When the Bough Breaks: A Documentary About Postpartum Depression


Three brave women discuss that which society deems to be a stigma.

(2016) Documentary (Gravitas Ventures) Brooke Shields (narrator), Carnie Wilson, Aarti Sequeira, Lindsay Gerszt, Diana Lynn Barnes, Bradley Gerszt, Haiti Harrison, Peggy Tanous, Naomi Knoles, Joy Burkhard, Raul Martinez,, Jenna Liddy, Tanya Neybould, Jane Honikman, David Arredondo, Vivian Burt, Jacqueline Goodman, Angela Burliing, Staci Janisse, Randy Gibbs, Candyce Carpenter. Directed by Jamielyn Lippman

 

For a long time women who felt down after giving birth were dismissed as having “the baby blues” or some such. “You’ll get over it,” was the prevailing logic. “Suck it up and get back to cleaning the house!” It hasn’t been until relatively recently that postpartum depression was seen as something serious – and occasionally lethal.

The first smart decision the filmmakers made was getting Brooke Shields involved as a narrator and producer. She in many ways became the face of postpartum depression when she wrote a book confessing her own issues and how she got through it – and was promptly read the riot act by Tom Cruise for admitting to taking medication for it. Some of you might remember that embarrassing moment in the actor’s career.

The genesis of the project was Lindsay Gerszt who suffered from a severe postpartum depression after the birth of her son Hunter. The filmmakers follow her through six years of a variety of different therapies, including acupuncture and electronic stimulation. We see how her husband Bradley copes (or doesn’t) with her situation, which I think is an excellent move on the part of Lippman – depression doesn’t just affect a single member of the family. Everyone has to deal with it.

There are a lot of talking heads here, mainly of women who have been through one of the various forms of PPD and some who have survived the worst of all – Postpartum Psychosis whose sufferers often have religious-based hallucinations and do bodily harm to themselves or their children including murdering them.

We do get some clinical information from various psychologists and specialists but the fact remains that PPD can strike any woman regardless of family history, social standing or culture. There are some things that can make you more susceptible to it (like a history of depression) but it can literally happen to anyone.

The filmmakers do talk about one of the worst aspects of PPD and that’s the stigma attached to it. There’s basically a stigma attached to any mental issue but in the case of Postpartum it really gets in the way of getting well. A lot of women won’t talk about the feelings they have because they are ashamed and feel that they’re “bad mommies.” Postpartum Depression often affects the bonding between women and their babies; women report feeling like they need to get away from their babies and don’t want to be around them. They cry often and sleep a great deal. Even the sight of women and their children in the mall can set off feelings of inadequacy. In some cases that feeling of alienation extends to their husbands/significant others and family members often bear the brunt of the victim’s frustrations and anger.

Again, with celebrities like Brooke Shields and Carnie Wilson (of Wilson-Phillips) coming out to share their experiences, things are getting a little better in that regard but we’re only starting to catch up now. Still screening for Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Psychosis isn’t standard in most states and for some women and their children, that can be fatal.

One of the faults I have with this movie is that it isn’t terribly representative. Most of the women here are well-to-do, live in beautiful homes, drive expensive cars – and most importantly can afford all manners of therapy for as long as they need it. That’s simply not the norm however; towards the end we get the experiences of a couple of families who are less affluent but in both cases it’s sufferers of Postpartum Psychosis whose illness leads to tragic ends. I think the movie would do a whole lot more good if women of less means can relate to the women in the film; I suspect many will look at the movie and say “But I can’t afford any of that” and instead of getting help they do like women have done through the ages and just suck it up, buttercup. It looks like nearly all of the women are from Southern California as well.

I will add this caveat that I saw this immediately after watching HBO’s excellent Cries from Syria which really makes this look a little bit like First World Problems and that’s achingly unfair. Post-Partum Psychosis claims the lives of women and children all over the globe and to put an exclamation point during the end credits, we are informed that two of the women interviewed for the film had taken their own lives since filming had been completed. If you are pregnant, about to be pregnant or know someone who is pregnant or about to be, you owe it to yourself – and them – to give this a watch. It could help you save the life of someone you love.

REASONS TO GO: The filmmakers make some excellent points about the demonization of mental illness.
REASONS TO STAY: Dwells too long on the experiences of celebrities and the rich; I would have liked to see more focus on women who don’t have the means to get six years worth of therapy.
FAMILY VALUES: Some frank discussion of violent events and childbirth as well as some profanity.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The project began when Lindsay Gerszt and Tanya Neybould discussed their postpartum depression with their friend filmmaker Jamielyn Lippman and the three determined to make a documentary about the condition which remains stigmatized.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: iTunes
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/14/17: Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet. Metacritic: No score yet.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Babies
FINAL RATING: 6.5/10
NEXT: The Founder

Advertisements

Deli Man: The Movie


Ziggy Gruber works hard at cooking with love.

Ziggy Gruber works hard at cooking with love.

(2014) Documentary (Cohen Media Group) Ziggy Gruber, Jerry Stiller, Larry King, Freddie Klein, Dennis Howard, Jay Parker, Fyvush Finkel, Mimi Gruber, J. Mackye Gruber, Freddie Roman, Zane Caplansky, Jane Ziegelman, Michael Wex, Adam Caslow, Alan Dershowitz. Directed by Erik Anjou

In their heyday, there were more than 1500 kosher Jewish delis in New York City alone. Now, there’s a tenth of that in all of North America. The great Jewish deli, once a mainstay of American culture, is slowly dying out.

This is a movie celebrating the deli and they choose for their spokesman David “Ziggy” Gruber, a genial man with a bit of a pot belly and an engaging grin. He also has a genuine passion for delis, having grown up essentially in the business; his grandfather founded the legendary Rialto Deli in Manhattan while his dad owned Long Island’s Woodrow Deli. He was stuffing cabbages as a pre-teen.

He would get himself to the Cordon Bleu Institute in England to learn to be a chef, but it was in the deli that his heart belonged. After going to a meeting of Deli Owners and discovering to his shock that nearly all of the owners were in their 70s and 80s and had nobody taking over for them when they retired, he felt that it was up to him to keep the culture alive and so he founded a deli of his own – in Houston.

Don’t laugh. There is a fairly large Jewish population there, as there is in many big American cities. In any case, his business took off and became a huge hit, to the point where he has been opening new restaurants although to date Kenny and Ziggy’s remains his only deli.

The film centers on Ziggy although it talks to various Deli Men from around North America including men from such legendary places as Cantor’s and Nate ‘n’ Al’s in Los Angeles, 2nd Avenue Deli and Carnegie Deli in New York, Kaplansky’s in Toronto and Manny’s in Chicago. They all admit given the labor-intensive nature of deli food and due to the high price of meat (deli tends to be meat-centric) the low return on investments that are modern delicatessens.

Part of why there are so few delis left is simply attrition. The Jewish communities of Eastern Europe, from where the initial flood of Jewish immigrants came to New York, were all for the most part wiped out in the Holocaust. There are no new immigrants coming to America from that region or at least very few and the children of those who are here aren’t interested in taking over a deli when they could be a doctor or a lawyer. Thus, the recipes for some of these dishes are fast disappearing – Ziggy bemoans that his grandfather’s gravy recipe died with him and that while he can get close, he can’t quite duplicate the taste. It’s easy to understand, given the grueling work schedule of the deli owner, why a lot of modern kids shy away from the business as a career.

The story of the delicatessen is also the story of the Jewish community in America; delis were places that they would gather to eat and became de facto cultural centers for the Jewish faith. For many, it was a taste of home, bringing with it the recipes of the old country – I’ll bet you didn’t know that pastrami was a Romanian invention despite the Italian-sounding name. However, with less and less people coming from the old country, the nostalgia factor has become less compelling and even in Jewish homes the meals that later generations grew up with became more Americanized.

We also see Ziggy, who had been married to his calling more or less, find someone who is willing to accept that – his massage therapist/acupuncturist Mimi. When the two decide to tie the knot, he insists on doing it in Budapest, Hungary in the synagogue where his grandfather had his bar mitzvah. If the site of Ziggy, tears streaming down his face, listening to the rabbi speak about the full circle of the grandchild coming to the temple where he breathes the air his grandfather breathed doesn’t make you misty-eyed, well, you are made of sterner stuff than I. I found him an engaging man, one who his brother said, not unkindly, that he was an 80-year-old Jew even as a child. He definitely seems to be an old soul and I’d love to sit down with him for an hour and just chat but I’d be willing to bet that it is a rare thing that he has an hour to spare for such pastimes.

Critic Sean Howley advised me not to see this hungry and it is sound advice. At the very least you will be jonesing for some good deli sandwiches after seeing this and the very next day I headed over to TooJays, our local deli. Matzoh Ball soup, pastrami on rye, carrot cake and a Dr. Brown’s celery soda. Oy vey it was delicious!

Gastronomy aside, the movie is surprisingly informative but doesn’t ever condescend. There are a number of Yiddish terms sprinkled throughout but they are thoughtfully defined with on-screen graphics in case you don’t speak it or haven’t been around it. There is a joy in what these deli men do, and even if they sometimes shake their heads in wonder at their own insanity it is clear that they feel what they do is not just a living but a calling. Not everyone feels the call as fervently as Ziggy does but all of them understand that what they are doing is not just piling a sandwich high with corned beef – they’re preserving a lifestyle and a culture that is in danger of disappearing. That makes the case that every time you head out to your local deli to pick up a sandwich, a bowl of soup or a loaf of bread, you are doing more than sating your appetite; you’re helping them preserve something precious. Who knew that grabbing a knish could be so important?

REASONS TO GO: Ziggy makes an ideal face for delicatessens. Informational without being boring and entertaining without being disrespectful. Merges cultural aspects and foodie aspects nicely.
REASONS TO STAY: Will make you hungry. Doesn’t really delve into why delis declined other than the financial.
FAMILY VALUES: There is a little bit of cussing.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Ziggy was once a line cook under Gordon Ramsay.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 3/14/15: Rotten Tomatoes: 65% positive reviews. Metacritic: 60/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: The Search for General Tso
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
NEXT: Wild Card

Final Destination 5


Final Destination 5

The eyes have it.

(2011) Horror (New Line) Nicholas D’Agosta, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, Arlen Escarpeta, David Koechner, Tony Todd, Courtney B. Vance, P.J. Byrne, Ellen Wroe, Jacqueline MacInnes-Wood, Brent Stait, Roman Podhora, Jasmin Dring, Barclay Hope, Chasty Ballesteros. Directed by Stephen Quale

 

By now most filmgoers are at least aware of the movies in the Final Destination series. Starting in 2000 with Final Destination and continuing up to 2009 with the first 3D installment, The Final Destination the formula hasn’t varied much which has been both good and bad. Obviously audiences haven’t tired of it yet for here is the fifth installment of the series.

Like all the other movies, this one begins with a major disaster – in this case, a bridge collapse. Young Sam Lawton (D’Agosta), who works for a paper company whose employees are off to a corporate retreat (but really wants to be a chef which he does part time in the evenings) has a vivid premonition about the event and becomes so hysterical about it that he gets most of his friends off the bus just in time to avoid the catastrophe which happens pretty much as he calls it.

This gets the attention of Agent Jim Block (Vance) of the FBI who wonders how anyone could have foreseen the event without having a hand in it. It also gets the attention of Death who is mighty pissed off that he was cheated of the six or seven souls (out of hundreds) that Sam saved. Apparently Death is a greedy bastard.

The rest of the movie progresses pretty much the same way most of the other movies have – with each of the survivors being whacked by death but not in conventional, easy ways. No, when you piss of Death you have to go in an elaborate, gruesome demise that Rube Goldberg might have loved. How boring would it be if Death just gave them all cancer?

Make no mistake about it, you go to these movies (or rent them or stream them or watch them on cable) for the death sequences. Here the producers literally handicap themselves by telling you that the deaths will occur in the same order they did in Sam’s premonition. So when it comes down to it, his best friend Peter (Fisher), his comely ex-girlfriend Molly (Bell), Peter’s young hot gymnast chick Candice (Wroe), the office Lothario (Byrne), the head honcho (Koechner) and the bitchy secretary (MacInnes-Wood) are all set up for their last rites and you know that each one is coming. The trick is to pull them off in such a way that the audience doesn’t see it coming.

And at that Quale and company excel. The set-ups are not only sufficiently elaborate but also throw lots of red herrings at you; is the gymnast going to be squashed by an air conditioning unit that looks like it’s about to fall? Or be electrocuted in a puddle of water that is forming below the a/c? Perhaps the upturned screw on her balance bar will make it’s way into her eye? Or will it be none of the above.

In almost every death sequence the last applies. The deaths are gruesome yes, but there’s also an element of comedy to some of them and quite frankly, the mis-direction had me again and again. That’s a pretty good feat for any horror film out there.

As with the other films in the series, the cast is pretty much done for looks alone. The young cast are competent enough but none of them really stand out which you would expect since their sole purpose is to be ground up like sausages. The trick is to keep the audience not just entertained but invested and they accomplish that here.

There’s also a nice twist at the end which will have fans of the series having a complete a-ha moment (sharp-eyed viewers might be able to figure it out but you have to look hard because the filmmakers were awfully crafty about it). For my money, this was one of the best films in the series and it left me not minding at all if there’s a sixth installment down the line. Whether there will be is still up in the air – the movie was still nicely profitable but it’s U.S. box office take was significantly down, a troubling factor that might cause the producers to quit while they’re ahead.

This one shows that there is still life in the series given a creative writer and director. However if this is to be the swan song of the series, at least it would go out on top

WHY RENT THIS: One of the best in the series. Nifty twist at the end.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Doesn’t deviate from the formula – except in one significant way at the end.

FAMILY VALUES:  While there’s  bit of foul language, it’s the death scenes – as marvelously inventive and elaborate as they are – that are gruesome and violent. No kids, in other words..

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The company that most of the cast works for is called Presage Paper. Presage means “a sign or warning that something, typically unpleasant, will soon happen; an omen or a portent.”

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: There are some featurettes on the death scenes and how they were created, which you would expect. Otherwise…nada.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $157.9M on a $40M production budget; this was a hit but curiously an international one; the U.S. take of the box office was only $42M.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: My Soul to Take

FINAL RATING: 6.5/10

NEXT: The Final Day of Six Days of Darkness 2012!