Love and Mercy (2015)

What Ingrid Bergman portrayed in Gaslight, Brian Wilson of “The Beach Boys” lived in real life. Exploiting anyone’s insecurity is the key to controlling them, especially in the aftermath of a perfect storm: trauma, pressure to succeed, unappreciated genius and professional relationships with family.

I didn’t watch this as a fan (per se) but by the end was inspired to listen to the work of such an historically influential musician, whose greatest career achievement was considered an absolute flop by critics at the time. Though rumors abound, Wilson himself considers this film to be accurate. His only complaint seems to be the generous depictions of sinister individuals, who were painted too broadly. (Dare I consider it ironic that the biopic’s non-linear structure seems to invoke just as much criticism as the subject’s music?)

Weaving triumph and tragedy through his early career and later involuntary isolation, along with his family life and personal creative process, the movie is a celebration of how a kind and brave wonan came into his life just in the nick of time. I was relieved this didn’t turn out to be a salacious melodrama; horrific suffering took place at the hands of a professional, who took advantage of the fragile mind he was supposed to help heal. Yet love and mercy (as per Wilson’s subsequent song) won. Anything less than an attempt to honor that would disrespect his journey to healing.

Sabrina (1995)

This retold tale of Sabrina, who grew up above the carriage house of her chauffeur father’s wealthy employers, isn’t slapdash like the original (1950s) version, which made me uncomfortable and confused. Upon coming-of-age abroad, Sabrina returns as a fully grown– not to mention sophisticated– woman. The two brothers slated to inherit their father’s company, who still attend lavish parties at the old estate, have differing attitudes toward her maturity. Stodgy, responsible Linus tries to shield Sabrina from playboy, David, on whom she had a childhood crush. The fantasy her father hoped would fade is further thwarted by Linus’ plan to woo her as a distraction. But how long can a workaholic loner remain unaffected by such a smart, vibrant and beautiful woman?

I Think We’re Alone Now (2018)

To pidgeon- hole this as a post- apocalyptic story would be too crass for such a nuanced satire that intimately explores the Human Experience; few films capture such a raw and visceral perspective. One of its co-leads compared this to Harold and Maude, which is apt given its subtle dark humor. However, the isolation the characters […]

The Truman Show (1998)

What was ahead of its time—many people dismissed the premise of a TV studio adopting a child, around which a reality show would be taped, as ridiculously exaggerated—may now seem trivial or irrelevant. The lengths to which The Entertainment Industry will go for an audience (not to mention advertising, including product placement) always surprise us for some reason. In light of the births of current celebrity babies—the mothers of whom take future brand identity into consideration when naming them—it might be wise to revisit this movie and consider the impact of a scenario that’s not likely to be hypothetical for much longer.

Parkland (2013)

I’m always wary of a movie with a plethora of seasoned actors; it has the potential to feel like a required class, in which Hollywood’s upperclassmen sit around chewing scenery. In this instance, I was pleasantly surprised. The true unsung hero, however, is the screenwriter, who not only chose to focus on overlooked perspectives of JFK’s assassination (a story that’s threadbare from handling) but who also prepared a medium through which the stars could best showcase their craft. Texas’ historically underappreciated hospital finally gets its moment in the sun.

American Splendor (2013)

Cantankerous Harvey Pekar’s beefs with everyone around him became the subject of an everyman comic based on his life. His following of underdogs grew until he found himself on Late Night with David Letterman, the antithesis of his entire life so far. The real-life and fictional versions of the lovable loser team up to narrate the story with a few cameos by characters you’ll soon come to know as if they were your own friends.