Booksmart

Directed By Olivia Wilde and Written by Susanna Fogel,, Emily Halpern, Sarah Haskins and Katie Silberman

Starring Beanie Feldstein, Kaitlyn Dever, Skyler Gisondo and Billi Lourd

We’ve all known those “booksmart” people in high school. The intense, driven, over acheivers who lead the debate teams, run for school council, organize the fundraisers, create the yearbook and seem to know the teachers on a first name basis. Molly and Amy are those people. They think they’ve done everything right, while the rest of their classmates have wasted precious time loafing and partying.

When Molly finds out that the kids who have been partying and having fun through highschool have also gotten into prestigious universities and colleges, she loses her mind. Could she have had fun too? Fear of missing out quickly sets in and she is determined that she and Amy will live it up and do something wild on the eve of their high school graduation.

This is a fresh take on the “eve of the rest of your life” genre, entirely from the female perspective, exquisitely written by a dream team of female writers including Susanna Fogel, and brilliantly directed by first timer Olivia Wilde.

It’s been a while since I graduated highschool, but I still related to these two bossom buddies. I don’t think I have seen too best girlfriends so authentically portrayed in a film. Sure there are some cliches and over-the-top situations, but the film nails their chemistry and in the critical moments of the film they are so believable you feel the intensity of their friendship ebb and flow like the real deal. There is one scene in particular, the climax of the film, where I teared up. I don’t recall a moment in Superbad, Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Pretty in Pink where my eyes welled up like that. Molly and Amy were people that I adored and when they hurt, I hurt. And THAT is the power of great storytelling!

Bravo ladies!! I cannot wait to see what you do next!

Angels Wear White

Directed by Vivien Qu, Starring Vicky Chen, Zhou Meijun, Le Geng, Mengan Li and Weiwei Liu

Somewhere by the seaside, a young girl works (and lives) at a motel where she sees things she shouldn’t. While the desk clerk is detained, she checks in a man who arrives at the motel with two young teenage girls and she later sees him go into their room. When detectives come to the hotel to make inquires, she is encouraged to keep quiet by her own desire not to be displaced.

Vivien Qu provides no backstory to the characters and that we come up with our own is part of the beauty of this film. This is a story of the fear, shame and the pressures that come in the way of telling the truth about sexual abuse. Qu’s timing is perfect. The film was shown at TIFF before the onslaught of abuse claims that have berated the film industry and politics, and we are under no illusion that abuse exists everywhere.

To describe the film in detail would take away the experience, for Qu’s film is gorgeous despite the despicable nature of the story. It is a heartbreaking film with a glimmer of hope that everyone should see.

Mary Shelley

Directed by Haifa Al-Mansour, Starring Elle Fanning, Douglas Booth, Bel Powley, Stephen Dillane, Joanne Froggatt, Maise Williams, Ben Hardy and Tom Sturridge

That Saudi Arabia’s first female director brings us a film depicting a woman battling societal norms to carve a place for herself to develop her craft is no coincidence. Haifaa Al-Mansour can relate to Mary Shelley’s experienced as a women in the 1800s striving to find her own voice as a writer and this is where she decided to focus. Al-Masour brings this perspective as well as new meaning to the Frankenstein story in this film.

Mary Shelley began writing Frankenstein when she was 18. It was published anonymously in 1818 when Mary Shelley was 20 years old and it wasn’t until 1823 when the 2nd edition was published that the novel bore her name as the author. ┬áMany believed the novel to be written by her husband, Percy Shelley.

This film takes us to the meeting of Mary and Percy, and through their relationship and other events which we imagine likely contribute to Mary’s novel and what Frankenstein represents.

The cast was decent. Surely there is an English actress who might have been better cast as Mary, but Elle did a decent job as she always does. Bel Powley who plays Mary’s half-sister, Claire Clairemont, was excellent and I would love to see more of her. I suppose I should get around to watching Diary of a Teenage Girl.

There is an abundance of material with the cast of characters that chummed around together in the early 1800s, between Mary Shelley, Percey Shelley, Claire Clarmont, John Polidori and Lord Byron. You could feed a few seasons of a mini-series and someone definitely should.

Overall I enjoyed the film.

Unicorn Store

Directed by Brie Larson, Starring Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Joan Cusack, Bradley Whitford, Mamoudou Athie, Hampshire Linklater and Martha MacIsaac

Brie Larson’s directorial debut is a delight. I admit I was worried. I mean I love Brie’s acting work and have since her early days in The United States of Tara, but this was her directorial debut and a film about a woman who wants a Unicorn from a UNICORN STORE!

There is a genuineness about the film that does not require us to transcend disbelief and decide whether or not there are really Unicorns. This is a film about a woman who is on the cusp of adulthood. She’s bridging that point in time between school and a real job, trying to figure herself out and how she is going to develop independence. She loves her goofy parents but resents her dependence on them. All the opportunities ahead of her seem to conflict with who she is as a person.

Don’t be discouraged by overly critical reviews. The film does get silly at times but it’s fun and the performances are great. There is one scene in particular that I absolutely love and thinking of it puts a huge smile on my face anytime I go into a boardroom at work on a dull day.

Hope Brie directs more. She has a passion, intuition and a genuine joy about her that shines through her film making and we definitely need to see more of it on the screen.

Lady Bird

Directed by Greta Gerwig, starring Saoirse Ronan, Laurie Metcalf, Tracy Letts, Lois Smith and Beanie Feldstein

Greta’s directorial debut is excellent. It is a fresh take on the coming of age teen drama, and a personal story. The protagonist, Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson is played by Saoirse Ronan in a solid performance as this precocious, vibrant and determined teenager. But it is Laurie Metcalf, who plays Lady Bird’s mother Marion, who really shines in this film. I’d love to see her receive a supporting actress nomination for this role. Tracy Letts is also fantastic as her Dad, Larry, Beanie Feldstein is fabulous as her loyal best friend Julie and Lois Smith is brilliant (when isn’t she?) as the Nun at the school. The other major character in this film is the city of Sacramento. Through all of Lady Bird’s lamenting over how she must leave Sacramento and go to college on the east coast, there is a certain reluctant acknowledgement of how it has shaped who she is. I walked away from this film believing it was a loving letter to Greta’s mother and an apology to her hometown.

This is a fun, engaging, heartwarming story. It’s not that it is something that we’ve never seen before, but there is something fresh about its style and presentation. Each generation needs its take and Greta Gerwig is a new voice. Mine had John Hughes.

I particularly enjoyed the film because I personally related to many aspects of the story, one of the most relevant being that my best friend from high school and I saw the film together….Christine and Julie.

Destined to be a coming of age favourite. Looking forward to what Greta does next.