Movies of the Week #7-9 (2022)

Red Rocket (2021): Sean Baker has firmly established himself as one of the most interesting American directors of the last decade. His previous three movies had been exceptional (with Tangerine one of my all time favourites) and Red Rocket is an equally impressive addition. Baker opted for Simon Rex to play the lead character Mikey, a “suitcase pimp” as he described him, for what is probably the role of a lifetime. This unappealing, yet intriguing character is the kind of small time chump that constantly plays himself up, always angling on how to use those around him. When he meets 18 year old Strawberry, the movie finds a way to make their relationship feel real, filthy pure, if you will, humanizing even the unpalatable Mikey. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but Baker’s RR establishes itself as one of the most memorable movie experiences of 2021. 8

Licorice Pizza (2021): PT Anderson is back at it and this time presents a movie about the glorious 70s. It’s an unusual film, ticking at its own rhythm, hard to pin down and define. What you’re left with, when all is said and done, is a story of love, determination and youth, set against a fresco of oddities, quaint and sour, that defined the decade. I spent the better part of an hour after the movie was finished to read up on waterbeds and pinball machines, tokens of Licorice Pizza’s eclectic tale. Beautiful performances from Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffmann ensure that even when the movie is dragging some and you have no sense of where it’s going, there’s still something to chew one – emotionally, of course. 8

Mass (2021): After last week’s The Fallout, here’s another angle of the tragic matter of high-school massacres in the US. Four parents meet to find some resolution to the emotional turmoil created as one pair’s child caused the death of the other’s. The set-up is incredibly tense and creates a state of discomfort for the viewer that’s hard to shake. When the words start flowing, it takes a while to understand the details of what happened and once that’s clear, the movie tends towards being a bit “speechy”. But the ending is solid, emphasizing the way in which tragedy has isolated both families in the same way, to strong emotional effect. 8

The Devil Wears Prada (2006): Keeping up with my nostalgia ride, it was time for one of those guilty pleasure types. There’s a lot to get irate about if you start thinking what TDWP stands for, but there’s also a lot to enjoy if you waive the thinking – first and foremost, Meryl Streep’s anti-gleeful performance. She’s helped by some sharp dialogue, even if the script suffers plot-wise. The rest of the cast fits rather well, particularly Stanley Tucci and Emily Blunt, ensuring a sweet balance of one-trait characters around Hathaway’s Andy. All things aside, TDWP has great energy and if you’ll allow yourself to be entertained, you’ll most likely enjoy it. 7

Blue Bayou (2021): Justin Chon takes on a lot in BB, directing, writing and headlining the movie. It might not be his first rodeo, but the feeling I got was that the story, given its ambition, loses focus and become too emotional for its own good. So a balancing force, pruning some excesses, would have ensured BB becoming the best movie it could be. As it stands, the story seems surreal and Chon’s penchant for drama over laying out the details underpinning the sad state of the US adoption system works to the detriment of the experience. Ultimately, though, it feels like an important story, which might be worth sitting through in spite of its shortcomings, at the very least because it’s well acted. 6