Binge-watching TV shows and reading a good book are all good snow-related activities (does ordering liquor from Astor Wines constitute take-out?) but also is catching up on some of the movies I missed at the multiplex. So I curled up and watched Love is Strange, Life Itself and Boyhood. My shortest review belongs to Love is Strange – because unfortunately I found the film unworthy of its talents. Boasting a cast that includes Alfred Molina and John Lithgow as long-time partners who are finally able to marry, Marisa Tomei and Cheyenne Jackson, the plot was contrived and somewhat unbelievable. There were some interesting relationship dramas among various characters but they went nowhere and the movie didn’t fall under the sub-set of “that was a lovely slice of life film.”
There was some surprise when Life Itself, the documentary about film critic Roger Ebert, didn’t receive an Oscar nomination. It is a lovely film – both heartbreaking and uplifting – that takes an unflinching look at Ebert toward the end of his life. But the movie also examines the man, warts and all, as he came up through the newspaper field and became an unlikely TV movie critic. Friends and family speak lovingly of him and Ebert is an active participant in the movie – through words from his memoir and words that he types toward the end as he can no longer speak. The movie made me remember why I went into journalism and appreciate Ebert’s talents anew. An interesting side note – there is a scene in the film with ‘Selma’ director Ava DuVernay who talks about meeting Ebert when she was a young girl and the impact he had on her. It was a lovely reminder of how people from different backgrounds can find common ground at the movies.
Life itself is examined in Boyhood, which spans 12 years in the life of one family. Much has been made of director Richard Linklater filming this movie over the course of time and how we get to watch all the characters grow up and change over the course of the film – without someone playing the younger version of a character or having a character age with makeup. This was an intimate look at family life with all its foibles. The two actors portraying the children are not professional actors and they brought a real charm to their roles as siblings. Patricia Arquette is deserving of her awards and Ethan Hawke is strong as the man-child father. My only quibble was the movie started running out of steam toward the end and went on too long for my taste. AFW
Love is Strange – 1 hour 38 minutes
Life Itself – 2 hours
Boyhood – 165 minutes