Ham on Rye (2019)

Ham on Rye
Director: Tyler Taormina
Writer: Tyler Taormina, Eric Berger
Cast: Haley Bodell, Audrey Boos, Gabriella Herrera, Adam Torres, Luke Darga, Sam Hernandez, Blake Borders, Cole Devine, Timothy Taylor, Gregory Falatek
Seen on: 6.4.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) ableism

Plot:
Haley (Haley Bodell), Gwen (Audrey Boos) and Trish (Gabriella Herrera) are preparing for a ritual in the town’s diner. They, and every other kid their age, are donning the clothes of their grandparents and walk to the diner. Something big is going to happen, something that will change the course of their lives forever. At least, if they are chosen.

Ham on Rye builds on an interesting idea, but lacks a bit of focus and narrative clarity. Still, it’s definitely unusual.

The film poster showing 11 the fists of 11 teens, holding their thumbs in up or down positions.
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Re-Watch: Never Been Kissed (1999)

Never Been Kissed
Director: Raja Gosnell
Writer: Abby Kohn, Marc Silverstein
Cast: Drew Barrymore, David Arquette, Michael Vartan, Molly Shannon, John C. Reilly, Garry Marshall, Sean Whalen, Cress Williams, Octavia Spencer, Leelee Sobieski, Jeremy Jordan, Jessica Alba, Marley Shelton, Jordan Ladd, Katie Lansdale, Branden Williams, James Franco
Seen on: 1.4.2021

Plot:
Josie (Drew Barrymore) is a copyeditor at the Sun-Times, but she would like to be a reporter. Her chance comes quite surprisingly when her unpredictable boss (Garry Marshall) tells her to go undercover at a high school to figure out what kids these days are up to. Josie is so excited about the opportunity, she doesn’t remember that she was bullied in high school. But once she is back, all her old memories flood back again. Maybe this time, though, Josie has a chance to do better.

It has been many years that I watched Never Been Kissed, but I remembered it very fondly. I’m happy to report that it is still an utterly charming film with a cute love story.

The film poster showing Josie (Drew Barrymore) sitting on the floor, one of her knees pulled to her chest.
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Moxie (2021)

Moxie
Director: Amy Poehler
Writer: Tamara Chestna, Dylan Meyer
Based on: Jennifer Mathieu’s novel
Cast: Hadley Robinson, Lauren Tsai, Alycia Pascual-Pena, Nico Hiraga, Sabrina Haskett, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Sydney Park, Anjelika Washington, Emily Hopper, Josie Totah, Amy Poehler, Ike Barinholtz, Marcia Gay Harden, Clark Gregg
Seen on: 8.3.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) sexism, misogyny, rape culture, rape, racism

Plot:
Vivian (Hadley Robinson) and her best friend Claudia (Lauren Tsai) are not girls who cause a fuss. They are trying to get through school as well as possible. When a new and very outspoken girl, Lucy (Alycia Pascual-Pena), joins their class, Vivian is impressed by but also anxious about Lucy’s self-confidence. After Vivian witnesses yet another sexist incident in her school, she finds herself inspired to do something. Drawing on her mother Lisa’s (Amy Poehler) rebellious past, she decides to anonymously publish a zine, denouncing the school’s sexism. That zine – Moxie – causes quite a stir in the school and also in Vivian’s life.

Moxie is a cute film with an openly feminist agenda – I’m here for that all the way. Even if it doesn’t achieve everything it sets out to do, it achieves a lot. And it is simply fun to watch.

The film poster showing a black and white image of the main characters screaming.
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Deidra & Laney Rob a Train (2017)

Deidra & Laney Rob a Train
Director: Sydney Freeland
Writer: Shelby Farrell
Cast: Ashleigh Murray, Rachel Crow, Lance Gray, Danielle Nicolet, Arturo Castro, Gage Bradley, Nick Moceri, Sasheer Zamata, Missi Pyle, David Sullivan, Tim Blake Nelson
Seen on: 7.3.2021

Plot:
Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) would like to worry about her college applications and how she can possibly afford to college in the first place. But instead her mother Marigold (Danielle Nicolet) is arrested and Deidra has to worry about paying bills, and taking care of her younger siblings Laney (Rachel Crow) and Jet (Lance Gray). Her dad, railway worker Chet (David Sullivan), is of no help, but when he mentions how easy it is to rob trains and how nobody gets hurt by it because everything is insured, Deidra starts making plans. But she needs Laney’s help for it to work.

Deidra & Laney Rob a Train is a fun, entertaining film that moves along at such a brisk pace, you almost miss the very serious and critical core that lies beneath all those entertaining bits.

The film poster showing Laney (Rachel Crow) and Deidra (Ashleigh Murray) standing back to back with their arms crossed.
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To All the Boys: Always and Forever (2021)

To All the Boys: Always and Forever
Director: Michael Fimognari
Writer: Katie Lovejoy
Based on: Jenny Han’s novel
Sequel to: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, To All the Boys: P.S. I Still Love You
Cast: Lana Condor, Noah Centineo, Janel Parrish, Anna Cathcart, John Corbett, Trezzo Mahoro, Madeleine Arthur, Ross Butler, Emilija Baranac, Sarayu Blue, Henry Thomas
Seen on: 21.2.2021

Plot:
Everything is good for Lara Jean (Lana Condor) and Peter (Noah Centineo), but as they are nearing the end of their final year of high school things are bound to change – and the question is whether they can actually change for the better. Lara Jean has a clear plan: she will attend college together with Peter at Stanford, so she can still be with him without having to worry about the long distance thing. But when she isn’t actually accepted at Stanford, Lara Jean has to figure out how to deal with her plans not coming through – and what she actually wants for herself.

To All the Boys: Always and Forever is a lovely end to a lovely trilogy that I enjoyed a lot – especially thanks to Lana Condor’s ever-present charm. This installment, being more about Lara Jean on her own than about Lara Jean and Peter, plays to that strength and is generally just wonderful.

The film poster showing Lara Jean (Lana Condor) walking through a drawn New York street.
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Dumplin’ (2018)

Dumplin’
Director: Anne Fletcher
Writer: Kristin Hahn
Based on: Julie Murphy’s novel
Cast: Danielle Macdonald, Jennifer Aniston, Odeya Rush, Maddie Baillio, Bex Taylor-Klaus, Luke Benward, Georgie Flores, Dove Cameron, Harold Perrineau
Seen on: 18.5.2019

Content Note: (critical treatment of) fatmisia

Plot:
Willowdean (Danielle Macdonald), known by most people as Will, but always Dumplin’ to her mother, is a fat teenager who is actually rather comfortable with herself. She lives with her mother Rosie (Jennifer Aniston), a former beauty queen who is still very active in organizing the pageant. After a fight with her mother, Will decides to compete in the pageant – horrifying her mother and inspiring some other girls who never thought they would to go for it, too.

Dumplin’ is a cute film but I thought that it lost a little too much compared to the book. If I hadn’t read the book, I probably would have loved it completely, but in comparison, it just feels a little disappointing.

The film poster showing to spotlights, one shining on Will (Danielle Macdonald) and one on her mother Rosie (Jennifer Aniston).

[Slight SPOILERS]

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