By Anne Brodie
Comic Sebastian Maniscalco handles what could have been underwhelming material well in this standard family dysfunction comedy About My Father pretty well. He doesn’t go broad or for the caricature as Sebastian, a man who has moved up the social ladder through his fiancée Ellie (Leslie Bibb). He’s believable and authentic. Sebastian comes from humble working-class Italian roots and Ellie’s wealthy family arrived on the shores of Plymouth aboard the Mayflower back in 1620 – considered top rung in the patriarchal social order. Robert DeNiro is Salvo, Sebastian’s stubborn immigrant father stuck in a poor but proud mindset. His life is a success, he owns a hair salon but the wealth laid out before him in Ellie’s family summer home (mansion) makes him feel small; he’s a reverse snob. So when his son is about to propose to Ellie, he creates situations that are all about his discomfort and hurt feelings. Kim Cattrall steals scenes as the matron; her family’s willing to cut father and son slack if Salvo would only accept them as people not symbols of social oppression. Judging by the trailer (below) I expected junk. It’s not, it’s a heartfelt, sincere, and funny tribute to Maniscalco’s own father, who is often the subject of his stand-up routines. The class jumping, hypersensitivity, and awkward culture clash melees tell a recognisable story. In theatres.
You Hurt My Feelings from writer-director Nicole Holofcener and starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Tobias Menzies is a rather intense examination of the family dynamic and mistakes made that have long-term effects. Louis Dreyfus is Beth, a novelist and her psychiatrist husband Don played with terrific authenticity by Menzies have arrived at a crossroads. Seems he’s been telling her for years through all her novels that they are great, and his remarks help her move forward. But as her latest work arrives, she hears him expressing an altogether different opinion. Despite her success, she’s devastated that the one person she counted on for honest feedback has lied to her – again and again. And thus begins a long and painful discourse between them, and to add to the mess, she’s done the exact same thing to her son Eliot (Owen Teague). She’s always told him he’s great, he can do anything, he’s special, etc. etc. He joins in their discussion to say he is not as great as she insists he is, and that she’s been lying to him all this life. Then she insults all the gifts Don’s given her throughout their marriage. Don’s work as a shrink suffers, he can’t seem to focus on his patient’s problems and confuses them. Beth is physically sickened by her discovery, and she leans on her sister (and lookalike) Sarah (Michaela Watkins) for help. It’s a mess. The script is terrific as are all the performances, (special shoutout to Teague) but after a while, the navel-gazing starts to grate. Don and Beth’s neediness, selfishness, and inability to rise above it all, forgive and move on are striking. In theatres.
HBO Original documentary Being Mary Tyler Moore by James Adolphus is a treasure chest of archival footage of Moore’s shows and interviews with commentary from a galaxy of stars. Rob Reiner, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, and Jim Burrows, actors Ed Asner, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Lena Waithe, Phylicia Rashad, Bernadette Peters, and Joel Grey weigh in on her unique position as arguably television’s first sitcom feminist, and her broad appeal. The Mary Tyler Moore Show finds Moore a television news producer and single seventies woman in no rush to marry, laying a new foundation for women seeking social and cultural change, and freedom from the sexist expectations of the era. Moore’s strength was interpreting her characters through her own liberated lens. She was a housewife and mother in her star-making series The Dick Van Dyke Show but Mary Richards, a career woman, hit the ground light years ahead of Laura Petrie. Her professional high coupled with tragedy, illness, and addiction in real life. She funnelled her pain into philanthropy and remained a beloved, complex figure until her death in 1980. The film steps lightly around the negative, but it has a welcome feel-good factor, the way she might want to be remembered. One critic remarked on her death that the Chuckles the Clown funeral episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show is the funniest sitcom moment in television history. Well done, Mary. May 26 on Crave.
Netflix has the Arnold Schwarzenegger retread of FUBAR in an eight-episode series concerning Luke and Emma Brunner (Monica Barbaro), a father and daughter who come to realise they’re both working as clandestine CIA Operatives. Boom. This truth bomb provides a reason for them to get caught in jams together in far-flung places, and face serious danger as they investigate human trafficking. They pair up in double lives but first, they have to reset their relationship, which after all was built on lies. And also lead normal family-centred lives. Big action scenes, special effects, and whatnot are reminiscent of time far away and long ago when Arnie was the Terminator, The Running Man, etc. Kudos to him for taking the reigns again at age 76, based on, not only his lifelong health and fitness credo but his indomitable spirit and strength of will to do his best. May 25. Watch for Arnold, a Netflix documentary miniseries on June 7. It’s really good.
The renowned documentary The Sorrow and the Pity (Le Chagrin et la Pitié) now restored and available on Kino Lorber Blu-ray is a startling examination of the French Vichy government’s collaboration with the Nazis during World War II. Not only was France occupied by Germany, but high officials and ordinary people were completely on board with Aldoph Hitler. Stunning confessions by dozens in all government ranks in Germany, France, the UK, and other countries show the lengths to which the French gave in to a regime they didn’t approve of. Or did they? Some subjects reveal deeply racist, anti-Semitic, Aryan sympathetic views and carelessness about the bodies piling up in the war caused by Hitler’s Liebensraum policies in Europe. Director Marcel Ophüls’ stunner, a compilation of opinions from those who were there is dispiriting. But we also hear from the small covert army of resistance fighters from the village of Clermont-Ferrand who worked under great risk. An interview with Pierre Mendès-France, jailed for anti-Vichy action, and later France’s Prime Minister and Christian de la Mazière, one of thousands of French youth fighting for Germany on the Eastern front offered damning information, confirmed in dozens of interviews. Archival footage shows Maurice Chevalier onstage singing anti-German songs before fleeing to a free zone with his family. The extraordinary detail in the film, the total expressions of the banality of evil present in many interviews, and French shame are shocking. Ophüls made the four-hour and some doc for French television in 1969 but broadcasters refuse to air it on the grounds that it showed France as “exclusively populated by traitors”. It is two films in one, the first, The Collapse, and the second The Choice. Searing and essential viewing to properly understand the war and Europe.
Drops of God now on Apple TV+ is a unique and sophisticated psychological portrait, a sensual experience and a wine thriller! In Tokyo, a gifted wine savant – Issei Tomine (Tomohisa Yamashita) – can identify the type and origins of wine just by taste and smell. In France, Camille (Fleur Geffrier) is haunted by her estranged father’s treatment of her as a child – training her senses to learn wine through sadistic methods. Camille doesn’t drink alcohol – it causes traumatic nosebleeds. He is Alexandre Léger (Stanley Weber), creator of the Léger Wine Guide and now he lives in Tokyo. She reluctantly agrees to visit when he tells her he’s dying but true cruelty lies ahead. She and Tomine must compete to inherit his $7M wine collection and $148M by correctly guessing the identity of a wine. They will taste once and have a month to reach their conclusion. Her late father’s friend realises Léger’s sadism and trains her senses once again, this time with kindness and concern, without her having to taste the alcohol. Her exploration of nature’s olfactory bounty is an adventure! She breathes in the heights and depths of moss, lichen, fruits, herbs, and soil, and slowly gains confidence. But the idea that Tomine may have been her father’s “spiritual son” is deeply painful to her, as he had no time for her. Gripping, entertaining, and in a weird way amusing. There is plenty to be learned here about wine and family.
Apple Fitness+ marks PRIDE Month with new workouts and meditations to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community, and a new Artist Spotlight featuring music by longtime social activist and ally Madonna. The Artist Spotlight series dedicates an entire workout playlist to a single artist. Her forty-year impact on self-acceptance and inclusivity across music, culture, and style is a true legacy. On June 5, new workouts featuring the singer’s music will be available for HIIT, Rowing, Cycling, Core, Treadmill, Strength, Dance, and Yoga workouts and there’s a new Apple Watch Pride Edition Sport Band.
The Annual Blue Mountain Film Festival is up June 1 to 4, with 24 films from 23 countries, including Canada, Chile, Finland, Germany, Indonesia, Iran, Japan, Poland, Spain, Tunisia, Ukraine and the United States. This year’s festival opens with Spain’s comedy Two Many Chefs directed by Joaquín Mazón. A “fine dining comedy” about an ambitious chef whose father, long thought dead, shows up.
A brief preview:
A Man by Kei Ishikawa. The quest to discover a man’s identity.
Autobiography by Makbul Mubarak. A man torn between loyalty and justice confronts the truth about his father figure.
Blackberry by Matt Johnson. Blackberry unravels the Canadian company RIM’s chaotic rise to smartphone dominance — before crashing. (Excellent film!)
Blue Jean by Georgia Oakley. Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government is about to pass a UK law stigmatizing the LGBTQ2 community, forcing Jean to live a double life.
Bones of Crows by Marie Clements. An epic account of the life of Cree matriarch Aline Spears that spans generations, with reflections on the abuse of Indigenous people and stories of resistance.
Chile ’76 by Manuela Martelli. Carmen leads a privileged life until the family priest her in danger under the Pinochet dictatorship.
Dalíland by Mary Harron. In 1973, a gallery assistant has a wild adventure as an assistant to Salvador Dali as he prepares for a show in New York.
Silence of the Tides by Pieter-Rim de Kroon concerns The Wadden Sea, the largest tidal wetland in the world, in an hypnotic experience of wind, water, mist, and light.
Smoke Sauna Sisterhood by Anna Hints. In the darkness of a smoke sauna, a group of Estonian women share secrets, washing off their shame to rejuvenate.
Subtraction by Mani Haghighi. A married couple in Tehran has disturbing interactions with their doppelgängers – a thriller of twists and turns.
The Beasts by Rodrigo Sorogoyen. A psychological thriller about a couple under a series of xenophobic attacks.
The Ordinaries by Sophie Linnenbaum A whimsical satire follows Paula, a “supporting character” who must prove she deserves to be a lead.
The Quiet Migration by Malene Choi. An adopted Korean teenager struggles to find his place in rural Denmark in this tender exploration of otherness and belonging.
Under the Fig Trees by Erige Sehiri. In northwest Tunisia, workers pick the summer harvest, in a beautifully observed portrait of rural society. Tunisia’s Oscar submission.
The festival closes with the Ukrainian thriller Pamfir, by Ukrainian director Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk. A man must choose between family and returning to the life of crime he escaped.