Tag Archives: drama

Movie Review – The Glass Castle (2017)

It is possible for your parents to be dicks…and loveable…at the same time.

I know.  #MindBlown, right?

BQB here with a review of “The Glass Castle.”

Based on the biography of journalist Jeanette Walls, this movie is a family drama/tearjerker/coming of age story/quasi-Oscar bait though it’s a bit too early for award season.

Brie Larson, and her younger alter ego, Ella Anderson star as adult and child versions of Jeanette, respectively.

Her parents, Rex and Rose Mary (Woody Harrelson and Naomi Watts) are, for lack of a better description, total buttholes who are utterly incompetent when it comes to parenting.

Rex drinks.  Rose Mary dreams.  Both parents are like adult versions of children with their heads stuck in the clouds.  Neither of them is capable of holding down a job which means they roam the countryside, squatting on vacant properties or living outdoors.  Worse, just when they start to make it in a community, Rex will inevitably do something stupid that requires the whole clan to pack up and haul ass out of town lest they get on the bad side of the law.

Rose Mary fancies herself an artist, spending all her time painting instead of, oh I dunno, making sure her children are fed.  Rex considers himself a great thinker/philosopher and constantly rants and raves about all of his deep thoughts about the world, but can’t figure out how to earn a steady wage.  He’d rather spend his time designing a grand castle made out of entirely of glass, an achievement he hopes will one day prove to the world that he isn’t a total loser.

And losers these parents are.  Rex and Rose Mary (but mostly Rex) are constantly making bad decisions that put their children into harm’s way but the rub is at the end of the day, they love their children and both have their high points where they endear themselves to children.

Thus, a quartet of young cherubs, lead by young Jeanette, are put in a tough position.  They hate their parents for putting them through hell…but they also know their parents are doing their best that their limited, roomy brains will allow and the harm they cause is unintentional.

In short, Rex and Rose Mary suck…but they can’t help it.  And there’s the lesson that maybe a lot of viewers can relate to.  Unless you have super awesome perfect parents who are great at everything then at some point in your life, you might just have to suck it up and admit that your parents aren’t always right about everything, so sometimes you’ll have to learn to tell them no and strike out on your own (when you’re adult, of course.)

The film moves back and forth between young Jeanette dealing with her young parents shenanigans, and an older, more mature Jeanette who has overcome a life of poverty and parental stupidity to become a well-to-do gossip columnist.

As older Jeanette looks back on her youthful memories, she must come to terms on whether or not to make amends with her elderly parents now that they are, God help her, squatting in an abandoned New York City building because…poor Jeanette…her parents just won’t leave her alone.

Perhaps you don’t have parents as crazy as these two, but I think many people have a love-hate relationship with their families.  Perhaps they have said or done things that have harmed you in some way…and yet they have probably also done things that have helped you along the way.  Such is the deal with Rex, whose drunkenness, day dreaming and constant failure has ruined the lives of his children and yet, at times, he offers words of wisdom or provides grand gestures that helps them.

Sometimes it is possible for parents to suck…and yet be loveable…because they don’t mean to suck.  They just can’t help but not suck.

Brie shows off her acting chops and she’s still holding strong as the hot new actress to beat.  We see a more fragile side of Naomi Watts than we’re used to as she appears as a weathered old lady at some points in the film.

Woody Harrelson steals the show as the Dad you love to hate…or even…hate to love.  He’s a dick…he’s nice….he’s mean…he’s evil…he’s a drunk…but he wants to change….he’s a failure….but he has it in him to be a success…he sucks…he doesn’t want to suck…he’s a walking contradiction in terms.

Overall, the suggestion seems to be that to ever be truly free of all the family drama in your life, you need to move the fudge away as soon as your eighteen and not look back.  Forgive your parents for their failings and love them for their goodness because, chances are, yes, there were times they failed you but maybe they didn’t mean to or they were trying their best but were limited by their own personal issues.  Still, was it all bad?  Surely, you can rustle up some love for them too.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.

Tagged , , , ,

Movie Review – Gifted (2017)

Math!  The dreaded court system!  Family turmoil!

BQB here with a review of Gifted.

In this released too early Oscar bait “everyone show off their dope ass acting skills” drama, Chris Evans takes off his Captain America uniform to play Frank Adler, a boat repairman earning a modest living while being the guardian of his precocious seven year old niece, Mary (McKenna Grace).

Shenanigans ensue when Mary’s teacher, Miss Stevenson (Jenny Slate) begins making noise about how Mary is a super intelligent math genius and should be put into a gifted program.  Frank wants no part of this as he fears that what Mary will gain in brainpower she will loose in humanity/social skills.  Why become a big time egghead if you never make any friends or learn how to interact with people on a personal level?

Alas, Miss Stevenson’s meddling reaches the ears of Frank’s domineering, super bitch on steroids mother Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan) who has mad loot and can afford a big fancy lawyer to challenge Frank’s custody on the grounds that he sucks as a parent because the kid should be learning at a school for brainiacs and not at a regular school for big dumb dummies.

An emotional battle royale ensues, both in and out of the courtroom.  As a viewer, you’re torn, because part of you knows that true genius is such a rare gift that to ignore it is a sin.  On the other hand, we’ve all met that doofus who can do long division in his sleep but can’t tie his shoes.

Thus, the story is a very emotional one because both sides have a point.  Who’s right?  Maybe they both are.  Maybe no one.  You get to decide.

Chris Evans gets to shine without super tights on, proving to Hollywood he has the acting chops necessary to be put onto the Oscar path.  Meanwhile, although Jenny Slate has been in a lot of low key projects since her SNL days, this is the first film I personally have seen her where she isn’t completely goofy but rather, is a real person.  You sense the feeling that she really believed she was helping and now feels bad that she caused such a bru ha ha.

Oh, and Oscar favorite star Octavia Spencer stars as Frank’s friend/next door neighbor/Mary’s babysitter.  She’s great in this role, providing the motherly influence that Mary is sorely missing.

Oh, and McKenna herself.  The kid’s got moxie.  Here’s hoping that she heeds the movie’s advice.  Learn how to balance greatness at an early age with the need to grow up and become a normal person, not a wacko who can’t deal.  At any rate, the kid’s got a future.

However, the true star of the film is Fred the One-Eyed Cat.  He deserves a best cat actor award or at the very least, a stylish eyepatch.  “I think therefore I am Fred.”

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Great date film.  Sad yet uplifting.  Asks a lot of questions about the importance of love, life, happiness, and family.  Above all, informs us that true greatness in anything often involves a great deal of sacrifice, dedication and discipline, ultimately consuming the overachiever.

In other words, being smarter than everyone else is an epically rough cross to bear.  Tell me about it.  Story of my life.

Tagged , , , , , ,

TV Review – Better Call Saul (2015 – Present)

Drugs!  Crooked lawyers!  Cinnabon!

BQB here with a review of the Breaking Bad prequel, Better Call Saul.

Once upon a time, Bob Odenkirk brought the comic relief to Breaking Bad as notorious ambulance chaser, Saul Goodman.  On that series, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) informs meth cook partner Walter White (Bryan Cranston) that they need a “criminal” lawyer, emphasis on the criminal – not just a lawyer who specializes in criminal law but one who engages in criminal activities to get his clients off.

And the rest is history.

Better Call Saul is a prequel of the life perpetually down on his luck attorney, Jimmy McGill, led, long before he took the name Saul Goodman or became Walter White’s lawyer.

You’ve probably seen shows that paint the law as a fantastic profession to be in.  TV lawyers are often portrayed as wealthy, fast talking beautiful people who drive fancy cars, eat at the best restaurants and make out with other beautiful people.

This show gives us a look at the grimier side of the legal profession.  Jimmy McGill practices out of a literal closet in a nail salon, drives a car with mismatched doors and barely makes ends meet.

He has a love/hate relationship with his brother Chuck (Michael McKeen), one of New Mexico’s most respected lawyers.  Chuck is a rabid electro-phone, meaning that he is convinced that anything that uses electricity is sending electric waves into his body that could kill him.

Michael McKean displays some of the best acting of his career as he sits in a dark house, eats food out of a cooler full of ice instead of a fridge, forces visitors to leave their cell phones in his mail box, and covers his home and his body with tin foil space blankets.

Meanwhile, there’s an on-again/off-again romance between Jimmy and Kim Wexler (Rhea Seehorn), an attorney that actually strives to do honest work.  Sometimes she serves as Jimmy’s conscience.  Other times, she gets dragged down into Jimmy’s world of crap.

Rounding out the cast is grizzly ex-cop Mike Ehrmantraut, the fan favorite of many a Breaking Bad viewer.  We find Mike in a lowly state at the beginning of the series, working as a parking lot booth operator who regularly feuds with Jimmy over his inability to remember to obtain the required parking validation stickers.

From there, the two start going down the rabbit hole of the Mexican drug cartel world, that same world that Walter White gives a big giant enema to in Breaking Bad.

To be clear, the show is nowhere near as good as Breaking Bad.  That’s not an insult to Better Call Saul but rather, a compliment to Breaking Bad, as that show captured lightning in a bottle and is a rare commodity.

However, just as its predecessor took an unlikely concept, i.e. a terminally ill chemistry teacher who stops giving a shit and rises through the drug underworld to become a kingpin, and spin it into gold, this show does the same with an unequally unlikely idea, namely, that the comic relief of the previous show should get a show that’s all about him.

The show has heart.  Jimmy has a dream to become a great, powerful lawyer, yet there are so many obstacles in the way.  Maybe you, the viewer, never tried to become a lawyer, but you probably had some dream.  Maybe you achieved it, maybe you didn’t but either way, most people can relate to obstacles getting in the way of their dreams.

The show features Vince Gilligan’s signature storytelling style.  It’s “show, don’t tell” to the max.  The viewer is presented with a lot of mysterious, ominous stuff.  None of it is clear at first but if you keep paying attention, the mental energy you expend will not be wasted.  Everything that happens in the show means something.  There’s very little filler or fluff that can be cast aside.

I admit when I heard this show was in the works, I had my doubts.  Breaking Bad could never be topped and perhaps if this show sucked, it would taint the legacy.  But somehow, the show, while not surpassing the first show, still holds its own and is a boon to fans who still want to see that Gilligan style on the screen again.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

TV Review – Burn Notice (2007-2013)

“Being a spy means having to do things you don’t want to do…like sitting through another one of BQB’s television reviews…”

Burnt spy + hot Irish babe/demolitions expert + hard drinking, wise cracking buddy + spy’s mom = a funny action series you should have paid more attention to when it was on the air.

But that’s ok. You can still catch it on Netflix.

BQB here with a review of Burn Notice.

The show begins with government super spy Michael Westen (Jeffrey Donovan) being “burned.”

As he explains during the show’s title sequence, his agency, without explaining why,  disavows him, writes him off, leaves him without any money or references and seeing as how Mike doesn’t have any job experience he can publicly admit, little in the way of skills he can use to make a legit living.

Thus, Mike moves back home to Florida to be closer to his elderly mother, Madeline (Sharon Gless of Cagney and Lacey fame.)

Mike forms a crew with:

  • His girlfriend, Fiona Glenanne (Gabrielle Anwar), a demolitions expert who, often to hilarious effect, wants to blow up everything first and ask questions later.
  • Sam Axe (Bruce Campbell), a fast talking degenerate/con artist/former Navy seal.

I love this show because to me, it felt like a modern day A-Team.  Just as the A-Team used their soldier skills to help people in need, Mike, Fiona and Sam form their own team and use their skills to help various residents of Florida save themselves from all manner of criminals and reprobates.

Now, keep in mind the show aired on USA, and not to cast aspersions, but USA is most likely your grandma’s favorite channel.

Ergo, USA shows tend to be simple (though I hear that might be changing with Mr. Robot as of late.)

Thus, the Burn Notice formula:

  • Beginning and end of the episode is about Mike’s ongoing quest to figure out who burned him and why he was burned.
  • In the middle, Mike, Sam or Fiona meet someone, often a nice civilian who has run afoul of some criminal.
  • Mike and the gang use their skills to help the person in need. Mike uses his spy skills. Fiona blows shit up. Sam uses his well worn alias “Chuck Finley” to sweet talk someone into giving up some information.
  • In fact, the trio often dust off their acting skills, using terrible accents and poorly crafted back stories to worm their way into the confidence of various criminal organizations before making their move.  If you suspend disbelief, its fun.

On top of all that, the Florida scenery is beautiful.

Mike even recruits his mom to help from time to time and there are a number of series regulars who come in and out.  Towards the end of the series, Coby Bell joins the group as Jesse Porter, a spy who, ironically, Michael burns.

I loved this show.  I looked forward to it when it was on every week as an escape. And it was one of few shows I was able to start when it was already on the air for a couple of years and understand what was going on before I eventually went back and watched the episodes I missed.

Somehow, the writers were able to balance the need for USA viewers to be able to understand what is happening if they just happen to start watching an episode at random with the audience’s desire to have interesting, compelling story lines.

I ended up caring about all of these characters and moreover, from start to finish, the writers make it clear that they care about you, the viewer.

Michael narrates each episode and explains his gadgets, strategies, plans, etc., usually with “Being a spy means…”

As Michael explains what he is up to, sometimes it is fun to watch to see if he can actually pull it off.

And everyone needs a girlfriend like Fiona and a buddy like Sam.

IMO, Donovan and Anwar are both underutilized by Hollywood and deserve more movie roles.

Bruce Campbell is a laugh riot and this role breathed much deserved life into his career.

Check it out, 3.5 readers.

Don’t forget to grab a yogurt. Mike loves his yogurt.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

TV Review – Breaking Bad (2008-2013)

I am the one who reviews!

High school chemistry teacher with cancer + his former student who calls everyone “bitch” = show that most critics would agree is the best television show of the twenty first century thus far.

BQB here with a review of Breaking Bad.

When this show came out in 2008, someone close to me had just died from cancer, so I wasn’t interested at all.  I saw the previews for it and was like, “eh” then I saw the previews for Showtime’s The Big C, a show that came out around the same time about a woman trying to keep her life together while fighting cancer and I was just like, “Look Hollywood, cancer is not funny or glamorous and it is the last thing I want to see on TV when I’m looking for an escape, thank you very much.”

So the years passed and then somewhere in the early 2010s I heard people talking about this show so I gave it a chance on Netflix and was immediately hooked.  And from what I’ve heard, the invention of streaming media breathed life into this and a lot of other shows.

Because when you think about it, a show about a high school chemistry teacher dying from cancer doesn’t exactly sound like good time appointment viewing, but once it was available in a format for people to check out when they had a free moment, boy howdy did they get hooked.

And truth be told, the show isn’t so much about cancer as it is a study of a) the sadness people feel when they reach the end of their lives feeling like they never reached their full potential and b) how much the legal system keeps us all behaving like good doobies without us ever realizing it.

Remove a) the fear of dying because you are already dying and b) the fear/humiliation of ending up in prison (because you’re dying) and the nicest person you know might end up walking down an evil path.

The set-up – Walter White (Bryan Cranston) was, in his youth, a promising chemistry scholar who starts a business with friends Elliot (Adam Godley) and Gretchen (Jessica Hecht).

Walter sells his share of the company early, the company becomes huge, like Facebook huge.  Meanwhile, Walter grows old and bitter, having spent his life in mediocrity as a high school teacher with a part time job at a car wash just to make ends meet.

Somehow he manages to snag a hot wife, Sklyer (Anna Gunn) while his son, Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) oozes happiness and gets along as a typical teenager despite a handicap.

When Walt is diagnosed with terminal cancer, his despair over his untapped potential haunts him. He’ll die without using his genius brain to make it big.

Alas, his brother-in-law Hank (Dean Norris), a DEA agent, takes Walt on a ride along.  Walt catches a glimpse of just how much cash a good drug dealer rakes in and the little hamster starts rolling around the wheel in his brain.

What begins as an idea to use his chemistry know how to cook crystal meth in order to leave some extra cash behind for his family turns into a long journey into the proverbial heart of darkness, as Walt uses his smarts and fearlessness (because, hey, he’s dying anyway) to rise to the highest ranks of the criminal underworld.

He takes on Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), his former student turned junkie as his partner in crime and together, they become expert meth cooks.  As Jesse becomes like a second son to Walter, their relationship is sometimes tragic and sometimes even hilarious.

Add to the mix criminal lawyer (the show stresses you are to read this as a “lawyer who is a criminal”) Saul Goodman (veteran comedian Bob Odenkirk) who steals the show with his obnoxious TV lawyer ads.  Saul teaches the boys how to launder their money, dodge law enforcement, get out of trouble, etc. etc.

Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) is the old ex-cop/problem fixer that Walt works with. The combination of the grizzled old man who has seen and done it all and the chemistry teacher who sees things through gentrified eyes is comical.

Meanwhile, Giancarlo Esposito as crime boss Gus Fring is one of the scarier bad guys on television.

Throughout the series, Walt struggles to keep his public and private lives separate.  He continues to pose as a good dad and husband while sneaking off to cook meth and deal with criminals with Jesse.

All the while, lovable Hank, and I do mean lovable, is chasing some criminal without realizing the man he wants is his beloved brother-in-law that he spends the weekends with grilling burgers and shooting the breeze.

If anything, the Hank/Walt dynamic is what really makes the show. The show runners could have made Hank the stereotypical tough guy cop but instead they made Hank an average joe.  He loves his wife, Skyler’s sister Marie (Betsy Brandt), loves his in-laws Walt and Skyler, loves his nephew Walt Jr. and brews beer in his garage as a hobby.  He is, one might say, a true mensch.

The star of the series is Vince Gilligan, the show’s creator and man behind the scenes.  Every detail, every little thing that happens means something.  Take notes as you watch because if someone so much as sneezes it will turn out to be important later. Not letting a single second of time go wasted has become Gilligan’s signature.

So many shows take off and then descend into chaos.  The actors get too big for their britches and want to leave for bigger, better things.  Ironically, prior to this show, Bryan Cranston wasn’t that well known, his other biggest acting gig having been as the father on Malcolm in the Middle.

Like Walt, Bryan found fame and fortune late in life (albeit legally) but he never forgot the viewers and juggled all the big movie roles that came his way with Breaking Bad, keeping it all together to keep the show going.

And sometimes writers run out of gas, but Vince and company keep viewers on the edge of their seats to the very end.

In fact, if you’re a wannabe writer, I highly suggest checking out this show. (At present, all five seasons are available on Netflix.)

And catch the prequel, Better Call Saul on AMC. It doesn’t have a lot to do with Breaking Bad but you get to learn how Saul and Mike worked together before Walt came along.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

How the West Was Zombed – Chapter 25

shutterstock_320226569

After the courtroom cleared out, Slade confronted Sampson.

“What the hell are you doing?” Slade asked, his voice raspier than ever.

“Marshal, I hate this as much as you do but the Governor has the right to issue pardons and once he does there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. Take it up with him.”

Slade, man of action that he was, ripped the star off his shirt, slammed it down on the Judge’s bench, and stormed out of the courtroom.

“Slade!” the Judge called after him. “Don’t be ridiculous! This town needs you!!!”

Gunther’s stomach churned. The idea of leaving a job he held most of his life was unsettling, as was the idea of being disloyal to Slade.

“I don’t reckon there’s some kind of generous retirement payment for a man who’s held the position of Deputy Marshal for over forty years, is there?”

“Not that I know of,” the Judge replied.

“I figured as much,” Gunther said as he tugged at his star. “Oh well, here’s mud in your eye.”

Gunther tugged and tugged but the star wouldn’t budge.

“Deputy,” Sampson said. “I don’t have all day.”

“Now hold your horses,” Gunther said as he continued to fumble around, “I don’t want to rip my vest. My wife made this for me…ah…here we go.”

Gunther slammed his star down next to Slade’s.

“Gunther, don’t do this,” Sampson said. “You could take Slade’s place and become the Marshal yourself.”

“What?” Gunther asked. “And be the man who has to make all the decisions and be responsible for everything? No thank you. I’d rather be hung upside down by my toes and beaten with a wet noodle.”

“What will you do now?” Sampson asked.

“I don’t know,” Gunther said. “Get even older and die I guess.”

Tagged , , , , , , ,

TV Review – Mad Men Series Finale (2015)

SPOILER ALERT

What did you think of the Mad Men Series Finale?

I like it when the fates of characters are spelled out.  I know there are some who are ok with it when things are left up in the air but personally, when I’ve invested time in a series, I like to know what happens with these characters I’ve spent time watching.

The series finale of Mad Men provided closure (and surprisingly happy endings) for the main characters (well, except Betty.  Poor Betty).

The look of complete and unrelenting sadness on Don’s face when Peggy asks Don “What did you ever do that was so bad?” and he explains it…that pretty much captures the whole series.

Sooner or later, bad actions catch up with the actor.  Cheating was fun and all but faced with the fact that his philandering means that he won’t be able to be there for Betty, the woman he loves, during her terminal illness forces him to fully accept the full weight of what he’s done.

We’re led to think Don might commit suicide but the story ends…with a smile.

Catharsis.  The assumption (I assume) is Don forgives himself.  It’d be nice to know what he’s going to do next, but at least he’s come to terms with his past and is willing to forgive himself and move on.

It’d be nice to know if he actually does move on and live a fruitful life from hereon but I suppose shows can’t last forever.

Thanks Mad Men.  You will be missed.

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Top Ten Mad Men Series Finale Predictions

10.  Some random business guy enters the room to talk about business.  You’ve paid so little attention to the business side of the show that you can’t tell if this is a new character or if he’s been around since the first episode.

9.  Don dies.  Wakes up to find his vision of Heaven is to be surrounded by women who are cool with him cheating.

8.  Spin-off:  Roger and Don move to Hawaii to become private detectives.  AMC next fall – “Sterling and the Drape!”

7.  Flash forward to the future.  They’re all in the 90’s, decrepit and old.  “Internet marketing?  That’ll never go anywhere!”

6.  Meanwhile a middle aged Peggy sees the Internet as the next best thing, invests, becomes uber rich.

5.  Joan remembered as the leader of the hot women’s right to be taken seriously in the business world movement.

4.  You suddenly remember there are other people on the show besides Don, Pete, Peggy, Joan and Roger.  What happened to them?  Oh well, who cares.

3.  Megan’s cover of Zou Bisou Bisou ranks at the top of the charts.

2.  Don quits the ad game to become Super Dad.

1.  Roger gets a bionic heart, continues peddling ads till the end of time.

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Movie Review – The Age of Adaline (2015)

It’s an eternal romance that makes you think about the fragility of life and love.

Bookshelf Q. Battler here to review the crap out of The Age of Adaline.

Warning:  spoilers to come.

The incomparable Blake Lively, star of stage, screen and many of Bookshelf Q. Battler’s fantasies stars as Adaline Bowman.  Born at the turn of the Twentieth Century, she experiences a freak accident that leaves her ageless.  No matter how many years pass, she continues to remain young and beautiful.

TRAILER – Age of Adaline – Lionsgate

When Adaline hits her forties, people begin asking questions about how she’s managed to remain so youthful and so her life of solitude begins.  Afraid to reveal her secret, she packs up and moves to a new place every ten years, taking on a new identity every time she does so.

Tragically, she refuses to look for love as she figures it will be too heartbreaking when she grows old while a significant other remains young.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Movie Review – The Woman in Gold (2015)

Nazis.  Damn they sucked.

The Woman in Gold

The Woman in Gold

Bookshelf Q. Battler here with a review of The Woman in Gold.

Based on real events, the film follows the story of Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren) and Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) in an underdog against the odds quest to return a famous painting once stolen by Nazi’s from Maria’s family.

The year is 1998 and Maria is an elderly boutique owner in California.  Young Randol (Randy) is the son of an old friend of Maria’s.  Randy’s a newly minted lawyer and having a rough go of it.  His practice just went under, he and his wife (played by Katie Holmes) just have a newborn baby, and he’s just managed to secure a position with a big time law firm.

It all begins with some polite free advice – Maria consults Randy about what to do in light of the fact that the Austrian government has been making an effort to return artwork stolen by the Nazi regime to their rightful owners.

The painting in question?  The much admired “Woman in Gold” painted by artist Gustav Klimt.  Over the years, it moved from Nazi hands to a public art gallery and has become beloved by the country as “the Austrian Mona Lisa.”

The Woman in Gold – Movieclips Trailers

But to Maria, it’s a picture of her dear Aunt Adele.

The movie switches back and forth from past to present.  Randy and Maria take on a government that doesn’t want to return the painting.  In the past, young Maria once lived a happy life in a prominent Jewish family, where her father played the cello and there was much singing and dancing by all.

Alas, the Nazis come to power, roll into Austria, and Jewish people are robbed blind, their homes stripped of possessions.  Nazis takeover Maria’s home and haul off all the artwork inside, including the portrait of Adele.

They’re forced to undergo all manner of humiliations, often cheered on by onlooking non-Jewish Austrians.

Maria’s family had worked hard for what they had and the Nazis took it all.  So many decades later, for the elderly Maria, the fight for the painting’s return isn’t so much about the painting itself, or about the money (its worth at the time was 150 million), it’s a desire for the Austrian government to admit it did wrong – that Austrians welcomed the Nazis into the country with open arms and openly supported the mistreatment of Jewish citizens.

In the past, we see young Maria and her husband make a heroic and daring escape out of the country, after which they make their way to America.  For the rest of her life, Maria feels resentment at those who turned Austria into a place she had to leave.  She also feels guilt for leaving her family behind, and is angry at those who made her do so.

In the more recent past, the late 90’s, we see Randy go from viewing the case as a nuisance, then a chance to make some loot when he realizes how much its worth, and finally a chance to right a past wrong.  Randy puts his career on the line and loses everything in pursuit of the case.  Meanwhile, Maria goes from wanting to pursue the case to wanting to forget it all.

It becomes an international and complicated case as Randy battles the Austrian government in Austria, and later before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Do they win?  Well…that’s a spoiler in gold, isn’t it?  Ha ha ha.

This was an interesting and enjoyable film.  It’s not getting a lot of press. It’s a film I like to call “Oscar-ish.”  Hollywood often makes Oscarish films, movies about serious subjects and give actors a chance to flex their serious role chops but for whatever reason, they don’t end up in the Oscar running.  That’s not to say this film won’t, though it is rather early in the season.

It’s also a story that needed to be told.  I’m often amazed that even after so many WWII movies, even today there are stories that are still emerging.  Maria’s family had worked hard for what they had, contributed to their society and the thanks they received was the government and their fellow citizens cheering on the Nazis in their anti-Jewish reign of terror.

Go see it, noble readers.

STATUS:  SHELF WORTHY

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,