I am reasonably sure I won’t see any more movies in 2018, so I might as well do this wrap-up now. I saw only four movies this quarter, but they were all ones I liked.
- To Dust: I saw this as part of the year-round program of the Washington Jewish Film Festival. Shmuel is a Chasidic cantor in update New York, whose wife has died of cancer. He has nightmares about her continuing to suffer until her body has decayed. So he seeks out a college professor, Albert, to help him understand the process of bodies decaying. This leads to a lot of bizarre incidents, ranging from stealing a pig to Shmuel’s sons’ attempt at exorcising a dybbuk. There are excellent performances by Geza Rohrig as Shmuel and Matthew Broderick as Albert. The thing I found most striking is how much Shmuel obviously loved his wife – something one doesn’t expect in a culture that has arranged marriages. This isn’t a movie for everyone, but those who like dark humor will find it worth watching.
- Bathtubs Over Broadway: I learned about this documentary via a mention in the Forgotten Musicals facebook group and I knew I had to see it. As soon as I saw it was playing at a nearby movie theatre, I got myself there. And, indeed, it was right up my alley. Steve Young, a comedy writer for David Letterman, discovered the world of industrial musicals and obsessively tracked down recordings and footage and interviewed people involved. This was a huge industry, including many big names – ranging from lyricist Sheldon Harnick to performers like Florence Henderson, Chita Rivera, and Martin Short. The excerpts from the musicals are hysterically funny. I have long claimed that anybody talking about something they are passionate about is fascinating and this is a great example. If you have the opportunity to see this, please do so.
- Book Club: Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda, Candice Bergen, and Mary Steenburgen play four women who are part of the same book club. They’re reading 50 Shades of Grey and it triggers something in their love lives. The four love stories are quite different. Sharon (Candice Bergen) hasn’t dated in years, but tries out on-line dating. Vivian (Jane Fonda) rekindles an old romance. Diane (Diane Keaton) meets a handsome pilot who helps her get through her fear of flying, but her daughters try to parent her along the way. And Carol (Mary Steenburgen) has to deal with her husband’s lack of interest in sex since his retirement. Those struck me as relatively realistic situations. And it’s nice to see older women being treated as sexual beings. This is pretty much a predictable chick flick, with nothing horribly surprising, but it was an entertaining enough diversion on a flight.
- Crazy Rich Asians: I watched this on another plane. It’s somewhat standard romantic comedy fare in many ways, with a mildly exotic setting. Rachel Chu (played by Constance Wu) is a likeable character, with a lovely and loving relationship with her mother. Her wealthy boyfriend, Nick (played by Henry Golding) has a more complex family situation, with expectations from being the heir to a real estate empire. I didn’t think his character was as well developed, nor did I really get what Rachel saw in him. It was, however, fun to recognize places in Singapore (a place I have deeply mixed feelings about, but that’s another subject). And Rachel’s self-awareness and the triumph it brings made the movie enjoyable. Recommended.