Friday, December 2, 2022

Film Reviews: Gay Romance “Spoiler Alert?” You Will Cry. “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” Is a Fine Adaptation. “She Said” Takes on Harvey Weinstein to Dispute What He Said.

Spoiler Alert (c) Focus Features

Film: Spoiler Alert 
In Cinemas 

“Spoiler Alert” is the third major film to focus on the gay relationships this year, along with “Fire Island” and “Bros,” and it’s interesting to note that the only thing the three movies have in common is Kylie Minogue. Fair. Where the other two films seem to want to highlight some social justice issues along with its slice of gay life, “Spoiler Alert” mainly focuses on the romance of Michael and Kit (yes, very “Knight Rider”) and their 14-year life together before, spoiler alert, Kit dies of cancer. Before then, Michael (Jim Parsons), a writer at TV Guide, and Kit (Ben Aldridge), a graphic designer, seem like the perfect New York couple at the start, despite Michael’s body insecurities and Kit still being in the closet to his parents (Sally Field and Bill Irwin). Although “Spoiler Alert” warns its audience at the get-go, when the Big C diagnosis finally does happen, and the tone of the film changes into the film we all knew it would be, it still manages to tug on the heartstrings, thanks to the performances by Aldridge and, particularly, Parsons. Although he doesn’t completely shed his idiosyncratic mannerisms after ten years of “The Big Bang Theory,” Michael is a bit less uptight than Sheldon and more emotionally effusive. Their relationship starts cute, then before you can say calendar montage, they are already at the couples therapy stage of their lives, which is a bit jarring. The film is the perfect combo of the old and new Lifetime Channel film: the weepy disease of the week and the Christmas love story (just in case you were wondering why this is being released during the holidays, Christmas plays an important part in the plot). Director Michael Showalter, who directed the similarly themed and plotted “The Big Sick,” again shows how he can successfully balance comedy and drama while dealing with illness. Based on the true story and book by Michael Ausiello, the movie feels very authentic, even when dealing with the familiar tropes the film fully embraces (“Terms of Endearment” is name-checked). “Spoiler Alert” may not be the most elegant title for a love story, but it doesn’t lie. 

Lady Chatterly's Lover (c) Netflix

Film: Lady Chatterley’s Lover 
Streaming on Netflix 

Unlike Marion, Emma Corrin’s character in their other film of 2022 “My Policeman,” Lady Chatterley is the one that gets to go to Venice. Both characters are in loveless marriages, but Connie Chatterley has the better deal: she gets to travel (again, Venice), she’s rich and she is having a torrid affair with hunky Oliver, played by hunky games keeper, Jack O’Connell (winning). Based on the scandalous D.H. Lawrence’s novel, Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre’s second film (after “The Mustang”) is a dutiful adaptation, focusing on the bored housewife of the rich Sir Clifford Chatterley (Matthew Duckett), who is injured in WWI and loses all feeling below his waist as well as all sexual interest in her. However, there is the subject of an heir, and Clifford brings up the matter of her possibly finding someone to impregnate her and pass the child off as his. At first appalled by the suggestion, Connie slowly warms to the idea, especially when she starts to find some comfort with Oliver, who is mostly a solitary figure (besides his loyal dog), and complications ensue. This is Corrin’s first lead role after making a splash as the young Diana Spencer in “The Crown,” and they are very good here, making us feel Chatterley’s boredom as well as her lust for life. They and O’Connell have wonderful, lusty chemistry, as two lonely souls reaching out for any connection in this judgmental 19th Century setting. Also good in the cast are Joely Richardson as Mrs. Bolton, Clifford’s caretaker, and Faye Marsay (so good in the first season of the Disney+ series “Andor”) as Connie’s feminist sister, Hilda. There have been many adaptations of Lawrence’s novel, but I have yet to see one that justifies and equals the outrage the novel elicited when it was released in 1928. This one is perfectly fine and expertly crafted (although the score by Isabella Summers feels more like “Wuthering Heights”) – and even with its bittersweet ending, a satisfying watch. 

She Said (c) Universal Pictures

Film: She Said
In Cinemas 

One thing the #metoo movement has never been able to explained is how these horrible men in power got their network of enablers, some of them women, to collude with them, when it was obviously morally, if not criminally wrong. When The New York Times reporter Jodie Kantor (Zoe Kazan) visits the home of a former Miramax financial bigwig and asks about the payouts to accusers of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct and assaults, his wife quizzically asks, “payouts?” To normal people like you and me, these cases seem outrageous, not because they occurred, but because they keep occurring. That incredulous feeling is what kept my eyes and mind rubbernecking to see how Kantor and Megan Twohey (Carey Mulligan) investigate this case. Whether it’s the NDA signed with the aforementioned payouts, fear of retribution or just exasperation that no one will believe them, the women whom Weinstein abused are reluctant to talk to the pair. From very young entry-level employees at Miramax to high-profile actresses like Ashley Judd (who plays herself in the film), the film follows Kantor and Twohey as they start to get a series of victims to open up, and they do, but rarely on the record or with any physical evidence. This may all seem like rather dry stuff, but the acting by these women keeps the story relatable and thus anger-inducing. I could have watched a whole movie focusing on Samantha Morton as Weinstein’s former assistant Zelda Peterson; instead, we only get one scene with her, but it is the best scene in the movie. Director Maria Schrader (“Unorthodox”) keeps things humming along, although there are probably way too many walking and talking on cellphone scenes, especially ones initiated by the reporters. But it’s fascinating stuff, though slightly uncinematic. Kazan and Mulligan are the anchors to this movie as their characters juggle an important story with their home life. I also enjoyed Patricia Clarkson and Andre Braugher as their bosses at The Times as well as luminous Jennifer Ehle and powerful Angela Yeoh as two of the victims. Thankfully, The New York Times reporting did lead to Weinstein’s conviction (and still continuously being tried), but it still doesn’t answer the collusion of his inner-circle. It's sad that two of the most important female-led ensemble films of 2022 have synonymous titles (“She Said” and the forthcoming “Women Talking”), seeming to suggest that most American films rarely have a female, collective perspective. And so it is.

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