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 justĀ 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

The Rules of Magic

Once upon a time, before the whole world changed, it was possible to run away from society, disguise who you were, and fit into polite society.

It’s the book that your mother loves. Or, like, the book the mothers love in movies about small, sleepy towns and antagonists that dream about a more exciting life but are told by those mothers that you shouldn’t want that because look what could happen. If someone would have told me that this book was written in the nineties, I would have believed it. It’s absolutely stale, and I don’t even mean this in a very negative way, but just because it feels like you’ve seen this movie a hundred times already. It’s comfortable, but never thrilling.

The Rules of Magic is the (“long awaited”) prequel to Practical Magic, which was a book before it was a movie with Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock. Both are about a family of witches, The Rules is just a few decades earlier, so you get New York city of the sixties and seventies, which might be one of the things that make the story appealing. The Owens family is cursed to destroy those they love, so it’s moping about that, destroying (unwittingly) and avoiding anything remotely looking like love. Although it seems to only be about romantic love, else there wouldn’t have been a family at all.

Anyway, there’s nothing wrong about this book, it’s not just very exciting. I wasn’t eager to read on and stay up late, and it’s been a while since I had that with a book which might have made me more impatient.

The Rules of Magic, Alice Hoffman, Simon & Schuster 2017

Strictly Ballroom

94 min.

Remember how it took me little over a year to watch Lore? I’m pretty sure I’ve had this movie on a HD somewhere for the past four – five years. And it being from 1992 – not because it was such a recent production that it was to acquire.

strictly-ballroom-movie-posterBut anyway, to the ballroom. This is a movie by Baz Luhrmann, the Moulin Rouge, Australia, The Great Gatsby man, but before he had the budget (or care) to go as colourful all-out as we’re used to. There’s dancing and bright outfits though, plenty of the both of them.

In a small Australian town, dance hero threatens to lose his shine because he dares to go down barely trodden paths (gasp!). He can’t win the championships like this, and what about the name of the family dance school, but luckily there’s a few female dancers that are still willing to bring him back into the fold Luckily there’s an odd one out, a young talented woman that just needs a chance to shine.

It’s sweet, and quite silly. Right now the romcoms are slowly returning to us, but if you need a real nineties romantic comedy, Strictly Ballroom can definitely help you out.

Strictly Ballroom, Beyond Films 1992

Green Island

My mother Li Min’s labor pains began the night that the widow was beaten in front of the Tian-ma Teahouse.

I’m a sucker for family epics, “spanning decades”. Honestly, you can just get my attention with those two words. Add a not-western background (because honestly, aren’t we familiar enough already with those?) and I’m in. So that’s how I ended up with Green Island.

You follow the main character from birth to seniority, over two continents and through so much political unrest that it’s sometimes boggling to realise that these are real life events. How much do you know about the history of Taiwan, after all?

Shawna Yang Ryan leads you through the casual horrors different governments exercise while juxtaposing it with (immigrant) domestic life, making some chapters almost surrealistic. The narrator is always chafing in her surroundings, sometimes making her annoying, but the story continuously enticing.

Green Island, Shawna Yang Ryan, Alfred A. Knopf, 2016

Searching

102 min.

After finishing this, I don’t know if I should go change all my passwords, or share them with loved ones. Searching is a search through your digital and online presence, and it shows first of all how easy it is to get to everything you share and secondly all the traces Searching film posteryou leave behind.

The search mentioned is by a father for his teenage daughter, and it’s completely shown through iMessage, FaceTime, live news items etc. At first it feels a bit gimmicky, does one really use FaceTime that often, but quickly it becomes uncomfortably intimate. Not just the father scrolling through his daughter’s videos and texts, but also the endless surge of stimulants; hashtags, texts, chats, videos, messages. Give everyone involved time to think, please.

The movie threw me a few times, using red herrings that only add to the feeling of discomfort. As said above: I don’t want to experience all this, but I don’t know how to prevent it either. Except for some decisions to make, but that would spoil the clue.

Searching, Sony Pictures 2018

Salt Creek

Mama often talked of this house when I was a child, and of its squirrels with particular fondness.

For a book of less than 400 pages, this took me quite a long time to finish, mostly because the first 100 – 150 pages are so hard to get into/through. It’s one of those books that are readable when you found the flow of the story, but aren’t particularly called to it, have that feeling that you want to read it whenever you can.

I picked this because it tells about Australian colonists and their relationship to Aboriginals. This – plus the endless, time correct misogyny – makes it often an infuriating story.

The descriptions of life in the Coorong and the backbone of main character Hester balance this out often enough to keep you reading, but it still isn’t an easy, light story. Salt Creek offers a frustrating view on Christian missionaries, traditional ideas that still hurt women and racist views that have never left (since).

View it as an informative slice of life, not as accessible entertainment.

Salt Creek, Lucy Treloar, Picador 2015