TIME NOW (2021)
Time Now is an indie drama with a thriller element, as single mother Jenny (Eleanor Lambert) returns home to Detroit to reunite with her estranged family after the death of her twin brother Victor (Sebastian Beacon) in a car accident. There are hard feelings and resentment on both sides, but as Jenny tries to reconnect with her family and meets with some of Victor’s friends, she comes to believe that something is not right with Victor’s death.
Flick is written and directed by Spencer King from his own script and he wisely avoids the theatrical melodrama that studio dramas of this type can have and that would only serve to distance audiences from the matters at hand. It’s played very low key and thus on a more realistic level, as Jenny confronts her family and faces not only some resentment on their part, but some of her own guilt and hard feelings over not having had a better relationship with her artist brother. Then there is the added caveat of mystery, as Jenny starts to get the feeling Victor’s DUI death behind the wheel, may not be the whole story. Again, the flick avoids theatrics and presents a slow burn as Jenny is trying to deal with family issues while investigating what happen to her sibling on that fateful night. Sometimes the flick is a little too laid back for it’s own good and as a result, the last act reveal is almost anti-climactic. It should have had more of a punch than it does. The flick rebounds with a last scene that does give us some stronger emotional resonance in which to leave us with, as the credits roll. Overall, this is an interesting and simmering indie flick with a strong performance from leading lady Eleanor Lambert, who is surrounded by a solid cast of fresh faces in support. Flick opens in limited theatrical release and On Demand on 10/26/21!
ON THE ROCKS (2020)
Indie comedy/drama finds author and married mother of two, Laura Keene (Rashida Jones) starting to feel something is off in her relationship with her successful, businessman husband Dean (Marlon Wayans). She turns to her playboy father Felix (Bill Murray) who hasn’t let being a grandfather get in the way of his philandering habits. Based on his own behavior, Felix suspects the worse, and so the two embark on an adventure to find out if Dean’s attentions are on business or pleasure.
Film is written and directed by Sofia Coppola, who has previously worked with Bill Murray in the wonderful Lost In Translation in 2003 and the Netflix holiday special A Very Murray Christmas in 2015. It starts off well enough, with some commentary on married couples falling into that mundane routine and losing sight of the romance they once had together. It also speaks about not losing one’s own sense of self when being a partner in a relationship and family. There is also Murray’s frisky and flirty Felix to remind us of not letting getting older age you and make you boring. Rashida Jones and Bill Murray have a wonderful chemistry together as the father and daughter and one wishes the script was stronger to support them. Much like Laura and Dean, after the first act honeymoon, the flick settles into a familiar and uninspired routine, with Felix constantly trying to prove Dean’s possible infidelities, while Laura follows along with his “investigation” hoping he is wrong. It sadly settles into an often tread pattern and loses it’s own identity that the first act set up so nicely. It should have been more about a woman rediscovering herself and that she doesn’t have to stop being herself, because of being a wife and mother. Instead it becomes an all too common “is my husband cheating” comedy/drama that we’ve seen countless times, as Felix and Laura go to embarrassing lengths to find out what Dean is up to. While still worth a look, the film ultimately wastes a wonderful pairing of talents whose delightful chemistry deserved better material.
SUMMER ’03 (2018)
Summer ’03 is an indie coming of age movie that finds teen Jamie Winkle (Joey King) trying to deal with the backlash when her grandmother Dotty (June Squibb) bares her soul on her death bed, throwing the family into chaos. Her mother Shira (Andrea Savage) finds out what she knew all along, Dotty hated her because she is Jewish. Her father Ned (Paul Scheer) finds out the man he thought was his father…wasn’t…and Dotty’s advice to Jamie might seem a little inappropriate. Being a teen is hard enough, but with a family in chaos and a dysfunctional funeral looming, Jamie tries to find herself in the mess.
Delightfully honest and sometimes biting and raunchy comedy/drama is written and directed by Becca Gleason. It presents a more realistic view of families, especially when secrets are revealed and real feelings come out, surrounding the death of a family member. It is also a nicely un-PC view of a teenager’s angst, not only in moments of upheaval, but in everyday teen life. The flick is not afraid to “go there” especially in it’s portrayal of Jamie following grandma’s last words of advice and of a young girl at the point of becoming a young woman. It has a bit of a devious and sarcastic sense of humor that produces some laugh out loud moments, for those who appreciate such, yet has some nice poignant moments, too, as Jamie struggles to find herself amidst her family falling apart around her. It does follow the coming of age movie formula, but does so at the beat of it’s own drum. Add to all that, a firecracker performance by Joey King, who is surrounded by a very good supporting cast and you have a movie that more people should have been talking about when released in 2018. Highly recommend and a very impressive feature film debut from Becca Gleason. Also stars Jack Kilmer as a young priest in training and Stephen Ruffin as a classmate, two young men whose attentions Jamie seeks as she tries to deal with what’s going on around her.
Flick can be found streaming on Amazon Prime and Tubi.
THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI (2017)
Intense drama tells the story of angry mother, Mildred Hayes (an amazing Frances McDormand), who sees, what she believes, to be a lack of effort on her local sheriff’s (Woody Harrelson) part in catching the man who raped and murdered her daughter, Angela (Kathryn Newton). In response, she puts up three billboards on the outskirts of her small town calling the police force out on their failings. This not only sets the town against her, as they sympathize with a sheriff dying of cancer, but also puts her, and those affiliated, in the cross hairs of his ignorant and hateful second in command, Dixon (Sam Rockwell).
Written and directed by Martin McDonagh, this is a powerful film, that not only illustrates what anger and hatred causes folks to do, but the consequences of those actions. The film is not really about Angela’s murder, but the effect it has had on her family and the town they live in, mostly on the rage coming from mother Mildred. The film also delivers some surprising transformations as the effects of all this anger and hatred changes people, some for the better, others for worse. McDonagh gets some fantastic performances out of his cast, especially McDormand and Rockwell and his script gives some intense dialogue and material for the cast to work from. Maybe the film isn’t perfect, one wonders if this town arrests anyone for anything at times, but it is a film that will stay with you long after the credits roll. Also stars Peter Dinklage, John Hawkes, Samara Weaving and Abbie Cornish.
LADY BIRD (2017)
Indie comedy/drama takes place in early 2000s Sacramento as strong-willed and opinionated Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) spends her senior year at Catholic school and has plans for her future in a New York City college. This plan causes her to butt heads with her money minded mother (Laurie Metcalf) who is determined she go to school locally to ease the financial burden on her down-on-their-luck family.
Enchanting indie flick is written and directed by Greta Gerwig, who has been in a number of indie films herself and certainly has paid attention. She creates a very spirited and rebellious character in the self-proclaimed “Lady Bird” without that character becoming a cliché. We are endeared to her and cheer her on, as her fire and determination to be her own person, rubs family and faculty alike the wrong way. Gerwig never steers the film into melodrama, yet also keeps the humor subtle so we take Christine’s journey, to walk to the beat of her own drum, seriously. She gets great performances out of her cast, especially Ronan and Metcalf and gives us real people to populate Christine’s world and not stereotypes. A fun and engaging story of a young woman coming of age in post 911 America. Also stars Tracy Letts as Christine’s father, Larry.