Movies I Watched on Vacation

I’m back from a two-week vacation in Maine where I swam in the ocean every day, ate lobster rolls, hiked through moss-covered forests, and, on the nights when it was too cloudy to look at the stars, I watched a few movies. Here are a few quick thoughts, and I’ll be back to full reviews next week.

The Big Chill (1983)
Directed by Lawrence Kasdan
Written by Lawrence Kasdan and Barbara Benedek

This is the most baby boomer movie ever. I’ve seen it a lot. It reminds me of my childhood–the fashions, the decor, the way the adults talk. I don’t think this is the first time I’ve watched it realizing that the actors are all younger than I am now, but it’s still a jarring fact of life.

Pig (2021)
Director: Michael Sarnoski
Writers: Michael Sarnoski & Vanessa Block

This movie reminded me of a lot of other movies that I liked better: Okja, Ratatouille, First Cow, The Truffle Hunters, and even Fight Club. One powerful scene reminded me of Kathryn Schultz’s bone-chilling New Yorker article, “The Really Big One.” I liked the way Sarnoski turned foodie Portland into a mythical landscape, and the way Nicolas Cage’s character has to go on an underworld journey to find his pig. I like the mood, too: it had an exhausted, angry, End Times vibe.

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021)
Director: Josh Greenbaum
Writers: Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo

This is an extremely silly movie in the vein of Austin Powers and Wayne’s World. I think I would have loved it as a teenage girl. I enjoyed it more than I expected as an adult, mainly because Kristin Wiig and Annie Mumolo seem to be having a lot of fun and they kind of take you along with them. It was the perfect movie to watch on vacation when I just wanted to relax. In another universe, this might have been a sleeper hit — one that you went to see with your friends on a whim.

CODA (2021)
Writer & Director: Sian Heder

I had mixed feelings about this movie even as I was watching it. It’s a coming of age story centered on a girl who is the only hearing member of her deaf family. Apparently it’s not especially accurate when it comes to how deaf people navigate a hearing world, but I didn’t notice those flaws, in part because the movie didn’t seem especially interested in those details. Instead, it was a family drama about how to let your kid go off to college. There were moments that had me in tears, and there were moments when I was rolling my eyes because the plot points were so predictable. It’s a very by-the-book screenplay and some of the complications and plot developments didn’t make a ton of sense. Still, the performances were very winning and it was interesting to see multiple characters communicating in sign language, which is so visually expressive and not often captured on film.

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