(WOMENSENEWS)–“Jenny’s Wedding,” a romancedy written and directed by Mary Agnes Donoghue that opens July 31, should put some extra shine on Katherine Heigl’s star status. Heigl plays the title role, a lesbian whose lifestyle, sexual preference and six-year long partnership with Kitty (Alexis Bledel), her “roommate,” is known to everyone except her conservative parents (Tom Wilkerson and Linda Emond). The progenitors perpetually preach to Heigl to find a good guy to marry. When Jenny decides to come out to her parents because she and Kitty have decided to marry, her announcement turns her family arena into an emotional minefield and puts stress on her relationship. This coming out story, made particularly timely by the long-waited legalization of same-sex marriage, is told honestly and brings humor and compassion to many of the issues still faced by gay couples seeking equality and acceptance. The ensemble cast is wonderful. Heigl helped raise funds for the film’s completion and sets aside the sexist silliness of past roles for which she’s been ridiculed. Here she creates a complex character dealing with substantive issues and feels real. Excelsior!
“The Kindergarten Teacher” is a femme-centric Israeli drama that premiered at Cannes and has attracted a lot of attention on the international film festival circuit. Nira (Sarit Larry) is a school teacher in Tel Aviv who becomes obsessed with Yoav (Ari Shnaidman), a 5-year-old student who speaks in verse, uttering notions of human emotions that are evidently well beyond his own youthful understanding and experience. While straining her relationship with her own child and husband, Nira’s nurturing and protective instincts towards the boy prodigy lead her to behave in ways that raise questions about right and wrong and the world’s need for poetry. A beautiful film. In Hebrew, with English subtitles.
This week’s blockbuster is “Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation,” another chapter — perhaps the final one — in the Tom Cruise/Impossible Mission Force good vs. evil franchise. Slick, stylish, well-shot and full of nonsensically violent plot as always, the film features undeniably thrilling suspense-filled effects, chase scenes and stunning scenic tours of Vienna, London, Casablanca and other hot spots of intrigue. It also spotlights a new female action star, Rebecca Ferguson, playing a pivotal role in the film — without sex scenes or nudity — and who holds her own in wit, commitment and physical skills against the rest of the all-male cast. Ferguson, she’s someone to watch.
“That Sugar Film,” a documentary from filmmaker Damon Gameau, focuses on America’s sweet tooth. It reveals how overuse of the “natural” sweetener poses a serious threat to human welfare and public health, causing a plague of obesity, diabetes, heart conditions and other diseases that afflict contemporary society. The well-researched documentary’s overall thesis is already known to many, but hopefully the doctors, nutritionists, public health officials and sugar-afflicted who present staggering statistics in the film will convince audiences to join the choir that’s calling for dietary reform — or at least get more people to read and heed the labels on prepared foods. This film should be shown to school kids when they’re being taught the principles of good nutrition, and to parents who establish their eating habits.
“A LEGO Brickumentary” is filmmakers Keif Davidson and Daniel Junge‘s documentary about the impact of those colorful little plastic building bricks on individual creativity and economics. Anyone who tinkered with the bricks and other products marketed by LEGO during childhood will be enthralled with nostalgic ecstasy, and those who’ve carried their building skills into adulthood will applaud the marvelous constructions shown in the informative, crowd-pleasing film. Unfortunately, however, scant attention is paid to women’s accomplishments in the LEGOsphere. I always thought of LEGO as an equal opportunity toy, and I’d like to see more women on the screen in this brickumentary.
Two documentaries about famous and influential men who’ve fascinated women also arrive on big screens this week, and both are must-sees. In “Best of Enemies,” filmmakers Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville use ABC’s 1968 nationally televised series of political debates between liberal Gore Vidal and conservative William F. Buckley, Jr., to show the intense rivalry between the two leading intellectual commentators, and their extraordinary disdain for each other. Both men are outstandingly smart, witty and contentious. The film is not only a revelation about male dominance and the influence of privilege in American politics and political history, it also shows how these entertaining debates, ABC’s clever marketing ploy to lift the network out of third place in viewership, actually revised television news coverage. They helped lead to the prevalence of opinion-based news commentary shows presently aired primarily on CNN, Fox and MSNBC, as well as other networks.
“Listen to Me Marlon” is an autobiographical profile of Marlon Brando that’s built on a cache of audiotapes in which the actor recorded himself talking about the events in his life and his feelings about them. Filmmaker Stevan Riley uses archival footage of Brando on screen and behind the scenes — some of it previously unseen — as the film’s visual element. There are no talking heads, no testimonials from friends. It’s pure Brando, and it’s as compelling and psychologically raw as many of his finest performances were. It opened on July 29.
Stay tuned for reviews of films opening in August.
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