Jan 04

Outsiders and Underdogs: 12 Films from 2017

Featured below are 12 feature films seen this past year that I believe are worth your while—especially if you identify with outsiders and underdogs. The first eight, having already been reviewed on Minding Therapy, are listed by and linked to their post titles.

“Maudie”: How Her Folk Art Bloomed from Within

Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: “…can barely contain the sheer volume of capital-A Acting in this biopic focused on one of Canada’s best-known painters, a self-taught ‘outsider’ artist before that phrase was in vogue.”

“The Big Sick”: A Rom-Com with True Issues

Peter Howell, Toronto Star: “Hilarious and heartbreaking with no clear trajectory, frequently catching viewers off guard, it’s a rom-com of both heart and brain about a couple tested by illness and clashing cultures.”

“The Glass Castle”: From Best Selling Book to Film

Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: “It makes you feel what it’s like to be tiny and dealing with an all-powerful tyrant who is not only crazy but knows he has absolute license to be crazy, and enjoys that license. In this way, Walls’ story is not unique. Indeed for many of us, it dredges up memories.”

“Stronger”: Post-Traumatic Injury and Recovery

Scott TobiasNPR: “Stronger is an answer to inspirational dramas that treat the afflicted like the city of Boston treated Bauman after the bombing, as a victory lap instead of a human being.”

“Marshall” Your Forces: “Stand Up for Something”

Matt Zoller Seitz, rogerebert.com: “It pays attention to issues of racial, religious and gender discrimination without wavering from its main objective: giving us an entertaining film about a couple of guys who are in way over their heads.”

“Wonder” Movie Furthers “Choose Kind” Movement

Bilge Ebiri, Village Voice:So maybe this little movie about a kid with a facial disorder isn’t really about a kid with a facial disorder at all, but about whatever you and I choose to see in it.”

“Lady Bird”: Pre-College Teen Navigates Her Identity

Guy Lodge, The Guardian: “In her bright, awkward, ambitious, insecurity-riddled protagonist, Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson, Gerwig has fashioned a heroine reflective of a wealth of outsider identities.”

“Three Billboards”: Female-Centric, Female-Reviewed

Kevin Fallon, The Daily Beast: “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, especially with that title, might seem to present itself as an idiosyncratic character study of a woman as she launches a David vs. Goliath face-off against her town, but it’s an equally fascinating mirror to the unsavory ways society instinctively behaves when a woman dares to disturb the status quo. That when a woman speaks up, no matter how justified she might be, the reflex is to silence her again.”

Hidden Figures

Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: “This movie adroitly portrays the sheer waste and inefficiency of racism and misogyny. Just think how much has been lost, the movie suggests, over centuries of depriving ourselves of the brains, talents and leadership of more than half our population?”


Katie Walsh, Chicago Tribune: “[Dev] Patel, given a leading man role, easily grows to fill the needs of this complex and conflicted character, a man caught between two worlds, two cultures and two families.”

Dani Di Placido, Forbes: “At heart, this is a story of outsiders and misfits struggling against the system, that feels all too appropriate today, where we’re still having furious debates about the right of others to be themselves.”

Call Me By Your Name

Dana Stevens, Slate:

In the end, the viewer doesn’t worry for Elio’s long-term emotional well-being because…we know exactly who this kid is, what he desires, and how much he is and isn’t ready for. He captures the gawky neediness of adolescence, but also its exuberant flights of intellectual, emotional, and sexual self-discovery. Elio has things to learn from Oliver but also things to teach him, and watching the two learn from each other—up to and including the hard lesson of how to let go—is one of the great cinematic pleasures of the year.

Aug 09

“Maudie”: How Her Folk Art Bloomed from Within

 ...(A) story of art rising from adversity. Kate Taylor, Globe and Mail, about Maudie

Director Aisling Walsh‘s Maudie was inspired by the true story of Nova Scotia folk artist Maud Lewis (1903-1970), who lived with a form of progressively debilitating arthritis and struggled to find love, independence, and inner peace.

A few brief descriptions of the portrayal of Maudie:

Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times: “Sally Hawkins turns a crumpled misfit into an affecting figure of fortitude and optimism…”

David Sims, The Atlantic: “Hawkins plays her as always possessing a kind of coy, rueful smile, but it’s one that betrays a hardscrabble life marked by trauma and abuse.”

Thelma Adams, New York Observer: “…an obscure figure who couldn’t stop her arthritic fingers from painting the world around her in vibrant colors on whatever surface she could access, from walls and windows to boards and post cards.”

Early in the film’s timeline we learn that Maudie has lost both her parents to death and has been abandoned by her only sibling. When she abruptly leaves the home of her unwelcoming aunt, Maudie is in dire need of a job and place to live. She applies to be a live-in maid to Everett (Ethan Hawke), the “crabby, orphanage-raised, antisocial misfit who makes what passes for a living peddling fish and chopped wood” (Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter).

For various reasons, their challenging coexistence quickly evolves into a marriage; their challenging marriage gradually evolves, over the course of many years, into a deeper, though awkward, love.

Watch the trailer below:

Maudie and Everett

Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter: “Despite his meager circumstances, grumpy Everett makes it clear Maud rates only third in importance in the household, after his dogs and chickens.”

David Sims, The Atlantic: “Maud and Everett Lewis’s relationship can be tough to watch—he’s at times plainly abusive (physically and emotionally), and at other times hurtful and dismissive.”

Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times:

Between Everett’s blunt insistence on traditional gender roles and Maud’s patient long-game to blur those lines and fill the space with who she is — literally too, since their painted house is now on display at an art gallery in Halifax — ‘Maudie’ is like a charmingly cracked domestic play about waiting the other person out. As she blossoms — just enough, not too much — he grunts and softens, just enough, not too much. Unlike the thick directness in Maud’s work, the movie about her is almost pointillist in detailing the tiny steps that make up an enduring marriage.

Selected Reviews

David Sims, The Atlantic: “This is neither a forgettable biopic nor a piece of shameless Oscar-bait; it’s a film that feels no need to make easy judgments about its subject, or any vague assumptions about the origins and meaning of her work.”

Manohla Dargis, New York Times:

How much of it is true…remains unclear; certainly the movie deviates sharply in sweep and detail from some accounts…
Like many screen biographies, ‘Maudie’ vacillates unsteadily between the brute realities of a difficult existence and its palatable imagery. The movie doesn’t erase the hard edges of Lewis’s life. Instead, it attenuates them — a brutal slap across the face, you suspect, stands in for more instances of physical abuse — and casts many of Maud and Everett’s difficulties as personal ordeals, playing down the institutional forces, like an orphanage, that discreetly hover in the background. There’s an argument to be made against such softening, though, as Lewis’s work suggests, there’s something necessary about the fantasies we make of our lives as we spin beauty and hope from despair.

Thelma Adams, New York Observer:

Maudie celebrates the capacity to appreciate the world that lies framed within a window, to see the cruel beauty of the everyday and transform it into art. This wedding of craft and imagination also describes Walsh’s textured filmmaking, connecting frame after frame of gorgeous vistas to an emotionally rich female-driven narrative about art’s healing power and the potential for redemption in everyday acts of grace.