Tag Archives: michelle williams

Manchester by the Sea – Review

14 Dec

Sometimes it seems that a great movie can just pop up out of nowhere. I shouldn’t really be saying that about this one considering this is the time of year when a lot of the great movies come out and also the fact that this particular film was getting a fair amount of buzz. When I first heard of Manchester by the Sea I was determined to see it because of the praise that was being given to Casey Affleck, one of my favorite actors. I went to the movie not knowing too much of what the plot was or who was involved with the production, but looking back on it, Manchester by the Sea is one of the stand out films of the year and one of the most honest and down to earth stories I’ve seen in a long time.

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Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck) is a janitor for an apartment complex in Quincy, Massachusetts who is known by the tenants for his often volatile personality. One day he gets a call to let him know that his brother, Joe (Kyle Chandler), has died which forces Lee to return to his home town of Manchester-by-the-Sea for the services and to also look after Joe’s son Patrick (Lucas Hedges). This return to Manchester opens some old, deep wounds that Lee has been running from for years that are only made worse when he finally runs into his ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams), and the two begin talking for the first time since a tragedy forcefully pulled them apart. As Lee starts to deal with his past and the problems he is presently facing, a bomb is dropped on him when it’s revealed that he is now the legal guardian of Patrick, a responsibility that seems so far from what Lee is capable of.

There are so many really impressive things about Manchester by the Sea from the way the story is told to the actors responsible for bringing all of the poignant scenes Kenneth Lonergan created to life. In terms of story, it’s simply beautiful and it’s so beautiful because it’s so real. There’s nothing glamorized in this movie and the drama feels like it could happen to anyone including yourself. The idea of having a death in the family, especially someone as close as Lee and Joe were, is a very upsetting thing to think about but the story never becomes so upsetting that all the hope is lost. People deal with loss in different ways including lashing out at other people or hiding behind a sense of humor. This movie explores all of these ways and it surprisingly made me laugh more than a few times. In one scene, Lee and Patrick are having an argument while they walk up and down a street looking for where they parked the car. This frustration of forgetting where they parked adds frustration to their argument and fuels the fire. This is a great scene that perfectly illustrates the real scenarios that are relatable to the viewer.

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Part of what made this movie connect with me so much actually had a lot to do with the location. Manchester is shot like it could be Anytown, USA. There’s something really familiar about the businesses and the homes that just put me at ease with where I was. Like I said, there’s nothing glamorous in Manchester by the Sea and that includes the way the settings and people are shot. None of the characters look like movie stars, but are made up to look like they could be anyone’s next door neighbor. It reminded me a lot of British realism in the sense that all of this could be happening next door from you and you may not even know. Lonergan has truly crafted a story that can speak to anyone, no matter how cold and jaded you’ve become.

On to the reason why I really wanted to see this movie. Affleck has been getting a lot of attention for his performance in this movie and he deserves every bit of it. He gives an understated and honest performance, but he also just fits right into the location like he’s been there all his life. There are some scenes that require him to really put energy into the drama, but there are so many great scenes that are much quieter and you can see just by his face that the gears in his head are turning and turning fast. Lucas Hedges also gives a surprisingly great performance as Patrick, and the two leads work great with each other. It’s a very real relationship they have and the conversations we get to listen to happen so naturally. Finally, Michelle Williams is always one to give a strong performance and her tragic character in this film is clearly and accurately brought to life.

Manchester by the Sea snuck up on my out of nowhere and has become one of the strongest and most memorable movies of 2016. It’s a pretty long movie and it can be argued that not much happens in the slow burn of a storyline, but I’d argue that. This is a very deep, complex, and emotional story that’s acted by some of the best in the business and realistically brought to life by writer and director Kenneth Lonergan. It doesn’t so much succeed as a drama as it does in showing life and humanity in the most organic way you can see on film. Manchester by the Sea is required viewing.

Final Grade: A

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Blue Valentine – Review

20 Nov

Before Blue Valentine was released in 2010, there was a lot of controversy surrounding the rating that I think helped boost its recognition a little bit, and I was worried that the hype around the movie was going to ruin the entire experience for me. Well, after 4 years, I’ve finally gotten around to seeing this movie, and I can’t really say that I’m disappointed. There are plenty of things that make this movie great and worth a viewing, but my own personal taste tells me that I’m really not going to have to sit down and watch the movie again.

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This film chronicles the relationship of Dean (Ryan Gosling) and Cindy (Michelle Williams) in an interesting way, but the love they have for each other is ultimately doomed to fail. In the past, Cindy was facing the end of a bad romantic entanglement and an unexpected pregnancy when she meets Dean, who shows her a much more fun and easy going side to life. Dean is even willing to step in and help her with the baby even though it is obvious that it isn’t his. Five years later, they are married and raising their daughter, Frankie (Faith Wladyka). Both are good parents, but have seemed to have lost touch with what made their relationship so great in the first place. Dean and Cindy both decide to go out for a night and try to rekindle the spark that they had, but only succeed in making their situation worse.

I understand that this movie is really good. I can see that it is, clear as day. There’s just some unknown variable that exists that makes me not really want to watch it again. Maybe I found the entire experience a bit too cynical, but then again, that cynicism is a big part of the story and the message that writer/director Derek Cianfrance is trying to give. So it’s not that I don’t understand what he’s trying to say, it’s just all sort of depressing. There have been films with this message I’ve seen in the past like 500 Days of Summer and Annie Hall, both of which deal with doomed relationships, but there’s something about Blue Valentine that looks at it in such a hopeless an negative way, sort of like real life. So, yes, I do appreciate and understand Cianfrance’s frankness, but that doesn’t mean it makes for a very entertaining movie.

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By far, the best part of this movie is the acting. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams give two of the most honest performances that I’ve ever seen in a movie. The director had a lot of ways to get that kind of chemistry between them, so credit also goes to him. It’s clear that a lot of what the actors are saying is improvised or even some of their actions, and that is what gives this movie such a real feeling. Even through all the cynical remarks and devil may care attitude that doesn’t always work for me in movies, I still bought it because of their strong performances. Williams was actually nominated for an Academy Award for her performance in this, which pretty much had to happen considering how excellent she was.

I just really couldn’t get into the style of Blue Valentine. I felt like it was a romance movie that was trying to be different at times. Most times it definitely succeeded at being unique, but I often felt, especially during one nice scene where Cindy dances to Dean’s ukelele music, that the movie was just trying to hard. But you know what, this is all just my personal preferences coming into it. I can see how this movies appeals to other people, and I definitely see that it is a well made film. There’s just something about this style that I can’t really get into, and I often checked the time throughout this entire movie.

This was a really hard review to like, because part of me was saying to just write how well made it was and how technically proficient it all is and how the writing and acting is all really good. It all is. All of those things are really good, and for those reasons I’m glad that I’ve seen this movie at least once. The other part of me doesn’t want to see it again because I just couldn’t get into the mood or the style of the movie, but as I said before I can see how it would appeal to other people and for good reason. Objectively speaking, Blue Valentine is a really good movie, but it just didn’t sit too well with me.

Deception – Review

17 Apr

I’m feeling kind of weird. I feel like I’ve just been led on, lied to, then treated like a child. This isn’t anything personal, so don’t be concerned about little old me. No. I just watched Deception. Thinking more and more about this title, I can’t help but wondering if it was given in relation to the plot and themes of the movie, or if it’s because the film makers were just trying to warn the viewer that this movie only exists to lie to you and then disappoint on pretty much every single level that this movie has to offer.

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Jonathan McQuarry (Ewan McGregor) is an accountant who is presently hired to do the books for a law firm where one Wyatt Bose (Hugh Jackman) is employed. Wyatt is a smooth talking confident man who appears to take Jonathan under his wing after a chance encounter. Jonathan inadvertently stumbles upon a sex club called “The List,” which Wyatt is a member of. As Jonathan gets more into this club he meets a woman that he only knows as S (Michelle Williams). He breaks the rules and begins to fall for her. S is promptly kidnapped, which forces Jonathan to act out for her kidnappers and take part in a multimillion dollar heist in return for her safety.

Read that last sentence again. Never have I ever been so jerked around by a movie in my entire life. Having plot twists can be great and can really disorient and shock, but the twists that happen in Deception are so beyond ludicrous that I can’t believe the screenplay was even passed and the film actually made. The screenplay to this movie is so terrible, from the dialogue to the completely unbelievable narrative. I was literally shocked.

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One thing I will give this movie is the way that the actors handle the script. I don’t know exactly what they were all thinking, already being talented and established actors not hurting for work, when they read this and decided it was a good idea to take the job. Ewan McGregor is completely in character as a quiet and weak man who has stumbled onto something way above him. Jackman is plays his suave, condescending character with ease. Williams is fine, but certainly nothing special compared to these two other actors. There is some horrible dialogue that the actors really try to make serious, which sometimes works and sometimes it doesn’t.

What really makes me angry about this movie is that it started out so interesting, and I was pretty into it, but 40 minutes in I completely lost it. The plot not only changes direction, it goes completely off road making for a very uncomfortable, messy, and annoying ride. Even when I was sort of enjoying the movie, it seemed so afraid to take risks with the plot device of the sex club that I started asking myself, “What’s the point?” My attention wasn’t held any better with the absolutely bland set design. From the offices to the apartments, they were all so fluorescent and sterile that it was just ugly. This might have worked if this was shot completely in digital, but on 35 mm and HD video, it just doesn’t turn out well.

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It’s been a long time since I’ve despised a movie so much. Saying it’s a subpar thriller is an insult to subpar thrillers. I can’t tell if the film makers tried to hard or nowhere near hard enough. I can’t even say it’s not memorable because there’s no way I could forget the narrative atrocity that is Deception. It’s ugly, boring, and stupid. I can’t stress it enough that you stay far away from this piece of trash. It’s an insult to my intelligence and stole two hours of my life that I will never see again.