Thursday, March 31, 2016

Film: "Hello, My Name is Doris"

Sally Field has played the straight and narrow when it comes to her fine dramatic prowess (as in “Places in the Heart” and “Norma Rae”) but in recent years, she’s had to contend with roles that did not give her ability to stretch that prowess into more than what those roles demanded (“Lincoln”, “The Amazing Spider Man”, etc.) a lot of it because of her maturity [more so  because roles for actresses at a certain age are far and few between].  As a child, I remember watching her in the television sit-coms “Gidget” and “The Flying Nun” and I always sensed she had a comic “quirkiness”; and, I also remember her powerful and powerfully haunting star turn as “Sybil”, the based-on-a-true-story movie about an abused young girl with multiple personalities.

Sally Field as "Norma Rae"
Made for TV movie "Sybil" showcased a versatile Sally Field.

SALLY FIELD'S Oscar Acceptance Speech for "Places in the Heart" is often misquoted: 
" I owe a lot to my family for holding me together and loving me and having patience with this obsession of me. But I want to say thank you to you. I haven't had an orthodox career and I've wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn't feel it, but this time I feel it. And I can't deny the fact that you like me. Right now, you like me! Thank you."

But in “Hello, My Name is Doris”, Field has the opportunity to revisit some of the quirkiness she had during her early television and movie years and really combine that with her more dramatic side.  
Field plays Doris Miller…let’s call her a “50+ish”, single, never-married bookworm/antiques hoarder (“I can’t believe people throw out these beautiful things!”) Staples-junkie office worker tied to her 9-5 routine in the accounting department of an advertising company.  Then, one day at work, she meets John Fremont, the company’s gregarious new art director (an enthusiastic, spot-on performance by Max Greenfield), about 30 years her junior and for Doris, it’s every romance novel ever written come alive! In fact, the movie “asides” capture daydreaming moments in Doris’ mind when she thinks about John and is imaging what they could be doing. 

Enraptured by the possible thought there could be some interest from him, she delves into his personal life (thanks to a social media savvy niece) and begins to partake of John’s world: going to her first ever electronica concert, singing karaoke, hanging with him and his friends, doing a photo shoot for an artist’s CD cover and even supporting John’s girlfriend at her singing debut. 

It’s all well and good… and also not well and not good, especially when her new circle of young-er friends doesn’t include her longtime BFF Roz (played to the tee by the very welcomed Tyne Daly) who doubts Doris’ love interest can stand, much less reciprocate, Doris’ affections. 
Add to this mix Doris’ suppressed ire about the death of her mother and her brother’s self-absorbed life, and there’s a fine balancing act Field does to keep both these sides of Doris’ life from converging.  Inevitably, Doris succumbs to her infatuation and manages the hutzpah to bare her soul - probably the only time in her life to do so – to John, someone who has affected her life in the most amazing way. Director Michael Showalter keeps the storyline moving and draws a magical performance from the cast, especially Field who, as Doris, shows a good depth of acting range – from elation to rejection, fragile to empowered, light-hearted to self-hatred….it’s all there in this formulaic but unexpected screenplay that I found myself both laughing and crying (more so commiserating) at the same time. 

Monday, March 21, 2016

Film: "Eddie the Eagle"

The Underdog...someone that is expected to fail or lose (usually referenced in sports or athletics) given the circumstances and odds [In cinema, see "Rocky" (doesn't matter if original or sequels), "Gladiator", "Lord of the Rings", "Star Wars: A New Hope", etc., etc., etc.]. And in cinema, the Underdog usually/sometimes comes out victorious which gives the audience someone (or something) to cheer for. Yes, it's formula. And in some instances ,it works; as in "Eddie the Eagle", a recent feature with Taron Egerton as Michael Edwards, the first competitor to represent Great Britain in ski jumping in the 1988 Calgary Olympics  - in fulfillment of his childhood dream. 

"Where'ya goin' Eddie?" says Eddie's mum to a 6 year old boy.  
"I'm going to the Olympics mum" replies Eddie as he heads off to catch the bus to...wherever the Olympics were going to be hosted. It's a signal of a determination and commitment that underlines this pleasing biopic and one that even tugs at the heartstrings. 

Michael "Eddie" Edwards competing in the Olympics
This movie soars with tenderness and a very, very heartfelt, down-to-earth performance by Taron Egerton as Michael "Eddie" Edwards. From the get-go, we see both the humility and the perseverance of Eddie through Taron's much calibrated, nuanced performance. Taron superbly evokes Eddie's quiet naivete, incorrigible stubbornness, dangerous haughtiness and infectious zealousness for his new-found sport quite convincingly, it was hard NOT to cheer on Eddie's campaign (to become the first British ski jump competitor at the Olympics, something the British Olympic Committee wanted to sweep under the dirtiest rug, as well as his actual ski jump competitions, first to get him qualified and compete!) 

Taron Egerton plays the headstrong Eddie "The Eagle" Edwards

Add to the story the guiding direction of former champion downhill ski jumper (now turned washed up alcoholic handyman) Bronson Peary, played just under the collar by Hugh Jackman, and the Obi-Wan Kenobi/Luke Skywalker story is retooled for Olympic ski jumping;  which is fine, because Jackman's supportive role doesn't overstep Taron's innocence; in fact, it defines it a bit more and they share some very poignant scenes in the movie. 
Hugh Jackman plays Bronson Peary, Eddie's ex-champion ski jump coach.

"Who's your favorite actress Eddie?" asks Peary. 
"Bo Derek" replies Eddie. 
"Ski jumping is like making love to Bo Derek", explains Peary. 
...blank stare on Eddie's face...

Director Dexter Flectcher's quick pace, stapled on the upside by an 80's musical score as well as references to pop culture of the time, makes the movie enjoyable and takes full advantage of a lot of the formulaic cliches and expected "underdog" tactics. But what was surprising, at least to me, is that the expected result isn't quite what was expected; yet, Eddie shines through and is buoyed by his accomplishment...which,  in turn, uplifts the human spirit. And it was real...."cool"!