Movies of the Week #32 #33 (2020)

Sweetheart (2019): I kinda feel that the best movies at expressing deep rooted discrimination, abuse and inequality have been horror movies. There’s something about clever allegories, subtle nuances and metaphors that find just the right frame to emphasize some of the dark, twisted realities of our world. In Sweetheart, Jenn (Kiersey Clemons) is shipwrecked on an idyllic island, with the downside of being the hunting ground of a monster at night. Her struggle is both of survival and being believed, once a pair of her friends float up to the shore. You’ll have to brush over some more pragmatic questions about the hows and whys, which should then offer ample opportunity to interpret what this whole experience is about. I’ll leave it to you, but the strong visuals and Clemons’s commanding performance should be enough to recommend this even if you are more literal being. 7/10

Real Women Have Curves (2002): In a time before social-media driven body positivity, we have RWHC. Based on a play by Josefina Lopez, the movie stars America Ferrara, playing Ana Garcia, the 18 year old daughter in a hard-working Latino family. It’s your classic tradition/control vs youth/expression, as Ana wavers between going to college and helping her family out. Her mother trying endlessly to manipulate her is thrown into the mix for good measure and I found the manner in which the story deals with this mother-daughter disconnect to be braver than usual, as we are left without an explicit reconciliation. So whereas the familiarity of the whole thing bogs it down, RWHC still has something to offer, in no small part thanks to the charm Ferrara brings to the frame. 7/10

Anelka: Misunderstood (2020): I never followed Nicolas Anelka’s career with a lot of attention, but he’s the kind of player who was always on your radar if you cared about football during the 2000s. His reluctance to be a superstar is supposed to explain the drama he brought wherever he played, but a documentary that sides so definitively with its subject is bound to feel unsatisfying in the end. In many ways, it feels like Anelka is a version of Ibrahimovic that was disliked. The documentary offers little insight as to why that might be, beyond pointing fingers at the media and managers, with some of the better insights coming from former Arsenal honcho, Arsene Wenger. So while there are definitely interesting facets to Hannezo’s docu, the numerous exculpations make for a less than engaging watch, leaving too much unsaid – or unasked. 6/10⠀

I Used to Go Here (2020): This low-frills nostalgia trip of a 40-something whose career isn’t all that she expected is a mostly familiar tale. While Gillian Jacobs does a lot to charm it all up, there are just too few “a-ha” moments to make the movie stand out. It differs however in how it handles the relationship between women when a man’s in the middle, refusing to reduce said relationship to a cat fight and embracing the complexity that comes with making decisions and being mature about them. Sadly, it doesn’t click as well as it should to be wholly enjoyable. 6/10

Countdown (2019): For comparison’s sake, a more generic horror movie that’s satisfied with jump scares and simply reimagining Drag Me to Hell with a technological twist, Countdown does little to warrant a recommendation. Yes, it will give you the willies every once in a while, but I mostly felt the urge to scroll past the mundane narrative and equally mundane characters. The movie just isn’t sure whether it’s about tech or about demons, it adds a #MeToo subplot that doesn’t say anything about what’s really at stake here and it misses the chance to provide its lead with a real moral conundrum, opting to conveniently cop out. Maybe Elizabeth Lail’s Dolores (of Westworld fame) impression will pluck the heart strings, but that’s not nearly enough to make Countdown relevant. 4/10