The besties review
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Sophie’s Choice is a classic case of “I see why it’s good, for the time it was made, but it simply just isn’t for me.” Meryl Streep’s performance is the obvious highlight and the other actors hold their own, but everything else was kind of a snooze. I was specifically turned off by the overly poetic narration, which permeates the entire film. Though I understand this dialogue is being read from the point of view of the novelist character, the highly stylized and melodramatic nature of the script wore thin for me. My other big complaint is that I don’t feel like the abusive relationship at the center of the film was portrayed with much nuance. It could just be that the movie is a product of its time, but this part of the storyline just felt a little too obvious to me and I wasn’t shocked that the film ended like it did. I suppose these flaws shouldn’t preclude anyone from experiencing Meryl’s tour de force performance, but just be ready to wait an hour and a half to get to the meat of it.
Death Becomes Her
Supremely wacky shit. The first act of the movie had me wondering if I was even going to like this, but as soon as the real plot shifted into focus I was totally on board. Meryl Streep is fabulously magisterial as the youth-obsessed actress, Madeline Ashton, and both Bruce Willis and Goldie Hawn match her campy energy perfectly. But most of all, I was just happy to revel in a film that is so knowingly ridiculous. There is no subtlety in Death Becomes Her, and even when I knew where the bits were going, the sight of three prestigious actors hamming it up did nothing but put a big old smile on my face! Factor in the music, production design, and special effects, and you get one hell of an experience. It may not rank among Meryl’s greatest performances, but her devilish pre-Prada persona serves the premise perfectly and is just one of the reasons why every film fan should check this out.
The Bridges of Madison County
Simple in its construction and execution, The Bridges of Madison County has the makings of a classic romance. The flashback framing device, period pastoral setting, and down-to-earth performances all come together to create a film that is utterly enjoyable, if not excellent. There aren’t too many Hollywood productions that romanticize extramarital affairs, and even fewer that focus on a couple over the age of forty, so there is definitely something unique about this kind of romance. Clint Eastwood’s acting is surprisingly sensitive (and a bit stale) and his direction feels self-assured, but you just can’t get through this thing without marveling at Meryl Streep’s believably vulnerable performance. By carrying this movie on her back, Meryl stays proving why she’s one of the greatest actors ever to grace the silver screen. It’s no wonder her performance garnered critical acclaim and film’s sole Oscar nomination.
Though I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with this movie, I just didn’t really vibe with it. Nicole Kidman is virtually unrecognizable as Virginia Woolf, and that alone causes her to stand out among all her co-stars, but the rest of the cast didn’t really do it for me. I’d have to say Meryl is the next most interesting character, but she still doesn’t have a ton to do apart from a handful of emotional scenes. Still, the time jumping was kind of novel and Philip Glass’s score was perfectly melodramatic. Ultimately, I think The Hours is a perfectly good movie that’s just not my speed.
I was honestly blown away by this! Meryl absolutely kills it, as do Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, and Viola Davis. There are little moments here and there that hint at Shanley’s directorial prowess, but you’re kidding yourself if you think this is anything more than an actors showcase. The script certainly has its merits, but Doubt would be a mediocre film without its core four. In a perfect world, they all would’ve won Oscars for their respective performances, but I’m a simple man— I’ll settle for a hearty round of nominations.
One thing I find really surprising is that there’s a whole online community of film theorists who posit that Father Flynn was not actually a predator. To that I say, “phooey!” Yes, the ending was left slightly ambiguous on purpose, but in my opinion there’s really no space for the “Father Flynn is actually a decent guy” discourse— we’ve all seen Spotlight, we know the church has a problem. Shanley does a good job of grounding the film in Meryl’s character so that the film is not just about the predatory priest, but that doesn’t mean his actions aren’t there.
What is 5 Film Film Festival (5FFF)?
In short, 5 Film Film Festival is an ongoing personal project to help me watch more classic films. For each mini “festival,” I will choose a random theme (be it a genre, actor, director, etc.) and curate five movies that fit that theme to watch for the first time. When I started this journey, I posted my brief, unpolished thoughts on Letterboxd. I like this more informal, less pretentious mode of watching older movies, so as I begin documenting the project here on the site, don’t expect a lot of in-depth analysis— every “review” will read more like a “first reaction.”
If you’re like me, and you have more than a few blind spots in your cinematic knowledge, then consider joining me on this lifelong endeavor. Watch along, recommend themes, and organize some mini festivals of your own!