What makes a good movie?

June 30, 2012

A San Francisco literary friend and I saw the movie, Peace, Love & Misunderstanding the other day.

“You’re the only one I’d see this movie with,” she said, referring to the fact that her many creative friends had higher brow tastes in movies. “It’s a fairy tale.”  (When you live in a literary world it’s sometimes wise to hide your taste for fairy tales.)

When I go to the movies, I want to step out of the real world with all its troubles and be transported to a fairyland. Most of the time, anyway. I don’t want to be reminded that Germans or any other people committed genocide. I already know that. I don’t want to see a slaughter on the screen.  Kids abducted. Anyone held hostage. Or violence. I don’t want to see men scaling buildings or cars blowing up. I’ve seen the best chase scene ever (Bullit) and don’t need to ever see another. And, gasp! Sometimes, I don’t even want to think about a movie again after the lights come up.

For me, it’s entertainment. Brain candy.  There is, in fact, a place in the world for fairy tales.

There’s enough angst, suspense, agony and grief in the world. I want a movie to help me step out of all that and live in happily-ever-after land.  Usually.

So how would I review Peace, Love & Misunderstanding?  Forget “review.”  It’s a movie about letting go…and letting loose. It’s about relationships between mothers and daughters. Families. And lifestyle. And relationships. And adolescence.

It’s about life.

 Jane Fonda’s performance made this movie. A few years ago Fonda had cosmetic surgery that significantly changed her looks.

Still, she looks good and she can still act. Loved her in this: she’s funny and touching and just knows her craft.  There are so few fun roles for women in their 70s, it was great to see her tap into her comedic talent on screen. She and Keener played against each other very well, too.

Catherine Keener played the kind of uptight character she always does so well–a woman who needs to relax and loosen up.   I’ve always liked her. Young, handsome Chace Crawford just smolders on film and no one lights up a screen with a smile better than Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Even the lesser-known (to me) younger characters were good.

Plus the movie is set in beautiful Woodstock and there’s all the tie dye, music and weed you’d expect.

And yes, there was a happy ending.

I give it four stars for fairy tale schmaltz.*

Next up for my literary friend and me: Michelle Williams in Take this Waltz. Not sure about the happy ending, but we know it’ll have some schmaltz.

And in this day and age, with all that’s going on in the world, I want my schmaltz served up on a silver platter. No one better to do that with redeeming social value than the exceptionally talented Michelle Williams and her costar, Seth Rogen.

How about you? What’s the last good movie you’ve seen and what do you look for when YOU sit in front of a big screen?


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