May 26

“3 Generations”: Teen’s Transgender Issues

Emily Yoshida, Vulture, sets up the plot of Gaby Dellal‘s 3 Generations, a film (formerly called About Ray) about a transgender boy that’s sat on the shelf for quite some time pending some needed fixes:

Ray (Elle Fanning)…desperately wants to begin hormone therapy, a development that leads to much hand-wringing from his mom, Maggie (Naomi Watts), and grandmother Dolly (Susan Sarandon). The three live together in a charming, ramshackle East Village apartment along with Dolly’s girlfriend, Frances (Linda Emond). Ray’s father, Craig (Tate Donovan), is out of the picture, but because Ray is a minor, he requires a signature from both parents in order to proceed with the reassignment process. Cue a messy family reunion, and at least one dramatic revelation.

Many critics wish it had been fixed even more. Its Tomatometer score on the website Rotten Tomatoes is currently at 30%.

Christy Lemire, Rogerebert.com:  “A movie can mean well but not necessarily work well. Being tasteful can get in the way of being truthful. Such is the frustrating case of ‘3 Generations,’ which takes on the topic of gender dysphoria with a talented cast but not much to say.”

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap: “It’s a film that positively reeks of good intentions, but it’s so timid and tentative — the words ‘trans’ and ‘transgender’ are never uttered aloud — that it feels as hopelessly retro as casting a cisgender actress in the lead. Fanning does fine work, but the current habit of not hiring trans performers to play trans characters is going to feel very dated very soon.”

Jesse HassengerAVClub: “Many scenes and sequences end abruptly, indicating that there may well have been a longer cut of the movie, which may well have played better than this one.”

Watch the trailer below:

Depiction of Transgender Issues

Alonso Duralde, The Wrap: “…Yes, many parents have a difficult time understanding their children’s transitions, but the characters presented here are all artsy New Yorkers, so the idea that they’ve had no interaction with trans people never rings true. As for Ray, he has not one trans friend — not even online, where he would presumably be posting his auto-documentary shorts on YouTube and finding others going through similar life stages. And given that he’s known he was a boy since the age of four, he seems ill-equipped to discuss the subject with his well-meaning relatives.”

Joe McGovern, ew.com: “Nine out of 10 scenes in the film involve the characters hurling insults at each other while seeming miserable in their fantastic Manhattan brownstone. Some of the screaming fights yield challenging points of conflict: Sarandon’s character, for example, thinks it’s antifeminist that ‘my granddaughter wants to be a grandson’.” Christy Lemire, rogerebert.com: “Theoretically, you might expect that because Dolly is a lesbian, she’d be more understanding of Ray’s desire to assert his true self; the fact that she isn’t is one of the film’s more intriguing—yet unexplored—elements.”

Emily Yoshida, Vulture: “…(I)t feels more like a checklist lifted from a pamphlet about things to expect when your son or daughter comes out — well-meaning, emotionally unimaginative, and always at arm’s length.”

May 06

“The Meddler”: Mom, Grief, Boundaries, Therapy

…(I)n its heart, it’s a story about the lived experience of grief. Marnie is still dealing with the death of her husband, and Lori with her father. Matt Zoller Seitz, rogerebert.com, regarding The Meddler

A recommended alternative to the widely panned Mother’s Day this weekend is writer-director Lorene Scarfaria‘s semi-autobiographical The Meddler, which has “a diminutive and misleading title for such an affecting, often profound film,” states reviewer Matt Zoller Seitz, rogerebert.com. His intro:

Susan Sarandon plays the title character, Marnie Minervini, a sixty-something mom who moves from New York to Los Angeles to be closer to her screenwriter daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), who just broke up with her actor boyfriend (Jason Ritter). Marnie is one of those mothers who calls her daughter five times in the space of a couple of hours, leaving a message each time Lori doesn’t pick up, then leaves ten more messages throughout the day because she’s worried about not having heard back from her yet. Her daughter can’t take her relentlessness, so Marnie channels her energy into mothering strangers and near-strangers…

The trailer:

The Role of Therapy in The Meddler

Peter Debruge, Variety: “To the extent that the film is therapeutic, Scafaria clearly wrote it as a way to process her and [mom] Gail’s wildly different approaches to processing [dad] Joseph’s passing — going so far as to involve actual therapy sessions, in which Mom decides to see the same shrink in hopes of hearing what Lori won’t share with her directly.”

How this happens in the film is that Lori has set out to establish some needed guidelines with her mom. Bob Mondello, NPR: “‘I’ve been talking to my therapist,’ she begins, and you see Marnie’s eyes moisten before she even gets to the ‘boundaries’ part. Then mom’s out the door, and straight to the therapist. The therapist they share — so much for boundaries.”

Manohla Dargis, New York Times: “Marnie has started to see the therapist (Amy Landecker in a quick, deadpan turn) at Lori’s urging, though mostly she seems to go as a way to insinuate herself even more deeply into her daughter’s life. It’s no wonder that Marnie seems like a smother-mother who’s one 911 call away from a restraining order; no wonder too that she seems lonely.”

Marnie doesn’t stick with the shrink, though. 

In conclusion, Ella Taylor, NPR: “The great thing about The Meddler is that it doesn’t force Marnie to change all that much. She comes to see that she needs to take care of herself as well as others. Likewise, Lori comes to accept the gift that’s been in front of her nose all along, and to accept that what’s most annoying (to her, if not to her friends) about her mother is also what’s finest about her.”

Apr 22

“Thelma and Louise”: An Up-to-Date Analysis

Women don’t want to see men killed meaninglessly, as so many men seem to enjoy seeing random violence in “their” movies, but they do want to see revenge, when it’s deserved. And “Thelma and Louise” is a revenge tragedy wrapped in humor, discovery and rebellion. Roger Ebert, rogerebert.com, 1991

Film critic Roger Ebert aptly reached this conclusion about 25 years ago when the award-winning Thelma and Louise was released. And 20 years later (just five years ago) Raina Lipsitz (The Atlantic) called Thelma and Louise “the last great film about women,” citing few since then that have passed the Bechdel test as well or with “the depth or level of nuance of Thelma & Louise.”

Watch the trailer here:

More film background from Ebert (some of which may serve as a spoiler for anyone who hasn’t seen it) (but should):

The original screenplay by Callie Khouri was written in response, she says, to countless movies in which men were the free agents and women were decorations or sidekicks. It was time for the women to get the last word, for a change.

Consider what happens in ‘Thelma and Louise.’ A drunken would-be rapist gets blown away. A slimebag truck driver, who harasses the heroines with his obscene side show, gets his truck blown to smithereens. A husband who is smugly indifferent to the needs and voice of his wife finds out he has no idea who he was married to. A lot of cops get outsmarted and made into fools. And the women get the last word.

Suicide or freedom-finding? Although some viewed the ending as catastrophic, Ebert represented the other side. “They are shouting into the maw of the universe,” said he, “that men are no longer going to make their decisions for them.”

Khouri, in fact, saw the ending as “symbolic, not literal.” Raina Lipsitz (The Atlantic) shares this sentiment: “To me, it represented not death or punishment but hope, and even a kind of radical, ultimate fulfillment. Today, movies about women end with a wedding. Even its proponents can hardly argue that the aim of marriage is to set women free.”

As quoted on NPR on the occasion of the film’s 20th anniversary, Khouri further explained her perspective:

“It was a way of saying that this was a world in which they didn’t believe there was the possibility of justice for them. That they didn’t believe that anyone would ever see their side of it enough to know why they had done what they had done. And that this was just a way of letting them go and letting them stay who they were, who they had become. So I never saw it as a suicide. And over the years, hearing other people talk about it, I realize it’s like a half-full, half-empty glass of water test. Where some people will come up and go, ‘I’m so glad you let them get away.’ And other people are like, ‘I can’t believe you killed them.’ To me, they got away.”

Stars Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon, both recently interviewed for Harper’s Bazaar, have some fierce things of their own to say about how things could’ve turned out (or did) for their characters:

Davis (Thelma): “People ask me, ‘Is there going to be a sequel?’ And I’m like, ‘What the heck do you think happened to them’?!”

Sarandon, who was Louise, was asked to ponder a different, i.e., non-perishing, type of ending. “Well, Thelma’s definitely not with her husband anymore! One would only hope she found Brad [Pitt] again. [Laughs.] Maybe Louise became a lesbian. That would be fabulous. Maybe she continued her trip and ended up running an Airbnb. I certainly could drive better by the end of the movie, so maybe I became a driver of some sort.”