Paul McGuire Grimes of Paul’s Trip to the Movies gives us his critique of three movies making the buzz.
BOY ERASED (theatrical release)
Lucas Hedges has secured himself as a promising star on the rise thanks to his work in Manchester by the Sea and Lady Bird. In Boy Erased, he continues his string of playing these fractured young men in that transition period of growing up. He plays Jared who realizes his truth of being gay while in college. It’s not an easy discovery, but one that comes with consequences given that his parents are deeply religious with his dad being a local pastor in their Arkansas town. His father is distraught over his son’s news and enrolls him in a gay conversation therapy program. Jared is forced to attend and becomes an eyewitness to the dangers and absurdity that come with these programs.
-Starring Lucas Hedges, Nicole Kidman, Russell Crowe, Troye Sivan, Xavier Dolan.
-Written and directed by Joel Edgerton who also stars as the lead counselor and pastor at the gay conversion therapy program.
-Based on the memoir of the same name from Garrard Conley
-For the flashbacks, Edgerton takes a quiet, gentle approach to telling Jared’s story. He never rushes Jared’s discovery filling it with the hesitation, frustration, and second-guessing that happens with many gay men. When he is back at present day, the therapy scenes build to a painful breaking point for him including one scene where one character is seen being beaten with Bibles by kids and adults as a way to fix him.
-Edgerton never pushes it into melodrama, as he is keen on not making his characters basic stereotypes, which could have ruined the film’s impact under other directors.
-As Jared, Lucas Hedges is ideally cast as Jared bringing that soft, innocence to him as we see his identity being stripped from him. It’s a nuanced and deeply internal performance.
-As his parents, Nicole Kidman is made up like the put together church wife, but under her façade, Kidman finds that struggle with knowing her son’s truth, loving and accepting him, while seeing her husband in a very different light. Crowe is forceful and pointed in his convictions. Haven’t seen him like this in years.
-While I wanted more character exploration of the other men in the program, it’s less about the brutality of the program, but the clarity for Jared himself and the relationships he has with parents
-Educational and emotional with an eye-opening look at the dangerous world of gay conversion therapy and the hope that it gets better for many of its victims.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? Powerful and personal, but hopefully one for parents to see and talk about with their kids who may be struggling for acceptance.
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS
BLACKKKLANSMAN (home release pick)
Ron Stallworth was recruited to become a member of the Colorado Springs Police Force in 1972. He’s brought on to be the first black cop in the city. Part of their undisclosed reasoning is to save face with the community as the racial divide grows stronger and tension is mounting. At first he’s stuck in the records room until Ron asks to be promoted to an undercover officer. It’s in his new role where he comes up with a dangerous plan to infiltrate the local chapter of the KKK. He knows he’ll never be able to show his face there in person, so he deals with David Duke and other members over the phone and sends in another officer, played by Adam Driver, to meet the members of the KKK in person.
-Starring: John David Washington, Adam Driver, Topher Grace, Alec Baldwin
-Based on bizarre true story that seems too far-fetched to be true.
-John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth and happens to be Denzel Washington’s son. He’s definitely carrying on the family legacy. He has the swagger, force, and voice of his father. He’s fantastic in this movie and should be considered for awards consideration.
-Be warned you’ll have an uneasy feeling throughout as you remember that this is set in the ’70s but also reflects 2017, 2018
-The script is harsh to hear at times, same goes for the visuals, but that’s Spike Lee’s point. He wants you to be uncomfortable with the language and images you see hurled at the black community at the hands of the KKK.
-Spike Lee directs it with a precise vision on how he balances adding humor set against such a horrific violent images. He plays some of it like satire knowing which buttons of ours to push at any given moment.
-If it doesn’t leave you shaking or have a pit in your stomach by the end, you’re not paying attention. There’s a reason why he released it on the one year anniversary of the Charlottesville riots.
THE HAUNTING OF HILL HOUSE (streaming pick)
The latest Netflix binge is the new mini-series The Haunting of Hill House. It’s been years since the members of the Craine family stepped foot in the mansion they grew up in. Why would they? It is extremely haunted and the site where their mother committed suicide. The five Craine children have grown up each suffering some sort of trauma from their past. Eldest son Steven is a best-selling novelist who wrote about their family’s ordeal to make money, but twins Nell and Luke have suffered the worst fate. Tragedy strikes their family again reuniting the Craines forcing them to deal with their past once and for all. Their relationships are fractured and may never be healed, but it allows for some honest confrontations with the hope they’ll make their way out of it like they did many years ago.
-Starring: Michiel Huisman (Game of Thrones), Elizabeth Reaser (Grey’s Anatomy), Henry Thomas (E.T.), Timothy Hutton (American Crime)
-Netflix Original Series, 10 episodes ranging from 50-65 minutes each
-Inspired by the classic Shirley Jackson novel
-Absolutely gripping from start to finish. Give it a few episodes to build, as it’s a slow burn. The first few episodes are pure character development setting the stage of what happened to these kids and their mother in the house. That being said, each episode goes back and forth between the past and present continually adding to the complexity of what happened in their house.
-Look carefully as writer/director Mike Flanagan and his production team secretly hid dozens of ghosts in various background shots throughout the series adding that extra creepy element that someone or something is always watching us.
-Reminds me of Stephen King’s greatest books in how King and Mike Flanagan put the character development first over cheap scares. You grow to really care and feel deeply sad for these characters.
-There are plenty of thrilling moments causing me to jump off the couch with a few audible screams.
-We watched all ten episodes on Halloween and have contemplated watching it all over again.