Tag Archives: Biopic

Does Sarah Silverman Have a Point About Hollywood’s “Jewface” Problem?

In today’s media environment, representation is key. After too many years of the Caucasian, Christian, heterosexual male dominating our screens, the call for diversity has only gotten louder and will continue to do so.

Last week, comedian and actress Sarah Silverman called out Hollywood for “Jewface“. In laymen’s terms, it is when a non-Jewish actor plays a Jewish character (ala Kathryn Hahn playing Joan Rivers in the upcoming biopic). Her description of this phenomenon is as follows:

“It’s defined as when a non-Jew portrays a Jew with the Jewishness front and center, often with makeup or changing of features, big fake nose, all the New York-y or Yiddish-y inflection. And in a time when the importance of representation is seen as so essential and so front and center, why does ours constantly get breached even today in the thick of it?”

In response to Silverman’s comments, actor Tony Shalhoub, who plays Rachel Brosnahan’s father in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, (neither of whom are Jewish) said the following:

“We were trained to — at least I was — to not play myself, to play characters and so it’s troubling to me that they’re limiting actors.”

He is right. An actor’s job is to pretend to be someone else. As long as they can play the role, it shouldn’t matter what their ethnicity or family background is. The problem is that too often, a character who is a minority is either ground down to the base stereotype or the actor is Caucasian, but the person they are playing is a POC.

I think she has a point. The problem as I see it is both in casting and the writing. If every performer was hired solely based on their race, religion, or where their ancestors came from, dramatized fiction would be severely limited. While it would be nice to see a Jewish actor playing a Jewish character, I have to be realistic. For me, it comes down to the script. The person I am seeing on screen must be fully drawn. If the writer(s) rely on how they think a Jewish person (or anyone) thinks or feels without making them human, that is where the problem lies.

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Filed under Misc, Writing

Respect Movie Review

When we experience trauma, the emotional scars have a tendency to last long after the event that created the trauma is over. When it resurfaces and starts to take control, there are two options. The first is to look it in the eye and stop running from it. The other is to let it take the wheel.

The new Aretha Franklin biopic, Respect, premiered last weekend. It tells the story of the late and iconic performer in two sections: her early years and the late 1950’s to the early 1970’s, when her career was just taking off. Born and raised in Detroit, Aretha’s parents, C.L. and Barbara Franklin (Forest Whittaker and Audra McDonald) divorced when she was young. C.L. knew that his daughter was a musical child prodigy (played as a child by Skye Dakota Turner) and was more than willing to promote her gift to anyone who would listen. He was also controlling and unwilling to let her make her own decisions when it came to music.

In 1959, the adult Aretha (Jennifer Hudson) is eager to see her dream of becoming a professional musician turn into reality. But after multiple albums, she is at a crossroads. Aretha can either let her father dictate her career or take a chance on going her own way, musically speaking and letting her husband, Ted White (Marlon Wayans) manage her. But the marriage is not all sunshine and roses. While she is on the path to becoming a global superstar, the fight for Civil Rights continues on with Aretha on the forefront.

This movie is amazing. Hudson was born to play this role. She does not merely play the part, she embodies Franklin. There points in which I had to wonder if I was watching a documentary or a fictionalized adaptation of her biography. If this film and Hudson specifically does not walk away with an Oscar, something is wrong with the voting. Though some scenes could have been cut down a little, it is a wonderful film that reminds us of the power of overcoming what holds us back.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Respect is currently in theaters.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Mental Health, Movie Review, Movies, Music, Politics

The United States vs. Billie Holiday Review

There is something about the power of music. A beloved song has a way of making it’s way into the listeners brain, conscious, and perhaps helping to change things for the better.

Billie Holiday is one of the most beloved singers of the 20th century. Though it has been six decades since her physical form left this Earth, her performances and songs continue to leave a mark on fans. The new biopic about her life, The United States vs. Billie Holiday dropped yesterday on Hulu.

The film stars singer/actress Andra Day as Holiday, Garrett Hedlund as Harry J. Anslinger, and Trevante Rhodes as Jimmy Fletcher. The audience follows Holiday as she battles drug addiction, racism, and gets involved with FBI agent Jimmy Fletcher. Woven into the narrative is the iconic and dark song Strange Fruit, which sadly is as potent today as it was during Holiday’s life time.

I really wanted to like this film. Day’s performance is worthy of the accolades she is receiving. Unfortunately, that is where I have to draw the line. Frankly, I was bored. I wanted to be hooked, but I was not. Whatever tension and drama I anticipated was sadly lacking. Especially with Anslinger’s obsession and persecution of Billie Holiday. That should have been more exciting that it was actually was.

Do I recommend it? No.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Hulu, Movie Review, Movies, Music

I Am Woman Movie Review

It’s easy to get on a soapbox and rail against whatever one feels is wrong with the world. But sometimes, it takes art and music to give that needed change life.

I Am Woman premiered last year. Starring Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Evan Peters, and Danielle Macdonald, the movie tells the story of the late singer Helen Reddy. The narrative begins in 1963. Helen (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) is a single mother with a dream of signing a recording contract. Originally from Australia, she is currently living in New York City. Making a living as a lounge singer, it looks like her dream is just that.

Her fate changes when she meets music journalist Lillian Roxon (Danielle Macdonald) and wannabe talent manager Jeff Wald (Evan Peters). Lillian inspires Helen to write her iconic song “I Am Woman“. Jeff straddles to the dual role of husband and manager.

It looks like Helen has everything she has ever wanted. But fame and the constant grind of work begins to take a toll on her private life. Jeff becomes an addict, forcing Helen to take a hard look at her life.

The thing about a movie or television biopic is that it can feel dry and predictable. The womb to tomb story arc has been done to death. But this movie is neither dry or predictable. It is entertaining, charming, and most of all inspiring. I love that the filmmakers wove in their protagonist’s story with the burgeoning second wave of feminism in the 1970’s.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

I Am Woman is streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Movie Review, Movies, Music, Netflix, New York City