Mar 15

“Golden Exits”: Heavy on Communication

The title refers to the tides on which people move in and out of each other’s lives, and the constant, maybe futile hope that there will be a perfect, mutually beneficial opportunity… Emily Yoshida, Vulture, regarding Golden Exits

Manohla Dargis, New York Times believes “‘Love, jealousy and deficiency’ would make a fitting alternate title” to Golden Exits (2017). “These words are spoken fairly late in the movie, which traces the emotional and psychological architecture of two intersecting groups of men and women.”

For the most part, they make an absurdly comic, at times pitifully narcissistic assembly — you laugh at them and then you cringe. White and mostly comfortably middle-class or bourgeois adjacent, they have nice homes, jobs and people they love and some they scarcely tolerate. They also have a lot of time to talk about themselves and their discontent, which eats at some and all but consumes others.

Elizabeth Weitzman, The Wrap, on a key premise every critic points out: “‘I feel like people never make films about ordinary people who don’t really do anything,’ sighs…Naomi (Emily Browning…), and she has arrived in Brooklyn from Australia only to find herself fetishized by a group of ordinary people who don’t really do anything.”

More about the plot and some key characters from Weitzman: “Nick [Adam Horovitz] is an archivist, currently tasked with making sense of his father-in-law’s life. His wife, Alyssa (Chloë Sevigny), wants to believe that he hired Naomi for her skills, but Alyssa’s sister Gwen (Mary-Louise Parker) is skeptical. And rightfully so: not only does Nick have a vaguely referenced history of infidelity, but he almost immediately shows up at Naomi’s door drunk, at night, wheedling for some company.”

Of special interest to this blog is Alyssa’s occupation as a therapist. As described by Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times, she’s “a morose therapist who hasn’t forgotten or forgiven her husband’s earlier dalliances.”

Rounding out the main cast of characters are Buddy (Jason Schwartzman), his wife Jess (Analeigh Tipton), and Jess’s sister Sam (Lily Rabe).

Richard Brody, New Yorker, on the themes of Golden Exits: “…a story of sibling rivalries and family heritage (artistic and material), of fragile marriages and bitter solitude, of solidarity and betrayal, of the possibilities of youth and the limits of encroaching middle age, of work as passion and work as burden, of the intimate relationships that develop through work, that nourish work, and that threaten work. It’s also the story of a small business.”

Maybe the music is one of the film’s best features, notes Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter, who isn’t the only critic to notice: “You barely notice the music at first, so discreetly is it layered onto the soundtrack. But it’s there, almost constantly, quietly roiling and churning, ebbing and flowing in an exceptionally beautiful way that becomes more noticeable with time but never distracts or calls attention to itself. It’s hard to think of another recent example of a strictly instrumental score that was so intrinsically linked to the artistic essence of a film.”

You can see the trailer for Golden Exits below:

Feb 27

“When We Rise”: Must-Know LGBTQ History

Jeff Jensen, ew.com, calls this new program “a beautifully queer thing in a very square package.” Starting tonight on ABC and also ending this week is a four-part, eight-hour mini-series, Dustin Lance Black‘s When We Rise, about the decades-long struggle for gay rights in the U.S.

Stars include Michael Kenneth Williams, Guy Pearce, Mary-Louise Parker, Rosie O’Donnell, David Hyde Pierce, T.R. Knight, Matthew Del Negro, Whoopi Goldberg, and Rachel Griffiths.

Although many reviewers find it “too dense” (Dominic Patten, Deadline) and “overly ambitious” in scope (Robert Bianco, USA Today), most also say it’s well worth the watch, especially for those who are relatively unfamiliar with the subject matter.

Sonia Saraiya, Variety, sets up the main (and, of course, true) story: “…three activists in San Francisco, who variously devoted their lives to (and were ravaged by) the cause. One is Roma Guy (Emily Skeggs in her youth, and Parker as an adult), a feminist activist who discovers her own sexuality in the process of agitating for the rights of her friends who are lesbians….Roma ends up making a fragile alliance with Cleve Jones (youth, Austin P. McKenzie; adult, Pearce), a gay teenager barely surviving on the streets of San Francisco. Jones would go on to become one of the gay rights’ movement’s biggest figures.”

Then there’s the third: “…Ken Jones (Jonathan Majors and Williams), a black Vietnam navy veteran who is both the most tragic figure in the story and the most alienated — from the movement and from the other ‘characters.’ His race cuts him off from the mainstream gay movement brewing in the Castro neighborhood of San Francisco; his sexuality cuts him off from other veterans and the black community.”

If for some of us watching this series is bound to feel nostalgically we’ve-been-powerful-in-our-united-struggle, it’s also likely to raise emotional triggers regarding current events in the Trumpism era. Although Trump had promoted LGBTQ rights in his campaign, he chose a Vice President and Cabinet appointees who’ve clearly shown anti-LGBTQ stances.

A few related and compelling concluding thoughts from critic Jeff Jensen, ew.com:

It’s a story that needs to be told and needs to be heard here at a time when the new conservative administration threatens to roll back the gains of too many years and too much suffering. (In a weirdly fitting and perhaps calculated scheduling choice, [the series] will be interrupted by President Donald Trump’s speech addressing Congress on Tuesday, Feb. 28)…

It’s a story of a marginalized people who deserve to be recognized, a history we all need to know and own, presented as potent mainstream television. At one point, a neglectful president flies above and over an exhibit of the AIDS Quilt on the National Mall in what plays as a willful spurning and taunt, and Pearce’s Cleve leads the crowd in a rebuke: ‘Shame! Shame! Shame!’ Some people, including yours truly, can barely begin to understand and feel everything encoded in that furious shout. When We Rise illuminates, moves us to empathy, and challenges us to join the battle.

Below you can watch the When We Rise trailer: