Saint Judy


Don’t fence me in.

(2018) Biographical Drama (Blue Fox) Michelle Monaghan, Leem Lubany, Common, Alfred Molina, Alfre Woodard, Ben Schnetzer, Gabriel Bateman, Waleed Zuaiter, Mykelti Williamson, Peter Krause, Aimee Garcia, Kevin Chapman, Gil Birmingham, Roxie Hanish, Rob Brownstein, Fahim Fazli, Samira Izadi, Kim Strother, Allel Aimiche, Anne Betancourt, Peter Jason, Michael Hagiwara, Ceci Lugo. Directed by Sean Hanish

 

Judy Wood (Monaghan) is a lawyer who moved to Los Angeles so that her son (Bateman) can be close to his dad (Krause) from whom Wood is divorced. She gets into the immigration law firm of Ray Hernandez (Molina). She’s expected to churn out open-and-shut cases as quickly as possible, but she latches on to the plight of Asefa (Lubany), an Afghan activist who tried to set up a school for women, which the Taliban took exception to and subjected her to torture and rape. She fled to the United States to request asylum – only to discover that the law didn’t cover women in that situation because women aren’t a minority. Drugged by American prison officials, at the end of her rope, knowing that she will die if she is returned to Afghanistan, Judy is her last hope.

Released in the midst of the Trump presidency when immigration was a hot-button topic, the film boasts a top-knotch cast led by the criminally underrated Monaghan, who has a career full of terrific performances but never seems to get the credit due for her talents. This movie, which pretty much barely created a ripple during its release, is the perfect example. I think that at some point Marvel needs to cast her as a superheroine so that she can start getting the roles and recognition she deserves. Unfortunately, despite some strong supporting performances (particularly from Lubany, Common as a sympathetic prosecutor, Molina and Kruse), the script eschews human drama in favor of emotional outbursts, plot development in favor of pontificating. While nobody can argue with the importance of Wood’s work or the justness of her cause, the movie seems to have taken its title a bit too seriously, which is ironic since the name was given to Wood as a bit of an insult – too good to be true, never met a cause she didn’t stand up for and so on. The movie would have benefitted from less posturing and more insight.

REASONS TO SEE: Monaghan is appealing, leading a stellar cast.
REASONS TO AVOID: On the schmaltzy side.
FAMILY VALUES: There is profanity and the description of a rape.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Dmitry Portnoy, who wrote the screenplay, was a former intern of Wood.
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Amazon, AppleTV, DirecTV, Fandango Now, Google Play, Hoopla, Microsoft, Redbox, Vudu, YouTube
CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/4/21: Rotten Tomatoes: 67% positive reviews; Metacritic: 51/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Erin Brockovich
FINAL RATING: 6/10
NEXT:
Audible

Pick of the Litter – March 2019


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Captain Marvel

(Disney/Marvel) Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Jude Law, Annette Bening. This is the story of Carol Danvers, a human test pilot who becomes one of the most powerful creatures in the universe as Earth is caught in the middle of a war between two alien races. Set in the 1990s, this will be the last MCU film before the finale in May brings to a conclusion the first four phases of the lucrative film franchise with Avengers: Endgame. March 8

INDEPENDENT PICKS

The Hole in the Ground

(A24) Seána Kerslake, James Quinn Markey, Simone Kirby, Steve Wall. In this creepy Irish horror film, a woman struggles to begin a new life with her little boy in a rural environment but her fragile security is shattered by a crazy neighbor who insists her boy is not her son. As the kid begins to change in unsettling ways, she finds a terrifying connection between those changes and a mysterious sinkhole in the woods bordering her house. Is this paranoia on her part or is there something really horrifying going on?  March 1

Saint Judy

(Blue Fox) Michelle Monaghan, Common, Alfred Molina, Alfre Woodard. Based on a true story, a young lawyer starts her life over with her son at an immigration law firm in Los Angeles. She takes on a case in which a Muslim woman, if not given asylum in the United States, will almost certainly be killed if she returns home. The lawyer must find a way around existing laws to save this woman’s life – and a nation’s soul. March 1

Gloria Bell

(A24) Julianne Moore, John Turturro, Michael Cena, Jeanne Tripplehorn. The titular character is a 50-something office worker who lives a bland existence by day but by night hits the dance clubs of L.A. looking for love. One night, she finds it. March 8

I’m Not Here

(Gravitas Ventures) J.K. Simmons, Sebastian Stan, Maika Monroe, Mandy Moore. An old man, estranged from his family, receives terrible news. Lost and trying to make sense of his situation, he turns to his past to discover where things went so terribly wrong and perhaps that it isn’t too late to fix things. March 8

Ash is Purest White

(Cohen Media Group) Tao Zhao, Fan Liao, Zheng Xu, Yi’nan Diao. The girlfriend of a small-time gangster fires a gun to protect him during a fight between rival gangs and is sent to prison for five years for it. When she is released, she hopes to pick up where things left off but that becomes clearly impossible; both parties have changed too much. This is the latest from acclaimed Chinese director Zhangke Jia. March 15

Iceman

(Omnibus) Jürgen Vogel, Andrė Hennicke, Susanne Wuest, Sabin Tambrea. In the Őtztal Alps in 1991, a human body was found in a melting glacier. At first mistaken for a modern hiker, scientists were astonished to find the body was over 5,000 years old. Based on that true event, this movie is a conjecture as to how that man got to his final resting place. The preview is also available on most Virtual Reality services including Oculus Rift, this is one of the first independent features to be so available. March 15

Roll Red Roll

(Sunset Park) Nancy Schwartzman. A two-paragraph newspaper story about two Steubenville High School football players arrested for the rape of an underage girl set off an investigative journalist off to look deeper. What she discovered was a town so invested in their high school football team that they were exposing their daughters to danger to protect their sons. This look at the pervasiveness of rape culture in small town America made national headlines. March 22

Diane

(IFC) Mary Kay Place, Jake Lacy, Andrea Martin, Estelle Parsons. Diane has always been the sort who feels compelled to help others. She also has a son who is dealing with his own drug addiction. With her world quietly beginning to self-destruct around her, Diane must face some elements of her past that she’d sooner forget. March 29