Lara Croft tries the movies again, Russia takes a cinematic slap, Donald and Helen go RVing
THE LEISURE SEEKER: Like it not, Donald Trump is popping up in the movies. He’s the first voice we hear in this one and later the impetus behind a rally that Donald Sutherland attends and describes as great fun, even though his character is a Democrat. Neither is part of the story here but it’s fun to mention them. They’re part of the film’s stab at being contemporary, which is not that easy to do when the story is about two old people heading out on the road in their 1976 Winnebago. Of necessity there’s much focus on familiar old people issues like medical problems, all the pills they have to take, wet beds and forgetfulness. The film breezes through them as fast as the RV rolls south from Massachusetts to Florida. You see a lot of sights along the way and there’s a sting waiting for you at the end.
The two leads are excellent. Sutherland does a great job of acting early onset, and come-and-go, dementia, Helen Mirren as his wife is strong and cheerful but gets supremely annoyed at his memory lapses. She remains loving though. They’ve been together for 50 years after all. That portrait of a couple still in love is the strongest attribute of this film. It makes up for some lapses, the occasional weak humor, her futile hiding of a medical secret, his recurring habit of lecturing strangers about Hemingway, Joyce and Melville (he was a professor of English literature after all) and the one major down element: his bouts of jealousy about a long-ago relationship that she had. A visit to that guy now living in a retirement home and played by Dick Gregory, the comedian in his last role, is creepy. Most of the movie, even with its musings on the end of life, is easy to take. (5th Avenue) 2 ½ out of 5
OH LUCY! Get ready for a sweet, utterly disarming, absolutely non-formula movie with a few stings hiding underneath that keep it interesting. It’s from Japan, meanders off to California and features a character not often seen in the movies. Setsuko is a single woman, an office drone and unremarkable individual. Her day starts by seeing a suicide at the train station and continues with a co-worker’s retirement party notable for the fake sincerity of the supervisor’s speech. The prospects for Setsuko don’t look any better but she’s about to change completely.
She agrees to take up an English-language course her niece can no longer afford and is charmed by the casual methods of the instructor (Josh Harnett). He has her adopt the name, Lucy, wear a blonde wig and do a lot of hugging. American English is "lazy and relaxed," he says. She, played with winsome dignity by Shinobu Terajima, falls in love and when Josh (and the niece) split for California, she goes after him. She’s coming out of her reticent shell. Her bossy sister, the niece’s mom, comes too and while you expect the usual culture clash comedy, the film takes several turns to foil your expectations. It started as a short masters thesis by Atsuko Hirayanagi who has now turned it into this full-length feature that’s become a hit on the festival circuit. Kôji Yakusho, one of Japan’s most distinguished actors, plays another language student. He was the starred in the super big hit, Shall We Dance. (VanCity Theatre) 4 out of 5
WESTERN: German construction workers building a dam in Bulgaria? This is the stuff of compelling drama? Turns out it is and a very good film at that. German writer-director Valeska Grisebach has a lot on her mind in this story: history, national power, masculinity and above all, her country’s status in the modern world. Is it like the ugly American we used to hear about? Is it acting superior with power lording it over the smaller countries? Has it got things to learn from them? The film is thoughtful and introspective on these themes. And often tense.