If you talk to me for more than 2 minutes, you will know that I’m quite passionate about TV/film/storytelling in general. If I’d not studied lit, there is a high likelihood that I would have studied theater. I love the work that goes into telling a good story on screen and on stage, so when I signed up for Moviepass at the end of last year, I knew I’d be getting my money’s worth. While Moviepass has recently updated their terms, no longer allowing users to see the same movie multiple times, (a point of contention for many users and myself), I have enjoyed being able to see movies that I might not have taken a risk on in the theater, as well as trying some films that might not normally be my cup of tea. [Read: Not superheroes, not science fiction, not fantasy]. I’m going to do some mini-reviews of each film I’ve seen in the theater. Herein follows my mostly spoiler-free thoughts on the movies I saw in the theater in January 2018. I will be sure to note if I say something spoilery, so make sure you are watching closely for the SPOILER WARNING! Stay tuned for updates for the rest of the year as well!
Lady Bird – In the earlier part of 2018, I made an effort to catch most of the films that were nominated for the major categories at the Oscars. I was able to see a good handful in the theater and caught at least one streaming (Get Out). I have some friends that really appreciated Lady Bird, so I wanted try to catch that one while I could. It only had a few limited showtimes the week I saw it, so I figured it was on its way out of the theater. It stuck around for a few more weeks after that. I didn’t know much, if anything, about the film when I sat down to watch, but I can say that I enjoyed it. The film takes place in the 2002-2003 school year, which is the year I graduated high school. I can attest to its accuracy in terms of style, costuming, decor, and overall feel. I went to see the film with a friend that is 6 years younger than me, so I had a great time pointing out all of the fun retro-ish stuff to her.
[The next paragraph will contain some less than detailed discussion of plot points, but some folks may consider it spoilery enough to denote a SPOILER WARNING].
Lady Bird is unlike any other coming of age story that I’ve seen. It’s a story that focuses not just on a young woman growing into her own in adulthood, but of a young woman who comes to appreciate her roots too. Upon first viewing, I wasn’t quite sure to do with the ending. It felt abrupt to me. I didn’t get the resolution that I wanted. I recently watched Lady Bird again. Perhaps it was because I knew what to expect, but I didn’t think it ended so abruptly the second time around. If any of you out there had a similar experience with Lady Bird, I’d love to hear your thoughts.
I went into this film only knowing of Laurie Metcalf’s work. I love her and could listen to her talk all day. While I came for Laurie Metcalf, I stayed for Saoirse Ronan. This was my first time watching any of her work. Ronan made me laugh, surprised me, frustrated me (her character, not her acting), and brought a smile to my face. She was completely believable in the role, truly selling me on her acting ability. Her performance in Lady Bird has made me want to check out her other work. Greta Gerwig was also not on my radar. Lady Bird is semi-autobiographical for her, which I find intriguing. This is not normally a film I would choose to watch, but I am trying to broaden my horizons. Check this one out if you’re into solid female performances, drama, humor, and coming-of-age stories.
I, Tonya – Everyone I know that saw I, Tonya before I did left the theater raving about it. This is one I wish I had gotten to see more than once in the theater and it is definitely a film I want to own. I feel the need to preface this review by saying the following. I think a common misconception about this film is that it set out to venerate Tonya Harding for what occurred between her and Nancy Kerrigan. That’s simply not the case. In this film, the viewer gets Tonya’s story from multiple perspectives and is left to decide for themselves what to believe. What I enjoyed the most about I, Tonya is that I left the theater having felt the entire gamut of emotional responses I could have to a film. I had laughed, I’d felt fear, I’d felt anger, sadness, confusion, pity, and more. I would have to sit down and think for a long time to recall any other film that has done that to me. There are probably only 5 or fewer films that have made me feel that way. I think the film is worth seeing for that reason alone. However, if you need another one, the cinematography in this film is absolutely killer. The way the camera follows Robbie during her routines really places the audience in Tonya’s skates. I also loved how well the film broke the fourth wall during its storytelling. It created a nice splash of levity, which I enjoyed. The film also used paneled shots, which for me, made me feel like I was reading a comic book about Tonya Harding, but also allowed the viewer to see different characters’ perspectives. It was a good choice for a film like this.
Margot Robbie–I cannot say enough good things about her performance in this film. The best actress competition was quite stiff this year and it is a HARD choice for me to say who I enjoyed more–Sally Hawkins or Margot Robbie. I feel like I can’t choose! (The only film in that category that I did not get to see was The Post, but good grief, it’s Meryl Streep! That’s stiff competition any day of the week). Margot Robbie absolutely steals every single scene in this film. There is a little wink and a nod to Harley Quinn fans in the film as well, so be sure to watch for that. I missed Suicide Squad and as I understand it, she was the only redeeming part about that movie, so I’ll eventually get around to that one, if only to see her performance. The rest of the cast was impressive as well. It’s hard to go wrong with Sebastian Stan, but Allison Janney as Tonya’s mother was so impressive, it will be hard for me to watch her in anything else without thinking of her role in this film.
The biggest lesson for me in I, Tonya was one that is even more relevant today than it was in the early 90s when the events of the film occurred. The media has the ability to lionize or demonize a person with one news report. The responsibility of the media to give the facts without spin is something that cannot be ignored. In the political climate of today, along with the 24-hour news cycle, I, Tonya brings a relevant and important message to all of us–consider all sides, then choose what to believe for yourself.
If you’d like to hear me prattle on about I, Tonya, you should watch the film first then contact me directly so I can give you some more in depth thoughts. I, Tonya and The Shape of Water are my two favorite films of 2017, so I have much to say about both of them. I should also note that I, Tonya did receive the R rating, so there is some brief nudity as well as a truckload of f-bombs and other colorful language. If that sort of thing is offensive or problematic to you, you might want to fast forward or watch via your favorite filtering service.
Those are the two films I saw in the theater in January 2018! I’ll be posting my thoughts on February’s films in the next week or so. As a quick preview, you’ll be getting my thoughts on The Greatest Showman, The Shape of Water, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, Black Panther, and an honorable mention for Get Out, which I streamed via HBO.