Apr 30

“Lean on Pete”: Not Just a Boy and His Horse

Not everyone likes a movie that sneaks up on them, so be advised that Lean on Pete is the ugly-cry event of the spring. But it more than earns its emotional ravages. Jeffrey Bloomer, Slate

Just a-boy-and-his-horse story? Excerpts from reviews of Lean on Pete suggest it’s much more than that and possibly not what you’d expect from seeing the trailer:

Selected Reviews of Lean on Pete

Manohla Dargis, New York Times: “Disaster violently upends and gives shape to the loose, episodic story when an angry stranger breaks down Ray and Charley’s front door, sending the father to the hospital and the son reeling. With no one else he can call, Charley runs off to look for a missing aunt, stealing both Del’s truck and Pete. They share starry nights — Charley talks to Pete as if confiding in a friend — but their difficult road soon turns treacherous. There are ominous men, kind women, persistent hunger, a desert trek, a breakdown and a grisly accident. Before long, this tough-minded if generous-hearted movie becomes nearly unbearable as its overarching ethic of honesty edges too close to sadism.”

Brian Tallerico, rogerebert.com: “It sounds clichéd, but you really don’t see a lot of movies like ‘Lean on Pete’ in a calendar year…I worry that it’s a tough sell for people who are going to consider it either a movie for young audiences or a manipulative melodrama.”

Mark Kermode, The Guardian: “A performance of remarkable depth, candour and vulnerability by rising star Charlie Plummer lies at the heart of this terrifically moving fourth feature film from British writer-director Andrew Haigh.”

David Rooney, Hollywood Reporter: “…(H)is childhood memory of an estranged aunt [is] the closest thing to a loving maternal figure he has ever known. But even more central to the story is Charley’s bond with the aging quarter horse whose name gives the film its title, a gentle nag that Charley is determined to save from the slaughterhouse once it has been run into the ground by its shady owner [Del, played by Steve Buscemi].”

J. R. Jones, Chicago Reader: “Certainly the boy has been treated like a horse for most of his life, led around by the nose from one place to the next. Charley’s mother abandoned him when he was a child, and his good-timey father, Ray (Travis Fimmel), drags Charley from town to town as he searches for unskilled work…”

Mar 28

“28 Days”: Hollywood Version of Addictions Rehab

Due to the high costs, whether you have health insurance or not, month-long treatment of addictions is not in the cards for most people. Less expensive treatment options are generally now the norm. But we’ll always have, as a dramedy-type reminder, the movie 28 Days (2000). In this film, Gwen Cummings (Sandra Bullock), a writer for a city newspaper, messes up her life to such a degree that she’s forced into a rehab facility known as Serenity Glen. It’s that or jail.

Here’s the trailer:

If you didn’t already pick up on it, rehab-speak runs rampant in 28 DaysCharles Taylor, Salon: “It’s one of those movies that make you feel like you’re going through a therapy session.”

Gwen herself says while in rehab: “I am so tired by the way you people talk. You know, I mean, ‘one day at a time.’ What is that? I mean, like two, three days at a time is an option?”

Some of the best quickie lines come from Betty, the tough nurse played by Margo Martindale, when she announces over the PA system the upcoming educational topics. These often start with “Tonight’s lecture…”:

  • How many brain cells did I kill last night?
  • Are you a blackout drunk, or don’t you remember?
  • I’ve worked all 12 steps, can I go home now?
  • What’s wrong with celebrating sobriety by getting drunk?
  • Is God an alcoholic?

The following is a more serious scene involving a group meeting that occurs after Gwen uses again:

It’s not uncommon for substance abuse counselors to be in recovery themselves, and this movie reflects this. At one point, top counselor Cornell Shaw (Steve Buscemi) tells a group of patients what it was like for him to be in the grip of chemical addiction:

…I would tell myself, ‘Tonight, I will not get wasted.’ And then something would happen. Or nothing would happen. And, uh, I’d get that feeling. I think you all know what that feeling is. When your skin is screaming and your hands are shaking. Uh, and your stomach feels like it wants to jump through your throat. And you know, that if anyone had a clue how wrong it felt to be sober, they wouldn’t dream of asking you to stay that way. They would say, ‘Oh, geeze, I didn’t know. Here. It’s okay for you. Do that mound of cocaine. Have a drink. Have 20 drinks. Whatever you need to do to feel like a normal human being, you do it.’ And boy, I did it. I drank and I snorted, and I drank and I snorted, and drank and I snorted, and I did this day after day after day after night after night. And I didn’t care about the consequences, because I knew they couldn’t be half as bad as not using. And then one night, something happened. I woke up. I woke up on a sidewalk. And I had no idea where I was. I couldn’t have told you the city I was in. And my head was pounding, and I looked down and my shirt is covered in blood. And as I’m lying there, wondering what happens next, I head a voice, and it said, ‘Man, this is not a way to live. This is a way to die.’

Although it’s been many years since I saw this film, I do remember kind of enjoying it despite its flaws. And, judging by a lot of consumer reviews online, so did many others.