Two Movies I Didn’t See in the Theater

You know how when you have a ton of things to do, not much time to write, so all you want to do is write? I have that going on. ( I found time to watch a couple of movies though.) As soon as I get a chance, there are a few books I want to talk about, etc., blah, blah, blah, yadda, yadda. Last night I watched two films. I don’t get to the movies very often, these days I prefer to engage in my entertainment in the comfort of home. Wouldn’t a theater room be grand? But I digress…

I, Tonya

If you, upon completion of viewing this film, can feel anything other than sorry ( compassion) for Tonya Harding, I wouldn’t know what to say to you. So there’s my bias with regard to that. I’d say this review is somewhat spoilery, but then this is a story everyone knows. Or is it? This movie should likely come with a trigger warning for some.

You could start any four year old in lessons in anything, maintain that training for years, figure skating, ballet, gymnastics, swimming, and they would likely become proficient in that skill, good at even. Greatness, however, isn’t so easily achieved. Champions, I think, are born, not made. Tonya Harding was a champion. In a life where her choices were lay down and die or get up and get tougher, she got up. I guarantee you that when Tonya was landing those triple jumps, winning, there were people who were jealous of her, people who hated her for her ability, and people who thought she didn’t deserve success or to win because she wasn’t their idea of what a champion should be, or because they thought that they, or someone else was more deserving. She wasn’t the squeaky clean, girl next door. She wasn’t anyone’s favorite. She was a pretty girl with a ton of talent ( determination, drive, etc.) whose life did not read like the story of a princess. She was a reality in a world that worships the façade.

I watched this film through the filter of my own memories of the events when they occurred, though I no longer watch the Olympics or really any sports competitions, back then, I did. If there’s one thing I wish this film had captured slightly better, it’s that along with that toughness, there seemed to be a genuine, innate, sweetness to Tonya Harding. She wanted to please. She wanted to fit in, to be liked. On some level, she seemed not to understand they were never going to really let her in, that any and all her victories would be issued grudgingly. In that regard, this story is about the deeply rooted hypocrisy of the class system in place in our society, the haves and the have-nots, about hypocrisy in general. At the time of “the incident,” her shock, her reaction, seemed as genuinely horrified as that of anyone else, she believed this was her friend in some way. There’s an early scene where her abusive mother tells her that another skater is her competition, not her friend. But what you see is Tonya wanting it to all be nice. Why can’t they be friends too? Opinion, I think she didn’t have anything to do with the attack on her on-ice rival. I think there were obviously some self-serving idiots glomming onto her and she was more or less oblivious. There are devastating scenes where an older Tonya, late teens, is shown being attacked by her mother. Being physically attacked that way by a parent is nothing less than demoralizing. It’s an animal not only rejecting the cub, but challenging it to fight for its life. There’s a stunning moment of direct address camera/audience, breaking the fourth wall, where “Tonya” says something about her attackers, who they all are. Also illustrated is the lowness to which some were willing to aspire to get a story.

I didn’t watch the Academy Awards, because I don’t watch that competition anymore either, but Margot Robbie should have won an Oscar for this incredibly nuanced performance. Irony that she didn’t? I was blown away by how good this film is. It also has a great soundtrack. I, for one, sincerely hope Tonya Harding found some peace and happiness.

 

The Beguiled

The Beguiled ( 2017), is a remake of a 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood, based on a 1966 book titled “A Painted Devil” written by Thomas P. Cullinan. I’ve not seen all of the original film, nor have I read the book, so I’ll not be comparing this film to either.

Set during the Civil War, the headmistress and students at a girls school hidden away in the South, find in their midst a real live man in the form of a Union Soldier. These ladies have been there on their own without other company for some time. From there the situation begins to deteriorate into various intrigues and jealousies as each of the ladies finds themselves anything but immune to the charms of their “guest.”

A Southern Gothic, this is generally right up my alley, the Spanish Moss, the long afternoons of southern humidity descending into night. Re-written and directed by Sophia Coppola, it is a visually beautiful film. Sophia Coppola has a certain style, for those familiar with her films, and it is apparent here as well. She won best director at Canne with this movie, the first American woman ever to do so. ( I didn’t know that, again, don’t tend to follow most such things these days.) Critically, there was some controversy surrounding Coppola’s decision not to include some of the original characters, that of a slave and of a bi-racial character. I did read an article about that when the film was originally released. Coppola’s response to that was “[y]oung girls watch my films and this was not the depiction of an African-American character I would want to show them.”[31] Source Wiki. I’m not sure what I think about that in that it was her film and she can make any kind of film she wants to make. On the other hand, I don’t know if that reads like playing to political correctness on her part or not, and my opinion of that is that it’s bad for literature, films, the arts, in general because then the story is lacking something integral to the context of the time in which it is set. I feel like Sophia Coppola held back, however, that may add something to the film as the film is essentially about repression. It is, none the less, a very well done film.

The tension level of this film is off the charts in places carried on the shoulders of Nicole Kidman as Miss Martha. Nicole Kidman is fast becoming one of my favorite actresses, she brings an intensity to everything she does, a focus and clarity that commands attention on-screen. One by one these women, Christian, praying, young ladies, are taken in by this stranger, each of them eager for his attention. trying to charm him as well. His eye is ever on getting out the door in one piece without being handed over to Confederate troops. He’s wounded, needs time to heal. The conclusion is a subtly horrific statement on human nature and survival. I think this one likely deserves another viewing as I’m certain there are subtleties missed to be appreciated. Sophia Coppola perfectly captured the feel of the Southern Gothic, particularly with the final scene of the film. I enjoyed this film.

Until next time!

 

TS