Review: Book Club

BookClubPoster“Book Club” is a newly released chick flick with a number of great actresses and actors. It’s a story of four friends, now senior citizens, who’ve been meeting up monthly to discuss a book from their reading list. Their next read is “50 Shades of Grey”…

First of all, it’s nice to see a movie about older people. When Shonda Rhymes (the creator of “Grey’s Anatomy”) got an award for including diverse characters in her shows, she said that she’s not diversifying TV but she’s normalizing it. Inclusion of non-white people, sexual minorities and people older than 30 is just an actual representation of the society. It’s actually sad to have to say that it’s refreshing to see older people on screen, especially in the context of love and sex. It should be the norm but it isn’t. Series like “Grace and Frankie” about ladies in their 70s dealing with all sorts of life problems are still an exception to the rule. “Book Club” addresses partially why it is so. We think of older people as being fragile and not being able to take care of themselves. That may be true of some but times are changing. Seniors go to the gym, beat us dirty thirties on runs (so many of them beat me every time I take part in a race!), they study, start new careers and like everyone else want to have sex.

On the top of raising social awareness “Book Club” is just an enjoyable comedy to watch. You know the type: won’t change your life but is a pleasurable pastime that gives you a few laughs and will be forgotten in a week or two. A big advantage of this particular movie is that you can see some great Hollywood actors on screen, including Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda and Andy Garcia, just to enumerate some of them. As a typical romantic comedy it’s oversimplified and things go way too smoothly for the characters but that’s just a part of the genre. I think someone who has read “50 Shades of Grey” will appreciate the movie more (certainly get more jokes) than someone who hasn’t. Please don’t read the book if you haven’t, though ’cause it’s really trashy! I also don’t think reading it made as much impact on anyone as it did on the characters but exaggeration is oh well, yet again a part of the genre.

All in all, if you want some light entertainment, you’ll probably get exactly that out of “The Book Club”. If romcoms irritate you, rather skip this one.

 

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Review: On Chesil Beach

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Let’s talk about sex, baby. “On Chesil Beach” for a movie about sex has very little of it happening on screen so don’t get too excited. This lyrical adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel (check out my review of his novel “Sweet Tooth” here) with the screenplay by the author has just debuted on South African screens. It’s worth a watch, especially if you’re a McEwan fan, but far from brilliant.

Florence (Saoirse Ronan) and Edward (Billy Howle) are in love but come from very different backgrounds. They can talk for hours, have fun together and his family loves her. But are they truly a match? They’ve never had sex or know much about it, which will make their wedding night truly unforgettable and not in the right way.
The narrative in the movie splits between the said wedding night and how the relationship had progressed leading to it. Sounds promising? Perhaps but something went wrong. Maybe it’s just that two hours for an adaptation of a very short novel (or should I say a novella? The Booker Prize Committee seemed confused too!) was just too much screen time, which is why it resulted in lengthy story telling?

The movie certainly addresses a number of interesting issues such as sexual (and general) compatibility, the importance of sex in a relationship, sexual frustration of well-behaved people. I can’t complain about the acting either. The performances by both actors are, in fact, very strong. Seeing that their relation is the focal point of the story, it adds a lot to the movie. You may remember Saoirse Ronan as a young girl from another adaptation of a McEwan novel, “Atonement”. Already there she was a remarkable actress and she doesn’t disappoint in “On Chesil Beach”. She’s detached, calm and perhaps slightly deprived of emotions, just like I imagined Florence when reading the book. Billy Howle as Edward is quite a straightforward guy, at the same time fierce and awkward. Other actors are somewhat peripheral but they do a good job too. I also really appreciate the music and beautiful scenery.
Unfortunately, it was just all not enough to keep my attention through the movie. I really like deep, well-constructed characters but this movie completely forgets that there needs to be some action. Watching the film felt a little bit like watching a couple’s therapy session.

To sum up, “On Chesil Beach” is an okay plus watch. I can see and appreciate what the director and the scriptwriter tried to do there but I’m not buying it as a product. Now to finish off I’ll share with you an amusing anecdote about the writing of the novel: Apparently, Ian McEwan has admitted to taking a few stones from Chesil Beach in a radio interview. He kept them at his desk when writing. This confession caused protests by Mother Nature lovers as that was apparently illegal, which the author hadn’t know about. He ended up paying a fine of 2000 pounds. Go figure, the Brits!

 

Review : Significant Other @ The Fugard Theatre

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So, this is a bit of a pointless review as Significant Other is only playing at the Fugard for a few more days but let’s chat about it regardless…

The storyline is a twist on that of a typical chick flick (so great for a girls night out). Jordan Berman, like much of the Tinderverse, is desperately looking for ‘The One’ and again like the majority of 20/30 somethings is failing miserably in that mission. Unfortunately for him, Jordan is at that age where are his friends are rapidly pairing off one by one. To make matters worse, all of his closest girlfriends keep getting hitched. Forcing him to deal with the following :

a) the associated expenses (bachelorettes, destination weddings, wedding gifts, etc)

b) the plus one conundrum 

c) and the fact is expected to support and be happy for his friends (most of whom he knows are just settling) while he is crying inside because his ‘social life’ (as his grandmother calls it) is basically non-existent.

d) Oh, and the fact that not only is he never the bride/groom but he doesn’t even get bridesmaid privledges. Boo hoo.

As any single girl knows while getting yourself a bit of casual sex isn’t all that hard, finding Mr Right is much easier said than done (let’s hop along and find a unicorn at the end of a rainbow instead!).

For what it’s worth, Significant Other is nice light-hearted bit of entertainment. While it’s not to high-brow or taxing on the brain, I think many will be able to relate to it. We’ve all been THAT single person before. There was some debate as to whether or not people liked the shows ending…and more generally whether or not a person needs to be ok enough with themselves to be single forever or whether they should always continue the search for Mr/Miss Right even if they become bitter in the process? Something for you to ponder in the comments below.

 

Review: Queer Eye

Queer Eye“Queer Eye” is a Netflix reboot of an American reality show, which ran for a few years and was cancelled in 2007. The premise of the old show and of the new one is simple: a number of gay men, known as the Fab Five performs a makeover. A typical formula of an episode is: the Fab Five changes a person’s clothes (Tan), hair and grooming habits (Jonathan), house (Bobby), teaches them something useful in social/cultural life (Karamo) and a tad about cooking (Antoni). I have just finished watching season 2 of the show and I’m happy to share some thoughts.

First of all, I love how “Queer Eye” plays with stereotypes (just look at the title!). Unfortunately, there’s a very limited general perception of gay men assuming they’re all the same in terms of behavior. Obviously, gay men as any other group are very diverse and can’t and shouldn’t be all put in one box. “Queer Eye” is spreading social awareness in that way, giving the audience five men who are gay and that’s pretty much the only thing they have in common. They have different backgrounds, personalities, sense of humor and tasks on the show. Fortunately, they all do get on well at least on screen (I assume off screen too as they demanded to all be paid the same), which makes the show really entertaining to watch.

The Fab Five is based in Atlanta and usually makes over a straight man. Season 1 was a bit too scripted for my liking with the men to be made over seemingly chosen by (an American) social issue to discuss. The chats with the participants aimed at “solving the issues” were at times painful to watch. Season 2 seemed to have been much more free-flowing.
Let’s be real here, I don’t think a makeover can change anyone’s life entirely but it’s definitely a first step in a good direction and it’s nice to watch people grow. Despite this artificiality, which is just a part of reality TV, “Queer Eye” is actually a very entertaining and heartwarming show. It’s really pleasant to see people being nice to one another, especially when they’re seemingly very different. It reminds the audience that at the end of the day, we always have something in common with others. Being bullied ad school (check out my review of “13 Reasons Why, Season 2”), not being accepted by one’s family or just a general struggle with being one’s true self are very widespread problems. Wouldn’t the world be a nicer place if we tried to relate a bit more to one another and focus on what we share rather than on what divides us?

Apart from the educational value of “Queer Eye” there’s a lot of guilty pleasure in watching it. It’s fun to see neglected houses turning into simple masterpieces and men with beards that hide the last two weeks of breakfast in them becoming their best looking selves.It’s a good reality show that you can watch with pleasure when the Cape Town dams are filling up with water due to the rainfalls, during your local winter or whenever you need a pick-me up. I’m really looking forward to season 3!