Booksmart (2019)

Director: Olivia Wilde
Writer: Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins, Susanna Fogel, Katie Silberman
Cast: Kaitlyn Dever, Beanie Feldstein, Jessica Williams, Jason Sudeikis, Lisa Kudrow, Will Forte, Victoria Ruesga, Mason Gooding, Skyler Gisondo, Diana Silvers, Molly Gordon, Billie Lourd, Maya Rudolph
Seen on: 18.11.2019

Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein) are best friends who are nearing the end of high school. They had decided early on that they’d work hard in school to get into the best colleges and that partying could come later. But seeing as their less focused colleagues also got into good schools, they start to doubt their approach so far and decide to live it up this last weekend before finishing high school. But it’s not as easy to get down to party as they thought, especially when you try to fit all the parties you didn’t have into one night.

Booksmart came with a lot of buzz and while I really, thoroughly enjoyed it, the buzz may have been a little too much, leaving me with a faint feeling of “that’s it?”. But the good parts definitely outweighed that.

The film poster showing Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Denver) in matching overalls.
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Last Christmas (2019)

Last Christmas
Director: Paul Feig
Writer: Emma Thompson, Bryony Kimmings
Based on: the Wham! song (kinda)
Cast: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding, Michelle Yeoh, Emma Thompson, Boris Isakovic, Patti LuPone, Sue Perkins, Lydia Leonard
Seen on: 16.11.2019

Kate (Emilia Clarke) works as an elf in an all-year Christmas story run by Santa (Michelle Yeoh). She dreams of being a singer, but spends most of her time drinking, having random hook-ups and generally being a little flaky. She’s also technically homeless and distances herself from her family. That’s when she meets Tom (Henry Golding). She feels drawn to him, even though she also thinks he’s weird and she’s a little put off by his goody two shoes nature. But their connection is nevertheless undeniable.

Last Christmas is rather cute until it jumps the shark. I mean, it’s still enjoyable thanks to Clarke and Golding, but the big reveal did have me facepalming. A lot.

The film poster showing Kate (Emilia Clarke) and Tom (Henry Golding) on a park bench.
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Monos (2019)

Director: Alejandro Landes
Writer: Alejandro Landes, Alexis Dos Santos
Cast: Sofia Buenaventura, Julián Giraldo, Karen Quintero, Laura Castrillón, Deiby Rueda, Paul Cubides, Sneider Castro, Moises Arias, Julianne Nicholson
Seen on: 11.11.2019

On top of a mountain, a group of teenagers train as soldiers, militia, visited only rarely by their commanding officer who leaves them with a cow and an abductee (Julianne Nicholson) to watch over. Their days are filled with training and exercise, their nights are more rambunctious. But it remains to be seen if their group can make it through all challenges.

Monos is visually stunning and interesting, but it didn’t develop quite the hypnotic quality for me that it aimed for and that would have been necessary for me to really get into it. Maybe it just caught me on the wrong day.

The film poster showing a great swirl of turquoise clouds, with a small horse and rider silhouetted against it.
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Christmas in the Wild (2019)

Christmas in the Wild (aka Holiday in the Wild)
Director: Ernie Barbarash
Writer: Neal H. Dobrofsky, Tippi Dobrofsky
Cast: Rob Lowe, Kristin Davis, Fezile Mpela, John Owen Lowe, Colin Moss, Thandi Puren, Hayley Owen, Lynita Crofford, Waldemar Schultz, Tapiwa Musvosvi
Seen on: 10.11.2019

Content Note: racism/exoticism

Kate (Kristin Davis) used to be a vet, but then she gave it all up for her husband and her kid. Now their son is grown and Kate is looking forward to the first real holiday in many years, a safari in South Africa. But just before they are supposed to leave, her husband leaves Kate instead. Kate decides to go to South Africa by herself. There in the elephant sanctuary, she starts to find a new sense of identity apart from her family. And she finds the grumpy pilot Derek (Rob Lowe) who runs the sanctuary.

Christmas in the Wild was re-named Holiday in the Wild (or vice versa). In any case, Holiday is definitely the better title. The film does feature Christmas, but it isn’t a Christmas romance. Whether Christmas or not, it’s a sweet film for white people, especially in the (racist) way it uses Africa as an exotic backdrop for a white story.

The film poster showing two images - Derek (Rob Lowe) and Kate (Kristin Davis) standing next to each other and Kate stroking an elephant.
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Director: Fernando Lebrija
Writer: Brandon Broussard, Hudson Obayuwana, Jana Savage
Cast: Nesta Cooper, Keith Powers, Alicia Sanz, Jake Borelli, Anne Winters, Patrick Davis, Michael Provost, Ryan Malaty, Kate Walsh, John Michael Higgins, Valarie Rae Miller, Jeffrey D. Sams, Leah Rose Randall
Seen on: 10.11.2019

Dani (Nesta Cooper) dreams of becoming a vet and is working hard at her dream, studying and volunteering at a shelter. She runs into Cameron (Keith Powers) there when he brings in a dog to get treated. Cameron is the most popular guy in school, part of the swim team and has been Dani’s crush for a while. When they become closer, Dani’s former friend turned bully Alexa (Alicia Sanz) takes a renewed interest in Dani, given that she used to date Cameron herself. Alexa also runs the most popular social media channel about life at their high school, and she introduces Dani to her shiny world.

#REALITYHIGH is cute enough as it lasts, but is ultimately pretty much forgettable as it never strays off the beaten path.

The film poster showing Dani (Nesta Cooper), Cameron (Keith Powers) and Alexa (Alicia Sanz) standing in a hashtag-symbol.
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Divino Amor [Divine Love] (2019)

Divino Amor
Director: Gabriel Mascaro
Writer: Gabriel Mascaro, Rachel Daisy Ellis, Esdras Bezerra, Lucas Paraizo, Marcelo Gomes
Cast: Dira Paes, Julio Machado, Antonio Pastich, Clayton Mariano, Luciano Mallmann, Teca Pereira, Suzy Lopes, Thardelly Lima, Tony Silva, Emílio de Mello, Mariana Nunes, Thalita Carauta
Part of: Viennale
Seen on: 30.10.2019

Brazil, 2027. Joana (Dira Paes) works as a clerk at the registry office. Whenever she is confronted with a couple filing for divorce, she tries to convince them to stay together. Sometimes she succeeds and sometimes she manages to recruit them for the church she and her husband Danilo (Julio Machado) attend, Divino Amor. But the bigger project for their life right now is Joana trying to get pregnant. Unfortunately she and Danilo are having trouble with that.

Divino Amor is a very interesting, subtle dystopia that isn’t exactly clear-cut in its morality as dystopias usually are. But instead of interesting ambiguity, I was a little frustrated as I felt that the film avoided taking a position here.

The film poster, showing Joana (Dira Paes) and Danilo (Julio Machado) holding their hands in front of a neon dove in several concentric circles.
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