Richard Ades was the arts editor of The Other Paper, a weekly news-and-entertainment publication, from 2008 until it was shut down on Jan. 31, 2013. He also served as TOP's theater critic throughout its 22-year existence.
When a couple exchanges wedding vows, they promise to love and cherish each other, among other things. What they generally don’t promise is to be honest with each other.
Whether or not that’s a good thing is a topic writer-director Nicole Holofcener takes up in her entertaining and chuckle-worthy new film, You Hurt My Feelings.
Long-married New Yorkers Beth and Don (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tobias Menzies) love and support each other to a fault—the fault being that they occasionally express that support by telling little white lies.
When Don gives Beth earrings as an anniversary present, she greets them with such forced enthusiasm that it’s obvious she doesn’t like them. And when Beth reciprocates by giving Don a V-neck sweater, his disappointment is equally clear because his first comment is, “Oh, a V-neck.” (As all fans of Louis-Dreyfus’s former series, Seinfeld, know, saying the name of a gift after you open it is a sure sign you didn’t want it.)
All this is no big deal, right? When you’re in a relationship, telling the occasional little white lie can help you avoid hurt feelings or unnecessary friction.
But then Beth catches Don in a lie that doesn’t seem so little: She overhears him admitting to his brother-in-law that, even though he’s told Beth he loves the novel she’s been working on for the past two years, he actually hates it.
Beth is hurt and humiliated, telling sister and fellow eavesdropper Sarah (Michaela Watkins), “I can’t look him in the face ever again.” Sarah tries to soften the blow by admitting she tells actor-husband Mark (Arian Moayed) that he’s more talented than he actually is, but it seems the damage is done.
This unfortunate incident comes to dominate the flick, as well as supplying its title, but it’s actually just one of several examples of the fragile egos and self-doubts that afflict all the major characters.
Aspiring novelist Beth worries she won’t be able to duplicate the success of her previous work, a memoir about growing up with an abusive father. (Not that the memoir was as successful as it might have been if her father hadn’t been just verbally abusive, she muses ruefully.)
Don, a therapist who seems to be chronically tired, has trouble keeping his clients straight, and he worries that he’s not helping them get any better. Sarah, an interior designer, has similar fears about pleasing her clients, while Mark suspects he’s really not such a great actor.
Finally, there’s Beth and Don’s 23-year-old son, Eliot (Owen Teague), who’s working on a play that he fears is no good, while dating a woman who he worries will break up with him.
My one quibble with the way all this trauma is acted out is that Louis-Dreyfus falls back on her old Elaine Benes mannerisms at one or two inopportune moments. Otherwise, everyone’s great, including the several supporting actors who play Mark’s eccentric and generally dissatisfied clients.
With its New York setting, sardonic wit and neurotic characters, You Hurt My Feelings may strike some as a lighter, gentler version of early Woody Allen. But Holofcener is really doing her own thing with this portrait of everyday worries and squabbles, giving viewers a breezily pleasant hour and a half in the process.
Rating; 4 stars (out of 5)
You Hurt My Feelings (rated R) opens May 26 in select theaters.
Jem (Eliza Scanlen, second from left) enjoys expressing her faith through liturgical dance. (Photo by Brian Lannin/courtesy of Bleecker Street)
By Richard Ades
Years ago, I was visiting a family of fundamentalist Christians in another state when a group of local feminists held a topless protest. A news crew went out to cover the event, and one of the protesters ended up on the evening newscast (from the neck up) explaining what they were protesting about.
Watching the interview on TV that night, the matriarch of my host family clearly was not impressed by what the woman had to say. “You can tell she just wants attention,” she said dismissively.
The comment left me with the immediate thought: “What’s wrong with that? Doesn’t everybody want attention?” But I quickly realized, “Oh, it’s a fundamentalist thing.” Apparently seeking attention was considered sinful in that culture—especially, I guessed, if you’re a woman.
The incident came rushing back to me after watching The Starling Girl, writer/director Laurel Parmet’s debut film about coming of age in a fundamentalist community. It revolves around Jem Starling (Eliza Scanlen), a 17-year-old Kentuckian who’s devoted to God and her faith. She especially loves expressing her faith through the liturgical dances she performs at services along with a handful of other girls.
After one such performance, however, her mother (Wrenn Schmidt) undermines her joy by pointing out that she’d immodestly allowed the outline of her bra to show through her dance costume. Later, adding to her daughter’s perceived sins, the mother asks whether Jem dances “for God or for vanity.”
Or, as my long-ago host would have put it, “The girl just wants attention.”
Growing up in a restrictive religious community can be tough, and it becomes even tougher when you’re a teenager whose hormones are awakening urges you’ve been taught to suppress. Jem is critical of a boy who’s been sent away to have the sin beaten out of him after he was caught looking at online porn. But she soon faces challenges of her own.
Her parents want to arrange a courtship and eventual marriage to their pastor’s younger son, Ben (Austin Abrams), an awkward boy who thinks barnyard diarrhea is an appropriate topic for a first date. Jem, though, is more interested in Ben’s older brother, Owen (Lewis Pullman), a future pastor who’s just returned from mission work in Puerto Rico. She’s so interested, in fact, that she engineers excuses to be around him, ignoring the inconvenient fact that he’s married.
As it turns out, Owen’s marriage is not a happy one, and he’s not averse to giving his young admirer the attention she so desperately wants. The result is a situation for which Jem’s upbringing has left her totally unprepared.
Competently acted, and naturalistically written and directed by Parmet, The Starling Girl offers a searing portrait of Jem’s difficult life. Though the filmmaker tries to leave her with a slim ray of hope, it’s less convincing than the film’s indictment of the intolerance and injustice that flourish when religion tries to overrule human nature.
Rating: 3½ stars (out of 5)
The Starling Girl (rated R) opens May 25 at the Gateway Film Center in Columbus, with wider distribution to follow.
The worst job I ever had was working in a motion picture lab in the late 1970s. Not only did I spent much of my time trapped in a dark room with very pungent chemicals, but I sometimes had the difficult task of copying old, shrunken films that had to be coaxed through our machinery.
Too bad I couldn’t have seen Film: The Living Record of Our Memory back then. It would have allowed me to feel some pride in the small role I was playing in the massive (and massively difficult) effort to preserve our cinematic history.
Spanish director Ines Toharia Teran’s documentary is about the worldwide quest to save films that otherwise would be lost due to chemical degradation, disasters and other causes.
It’s a quest that began in spite of the early film studios, we’re told, as they thought of movies as commercial products rather than works of art or historical documents that needed to be preserved. In fact, flicks that had already made the theatrical rounds were often destroyed to recover the silver in the film stock, thus helping to pay for future productions.
An additional preservation complication: Early film stock was composed of nitrate, which was dangerously inflammable. If it ever caught on fire, not even water could extinguish the flames.
The documentary tells us that the result of this danger and neglect is that 80 percent of all silent films are likely gone forever, along with half of all the “talkies” ever made.
Film is not a tragedy, however, but an account of the heroes who have devoted themselves to protecting film history. Numerous preservationists and other cinematic experts from around the world talk about the challenges they face—such as trying to reconstruct a formerly “lost” film by splicing together the least-degraded frames from various recovered prints.
Why go to all this trouble? Because otherwise we’ll lose pieces of art that help to define our cultural history. And sometimes we’ll lose pieces of actual history, as in the case of home movies and other nonfiction films that depict scenes from the Holocaust and other world tragedies.
At nearly two wide-ranging hours, Film will be of most interest to those who care about cinema’s past, present and future.
Does it bother you that Alfred Hitchcock’s 1926 film The Mountain Eagle may never be seen again? Is it important to you that people be able to watch the early works of India’s Satyajit Ray, or the many independent films that depict Africa’s anti-colonial struggles?
Do you want such influential flicks as Charles Burnett’s Killer of Sheep and Cuban director Tomas Gutierrez Alea’s Memories of Underdevelopment to be available to future cinema lovers?
If so, the documentary will be two hours well spent.
Rating: 3½ stars (out of 5)
Film: The Living Record of Our Memory opened May 5 at the Gateway Film Center in Columbus, with additional screenings planned May 8-9 in Los Angeles, May 11-14 in St. Louis, May 20 in San Francisco and May 21 in Cleveland. The film will be available through VOD outlets beginning May 16.
A scene from the touring production of Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations (Photos courtesy of Broadway in Columbus)
By Richard Ades
As you wait for Ain’t Too Proud to begin, the “marquees” projected onto the curtain establish the subject, place and mood. They advertise a “dance and show” featuring the Temptations at Detroit’s iconic Fox Theatre. And there are two additional words: “SOLD OUT.”
All of this is depicted in shades of gray, setting the tone for what is essentially a history lesson about the Temptations’ hard-fought quest to become the most successful R&B group of all time. But though that history is marked by struggle, conflict and loss, it’s accompanied by the some of the toe-tapping-est, spirit-lifting-est music that ever came out of Motown.
In other words, expect to have one of the best times you’ve ever had in a theater.
The musical’s book by Dominique Morisseau is based on a history of the Temptations written by founding member Otis Williams. Some have complained that this results in a one-sided look at the group, in contrast to the more even-handed Four Seasons musical Jersey Boys.
There’s some truth to this. Williams (masterfully played in the touring show by Michael Andreaus) serves as the history’s narrator and routinely depicts himself as the voice of reason who tries to keep the group on an even keel despite other members’ missteps, failings and ego trips. Even so, the general thrust of the show is not to cast blame but to explain how hard it is to achieve musical success, particularly when one starts out poor and Black.
The Temptations began making their mark during the 1960s, when civil rights struggles and an increasingly unpopular war were making front-page headlines. The musical touches on these issues and on the dilemma they raised for the group’s members, who were torn over whether they could address what was going on in their music without jeopardizing their “crossover” popularity with White audiences.
An interesting piece of trivia revealed by the show: The protest song “War (What is it good for?)” was meant to be recorded by the Temptations, but Motown execs decided it was too political. The result was that Edwin Starr got the recording deal and ended up with a hit.
Fortunately, the “Temps” got the chance to record plenty of other classic ballads and danceable anthems, and the best are peppered throughout the show. Thanks to Des McAnuff’s impeccable direction, Sergio Trujillo’s choreography and a cast that can handle both the tunes and the steps with aplomb, the result is like being in Detroit’s Fox Theatre on the aforementioned night and watching musical history come gloriously alive.
Along with Andreaus, central cast members include E. Clayton Cornelious as Paul Williams, Harrell Holmes Jr. as Melvin Franklin, Jalen Harris as Eddie Kendricks, and Elijah Ahmad Lewis as the mercurial, showboating David Ruffin. Numerous others display equal levels of talent in lesser roles.
Robert Brill’s scenic design and Howell Binkley’s lighting design are eloquently restrained, refusing to upstage the singers and dancers. A good-sized band led by Jonathan “Smitti” Smith and featuring several local musicians provides the accompaniment—and gets the chance to show what it can do on its own after the curtain call.
The moral: Don’t leave early.
Broadway in Columbus and CAPA will present Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations through April 18 at the Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State St., Columbus. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Running time: 2½ hours including intermission. Tickets are $40-$135+. Columbus.broadway.com. For upcoming tour dates, visit ainttooproudmusical.com.
Rachel Brosnahan as the titular aspiring comedian in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
By Richard Ades
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is coming to an end, and it’s doing it as stylishly as ever.
The tale of a divorced Jewish housewife who seeks success as a standup comedian will be wrapped up over the course of nine episodes during the series’ fifth and final season.
Will Miriam “Midge” Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) achieve her goal by breaking through the comedic glass ceiling of mid-20th century America? It’s not giving too much away to say she will, as that’s revealed in an early-season flash-forward. What’s not revealed right away is just how she’ll hit the big time, and how her success will affect her family and friends.
It comes out in the second episode that at some point she’ll part ways with the mannishly attired Susie Myerson (Alex Borstein), who became the fledgling comedian’s first cheerleader and, soon after, her devoted manager. How do they break up, and will they ever reconcile? Viewers will have to wait and see.
Her relationship with ex-husband Joel (Michael Zegen), whose infidelity ended their marriage in the first season, also continues to evolve. And it does so in surprising ways, as seen in another flash-forward or two.
In fact, series creator and writer Amy Sherman-Palladino does a good deal of time-traveling from the show’s principal era of the late 1950s and early ’60s. Thus, we get to peek into the futures of several characters, including Midge’s parents (Marin Hinkle and Tony Shalhoub). We even get to see grownup versions of her children, Esther and Ethan, though they played relatively minor roles during most of the series.
Through it all, Maisel continues to impress with its amazing production values, one episode opening with a dance number worthy of Broadway. The show is also frequently funny, with, as usual, much of the humor coming from its supporting characters rather than its titular comedian. And by “supporting characters,” I primarily mean Borstein’s always-hilarious Susie, followed by Shalhoub’s rendition of Midge’s curmudgeonly and neurotic dad.
(For those who want to see if Borstein is as funny in her own skin as she is in Susie’s, a new Prime comedy special allows her to tell jokes, sing and even make a few political and philosophical points. Viewers may conclude that she isn’t quite as funny in her own skin, but they’re likely to be impressed by her versatility. As indelible a character as Susie is, she’s clearly not Borstein.)
All in all, season five is one of the series’ best, maybe even as good as season one. Fans of the show’s scrappy heroine should go away happy.
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Episodes 1-3 of the final season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel can be seen on Amazon Prime Video beginning April 14. One subsequent episode will be released each Friday through May 26. Alex Borstein: Corsets & Clown Suits will air on Prime Video beginning April 18.
The struggle to rid the sports arena of Native American stereotypes includes rallies such as this one in Phoenix, Ariz.
By Richard Ades
I like to think journalists are a pretty smart group overall, but then I remember the newsroom argument I got embroiled in years ago over the football team then known as the Washington Redskins.
To me, the name seemed obviously racist, but a co-worker jumped to its defense. “How do you know it doesn’t refer to potatoes?” he said, trying to make light of the issue. “Because,” I replied, “then the team’s mascot would be Mr. Potato Head.”
Sadly, my co-worker was far from alone in his reluctance to question “Redskins” or the many other team names and mascots based on Native American culture. Many sports fans just can’t understand why even seemingly innocuous monickers like “Indians” or “Braves” can be hurtful to present-day Indians trying to escape age-old stereotypes.
The fight to rid the sports world of such names is the subject of Imagining the Indian:The Fight Against Native American Mascoting. Directed by Aviva Kempner and Ben West, the documentary interviews activists from various Native tribes and nations who have devoted years and even decades to the struggle.
One of them is Marshall McKay, former tribal chairman of the Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, who notes that Native American stereotypes galloped through the “cowboys and Indians” melodramas he watched growing up. Inevitably, the Indians were depicted as the bloodthirsty villains, but even when they were cast as “noble savages,” the portrayals were unrealistic and one-dimensional.
McKay points out that the entertainment industry was merely reflecting racist attitudes that were ingrained in the national psyche and led to countless atrocities and injustices toward Native people over the years. Near his own birthplace, he says, the California gold rush of the mid-19th century brought the army out to protect miners, while bounties were offered for Native American body parts.
Hence, the term “redskins” is offensive for reasons that have nothing to do with the color red.
At least Hollywood began cleaning up its act with 1990’s Dances With Wolves, which helped to usher in a new era of portraying Native characters more realistically. But in the sports world, the stereotypes lived on thanks to team names such as “Chiefs” or “Braves,” as well as in caricatured mascots such as the Cleveland baseball team’s Chief Wahoo.
Adding to the insult, fans were often encouraged to attend games wearing warpaint and headdresses, and to show their enthusiasm by participating in stereotypical antics such as the “tomahawk chop.”
The problem with all this, according to one interviewee: “It’s not who we are today.” When Native men are stereotyped as fierce warriors and Native women as Pocahontas-style sex goddesses, it obscures the varied personalities and professions they represent in real life.
The documentary brings the issue up to date by reporting recent changes for the better. For instance, the Washington Redskins have been renamed the Commanders, while the Cleveland Indians are now the Guardians. And Cleveland’s Chief Wahoo, which one interviewee refers to as “Red Sambo,” has been retired.
But according to the documentary, nearly 2,000 teams, at every level of sports, retain their Native American-inspired names and mascots. Says one activist: “We’ve been in this fight for a very long time, and we’re not going to stop.”
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Imagining the Indian opened March 31 in New York and will expand to other cities throughout April and May. For more information visit imaginingtheindianfilm.org.
Former Klansman Chris Buckley (left) shares a stage with Syrian refugee Heval Kelli in a scene from Refuge. (Photos by Tomesha Foxio)
By Richard Ades
Refuge is the story of the healing that takes place when a former Ku Klux Klan member is befriended by a Muslim refugee.
That’s the way the documentary is billed, at least, though the description is a bit misleading. For one thing, the two men don’t actually meet until late in the film, by which time much of the healing has already taken place.
The former Klan member is Chris Buckley, an Army veteran who lives in LaFayette, Ga., with his wife and two small children. Chris enlisted in the military after 9/11, and his subsequent years of overseas combat duty only added to the hatred and distrust he felt toward Muslims.
More broadly, his ongoing struggle to support his family made him susceptible to the appeal of White nationalism, which encouraged him to blame his problems on people of color, immigrants and other convenient scapegoats. Hence, Chris joined the Klan and began throwing himself into the hate group’s rituals and ideology.
By the time we meet him, however, Chris has left the Klan for reasons that aren’t immediately revealed. He claims he’s trying to put his hatred behind him, though he makes an exception in the case of the religion he blames for his many wartime injuries and for the death of a beloved Army buddy.
Meanwhile, directors Erin Bernhardt and Din Blankenship also introduce us to Heval Kelli, a Muslim Kurd who arrived in the U.S. after his family was forced to flee their native Syria. A cardiologist, Heval lives with his aging parents in Clarkston, a Georgia town two hours away from LaFayette by car—and light years away in terms of environment.
“Mama Amina” works to make newcomers feel at home in the multiethnic community of Clarkston, Ga.
For decades, Clarkston has accepted refugees from various parts of the world, resulting in a community that comprises a multitude of nationalities, languages and religions. All are made to feel welcome thanks to the efforts of warm-hearted residents such as 89-year-old “Mama Amina,” a tireless volunteer.
Chris and Heval eventually meet, of course, though it takes some doing on the part of others to bring it about. In particular, it takes the efforts of Melissa, Chris’s wife, who has her own reasons for hating racism and who emerges as one of the film’s real heroes.
As a record of a Chris’s conversion from a vicious bigot to someone who ends up fighting bigotry, Refuge is sometimes moving, though not quite as moving as it could be. That’s because his transformation largely takes place when the camera isn’t rolling. We see him talking about his change of heart, but we don’t see it actually happening.
But that’s a minor weakness, and besides, the documentary has plenty of other attributes. Among them are the scenes in Clarkston, where rampant displays of kindness and acceptance offer a welcome break from the divisiveness that characterizes much of modern society.
The atmosphere is so intoxicating that not even the arrival of an anti-immigrant gubernatorial candidate and his so-called “deportation bus” can spoil the mood. The candidate apparently realizes that as, after accepting a welcoming piece of baclava, he takes his leave.
If only hatred and bigotry could always be turned away that easily.
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Refuge opens March 24 at select theaters and through VOD outlets.
The widespread assumption is that Germany’s epic All Quiet on the Western Front will nab this year’s International Feature Oscar. For those in the mood for a less warlike viewing experience, however, the other four nominees are well worth considering. They range from a historically based courtroom thriller to somber tales involving, respectively, teenage boys, a pre-teen girl and a down-and-out donkey.
Here, in no particular order, are the other four nominees:
Remi (Gustav De Waele, left) and Leo (Eden Dambrine) are longtime friends in the Belgian film Close.
Growing up, growing apart
Close has an apt title, as the Belgian film is about the unusually tight friendship between two 13-year-old boys.
Leo and Remi (played without artifice by Eden Dambrine and Gustav De Waele) spend most of their days together, hanging out before, during and after school. Often, they even sleep together, sharing a bedroom with the blessing of their parents, especially Remi’s warm-hearted mother.
It’s all innocent and comforting fun until comments from fellow students force them to see their friendship through other people’s eyes. A girl asks if they’re “together,” while boys pummel them with gay epithets. None of this bothers Remi, but Leo responds by suddenly setting boundaries and branching out into activities that don’t involve his lifelong pal. The result is a development that’s heartbreaking, even if not entirely unexpected.
Director and co-writer Lukas Dhont handles all this with sensitivity and naturalistic restraint. It’s only in the aftermath of the aforementioned development that he turns restraint into a fault by delaying and underplaying the inevitable aftershocks. The result is that when they finally do arrive, they’ve lost much of their ability to move us.
Rating: 3 stars (out of 5)
Close (PG-13) is available from VOD outlets and will be screened Feb. 24-26 at Columbus’s Gateway Film Center.
The titular donkey sports a necklace made of carrots in Poland’s EO. (Photo courtesy of Aneta and Filip Gebscy)
Four-legged love story
Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski has made no secret of the fact that EO, his journey through the life of a lowly donkey, was inspired by the 1966 classic Au Hasard Balthazar. The differences couldn’t be starker.
While French director Robert Bresson told his own donkey-centered tale in a typically minimalistic manner, Skolimowski and cinematographer Michael Dymek ply us with images that are often ornate and sometimes surreal. There are strobe effects, infrared effects, POV shots, dreamlike flashbacks and nightmare-like sequences. There’s even a scene involving a mechanical dog that seems to appear out of nowhere.
Story-wise, the two films’ approaches are also different. While Bresson focused on people, the title donkey being merely an unwilling pawn in their difficult lives, Skolimowski turns his leading animal into a full-fledged protagonist.
Essentially, the new film is a love story between EO and Kasandra (Sandra Drzymalska), a woman who takes him under her wing while they’re working together in a traveling circus. After bankruptcy forces the circus to sell off its four-legged performers, the two are separated, but they never forget each other. In particular, EO is haunted by memories of happy moments he shared with Kasandra, which lead him to take actions that don’t always work out in his favor.
Like Bresson’s film, EO lends itself to larger questions about human nature, including our cruelty toward each other and toward the animals in our care. Both works also offer deep levels of allegorical meaning for those into religious, and particularly Christian, symbolism.
So which film is better?
Bresson’s is more perfect in its absolute simplicity, in contrast to which Skolimowski’s cinematic showmanship can be distracting. On the other hand, that showmanship frequently results in strikingly beautiful images. Along with its personable star, that gives EO viewers a lot to love.
Rating: 3½ stars (out of 5)
EO (no MPAA rating) will be available from VOD outlets beginning Feb. 21.
Ricardo Darin (left) and Peter Lanzani star in the fact-based courtroom drama Argentina, 1985.
Dictatorship’s abuse confronted
Argentina, 1985 is based on an actual attempt to bring to justice those who tortured, raped, murdered and “disappeared” thousands of Argentinians during the long reign of a right-wing dictatorship.
Ricardo Darin stars as Julio Cesar Strassera, who’s appointed to prosecute the officials responsible for the former regime’s acts of terror. It’s not a task he accepts gladly, as many of his friends and relatives supported such acts in the name of fighting communism. Among them are most of his colleagues, complicating his ability to form the legal team he needs to take on his monstrous assignment.
Coming to his rescue is Luis Moreno Ocampo (Peter Lanzani), a younger man who’s assigned to serve as Strassera’s deputy. Together, they put together a team consisting largely of idealistic students and instruct them to comb the countryside in search of people who can testify about abuses they suffered at the hands of government-sponsored thugs.
Director/co-writer Santiago Mitre handles this potentially explosive story in a surprisingly low-key manner and even adds touches of humor. That prevents the film from descending into melodrama, particularly when victims of the previous regime finally get the chance to tell their shocking stories in a nationally televised hearing.
One puzzling aspect of the case Strassera presents is that he seemingly makes little effort to connect these repulsive crimes with the suspects. It could be that Mitre simply left out that part of the testimony to underscore the fact that Strasser’s most important task is to convince the divided public that the crimes are worth prosecuting in the first place.
Or, as the prosecutor puts it so powerfully, “Nunca mas.” English translation: “Never again.”
Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)
Argentina, 1985 (rated R) is available through Amazon Prime Video.
Cait (Catherine Clinch, left) is greeted by Eibhlin (Carrie Crowley) after a long journey in Ireland’s The Quiet Girl. (Photo courtesy of EF Neon)
Lonely girl finds temporary reprieve
The Quiet Girl centers on Cait (Catherine Clinch), a 9-year-old who tends to keep to herself. She’s not happy at school, and she’s even less happy in her overcrowded home, where she gets little attention from her overworked mother or her philandering, heavy-drinking father.
Then her mother gets pregnant yet again, and Cait is sent off to live with relatives in another part of rural Ireland until things get back to normal. This turns out to be an unexpected blessing. Her mom’s cousin Eibhlin (Carrie Crowley) welcomes her with the kind of love and warmth she’s never known. And while Eibhlin’s husband, Sean (Andrew Bennett), is stand-offish at first, he puts her to work on their farm and soon begins to show signs of acceptance.
Directed in an appropriately quiet manner by Colm Bairead, who based the Irish-language script on a story by Claire Keegan, this is no maudlin, feel-good flick. We eventually learn that Eibhlin and Sean are hiding a secret whose effect on their lives is painful and intractable. And then there’s the question of Cait’s future: How long will her newfound happiness last if, as planned, she’s forced to return to her family?
Thanks to sensitive direction and fine performances all around, The Quiet Girl reveals its secrets and delivers its answers in a way that will likely leave a lump in your throat. After its Irish cousin, The Banshees of Inisherin, it’s my favorite film of 2022.
Rating: 4½ stars (out of 5)
The Quiet Girl (PG-13) opens in select theaters Feb. 24 and will be screened March 10-12 at Columbus’s Gateway Film Center.
The queens belt out a song in a typically high-energy moment from the North American Six Aragon Tour. (Photos by Joan Marcus)
By Richard Ades
No doubt about it. Columbus was ready for Six. That’s clear not only from the touring production’s sold-out status, but from the whoops and cheers that greeted Tuesday night’s opening. It was reminiscent of the wildly enthusiastic response Rent encountered when that musical phenomenon made its local premiere decades ago.
For those not yet familiar with Six, the concert-style musical centers on the six wives of England’s King Henry VIII, women whose various fates are summarized by the words “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.” So, much like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s megahit Hamilton, Six is a musical take on history.
That, however, is where the resemblance ends.
While Hamilton uses its rapped and sung songs to explain and humanize an American “founding father,” Six creators Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss turn the 16th century tale of Henry and his wives into a celebration of what was once called “girl power.” It’s all presented in the form of a pop concert accompanied by a spunky onstage band and glitzed up with sparkly costumes and flashy lighting (designed, respectively, by Gabriella Slade and Tim Deiling).
From the start, the six “queens” set the vibe by strutting, striking poses and inviting the audience to “Make some noise, Columbus!” They then introduce the premise: The women will compete against each other to see who had the saddest life, with the winner being elevated to leader of their vocal sextet.
Proceeding in chronological order, each character then summarizes her fate in a song while the others accompany her with backup harmonies and dance steps choreographed by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille. First up is original wife Catherine of Aragon (Khaila Wilcoxon), followed by Anne Boleyn (normally played by Storm Lever but ably portrayed by Cassie Silva on opening night). Rounding out the six are Jane Seymour (Jasmine Forsberg), Anna of Cleves (Olivia Donalson), Katherine Howard (Didi Romero) and Catherine Parr (Gabriela Carrillo).
Jasmine Forsberg plays Henry VIII’s third wife, Jane Seymour.
All of the songs are performed with verve and skill, but the big showstopper is Jane Seymour’s romantic lament “Heart of Stone,” partly because it offers a change of pace from the normally fast-moving production, and mostly because it’s gorgeously sung by Forsberg.
So which queen deserves the prize? That’s a red herring, actually, as the musical eventually admits its real purpose is not to pit the women against each other but to honor them as individuals. Of course, this profession of feminine solidarity comes only after the women have spent most of the show’s 80 minutes pelting each other with catty putdowns that account for much of its humor.
A bigger problem with the musical’s feminist theme is that these women, whose historical counterparts often dealt with complicated religious and political issues, are largely reduced to shallow, one-dimensional characters. A prime example is Anne Boleyn, an educated and accomplished individual who was involved in England’s break with the Catholic Church and who ultimately was executed on the pretext that she’d had affairs, though it was more likely because she’d failed to give Henry a male heir. Here, she’s portrayed as a party girl who cheerfully admits to the alleged dalliances, saying, “I’m just trying to have some fun.”
Such concerns are unlikely to keep anyone from becoming a Six fan. The show still boasts enough catchy tunes, colorful sights and relentless energy to keep viewers entertained. As a reflection of history, though, it’s like a fancy dessert: pretty and tasty, but not very filling. If you want a main course, see Hamilton.
Broadway in Columbus will present Six through Sunday, Jan. 29 at the Ohio Theatre, 39 E. State St., Columbus. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. through Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Running time: 1 hour, 20 minutes (no intermission). Tickets are mostly sold out. For information visit CBUSarts.com or call 614-469-0939. For information on future tour stops, visit sixonbroadway.com/north-american-tours.
Brendan Gleeson (left) and Colin Farrell in a scene from The Banshees of Inisherin. The dark comedy was named the best film of 2022 by Columbus (Ohio) critics, who also recognized Gleeson and Farrell for achievements in acting.
The Columbus Film Critics Association (COFCA) has announced its picks for the best cinema of 2022. The winners, which were revealed Jan. 5, are listed below. For the complete list of nominees, visit https://cofca.org/awards-2022-nominees/.
The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Runner-up: Todd Field, Tár
Best Lead Performance
Cate Blanchett, Tár
Runner-up: Brendan Fraser, The Whale
Best Supporting Performance
Brendan Gleeson, The Banshees of Inisherin
Runner-up: Kerry Condon, The Banshees of Inisherin
The Banshees of Inisherin
Runner-up: Glass Onion
Actor of the Year (for an exemplary body of work)
Colin Farrell (The Banshees of Inisherin, The Batman and Thirteen Lives)
Runner-up: Hong Chau (The Menu and The Whale)
Breakthrough Film Artist
Charlotte Wells, Aftersun (for directing and screenwriting)
Runner-up: Austin Butler, Elvis (for acting)
Claudio Miranda, Top Gun: Maverick
Runner-up: Hoyte Van Hoytema, Nope
Best Film Editing
Paul Rogers, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Runner-up: Eddie Hamilton, Top Gun: Maverick
Best Adapted Screenplay
Sarah Polley, Women Talking
Runner-up: Rian Johnson, Glass Onion
Best Original Screenplay
Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, Everything Everywhere All at Once
Runner-up: Martin McDonagh, The Banshees of Inisherin
Alexandre Desplat, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Runner-up: Justin Hurwitz, Babylon
All the Beauty and the Bloodshed
Runner-up: Fire of Love
Best Foreign Language Film
Decision to Leave (Heojil kyolshim)
Runner-up: All Quiet on the Western Front (Im Westen nichts Neues)
Best Animated Film
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Runner-up: Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio
Frank Gabrenya Award for Best Comedy
Runner-up: Everything Everywhere All at Once
Best Overlooked Film
Runner-up: The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent