Crip Camp

100 min.

First documentary of the month. An uncomfortable one because really; did anything change in how society handles disabled people in the past fifty years?

Crip Camp is about Camp Jened, but so much more. About the American government lacking in viewing disableds as citizens instead of their disability. They fight (for) laws, but first and foremost for the right of a multi-dimensional life.

The documentary is completely American focused, connecting to civil rights, racism and sexism. That also makes it easy to pretend it’s a local thing, but of course we know better.

That leaves Crip Camp as a reminder of how much change still has to happen to give disabled citizens the room in society they deserve.

Her Royal Highness

“There’s a unicorn on this.”

Her Royal Highness, Rachel Hawkins, Penguin Random House 2019

I find some time to read in between the films. Although you don’t need much time for this 200 page YA novel that is a wish-fulfillment fantasy involving Scottish castles, royalty and a Cool Girl. It’s YA, very obviously. That I didn’t pull out any hair in frustration about dumb teenage actions is a compliment to the author.

Millie likes geology and doesn’t care about her looks. Because of Reasons she decides to do her final year of high school in Scotland. There, she becomes the room mate of a princess. A snooty, tiresome princess but oh no – are those feelings?

It all works: the surroundings, the side characters, the absolutely wonderful love interest. While struggling to get through The Shadow King and seemingly to only pick serious films or duds – this was a breath of fresh air.

Joy

109 min.

I challenged myself to watch a film every day in November. Expect a lot of film posts.

A warning beforehand, this film shows animal abuse and let’s you listen to rape. In case you felt like the title would give you a happy story.

Joy leaves you with questions, although you know the answers to most of them. It’s a surprise that nothing sentimental is added for once: no room for sentimentality with illegal Nigerian sex workers in Austria. Especially not when there’s debt involved. Joy’s one nice decision (taking a younger woman under her wing) backfires, showing there’s no room for niceties.

It’s near the ending where the questions are left unanswered: what do these actions stand for? What is she doing? With this, Joy ends (not completes!) an all too familiar story (immigration for the people back home) on an eerie, unfamiliar note.

The Hater

136 min.

Very shortly put you could say this is about a young man being unable to deal with rejection.

Tomasz doesn’t turn to complaining to friends of family – he doesn’t have either. Instead he puts all his energy into his new job: influencing (social) media for the highest bidder.

This gets personal when he can get to those who rejected him. The horrors of successful online hate campaigns follow.

Main actor Maciej Musialowski manages to look the sociopath without laying in on too thick, but more about his (original) motivations would have made all this even more scarier and clean cut. Or maybe I’m just too attached to getting questions answered (theme of the month?). Maybe some people are fueled by revenge and chaos and nothing more, turning The Hater (original title is Polish) into a “humans are the monsters”-thriller.

A Good Liar

109 min.

Zo’n verhaal waarvan je al snel hoopt dat het af gaat lopen zoals je weet dat het af moet lopen, maar stel je voor dat je wel een ouderwets, outdated verhaal hebt gevonden en met de frustraties achterblijft.

Spoiler: gelukkig loopt het ook zo af. Al neemt de film er wel de tijd voor.

Het leeuwendeel van de film is het opzetten en volgen van de relatie tussen Roy en Betty. Twee senioren die toch nog iets moois bij elkaar vinden, al is dat wel nogal ongebalanceerd: Roy weet dat Betty miljonair is, Betty heeft genoeg aan gezelschap.

Als zijplotje wordt gedemonstreerd dat Roy wel vaker weet waar de centjes zitten, maar is hij dan alleen met Betty voor haar geld? Verdulleme.

De film is dan vooral een demonstratie van Mirren en McKellan in dialoog: heel de clue wordt met dik-hout-zaagt-men-planken neergegooid en gaat te lang door. Ja ja jeetje wat erg allemaal, maar eigenlijk te laat om impact te hebben. Ook wraakfilms hebben een goede balans nodig.

White Ivy

Ivy Lin was a thief but you would never knew it to look at her.

White Ivy, Susie Yang, Simon & Schuster 2020

White Ivy is all over the place. As the summary and blurbs say it’s coming of age, a (second generation) migrant story, but Ivy manages to elevate (and worsen) all of it.

Because Ivy doesn’t fit into any mold. Maybe she doesn’t even have one. It’s maddening how she sabotages and destroys, but looking at her experiences and upbringingā€¦ maybe not that strange. Because how do you handle being left in a country only to meet your parents again after several years? Being the only Asian-Canadian in white surroundings? Having a violent tiger-mother and (mentally-)absent father? Lesser people would have gotten some trauma from that.

Again, sometimes you’re talking to Ivy to just unclench for once, give herself something, let go of all she’s carrying. Please, to give the reader some air to breathe as well.

I won’t share if she does, but it’s been a while since I’ve so rooted for and so disliked one and the same fictional character.

Greenwood

They come for the trees.

Greenwood, Michael Christie, Scribe 2020

It is well-known (here) that I’m a fan of family epics. There’s always the risk that the dullest character gets the most attention but still: throw in clear images of different eras and I’m in.

Michael Christie’s adds trees to his. From cutting to protecting, wood working and dendrology (- yes, I learned a new word), these Greenwood generations are willingly and unwillingly connected to the lungs of the earth.

The story ranges from 1908 to 2038 and with almost 500 pages – goes far and wide through Canada and characters.

The only thing that slightly bothered me was the imbalance between male and female characters and how the latter were all connected to motherhood somehow. I know that some of the historical settings limit female independence and freedom or maybe the male author simply didn’t dare but.. I would have liked to know more about them and their surroundings.

Except for Jake’s. Her 2038 is a loud, environmental warning we should all hope doesn’t turn into reality.

The Jane Austen Book Club

106 min.

Can I still call it contemporary when the film is fourteen years old – anyway it’s “story is based in the same time it’s been filmed”. Not changing the tag, that’s way too long.

They don’t make films like these anymore: wholesome without looking and feeling plastic. Yes, you can see everything coming from a mile away, but it still seems genuine (and all quite brown-ish, but that might just have been the 2010s). It’s also super easily-written sequel material, but I guess there’s no interest for book-focused romances in the 2020s (2030s?).

Female friends at different stages of their (romantic) lives come together for a book club. Solely for Jane Austen books, yes indeed. Time is divided pretty evenly between the four main characters, and none of the story lines are horrible and/or boring.

It all leads to an end with a dopey smile: look at books making things better. Honestly Netflix; I’ll write the sequel for you if the original author doesn’t want to.

Wish Dragon

98 min.

Also known by Aladdin or any other story involving a genie and/or three wishes. Even ‘it’s not laugh, I just want her attention through wealth’ is used. It’s not a bad film, it’s just impressively mediocre.

This time the story is set in a contemporary Asian city and the princess is a young celebrity. She and Din grew up together before her father moved them to have a better chance at life. Meanwhile Din is struggling to get by and basically working to make enough money so he can meet Li Na on “her level”.

Even the genie, this time a wish dragon, paints by numbers. First he’s snotty, than confused, than finally learns that there’s more to life. He’s well-created and okay-ish voiced but – meh. A lot more of the myth(s) behind it would have elevated it to something more; now the entire film is nothing more than the uninspired decision for a rainy Sunday during which we have to slightly entertain the kids until dinner.

Anxious People

A bank robbery.

Anxious People, Fredrick Backman, Simon & Schuster 2020

“This story is about a lot of things, but mostly about idiots.” – don’t say Fredrick Backman didn’t warn you.

A bank robbery turns into a hostage situation but everyone involved is completely incapable of being a decent, well-functioning part of society. The bank robber takes over an apartment viewing, but everyone is more annoyed by this situation than terrified. And the bank robber is nervous and apologetic.

With flash-backs and flash..sides? we learn slightly more about this collection of fools and what made them this way. Backman does this in a quirky way, but manages very well to balance it before it gets annoying. This turns it into a comedy without having claimed to be a comedy, but there’s plenty of saddening details to add layers and depth to “Haha, weirdos!”.

It had me crying at the end. They might be idiots, but weren’t they made that way by situation and society? Saying more would ruin the few (small) surprises; read this for a solid laugh.