Archive for the ‘Romance’ Category

Maggie’s Plan (2016): A Change of Heart

Posted: February 26, 2017 in Comedy, Drama, Romance

Though she would prefer to fall in love, Maggie feels more ready to seek out parenthood more immediately. Identifying a local entrepreneur named Guy, she is completely prepared to use his material to become a mother. She did not predict finding John, a professor at The New College. She develops an infatuation with him and eventually falls in love, even though he was already married to another professor with quite the reputation. She finds her way into a new marriage, with their 3-year-old daughter fulfilling her dreams. As the relationship continues, she begins to regret her decision and believes that John may have been better off with his ex-wife.

Conflicting Personalities/Partnerships: Though John and Georgette may have seemed to be total opposites, their marriage may have worked better than outsiders believed. Maggie’s encounters with John appeared to fit with no complication, but she figured out that something was off after they got married. These conflicts are part of the unpredictability of love, as it seemed that they each changed their behaviors based on how they were paired off with each other. John, in particular, had personality changes based on the woman to which he was married. With Georgette, he took a more supportive role based on her drive as an academic. With Maggie, he became dependent and less passionate.

Plans versus Fate: One of Maggie’s biggest challenges was her need for control. While wanting a child is a natural element, seeking out science to speed up the process is less so. She set up her opportunity to conceive without a committed relationship, but started to fall in love with John and created conflicts within herself about what she wanted. When the marriage started to fail, she tried to take control again. While her plan to meddle with Georgette’s and John’s love lives may have worked out the way she wanted, she did not anticipate Guy showing back up.

Greta’s Quirky Life: Greta Gerwig seems to play a typical type of character in her films. She is extremely intelligent but also seems to play into a stereotype of being lost in what she wants out of love. This was mirrored in her other films like Frances Ha  and Mistress America. In some cases, her romance stories are flighty, quirky, and entertaining; while in others, her love stories are somewhat maddening through their extramarital themes.

Final Verdict: While her dialogue and thought process was entertaining, Maggie’s Plan is a bit of a mixed bag. The themes can be challenging since they highlight infidelity mixed with control issues. At the same time, it is intriguing to watch how the relationships develop through the process of falling in and out of love.

Dan’s Rating: 3.0/5


Life for the Cash family is a little unlike most of the world around them. Ben and Leslie made a choice to take their children into the wilderness and live off of the grid. When Leslie becomes sick and requires greater medical attention, she returns home to her parents. Word eventually makes it back to Ben and the children that she has passed. Ben receives specific instructions from Leslie’s father not to attend the funeral, but he struggles with not being able to give a proper goodbye to his love. With the help and motivation from his children, they set out on a journey to crash the funeral and ensure to fulfill Leslie’s final wishes.

Off the Grid, Not Uncivilized: While the Cash family chose to live outside of conventional conditions, their family certainly had some examples to help any other family struggling to succeed. While Ben’s children followed his instructions and challenging physical and mental regime, he also encouraged their ability to think more critically and challenge his perspective if they had the words to do so. Both parents encouraged their children to be highly intellectual, honest, and critically-minded from a young age. This was best exemplified when staying with family on the way to the funeral, when Ben proved that his children were more knowledgeable about US politics than other children even several years older than his.

Clash of Families: The eccentric nature of the Cash family was not lost on his wife’s family. His father-in-law wanted nothing to do with him and even conspired to take the kids away, citing it was in their best interest to return to a more “normal” lifestyle. When they stayed with their extended family, the dinner conversation became a true battle, as Ben sugar-coated none of the details about his wife’s death or made any apologies for the knowledge and behavior of his children while Dave and Harper clearly tried to shelter their kids from the emotional challenges of the real world. Even within the Cash family, Rellian struggled to understand why the family had to behave so strangely compared to the rest of the world around them.

Heartfelt Roller Coaster: While it initially appeared that Ben was a relatively emotionless leader of his family with a greater focus on physical and mental growth than emotional intelligence, the level to which he cared for his family was always clear. Watching the children deal with the death of their mother to suicide was heartbreaking, with some experiencing strong sadness and Rellian experiencing strong blaming and anger. When confronted with a battle to keep his kids, Ben love for his children became even more clear. The filmmakers made the right choice picking a nontraditional song to turn into a life celebration ballad sung in a folksy way.

Final Verdict: Truly one of the best films of the year so far, Captain Fantastic included some of the best acting from child actors, a strong performance from Viggo Mortensen, and a deeply touching storyline that easily pulled at the heart strings. The children are endearing and the conflict between Ben and his extended family was intense. This is a must-see.

Dan’s Rating: 4.5/5

After suffering a manic-depressive breakdown, Cam Stuart tries to reconnect with his family. Worried about their financial status, Maggie decides that she needs to go get her MBA and find a job to help support them. With no other solution in sight, she convinces Cam to find structure for himself by taking care of their girls. At times, everything seems to be smooth and loving. When everything is not calm, Cam feels at war with his girls, himself, and the world around him. Although she fears for their future, Maggie continues to press through her career and hopes for the best for her daughters.

Honesty & Mental Health: One of the truly amazing pieces of this film was the acting of Mark Ruffalo. Always diving full-on into his roles, he portrayed the variety and the intensity of someone struggling with their manic and depressive swings. At its greatest, he lost control in front of and at his own daughters, often failing to recognize how abusive his behavior appeared. Ruffalo appeared out of control in those most providing the realism this film truly needed.

Reversing Gender Roles: While it is still looked upon as abnormal for women to serve as the breadwinners in a heterosexual marriage while the men serve as stay-at-home parents, there were several moments where the film took a chance to point out the stigma associated with this different family structure. David was challenged by receiving a compliment for doing something that most men would never consider doing (staying at home with the kids). He also felt like an outcast from the other stay-at-home parents, as the only man doing this in his building. For Maggie, she was immediately discriminated against for having children while pursuing a career, even after expressing the independence of her girls and her won ability to work long hours.

Based on True Events: Director Maya Forbes was not just familiar with the story but rather she lived it. Having experienced the manic episodes of her father, she had a unique perspective to express what it was like growing up in an unstable environment. She even cast her own daughter to play her younger self as a child trying to live with and understand the challenges her father presented.

Final Verdict: While imbalanced like Cam Stuart, the film portrays so much heart and growth to maintain intrigue from start to finish. It also helps to have such a phenomenal actor like Mark Ruffalo and a supporting cast including Zoe Saldana’s more tempered performance and the young actresses (Imogene Wolodarsky and Ashley Aufderheide) big personalities.

Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5

Being single is no longer an acceptable practice in society. If not partnered by a certain age, single people are taken to a special hotel to find a mate in 45 days or be turned into the animal of their choice. For David, his time to discover love is now. After his brother failed to meet the deadline, he wishes to avoid the same fate and sets his sights on three different women. Befriending a couple of other men, they discover their matchmaking will not be that easy. Forcing partnerships seems like the only way to avoid their animalistic fate, but it still seems more preferable than being hunted the wild as a single person.

Sterilized Romance: While the hotel was focused on helping people find an ideal mate, the partnering process had been stripped down to seemingly practical methods. Partners with similar physical ailments were matched together because they could sympathize with each other. Guests at the hotel received regular reminders of why the single life was dangerous or wrong. This theme carried throughout the film, as even the slightly more life-filled city seemed a little too serene and calm, with police ensuring that no one was ever left standing around alone.

It’s Truly Tough to Be Single: While the growing sense of dread of running out of time was strong enough at the hotel, life as a single person outside of it was even more devastating. Living in the woods (like animals), single people had to come to grips with choosing to break away from the new societal norms and vow to remain single at all costs. This also meant they were hunted by the guests of the hotel (like animals). Getting captured was the end of their lives, which led them to come to terms with the possibility of death coming for them at any time.

The Evolution of the Belief in Love: One of the truly amazing elements of this film is the way it explores the evolution of David’s understanding of love. It was a life or death situation at the beginning, where even his choice in animal focused on the possibility of a long life. When he became an outcast at the hotel and ended up with the single people in the woods, he locked eyes with the Short-Sighted Woman and finds an instant attraction. This eventually leads to both of them rediscovering what it means to truly care for someone. Feeling like the only two who are out of place, they devise a plan to try to run off and start a life together.

Final Verdict: This is truly a strange one. The acting is on point and the concept is complex and meaningful, but it is somewhat hurt by how consistently drab the overall environment feels. Even in the moments where true love starts to seep in, the world around the main characters feel overly grey. Much of this can be overlooked but it still feels a little too niche for a more general audience.

Dan’s Verdict: 3.5/5

Gerda and Einar Wegener were truly a pair of artists in love. While Einar had already achieved a sense of fame, Gerda was still searching for true recognition of her talent. When she gets the idea one day to have her husband pose for a painting in women’s clothing, the finished work becomes a sensation overnight. While Gerda enjoys playing a game with her husband across gender lines, Einar begins to see himself transitioning into a woman, becoming more comfortable in his feminine persona. As she becomes Lili Elbe in mind and spirit, she chooses to be one of the first male-to-female sex reassignment patients.

Groundbreaking Pioneer: Lili Elbe was a woman by gender far before she underwent surgery, but her story brings to light the fluidity of gender. As Einar, he loved his wife dearly. They had a romance that could not be mistaken for anything else. While there may have been feelings of dissonance in his identity, it was not until the painting that he truly began to explore them. While Gerda was playing a game at first, she quickly realized that something was different about her husband. They never stopped loving each other, but their love was no longer the simple, traditional love of a man and a woman. Their love was transcendent of that definition and personified itself in how she stuck by him even as their romantic love faded with his transition.

Oscar-Worthy Performances: Most of the film was focused on two characters. For Eddie Redmayne’s Einar/Lili, there was a femininity he portrayed throughout the film that fit perfectly for the story. He exemplified feminine qualities of grace of movement and a sense of demure. Just as stunning was the supporting performance provided by Alicia Vikander. 2015 was a huge year for her, as she also starred in the quirky drama Ex Machina. Being in the position of losing your husband through gender transition is something that cannot be easy on either side. There is a loss or redefinition of identity of self and of being part of a pair that Alicia portrayed with stunning grace and kindness.

Uneven Story About Transformation: One of the things that this film is unable to boast is the development of its story. While the acting is phenomenal by its male and female leads, the storytelling keeps an almost quiet, shy tone, failing to explore the depth of the identity to the extent it could. There was little inner dialogue that could be determined from the relationship between Gerda and Einar/Lili, but rather focusing on some simple dialogue and non-verbal acting. Including the additional story about Gerda’s reconnection with childhood friend, Hans Axgil (Matthias Schoenaerts), seemed to distract from one of the most important times of the transformation into Lili. Making the decision to get the surgery seemed like something that was rushed at the end of a story that had been elongated up to that point.

Final Verdict: While the screenplay may not have been the strongest of last year, the acting in the film was definitely toward the top. Eddie Redmayne and Alicia Vikander were truly stunning in their roles and transformations as a couple. The topic is also quite timely, as politically there are plenty of questions about society’s acceptance of the transgender community.

Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5

AgeofAdalinePoster640Adaline Bowman, a woman born in 1908, met with an unfortunate accident at the age of 29. After careening off of the road and getting submerged underwater, a magical collection of events saved her life but also took away her body’s natural ability to age. Stuck at the age of 29, she attempted to some time to live normally, but her lack of aging eventually caught up to her. Permanently choosing to stay hidden from attention, she leaves behind her daughter and starts life anew over and over again. In present day, she is working in a library when a young philanthropist challenges her ability to stay hidden from attention. Unwilling to let go of his mystery woman, she slowly lets her guard down and leaves herself open to a true dilemma of secrecy versus love.

Review: Although the narration was a bit odd at times, the overall story was truly an intriguing one. Lee Toland Krieger displayed both the pseudo-science and the dramatic love story woven together through Adeline’s life. Blake Lively (Adaline) seemed a bit too detached at times, but her character was one who avoided attention as much as possible. Her performance can also be viewed in another light, one that recognizes that her mind had continued to age to a point of true wisdom and sophistication more closely matching her true age versus her physical appearance. Michiel Huisman (Ellis Jones) was truly a likable love interest. Between his persistence, creativity, and adoration, he solidified himself as a strong representation of the thing Adaline believed she could never achieve. Harrison Ford (William Jones) was a bit rough around the edges but filled his part as the catalyst for Adaline’s inner turmoil.

129441_ori 129437_ori 129440_ori

In a story that attempted to use science to explain the extraordinary, it never drew the focus away from the more interesting challenge of the secrecy of her true story. The dance which Adaline and Ellis engage in was truly magical, at least when she was not overcompensating for keeping her true self hidden. The background was interesting to create a clearer picture of how she established her present day style of living, but the true drama began the moment she decided to join Ellis for his parents’ anniversary. Confronted by William, a love from her past, she fights to avoid attention from William while also battling internally with how to potentially reveal herself to Ellis.

This is a film that was intriguing but missed a bit on the pacing and overall tone of the storytelling. While Blake’s portrayal can be explained through the length of time her character had been alive, there was an unnatural way that she carried herself that detracted a bit from the emotional material that could have been displayed.

Dan’s Rating: 3.0/5

theory_of_everything_xlgAs a doctoral student at Cambridge, Stephen Hawking is ahead of his peers with his studies, but he was still yet to define his research. After meeting and starting a budding romance with Jane, an incident on the quad forces him to go to in for medical testing. Learning of his diagnosis of early-onset ALS, he initially detaches from everyone until the love of Jane brings him out of the darkness. Committing to him regardless of the illness, Jane and Stephen get married. Stephen finally begins to settle in on his official research of cosmological physics, gaining great attention and respect for his work. As the years progress, Stephen continues to rise academically while his condition continues to deteriorate, forcing him to take some creative measures to stay active and engaged. While stress continues to pile on their relationship, Jane and Stephen have a seemingly storybook romance that bursts out of his medical challenges.

Reaction: The story of Stephen Hawking has been much more than just his research or his illness alone. The love between him and Jane was something that defied logic, with her strength and his inner drive allowing them to last together for so many years despite the illness attempting to drive a wedge between them. This relationship exhibited resilience and resolve to degrees that most would fail to realize.

124387_gal 124372_gal 124374_gal

To create the foundation for the story, great acting was needed to be successful. Eddie Redmayne (Stephen) needed to exhibit an unmistakable charm and slowly be able to maintain that charm without the ability to verbally speak or move. With his positive glow and lust for knowledge, Redmayne was able to bring Hawking’s past to life. As the illness progressed through the story, his ability to transform his acting style was truly a sight to see. Just as impressive was the performance by Felicity Jones (Jane). Although her character was more stable throughout the film, she was able to elicit compassion for her resolve and patience through her love of Stephen.

The depth of the story brought to life the rest of the life and challenges of Stephen Hawking. Since most people would know him for the illness at its full effect and for his work in cosmological physics, there would be less knowledge of his life with Jane, the progression of the disease, and the affair with his speech therapist. Providing this fuller account of his life made his experience more understandable and relatable, while still maintaining high respect for his accomplishments.

While this story is ultimately a biography of his love story, it will pull the movie-goer in and just simply wow you with the life of Stephen Hawking.

Dan’s Rating: 4.5/5