A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: “THE FATHER” – 9.5

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW

 “The Father”  –   9.5

 In a word:  Emotional

 

This is a movie that will pull heartstrings. If you dislike stories that can make you cry, however well-made, do not see this picture.

     If you have a loved one who has long suffered from severe memory loss, you will either cherish this film for all the value and understanding it conveys. For some, it could be upsetting.

     To start, we must acknowledge the superb acting talent of Anthony Hopkins, playing the main character whose fictional name is (ironically), Anthony. His performance is not only worthy of an Oscar, it stands out among the most powerful, and difficult performances by any Hollywood actor ever.

     The story is based in modern-day London, about an 80 year-old man who is losing touch with reality, and is left to be cared for by a middle-aged daughter, Anne, wonderfully played by Olivia Colman. The dilemma becomes more crucial for them both as time passes and Hopkins’ character is upsetting everyone who comes into the fold, while Anne must seek professional assistance not only for Hopkins, but herself as well.

     As we experience the ebb and flow of his memory, Anne copes with great difficulty as she grieves the gradual loss of her father while he still lives and breathes before her. “The Father” embraces real life from which people are suffering around the world. 

     While the director, Florian Zeller, give us various perspectives of each character, he cleverly blends make-believe people with reality and the confusion it brings upon Anthony and Anne, in particular. While some of the characters are true, and some are not, we’re drawn into the distorted mind of Anthony. My only criticism in the making of the movie, is wishing I had a rewind button somewhere to replay bits and pieces of the dialogue which, in the big theater, cannot be recaptured.

     Make sure you bring a hanky.

     I would give this film a 9.5 out of 10.

The Father (2020) – IMDb

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: “NOMADLAND” – 8.5

A Frank movie review:  “Nomadland” – 8.5

In a word: Depressing

 

Yes, depressing, but also riveting. One of the great acting lessons offered by Frances McDormand, who’s already won two Academy Awards, and now, maybe, a third.

     If you’re a fan interested in movies that have a lot of action, violence, foul language, hatred, death, destruction, guns, sex, drugs and speed, do not see this movie. What’s left?

     Drama.

    This is a great film if you’re interested in seeing/feeling life in the depths of loneliness, despair and struggles, yet still managing a positive attitude day after day, relocating often amid the mountains and prairies of north and west America, desperate to get through days and nights of loneliness and need. 

     Fern, the character played by Frances McDormand, lost her husband many years back, yet still feels married to him as signified by wearing the wedding band, for life. She works at jobs now and then, but manages to make friends and acquaintances amid the “nomads,” folks like her who manage to live in their cars and vans and get by with menial jobs now and then.

     This isn’t really about camping, it’s about survival. Fern makes many caring acquaintances during her travels, but when relationships seem to intensify, she’s back on the road again.

     The movie is an exercise for thespians, who should study this work of art, not only crediting McDormand, but also the brilliant director, Chinese born, Chloe Zhao. The movie is already on the list for many awards, as are these two women.

     It is interesting to note that a significant number of the actors playing smaller roles amid the nomads are, actually, nomads themselves with no background in acting. They are the real people in the real places, in the prairies and mountains, a tribute to the director and Frances McDormand.

     Yes, the movie is slow in spots, but that’s part of the story. It’s also why I do not give it a 10.  For the most part, I found it powerfully engaging.    

     A lot of interesting trivia attached to this movie, such as: Twas filmed in seven states over the course of four months, during which Frances McDormand actually performed several of the jobs done by people who do nomadic work, such as harvesting beets and packaging Amazon orders.

     There’s a fascinating world out there in the unknown. This film brings that out.

     Look for Oscar nominations for McDormand and Zhao.

     I give this movie a 8.5 out of 10.

Nomadland (2020) – IMDb

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: “NEWS OF THE WORLD” – 8.5

 

“NEWS OF THE WORLD” – 8.5

 

In a word:  Heroic

 

That “In a Word” refers mostly to the main character deftly played by Tom Hanks, in which the former Civil War captain starts out in a low-key role that lulls the audience until he inadvertently meets up with a lost and fumbling little blonde-haired girl who had been left behind by her adopted Indian Tribe.  Now a travelling preacher/teacher of sorts, Hanks tries many times to leave the mute child with another adult family on the prairie, but her behavior and absence of communication leaves prospective adopters at a loss, thus returning the rejected child back to Hanks, again and again.

     The movie depicts a myriad of struggles, besides the harsh elements in the Texas prairies of 1870 in which the rugged old man and the child face death, destruction, starvation and violent criminals along the way. The two eventually bond which brings the viewer into their hearts.

     This captivating film shows us the profound morality of a returned old military man who becomes a lifesaver for a ten-year old child. The scenic photography in this movie is spectacular from all angles. Hanks, a top-rate actor throughout his career, will undoubtedly be nominated for an Oscar.

     The attention given to the child actress will captivate all audiences, as this young girl, now 12, rises to a level for child acting rarely seen in our lifetimes. Her real name is Helena Zengel, who originally hailed from Germany.  She received various accolades in Europe for her 2019 role in the foreign film, System Crasher, for which she won four Best Actress awards. I foresee her not only being nominated for best supporting actress in this film, she will win.

     Rated PG. There is a scene or two with profanity but it’s not rife. The viewer is also provided a few scenes involving violence, pain and suffering.

     A slow start will bring some ratings down, but the storyline is too emotionally powerful not to give it a high rating.

I give this movie 8.5 out of 10.

News of the World (2020) – IMDb

 

A point of trivia:  What do the following movie titles have in common?   “Sully” … “Saving Private Ryan” … “Captain Phillips” … “Apollo 13” …“News of the World.”  Main stars are all cast as a current or prior military Captain by…(Drum roll please)… Tom Hanks.

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: “MANK” – 7.0

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: “MANK” – 7.0

 

In a word:  Boring

 

Different strokes for different folks, as they say.  Some people will love this movie, others will walk out at the halfway point.

     In a nutshell, the movie centers on the true-life misery, talent and wit of famed screenwriter, Herman J. Mankiewicz (aka Mank) who was also well known as an unabashed alcoholic.  Played by journeyman actor, Gary Oldman, the plot (if you call it that) centers on the Oldman character, in which he staggers and slurs from scene to scene among the Hollywood elite, including Orson Welles, who was to be the primary actor in the eventually released 1941 blockbuster, “Rosebud.” It would eventually become the signature role for Welles.

     First, the reader here must know that yours truly is in the minority among most reviews of this film, which frequently takes place in Mank’s bed passing out or recovering from a hangover. Matter of fact, there are hardly any scenes which depict Mank pecking on a typewriter, nor does he spend time dictating dialogue to his secretary, who does most of his typing.  That might beg the question; who really wrote the actual screenplay? (stay tuned, that’s coming)

     I was first impressed that the movie is deftly based in a late 1930’s backdrop, presented totally in black and white. That worked great for Schindler’s List, but it slowed down to a crawl in Mank.

      Scene by scene the viewer must discern the constant drone of dialogue, which could probably have been edited for brevity, and still keep the movie of interest.

     I’ve oft complimented Gary Oldman’s acting talents, which now cover a period of nearly 40 years, winning many awards, including an Oscar in 2018 for Darkest Hour, playing Winston Churchill. He now has another six movies in production or pending release.

     It should be noted that Mank did apparently complete the manuscript for Rosebud and eventually shared an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay with Orson Welles.

     This is not a great movie for anyone with Attention Deficit Disorder, because the viewer will tend to wander (mentally). The acting is very good among the entire cast, as are many other aspects of the film, i.e. period and backdrop details, photography, etc.

     I give this film a 7.0 out of 10

Mank (2020) – IMDb

A FRANK MOVIE REVIEW: “HILLBILLY ELEGY” – 10.

“Hillbilly Elegy”  10

 

In a word: Powerful

The movie was based on the non-fiction book of the same title, authored by one of the main characters who actually drives the story, J.D. Vance.

     To begin, we must acknowledge the awesome array of class A actors, each of whom played a critical role in the film. These could not have been easy roles to play. Any of the primary cast members could be worthy nominations and/or Oscar awards, to and including Best Director, Ron Howard.

     The movie is set in two complicated periods of life first in the squalor within Kentucky in the 1990s and then Ohio later on.

     J.D. Vance is a trouble youngster (approx. age 12) constantly searching for acceptance and love in a dysfunctional family that can barely stand each other. The movie flips back and forth from this boys struggle at age 12 to his mid-twenties trying to earn credits to attend college, only to be set back over and over, facing critical episodes of survival when his drug-addicted mother goes off the rails.

     That role belongs to one of the finest actresses now or ever, Amy Adams, who clearly struggles with mental health challenges exacerbated by drugs and alcohol, and whose actions keep the rest of the family in a down spiral.

     The Mammaw role, the rural grandmother to J.D. and his sister, is deftly played by journeywoman Glenn Close, clearly one of her greatest performances ever. I’d say she’s a lock for best supporting actress.

     The main role of J.D. Vance is played (as a young man) by Gabriel Basso, who offers quite a resume, but unknown to me until this movie. He, too, could be nominated for an Oscar.

     Beware: This movie can generate a flow of tears, especially for those who have survived family dysfunction, pain, love and loss.

     Be prepared for a few scenes of violence and a smattering of foul language that fits the story. Much like I wrote in my last review of “Let Him Be,” this is an acting lesson for and by the main characters.

     Director Ron Howard will likely be nominated for Best Director.

     It terms of pure art in the world of movie making, this movie is worthy of a 10.

Afterthought: I do have partialities when it comes to actors. Do I think Amy Adams is one of the great (not just beautiful) actresses of all time?  Guilty!

Hillbilly Elegy (2020) – IMDb

 

NPR Interview with J.D. Vance: 
‘Hillbilly Elegy’ Recalls A Childhood Where Poverty Was ‘The Family Tradition’ : NPR