Well, this movie was as charming and sweet as The Great British Baking Show, and like GBBS, you can find it streaming on Netflix. It’s based on a Jenny Han’s much-beloved YA novel by the same title and it’s been generating a lot of conversations about representation because the story centers on an Asian-American girl, something that is still rare in Hollywood. Even more depressing is that the author and director had to fight to cast an Asian actor in the lead role because, according to producers, “there was nothing in the story that required her to be Asian.”
Thank goodness the author and director did insist on Lana Condor for the lead, because she had the perfect mix of dreaminess and intelligence for Laura Jean, a character I immediately liked and could relate to. She’s a smart girl, who’s grounded in family life and schoolwork, but at the same time, she’s naive and nervous about social life. She wants romance but doesn’t know how to find it. Han said she wrote the novel thinking about her own high school experience: “Particularly being in early high school and younger, and the idea that you want these sort of [romantic] relationships and love, and [how they feel] so comfortable in your head, but then can feel so uncomfortable in real life.”
Laura Jean also reminded me of one of my favorite literary characters, Anne of Green Gables. Like Anne, Laura Jean has a rich imaginative life and romantic ideals that aren’t quite met in real life. Like Anne, she unexpectedly finds herself falling in love with the most popular boy in school (and he with her). Also, like Anne, Laura Jean doesn’t have a mother, and I found myself tearing up a little when Laura Jean talks with her kinda-sorta boyfriend about their parents. It wasn’t the content of the conversation so much as the fact that the two characters were listening to each other. There was a lot of sweetness in the moment, and in this movie in general, of the kind that you don’t usually see in teen rom-coms.
I’m taking a little break from this blog until the end of the summer. I’ll be back on September 4th. (Btw, Dirty Dancing is free on Amazon Prime right now. I started watching it the other night thinking I’d just watch for a half hour to wind down…but of course I ended up watching the whole thing. Did you know it’s written by a woman, Eleanor Bergstein? I didn’t, but I wasn’t surprised because how many movies have the girl as the romantic hero who saves the day?)
Since starting this blog, I’ve been meaning to find out more about the life of one its namesakes: Alice Guy Blaché. I got a great jumpstart over the weekend, when I went to a screening of some of Blaché’s early films, included as part of BAM’s series devoted to female directors in the early days of filmmaking: Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers.
The screening I attended was introduced by film scholar Shelley Stamp. I’m going to borrow from her intro to give a little background on Blaché, who was not only the first known female director, but possibly the first person to make a narrative film. She directed her first movie in 1896, shortly after film equipment was invented. She also worked with sound films in 1905, long before they were developed for commercial markets. Continue reading “A Glimpse of the films of Alice Guy Blaché”
Several years ago, when I was doing research on depression for my novel Home Field, my sister recommended The Noonday Demon, Andrew Solomon’s nonfiction book/memoir about depression. It sounds odd to say that I loved a book about depression and yet I did love that book, because it helped me to understand an affliction that I had seen wear down many friends and loved ones. It also gave me new ways of thinking about the mind-body connection — if the mind and body can even be separated. Finally, it looked deeply into the question of nature versus nurture, and what effects environment and life experience have on health.
The Noonday Demon also introduced me to the voice of Andrew Solomon, which is erudite, peculiar, witty, and confiding. Like the best novelists, he has the ability to synthesize huge bodies of knowledge and research and to put it in the service of whatever story he’s telling. I was eager to read more of his writing after I finished The Noonday Demon and as it happened, his new book, Far From the Tree had just been published. I bought without knowing much about it, except that it was about parent-child relationships and that it was very long, over 900 pages.
What followed was on of the most indelible reading experiences of my life. Continue reading “Review: Far From the Tree”
I just learned, via Manohla Dargis’s excellent review, that BAM Cinematek will be showing films directed by Alice Guy Blaché, one of the namesakes of this blog. She’s believed to be the first female director, and a person who helped to shape cinema from its earliest days. Her films will be shown on Saturday as part of a series, Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers.
Because her movies are so old, dating back to the 1910s, and it didn’t occur to me that I would ever have the chance to see her films outside of a museum. So, I’m thrilled that I’ll have the chance this weekend. They’ll also be available this fall in a boxed set produced by Kino Lorber and the Library of Congress. (The photo above, by the way, is of Alice on her wedding day, borrowed from the website of the author Alison McMahan, who has written a scholarly study of Blaché’s films.)
Some nights, you’re in the mood for a movie but not something that’s heavy. But you don’t want to watch TV because you want something that ends. Preferably in two hours. Something that won’t insult your insult your intelligence, and might possibly cheer you up. Because it’s been a hard news week. (It’s always a hard news week.)
Enter Set It Up, a Netflix original movie that Netflix has probably already recommended to you if you watch sitcoms on its platform. I’m here to second that recommendation. It’s not a great movie, but it’s a fun, romantic comedy that is very happy to be one. The conventions are all in place: it takes place in New York City, and our star-crossed lovers work for vague, unnamed media companies. The girl, Harper, works as a Girl Friday for the editor of a sports news website. The guy, Charlie, also works as a personal secretary for, hmm, I can’t remember what his boss does. It doesn’t matter! This movie is not making any important observations about the modern day workplace and that’s okay. Continue reading “Set It Up”
In fairy tales, the forest is a dark, dangerous place, populated by wolves and other menacing creatures, but for Thomasin and her father, Will, a veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the forest is a respite, a place of quiet and calm. More than that, it’s their home. For several years, they’ve been camping in Forest Park, an enormous urban park on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon. Although they have gone undetected all this time, they still do practice drills in case they should be discovered. In an early scene, Will critiques his daughter’s hiding place, telling her that her socks give her away. Actually, it’s Thom’s eyes that betray her: you can see her loneliness and her restlessness. As a younger kid, 24-7 camping may have appealed to her, but when we meet Thom, she is a young teen, full of curiosity about the outside world and eager to meet new people. The only thing that keeps her in the woods is her deep love and sympathy for her father.
Thom and Will are inevitably discovered, and Leave No Trace tells the story of what happens after: how they adjust to life in the world outside their forest. . .
(Read the rest at The Common)