The Half of It (2020)

The Half of It
Director: Alice Wu
Writer: Alice Wu
Cast: Leah Lewis, Alexxis Lemire, Daniel Diemer, Enrique Murciano, Becky Ann Baker, Catherine Curtin, Collin Chou, Wolfgang Novogratz
Seen on: 5.5.2020

Content Note: reference to/critical treatment of homomisia and racism

Plot:
Ellie (Leah Lewis) is an excellent student who has a profitable side business in writing papers for her classmates. When Paul (Daniel Diemer) approaches her to ask whether she would write a love letter to Aster (Alexxis Lemire) for him, Ellie declines at first. Not only because she finds it unethical per se, but also because she is in love with Aster herself. But she finally agrees anyway because she and her father (Collin Chou) really need the money. As Paul and Ellie work on the letter together, they develop a real friendship – and Ellie falls ever more for Aster.

The Half of It is a supercute film that sagely mentions at the beginning that it doesn’t tell a love story. Because all signs point to romance here and the film just doesn’t deliver that. That is definitely disappointing, but at least we have been warned. While I did hope for more romance, I enjoyed the film I got.

The film poster showing Paul (Daniel Diemer) and Ellie (Leah Lewis) both looking at Aster (Alexxis Lemire) who is out of focus.
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The Breaker Upperers (2018)

The Breaker Upperers
Director: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek
Writer: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek
Cast: Madeleine Sami, Jackie van Beek, James Rolleston, Celia Pacquola, Ana Scotney, Rima Te Wiata, Carl Bland, Brett O’Gorman, Cohen Holloway, Jemaine Clement
Seen on: 15.4.2020

Plot:
Mel (Madeleine Sami) and Jen (Jackie van Beek) are best friends who have a booming business together where they handle the break-ups for people who can’t go through with the break-up themselves, for whatever reason. And they make sure that the break-ups stick – whether that means pretending to cheat with their clients, or pretending that they are dead or missing doesn’t really matter to them. But when Mel starts to second-guess the ethics of their job, not only does their business suffer, but also their friendship.

The Breaker Upperers is a fun film that continuously approaches the line into cringe territory but never really crosses it (for me at least). Still, there is a relentlessness to their humor that just isn’t necessarily my cup of tea. I did enjoy the film, but I didn’t love it.

The film poster showing Mel (Madeleine Sami) and Jen (Jackie van Beek) sittingat a desk with champagne and cash. Behind them Jordan (James Rolleston) and Sepa (Ana Scotney) look in through a window.
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Les goûts et les couleurs [To Each, Her Own] (2018)

Les goûts et les couleurs
Director: Myriam Aziza
Writer: Myriam Aziza, Denyse Rodriguez-Tomé
Cast: Sarah Stern, Jean-Christophe Folly, Julia Piaton, Catherine Jacob, Richard Berry, Arié Elmaleh, Clémentine Poidatz, Stéphane Deba, David Houri, Lionel Lingelser
Seen on: 11.4.2020

Content Note: bimisia

Plot:
Simone (Sarah Stern) and Claire (Julia Piaton) have been dating for three years now. They are very serious, nevertheless Simone has trouble coming out to her religious Jewish parents (Catherine Jacob, Richard Berry), especially since her brother Matt (David Houri) already came out as gay and was never allowed to bring his husband Nathaniel (Lionel Lingelser) to family events. But with her other brother David’s (Arié Elmaleh) wedding coming up, Simone really wants to officially bring Claire. As Simone struggles to figure things out, she finds herself drawn to Wali (Jean-Christophe Folly) with whom she shares a passion for food. That Wali is a man doesn’t make things any easier either.

To Each, Her Own is a story with a bi protagonist filmed by a woman, so I figured I’d give the whole love triangle thing a pass (not a fan of the trope) and give the film a shot. And it was alright, but didn’t blow me away, especially because of the bimisia that permeates the entire film.

The film poster showing Simone (Sarah Stern), Wali (Jean-Christophe Folly) and Claire (Julia Piaton).

[SPOILERS]

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Mudbound (2017)

Mudbound
Director: Dee Rees
Writer: Virgil Williams, Dee Rees
Based on: Hillary Jordan‘s novel
Cast: Garrett Hedlund, Jason Mitchell, Carey Mulligan, Jason Clarke, Rob Morgan, Mary J. Blige, Jonathan Banks
Seen on: 05.04.2020

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism, racial violence

Plot:
Henry McAllan (Jason Mitchell) buys a farm in the last corner of Mississippi without discussing it with his wife Laura (Carey Mulligan) who is not thrilled. Nevertheless, they, their children and Henry’s cranky, racist father (Jonathan Banks) make their way there. The farm is being worked on by Hap Jackson (Rob Morgan) and his family who have been tending the land without much hope of ownership for generations. The McAllans and the Jacksons not only have the land in common, though under completely different conditions, but als World War II. Henry’s brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) is a soldier as is Hap’s son Roncel (Jason Mitchell). But the racial divide looms large in more than one way.

Mudbound is an excellent film that carries quite a punch and managed to not only not make me hate voice-over, but actually appreciate it. It’s definitely not easy to watch, but it is even more definitely really good.

The film poster with all of the main characters artfully arranged.
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Dude (2018)

Dude
Director: Olivia Milch
Writer: Olivia Milch, Kendall McKinnon
Cast: Lucy Hale, Kathryn Prescott, Alexandra Shipp, Awkwafina, Alex Wolff, Brooke Smith, Jerry MacKinnon, Ronen Rubinstein, Satya Bhabha, Austin Butler, Jack McBrayer
Seen on: 2.4.2020

Content Note: rape

Plot:
Chloe (Kathryn Prescott), Lily (Lucy Hale), Amelia (Alexandra Shipp) and Rebecca (Awkwafina) are best friends and have been all throughout high school. They spend most of their time just hanging out and smoking weed, but with the end of high school approaching, they also have to face the fact that things will change. Lily does everything she can to first organize the perfect prom and secondly, that all changes after that go according to her plans. But life has a way of going differently than you think and that’s not really easy.

Dude is a coming-of-age stoner comedy which is already in itself an unusual combination, made more unusual still by the fact that it’s about young women. It is entertaining and well made, but I didn’t completely love it.

The film poster showing Chloe (Kathryn Prescott), Lily (Lucy Hale),  Amelia (Alexandra Shipp) and Rebecca (Awkwafina) hugging each other.
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Irreplaceable You (2018)

Irreplaceable You
Director: Stephanie Laing
Writer: Bess Wohl
Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michiel Huisman, Christopher Walken, Brian Tyree Henry, Steve Coogan, Kate McKinnon, Jacki Weaver, Timothy Simons, Merritt Wever
Seen on: 24.3.2020

Content Note: cancer (death)

Plot:
Sam (Michiel Huisman) and Abbie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) have been a couple since they were children and now that Abbie is pregnant, its time to get married. But when Abbie’s pregnancy turns out to be cancer and not a baby, their life is turned upside down. As Abbie has to confront the very real possibility that she will die, all she wants is to make sure that Sam will be okay after her death.

Irreplaceable You is just the right thing if you want to look at beautiful people while having a good cry. It certainly made me bawl, in a nice, cathartic way.

The film poster showing Sam (Michiel Huisman) piggybacking Abbie (Gugu Mbatha-Raw)
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Carrie Pilby (2016)

Carrie Pilby
Director: Susan Johnson
Writer: Kara Holden
Based on: Caren Lissner‘s novel
Cast: Bel Powley, Nathan Lane, Gabriel Byrne, Vanessa Bayer, Colin O’Donoghue, Jason Ritter, William Moseley, Desmin Borges
Seen on: 19.3.2020

Plot:
Carrie (Bel Powley) was a child prodigy. Having graduated Harvard at 18, she is now in New York and pretty much at a loss. She resents her father (Gabriel Byrne) for having sent her away when she was so young and doesn’t really know how to adjust to life outside of education. Her therapist (Nathan Lane) tries to get her to live a little instead of just reading books. When he gives her a list of tasks to fulfill – like going on a date or doing something she liked doing as a child – and at the same time, her father gets her a job as a copyeditor for a law firm, Carrie starts to make new experiences.

Carrie Pilby is a sweet, fun film with a complex female character at its center. It balances humor and serious issues nicely, making it absolutely enjoyable.

The film poster showing a drawing of Carrie's face, looking widely upwards.
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Emma. (2020)

Emma.
Director: Autumn de Wilde
Writer: Eleanor Catton
Based on: Jane Austen‘s novel
Cast: Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth, Myra McFadyen, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner, Rupert Graves, Gemma Whelan, Amber Anderson, Miranda Hart, Tanya Reynolds, Connor Swindells, Oliver Chris
Seen on: 11.3.2020
[Here are my reviews of other Emma adaptations.]

Content Note: antiziganism

Plot:
Emma Woodhouse (Anya Taylor-Joy) is “handsome, clever, and rich” and also very interested in matching the people around her. She credits herself with matching up her former governess Miss Taylor (now Mrs Weston) (Gemma Whelan) and Mr Weston (Rupert Graves) and encouraged by that success, sets about her next “victim”, naive and unrefined Harriet Smith (Mia Goth). Despite the warnings of her friend Mr Knightley (Johnny Flynn), Emma wants to match Harriet with the local vicar, Mr Elton (Josh O’Connor). For herself, Emma has no plans – other than Mr Weston’s son Frank Churchill (Callum Turner) (who she has never met) excites her curiosity.

Emma. was absolutely delightful. It has one of the best comedy ensemble casts I’ve seen in a long time, wonderfully lush production design and really captures the spirit of the book. I was very taken by it.

The film poster showing Emma (Anya Taylor-Joy), Frank Churchill (Callum Turner) and Mr. Knightley (Johnny Flynn).
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Die Dohnal [Johanna Dohnal – Visionary of Feminism] (2020)

Die Dohnal
Director: Sabine Derflinger
Writer: Sabine Derflinger
Seen on: 27.2.2020

“Plot”:
Johanna Dohnal was Austria’s first minister for women and the first (outspoken) feminist to be part of the government in Austria (maybe even Europe). She fought for women’s rights and achieved a lot. The documentary looks at her achievements, her career and the influence she still has.

I have to say that until this documentary came out, Dohnal was not a name I really knew. She was a minister when I was a child and I was not a child overly involved in politics. And as is so often the case, women and their achievements are more quickly forgotten than you’d ever think possible. I don’t think I ever heard about Dohnal in school. So it is fantastic to get this documentary that memorializes her and makes sure we don’t forget what she made possible.

The film poster showing Johanna Dohnal smoking.
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Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (2020)

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn
Director: Cathy Yan
Writer: Christina Hodson
Sequel to (kinda): Suicide Squad
Based on: Birds of Prey by Jordan B. Gorfinkel, Chuck Dixon and Harley Quinn by Paul Dini, Bruce Timm
Cast: Margot Robbie, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Ella Jay Basco, Ewan McGregor, Chris Messina, Ali Wong
Part of: DC movies
Seen on: 7.2.2020
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Plot:
Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) was just broken up with and she’s not dealing all too well with the Joker’s rejection. As she parties her way through the heartache, she keeps the break-up under wraps, at least for a while. When she finally is able to admit to the break-up herself, she decides that a public statement is in order. What she didn’t consider, though, is that it would mean that half of Gotham city believes her to be an easy target now. Very quickly, Harley finds herself in the crosshairs of pretty much everybody, above all Roman Sionis (Ewan McGregor). To save her own skin, Harley gets involved with the search for a diamond for Sionis and things get even more complicated from there.

Birds of Prey: And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn is an absolutely fantastic film. It’s funny, has great characters, awesome action and looks gorgeous. It immediately became one of my favorite superhero movies.

The film poster showing Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie) in party mode.
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