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Coming Through the Rye (2015)
Above the norm for movies about teens
Ah, the pain of the teenage years, especially when you're the scourge of your classmates. Coming through the Rye captures those times through such insightful, understanding eyes it seems a bit autobiographical; and sure enough, in the Q&A post screening at the Austin Film Festival, writer/director James Steven Sadwith acknowledged that he was the teenager with a passion for finding Salinger, and this film is based on his experience. Another interesting revelation during the session was that the film's star, Alex Wolff, related that his grandfather, father, and brother all passed the same copy of J. D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye onto sons and brother when they were 12-13 years old.
The film opens with Jamie (Wolff) having heart-to-heart talks about girls with his older brother Gerry, who has gotten involved in drugs, and is being sent to a treatment center. He thinks he might not go, though, and instead join the armed services (this is the late '60s and the Viet Nam war is ongoing.) Soon after, Jamie is sent to Crampton boarding school and eventually becomes a pariah who is bullied unmercifully.
Jamie decides he's had it when he is awakened and attacked in the middle of the night and his room is left in shambles. At that point he decides to run away. Where to? To find J. D. Salinger, his idol. He has so identified with Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye, he has written a screenplay for a theater production. Upon being told that he must get permission from Salinger before it can be performed, and running up against all kinds of obstacles in the mail, he thinks the only way is to talk to Salinger in person. He has no car, so must hitchhike his way to Vermont where he's told Salinger lives.
The person who picks him up is actually his "townie" friend, Deedee (Owen), who is a motherly sort and worries about his safety. She gets permission from her parents to drive Jamie up to Vermont just for the weekend, hoping to convince him to return to Crampton after their search. I loved her reasoning when she appeals to her reasonable parents; they end up trusting her and giving her room to use her own judgment.
Well, people have been trying for years to find Salinger, who just wants to be left alone. During their search, Jamie and Deedee talk about all kinds of things, and she, who is wise beyond her years, offers comments meant to increase his self-awareness. The film then gets into more coming-of-age dynamics, and ends on valuable moments of truth.
Among all the films about/for teenagers, Sadwith's production is one of the most thoughtful and edifying. Problems are cogently presented, and the model of Deedee's friendship and support of Jamie is exemplary in tone and execution. The scenes of young love are touching and funny, beautiful and awkward. Above all, the script is sound in its cause/consequences connections. Eric Hurt's cinematography, especially the sequences outdoors, takes you right into the action and gives you the feeling of being in the film. Similarly the music by Greg LaFollette, Heath McNease, and Jay Nash enhances the story, with the lyrics elaborating on the action.
The actors cast for Coming through the Rye seems tailor made for the film. Alex Wolff epitomizes the cautious, brainy kind of kid who doesn't quite grasp why anyone would be against him, although he is sincere and thoughtful. It takes another kind-hearted person to gently bring him to acknowledge his weaknesses and deal openly with a major trauma. Stephania Owen is peppy as Deedee and portrays so well the girl/woman who can be such a valuable friend, but may not be the object of passion.
Finally, Chris Cooper, the accomplished actor who has not always received the recognition he deserves, is ideal in the role of Salinger, in his identification with a famous person who does not strive for the limelight. He can be gruff and dismissive, but is clearly attentive to what he sees and hears, and can shift his position in response to a logical or appealing pleamuch like the character he plays in August: Osage County as patient and kind, but whose support has limits.
Above the norm for movies about teens.
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland
The Queen (2006)
"Truthiness" in The Queen
I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, and applauded the depiction of a leader who truly leads, in the sense of listening to others but in the end making up her own mind. It appeared to be a realistic depiction of a leader whose heart is in the right place--particularly in light of her "training"--but also one who is able to listen to the people and flex when she is certain of what her role should be vis a vis them. Cudos to Stephen Frears for not portraying her as a stereotypical woman.
My question is related to the degree to which the movie was based on fact. How many of the key interactions were made up versus being factual? For instance, were the lines of Tony Blair's wife and Prince Philip's totally made up or at least based on reliable information about their viewpoints?
The Da Vinci Code (2006)
This movie has been slighted by the reviewers. It's outstanding! The book was a page-turner, and the movie keeps up with it. Every minute is filled with suspense, and it's visually beautiful. I feel like I've been on a whirlwind mystery tour of Europe. The directing and acting are superb. At first, I didn't think that Tom Hanks was a good choice for Robert, but after seeing him, I think he was perfect. Audrey Tatou was extremely good as well, along with all the supporting actors.
I can't see how this story would shake anyone's faith; it does invite questions, which in my mind is always a good thing. But mostly it's an enjoyable thriller.
Hard Candy (2005)
This was a very finely executed movie from many standpoints. It seems groundbreaking to me in that--like its counterpart "Brick"--two bright teenagers take upon themselves the crime-solving and punishment of felons. They're like one-man/woman posses from the wild west. I can't think of any other movies where this is the scenario, but perhaps someone else knows.
I came close to walking out of the movie because it appeared to be almost purely sadistic, with the female character simply crazy. And I suppose it could be regarded as pornographic. However, at the very end, when it becomes clear that the man was guilty, possibly of murder, and the teenager has solved the "case", then the whole movie takes on a different light. Then, it could be seen as a parable for pedophiles in order to give them some idea about how they terrorize their victims. The terror they experience is counterpart to what the man in the movie experiences.
Comments from others about this would be welcomed!
This was the best movie of the year as far as I and my five friends are concerned. I was especially intrigued by the technique of superimposing images to coalesce time, and hence get more of Ray's life in the movie. The script, the actors, the cinematography, the music--all outstanding, and Jamie Foxx certainly deserves an Oscar.
The movie is also to be congratulated for its psychological sophistication in relating Ray's personality and adult experiences with his family--especially his mother--and his childhood traumas and the nurturance of those around him.
Question: Does anyone know if the song Ahmet said he composed ("Mess Around") was one he had actually composed and written the lyrics for? I thought he had, but my friend thought he had made it up on the spot.
The Corporation (2003)
A documentary on the history of corporations
Excellent film, and I agree that it may be more powerful (not better) than Fahrenheit 911 because it doesn't have the caustic wit of Michael Moore. Both films are highly recommended, though.
After seeing The Corporation, I had a different take on Donald Trump's Episode #2 of The Apprentice TV show. Brad got fired when he offered to give up his immunity from being fired, which he had by being the project director of the winning team the previous week. It was shocking to the reviewer when Trump fired him as a result of this move. It could be seen on several levels. Consistent with The Corporation, Brad was fired because he was being altruistic. This goes against the company persona's bottom line, making money. Offering to give up a clear-cut advantage was anathema to Trump, who is the embodiment of the Corporation.
At another level, it could be that psychologically astute Trump saw beneath the outwardly altruistic act, and saw it as Brad trying to align/compete with Trump, going against the well defined order of the corporation.
Both of these could be true.
Interestingly, at the end of the program, the leader of the winning team turned and asked Trump if they could give all their winnings to the charity they had used to increase their sales. They had sold their ice cream on the premise that part of the earnings would go to the Leukemia Society. Once the sale ended, the team had to decide how much they could afford to give to the charity and still win the contest. Of course, Trump magnanimously said they could. This was probably not agreed to out of altruism, but because $3K was worth the bonus points he would earn from the viewers!
Soon after I saw The Corporation, I saw Silver City, which was serendipitous, I guess, because it served as an example of a corporation as described by the movie, The Corporation.
A psychological description of what happens when people can't/don't express their sadness
In psychotherapeutic work, I have seen many families who have difficulty expressing their sadness. This came up in the beginning of the film, when the main character denies that the abrupt death of his mother made him sad or had any lasting effect on him. That was the theme throughout the movie as shown by all the main characters. Some were outright deniers, while some were seemingly oblivious. Great traumas and conflicts took place as family members sang through it--ironically trying to come up with "the saddest music." It was cruel irony that if they "won", they would end up almost drowning in a vat of beer. Alcohol is often used by the depressed to self-medicate.
This was a beautiful and poignant picture of what happens in families when they can't express sadness. Without realizing it, this kind of response to tragedy has other repercussions--such as the inability to empathize and sympathize with others. Hence, no comfort is found.