Paul McGuire Grimes the creator of Paul’s Trip to the Movies has a few selections to check out this weekend so you can stay in and all cozy, bundled up, and entertained!
MALCOLM & MARIE (Netflix)
Zendaya recently won an Emmy for her role on HBO’s Euphoria. When she and creator Sam Levinson couldn’t film Season 2 due to the pandemic, they decided to pivot in a new direction making the film Malcolm & Marie instead. This is a two-person film with John David Washington starring as the other title character, Malcolm. They arrive home after the big premiere of Malcolm’s new film, but tensions are high after he didn’t thank Marie during the premiere. Despite the fact she doesn’t want to talk about, he can’t go to bed angry. This snowballs into a highly escalated couple’s fight about their relationship and the roles they play in each other’s careers.
It reminded me of Marriage Story another film that featured an egotistical director and the intensity he feels in his relationships and career. Levinson doesn’t hold back with how these two characters talk to each other. It’s a fencing match between these two and the audience will have to pick sides. It feels pretty apparent on who we are supposed to side with, but I don’t want sway you one side or another.
Levinson has written a great acting piece for Zendaya and John David Washington. Both characters have a rollercoaster of a night offering them each a chance to play against what we’ve seen from them lately. Washington makes Malcolm a fragile guy one whose ego seems to exceed his talent. He’s a hot head who thinks he if talks louder and faster he can win this argument over Marie. While it may be easy to latch onto Washington’s performance, Zendaya shows the same strength while making opposite choices as Marie. She knows just the right levels to play to rightfully put Malcolm in his place. Zendaya’s power comes from the impact she has even in her quiet, non-verbal facial expressions.
You have to be in the right mindset for Malcolm & Marie as it will certainly polarize audiences who are tasked with watching a domestic argument. Is Levinson making a reflective movie about himself? Is he as pretentious and obnoxious as Malcolm or is he just commenting on the hot shot up and coming auteurs and critics in Hollywood trying to be the next big thing? The film is shot with gorgeous black and white photography by Marcell Rév.
RATING: 3.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
BLISS (Amazon Prime)
I always get excited when I’m watching a movie and feel like I’ve never seen this story before. It’s all the more disappointing when an original concept doesn’t quite pan out. Thus is the case for Bliss. Owen Wilson finds himself down on his luck as Greg Wittle. He loses his job at a place called Technical Difficulties and is still going through the complications of a divorce and a daughter wanting a stronger connection with her father. Salma Hayek’s character Dr. Isabel Clemens is that very stranger at a bar who initiates conversation and reveals she has some sort of telekinetic powers. What’s even stranger is the notion that she looks just like the woman Greg has been sketching in a series of fantasy getaway drawings. She proceeds to tell him nothing around him is real and that everything is part of a larger simulation.
Bliss is a high concept Matrix-like world where its left up to the audience to interpret what’s going on with Greg and Isabel. What is real in Greg’s world versus what might be happening in his head with drug use or mental instability. I was as confused at the character of Greg most of the time. Maybe that is the point with this type of abstract work.
The first half of the film certainly takes its time hoping you buy into the concept. If you’re willing to go along with it and figure out why Isabel has certain powers, what led her to being homeless, and why Greg is so unstable, you may appreciate its messages.
It starts to pull together somewhat in the back half of the film when Greg and Isabel go into the world of Bliss through a program she’s been working on called The Brain Box. The world of Bliss looks like a carbon copy of Greg’s sketches. Greg and Isabel look pristine and put together unlike the disheveled messes we find them in early on. It felt like the pieces were starting to come together, but director Mike Cahill doesn’t make it that easy either leading to more questions being left unanswered.
It’s certainly great to see Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek work outside their norm, but Bliss doesn’t fully recover in the end.
RATING: 2 out of 5 TICKET STUBS.
If you’re looking for a new Netflix series to celebrate the bond between two best girlfriends, check out Firefly Lane with Katherine Heigl (Grey’s Anatomy) and Sarah Chalke (Scrubs). Kate and Tully have been through thick and thin together since they were kids. Kate was the shy, book worm while Tully is the outgoing, adventurous type who came from a rough family. Her mother was a drug addict leaving Tully to fend for herself. Growing up on Firefly Lane wasn’t always easy, but these two friends both entered their adulthood wanting to be journalists, but their lives and careers went in different directions than planned.
Firefly Lane is a show about mothers and daughters and girlfriends being there for each other. We see the fractured relationship Tully has had with her mother, Cloud, along with Kate struggling to connect and bond with her teenage daughter.
The friendship between Kate and Tully certainly has its ups and downs, but I kept waiting for a larger overarching conflict to come into play driving one episode into the next. The series has more of the “slice of life” narrative approach and as it weaves back and forth in their lives. There is a major bomb that’s hinted at in Episode 2 but it’s very cautiously explored throughout the series despite the fact that I always wanted the writing to go back to this idea.
RATING: 2.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS