Movies of the Week #4 (2022)

West Side Story (2021): I had never seen the original before going to watch Stephen Spielberg’s (?!) reinterpretation of the renowned musical. A riff on Romeo & Juliet, it tells the love story between Maria and Tony, whose romance is hindered by their allegiance to rival New York gangs. Spielberg is faithful to the original (from my research) and yet the movie felt fresh and relevant and heartbreaking to this day. I mean sure, maybe it would have been interesting to see a forbidden love story between an anti-vaxxer and the son of a Pfizer director, but you can’t get everything you want. The music is great and the filmmaking elevates the songs to renewed heights, making for one of the more surprising films in Spielberg’s portfolio. 8

Antoinette dans les Cévennes (2020): This is one of those tiny, little movies that you don’t put too much thought going into, only to have your expectations subverted in the most elegant of ways. Antoinette, so excellently portrayed by Laure Calamy, is a kindergarten teacher who’s having an affair with the (married) father of one of the children in her class. When the lover postpones a romantic weekend in favour of an outing with the family in the Cevennes, Antoinette inconspicuously heads there as well, in the hopes of something happening. It might sound…nasty when you lay down the romantic looking-glass, but the manner in which director-writer Caroline Vingal treats her titular character is so refreshing and empowering, that it turned a fairly stale story into something different and worth experiencing. 7

A Time to Kill (1996): An old-school trial movie and the second John Grisham adaptation, a Time to Kill feels both dated and relevant. The racism in it is mostly overt, lacking more intricate nuances, but the movie captures a sense of our modern social disparities and dissonances. Is the movie engaging, though? Mildly so. I’d argue it’s more of a curiosity, to watch a young McConaughey, Bullock or Samuel L. Jackson going at it, in a courtroom drama that lacks explosiveness – but has a fine closing statement. 6

Swan Song (2021): Two Swan Songs were released in 2021 and this is not the better of them. In what feels like an extended Black Mirror episode, Ali Mahershala does most of the heavy lifting to ensure Swan Song leaves a mark. The story revolves around the (somewhat absurd) idea that a terminally ill husband/father would replace himself with a clone, without his family knowing. If you nitpick, the movie falls apart easily, mainly because it evades true philosophical conundrums in favour of narrative bridges. Thankfully, it all works just well enough to not become truly off-putting. 6

Ghostbusters: Afterlife (2021): After the unconvincing gender-reversed Ghostbusters of a few years ago, the franchise gets another go with a straight-up sequel to the original duology. The good thing is that it regains some of the feel that made the first movies so endearing, the bad is that it never really stands out on its own. It does get the nostalgia right, with a fun finale that makes up for some of the more monotone moments until then. 6