A TRIO OF FORGOTTEN GEMS
Before the 20th century, entertainment was a one-off experience. Sure, plays could be seen again and again, but the very nature of the theatre experience is that a play is born anew with each performance - as are all live entertainments from classical orchestra concerts to stand-up comedians.
But movies, they are here forever - or at least since we have been digitizing them. You can see one of the earliest known movies, The Great Train Robbery, and most of the movies made since then. So, if you missed a movie when it was first released, you can be sure to find it somewhere, especially in our new age of streaming TV.
So this holiday weekend, I watched three movies made in the last five years that were released, then quickly forgotten. None of them were even minor hits, although they all received good reviews.
In 2014, ROB THE MOB, based on a true story, was released. It had a difficult history and went through many changes before being filmed, but, in the end, the makers of it got it right. A young couple, Tommy (Michael Pitt) and Rosa (Nina Arianda), are trying to overcome addictions and prison terms to make a life for themselves in New York City. While they both get jobs as telephone dunners, Tommy dreams of striking it rich and hits on the idea of robbing mob 'social clubs' on the theory that criminals are unlikely to call the cops. Of course, it's not really that great of an idea for reasons that are obvious to sane people, but Tommy is bent on revenge for the mob's killing of his father who was in hock to the mob. With that said, it's a funny thriller made all the better by fine performances from Ray Romano as a crime reporter, Andy Garcia as a mafia-family head and Griffin Dunne as the best boss in the world.
FINDING YOUR FEET takes us to a different world as Sandra (Imelda Staunton), an upper-middle class English housewife, finds her dreams of an idyllic retirement with her husband of over thirty years shattered when she discovers hubby has been carrying on an affair with her best friend for years. On an angry impulse she storms out of their beautiful home and has no place to go but to live with her bohemian sister, Bif (Celia Imrie) with whom she has not been in touch for over a decade. The movie's humor comes from her trying to adapt to this new life, in part by re-discovering her pre-married self's love of dance - thus the title. Slowly she melts and it turns out she has a better time blending in than she did standing out. Many of life's aging surprises (yes, Bette, it is not for sissies) are touched upon, the most memorable being Bif's friend, Charlie (Timothy Spall), who has to sell his house to provide his alzheimer-afflicted wife with full-time care in a lovely British countryside assisted-living 'home.' The acting is typically British first-class (Joanna Lumley of Absolutely Fabulous brightens every scene she is in) and the plot even takes us to Rome! This delightful comedy is just what your digestion needs this food-filled holiday weekend.
A LITTLE CHAOS takes us to another country, France, and to another time, the 17th century. King Louis XIV (excellently portrayed by Alan Rickman who also directed and co-wrote), decides to build Versailles and entrusts the designing of its extensive gardens to his chief gardner, Andre Le Notre (Matthias Schoenaerts). In turn Le Notre hires Sabine De Barra (Kate Winslet) to construct a 'rock garden' for the site (the title refers to the fact that classic French gardens are well-ordered but Madame De Barre introduces a little chaos) . While this is an English movie, it does take place in France so we know that a large part of the plot has to do with romances of various kinds and, again because it is France, deceptions. The acting is top notch (Stanley Tucci pops up and steals every scene he is in and the excellent Helen McCrory shows why we'd love to see more of her) the screenplay is excellent and the cinematography is to die for. Did we mention that Kate Winslet gives another superb nuanced performance? If for nothing else, watch it for that.
And now the best news - all three are on Amazon Prime, so there is not need to switch channels in midstream (sorry, couldn't resist).