Bad Times at The El Royale

141 min.

Wat is het toch met films die niet weten wanneer ze moeten stoppen? Bad Times at The El Royale is heel lang vermakelijk (op een vervreemdende en absurde manier, verwacht geen haha-comedy), maar dan blijven scènes naar het einde toe ineens maar duren en duren. Zet die schaar er toch eens in.

Bad Times at the El RoyaleEen hotel in de jaren zestig met wat vreemde trekjes en nog vreemdere gasten. Klinkt als horror en is het ook een klein beetje, maar doordat elke gast zijn/haar moment krijgt, is het te fragmentarisch om echt spanning op te bouwen. En wanneer de slechterik er is, duurt het dus allemaal net iets te lang (zie vorige alinea).

Had de film iets meer verschoven naar de achtergrond van het hotel dan naar de kartonnen slechterik die te weinig verbinding heeft met de andere gasten. Gaat dit over de onschuldigen die hoe dan ook gewond zullen raken? Hoe ziek de wereld is? Of was er helemaal geen les, en alleen de six pack van Chris Hemsworth?

Bad Times at The El Royale, Twentieth Century Fox 2018

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

When people ask me what I do–taxi drivers, hairdressers–I tell them I work in an office.

Seems like my streak of entertaining and enthralling reads is still going on. Hurray for making the right decisions!

Some people told me that this was a romance, making me frown a bit when getting to know Eleanor Oliphant. First of all, she isn’t in the right state of mind for a romance, secondly, a romance with whom? Do women always need a romantic relationship to show personal growth?

Luckily those people were wrong, Eleanor shows growth because she has to and wants to, and -gasp- is allowed a relationship with a man that isn’t a romantic one. Apologies, that’s a mild spoiler.

As I say so often: if this would have been written by a male author, and the protagonist male, it might have been viewed as Deep and slice-of-life instead of the quick rejection of calling it chicklit because it involves women living life. Eleanor Oliphant showcases character building, motivations and lessons learned without any of it being obnoxious. While being funny from time to time as well.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman, Viking 2017

The Last Mrs. Parrish

Amber Patterson was tired of being invisible.

This was insanely fun, until it got serious, and then luckily got fun again. A story like a roller-coaster, no matter how big a cliche that is. It’s fast, gets a bit scary/ugly at some times, and gives you no break from it.

It starts out with Amber, who’s planning to take a rich woman’s husband and with that, a woman’s life. Take over, there’s no need for murder, although Amber definitely has some murderous thoughts from time to time. She feels grossly neglected by faith and luck and life, so honestly – shouldn’t she grab whatever she can?

Then there’s Daphne Parrish, the delicate rose whom refuses to recognise how good she’s got it, no matter how often she says she does. It’s easy to view Amber as a bit of an angry Robin Hood, but the Constantine sisters (the author exists out of a duo) flip that around, having the reader end up in the ugly part.

And all this with such a tempo that it feels like the story is being poured straight into your brain. I honestly can’t remember downsides to it; it just leaves you with such a ‘FUCK YEAH’ feeling that blemishes are blown away.

The Last Mrs. Parrish, Liv Constantine, Harper Collins 2017

Harlots

8 x 45 min.

Ik kijk/keek een boel televisieseries met vooral vrouwelijke (hoofd)rollen. Best lekker is dat, en dan valt het ook gelijk op dat je met vrouwen ook gewoon allerlei verschillende verhalen kunt vertellen (choquerend!).

Harlots HuluDeze keer gaat het over een stel hoeren ergens rond Middeleeuwen. Er is concurrentie, religieuze fanaten en familieproblemen als slagroom op het dagelijks leven binnen een bordeel.

Op den duur wordt dat zelfs een beetje herhalend, maar gelukkig zijn er genoeg karakters die de boel opfleuren, letterlijk en figuurlijk want de aankleding is geweldig. En die vijfenveertig minuten zijn net genoeg om het fris te houden. Door het vlotte tempo en hoeveelheid verhaallijntjes, is het wel makkelijk om je niet heel begaan bij ieder te voelen. Ja, zij is de slechterik maar dat komt door een grotere slechterik en hoeren zijn ook mensen met karakters en wensen, maar hoe en wat dan precies?

Er is een tweede seizoen; misschien gaat iedereen daarin iets meer de diepte in. Tot dan is het mooi en vermakelijk. Wat ook mag.

Harlots, Hulu 2017

 

Sing, Unburied, Sing

I like to think I know what death is.

There’s a kind of story that is elevated by the surroundings its in. Even though this is the case in Sing, Unburied, Sing, it isn’t always saved by those surroundings. The story is dark and muddy, and there’s no air bubbles to be found in this morass.

Here’s a small, hurting family in the societal backgrounds of the USA. They hurt because of deaths past and future, addictions and crimes. Jojo is the young teenager who the story evolves around, but his drug addicted mother gets to share her angle as well.

If there’s not enough unhappiness around these two, death starts interfering with the living, and the story starts to feel like something the ancient Greeks would use as an example for hell. No matter what you do, misery will follow.

I’m slightly disgruntled because of having read this. Not because it’s badly written or a sloppy story, solely because it’s just full of disgruntlement, big and small. You could read it for the slice of depressing life, but don’t expect any uplifting experience.

Sing, Unburied, Sing, Jesmyn Ward, Scribner 2017

A Place for Us

As Amar watched the hall fill with guests arriving for his sister’s wedding, he promised himself he would stay.

Finally, a story that grabbed me again. One of those that makes you ache for the characters involved, making you wish that you could reach out to them and shake some sense into them.

At first, I got a bit frustrated by the lack of chronology; a story line is never finished before a memory (from another character) intervenes. It took me until much later that this is how humans work: our bodies might follow a chronology, our minds are always connecting things to thoughts past and future dreams. You learn so much about this family because of all the things they remember, worry about and wish for. But gosh darn it, why don’t they just TALK to each other?

Maybe it’s because it’s a Muslim family that uses their traditions as a wall, a shield and a safety net. Maybe it’s because they’re immigrants in the USA, some of them growing up during and after 9/11. Maybe it’s culture and surroundings and character and fears.

But gosh darn it, do you root for them. Do you wish for more pages to set things right, because surely a happy ending is in order here. Until then, you’re stuck with a lump in your throat.

A Place for Us, Fatima Farheen Mirza, Penguin Random House 2018

A Simple Favor

119 min.

Batshit crazy, pretty much the entire story and the people involved. But in such a stupidly entertaining way.

a simple favor posterBesides that, there’s jealousy-inducing wardrobes involved, Anna Kendrick showing that she can act and that Blake Lively can’t play anything other than the Serena Woodsen – good thing her character isn’t the emotional type.

Super mom Stephanie befriends super cool aloof power woman (whom happens to be a mom as well) Emily. Emily has some weird habits, but look at the house and the outfits and the martinis! And then she goes missing.

During what follows, pretty much everyone is a suspect, red herrings and embellishments are thrown out left and right, and the women are well dressed (and Henry Young’s character as well).

Could all this have been cut down to a brighter Gone Girl? Very probably, but the two hours would have been far too much then. Better to just keep it as a sugar rush roller-coaster.

A Simple Favor, Lionsgate 2018