As the summer has come to an end, there’s been a glut of excellent movies released, as well as some not so excellent movies. Here are bite-sized reviews of four of the best (and worst) films of the season.
An early Oscar frontrunner, “Past Lives” is a staggering, breathtaking romance that you won’t be able to get out of your head for days. The film follows the relationship between Nora (Greta Lee), who immigrated to the United States as a child from South Korea, and her childhood crush Hae-Sung (Teo Yoo). As the years pass by and they grow up, their lives change and their stories intertwine until they reach a beautiful climax.
Celine Song’s direction is remarkable, particularly considering this is her first feature film. She lets every shot stay on screen just long enough, letting the viewers sink into wistful thought as the camera slowly and deliberately pulls us in and out of the action. The settings of Seoul and New York CIty make for some beautiful cinematography, with each shot giving the feeling of a rainy afternoon. Simply put, the vibes are impeccable.
Song’s screenplay is also a highlight. She captures the connection the two protagonists have expertly, and their growth over the years feels natural and genuine. Her script is densely layered with symbolism and depth, which all reaches its apex in a spectacular scene twenty minutes from the end of the movie that I’m still fixated on weeks after seeing the movie. Song deftly waxes poetic about true love, destiny, the immigrant experience, growing up, and regret all within the confines of this 106 minute masterpiece.
The mid-budget studio comedy is back, baby! Emma Seligman’s acclaimed second feature follows PJ (Rachel Sennott) and Josie (Ayo Edibiri), two lesbian high schoolers who start a fight club in order to get closer to their crushes. The raunchy comedy is a blast, replete with perfect line deliveries, fun fight scenes, and a winning sense of meta cartoonishness.
The performances from the main cast are stellar, particularly by the always excellent Ayo Edibiri. Sennott and supporting actresses Ruby Cruz, Havana Rose Liu, and Kaia Gerber all do great work to bolster the film’s over-the-top ridiculousness. Plus, in possibly the most unexpected casting of all time, Marshawn Lynch is there! Yeah, that Marshawn Lynch, who won the 2013 Super Bowl with the Seattle Seahawks. Why he’s in this teen comedy, I have no idea, but he manages to be consistently entertaining, so I guess more football players should be actors?
The film’s only real weakness lies in its script. Written by Seligman and Sennott, it’s unfocused in the film’s first act, and the storyline zips around erratically, with several thoroughly underbaked plot points and twists that need far more clarity and sharper execution. Regardless, several scenes and lines are nothing short of perfection, particularly the climax, in which the fight club members fight their school’s rival football team, casually impaling the players with swords and beating them to death. There aren’t nearly enough high school comedies that end with their protagonists killing a bunch of football players, so you have to give the writers credit for that.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3
I watched all 92 minutes of this. Yep. It’s terrible, I mean that sincerely. Any semblance of charm that was present in the original two films has been obliterated and crushed into a million tiny little pieces. Starring Nia Vardalos, and directed by Nia Vardalos, and written by Nia Vardalos, the film is about exactly what it sounds like it’s about: a big fat Greek wedding. It’s Vardalos’ directorial debut, which is very evident from the complete and utter lack of originality and character. The script is ridiculous, none of the jokes land, and the cast is awful. Special shoutout to my man John Corbett, whose line delivery sounds like if an alien crash landed on Earth and just learned English and is really pumped to try out saying the words for the first time.
Wes Anderson’s Roald Dahl Quartet
Acclaimed auteur Wes Anderson debuted his quartet of Roald Dahl short story adaptations with little fanfare a few weeks ago, and the results of his collection of 30-minute shorts are mixed, to say the least.
The longest film, “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” is an absolute delight. Anderson weaves a complex and whimsical narrative thread while employing his trademarked eye for cinematography (Anderson’s usual collaborator Robert Yeoman is behind the camera) and color. The story, that winds from the eponymous character attempting to cheat at cards to a man who can see without his eyes to a mystical levitating yogi, is a thrilling ride, with Anderson adeptly showing off his signature blend of comedy, drama, and a hint of adventure. The cast, composed of Benedict Cumberbatch, Dev Patel, Ben Kingsley, and more do a wonderful job to help Anderson bring the fantastical tale to life.
And then you get to the other three. Each of them spanning about 20 minutes, “The Swan,” “The Ratcatcher,” and “Poison” all suffer from a serious case of being really boring. Despite Rupert Friend’s best efforts as the narrator, the former drags heavily in its second and third acts, while “The Ratcatcher” is bland and slow. “Poison” may be the strongest of the three with great work from Dev Patel, but there’s little to differentiate it from the other two. To an extent, Anderson’s unique sensibilities are enjoyable, but after so many years of the same old schtick, the director’s movies are starting to lose steam.