ALL MY LIFE: 3 STARS
If âAll My Life,â a tearful new movie starring Jessica Rothe and now starring in theaters, wasn’t based on the actual story of a couple from Toronto, this would be the kind of story Nicholas Sparks would write.
Jennifer (Rothe) and Solomon (Harry Shum Jr.) are a cute couple who meet at a bar and seem destined to live happily ever after. They like the same kind of cheesy 80s rock, they laugh and laugh while jumping in water fountains and say things to each other like, “I didn’t know how much I could really love until I met you,” to each other.
But keep in mind that this is not a romantic comedy. It’s a Sparks-style romantic drama, so I’m going to stop using the word cute now.
There’s nothing cute (oops) about Sol’s terminal liver cancer diagnoses. With their plans for a wedding in December put on hold, their friends fundraise and give them the day of their dreams as Sol’s health deteriorates.
“All My Life” is a three or four hanky movie where whatever you think happens, happens.
But what it lacks in innovation it makes up for with a certain comfortable predictability. You’ve heard the dialogue before – “You make me feel like I can do it all. Like we can do it all.” – and the group of best friends are the usual kind of misfits that could have come out of any another teen drama. But when the film focuses on the protagonists, Rothe and Shum Jr., it becomes less about clichÃ©s and more about the heart of the story.
The couple share a number of scenes that convey the gravity of the situation. Strongest is a heartfelt discussion of their future plans that ends with âI am not your widow, I am your wife,â a message of true love that compensates for the manipulation of the previous scenes.
âAll My Lifeâ is sweet enough to give you a tooth decay, but at its best, it’s a reminder to embrace life and roll with the hits, no matter what.
CROCK OF GOLD: A FEW LAPS WITH SHANE MACGOWAN: 3 Â½ STARS
A self-destructive portrait or the indomitable spirit of someone whose behavior suggests a hangover is coming to life, âCrock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowan,â now on iTunes, is a vivid look at the life of the man best known as the lead singer of The Pogues.
âHe just doesn’t enjoy life without drinking. “
Most music biographies follow a standard rags-to-rich format, but director Julien Temple applies his trademark visual and narrative density to MacGowan’s story, creating a film that is as much a cultural story as it is a biopic.
Temple spends half of the film detailing MacGowan’s youth, from his birth on Christmas Day 1957 to his early childhood in County Tipperary, Ireland. Illustrated with archive footage of rural life and re-enactments, it paints a rosy picture of a difficult life at scrabble, where hard work and even more alcohol use is the norm. Life on the farm, with a Guinness in hand at the age of six, gave MacGowan a deep-rooted sense of Irish pride, a sentiment that fueled his greatest successes.
Less romantic is the move to England as a youngster. Poverty, alcohol, drugs, anti-Irish racism and punk rock drove MacGowan to the first taste of fame, a blow to the head at a Clash concert in 1976 which earned him the notoriety as the jug-eared face of London punk.
Cut to 1982.
Several groups failed and thousands of pints later he formed The Pogues and married the spirit of punk to traditional Irish music. Spirited and furious songs about Irish nationalism, history and experiences made MacGowan and the band wildly successful, but a tune the singer calls âOur ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’â was their downfall.
The release of “Fairytale of New York” put them on an endless tour with only a handful of days off over the next year, leading to MacGowan’s descent in a walking and talking warning story afterwards. a psychotic break at a concert in New Zealand.
The story continues, spanning his post-Pogues time with bands like The Popes, but it’s MacGowan’s portrayal as a poet who captures songs from the Aether – “That’s why they’re called tunes” , he explains – and a nationalist whose Irish identity has energized his lingering work.
“I always felt guilty for not having given my life for Ireland”, he said before adding, that at least “he participated in the revolution as a musician”.
Ultimately, culture and politics aside, âCrock of Gold: A Few Rounds with Shane MacGowanâ is the story of a man with a seemingly unquenchable thirst for drink and drugs. Recent footage shows the ravages of a hard-lived life as he mumbles through recent interviews with the kind of confusing intensity that can only be found at the bottom of a bottle. His angels, a path with words and melodies, have been stolen from him, he laments his inability to write new songs even as he sprinkles these words with a sip of wine or whiskey.
It’s hard to believe him when he insults, “I have no self-destructive drive at all,” but it completes the portrayal of a complicated artist whose best work stems from his worst behavior.
BLACK BEAR: 4 STARS
âBlack Bear,â now in select theaters and on VOD, is a psychological drama that draws you in with a false sense of familiarity before a turn in the middle of the film that turns expectations upside down.
Set in a secluded B&B on a beautiful lake in upstate New York run by semi-pro musician Gabe (Christopher Abbott) and his pregnant former dancer wife Blair (Sarah Gadon), are the Bickersons through of âWho’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? “No comment from either goes unanswered by a sharp or withered gaze.
“It’s not that I can’t stand your thinking about the world,” Blair said to Gabe in a heated exchange. “It’s just that I can’t stand the thoughts of the world you have.”
Into this island situation comes Allison (Aubrey Plaza), an actress turned filmmaker who has booked a weekend in hopes of finding inspiration in nature for her next film.
âI’m waiting for something meaningful to happen to me,â she said. Instead, she becomes involved in the personal lives of her hosts. Secrets are shared, recriminations erupt and hostilities erupt.
The talking first half, with a long, drunken discussion of traditional gender roles, leads to part two: The Bear by the Boathouse, a surreal leap to the filming of the movie in the movie.
Without revealing anything of substance, Gabe is now the film’s egotistical director while Blair is now Allison’s co-star in a tortured independent film that appears to be inspired by retirement from real life. The themes of the creative process, the temptation and pain of toxic relationships introduced in the first half are more reflected in the second part.
“Black Bear” is a daring film that defies categorization. It plays in some theaters, wherever the theaters are open, but I suspect it will mostly be seen on VOD. It’s a shame because the layered story isn’t something you can casually digest while flipping through Twitter or eating a sandwich. The personal dynamics on display are filled with conflict and each line is a trigger that sets the next in motion.
Performance brings difficult material to life. Abbott and Gadon are very good, but it’s Plaza whose work leaves a mark. She brings a furious intensity to Allison that will blow their hair off anyone who only knows her job like the dark and selfless April Ludgate on the “Parks and Recreation” sitcom. It’s a complex and stimulating performance that is both real and surreal.
âBlack Bearâ will confuse viewers looking for easy answers and a neatly tied bow at the end. Like the creative process it portrays, it is unknowable in its entirety, a deliberate number meant to engage both your head and your heart.