The Irishman (4.5 Stars)
It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (4 Stars)
Ford v Ferrari (4 Stars)
Rocketman (3.5 Stars)
Judy (3.5 Stars)
Bombshell (3.5 Stars)
Richard Jewell (3 Stars)
Harriet (3 Stars)
Breakthrough (2 Stars)
IMDB Benchmarks (Schindler’s List/Lawrence of Arabia)
Nine of this year’s movies are biographies of people, past and present. Biography is always an interesting genre because we do enjoy stories about real people.
Breakthrough is the story about John Smith, and his family. He fell through ice and was underwater long enough to be technically dead but then was revived by events the movie describes as a kind of divine intervention. Although touching in many ways, the movie presumes a certain kind of audience and probably doesn’t work for everyone.
Harriet tells part of the life of Harriet Tubman who, singlehandedly, ran the Underground Railroad for dozens of slaves escaping southern evil. Despite great music and good cinematography, the movie had some gaping holes in character and plot development. What should have been a great movie was somewhat disappointing.
Similarly, Clint Eastwoods Richard Jewell tried to tell the tale of the Atlanta Olympic bombing suspect, who was mistakenly charged. While the movie does a good job of telling the story, Eastwood commits the equal sin of painting the female reporter, whose he doesn’t bother to rename, with bad behavior that she didn’t actually commit either. The hypocrisy ruins the movie.
I love beautiful women and Margot Robbie, Nicole Kidman, and Charlize Theron are three of the most beautiful women ever, but even so, Bombshell doesn’t rise to their full potential. Telling the contemporary story of Fox News and Megyn Kelly, the film is really as fluffy as Fox News can be – it doesn’t really get to the real germ of the problem with Fox News, nor its blonde anchors.
Judy is, of course, about Judy Garland and, with that topic, one would expect a terrific movie. Renee Zellweger won the Best Actress Oscar for her performance here, but she was given a script and direction that were below her level. If you take out Zellweger’s performance, there isn’t a great deal left in this movie.
Elton John is, of course the subject of Rocketman. And this is really a good movie, especially if you like his music. The movie itself has good points, but if you don’t like Elton John’s music, then this movie won’t work for you, period. But if you do, then, of course, see it.
Moving from the music world to the auto industry, Ford v Ferrari is really about a couple of key players in the automobile world of the 1960s. Carol Shelby (played by Matt Damon) takes on the Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts) in a wonderful drama between a titan of industry and a young creative upstart. Although the technical aspects of this movie are clearly the reasons to see it, the interaction between the key players is memorable.
Any movie with Tom Hanks just has to be good, but I wasn’t expecting as powerful a performance as he delivered in It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. The story of Mister Rogers, the steward of the long running children’s television show, Hanks performance draws out the incredible sensitivity of a wonderful human being. Even if you don’t know anything about this show or this person, you will love this movie.
There is not much, however, to love about Frank Sheeran – the mobster enforcer who, reputedly, killed Jimmy Hoffa. In The Irishman, Scorcese’s probable swan song, there is a mobster movie that probably equals the all time great The Godfather!. (Of course, if you can’t handle violence in anyway, then you might want to avoid this movie.)
So this year’s biographies cover a range of people, just like they should – good and bad, old and young, famous and not. Pick the person you want to know more about, and enjoy!