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In the twilight of our lives.

(2019) Comedy Doc (Random) Shaina Feinberg, Dave Hill, Chris Manley, Marshall York, Naomi Blecher, Paul Feinberg, Mary Feinberg, Evan Kaufman, Hannah Maria Wood, Ikechukwu Ufomadu, Jeff Seal, Marguerite Stern, Chris Roberti, Prudence Lipkin, Meg Griffiths, Jon Cunningham, Hannah Roze, Montalto Sweet Manley, Daniel Lipkin, Melissa Dougherty. Directed by Shaina Feinberg

 

Death, as has been noted in these pages and elsewhere, is a fact of life. Sooner or later, we all have to deal with death – our own, at the very least. Most of us will see our parents pass away at some point in our lives.

New York filmmaker Shaina Feinberg’s father Paul has passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. One moment he was doing push-ups, then later he’s found dead in his apartment. Shaina, who was close to her dad, is having a hard time dealing with it.

She decides to make a movie about her grief and includes her friends and family, discussing their stories about ghostly encounters with loved ones, dealing with their own grief and generally supporting one another. There is some genuine warmth throughout, interspersed with the kind of ribbing that people who really like each other will share. Three of her friends, including her husband, follow her around throughout like a kind of Greek chorus.

The title isn’t about what you might think it is. In the last couple of years of his life, Shaina’s dad wanted her to create a website with that name – not anything sexual, but a kind of means of hooking up people willing to take seniors from point A to point B and offer platonic companionship while doing it – such an encounter is used as a kind of linking device.

Blessedly short at 60 minutes, the movie is kind of a stream-of-consciousness affair, leaping from one point to the next sometimes with whiplash-inducing abruptness. Feinberg is the very image of the manic pixie dream girl and makes for a compelling guide. Interest in her friends will vary as determined by what you find interesting in people.

There are some moments that are touching and moments that are downright weird. Much is made about singing her father’s favorite song, Leonard Cohens “Hallelujah” at the grave-site but as Feinberg wryly notes, they can’t afford the licensing fee of ten grand. They get around it by humming bits of it and uttering a line or two of the lyrics. You’ll get the drift if you’re not familiar with the song (which is one of the most beautiful Cohen ever wrote, by the way).

I can’t really recommend this because it’s so scattered. Sure, there are some insights but in trying to keep things light it sometimes reduces the impact of them. The film could have used a bit of structure and maybe a bit of self-editing. At the end of the day, this is something like a podcast with delusions of grandeur (which most podcasts have anyway) or more to the point, a home movie with a theme.

REASONS TO SEE: There are some interesting observations. Feinberg is fascinating.
REASONS TO AVOID: Very disjointed and almost aimless. Morbid and full of non-sequiturs.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some adult themes and sexual references.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: This is a follow-up to Feinberg’s short film Shiva, which followed the same format and also dealt with her grief over her father’s passing.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Google Play  PlayStation, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/18/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 93% positive reviews: Metacritic: 80/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The End
FINAL RATING: 4.5/10
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What They Had

The Old Man & The Gun


A couple of screen veterans doing their thing.

(2018) Biographical Drama (Searchlight) Robert Redford, Casey Affleck, Sissy Spacek, Danny Glover, Tom Waits, Tika Sumpter, Ari Elizabeth Johnson, Teagan Johnson, Gene Jones, John David Washington, Barlow Jacobs, Augustine Frizzell, Jennifer Joplin, Lisa DeRoberts, Carter Bratton, Mike Dennis, Tomas “Dutch” Dekaj, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Patrick Newall, Daniel Britt, Leah Roberts, Elizabeth Moss.  Directed by David Lowery

 

The benefits to having a real, honest-to-goodness movie star in your film is that no matter what, there will be something positive about your film because in the case of stars like Redford and Spacek, they have enough screen presence and expertise on how to best utilize it to make any film they’re in just that much better.

 

Forrest Tucker (Redford) is a man getting on in years, but like others his age still shows up at work. Of course, Tucker’s job is robbing banks and he gets a big kick out of getting away with it. Tucker is not the kind of bank robber who terrorizes folks in the bank and thinks nothing of shooting unarmed people; he’s a gentleman who gives an implicit threat, remarks on gee whiz what a shame it would be if he were forced to resort to violence and he really doesn’t want to shoot you because, for goodness sakes, he really likes you. What bank teller or bank manager would not be charmed?

Decidedly charmed is Jewel (Spacek), a widowed horse rancher whose pickup truck breaks down at the side of the road just as Forrest is trying to get away from the cops after a bank job. Spotting the opportunity for misdirection, he pulls over and assists her while the cops go whizzing by. However, the decoy turns into a romance and Forrest feels comfortable enough with her to tell her what he really does for a living over pie and coffee, although she doesn’t believe him at first.

Decided not charmed is Detective John Hunt (Affleck) who is in the bank while it’s being robbed with his two daughters. Burned out on his job to the point where he’s considering leaving the force, the robbery under his very nose gives him motivation to go after Tucker full throttle. Talk about lighting a fire under one’s butt.

The movie rests on the charm of its actors and Redford, Spacek and Affleck have plenty of charm to go around. They also have plenty of talent at their craft – all of them have Oscar nominations (and wins, in some cases) – to sustain the fairly light-tempered movie. Although the running time is only 93 minutes, it seems a bit longer because the story moves along so slowly and is filled with quite a bit of unnecessary material. Still, it is enjoyable to watch old pros (extending down into the supporting cast) do what they do best, even if what they’re doing essentially is a bit of fluff, despite the opportunity for social commentary – Lowery chooses to simply tell his story simply. I can’t really fault him for that.

REASONS TO SEE: Redford, Affleck and Spacek all deliver excellent performances.
REASONS TO AVOID: A little bit too long; could be argued that it’s too low-key as well.
FAMILY VALUES: There is some profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The opening credits are written in the same font as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) which Redford also starred in.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Max Go, Microsoft, Movies Anywhere, Redbox,  Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 2/18/20: Rotten Tomatoes: 93% positive reviews: Metacritic: 80/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Bonnie and Clyde
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
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