Ben and Beatriz: A Novel Book Review

Among the thousands of writers that have existed throughout history, there is only a handful who have reinvented or added to stories as we know them to be today. One of them is William Shakespeare.

Katalina Gamarra‘s new romantic comedy, Ben and Beatriz: A Novel was published last month. It is essentially Much Ado About Nothing set among a group of modern twenty-somethings. Beatriz Herrera and Ben Montgomery are as different as night and day. Beatriz is a queer, biracial Latina who can take you down a peg or two with her sharp tongue if needed. Ben Montgomery is an all-American boy who comes from a WASP 1% family whose politics couldn’t be farther from Beatriz’s.

Though they claim to hate one another, underneath that hate is an attraction that cannot be ignored. As their expectations about one another begin to dissipate, there is a question of whether they can be honest about their feelings and their future as a couple.

Fake Out Danielle Brooks GIF by The Public Theater - Find & Share on GIPHY

I was so excited to read this book. Unfortunately, the excitement quickly turned to disappointment. The promises made by the description were not fulfilled. Though the reader is told that Beatriz is queer and trying to hide it because of the political climate, it was barely mentioned. I kept asking myself if it was just being used to pull in readers without truly exploring this part of her persona.

Though the author does a good job of balancing the original text while recreating it in our time, it cannot be overcome by the expectations that were not met.

Do I recommend it? No.

Ben and Beatriz: A Novel is available for purchase in bookstores.

Love in the Villa Movie Review

Romeo and Juliet is one of the most famous love stories in human history. William Shakespeare‘s tale of forbidden love set against a background of two warring families has touched generations of readers and romantics.

In the new Netflix romantic comedy, Love in the Villa, Julie Hutton (Kat Graham) is ready for the week-long vacation with her boyfriend to Verona, Italy. Instead, he decides that it is time for them to go their separate ways.

When Julie arrives in Italy, she discovers that the property she rented has been double booked. Charlie Fletcher (Tom Hopper) arrived at the home first and is refusing to find another place to stay. After they play a game of “top that” to force the other one out, they discover that they have a few things in common. Which of course, grows into a mutual attraction. But of course, there are barriers standing in their way.

Is it cute and charming? Yes. But it is also a little too predictable. That predictability comes from Julie’s GBF (gay best friend) and the return of both of their exes. I wish that the screenwriters would have transformed the narrative from hate to love a little sooner. It was also a bit too long. The last scene could have been cut down by a few minutes. I was almost wanting them to get together just so the movie would end.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Love in the Villa is available for streaming on Netflix.

Look Both Ways Movie Review

We never know how our decisions will impact the path we take in life. The only thing we can do is make lemonade with the lemons we have been given.

The new Netflix movie, Look Both Ways, follows Natalie (Lilli Reinhart). On the eve of her college graduation, Natalie sleeps with her friend Gabe (Danny Ramirez). At a party a few days later, she takes several pregnancy tests. The narrative then diverges into two separate stories: one in which she is pregnant, and another in which she is not pregnant.

In the scenario in which Natalie is pregnant, she stays in Texas. Co-parenting with Gabe, she does the best she can to raise their daughter and gives up her dreams in the process. In the scenario in which she is not pregnant, Natalie moves to Los Angeles with her best Cara (Aisha Dee). Working at her ideal job under Lucy (Nia Long), she starts dating Jake (David Corenswet).

This film is a sweet romantic comedy about accepting yourself and what life has thrown at you. Natalie is certainly a character that is relatable on multiple levels. She knows what she wants, but she also knows that she has to live in the real world.

What made it stand out is that Natalie lives in the real world, not some rom-com fantasy that is so fantastic that it is impossible to believe that it’s real.

Do I recommend it? Yes

Look Both Ways is available for streaming on Netflix.

The Accidental Pinup Book Review

The image that often comes to mind of a pinup model is a caucasian size 2 female wearing barely there clothing.

The new romance novel, The Accidental Pinup, by Danielle Jackson, was published last month. Cassie Harris loves being behind the camera. Her photography studio, which specializes in creating a modern version of the classic pinup, is doing well. She is ecstatic and more than eager to help her best friend, Dana to launch her lingerie line.

Cassie knows that this campaign will send her career into orbit. But it crashes to Earth before it can get off the ground. Dana is going through a difficult pregnancy and is ordered by her doctor to be on bed rest. Adding insult to injury, she is asked to be the model, not the photographer. Taking the pictures is Reid Montgomery, a professional rival with whom she has never got along with.

Though Cassie is far from the typical model (being a plus-sized African-American woman), she agrees to take Dana’s place. The problem is not what she is wearing, it is the fact that Reid will be the one taking the pictures.

As they begin to work together, their working relationship turns into something more. But a secret on Reid’s part may end both the romantic and professional relationship may end before it has a chance to begin.

This book is so good. The fact that this is Jackson’s debut novel just blows me away. I loved Cassie as a heroine. She is everything I want in a romantic comedy leading lady. I love her brain, I love her heart, and I love that she looks like many of the readers.

Though the narrative is typical, it was not super predictable. It is in fact, one of my favorite books that I have read so far this year.

It is spicy, sexy, romantic, and the perfect summer read.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Accidental Pinup is available wherever books are sold.

Wedding Season Movie Review

Weddings are wonderful. The coming together of two people who are ready, willing, and able to what will hopefully be a lifelong commitment is inspiring. It can also be complicated for singles, reminding them of the fact they do not have a significant other.

The new Netflix romantic comedy, Wedding Season, was released on August 4th. Asha (Pallavi Sharda) has no interest in dating or getting married anytime soon. Neither does Ravi (Suraj Sharma). That does not mean that their parents and their larger Indian community believe the same. To ward off pushy parents and nosy neighbors over the course of a summer, Asha and Ravi pretend to start dating.

As it happens with this narrative arc, Asha and Ravi genuinely fall for one another. But when truths are revealed, they will have to make a choice: go their separate ways or forgive what has previously remained unsaid.

This film is cute in a good way. It sort of reminds me of My Big Fat Greek Wedding because it both embraces and pushes off the traditional boundaries of the genre. Asha and Ravi balance each other out nicely. Asha is a Type A and Ravi is a go-with-the-flow type of person. Though the audience knows where the story is going, the predictability level is not as bad as it would seem to be.

The chemistry and believability of the lead actors as a possible couple are excellent. What makes it stand out from other stories of this nature is the world it is set in and the nature of the conflict. While both Asha and Ravi respect their families, they are trying to do their own thing in a culture that is very traditional and does not do well with change.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Wedding Season is available for streaming on Netflix.

Disney Pixar Love GIF by Disney - Find & Share on GIPHY

Flashback Friday: One Fine Day (1996)

Life is hectic. We all have jobs, maybe kids, etc. Some days it feels like we blink and the day is over before we know it.

The 1996 romantic comedy One Fine Day introduces the audience to Melanie Parker (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Jack Taylor (George Clooney). To say that Melanie and Jack have a lot on their respective plates is an understatement. In addition to their busy careers, they are both divorced with young children. Jack’s daughter, Maggie (Mae Whitman) has a penchant for wandering away from the adults who are responsible for looking after her. Melanie’s son Sammy (Alex D. Linz) likes to put things up his nose.

One busy day in New York City will bring Melanie and Jack together in ways that they never expected and force them to see someone they might have missed entirely.

As rom-coms go, this one is not bad. It’s got all of the narrative elements of the genre, but is not entirely predictable or boring. Clooney and Pfeiffer have reasonable chemistry. What makes the film for me is the daily chaos that comes with being a single parent and having to balance a job with raising your child.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Mr. Malcolm’s List Movie Review

Warning: minor spoilers.

Jane Austen, is if nothing else the Queen of the modern romantic comedy. Her tales of love, loss, growth, and sometimes forced humility has entertained fans for over 200 years.

The new movie, Mr. Malcolm’s List (based on the book of the same name by Suzanne Allain), was released in movie theaters last weekend.

Julia Thistlewaite (Zawe Ashton, replacing Gemma Chan) has been publicly spurned and wants revenge. After four seasons on the marriage market, she is still single. The man who spurned her is Mr. Jeremy Malcolm (Sope Dirisu). Mr. Malcolm is the most sought-after bachelor of the season and has the pick of the litter when it comes to his future wife.

To fend off the masses, he has created a list of qualities that a woman must have if she is to become Mrs. Malcolm. When Julia finds out about the list via her cousin, Lord Cassidy (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), she concocts a plan to get back at him. Enlisting her old school friend Selina Dalton (Freida Pinto), she and Lord Cassidy (known to his friend as Cassie) turn Selina into marriage bait. The final result is for Selina to reveal her own list and reject Mr. Malcolm.

But as things tend to go in this genre, the scheme is turned on its head. Jeremy and Selina genuinely fall for one another. Making this love story even more twisted is the addition of Captain Henry Ossory (Theo James). Captain Ossory seems also to be courting Selina, creating a very interesting love triangle.

Though it helps to know something about the regency era and/or Austen’s writing, it is not a requirement to enjoy the film. There is enough to keep the modern fan entertained and laughing.

Like its streaming counterpart, Bridgerton, the main actors all come from different backgrounds. What drew me in and kept me going was the organic romance between Pinto and Dirisu’s characters. These are two people who are perfect for one another, if only they can put down their individual baggage.

My only complaint is that the secondary relationship between Julia and Henry was a little underdeveloped. They are supposed to be the Jane Bennet and Mr. Bingley to Selina and Jeremy’s Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy. The problem is that while Austen fully developed both couples, Allain (who wrote both the book and the screenplay) left Julia and Henry hanging.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Mr. Malcolm’s List is presently in theaters.

P.S. The costumes are gorgeous. Wearing any of them (specifically the ones worn by Pinto) would be a dream come true.

Thoughts On the Persuasion Trailer

If I were to rank Jane Austen‘s novels, Persuasion would be on the top of my list. This story of second chances is one that over 200 years later still hits readers in the heart and sends a few tears down our cheeks.

The trailer for the newest adaptation of the book was released earlier this week.

The film stars Dakota Johnson as Anne Elliot, Cosmo Jarvis as Captain Frederick Wentworth, and Henry Golding as Mr. Elliot. For those unaware, the plot is as follows: eight years before the book starts Anne Elliott and Frederick Wentworth were young, in love, and newly engaged. She was persuaded to end their relationship due to his lack of status and income. Cut to the present and Anne is still single, still hurting from her decision. Wentworth is back in her life. He is a war hero, wealthy, and considered to be a catch. He is also still bitter from their breakup.

I would love to say that I am jumping for joy, but I have a few reservations. I am going to try to keep my concerns at bay because this is only the trailer. Trailers don’t always match up with the full movie.

  1. The dialogue in the scenes that we see so far seems to be loosely taken from the original text. Maybe it’s the Janeite in me, but I would prefer the wording to be as it is in the novel. To paraphrase her brilliant writing (especially in a reboot set in the Regency era) could be seen as a shanda (disgrace).
  2. The casting of Dakota Johnson as Anne. I have nothing against Johnson. I have a bias against American actors playing lead characters in Austen adaptations. It goes back to the casting of Gwyneth Paltrow in the 1996 Emma. Her portrayal of the character rubbed me the wrong way. But who knows, maybe Johnson will prove me wrong.
  3. Her hair should not be down unless it is either the beginning or the end of the day. Only young girls wore their hair loose. By the time they got to their mid to late teens, their hair was up. On a side note, that was my only beef with Sanditon. Charlotte Heywood’s (Rose Williams) hair should have been up.
  4. It comes off a little too rom-com-like. I like a romantic comedy as much as the next person, but Persuasion is not and has never been one. To turn this story into a rom-com is a double shanda and sure to turn off the fanbase.

On the upside, we see the early romance between Anne and Frederick. In previous film versions, the audience is only told about this experience.

That being said, I am willing to have an open mind and not condemn the film before it is released.

Persuasion will drop on Netflix on July 15th.

Role Playing Reaction GIF by Hyper RPG - Find & Share on GIPHY

Flashback Friday: Hope Floats (1998)

After heartbreak, the obvious thing would be to bury your head in the sand and pretend that nothing is wrong. But at a certain point, we have to make a decision as to whether we want to move on or let that heartbreak control us.

In the 1998 rom-com, Hope Floats, Birdie Pruitt (Sandra Bullock) is a former beauty queen whose husband has just revealed on national TV that he is cheating on her. Once the divorce papers are signed, Birdie moves back to her hometown with her daughter Bernice (Mae Whitman). Facing the gossip mongers and former classmates who are loving her public downfall, she runs into an old friend. Justin Matisse (Harry Connick Jr.) has had a thing for Birdie for years and has yet to verbalize his feelings.

As they spend more time together and Birdie starts to open up, she starts to see the possibility of where this relationship could go. But before they can go from platonic to romantic, she has Bernice to consider. Will Birdie be able to date again while being the mother her daughter needs or will she remain in the cocoon of what was?

I really like this movie. It’s a classic 1990’s Sandra Bullock romantic comedy. Though we know how the story will eventually end, I find this film to be charming, entertaining, and deeper than others within the genre.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Throwback Thursday: Roxanne (1987)

Love has a way of making us feel insecure. The question is if we have the courage to tell the one we love how we feel?

The 1987 movie, Roxanne, is a rom-com adapation of Cyrano de Bergerac. C.D. Bales (Steve Martin) is the fire chief in a small town. Known for his extraordinarily large nose, he likes to crack jokes about it. Behind the smartass one-liners are insecurity and fear of rejection. When astronomy student Roxanne (Daryl Hannah) enters his life, D.C. falls hard and fast for her.

Afraid that she will mock him, he uses newbie firefighter and pretty boy Chris (Rick Rossovich) as a conduit to express his feelings. Roxanne believes that Chris and the man behind the letters she has been receiving are one and the same. C.D. knows that he will have to be real with Roxanne, but will she feel the same?

This film is classic Steve Martin. Behind the humor is heart and a deep well of emotion that makes this classic tale feel both timeless and forever modern.

My only issue is that Hannah’s character is sexualized early on in the movie. I understand that this narrative is over a century old. The norms in 1897 are not the norms of today. I appreciate that she was given some depth as a character. But I feel like the scene in which she is appearing to be naked pushes her backward towards a typical female character whose only task is to be the love interest without having agency or a narrative of her own.

I also have to realize that the film is over 30 years old. Though Hollywood has not completely shaken off the idea of limiting women both on and off-screen, the celluloid glass ceiling has been cracked considerably since then.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

%d bloggers like this: