a cop doing his job, and that doesn’t make for a good story.

The “closure” that Jennifer gets at the end (and Frank for that matter) is absolute garbage too. I wanted a more badass ending for her, but we were never going to get that. This is the ending of a TV movie that doesn’t lean into its trashiness–and all I ask from a TV movie is for it to embrace its own nonsense.

Would my 100% real and unedited blog wife follow this one to the ends of the earth or push it in front of a fast-moving vehicle? Find out in her review here!

Advertisements
Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Juliet, Naked, or: Everyone, Fully Clothed

Freaks, fuck-ups, misfits, outsiders–they’re quite well represented in this week’s film. Some of them more lovable than others.

The Film:

Juliet, Naked

The Premise:

After years of living with her boyfriend’s obsession with a former musician, a woman in a quiet seaside town starts up a correspondence with the aforementioned rocker.

The Ramble:

Though he’s lived with girlfriend Annie for 15 years, Duncan’s true love is has-been rocker Tucker Crowe. Their shared home is filled to the brim with Crowe’s records, posters, and other paraphernalia. When he’s not teaching at the local college, Duncan is debating the finer points of Crowe’s music and moderating the fan site he runs.

A man hunches over a laptop in a dark study, video chatting with 3 other men.

After 15 years, Annie is understandably sick of this shit. Having lived in a small coastal town nearly all of her life, she is beginning to regret the decisions she’s made that seem irreversible at this point: taking over her father’s role as director of the local history museum, caring for her sister rather than having children of her own, and staying in her stagnant relationship with Duncan.

When a CD addressed to Duncan mysteriously arrives in the mail, it becomes an unexpected catalyst in Annie’s life. The CD is the legendary Juliet, Naked, a preliminary version of Crowe’s seminal album that has never been released. Annie decides to give the CD a listen, thus depriving Duncan of the opportunity to be the first listener of these Crowe recordings. Of course, Duncan believes the work to be the achievement of a true genius, while Annie finds it incredibly dreary.

A woman sits on the floor in front of a bed, holding a CD with an indecisive expression.

Annie speaks her truth in the form of a comment on Duncan’s review, gaining some traction with a few who agree. Among those supporters is the man himself, who emails Annie in response. Annie begins an unlikely correspondence with Crowe, who now lives in the garage behind his ex’s house, where he does very little beyond spend time with his youngest son.

When Duncan meets a new member of the faculty who happens to be a major fan of Tucker Crowe as well, it’s the final nail in the coffin. Duncan has an affair and tells Annie the truth about it, ending their relationship at last.

The breakup coincides nicely with Crowe’s visit to London to meet his first grandchild. Before he can meet up with Annie, Crowe suffers a heart attack and is hospitalized. The two plan to reschedule their day out after a huge family fight involving many of Crowe’s children and mothers of those children.

To spend more time with Annie, Crowe invites himself to visit her hometown. Inevitably, they run into Duncan, who doesn’t believe the man interested in Annie is the real Tucker Crowe. Duncan eventually accepts the truth and expresses his admiration for Crowe over dinner–and Crowe is just not having it. Having given up his music and lifestyle as a pseudo-famous rocker, Crowe steers clear of the spotlight and cringes at the adulation.

A woman stands on a beach between two men, throwing side eye towards one of them.

With five children on both sides of the pond, Crowe hasn’t always been an attentive father. He feels youngest son Jackson is his last chance to be a good father, as the ship has long sailed with daughter Grace, who he’s never had a relationship with.

As Annie bonds with Crowe and Jackson, she begins to imagine a future much different than the one that seemed inevitable just a few weeks earlier. However, pragmatic Annie knows that Crowe will return to the States to remain close to his son, and makes it clear she’d like a clean break when he leaves.

Will the changes Annie has made in her life stick?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

It’s quite apparent this film is based on a Nick Hornby novel (even if you don’t Google it), for better or worse. I do enjoy the maturity and self-awareness of this film; not only does it poke fun of music fanboys and their obsessions, but it also reflects sincerely on the challenge of continuing to grow when you fear making necessary life changes. Annie is a very self-sacrificing character, but she learns to recognize the ways she uses helping others as a way to avoid pursuing the things she wants.

While it’s overall a very sweet film, part of me wanted Annie to be more of a bad bitch. She had so many golden opportunities to be petty and rub her relationship with Crowe in Duncan’s face, which I desperately wanted her to do. I am also basically immune to swearing, but that must be the only reason this film is rated R? Absolutely no one gets naked in this film.

I do like that the character growth feels real; Annie and Crowe both make changes in their lives, but they don’t radically transform. The performances are solid too, though some of the characters could have been filled in more fully. Not a bad way to spend an hour and half at all.

Would my rock star blog wife wallpaper her room with posters of this film or not even rank it in her top 50? Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Valley of the Dolls, or: Don’t Take the Red Pill

In a world of outsiders desperately trying to be insiders, the tensions are high, the sparkles are everywhere, and the bobbed hair flips out on the ends in perfectly groomed waves. It’s show business in the 1960s, and it takes a dedicated woman to succeed…but no one is ever too far from failure in…the Valley of the Dolls.

The Film:

Valley of the Dolls

Premise:

Three modern women of the ’60s experience the glamorous life of the theater in their own ways, yet all share shocking encounters with drugs, alcohol, and sex.

The Ramble:

Anne Welles is a modern girl who goes to the big, bad city to work for a theatrical lawyer who represents actors, agents, directors, and the like. After overcoming the hurdle of being too good-looking to work for him [insert eye roll here], Anne manages to convince the lawyer to give her a chance.

She fails in her first assignment to get diva Helen Lawson to sign her contract; Helen is far too busy getting new talent Neely O’Hara fired. Neely promptly quits when she is cut from the show, but is picked up for a telethon and then becomes a success on the night club circuit.

A woman performs in front of a group of women answering calls as part of a telethon for cystic fibrosis.

Anne, meanwhile, is determined to leave this dreadful business behind her…until she meets mega hottie Lyon Burke. Hot in a 1960s businessman kind of way I guess? It isn’t long before a dramatic towel drop scene happens between them, though Anne doesn’t think Lyon will prove to be the marrying type.

A man and woman face each other on a dark street.

Jennifer North is another young woman who dreams of the spotlight, but fears she has nothing but her looks. When she meets heartthrob night club singer Tony Polar, it’s not long before they’re married. However, Tony’s protective sister Miriam has reservations…as she’s keeping a dark secret about his health.

A blonde woman in a low-necked top holds a corded phone to her ear in a small bedroom.

As Neely’s star rises, she and longtime boyfriend Mel marry. Neely’s schedule is demanding–when she’s not onstage, she’s rehearsing or exercising endlessly. To deal with her stress, Neely begins taking “dolls,” aka prescription drugs that she takes waaaaaaay more often than recommended on the label.

Anne gets her own taste of fame when an ad exec notices her as an ordinary girl (lololololol) who he wants for a major upcoming campaign. After splitting with Lyon, who bizarrely wants to settle down and roast chestnuts over an open fire for the rest of their days, Anne ends up with the exec and with some recognition as the face of the campaign.

A woman with an elaborate up-do powders her face while looking into a compact mirror, with funky multi-colored lights around her.

While Neely is winning awards and having affairs, Jennifer receives bad news about her husband’s health, and Anne is hooking up with Lyon again. Tony ends up in a sanitarium, which Jennifer worries she won’t be able to afford. She begins performing burlesque and appears in some naughty French films to pay the bills.

To the surprise of no one, Neely’s first marriage ends in divorce. She remarries but is more dependent on drugs and alcohol than ever. This proves devastating to her career, not to mention her health when she, too, is committed to the sanitarium for rehab.

A woman with messy hair sits at a bar with a drink and cigarette, while a man leans creepily towards her.

Jennifer, meanwhile, is tired of making dirty films and tries to get the money she’s owed and leave the industry. In the end, a diagnosis finishes her career and wraps up her story quite tragically.

After Neely’s release, Anne realizes what a trainwreck she is and demands Lyon stop representing her as an agent. The inevitable affair between Neely and Lyon drives Anne to abuse prescription pills too.

Perhaps the only one left who’s willing to stand up to Neely is absolute legend Helen Lawson, who is none too pleased about her comeback. Neely is horrible to her and admittedly Helen says some petty things about Neely’s serious addiction problems, but I will always love the bitchy older woman. Team Helen all the way.

Will the dolls win out in the end?

The Rating:

3/5 Pink Panther Heads

For a melodrama that has become something of a cult classic, there’s nothing especially interesting or scandalous about this. I do love the 1960s aesthetic and have a love/hate relationship with all of the unnecessary musical numbers.

This film also does a terrible job at establishing relationships. Our three main ladies are supposed to be friends, but there are maybe two scenes where they actually interacted in a friendly way? And I can’t think of any scenes where they were in the same room together. I was hoping we’d at least get a nice scene where they all get brunch or something.

I suppose to some degree it’s a sign of the times, but the f word gets thrown around pretty casually and it’s rather jarring. The f word that’s sometimes used to refer to gay men; THAT f word. I was hoping for our liberated ladies to be a bit more progressive…and a bit more liberated, for that matter. This film does NOT know what to do with a career woman.

The most interesting character to me is Helen Lawson, honestly. She gives off a bit of a Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard vibe, but sadly enjoys much less screen time. Honestly, so much of what this film aims for is done so much better in Sunset Blvd, which really is a shocking and intriguing movie.

A middle-aged woman with a '60s hairstyle sits in front of a mirror, holding a cigarette.
What a queen.

Perhaps the most striking element of this film is Sharon Tate’s performance, which is impossible to disconnect from her death two years after the film’s release. She’s so lovely and full of life here that it hurts, and approaches the role with a vulnerability that gives an otherwise flat character depth. It makes me sad that she’s known more widely for her murder rather than her talent as an actor, as her film career was cut short so early.

Would my lovely blog wife keep the booze and pills flowing or immediately throw them in an outdoor swimming pool? Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Ingrid Goes West, or: Wham Bam Instagram

Fuck-ups, freaks, weirdos–they’re all welcome here on the Blog Collab this month. And during any month, TBH. This week’s pick is about a rather eccentric character, played by an actor who I like to believe is just as odd in real life.

The Film:

Ingrid Goes West

The Premise:

A grieving woman becomes obsessed with an Instagram celebrity, using her posts to find and befriend her IRL.

The Ramble:

Ingrid is a young woman who is a liiiiiiittle intense about her social media habit. After discovering through Instagram that her friend got married without sending an invite her way, Ingrid crashes the party with a special gift for the bride: a can of mace.

A woman with a tear-stained face speaks angrily to the bride at a wedding reception.

As it turns out, Ingrid’s mother has recently died, driving her erratic behavior. She is institutionalized and ultimately released to the empty house she shared with her mom.

Turning to social media for human connection, Ingrid finds Instagram influencer Taylor Sloane and immediately becomes obsessed, following her life religiously as Taylor’s feed replaces all of Ingrid’s relationships.

A young woman lies reclined on a home hospital bed, holding up her cell phone as she looks at it.

After Ingrid comes into money following her mother’s death, there seems to be only one course of action: use the cash to head west to LA and track down her idol Taylor. This is rather easy, honestly, considering the number of posts Taylor shares per day with her current activities and exact location.

When she strikes out upon their first meeting, Ingrid develops a backup plan to fall into Taylor’s good graces: steal her dog and then miraculously “find” him. The scheme works like a charm, and Ingrid becomes instant friends with Taylor and her husband. Ingrid manages to get more time with Taylor by offering to help her tow a trailer with her pick-up truck. The only obstacle? Ingrid doesn’t have a pick-up truck.

Luckily, Ingrid’s Batman-obsessed landlord Dan finds her charming and takes minimal convincing to let her borrow his truck. The only condition is for Ingrid to return the truck in time for a table reading for Dan’s script–during which she will fill in for Catwoman.

Two women stand next to each other, with desert landscape behind them. One holds a cell phone, while the other looks over her shoulder at the screen.

Of course, Ingrid’s only priority is spending time with Taylor. Complications abound when the car breaks down and Taylor wants to stay out late partying. Following a night fueled by coke and liquor, Ingrid scratches up the truck. Since Dan hasn’t heard from her all night, he calls the police–out of concern for her rather than his truck. Dan seems to genuinely care about Ingrid. Poor, poor man.

A man and woman sit next to each other in a booth in a dimly lit restaurant.

As Ingrid is folded into Taylor’s circle, she meets her new bestie’s troubled brother, Nick. During a relaxing weekend away, Nick steals Ingrid’s phone and learns the extent of her obsession. When he attempts to blackmail Ingrid, she comes up with an ill-fated scheme of her own that Taylor learns about. After the truth emerges, Taylor wants nothing to do with Ingrid.

There seems to be no hope of getting back in Taylor’s good graces…but surely it’s worth trying anyway?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

Aubrey Plaza, who seems to be quite quirky herself, is perfectly cast as unhinged Ingrid. She manages to be quite entertaining to watch even as she does disturbing and problematic things. Her attempt at being a sexy Catwoman for Dan especially stands out.

The film’s humor is sharp and incredibly dark, but I find this to be a very tragic film. As expected in a film about social media, there are some very troubling implications for our own lives here; however, it goes beyond the doom and gloom “social media will kill us all” trap that other social commentary pieces can fall into. The film is very interested in the effects of social media on our psychology, behaviors, and relationships–and the extent to which it allows us to avoid these things when they become difficult.

Ingrid’s obsession with Taylor is really about the void in her life left by the death of her mother. When she is unable to find the love and support to overcome this in the real world, she turns to the internet for validation. As she later reveals, Ingrid is fully aware of what an inaccurate representation of life Taylor depicts on her account; however, she still wants to believe the fantasy. Even as she scorns the empty popularity game of Instagram, Ingrid craves attention and approval from her followers.

I appreciate Ingrid’s dilemma as I frequently have a love/hate relationship with social media. I keep up with so many people I probably would have lost touch with because of my social media accounts. But I do worry that I’m only representing myself superficially on these accounts (and, likewise, that others are doing the same). There are times when I use these accounts to avoid face-to-face human interaction; some days I don’t talk to anyone except by text. And I can’t count the number of times I’ve posted something brilliant and gotten annoyed when people haven’t shown their appreciation and liked it immediately.

On a side note, I will support any film that successfully incorporates the K-Ci and JoJo ballad “All My Life” into a scene.

Would my darling blog wife track this one down at all of its favorite spots or unfollow immediately? Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Emo the Musical, or: Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings

It’s not quite July, but I’m ready to lean into our next theme so hard: freaks, fuck-ups, misfits, and general weirdos. Conveniently, this theme also encapsulates most of the films featured in the Blog Collab, and what better place to find rejects and outsiders than a good old Australian high school?

The Film:

Emo the Musical

The Premise:

New kid in school and proud emo, teenager Ethan struggles to impress his fellow emos while fighting an attraction to church girl Trinity.

The Ramble:

Ethan is the new kid in school, having been expelled from his previous school. As an emo, he is looking for someone to be unhappy with, and is pleasantly surprised to discover a small but thriving emo scene at the new school.

However, Ethan is majorly conflicted when he meets peppy church girl Trinity and shares a connection with her. In addition to being an atheist, Ethan wants to impress the school’s emo band, so falling in with the church crowd seems ill-advised.

A teenage boy dressed in dark clothing and plaid walks next to a smiling girl in a school hallway.

Luckily, it seems pretty easy to gain favor with the emos; all Ethan has to do is show that he doesn’t care about anything. When auditioning for the band, he writes and sings a song entirely about how little he cares about being part of the band–which, of course, works like a charm. It doesn’t hurt that Ethan has a tragic backstory behind his expulsion: he tried to hang himself at the school where he was expelled. The band’s current purpose is to make it to a competition they would usually describe as lame, if not for the involvement of Doug Skeleton, hardcore emo and indie rock icon.

Three teenagers sit and look in disbelief at a character who is off-screen.

Upon his acceptance into the band, fellow emo Roz informs Ethan that they are now dating. However, sparks continue to fly between Ethan and Trinity when they are assigned to write a love song together for homework. When band leader Bradley steals the church group’s booking of the music room, karma bites back as a religious band forms to challenge the emos in competition.

The feud between the emos and the church group escalates as Bradley learns the truth about Ethan and Trinity’s relationship. Ethan must prove his loyalty by burning Trinity’s bible and breaking up with her. This is easier for him when it seems she has revealed the truth about his suicide attempt: Ethan never came close to suicide, and tried to work himself up to an attempt on 6 occasions (which still seems rather troubling?).

A band of four teeangers dressed in black with noose patterns around their necks performs a song.

After the emos burn down the chapel, the school, now funded by a drug company that makes serotonin supplements, mandates all references to drugs, suicide, and general unhappiness must be replaced with more positive messages. Clearly, the emos struggle with this and try to even out the odds. Discovering that the Christian band’s guitarist is in the closet, Bradley arranges for the rest of the group to find out so the band will be missing a guitarist.

Caught between loyalty to the band and basic human decency, how will Ethan stay true to himself and to the gospel of emo?

The Rating:

2.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I wanted to like this, but so much emphasis is on Ethan and Trinity’s relationship, which I care about not at all. I get that this is a Romeo & Juliet scenario, but I still find the instant attraction difficult to believe, and the idea that the Christian and emo factions are somehow mortal enemies. Not only that, but Ethan and Trinity spend the majority of their relationship sneaking around and being horrible to each other (and Ethan is also terrible to Roz). Not buying it.

Nothing about the film’s admittedly flimsy plot is helped by Ethan being a complete tool. It takes OUTING another student for him to realize maybe the emo band is full of douchebags??? I HATED Bradley and wanted there to be consequences for him, but he more or less gets away with being awful. Maybe I’m just overly vengeful, though, IDK.

The satirical elements have potential here, but they ultimately give way to silly teen drama. I love the concept of the drug company taking over the school and insisting everyone be happy all the time and wish the film had done more with this. The commentary on both the mainstream church group and the “cool” outsider emos is funny at times too, but not especially insightful. And I really feel everything surrounding Ethan’s suicide attempt was handled really badly.

Moral of the story is you should always just respect other people’s room reservations.

Would my blog wife confess all of her deep emo feelings to this one or insist it take several doses of serotonin supplements? Find out in her review here!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Always Be My Maybe, or: Quail Egg Parfait

I love a food movie. I love a story of a career woman stepping all over dirtbag men on her way to the top. And I love an unexpected celebrity cameo. All of these interests combine in this week’s pick–though do they complement each other perfectly or fight for dominance in the dish that is this film? Read on to find out!

The Film:

Always Be My Maybe

The Premise:

Childhood besties Sasha and Mike seemed destined to end up together but missed their chance years ago. Will history repeat itself 16 years later?

The Ramble:

Growing up in San Francisco in the 1990s, Sasha and Mike are inseparable friends who also sport a lot of plaid and shaggy boy band hair. With frequently absent parents, Sasha naturally becomes part of Mike’s family, even learning to cook from his mom Judy.

Two Asian-American kids are dressed as characters from the movie Wayne's World.

Everything changes when an accident ends Judy’s life, leaving both Sasha and Mike devastated. Mike decides he won’t go to college in favor of staying home and focusing on his band, while Sasha seeks comfort by taking their relationship to the next level.

Their romance isn’t meant to last, as a fight immediately after their hookup leads to a falling out. Sasha leaves San Francisco without looking back, and the two don’t speak for 16 years.

In the present, Sasha is a rising celebrity chef with a successful fiancé who also promotes her brand. Just before leaving New York to open a new restaurant in San Francisco, Sasha’s fiancé decides to accept a role that will take him to India with other celebrity chefs. Upset but trying to make the best of things, Sasha agrees to their temporary separation.

A man and woman sit in the back of a limousine, looking at their phones instead of each other.

When she arrives in San Francisco, Sasha rents a gorgeous house that is conspicuously missing an A/C unit. Childhood friend Veronica, who now works for Sasha, hires Mike’s father Harry to work on the A/C installation. Little does she know that Mike is now working with his father, setting up an awkward reunion between Sasha and Mike. Sasha is completely uninterested when she’s invited to Mike’s gig, but attending gets her out of the house and gives her a chance to avoid her parents.

After the gig, Mike’s girlfriend Jenny cooks dinner for Sasha and constantly calls Mike “babe.” Sasha loudly and rudely breaks up with her fiancé over the phone at a child’s birthday party, leaving Jenny as the only obstacle between her and Mike. However, Sasha ends up with a celebrity boyfriend after catering a ritzy event, with hilariously devastating results.

At a fancy party, a woman dressed in a gold dress holds the elbow of a man in a t-shirt and oversized jacket.

Even though you can easily Google the celebrity cameo here that truly makes the film, I won’t spoil it here. A double date between the two couples predictably ends badly…though it brings Sasha and Mike together again.

However, their relationship seems doomed to fail when Sasha is determined to leave for New York as planned, while Mike considers San Francisco home–and resents his new role as purse holder for Sasha at fancy black tie events.

Can Sasha and Mike find a way past these obstacles and back to each other?

The Rating:

3.5/5 Pink Panther Heads

I appreciate the surprising thoughtfulness of this film about success, ambition, and the difference between being satisfied and simply settling. These themes are analyzed through a feminist lens, as we take a look at Mike’s reluctance to support Sasha’s career and be a “regular guy.” We are immersed in the Asian-American culture of San Francisco too, without feeling like spectators doing cultural tourism. And the take on high-end restaurants and the culture of celebrity chefs is quite sharp (and the quail egg parfait Mike is repeatedly offered sounds vile).

I also absolutely love Mike’s father and his sideplot romance with a Diana Ross impersonator. Most of the other minor characters don’t feel as fully realized, however. Overall, I wanted this to be funnier. The celebrity cameo is the absolute highlight of the film and is genuinely hysterical, but I feel it should have a lot more going for it considering the talent involved. Not a bad way to spend an hour and a half(ish), though.

Would my darling blog wife stalk this one’s Facebook profile in secret or pretend not to know it in public? Read her review here to find out!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Hairspray, or: Climb the Whole Tree

I don’t know about you, but I could certainly use something cotton candy light and sweet at the moment. In messages with my darling blog wife, we lamented that, as winter is long past, it’s no longer socially acceptable to blame all of our woes on symptoms of SAD. I choose to now blame a lack of empowering films in my life…to be remedied shortly by this week’s pick.

The Film:

Hairspray (2007)

The Premise:

A fat teen in 1960s Baltimore dreams only of dancing on a local TV show…until she becomes involved in the fight for integration.

The Ramble:

Tracy Turnblad is an energetic, upbeat teen in 1960s Baltimore who loves nothing more than dancing. Her classmates and even her mother put Tracy down for her weight, but she is unfazed; she embraces her fatness and describes herself as “big, blonde, and beautiful.”

With her bff Penny, Tracy watches the Corny Collins Show, the local cable dance show, religiously. Tracy dreams of the day she will be noticed by the show and by heartthrob lead dancer Link Larkin.

A fat girl dances and sings down the hallway of a high school as others look on.

Tracy’s mother Edna means well but struggles with her body image and hopes above all to shield her daughter from heartbreak. When Tracy gets the opportunity to audition for her favorite show, Edna is less than supportive–good thing papa Wilbur and Penny have got her back.

Under several laundry lines, a middle-aged couple dance together on a rooftop.

No surprises here: Tracy makes it onto the show and is an immediate success. Fans of the show love Tracy’s energy and sweet dance moves. Not so much a fan? Undisputed queen of the show Amber, whose mother works for the network and makes sure her daughter gets more than her share of airtime. Amber and her mother’s panic cranks up to full-on emergency when Tracy seems to be a real contender for the title of Miss Teen Hairspray.

In school, Amber does everything she can to send Tracy to detention. Boyfriend Link does not approve of Amber’s mean-spiritedness but worries about putting his place on the show in jeopardy. Good thing Tracy’s banishment to detention means an introduction to Seaweed and his little sister. The children of legendary Motormouth Maybelle, the two show Tracy how to leave white girl dancing behind and embrace black dance moves. Unfortunately, black dancers can only strut their stuff one day a week as the network’s execs far from progressive.

A black woman with blonde hair and a leopard-print dress dances and sings while others dance in the background.

Meanwhile, sparks fly at Seaweed and Penny’s first meeting, much to the dismay of Penny’s conservative (i.e. racist, religious, repressed) mother. As Tracy and Penny spend more time with Maybelle, they become more aware of the racial injustice all around them in Baltimore. When the show’s producers eliminate “Negro Day,” the one day when black dancers are allowed to perform on the show, Tracy joins the local civil rights movement and marches for integration. Link’s hesitation divides the couple and further complications develop when Tracy goes on the run after being accused of assaulting a police officer.

A black teen smiles, standing with an arm around his younger sister

Will Tracy, Seaweed, and their friends ever dance on the show again?

The Rating:

4/5 Pink Panther Heads

The 1988 film was basically a dance revue with a loose plot tying things together, so it translates to a Broadway musical (and film) quite naturally. You could not dream of a better cast (though this is largely true of the 1988 version too). Queen Latifah and Christopher Walken are my personal faves here, but Nikki Blonsky really steps up to the lead role despite not being a household name. It makes me sad I haven’t seen her in a whole lot of roles since. My only complaint is that I really wish Edna had been played by an actual drag queen or anyone even remotely connected to the LGBT community, though John Travolta does make for a surprisingly good Edna.

Because our film clocks in at close to 2 hours, it does have the opportunity to explore some of the original film’s themes more fully. Edna has a lot more depth here, and seeing her on a journey with body positivity is quite lovely. The relationship between Edna and Wilbur is wonderful, and I adore their duet.

We get a better picture of 1960s segregation and the emotional toll it takes on the characters of color too. Queen Latifah’s number “I Know Where I’ve Been” is moving and seemingly made for her voice (and is there a greater moment in cinema history than her singing about different kinds of pie in “Big, Blonde, and Beautiful”?). I also really appreciate the film’s wisdom about the importance of integration on TV; though dismissed as light entertainment, TV reached so many audiences and had the potential to send a powerful message about civil rights by integrating.

Would my blog wife dance all night with this one or step on its toes? Find out in her review here!