Is She Really Going Out With Him?

the souvenir

The Souvenir, British director Joanna Hogg’s fourth feature film, is the first part of a two-part memory piece that focuses on a love affair that took place in Hogg’s early twenties, when she was in film school in London. Though not quite a memoir, the film is unabashedly autobiographical, and similar to Alfonso Cuaron’s recent Roma in how it seeks to reconstruct a particular period in the director’s life. To play a version of herself, a young woman called Julie, Hogg has cast Honor Swinton Byrne, a newcomer who at this point in her life is best known as Tilda Swinton’s daughter—though her performance in The Souvenir and next year’s sequel will likely change that. Swinton herself plays Julie’s mother, Rosalind, tamping down her usual charisma to embody a meek matron who rarely exerts her influence or reveals her knowledge of the world. It’s startling to see Swinton this way, especially with Byrne nearby, exuding youth and curiosity. With her height and her red hair, Byrne looks enough like Swinton to bring to mind her mother’s glamour, but also has a calm dreaminess that it is all her own.

Read the rest over at The Common . . . 

Long Shot

long shot

I saw Long Shot last weekend, when it opened, and really enjoyed it, but I’ve been struggling since then to write a review. On the one hand, it was the easygoing, funny, romantic comedy I’ve been waiting for. Seth Rogan and Charlize Theron are both charming and fun to watch. I laughed a lot and never felt bored. On the other hand, there was something amiss about the world they occupied, an alternate version of D.C. that was sometimes depicted realistically, sometimes satirically, and sometimes seemed to be a part of a TV-D.C. whose qualities I hadn’t yet learned. I wasn’t there for the sharp political satire, so I mostly didn’t mind, but some of the nonsensical aspects of the setting did make the characters less believable–and that made their romance a little less believable too.

Continue reading “Long Shot”

Wine Country

wine country

This movie was a like canned rosé wine: light, great for a picnic, and not very complex. You could do something else while you watch this movie — like get play cards and gossip with friends — and not miss much of anything. I really enjoyed it even as I can’t vouch for its quality.

Continue reading “Wine Country”

Movies I Watched in Florida: Part 2


Writing to you from lovely but chilly Brooklyn. It feels good to be home. We went to the playground and I made two little videos of my daughter. I’m experimenting with my home videos, trying to make them with some thoughtfulness and a sense of narrative or at least framing them in some way. I’ve only been doing it for a few days but I feel like it’s already helping me to understand better how story is conveyed through film. I was going to post the video here because it’s pretty low-key in terms of showing my daughter–you can’t see her face clearly–but apparently that would require giving WordPress access to all my photos on Google. So, I’ll put the video sharing on hold for now, until I figure out how to address all the privacy issues.

Anyway, back to the movies I saw in Florida, which, surprisingly, included Singin’ in the Rain. It was showing on Sunday night, our second night in Florida, as part of Epic Theatre’s “Flashback Cinema.” Epic Theatre seems to be a cineplex chain in the south, and our screening  was introduced, via video, by one of its executives, who shared some interesting facts about the movie. For instance: did you know that Gene Kelly has a 103 degree fever when he shot the title number, “Singin’ in the Rain?” Did you know the entire movie was written around that song? I did not. Nor did I know that Debbie Reynolds was not Gene Kelly’s first, second, third, or fourth choice and that she had to prove herself. To prepare, she took dance classes for eight hours a day for six months. Which is incredible. I feel like Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling did not put that much effort in for La La Land. Their dancing style was sort of “whatever works.” Whereas Debbie Reynolds’s was “I’m gonna make this work/prove myself to Gene Kelly.” Can you imagine the pressure? Only someone as young and hungry as Reynolds was then would have been able to stomach it.

Continue reading “Movies I Watched in Florida: Part 2”

Movies I Watched in Florida: Part 1

I’m writing this from a hotel room in Orlando, whilst drinking pink wine. I spent most of today either at a pool or eating at a themed restaurant. The hotel we’re staying in has scented air, the kind I’ve only smelled once before, in a Las Vegas casino. It hits you immediately, a noticeable but non-offensive perfume that makes you feel calm, secure, cared for. Or at least that’s how it makes me feel — even as I am mildly creeped out by the idea of scented air. My husband says my feelings of calm and relaxation aren’t accidental. The scents are manufactured to do this.

I’ve been looking for the perfect book to read on this vacation and I think I finally found it, today: Made For Love by Alissa Nutting. It’s about the creepiness of technology, among many other things. It’s set, delightfully, in the very near future, with the first chapter titled: August 2019.  I’m only about three chapters in but all I want to do is read it. The only reason I’m writing this blog post is so that I won’t forget what I watched.

I haven’t been watching a lot of movies lately because I’ve been reading a lot and working on a novel. I also haven’t been as stringent about watching female directors. Netflix offered up two old movies that I’d never seen but always meant to: Chinatown and The Conversation. Both are directed by men. Then I watched a very mediocre Netflix rom-com called The Perfect Date. The two stars in that were very charming, but it wasn’t very well written. I think if they’d had a woman working on the script, it would have been better.

My one big discovery this spring is Claire Denis. I’ve been meaning to check her out for years and wish I hadn’t waited so long. She is mesmerizing. More on her next week after I see her latest movie.

So what did I see on vacation? It started on the plane . . . Continue reading “Movies I Watched in Florida: Part 1”

2 Light & (Mostly) Delightful Movies Written by Women

Recently I gave two movies the benefit of the doubt simply because they were written by women. That is, they looked kind of silly, and were directed by men, but the screenwriters were female so I thought I’d give them a chance . . .

simple favor

The first was A Simple Favor, which came out last year and I think was a bit of a sleeper hit because it stayed in NYC theaters for quite a while–though maybe I’m just out of it and didn’t realize what a big movie it was. Anyway, I watched it at home last month with my husband. I had to suggest it for a few nights before he agreed to watch, not because of any snobbery on his part, but because it’s really hard to tell what this movie is. From the trailer, it seemed like a light thriller that maybe took itself too seriously. But it is not that, at all. Continue reading “2 Light & (Mostly) Delightful Movies Written by Women”