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?”

Lion

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.

Jul 07

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

The movie’s so good…in part because of the degree to which it considers marriage not just as a relationship between two people but between two families. Alison Willmore, Buzzfeed, regarding The Big Sick

Michael Showalter‘s The Big Sick is receiving some of the best movie reviews of the year—but first, what’s with that title? Anthony Lane, New Yorker, notes that it’s “both a turnoff and a spoiler”:

You know at once that someone’s health, in the course of the movie, is going to collapse. The someone turns out to be Emily (Zoe Kazan), a student who goes to the hospital with such a serious infection that she is put into an induced coma. Word of her suffering reaches her ex-boyfriend Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani), who hastens to visit her and, as the days crawl by, begins to reflect on how ex he wants to be.

Emily is studying psychology in graduate school when viewers first meet her, and the real-life Emily V. Gordon did become a therapist, eventually switching to writing. Another real-life thing: she winds up recovering from her health crisis and marrying comedian/actor/writer Kumail Nanjiani

And what about the illness Emily contracts in the film? Andrew Lapin, NPR: “…(T)he real Gordon has a rare autoimmune disorder called adult-onset Still’s disease (AOSD), a form of arthritis that can (and does) shut down major organs in the body…The Big Sick is the first ‘hospital film’ in a while that makes us feel the stakes of a vicious mystery disease in our guts.”

As rom-coms go, it’s not typical. David Sims, The Atlantic: “The Big Sick resembles three great, swoony sitcoms mashed together: It’s a typical meet-cute (between Kumail and Emily), a nuanced generation-gap story (between Kumail and his parents), and, well, an extremely atypical meet-cute (between Kumail and Emily’s parents).”

Christy Lemire, rogerebert.com, describes Kumail’s family: “…devout Muslims who insist on arranging a marriage for him. His older brother, Naveed (Adeel Akhtar), already has a wife and seems content. His parents (Bollywood legend Anupam Kher and theater veteran Zenobia Shroff, both lovely) just want him to be happy—as long as he carries on their cultural traditions. Caught between Pakistani and American identities, between Islam and agnosticism, Kumail is unsure of who he is—but he knows he can’t tell his family about the white woman who’s become so important to him.”

Adds Lemire about Emily’s parents, they’re “the nerdy, down-to-Earth Terry (Ray Romano) and the feisty, no-nonsense Beth (Holly Hunter).” Who are not quick to warm up to Kumail. “(T)he way Nanjiani, Romano and Hunter navigate their characters’ daily highs and lows—and dance around each other—is simultaneously pitch perfect and consistently surprising. Romano is great in an unusual dramatic role, but Hunter is just a fierce force of nature, finding both the anger and the pathos in this frustrated, frightened mom.”

Supporting roles include friends in Kumail’s comedy world—Bo Burnham, Aidy Bryant, and Kurt Braunohler.

You can watch the trailer below:

Selected Reviews

Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: “Nanjiani and his wife/co-screenwriter Emily V. Gordon carved this romantic comedy out of her personal hospital experience and their own culture-clash relationship. Their hilarious and heartfelt script has a rare authenticity that pulls you in and keeps you glued to the screen.”

Manohla Dargis, New York Times: “Love means having to say you’re sorry — early and often. That’s one of the truisms in ‘The Big Sick,’ a joyous, generous-hearted romantic comedy that, even as it veers into difficult terrain, insists that we just need to keep on laughing.”

Emily Yoshida, Vulture: “And even if you are already aware that things end up fine…there’s still plenty of reason to keep watching. That’s the thing: Even if The Big Sick risks being too long, or too gently lovable, it’s certainly welcome counterprogramming for a clobbering summer.”