CODA


Ruby sings the blues.

(2021) Drama (Apple) Emilia Jones, Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur, Eugenio Derbez, Daniel Durant, Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Amy Forsyth, Courland Jones, Molly Beth Thomas, John Fiore, Jose Gonsalves, Armen Garo, Garrett McKechnie, Rebecca Gibel, Lonnie Farmer, Kevin Chapman, Owen Burke, Lance Norris, Jared Voss, Emilia Faucher, Marilyn Busch. Directed by Sian Heder

 

CODA stands for “child of deaf adults.” It also is a musical term which signals the cessation of a piece of music. Both terms are apt for this new movie, which is playing currently at the Enzian but also concurrently on the Apple Plus streaming service (see below for link).

The titular child is Ruby Rossi (Jones), a high school senior in Gloucester, Massachusetts (and who will ever hear the name of that fine town without thinking of the Coast Guard rescue swimmer in The Perfect Storm grumping “Gloucester! It’s always some guy from Gloucester!”) whose father Frank (Kotsur) is deaf, as is her older brother Leo (Durant). Every morning she goes out on their fishing boat and helps sell their catch to the local broker before heading off to school. Her mother Jackie (Matlin) is also deaf. In fact, Ruby is the only one in the family who hears and acts as the official family interpreter, signing what others are saying so that her parents can understand what’s going on.

Times are hard and new government regulations is cutting down the profit margin to the breaking point. Ruby is hoping that the family business will sustain them as she expects to be part of it after she graduates high school. However, on a lark, she decides to join the school choir.

It’s not as outrageous a thought as you might think. With her brother and father silent on the boat, she often sings along to the radio or by herself just to hear something, but she is naturally shy and was bullied as a child for smelling like fish when she got to school (which shouldn’t seem to be a big deal in a town like Gloucester whose economy is so wrapped up in fishing) but also because as a child she didn’t have someone to help her learn to talk other than her parents, who speak in the flat tones that deaf people take. She panics at the audition and flees, much to the bemusement of Mr. Villalobos (Mexican comedy star Derbez), the grouch of a choir director – but with the requisite soft heart.

But when she auditions for him privately, he begins to realize that she has a true gift and urges her to apply to the prestigious Berklee School of Music, which he himself is an alum of – but only if she’s willing to take singing lessons from him. This adds a burden onto her already full schedule of working and school, and it seems, something has to break.

She’s also been paired up with comely senior Miles (Walsh-Peelo) to do a duet of the Marvin Gaye-Tammy Terrell classic “You’re All I Need to Get By.” Sparks fly, and as time wears down and they come closer to the big recital (and Ruby’s big audition at Berklee), things begin to get more desperate for the family fishing business, and Ruby is needed more than ever, but will she – can she – give up on her dream in order to help her family?

Now, I’m going to say a few things about the movie and it’s going to sound like this is going to be a real negative review. The plot has been done many times before and there aren’t a lot of chances taken with the narrative or the character development. Particularly in the third act of the movie, there are a whole raft of different emotional peaks that are blindingly, unapologetically manipulative – but fuck if it doesn’t work.

The family dynamic between Jones, Matlin, Kotsur and Durant feels genuine and warm. Yes, there is much bickering but that only serves to make that dynamic feel more realistic. There is an ongoing joke about the parents having loud sex at inappropriate moments which is a nightmare every kid dreads, but even that feels less raunchy than it does affectionate.

Part of the charm are the performances by the principles; Matlin has already won an Oscar for her performance in Children of a Lesser God (a movie that should be considered a classic but for some bizarre reason isn’t) and yes, Jackie is having a very hard time with the notion that her baby girl is ready to leave the nest. Rather than playing it shrilly for laughs, Matlin gives it a gentle, wistful clinginess that she eventually realizes she must put aside; it’s a fine moment in the film (one of many) when she realizes that she must. Kotsur is a bit gruff as Frank, but Frank is a fiercely devoted father and that shines through in Kotsur’s performance.

Jones, an English actress, had to learn American sign language for the part as well as the mechanics of working on a fishing boat; in fact, Kotsur, Durant and her are actually fishing (and in a somewhat surreal trivia fact, on one of the shooting trips they had to take a Fish & Game observer with them, similar to what occurs in the movie). The final scenes – particularly her audition at Berklee – is so magically handled that you don’t mind that you’ve been toyed with, so full of the warm fuzzies you’ll be.

The movie played Sundance earlier this year and was subject of a fierce bidding war. Apple won that, paying out $25 million for the rights to the movie and they should be more than happy with their purchase; this is by far the best movie playing on Apple Plus from an original standpoint. And for those Apple Plus subscribers wondering if they should go out and see it in the theater, by all means do; films like this should be supported as much as possible.

As surrounded by uncertainty as we all are in these times, there’s something comforting in the familiar. You know exactly where this film is headed and pretty much how it’s going to get there, but that’s not the point; like a visit to an oft-visited beloved grandparent’s house, the way there may be familiar but the arrival at the destination is guaranteed to make you feel warm and happy inside.

REASONS TO SEE: The final act is mesmerizing. Matlin and Kotsur deliver terrific performances.
REASONS TO AVOID: Unapologetically, outrageously manipulative.
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity, some sexual content and brief violence.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Unlike the French film this is based on, all of the deaf characters in the film were played by deaf actors.
CRITICAL MASS: As of 8/16/2021: Rotten Tomatoes: 96% positive reviews; Metacritic: 75/100.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Apple Plus
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Pitch Perfect
FINAL RATING: 7.5/10
NEXT:
The Outsider

New Releases for the Week of August 20, 2021


REMINISCENCE

(Warner Brothers) Hugh Jackman, Rebecca Ferguson, Thandie Newton, Cliff Curtis, Daniel Wu, Mojean Aria, Natalie Martinez. Directed by Lisa Joy

In a future where the world’s coastal cities are being flooded by rising oceans, a private investigator of the mind becomes obsessed with a client when she abruptly disappears.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Science Fiction
Now Playing: Wide (also on HBO Max)
Rating: PG-13 (for strong violence, drug material throughout, sexual content and some strong language)

Bellbottom

(Emmay) Akshay Kumar, Huma Qureshi, Vaani Kapoor, Lara Dutta. A spy movie set in India during the decadent 1980s.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Spy Comedy
Now Playing: Cinemark Orlando
Rating: NR

CODA

(Apple) Emilia Jones, Marlee Matlin, Troy Kotsur, Eugenio Derbez. A young girl works as interpreter for her deaf parents, crewing their struggling fishing boat in the morning before school. An impulsive decision to join the school choir leads the tough choirmaster to discover that she has a unique talent, and urges her to apply to a prestigious music school; now she must choose between her dreams and helping her family when they need her most.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Drama
Now Playing: Enzian (also on Apple Plus)
Rating: PG-13 (for strong sexual content and language, and drug use)

Collusions

(Vertical) Tom Everett Scott, Steven Culp, Jamison Jones, Tembi Locke. A police officer goes missing and five high-profile individuals become suspects.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Crime Drama
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grill Sunset Walk
Rating: NR

The Night House

(Searchlight) Rebecca Hall, Sarah Goldberg, Vondie Curtis-Hall, Evan Jonigkeit. After her husband’s unexpected death, a young widow is left alone in the dream house he built for her. But as she begins to experience unsettling incidents, she begins to investigate her late husband’s things and discovers that he may have been into something terrifying and dangerous.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: R (for some violence/disturbing images, and language including some sexual references)

Paw Patrol: The Movie

(Paramount) Starring the voices of Tyler Perry, Ron Pardo, Will Brisbin, Kingsley Marshall. Based on the popular Nickelodeon series, the pups of the Paw Patrol must spring into action when their greatest rival becomes mayor of Adventure City.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Animated Feature
Now Playing: Wide (also on Paramount Plus)
Rating: G

The Protégé

(Lionsgate) Maggie Q, Samuel L. Jackson, Michael Keaton, Robert Patrick. Taken in as an orphan by an assassin, Anna grows to become the world’s most lethal contract killer, but when her mentor and father figure is brutally murdered, she takes it on herself to get revenge, no matter how large the body count may get.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Action
Now Playing: Wide
Rating: R (for strong and bloody violence, language, some sexual references and brief nudity)

Rare Beasts

(Brainstorm) Billie Piper, Leo Bill, Kerry Fox, David Thewlis. A fiercely independent young single mother navigating a dysfunctional family and a misogynistic workplace unexpectedly falls for a young man with traditional marital values.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Dramedy
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grill Sunset Walk
Rating: NR

Risen

(Vertical) Terri Purchase, Natalie Rose, Buffy Anne Littaua, Kenneth Trujillo. After a small town is wiped out by a meteor strike, an exobiologist is called in to investigate strange happenings at the impact site and discovers a horrifying truth that may mean the end of mankind.

See the trailer here
For more on the movie this is the website

Genre: Horror
Now Playing: Studio Movie Grill Sunset Walk
Rating: NR

COMING TO VIRTUAL CINEMA/VOD:

Annette
Barbara Lee: Speaking Truth to Power
Blood Conscious
Collusions
Cryptozoo
Demonic
Final Frequency
(Tuesday)
The Forever Room
(Tuesday)
Habit
Jurassic Hunt
(Tuesday)
Last Man Standing
The Last Matinee
(Tuesday)
Lily Topples the World
(Wednesday)
The Loud House Movie
Moments Like This Never Last
Mosquito State
(Wednesday)
The Outsider
Summer Days, Summer Nights
(Tuesday)
Sweet Girl
Wildland

SCHEDULED FOR REVIEW:

Annette
CODA
Cryptozoo
Final Frequency
Last Man Standing
Lily Topples the World
The Night House
The Outsider
The Protégé
Reminiscence