Archive for the ‘Netflix Film’ Category

Your One Wild and Precious Life

Nyad

Directors: Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

Cast: Annette Bening, Jodie Foster, Rhys Ifans, Luke Cosgrove, Ethan James Romero

Running Time: 2 hours and 1 minute

Film Rating: 7 out of 10

Please Note this film is only available on Netflix

Documentary film makers and married couple Jimmy Chin & Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi bring to life the unbelievable true story of long distance swimmer Diana Nyad who attempted to swim from Cuba to Key West in this fascinating docu-drama simply entitled Nyad starring two brilliant actresses. Following its premiere at the 2023 Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, USA, Nyad had a short cinematic run making it eligible for Oscar nominations and then went straight onto the Netflix streaming site.

Five time Oscar nominee Annette Bening (The Grifters, American Beauty, Being Julia, The Kids are Alright, Nyad) takes on the role of the determined swimmer Diana Nyad and Two time Oscar winner Jodie Foster (The Accused, The Silence of the Lambs) is her friend and trainer Bonnie Stoll. Diana and Bonnie were once lovers but are now close friends, both understanding each other’s determination and desire.

Diana Nyad is a force to be reckoned with as a motivational speaker, sports journalist and a long distance swimmer, a large than life personality driven by her father’s desire to see her succeed as a sea nymph and haunted by memories of sexual abuse when she was training to be a swimmer in her teenage years.

Annette Bening is astounding in the role of Diana Nyad, a physically demanding performance involving lots of endurance swims and she plays the role perfectly, a screen role completely atypical of her other more glamourous roles in Bugsy opposite her now husband Oscar winner Warren Beatty or Jeremy Irons in Istvan Szabo’s wonderful film Being Julia.

What really sets Nyad apart are the crackling scenes between Bening and Foster, with the latter showing off her unquestionable acting talent. Jodie Foster as the more accommodating Bonnie who grapples to deal with such an engulfing personality as Diana Nyad is absolutely terrific in this film and has rightly been nominated again for Best Supporting Actress for the 2024 Oscars almost 50 years later after her last Best Supporting actress nomination for the electrifying 1976 film Taxi Driver opposite Robert De Niro.

Unlike other sports dramas which are extremely male dominated, this is a fascinating female centred life-affirming biopic which is both uplifting, motivational and serves as an encouraging film about Diana Nyad whose commitment, determination and drive put her swimming efforts to cross from Cuba to Key West in the global sports arena.  Watch out for a great supporting role by Rhy Ifans as the grumpy but knowledgeable sea-weathered captain.

Nyad is worth watching for the superb performances by Annette Bening and Jodie Foster and serves as a reminder that we all only get one wild and precious life, which is valuable and should be cherished.

Shot like a psychedelic documentary but acted with style and grit, Nyad gets a film rating of 7 out of 10 and is an interesting sports drama about achievement, courage and dedication. Highly recommended viewing.

Read more about Diana Nyad here –

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana_Nyad

Beautiful Bernstein

Maestro

Director: Bradley Cooper

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Carey Mulligan, Matt Bomer, Sarah Silverman, Vincenzo Amato, Maya Hawke, Matt Bomer

Running Time: 2 hours and 9 minutes

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Please note this film is only available on Netflix

With acclaimed directors Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg acting as executive producers, Bradley Cooper’s Maestro about the extraordinary life of American composer Leonard Bernstein features a deftly performed triple act with multiple Oscar nominee Bradley Cooper (American Sniper, A Star is Born, Silver Linings Playbook) acting as director, writer and as the leading man, ably assisted with Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan (An Education, Promising Young Woman) as Bernstein’s long suffering wife Felicia Montealegre.

Both Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan are absolutely superb in Maestro, binding this film together as they perfectly portray the complex façade of a marriage that the Bernstein’s had, particularly Felicia’s artistic and sacrificial decision to turn a blind eye to her husband’s rampant homosexuality often bringing lover’s home and entertaining them in front of their children.

There is a particularly brilliant scene towards the end of Maestro whereby Leonard and Felicia have a terrible fight in a New York apartment which is overlooking the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, in which the marital veneer is cracked and all the resentment and anger boils over.

Bradley Cooper literally disappears into the role of Leonard Bernstein thanks to the extraordinary makeup by Japanese American prosthetic make up artist Kazo Hiro who won Oscars for Bombshell and Darkest Hour.

Mulligan is excellent as a broadway actress Felicia who takes a decision to put her career on hold while Leonard Bernstein’s musical career flourishes during the 1960’s as he is made musical director for the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Leonard Bernstein is an icon in the classical and theatrical music world having penned the music for the Stephen Sondheim hit musical West Side Story and the film score for the Marlon Brando film On The Waterfront.

Bernstein’s sexual relationship with David Oppenheim flamboyantly played by out gay actor Matt Bomer (The Normal Heart, Boys in the Band, The Nice Guys) is comfortably portrayed in Maestro as Bernstein feels nothing at introducing his beloved wife Felicia to his starry eyed gay lover.

At the heart of this complex artistically compatible marriage is the toll that two creative and volatile parents have on their three children particularly their oldest daughter Jamie Bernstein played by the daughter of Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, Maya Hawke (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Asteroid City) who often has to discover through gossip the sexual indiscretions of her father, the world famous conductor Leonard Bernstein.

Essentially, Maestro is an art film and it is filled with beautiful music, talented people and a toweringly famous artistic conductor who was passionate about classical music, conducting and leaving an indelible mark on the canon of America’s 20th century contribution to the history of music.

Maestro shot in black and white and colour, is a complex and slightly off kilter biopic about an extremely charismatic conductor whose sexual proclivities detonated the marriage in which Felicia was the main casualty. Fortunately, Bradley Cooper and Carey Mulligan are both excellent as husband and wife in a film which re-examines their relationship in the context of Bernstein’s massive fame and creative contribution, which was both controversial and significant.

Maestro is Bradley Cooper’s languid love letter to Leonard Bernstein, a formidable task to encapsulate in a unconventional biopic which should have been released in theatrical cinemas to attain the full effect.

Featuring highly skilled acting, cinematography and direction, Maestro gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is recommended for viewers that love the music of Leonard Bernstein.

Source material: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonard_Bernstein

The Iron Youth of Germany

All Quiet on the Western Front

Director: Edward Berger

Cast: Felix Kammerer, Albrecht Schuch, Daniel Bruhl, Devid Striesow, Edin Hasanovic, Michael Witterborn, Sebastian Hulk, Anton von Lucke, Aaron Hilmer

Running time: 2 hours and 28 minutes

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

This film is only available on Netflix

Every year on the 11th November at 11h00, England and some European countries mark Armistice Day which is when World War 1 ended but the significance of such an hour on such a day is clearly and brutally illustrated in director Edward Berger’s brilliant German anti-war film All Quiet on the Western Front, a 2022 remake of the 1930 film which won a Best Picture Oscar then.

This film is based on the famous German novel of the same name written by German soldier and World War I survivor Erich Maria Remarque published in 1929. The 2022 version has been nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film.

If viewers love a really brilliant war film, then All Quiet on the Western Front is highly recommended viewing, an epic film masterfully directed by Edward Berger and featuring an entirely German and Austrian cast including Felix Kammerer as the main character Paul Baumer, a young and idealistic German teenager who like his compatriots at school get pulled into the blind patriotism of German war fever as the German army is battling the French in the incredibly brutal trench warfare on the Western Front, the border between Germany and France. For complete authenticity watch this film in German with English subtitles.

To counterpoint all the violence, horror and utter bloodshed, the narrative also focuses on the diplomatic mission led by Germany to sue for peace with the French, a task given to diplomat Matthias Erzberger wonderfully played by Golden Globe nominee Daniel Bruhl (Rush). The more famous Daniel Bruhl (Inglourious Basterds, 7 Days in Entebbe, Woman in Gold) also served as executive producer of All Quiet on the Western Front and was instrumental on getting this 21st century version of the film made and premiered at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival in September 2022.

As the hours approach for the ceasefire, a bloodthirsty general is determined to continue fighting the French right up until the last minute before the armistice takes effect, much to the detriment of the 78th Infantry Reserve Regiment in which Paul Baumer is part of along with his fellow soldiers Kat played by Albrecht Schuch, Kropp played by Aaron Hilmer and Tjaden played by Bosnian actor Edin Hasanovic. Collectively they represent the Iron Youth of Germany.

All Quiet on the Western Front, like similar war films including Sam Mendes’s brilliant 1917 and Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan is a gritty, stark and bloody war film about the meaninglessness of trench warfare and the unnecessary deaths of over 3 million people, many of them young men.

Beautifully shot and extremely captivating, All Quiet on The Western Front gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is highly recommended viewing. It’s a fascinating anti-war film about the brutalities of close combat.

A Delicious Conundrum

Glass Onion: a Knives Out Mystery

Director: Rian Johnson

Cast: Daniel Craig, Kate Hudson, Edward Norton, Dave Bautista, Janelle Monae, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odon Jr, Ethan Hawke, Hugh Grant, Jessica Henwick

Running Time: 2 hours and 20 minutes

Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

Please note this film is only available on Netflix

Former Bond star Daniel Craig reprises his role as the flamboyant Southern detective Benoit Blanc in the extravagant and complex sequel to the 2019 hit Knives Out this time featuring an entirely new cast and the location moving to a secluded island in Greece.

Writer and director Rian Johnson who garnered an Oscar nomination for the original Knives Out in 2019, has written an even more fascinating sequel surrounding the mysterious tech billionaire Miles Bron wonderfully played with a panache bordering on narcissism by triple Oscar nominee Edward Norton (Primal Fear, American History X, Birdman)  who organizes a murder mystery weekend and jets in a couple of his closest friends from America following a complex invitation which he sends to all of them in midst of the Covid19 Pandemic in May 2020.

Glass Onion, a Knives Out Mystery is a contemporary who dunnit featuring a stellar cast of 40 and 50 year old stars, a sort of revamped Agatha Christie with all the modern 21st century twists. Bron’s group of his closest friends include fashion model Birdie Jay played by Oscar nominee Kate Hudson (Almost Famous), muscle man Duke Cody played by Dave Bautista, Tech company co-founder Andi Brand superbly played by Janelle Monae who deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting actress and Oscar nominee Leslie Odom Jr (One Night in Miami).

All the friends gather on Bron’s private island in Greece where an elaborate and hi tech mansion rests complete with an array of interesting alcoves including a Glass Onion and a sports car on the roof. Bron announces to the guests that there is a murder mystery game in which he is the murder victim and they are all suspects. As the first night progresses amidst lots of drinks in fancy glasses, things go curiously awry when one of the guests is killed and Benoit Blanc has his hands full trying to solve the complex murder while assisting an associate who hired him earlier to solve a previous murder.

The Glass Onion is a delicious conundrum, a problem to be solved, a puzzle to be figured out, an onion to be peeled back layer by layer as audiences need to figure out who the real killer is.

Director Rian Johnson throws lots of glittering clues at the audience in the first half of the film, but Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery is an extravagant and lavish murder mystery set in 2020 featuring a superb ensemble cast and an immaculate performance by Daniel Craig as the fashionable Southern detective who eventually solves the riddle.

For those that enjoy a fabulous murder mystery, catch the entertaining Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery which gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10.

The Gamekeeper’s Girl

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre

Cast: Emma Corrin, Jack O’Donnell, Matthew Duckett, Joely Richardson, Faye Marsay, Ella Hunt

Running Time: 2 hours and 6 minutes

Please note this film is only available on Netflix

When celebrated British novelist D. H. Lawrence first published his controversial novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover in 1928, almost 100 years ago, it was immediately banned for indecency and immorality. The novel was only unbanned in 1960.

This new steamy film adaptation of the infamous novel is directed by French director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre and stars The Crown actress Emma Corrin as Lady Chatterley and Jack O’Connell (Unbroken, Tulip Fever) as the rough and toned gamekeeper Oliver Mellors, a typical Derbyshire working class man.

Set in England between the World Wars, Lady Chatterley’s Lover tells the story of a young woman who marries into Landed gentry her husband Clifford Chatterley wonderfully played by Matthew Duckett. After the First World War, Lord Chatterley returns to his country estate, wealthy but crippled, left a paraplegic from being severely injured in the war. Obviously his injuries include him not being able to produce an heir to his estate, which is always vital for the continuance of the estate.

As this young and wealthy couple navigate their new situation, Clifford basically gives Connie permission to have an affair with another man, although he did not expect her to fall so passionately in love with the groundsman Mellors played with a brutish physicality by O’Connell who delivers his best onscreen work yet.

From the way the affair begins, The Mustang director Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre already hints to the audience that this is going to be steamy and explicit, as the sexually frustrated Lady Chatterley expertly played by Emma Corrin first glimpses Mellors stark naked in an outdoor shower. Voyeurism and desire make for an enticing mix.

Lady Chatterley breaks all the social laws that govern strict separation between the classes in 1920’s Britain, particularly between the Landed gentry and the working class and finds an unlikely ally in Clifford Chatterley’s carer Mrs Bolton superbly played by Joely Richardson (The Patriot, Event Horizon, Red Sparrow).

As Clifford Chatterley becomes increasingly frustrated, his wife Lady Chatterley becomes increasingly fulfilled as she embarks on a passionate affair with Mellors often having trysts in the open or in his shed, close to where the other estate workers live. Naturally gossip amongst the servants ensue and soon Clifford is humiliated while Lady Chatterley departs for Venice realizing that she has to make a critical choice.

What makes Lady Chatterley’s Lover so significant is that as a romantic story it charts the sexual awakening of a young woman in which she makes the pivotal decisions, whether to stay with her husband or leave, whether to forgo her reputation and find independent love or to conform in a vicious upper class social world in which married woman have little room for manoeuvre.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover is beautifully filmed and extremely well-acted and brilliantly charts a forbidden love affair of a woman that would become the Gamekeeper’s Girl. Sexually explicit and gloriously elegant, Lady Chatterley’s Lover gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is highly recommended viewing.

Sundays at the Moondance Diner

tick, tick, BOOM!

Director: Lin-Manuel Miranda

Cast: Andrew Garfield, Alexandra Shipp, Vanessa Hudgens, Judith Light, Bradley Whitford, Ben Levi-Ross, Robin de Jesus, Lin-Manuel Miranda

Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes

Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10

This film is only available to watch on the Netflix streaming service

Oscar nominee Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge) takes on the role of struggling theatrical composer Jonathan Larson in director Lin-Manuel Miranda’s fascinating portrayal of his brief but explosive career in the musical film tick, tick, Boom!

Jonathan Larson’s most successful musical was a contemporary rendition of Puccini’s 1896 Opera La Boheme which become famously known as Rent. Rent, the Musical explored all the struggles of a group of young artists in New York City in the mid 1990’s amidst the worst of the AIDS crisis, and become one of the longest Broadway hit musicals running before it finally closed in 2008, grossing over $280 million in ticket sales.

Unfortunately the young and extremely talented Jonathan Larson would not see the fruits of his labour and the dynamic success of the musical he created.

As a musical film, tick, tick, Boom! Is fascinating to watch and actor turned director Lin-Manuel Miranda focuses more on the musical genius of Jonathan Larson and less on his actual life. Many of the key scenes in the film, particularly the countless arguments between Larson expertly played with a frenetic energy by Andrew Garfield and his girlfriend Susan played by Alexandra Shipp (Love, Simon; X-Men: Apocalypse) are interrupted by Larson breaking out into song which detracts from the emotional core of the film.

It is only in the second half of tick, tick, Boom! that director Lin-Manuel Miranda finds his feet and grounds the chaotic first half in a heart wrenching reality of struggling artists living in New York City battling to make ends meet amidst rejection, high rents and busking at the Moondance Diner.

In between all their struggles is the omniscient threat of extinction as the looming 1980’s and 1990’s AIDS crisis threatened to kill off most of the artistic community in New York prior to the invention of life-saving medication at the beginning of the 21st century. 

As a biographical story, tick, tick, Boom! does suffer from an overemphasis on song and dance while neglecting the real struggles that both gay and straight artists went through to make it in America’s toughest city: New York during the early 1990’s.

Fortunately, Andrew Garfield’s brilliant performance as Jonathan Larson holds this film together balanced by some extraordinary supporting roles including Judith Light as his tough as nails theatrical agent Rosa Stevens and Larson’s best friend, the gay advertising executive Michael wonderfully played with a brittle flamboyance by Robin de Jesus (The Boys in the Band).

Viewers need to know the backstory of Rent, the musical and do some research on Jonathan Larson before watching tick, tick, Boom as this film does not operate as a conventional biography and might be confusing to those not familiar with the context.

Tick, tick, Boom! gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is recommended for those that enjoy a historical slice of American musical theatre from over 30 years ago.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Larson

Extinction Event Deluxe

Don’t Look Up

Director: Adam McKay

Cast: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Jonah Hill, Timothee Chalamet, Mark Rylance, Melanie Lynskey, Ron Perlman, Ariana Grande, Himesh Patel

Film Rating 5.5 out of 10

Running Time: 2 hours and 18 minutes

This film is only available to watch on the Netflix streaming service.

Similar to the absolutely disastrous 2019 film Cats in which The Danish Girl director Tom Hooper assembled an A list cast with high expectations, only for the film version of the musical Cats to absolutely flop at the box office and be completely ridiculed, director Adam McKay’s 2021 film Don’t Look Up is as big a disaster as the comet which threatens to obliterate earth and kill everyone including the vacuous media personalities, the egotistical politicians and the general American population encapsulated by a stoner performance by Oscar nominee Timothee Chalamet (Call Me By Your Name) as Jude.

Oscar winners Leonardo DiCaprio (The Revenant), Jennifer Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook), Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine, The Aviator) and Meryl Streep (The Iron Lady, Kramer vs Kramer and Sophie’s Choice) unfortunately fail to lift this disastrous black comedy. Don’t Look Up just proves the theory that Netflix can attract A List stars to act in dreadful films. Next time all their agents should be shot at dawn.

Thankfully I never watched this film in a cinema.

With the exception of director Jane Campion’s excellent The Power of the Dog, Netflix films do not have that much to offer. Let’s face it the streaming service is facing a content crisis, now that everyone is back in cinemas watching Spiderman, Dune and No Time to Die.

Back to Don’t Look Up, while aspects of the script were rather funny, it really just shows how vacuous and gullible the American public are, believing everything they see in the media and on Television. That’s according to Adam McKay’s script and not my personal opinion.

Unlike Adam McKay’s brilliant take on the 2008 financial crisis in the critically acclaimed The Big Short and his even better take on politics in 2018’s Vice, Don’t Look Up falls way short of these two superior films. Even the satire and black comedy is not written with intelligence or an ounce of wit.

Don’t Look Up appears to be a spiralling pastiche of an impending extinction event in which everyone from the crazy politicians embodied by Meryl Streep’s American President Orlean and her ambitious son and chief of staff Jason wonderfully played by Oscar nominee Jonah Hill (Moneyball, The Wolf of Wall Street) to the incredibly vacuous cougar and TV presenter Brie Evantree in the Daily Rip brilliantly played by Oscar winner Cate Blanchett, all of whom seem blissfully unaware of a large meteor heading towards earth and wiping out humanity.

While Leonardo DiCaprio seems to just replicate his anxiety ridden performance in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood to a much lesser degree in Don’t Look Up and Jennifer Lawrence looks slightly confused at being in the presence of such big name stars in a film which is essentially going to be watched on an Iphone, unfortunately this deluxe extinct level event fizzles out despite the ensemble cast. Don’t Look Up is everything that genuine cinema shouldn’t be.

Don’t Look Up gets a film rating of 5.5 out of 10 and thankfully one doesn’t need to purchase a cinema ticket to watch this disaster. You can just pause the film and look away.

The Suicide Widow and her Son

The Power of the Dog

Director: Jane Campion

Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Jesse Plemons, Keith Carradine, Frances Conroy, Alistair Sewell, George Mason, Thomasin McKenzie, Alice Englert

Film Rating: 9 out of 10

Running Time: 2 hours and 6 minutes

This film is only available to watch on the Netflix streaming service

After a hiatus from filmmaking for over a decade, acclaimed New Zealand film maker and director Jane Campion returns with a tightly wrought Western style family drama The Power of the Dog which recently had its glamourous world premiere at the 2021 Venice International Film Festival.

Set in Montana in 1925, The Power of the Dog is a superbly directed cinematic adaptation of a novel by Thomas Savage about Rose Gordon and her son Peter Gordon played respectfully by Kirsten Dunst (Interview with a Vampire, Marie Antoinette, The Beguiled) who gives an Oscar worthy performance and Kodi Smit-McPhee (Romeo and Juliet, The Road) who deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the 2022 Academy Awards.

Smit-McPhee’s performance is truly phenomenal matched only by the film’s other brilliant performance given by Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) as the hyper-masculine and brutish Phil Burbank, a charismatic Montana rancher. British star Benedict Cumberbatch also deserves another Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his performance in The Power of the Dog.

When Phil’s younger brother George Burbank, played by Kirsten Dunst’s real life husband Jesse Plemons marries the fragile Rose Gordon, he attempts to introduce Rose and her son Peter into the life of the wealthy Burbank family, Montana ranchers complete with land, arrogance and an absolute disdain for the native Americans.

Rose has to contend with sharing the sprawling mansion in Montana with her vile and threatening brother-in-law Phil Burbank, who feels nothing at gelding cattle barehanded or swimming naked in a local river covered in mud. Phil is ruthless, nasty and filled with pent-up-rage. Cumberbatch’s performance is absolute startling as he plays against type and every scene with him and Kirsten Dunst crackles with tension and that underlying threat of violence.

Into this electrifying atmosphere, quietly appears Rose’s son Peter Gordon who is studying to be a surgeon, a shy and awkward young man with a sinister habit of vivisection and harbouring a covert sexual desire.

Peter Gordon is mocked openly by Phil Burbank and his gang of macho ranchers for being a nancy boy or a faggot. He wears strange shoes and displays no interest in anything physical especially tennis.

When Phil Burbank and Peter Gordon strike up an unlikely bond, Rose cannot cope with her fragile son being bullied by her brutish brother-in-law and takes to the bottle.

Despite the fact that The Power of the Dog should have been shown at cinemas and is only available on Netflix, one cannot help but imagine watching director Jane Campion’s film on a big screen for as a masterful director she paints beautiful and complex cinematic strokes, touching on such issues as sexuality, addiction, power dynamics and more significantly the devious mind of the male psyche.

Every shot of The Power of the Dog is beautifully crafted and the entire narrative which is psychological in nature is expertly acted by Benedict Cumberbatch, Kirsten Dunst and Kodi Smit-McPhee.

The Power of the Dog is not going to appeal to everyone, but that wasn’t director Jane Campion’s intentions. Her Oscar winning film The Piano didn’t either.

If viewers loved The Piano then they will enjoy The Power of the Dog, a masterful tale of sinister family dynamics, of voyeurism and forbidden sexual desire, of lust and carnage with an ending that is both disturbing and brilliant.

A Poor Man in a Free Democracy

The White Tiger

Director: Ramin Bahrani

Cast: Adash Gourav, Rajkummar Rao, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Verdent Sinha, Kamlesh Gill

Film Rating 8 out of 10

This film is only available on Netflix

When Aravind Adiga wrote the novel, The White Tiger, which went on to win the Man Booker Prize in 2008, his brilliant and bustling novel about contemporary India, he dedicated his work to the American film director and producer of Man Push Cart Ramin Bahrani.

So it was only apt, that Bahrani adapted the acclaimed novel for the screen and directed it, scoring him a 2021 Oscar nomination for best adapted screenplay for the film version of The White Tiger, but losing out to the masterful adaptation of Florian Zeller’s play The Father by Zeller and Christopher Hampton.

In the flurry of fine films released in the first half of 2021, The White Tiger slipped under the radar and never braved a flourishing theatrical release, only to be quietly released on Netflix on the 22nd January 2021.

The White Tiger is an exuberant tale about an impoverished man Balram that escapes the clutches of his rural poverty stricken Indian village to find a job working as a driver for a wealthy family in Delhi at the peak of India’s re-emergence on the world economic stage at the height of the country’s IT boom in 2008.

Director Ramin Bahrani’s film version could have been edited, but features capable performances by Adarsh Gourav as Balram, Rajkummar Rao as his master Ashkok and the Priyanka Chopra Jonas as Pinky Madam.

Mumbai born actor Adarsh Gourav deservedly received a 2021 Bafta nomination for Best Actor for his portrayal of the ambitious Balram who realizes that one wrong move, could lead to the death of his entire family back in the countryside, where his extended family live in abject poverty ruled by a his grandmother played by Kamlesh Gill.

Balram’s fascinating journey takes him to the plush Delhi high rises where he goes from serving and idolizing Ashkok in a subtle homoerotic way to taking advantage of this wealthy man who bribes influential politicians with impunity and is poised to take advantage of the IT boom that happened in Bangalore, whereby Western tech companies used the Indian city as a call centre hub as the Tech giants outsourced their customer support capabilities to an emerging economy with an abundant supply of cheap labour, which modern India so readily provided.

The White Tiger is a vibrant, brutal tale of how a poor man in the world’s largest free democracy becomes the master of his own destiny.

Highly recommended viewing, especially for those that have read the novel, The White Tiger gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is available to watch on Netflix.

American Melancholy

Hillbilly Elegy

Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Basso, Haley Bennett, Freida Pinto, Owen Asztalos

This film is only available on Netflix

Frost/ Nixon and Rush director Ron Howard brings to life J. D. Vance’s autobiographical tale Hillbilly Elegy to the screen featuring superb performances by Oscar nominees Amy Adams (The Fighter, American Hustle, Vice) and the wonderfully talented Glenn Close (The Wife, Dangerous Liaisons, Albert Nobbs) as mother and daughter. Amy Adams plays the troubled mother Bev, a nurse in Ohio who has a heroin addiction and is trying to keep her young family together, namely her daughter Lindsay played by Haley Bennett (Rules Don’t Apply, The Girl on the Train) and J. D. played by the talented Gabriel Basso (Super 8, The Whole Truth).

Glenn Close plays Bev’s mother and grandmother to her two children, the matriarchal Mamaw who ultimately steps in to raise the young J.D. when he is a boy, the younger version brilliantly played by Owen Asztalos who holds his own in some heart wrenching scenes between Amy Adams and Glenn Close.

The adult J. D. has completed law school at Yale in Connecticut and is about to be interviewed for his first legal appointment as a junior attorney at law. Before he gets to that interview in the prestigious and affluent environment of Yale in Connecticut he has to head back to Middleton in Ohio to deal with his mother Bev, expertly played by Amy Adams who has had a relapse on heroin.

J. D. doesn’t come from a wealthy family but through his grandmother’s encouragement, he studied hard, worked to pay the bills and got into law school. He was determined to escape the trap of cyclic poverty that his mother and grandmother had been trapped in.

His beautiful girlfriend Usha is back home in Connecticut awaiting for his return and is played by Slumdog Millionaire star Freida Pinto. J. D. has kept the divide between affluent Connecticut and his Hillbilly past very distinctive by not sharing his violent upbringing in Jackson, Kentucky or Middleton, Ohio with Usha.

Hillbilly Elegy is told through a series of childhood flashbacks to a younger J. D. as he had to deal with his mother’s erratic behaviour, which provides some brilliant scenes between Owen Asztalos and experienced Hollywood actresses Glenn Close and Amy Adams.

What makes Glenn Close’s performance as the chain smoking Hillbilly matriarch so brilliant is that she is playing it against type, a struggling grandmother who gets meals on wheels and barely has enough cash to feed her grandson.

Close’s performance is astounding, a far cry from her lavish and equally superb performances in The Wife, as Sunny von Bulow in Reversal of Fortune and her breakout performance as the scheming Marquise de Merteuil in the Oscar winning French drama Dangerous Liaisons. Glenn Close has never won an Oscar and she deserves to win for this supporting performance in Hillbilly Elegy.

Hillbilly Elegy is a melancholic look back at one man’s struggle to lift himself out of poverty and the immense impression his mother and grandmother made on his life and how he overcome his dire circumstances to rise up and join the professional classes while never dismissing his impoverished heritage.

Hillbilly Elegy gets a film rating of 7.5 out of 10 and is recommended viewing for those that love a good family drama.

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