Movies of the Week #48-50 (2020)

Heroes (2020): Coming from Manish Pandey, writer and executive producer on Senna (2010), this latest documentary on the lives, careers and intertwined fates of five memorable racing drivers of the 80s, 90s and 2000s is just tough to take. Parts feel distinctly staged, insights could have been more revealing, but the movie does very, very well in capturing the protagonists’ states of mind and the emotions going with them. For me, it was indeed terribly emotional, as beyond the stories of Hakkinen, Massa, Mouton and Kristensen lies that of Michael Schumacher, to whom I attach so many of the joys and tribulations of my youth. Pandey might not have Asif Kapadia’s flair, but he shares the sense for tragedy and loss, which underlies almost everything in Heroes. Mandatory viewing for enthusiasts. 8/10

Mumford (1999): Lawrence Kasdan hasn’t had much success in the last 20+ years, but his last movie of the 90s proved a simple, perfectly enjoyable story. Boasting a cast stuffed with actors you know, but can’t quite name (and plenty of them), it features Loren Dean as Mumford, a psychologist who’s universally appreciated by the community in…Mumford, a small town in Somewhere, USA. It’s a clever film that makes the most of its premise and even in its more surprising moments, doesn’t make a show of things. In this unassuming way, Mumford won me over, in spite of the unlikeliness of the string of events and characters it proposes. 7/10

Happiest Season (2020): This mainstream LGBT twist on a classic Christmas tale of family mayhem proves to be a perfectly enjoyable opener for the season. Starring some big names, like Kristen Stewart, Mackenzie Davis, Aubrey Plaza, Alison Brie, Victor Garber, Mary Steenburgen and Dan Levy, and directed actor turned director-writer Clea DuVall, it takes the premise that Harper omitted to tell her family that she’s in a same sex relationship with Aubrey and plans to only do so after the holiday…they’re all going to spend together. Good chemistry, some heartfelt moments and the crispy-lush American Christmas look iron out the cheesier scenes and the undoubtedly familiar storyline(s). 7/10

Freaky (2020): You can just imagine someone pitching this movie and it’s funny that it works so very well. Taking the classic slasher premise and cross-pollinating it with a freaky-friday-body-swap treatment, Christopher Landon’s movie…makes perfect sense. It might be perfectly predictable plot-wise, but it also offers a different perspective to empowerment, while making the odd comment on particularly topical subjects. More importantly, it doesn’t hit you over the head with anything, and throughout the movie there’s just no doubt as to the fun Vince Vaughn, Kathryn Newton and co. are having. So, you know, freak out – if you don’t mind some Final Destination levels of gore! 7/10

Hillbilly Elegy (2020): It’s been some years since Ron Howard’s last movie and this one doesn’t make up for the time gone by. Adapted from the autobiography of J.D. Vance, this is, from what I’ve read, a case of screenplay streamlining that diminishes the book’s complexity. The kind of thing you often risk getting from a Netflix production aimed at being perfectly middle of the road. Indeed, there’s a lot of suffering to go around, as J.D. struggles to outgrow his turbulent family life, marred by poverty and drug abuse. Amy Adams and Glenn Close act big most of the time, but it’s hardly enough to elevate this meandering, rehashed dissection of American society. 5/10