Judy: Renee Zellwegger drags a dead body through London

This is what happens when you mix oxycontin with Bridget Jones. Photo courtesy of Pathe.

Picture skinny little Renee Zellwegger buying a new area rug from RH Modern, and deciding she can get it into her Brentwood house by herself. She pulls it from the front, she pushes it from the back, she doubles it up and rolls it over. Eventually she gets it in, and lays down on it, exhausted. It’s just a beige wool-and-silk blend with the slightest of textural interest, but goddammit, she got it through that door all by herself.

This is Judy, in which Renee, as skinny little Judy Garland, yanks this slug of a movie –  via an incredible performance and sheer will – to its conclusion.  

Before we get to Renee’s Judy, we have to sit through a flashback of Louis B Mayer manipulating a young Garland on the set of The Wizard of Oz, which goes on three times as long as it needs to because the filmmakers think they have to show us what a terrible childhood she had. We know. Anyone interested in this movie knows Garland’s history. If you’re going to use this hacky flashback device, at least reveal something new.

Finally, we get to late-1960s Judy, in a fabulous pantsuit. She’s broke (we know) and forced to dump her kids – Lyanna Mormont and a six-year-old Peter Lorre impersonator – at her ex-husband’s so she can wander the LA night for a place to sleep. She bumps into daughter Liza at a swingin’ party, but if this had actually happened it would come up on my Gay Milestones calendar alert, so it’s conjecture. Judy meets a hustler named Mickey and crashes at his pad. The movie thinks it’ll be too Harold and Maude-ish (even though Judy is barely cougar age) to show whether they slept together, so we have to assume from Finn Wittrock’s jawline that Judy did what any gay man would and boned him.

Judy has to perform in London to earn money to keep her kids out of the clutches of her ex, so she’s off, and once we’re there and Renee has a wardrobe full of amazing size-zero costumes, we can finally watch this movie. Renee pulls out all the Chicago stops to give us great renditions of Judy on stage, and while she treats her personal assistant like shit, she shows a soft spot for the “fairies”, the term she uses for her gay fans. Different time, different wokeness…

Though we get to see wasted Judy screw-up on stage, the movie barely hints at Garland’s addict meanness, which was well known and could have been conveyed with something as simple as eyebrows. At the end of her career, Judy wore a severe arched brow, but it’s clear the filmmakers wanted Zellwegger’s face to remain more open and generous, to garner as much sympathy as possible. They didn’t have to go full Dunaway, but skipping a detail like this while trying to copy everything else so exactly shows a dishonesty.

Nonetheless, Zellwegger is terrific. It’s almost surreal how her face morphs scene to scene from her own to Garland’s to someone entirely distinct from either (Judee Garlegger?). The spectacle of the performance takes us in and out of the picture the same way Garland’s drug addiction took her in and out of the picture, and by the end, as she sits barefoot on stage singing Over the Rainbow, we weep as much for our loss of Judy Garland as we do in gratitude to Renee Zellwegger for allowing us to see her once more.

#movies #moviereview #judy #ratedfritz #reneezellwegger #oscarnoms #bestactress

Once Upon a Time In…Hollywood: Tarantino wants his town back, goddammit

Hooters hasn’t been invented yet, Rick. Let’s just eat here.
Photo courtesy of Columbia Pictures.

Quentin Tarantino rewrote history to give us revenge fantasies against Nazis and slavery. In Once Upon a Time in…Hollywood, he assaults his latest cultural bugaboo: political correctness. Like, you know, going after all these talented studio bosses just because they expect a blow job or two to give someone a movie role. Come on, ladies, even Clark Gable put out! 

The PCness that has hobbled libtard Hollywood, you see, all started back in the late 60s, when TV began to eclipse movies and hippies were everywhere, putting Algernon flowers in old movie cowboys’ six-shooters.

QT’s surrogate here is old movie cowboy Rick Dalton, whose career is waning and who hates hippies so much he should have a show on Fox News. His errand boy, Cliff Booth, is a veteran stuntman, so we’ll assume head trauma and not question his choices. The film is happiest when just following these two around LA on their daily routines, Rick on set or yelling at hippies, Cliff fixing things with his shirt off. They also drive around a lot, listening to perfume commercials.

Leo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt bring their movie star brilliance to Rick and Cliff, respectively, and gosh darn it, we like them so much we almost overlook the fact that these characters, and the movie, are bent on putting women in their place. This is excused by the time period, but you get the sense that Tarantino is enjoying it a little too much.

First we get the hippie chick villains, introduced coming out of a dumpster. Our damsel in distress is a mute, blow-up doll version of Sharon Tate, a stunning but limited actress with a taste for nerdy guys (fantasy much, QT?). And Cliff’s wife berates him as a loser – which is ridiculous because he’s Brad Pitt – so she deserves it when he ‘accidentally’ shoots her with a spear gun. The only female in the entire picture who isn’t either ditzy, deranged or shrewish is a career-obsessed 8-year-old actress, whose sole purpose is to point out that Rick is actually a fine actor, despite his B-movie career. 

Other than a quick glimpse of Charles Manson and a tense scene where we think Cliff might punch smug hippie chick Lena Dunham (he doesn’t, but Tarantino takes care of this in his next film, Once Upon a Time…When I Could Punch Girls), there is an aimlessness to the proceedings that’s unusual for a Tarantino film. Maybe he’s gotten a bit addled, we wonder, until he turrets out his former gonzo self at the very end and lays comically bloody waste to his nemeses.

Think what you will about Tarantino’s style, but his films have never felt defensive and reactionary. Once Upon a Time…comes across less like a paean to a golden past – La La Land, and many others, have done this more earnestly – and more like the angry acting out that we’re seeing from the male establishment being challenged in Hollywood. Blowtorching Squeeky Frome is very Tarantino, yes, but it’s harder to laugh along with him lately.

#movies #moviereview #onceuponatimeinhollywood #ratedfritz #oscarnoms

The Farewell: A Chinese cover-up that goes deep.

Awkwafina rolls with a new crew now. Photo courtesy of A24.

Last year, super-woke Hollywood made Crazy Rich Asians, because we all needed to know what it would feel like to poke our eyes out with solid gold chopsticks. Now that we know, let’s put on a comfy robe and have some dumplings with an authentic Chinese family. 

Awkwafina, her spine still traumatized from having to wear platform sneakers the entire time in Dynasty With Asians, slumps around New York as struggling writer Billi, who doesn’t seem to get that she could reduce her crazy T-Mobile charges by not calling her grandmother in China about every little thing. But it’s sweet that they’re so close, even though the Chinese version of ‘close’ means calling your granddaughter stupid all the time.

The Chinese, being the Russians of Asia, have a hard, practical view on life, and sentimentality is just not in their wheelhouse. So when Billi’s family decides to go to China to say a surreptitious farewell to the grandma, who hasn’t been told she’s dying, Billi is forbidden to join because she’ll give the game away with her feelings.

Billi goes anyway, and what ensues is a funny and touching ensemble piece, as the family slowly cracks under the pressure of the lie. They pretend they’ve come for a child marriage hastily arranged as a distraction, and by the time we get to the reception banquet, everyone has become “overly emotional” Billi, ducking under tables and running for the bathroom to avoid crying in front of grandma, who thinks the hospital puts people through multiple cat scans to diagnose a cold. Who’s really the stupid one, granny?

There’s great stuff both universally relatable and specific to Chinese culture, like the traditional role of food and which of the Westernized family members have remained more authentically Chinese. No one calls out Awkwafina for her rapping, because she’s moved on and they all want to forget that part of her career. 

Billi, representing the younger generation, thinks grandma should be told, so she can make her own choices about how to live the 6 months she has left. The older peeps feel it’s their obligation to carry the awful burden of the news themselves, sparing the grandma by lying to her. I don’t think this is just a Chinese thing, because it made me think what side I’d land on. It took me until the bottom of my popcorn to decide I would tell, so my grandma could hit her bucket list hard, hooking up with a widower on an Alaskan cruise, getting drunk at the Robert Mondavi Winery, and finally having me tell her the real reason I wore an earring in college.

Everyone plays their role so naturally, especially Awkwafina and Shuzhen Zhou (grandmother NeiNei), and the script, written by director Lulu Wang, is so clear-eyed, that this feels like a look at a real, modern Chinese family, not some cartoon version. 

The Farewell is every bit as enjoyable as the crazy rich or big fat ethnic fare we usually get fed. The difference is you still feel full an hour later. 

#movies #moviereview #thefarewell #ratedfritz #awkwafina #oscarnoms #bestadaptedscreenplay