September Random Reviews

DVDs:

  • Swimming Upstream – Despite its familiar theme of athletic prowess and determination helping a man rise above his inauspicious beginnings, and its PG-13 rating, this Australian production is not a feel-good family film. It is a story of triumph glued together with harrowing shots of domestic violence and dysfunction. The film plays slightly like revenge against a cruel father, and while he seems to deserve it, I’m not sure the audience does. Click here for the full review.
  • I Am The Cheese – Watching this movie was possibly my punishment for being crass enough not to have liked or understood the bestselling book it was based on, back when I read it as a teen. I Am The Cheese is a loose adaptation of that book, taking liberties with the ending, so must stand alone as a film. Unfortunately, I had to stand with it. Click here for the full review.
  • And Then There Was One – Criticizing this well-meaning film feels like kicking a puppy—a sick puppy—but it’s not a particularly entertaining hour and a half, when what should be a heart wrenching story is undermined by a script that treats its protagonists as saints instead of people. Unfortunately And Then There Was One is too dated and simplistic to bring anything meaningful to the AIDS on film canon, and it doesn’t manage to be a compelling drama outside of the real-life tragedy of the disease itself. Click here for the full review.

Books in Brief:

  • A Complicated Kindness by Miriam Toews – Heartbreakingly, hysterically funny Nomi Nickel is the wry, confused narrator of Toews’ novel about a 16-year-old Mennonite girl whose mother and sister have both disappeared, leaving her to live with her bewildered father in a town that suffocates her with its religious restrictions and limited opportunities. While the book offers fascinating insight into a community that has turned its back on much of the modern world, it’s easy to identify with misfit Nomi.
  • Blackbird House by Alice Hoffman – Billed as a novel, this reads more like a collection of short stories, loosely tied together by a common setting. Imagery and symbolism overwhelm plot in the beautifully drawn but difficult to embrace character studies.
  • Eight Minutes Idle by Matt Thorne – I thought I liked this book, thought it was reminiscent of Nick Hornby, right up to the point where I started to hate it. I thought the narrator was a believably likeable cad, until the likeability was suddenly drained away and the main character’s boring life revealed nothing but monotony. The writing is sharp and engrossing, but the plot and character left me cold.

“The world is not run by thought, nor by imagination, but by opinion.”
Elizabeth Drew
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