The summer of 2017 has been a very interesting for movies. Listed below is the best movies of this past summer.
1. Wonder Woman
Directed by Patty Jenkins and starring Gal Gadot, this feminist blockbuster finally broke through the boys club solo movie superhero franchise. After watching her superhero brothers in arms have multiple movie franchises of their own, Wonder Woman finally began to tell her own story. It was the perfect combination of light and dark, growing up and classic bad-ass superhero. All in all, I say it was a good movie.
2. The Big Sick
Based on the real life romance of Kumail Nanjiani and his real life wife, Emily V. Gordon, Kumail Nanjiani and Zoe Kazan play out the ups and down of their courtship, including Emily’s extended hospital stay. Also starring Ray Romano and Holly Hunter as Emily’s parents, this film takes the standard romantic comedy and flips it on its head.
3. Lady Macbeth
A young woman is married off to a much older man who is need of a wife and an heir. Living in an isolated English country house, she has an affair with one of the servants. The film has the bone chilling psychology of a feminist Hitchcock thriller combined with the imagery and narrative of a Wuthering Heights adaptation. Starring Florence Pugh, the film is a completely new spin on the traditional BPD (British Period Drama) that goes where few stories in the genre would dare to go.
4. The Women’s Balcony
After the collapse of the women’s section in an Orthodox synagogue in Jerusalem, the men turn to a new Rabbi. The problem is that the new Rabbi has very different ideas than what has been done before. The women are not pleased and take things into their own hands. Despite being set in a very specific community, the film is universal in its message about the consequences of pissing women off.
Set in the ultra-Orthodox community of Borough Park Brooklyn, Menashe (Menashe Lustig) is a widower who has lost custody of his son to his in-laws. He has been told that he can only take his son back when he re-marries, but he is not inclined to re-marry and is trying to prove that he can be a good father without re-marrying. A story of of faith and fatherhood, this film speaks to all of us, regardless about the trials of being a parent and observing the rules we live with.
Like every genre, the romantic comedy genre has it’s standard narrative: the meet-cute, the will they or won’t they, the obstacles to the potential couples happiness and finally the happily ever after. While some movies keep to the standard narrative without doing anything new or different, some movies do.
In The Big Sick, Kumail (Kumail Nanjiani) is a first generation Pakistani-American Muslim. In his world, marriages are arranged. His family sets up a series of meet and greets with potential wives, but none of them click. An Uber driver by day and a stand up comedian by night, Kumail lives a life that is far from the traditional way of life his family is used to living.
Emily (Zoe Kazan) is a grad student. She meets Kumail at one of the comedy clubs he works at and they start dating. Two problems quickly arise: the first is that Kumail is hiding his relationship with Emily from his parents and Emily gets sick. Her parents, Beth (Holly Hunter) and Terry (Ray Romano) at first are not too pleased to have Kumail hanging around with them at the hospital, but then they slowly warm up to him. By the end of the film, two questions must be answered: will Emily and Kumail have some version of a happy ending and will Kumail tell his parents the truth about Emily?
The film is based upon the early relationship of it’s male lead and his real life wife, Emily V. Gordon. Among romantic comedies it stands out not only because of the diversity of the characters, but it also speaks to a modern audience. Regardless of religion or family background, there are many young adults and adults who have chosen move away from the traditional life that they were raised with. There are also many who have married outside of their culture and/or religion, to the dismay of their relations.
While it was a little long for my taste, it was funny and romantic because it felt real and normal. It was not over the top, it was not kitschy and it was just predictable enough without seeing the ending a mile away.
I absolutely recommend it.
The Big Sick is presently in theaters.
When We Were Young And Unafraid is the best play of 2014.
In the early 1970’s, Agnes (Cherry Jones) runs a bed and breakfast while raising her teenage daughter, Penny (Morgan Saylor) on an island near Seattle, Washington. The bed and breakfast is a cover for an underground battered women’s shelter. Mary Anne (Zoe Kazan, granddaughter of the legendary director Elia Kazan) is running from her abusive husband. Paul (Patch Darragh) is one of Agnes’s clients, seeking shelter from his own past. Hannah (Cherise Boothe) came to the island looking for work and the womyns group she has been following.
This play is beyond magnificent. The topics of feminism, homosexuality, abortion, spousal abuse, teenage angst is written in such a way by playwright Sarah Treem that instead of being preachy or soapboxy, it intertwines with the secrets that we all have. Put against the backdrop of the early 1970’s, when the world was changing, this play is dynamic, powerful and everything a play should be.
I highly recommend this play.