Movies of the Week #51 (2019)

Shoplifters (2018): There are so many things to like about Hirokazu Koreeda’s 2018 family drama that I don’t even know where to begin. If you’ve seen any of Koreeda’s films, you’ll be familiar with the manner in which he dissects Japanese society and class with a focus on the family unit. In some way, Shoplifters is the Japanese version of Parasite, a bizarre, occasionally confusing, but thoroughly entertaining story about a makeshift family and the things that bring them together. It feels like Almodovar at times, reframing the criminal nature of its characters in a humanistic way. Probably not everyone’s cup of tea, because of its slower pace and the hard-to-swallow resolution, but I found myself fascinated by it and the questions it poses about the most human of desires, to find acceptance within those that should be closest to you. 9/10

Marriage Story (2019): I’m not sure if I’m a Noah Baumbach fan or not. I’ve generally liked his movies (probably The Squid and the Whale the most), but have failed to fall in love with them. His existential familial drama takes on a more vicious form in Marriage Story, the kind of viciousness that’s neatly wrapped inside layers of complex, ambivalent interactions. This makes it very easy to appreciate the unraveling of Charlie (Adam Driver) and Nicole’s (Scarlett Johansson) marriage, because it feels so true, so dignified and yet so appalling, the way these things go. I do find it amazing, what people who once loved each other can end up inflicting upon one another, without malice, yet terribly vile. Baumbach’s latest does extremely well in touching upon those sore spots, present within most relationships, that so easily end up causing a lot more pain and misery that you would expect. Yet, within its familiarity and the showcase performances of its leads, I found myself foreign and distant, yearning to know more of what is implied, humanizing the source of their discontent beyond its veneer. 8/10

Jumanji: The Next Level (2019): I enjoyed the re-envisioning from two years ago, thanks to the strong cast and amusing premise. This sequel shies away from innovation, which means that while it still provides some entertainment, it feels less fresh. Adding Danny DeVito and Danny Glover to the cast doesn’t shake things up enough, as the two ‘grandpas’ are sucked into the world of Jumanji and struggle with even the lowest concepts of console gaming. It’s amusing at first, but wears its welcome by the halfway point, with the by-now impressive Awkwafina swooping in to provide some much needed color to the proceedings. Just enough to make it a moderately enjoyable flick. 6/10

Take the Ball Pass the Ball (2018): This adaptation of Graham Hunter’s book, Barça: The Making of the Greatest Team in the World, gives a fair assessment of what made early 2010s Barcelona a team that was not only successful, but truly exciting to watch. My parents, who wanted nothing to do with football before, no matter how much I talked about it, were just taken in by the style that Guardiola’s tiki-taka showcased. While the docu doesn’t quite manage to bring this across, it’s still a valuable source of “insider” information, neatly structured and emotionally resonant. Several of the key players provide their insights into what made Barca tick, with Xavi, Dani Alves and Thierry Henry particularly interesting to listen to. It does feel like the movie could have achieved more in the hands of an Asif Kapadia, but alas, maybe a day will come when all the glory of Guardiola’s Barcelona will find its way onto film. 7/10

Heroin(e) (2017): This short Netflix documentary garnered an Academy Award nomination two years ago, for its coverage of the role three women take on in managing the opioid epidemic in a small corner of the US. It’s an effective segment on the importance of taking it one battle at a time and making sure you approach the issue from multiple angles, with commendable efforts from all those involved. Nothing more, nothing less. 7/10