[Early Review] Brittany Runs a Marathon (2019)

Director: Paul Downs Colaizzo

Cast: Jillian Bell, Michaela Watkins, Utkarsh Ambudkar, Lil Rey Howery, Micah Stock

Screenplay: Paul Downs Colaizzo

103 mins. Rated R for language throughout, sexuality and some drug material.

 

While at a Q&A following my screening of Brittany Runs a Marathon, writer/director Paul Downs Colaizzo said that he wanted audiences to spend the first act of the film thinking “I know that girl,” the second act thinking “I am that girl,” and the third act thinking “I want to be that girl.” In this way, Brittany Runs a Marathon is an absolute success.

Brittany (Jillian Bell, 22 Jump Street, TV’s Super Mansion) is almost thirty, and she’s having trouble sleeping. Her doctor explains that it might be her weight that is causing her sleep problems, but Brittany’s lifestyle of drinking, partying, eating, and not caring probably have something to do with it as well. She realizes that she isn’t really moving forward in life and decides to finally do something about it. She wants to run a block, and that block turns into 2 miles and then a 5k. Now, Brittany sets her sights upon something bigger: the New York City Marathon. She has less than a year, but with her new running friends Catherine (Michaela Watkins, Wanderlust, Good Boys) and Seth (Micah Stock, Life Itself, TV’s Bonding), Brittany believes that she can achieve this almost impossible goal, but there’s only one problem standing in her way: herself.

Paul Downs Colaizzo’s debut film is a very tight character study loosely based on a friend, and his collaboration with Jillian Bell (who lived the character’s struggle in losing 40 pounds herself) in creating the film’s version of Brittany is terrific. Together, they crafted a wholly relatable and flawed human being who thinks she knows what will fix everything in her life. The depiction of the classic hero’s journey here is spot-on, and it’s anchored by a well-written screenplay and well-performed cast of supporting players. I particularly loved Bell’s chemistry with running friend Seth, played by relative newcomer Micah Stock.

What’s so great about the film is that each of the secondary characters has an important role in advancing Brittany’s arc and servicing the story. Brittany’s roommate Gretchen is similar to Brittany in that she seemingly has everything she wants in life but still isn’t a happy and good person. Her coworker Jern (Utkarsh Ambudkar, Pitch Perfect, TV’s Harvey Girls Forever!) is someone who has goals in life but doesn’t really move forward in them, very similar to how Brittany’s journey begins. She is faced with all these possible versions of herself throughout the film as she is forced to confront the person she wants to be.

Brittany Runs a Marathon isn’t splashy or visually stunning. It’s a character piece, and a very inspiring story that made me want to run out and sign up for a 5k (baby steps). It’s headlined by a star-making performance from Jillian Bell and an all-around well-picked supporting cast. Colaizzo’s strongest asset is his excellent character work and story structure, and it’s on full-display here. Outside of a few nitpicks throughout, Brittany Runs a Marathon comes highly recommended.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)

Director: André Øvredal

Cast: Zoe Colletti, Michael Garza, Gabriel Rush, Austin Abrams, Dean Norris, Gil Bellows, Lorraine Toussaint

Screenplay: Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Guillermo del Toro

111 mins. Rated PG-13 for terror/violence, disturbing images, thematic elements, language including racial epithets, and brief sexual references.

 

I remember reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I had all three books, and I vividly recall the striking imagery. It was one of those first experiences that attributed to my love of horror, alongside watching Halloween with my mother when I was four and the Goosebumps book series from R.L. Stine. It was a pivotal part in shaping my fascination with fear and the macabre as ways of telling real stories, and they were damn entertaining too. Now, producer Guillermo del Toro, coming off his Oscar wins for The Shape of Water, is bringing us the film adaptation of this classic book trilogy with director André Øvredal (Trollhunter, The Autopsy of Jane Doe) behind the camera.

The story begins on Halloween night 1968, with Stella (Zoe Colletti, Annie, Skin) and her friends, Auggie (Gabriel Rush, Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel) and Chuck, who discover an old book in the supposed haunted home of the Bellows family. This book contains several scary stories and a lot of empty pages too. Stella takes the book home and discovers that new stories are appearing in it. At the same time, each of the kids that stepped foot in the Bellows home is in a story being written, one that comes true. Now, Stella and her friends are running out of time to get the book back home and break the curse of Sarah Bellows and her book of scary stories before they become a part of it.

As with many anthology films, which Scary Stories loosely is, the individual stories are one piece, and the framing device another. Of the many scary stories featured in the film, I think they all work quite well. The creature design is pretty awesome, some visual treats I haven’t seen before, and I think they, for the most part, work really well.

The main problem with the movie is the framing device. The whole story of Sarah Bellows and the book of scary stories should work on the surface, and it adds a nice layer of tone and flavor to the 1960s setting. The problem is that the framing device isn’t as strongly written as the stories that appear within the film, and this main plot of Stella and her friends is given far too much of the runtime of the film. It easily could have been cut about 20 minutes to streamline the plot more.

I also didn’t connect with Stella very much. She is a little flatly-written, and I was far more interested in the secondary characters like Auggie and Chuck as well as archetypal bully Tommy (Austin Abrams, Paper Towns, Brad’s Status).

For the problems with the screenplay, Øvredal does a great job with direction, setting tone and mood down to perfectly encapsulate the feeling of reading the stories as a kid. The film reminded me of reading Goosebumps or watching the television series for Are You Afraid of the Dark? He crafted a creepy atmosphere oozing with unsettling imagery. Much like The House with a Clock in its Walls from last year, this is a kid’s horror film that doesn’t shy away from some truly haunting imagery. Whereas The House with a Clock is closer to a Hocus Pocus, Scary Stories almost aims for It or The Monster Squad, definitely something more adult than I expected. I would caution potential viewers by saying the film has some disturbing elements, but all the same, this is exactly the kind of movie experience that adolescent Kyle would have been all over.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark is a winning horror experience. While the film struggles in building new mythology and setting the framing device into play, it mostly wins with the actual scary stories. It was a hellishly fun viewing experience that perfectly sets up more stories to come. Hopefully the filmmakers can course-correct some of the problems of the film for a sequel should one arise. I still had a lot of fun and would urge filmgoers looking for a nostalgic horror throwback to check this one out.

 

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

Blinded by the Light (2019)

Director: Gurinder Chadha

Cast: Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Ganatra, Nell Williams, Aaron Phagura, Dean-Charles Chapman

Screenplay: Paul Mayeda Berges, Gurinder Chadha, Sarfraz Manzoor

118 mins. Rated PG-13 for thematic material and language including some ethnic slurs.

 

I’ve been waiting on Blinded by the Light since January. As with several other films from this year, I started hearing great reception coming out of the early festivals, and as soon as I heard more about the plot and saw a trailer, I was sold on it. Coming out of the theater last night, I can absolutely understand and agree with all the good word.

It’s 1987, and Britain is not an enjoyable home for many Pakistani people, and it’s especially apparent in the small town of Luton, where teenager Javed (Viveik Kalra, TV’s Next of Kin) is struggling to find a place in his family, his school, and his town. Then, he meets Roops (Aaron Phagura), who gives him two Bruce Springsteen tapes, and Javed’s entire world is turned upside-down. In Springsteen, he finds an inspiration to pursue his passion for writing and poetry, and he finds the confidence to talk to the cute girl in his class and stand up to his father who believes that the most important thing he can do is make money to contribute to the family, but Javed finds that he cannot turn his back on everyone who challenges him.

I really enjoyed this feel-good film. Director Gurinder Chadha (Viceroy’s House, It’s a Wonderful Afterlife) has crafted an interesting backdrop to this music-laden love-letter to The Boss. The way she juxtaposes feelings of freedom and passion with the imposing racially-charged town that Javed lives in makes for a really strong narrative. She jumps between musical-style dance numbers with Javed and Roops to more serious family conflicts between Javed and his father Malik (Kulvinder Ghir, Bend it Like Beckham, Level Up), and she does so with a keen and graceful eye.

Viveik Kalra does a great job leading the film as a mostly-newcomer performer. I connected with Javed and the layered acting from Kalra. I understand the internal conflict facing Javed about his love to write and his passion to create, but I cannot begin to understand the isolation he feels because of his nationality. The film conveys that isolation very well, though, and I think I was able to at least glimpse what it felt like.

The film’s usage of Bruce Springsteen’s music to stress Javed’s personal journey works pretty well, but I will admit it is overused at times. I think that the way to emphasize specific lyrics from the songs visually, be it swirling around Javed’s head or plastered on the walls behind him works very well, and it makes the narrative content much more accessible. It isn’t necessarily a Boss-test that makes its viewers unpack all of Bruce’s work and instead shows the audience how these two completely different people are feeling the same things. Once Springsteen’s music is introduced, it is heavily utilized, almost to a fault. I think that by trimming some of the music, the film’s pace would improve more.

Overall, Blinded by the Light was an excellent music-based film, a story with heavy-themes that also can bring a certain level of joy can be a difficult mixture to find and maintain, but Chadha is able to convey a message and a story that is so accessible even if you’re nothing like Javed. That’s the power of Bruce’s music; it connects us, and I think our filmmaker was able to pull that out here.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Lion King (2019)

or “One Step Closer to a Live-Action Aristocats”

Director: Jon Favreau

Cast: Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alfre Woodard, Billy Eichner, John Kani, John Oliver, Beyonce Knowles-Carter, James Earl Jones

Screenplay: Jeff Nathanson

118 mins. Rated PG for sequences of violence and peril, and some thematic elements.

 

Well, it’s finally here, everyone! The Lion King is finally in theaters! Wait, I should preface that The Lion King hit theaters in 1994. This Lion King is the remake! The live-action remake! Wait, I should also preface that it’s not a live-action film.

But, damn, it does look like it.

You know the story, but I’ll refresh you. Simba (Donald Glover, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Guava Island) is destined to inherit Pride Rock when his father Mufasa (James Earl Jones, The Hunt for Red October, Coming to America) passes. When the king  is murdered, though, and Simba feels responsible, his uncle Scar (Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 Years a Slave, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind) convinces him to run away and never come back. The young lion prince flees his kingdom, embarking on a journey to discover the responsibility that lie before him.

There’s very little change in the story of The Lion King, and this remake is pretty close to a shot-for-shot translation of the original film, something I do not agree with. With all the technology being thrown at the film, I feel it would benefit the finished film to take some story risks and changes to set itself apart from what is considered by many to be the greatest animated film of all time, or at least in the conversation. I just think that by making it so similar to the original film, you are inviting comparison, and that’s not a good idea when the film you are comparing to is the considered one of the Greatest of anything.

That all being said, wow, the animation is incredible here. It looks so real, so intense, and so breathtaking. Just like with The Jungle Book, I’m shocked to find that so much of this film was done in a computer, even down to all the backgrounds (I believe only one shot in the whole film is real footage, and I don’t even know what it is). It’s gorgeously animated. My one problem with the realism is that there is a slight disconnect in some of the voice work. I think some actual motion-capture would have helped in the animating process to keep some of the facial expressions more effective, if only for behind-the-scenes video of these performers crawling around on all-fours.

The voicework is quite strong in the film, specifically from Donald Glover, Seth Rogen (This is the End, Long Shot) as Pumbaa, and Billy Eichener (The Angry Birds Movie, TV’s Friends From College) as Timon. The only voice work I would have thought differently about was Beyonce Knowles-Carter (Dreamgirls, Epic), who kind of missed the mark. I know the reason for casting her was to get a new song in the movie, but I just think she missed it.

Overall, The Lion King is a perfectly fine movie, a breathtaking visual achievement, but also a little unneeded. I would venture the question of who is picking this film off their Bluray shelf in a year to watch it if they already have the original film. That is its problem, that it cannot hold a candle to the original. Any other Disney live-action film would avoid that problem by adding something new to the film, but The Lion King doesn’t really do that.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man 2, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Chef, click here.

Brightburn (2019)

Director: David Yarovesky

Cast: Elizabeth Banks, David Denman, Jackson A. Dunn, Matt Jones, Meredith Hagner

Screenplay: Brian Gunn, Mark Gunn

90 mins. Rated R for horror violence/bloody images, and language.

 

Brightburn is an excellent example of a “What-If?” kind of film, one that takes a previously established archetype and turns it on its head. For this scenario, the film takes a look at superheroes, most specifically Superman. No, they’ll never be able to say it’s Superman, but c’mon…it’s Superman.

When a spaceship crashes onto a small farm in Brightburn, Kansas, Tori (Elizabeth Banks, The Hunger Games, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part) and Kyle Breyer (David Denman, Puzzle, Logan Lucky) discover a baby boy inside the wreckage. The two adopt the baby, naming him Brandon. Flash-forward twelve years and Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn, Avengers: Endgame, Gone are the Days), now nearing puberty, is becoming disobedient and troublesome. It is during this time that he starts to notice that he isn’t like all the other kids. He has superhuman strength and a violent temper. Tori and Kyle are forced to discover exactly what their son really is.

Imagine Superman…but he’s evil. It’s as simple as that. That’s not a bad thing. It’s a very interesting idea to explore in a film, and I mostly dug it. Perhaps the film’s biggest problem is that I don’t think it really explores the idea fully, and it doesn’t offer up enough twists and turns to maintain investment. I knew where it was going the whole time, and nothing really surprised me about the film. Near the end, it just kind of lost my focus. Something like Brightburn would be better as a short film or an episode of some horror anthology series. If you told me to come up with a story about an evil Superman, I’m pretty sure I would hit all the same beats as the film hit without much trouble.

I really enjoyed Banks and Denman’s chemistry and performances as Brandon’s human parents. Their journey of understanding who Brandon really is works pretty well, and I was invested in their conflict. The best aspect of the film is that question of what to do about him. That’s where the ethical discussion would come into play, and I wanted that further explored.

The rest of the film works fine enough, and it sets up where a potential would go, which excited me. Brightburn gives us some likable characters and a really tough premise, and it hits those horror notes really well. There’s some pretty gory stuff in the movie, and director David Yarovesky (The Hive) holds the tension very well.

Brightburn is a fun little experiment in the deconstruction of the superhero mythology. It works pretty well as a fun little horror movie, but my one major problem with the film is that it didn’t surprise me. Everything that happened in the film is exactly what I expected to happen, and that made me less interested in the narrative because I saw all the plot beats way ahead of time, and I would have liked something with a bit more to its plot. I still recommend it to horror fans and superhero fans for a good little time, and I would be totally into seeing a sequel.

 

3/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

[Early Review] Angel Has Fallen (2019)

or “Someone Please Help Mr. Boreanaz Up”

Director: Ric Roman Waugh

Cast: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith, Lance Reddick, Tim Blake Nelson Piper Perabo, Nick Nolte, Danny Huston

Screenplay: Matt Cook, Robert Mark Kamen, Ric Roman Waugh

120 mins. Rated R for violence and language throughout.

 

Wow, someone worked really hard to get the title of this film into the dialogue, and it doesn’t work at all.

Since the events of London Has Fallen, Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman, Se7en, Alpha) has become the new President of the United States, and Mike Banning (Gerard Butler, The Phantom of the Opera, Den of Thieves) is still a member of the Secret Service. When a drone attack seriously injures the President and seemingly implicates Banning, though, Mike is forced off the grid and on the run as a fugitive with FBI agents hot on his tail. He must work quickly to ascertain exactly who set him up and why before Vice President Kirby (Tim Blake Nelson, O Brother, Where Are Thou?, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) uses intel about the assassination attempt to start a war with Russia.

I recently watched the first two installments of this franchise for the first time, and I was very vocal that the second film was a big step down in quality, and it seems that trajectory is continued in Angel Has Fallen. Gerard Butler was very hands-on with the story of this one, stating that it will be similar to Logan, a darker, grittier, and more character-driven film. I cannot disagree with that statement more. First of all, dark and gritty do not a Logan film make. To add to that, stop trying to copy Logan and just make a good film. Finally, the note that this is a more character-driven film is rather laughable. The only characters with any real development in this is Mike and his father Clay (Nick Nolte, Warrior, A Walk in the Woods), and their arcs feel like such a complete divergence from where Mike is in the first two films that it doesn’t even really feel like a sequel to the franchise. In fact, many of the theatergoers at my screening didn’t even know this was a sequel.

The screenplay is pretty predictable. I joked to myself, not more than five minutes into the film, that I knew who set up Mike, and I was right. It’s cliché to the point of self-parody. This is a trilogy capper that feels so much like Tak3n down to the simplistic frame-the-hero plot and the FBI team that can’t see the answer right in front of them for most of the film.

The only true winner for this film is the addition of Nick Nolte as Clay, the father. Yes, his character seems out of place here, but working with what I’m given, it’s nice to see some semblance of where Mike gets his thought processes. His dad is a guy who is always thinking several steps ahead and planning for the worst-case scenario, and I kind of get where Mike, as a character, comes from. That being said, there’s no set-up for his character and he just kind of appears. Much of the dialogue from his first few scenes attempts to build a lot of exposition in not a lot of time. Each line is overflowing with information that nobody would ever actually feel the need to say.

Angel Has Fallen is the weakest film in the trilogy. I feel like no one is really here to play in this installment. The plot is clunky and thin, the dialogue isn’t very strong, and no character outside of Nolte is really engaging to watch. It’s unfortunate to say that this franchise may have fallen…for the last time.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen, click here.

For my review of Babak Najafi’s London Has Fallen, click here.

[Early Review] Ready or Not (2019)

Director: Matt Bettinelli-Olpin, Tyler Gillett

Cast: Samara Weaving, Adam Brody, Mark O’Brien, Henry Czerny, Andie MacDowell

Screenplay: Guy Busick, Ryan Murphy

95 mins. Rated R for violence, bloody images, language throughout, and some drug use.

 

I won’t lie to you. I hadn’t heard or Ready or Not until about six weeks ago when the single trailer dropped for this movie. I don’t think Disney wants to market much of the Fox stuff that they don’t have faith in. The trailer looked silly and fun, and it made me very excited to see it. It could be because I love horror movies, or it could be because I love board games, but something about this one just got me in the trailer. Watching that trailer every time I went to the theater for the past six weeks rocketed this movie up into my Most Anticipated list, and it was so worth it.

It’s a beautiful day for bride Grace (Samara Weaving, Three Billboard Outside Ebbing, Missouri, TV’s SMILF). She’s just married the love of her life, Alex (Mark O’Brien, Bad Times at the El Royale, TV’s Halt and Catch Fire), and not even his snide and disapproving family can ruin the wedding for her. That is, until the wedding night, when she is introduced to the family’s tradition. Alex is a member of the Le Domas family, a wealthy dynasty of the board game industry, and their tradition is to play a game whenever someone new joins the family. Every wedding night, this tradition is kept, and the game for tonight is Hide and Seek, but this isn’t just a game for the Le Domas family or Grace. Their version of Hide and Seek involves crossbows, axes, shotguns, and blood. Now, Grace has to survive until dawn to win and survive, but the Le Domas family are very competitive when it comes to this game, and they will do anything to find her.

This is definitely a film that you need to understand before you go in, but it’s also one I would suggest skipping the trailer for if you are interested (a lot of my favorite moments in the film are revealed in the trailer). Ready or Not is silly and goofy and gory and a hell of a good time. Now, this isn’t the type of horror film to keep you up at night, but for a brisk 95 minutes, it was so much fun. It never takes itself too seriously (because, c’mon, how could it?) and its colorful cast of eccentric characters make for quite an enjoyable experience.

Samara Weaving makes a strong case here for a new scream queen. She belts out some seriously guttural yells in this, and she makes for a compelling and accessible heroine. All she wants at the onset of the film is to be accepted by a family, something she’s been missing her whole life, and now she is thrust into the most absurd of circumstances and forced to fight her new family to save her life. You could make the argument that she gets real violent, real quick, but I would also say that she has an edge about herself from her years of living in fear of being alone that she hardened up.

The Le Domas family is full of very fun characters. Each of them has a specific role to play in the night’s events. I personally loved patriarch Tony (Henry Czerny, Mission: Impossible, TV’s Sharp Objects) as the family leader and his loving-but-firm wife Becky (Andie MacDowell, Groundhog Day, The Last Laugh), but each member of the family has something about them that made them fun to be onscreen.

My one problem with the film is that it puts all of its cards on the table rather early on and I would have liked some of the crazier elements to be slowly unfolded as the film moves along. I think it would have felt less-forced in the narrative to slowly reveal what’s ready going on as opposed to just laying it all out so early.

Directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett (Devil’s Due, Southbound) have crafted a fun action-horror-comedy hybrid tone for their film which works so very well. I’m doubtful that the new Fox Searchlight regime would want to press forward on a sequel, but I could see a lot of ways to make this into an interesting and fun franchise. Ready or Not is the perfect palate-cleanser for a rough summer movie season. For horror fans, seek this one out. Immediately.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett’s Devil’s Due, click here.

800 Posts! Thank you!

Hey everyone,

for those of you that have been readers for awhile, you’ll know I like to celebrate the little moments, and I had one a few days ago when I published my review for Hobbs & Shaw. That review ended up being the 800th post for this site! It’s rather fitting because many of the Fast & Furious reviews I have written have been among the most popular reviews on the site!

I cannot thank you faithful and maybe first-time readers for tuning in, reading and contributing to the discussion. This has morphed from a hobby to a passion to a daily requirement for sanity, and it’s because of the kind words of so many of you that have helped with that.

All that being said, I’m going to leave a list of the most popular reviews and posts on the site since it started. Feel free to peruse and gander at your choosing.

 

  1. Turbo Charged Prelude (2003)
  2. Poltergeist (1982)
  3. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
  4. Frankenstein (1994)
  5. Leprechaun (1993)
  6. 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
  7. The Thing (1982)
  8. Zootopia (2016)
  9. The Fast and the Furious (2001)
  10. The Fly (1986)

Here’s hoping Hobbs & Shaw ends up on this this. Three of the Fast & Furious films have ended up on the most-read list, including a short film prequel to the second film. It always strikes me at how many people have looked at the Leprechaun posts I have done. It seems year-round that that post gets views and I don’t understand it, to be perfectly honest.

So there you have it. Thanks again for reading, even if only once. I truly appreciate all of you readers and I only ask that you help like, comment, subscribe and share to keep independent content creators like myself going. All film is truly subjective, so if you’ve never interacted on the site, I urge you to do so. If you loved a movie I hated, let me know your opinion, and if you hated something I really love, I want to know why. That’s part of what makes this part of movie fandom so special. Thanks again!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Farewell (2019)

Director: Lulu Wang

Cast: Awkwafina, Tzi Ma, Diana Lin, Zhao Shuzhen, Lu Hong, Jiang Yongbo

Screenplay: Lulu Wang

100 mins. Rated PG for thematic material, brief language and some smoking.

 

I’ve been looking forward to The Farewell for half a year, ever since hearing about it from someone who saw it at Sundance. I’m so happy to have been able to seek it out finally, and you need to do the same.

When Billi (Awkwafina, Crazy Rich Asians, Ocean’s Eight) discovers that her grandmother Nai Nai (Zhao Shuzhen) has terminal lung cancer, she immediately wants to fly back to China to be with her, but her father Haiyan (Tzi Ma, Arrival, Skyscraper) and mother Jian (Diana Lin, Australia Day, TV’s The Family Law) advise her not to. They tell Billi that Nai Nai does not know she is sick and the family does not plan on telling her. Instead, everyone is flying to China for a family wedding, which has been set up as a cover for everyone to get their goodbyes in, but Billi’s parents think she is too emotional and she will not be able to keep up the lie. Billi decides to fly to China anyway in an effort to spend some time with Nai Nai before she passes, but she struggles to come to terms with the lie and the way her family goes about keeping the secret.

The Farewell moves along a little loosely in order to focus on moments of the days leading up to the wedding rather than big plot points. It’s a deeply moving character piece from writer/director Lulu Wang (Posthumous, Touch), and it is indeed based on an actual lie from Wang’s experiences. It’s an incredibly interesting look at culture and familial bonds across generations and traditions. I found it to be a very melancholic and comedic look at these bonds, never sinking into depression but also not forcing comedy. The funny moments in the story come from the interesting multi-dimensional characters and their strained relationships.

Awkwafina gives a career-best performance as Billi. The way she juggles sadness and joy while dealing with her own internal struggle is so powerful. Her chemistry with Nai Nai is so beautifully created through Wang’s writing and executed by the actresses quite well.

I adore Tzi Ma, and he really shines here. I really enjoyed his connection to daughter Billi in that he knows the importance of this lie but also involuntarily struggles with keeping the façade of joy that the wedding should invite. He is amazing in the film and I hope he can get some awards recognition this year.

The rest of the supporting cast is exemplary here, especially Zhao Shuzhen and Jiang Yongbo (Nie Rongzhen, Caught in the Web). Everyone is so well-cast in the film and each of them gets their moment to shine in the movie.

The Farewell is definitely in my Top 10 of the year so far. I cannot wait to see it again and to show it to as many people as I can. This examination of family and culture is so beautifully constructed and so watchable. The movie just cruises by and brought me tears and laughter at several points, sometimes even at the same time. This is a huge recommendation.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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