School shootings have sadly become just another headline in the evening news. The latest one in Arlington, Texas this week was far from the most important news of the day.
The new movie, Mass, takes this all too familiar event and makes it personal. Written and directed by Fran Kranz, it tells the story of two couples who lives have been upended by one student killing his classmate. Jay and Gail (Jason Isaacs and Martha Plimpton) are the parents of the victim. Richard and Linda (Reed Birney and Ann Dowd) are the parents of the shooter. They meet in a church basement to iron out what led to the shooting and how they can live with their new normal.
This film is important and timely. Kranz’s script is deep, emotional, and speaks to the harsh truth of the reality that comes with an experience such as this. It explores question that lead to school shootings. It is due to mental health, the lack of gun control laws, a combination of both, or perhaps something else that has not even been considered?
Though the screenplay is not as strong as it could be, the interrogation of what leads to one young person killing another on school grounds and its aftermath is potent and unfortunately still too relevant.
*The schedule for the Character Review posts will be changing to Friday (or Saturday the latest from now on).
*Warning: This post contains spoilers about the characters from the William Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing. Read at your own risk if you have not seen the movie. There is something to be said about a well-written, human character. They leap off the page and speak to us as if they were right in front of us, as flesh and blood human beings, instead of fictional creations. In a patriarchal society, a women’s value is based on her virginity. If g-d forbid she is not a virgin and without a wedding ring on her left hand, her reputation (and in some places, that of her family) is in tatters. She is called all sorts of not so nice names and becomes an outcast.
In Much Ado About Nothing, Hero is one of the play’s protagonists. Young, innocent, and sheltered, she is smitten by Claudio and he is equally smitten with her. Unlike her cousin, Beatrice, Hero is beholden to her father, Leonato. She is also not so quick to make judgements about others and has yet to be exposed to the potential heartbreak that comes with love.
Claudio and Hero get engaged in a blink of an eye and if all goes well, will be married in a week. But trouble, as it often does, comes in the most inconvenient of times. Accused by her betrothed and Don Pedro of cheating on him at the height of the marriage ceremony, she faints. When Hero wakes up, Leonato excoriates her for being sexually active and unmarried. Believed to be dead by Claudio and Don Pedro, Hero returns to life when Claudio publicly takes back his accusation and agrees to blindly marry her, not knowing that she is still alive. When the curtain falls, they ride off into the sunset, with promises of what will hopefully be a bright future.
To sum it up: Hero is the moral center of the play. She is a truthteller, but innocent of the games the people play and the lies they tell. She is also stronger than she appears to be. She accepts Claudio’s apology and is willing to give their relationship another chance. While another woman may just decide that he is not worth the heartache, Hero trusts him and their love enough to put the past behind them. She also appears to forgive her father, which again for some women would be impossible to do.
Politics is a strange push pull of personal needs vs. the needs of those who voted for you. It would be easy to say that you became a politician to serve the nation and your constituents. The harder aspect of the job is ignoring your gut instincts for prestige and press.
The discovery that Clinton used personal servers for government business sends Comey and his staff on a year long search to discover if anything untoward was located within her emails. When they come to the conclusion that it was just a mistake by the former Senator/Secretary of State/First Lady and her staff, Comey is torn as to how to proceed. He could keep it within bureau, or make a public statement. His wife, Patrice (Jennifer Ehle) and those who work under him advise Comey to not say anything to the press or or public. But, as we all know, he chose to bring this information into the light.
When a certain reality show star and businessman is elected President (played by a fantastic Brendan Gleeson), Comey does his best to do his job. But when it becomes clear that the new leader of the free world is underqualified, he knows that this man is different than any other who has held the role.
I loved this series. Combining news clips with scenes based from the real James Comey’s book, it is tense, dramatic, and reveals an aspect of the 2016 election that only a few at the time were privy to. If nothing else, it is a reminder of how important the separation of powers is and how democracy if not tended to as it ought to, can quickly disintergrate.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely.
The Comey Rule is available for streaming on Netflix.
I'm a retiree in his seventies. That may not be significant to many, since there is a bunch of us Baby Boomers around. However, in the year 2,000, when I received a diagnosis of Multiple Myeloma, I expected to be dead in three to five years.