Credit: Courtesy of First Run Features
(WOMENSENEWS)--"Maidentrip," which opens in limited release on Jan. 17, is filmmaker Jillian Schlesinger's marvelous documentary about Laura Dekker, the 14-year-old sailor who succeeded in becoming the youngest person to circumnavigate the globe solo. The film chronicles Dekker's fight against authorities who wanted to prevent her journey because of her age, and uses footage shot by the sailor during her voyage; moments where the treacherous sea demanded use of all her skills and those where the boredom of isolation was challenging. A must-see, especially for girls.
"Like Father, Like Son" is Kore-Eda Hirokazu's fascinating drama about how two sets of parents from opposite sides of the tracks react to the discovery that their sons were accidentally switched at birth. Machiko Ono and Yoko Maki beautifully realize the mixed emotions of mothers who must renegotiate their familial relationships in order to do the right thing; whatever that might be.
"G.B.F." is a girl-centric high school comedy in which three popular teens who are competing to be prom queen try to up their ratings by befriending a recently outed gay boy and subjecting him to a prom queen makeover. Irreverence is often a wonderful way to ridicule stereotypes. Not here. This film manages to demean everyone; including the audience. Skip it, and steer teenagers away too.
Jan. 24 Openings
"Run and Jump" is a quirky, tender drama about an Irish family learning to live with a dad who's got a new personality as a result of a brain injury. Into this difficult home environment comes a research scientist (Will Forte) who follows dad around with a camcorder, chronicling his efforts to relearn how to speak and to interact with his wife and children. With marvelously written and performed characters, and genuinely engaging plot twists, the film shuns melodrama and emerges as an affirmation of love and recovery.
"Gloria" is a beautiful romance starring Chilean actress Paulina Garcia as a middle-aged divorced woman who still yearns to explore and enjoy her sexuality. However, in doing so, she opens herself to the same heartbreak that a young girl might suffer over masculine deceptions. A must-see.
"Gimme Shelter" is a drama about a teenager (Vanessa Hudgens) who, desperate to escape from life on the streets, seeks out her father, a Wall Street mogul. Although supposedly based on a real story, the plot is awkwardly predictable. But Hudgens' exceptionally strong performance as the troubled teen is a strong redeeming factor.
Jan. 31 Openings
"Brightest Star" is a coming-of-age, coming-of-love story directed and co-written by Maggie Kiley. The Boy (Chris Lowell) is coached by three strong female characters (played by Jessica Szohr, Allison Janney and Rose McIver) and several male role models on how to become a man. Tepid would be a good word to describe it.
"At Middleton," by contrast, is hot; largely because of wonderful performances by Vera Farmiga and Talissa Farmiga. They play a mother and daughter who've set out on a college admissions tour that takes a turn towards romance when mom falls for a dad (Andy Garcia) who's accompanying his son on a similar tour. The two parents wind up playing hooky from the tour and having a lot of fun.
"Labor Day" has some sizzle too. Kate Winslett stars as a lonely single mom who falls for an escaped convict (Josh Brolin) and allows him to take over her life. His background and their relationship are ever intriguing. Jason Reitman's direction is tops; Winslett and Brolin are superb.
"Tim's Vermeer" is a documentary about the great Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. It's not at all femme-centric, but it is one of my favorite films of 2013, and it was on the Oscars documentaries shortlist. The film chronicles the experiments of contemporary Web master Tim Jenison as he goes about proving that the world's greatest realist painter got his great results by using technology. "Tim's Vermeer" is a fascinating and funny must-see, even though the only woman in it is Tim's daughter, who poses for her dad as he recreates one of Vermeer's most beloved masterpieces.
In addition to covering film for Women's eNews, Jennifer Merin writes about documentaries for About.com and is president of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, a nonprofit organization of the leading female film journalists in the U.S. and Canada. She is also a member of the prestigious Broadcast Film Critics Association.
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