With the weather turning colder, this month is the perfect time to bundle up and enjoy a good movie. This week, I weigh an option for the theater, a rental and a holiday classic in re-release.
In The Tribes of Palos Verdes, Phil (Justin Kirk) and Sandy Mason (Jennifer Garner) move to Palos Verdes, California with their twin teenagers, Medina (Maika Monroe) and Jim (Cody Fern), so that Phil can have more opportunities in his medical career. Although Palos Verdes is idyllic on the surface, the move and the social isolation Sandy experiences as a result throws the household into a tailspin. While Sandy and Jim’s mental health deteriorates and the Mason’s marriage falls apart, Medina finds an outlet in surfing and tries to find a way to protect her twin from her parent’s toxic relationship.
It is hard to say that I liked The Tribes of Palos Verdes, because the subject matter is so bleak, but I think it was beautifully crafted and that the acting is outstanding. Jennifer Garner and Maika Monroe give especially raw and moving performances. Some of Garner’s scenes are so intensely emotional and gut-wrenching that I wonder if she drew inspiration from her own life. Maika Monroe also narrates the film and her character’s calm presence amidst the chaos provides her with the opportunity for a lot of nuance and subtlety.
The Tribes of Palos Verdes is not a feel-good family movie, but it is an intricate portrait of young people trying to find their way through a family falling apart, featuring beautiful cinematography and superb acting. 4 of 5 stars.
The Tribes of Palos Verdes was written by Karen Croner, based on the novel by Joy Nicholson, and directed by Brendan and Emmett Malloy. It runs 1 hour and 44 minutes and is rated R. It is showing in select theaters and is available for rental on iTunes and GooglePlay.
Next, onto a film that you might have missed due to its limited theater release: Patti Cake$. Patti Cake$ tells the story of an aspiring rapper, Patti (Danielle Macdonald) and her best friend Jheri (Siddharth Dhanajay) as they dream big about leaving New Jersey. While Patti writes ambitious rhymes, she struggles to help her mother, failed singer Barb (Bridget Everett), pay the bills, and cares for her dying nana (Cathy Moriarty). When Patti meets a mysterious musician, Basterd (Mamoudou Athie), she and Jheri might be able to take their act to the next level.
Patti Cake$ features a quirky mixture of fantasy, working class hero tropes, and mother-daughter angst. I had a very easy time rooting for Patti as she tries to make her dream come true. The rapping segments are clever and fun, but the family story that grounds the movie gives it emotional heft too. As Patti, Danielle Macdonald deftly shifts between the character’s tender, sensitive nature and the showy confidence she draws on as she raps.
Patti Cake$ is an odd film featuring interesting cinematography and narrative techniques, catchy music and moving performances. If you missed this one in theaters, it is worth checking out this winter.
Patti Cake$ was written and directed by Geremy Jasper. It runs 1 hour and 49 minutes and is rated R. It is available for rental on iTunes and GooglePlay.
Gremlins, the 1984 holiday horror film starring Zach Galligan and Phoebe Cates, is being re-released in theaters this holiday season, and I jumped right on that nostalgia bandwagon. Gizmo could not be cuter. Then, however, I actually watched the movie and was reminded that it is objectively terrible. The gremlins themselves are funny in the same way that the Minions are funny, but I had forgotten that a large portion of the film features Gizmo–the most adorable of them all–being hurt, first by his inept caregivers and then by the other gremlins. The film also makes an attempt at a commentary about xenophobia, but the storytelling is so flimsy and the acting so weak that it just does not land. If you are going to watch Gremlins for the kitsch factor, go ahead. There are some genuinely funny parts, but remember that this is a “so bad that it is good” kind of movie, not a holiday classic in the way that, say, Home Alone might be.
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