Movie Review by Joan Ellis –


Boundaries is a family story shot through with smiles and a bucket of eccentricity. With lesser actors, this movie could have fallen flat. But the truly good cast makes it jump alive to the point that we roll between feeling sadness and affection.

Laura (Vera Farmiga) is the mother of Henry (Lewis McDougall). They live together in a house full of the dogs Mom acquires whenever she sees one who needs a home. Henry is an isolated student at school because he is an oddball artist who draws family and friends in their naked states and doesn’t mix with other students in any way.

Laura’s father, Jack (Christopher Plummer) has been kicked out of the old folks’ home and arrives to live with Laura and Henry. But Laura, with sore memories of her father, puts him, Jack, and a few favorite dogs in the car to drive south to Los Angeles to deposit him with her sister. The road trip is the gut of the movie and by the time it’s over, we know three generations of this family well.

Christopher Plummer unfolds his bizarre character quietly while using the road trip for his illegal drug deliveries. He enlists grandson Henry in his illegal doings. Oddly, that is perfectly credible because young Lewis McDougall creates Henry in such an original way that everything that unfolds makes perfect sense. He and his oddball grandfather convince us of their eccentricity (to put it politely).

When I asked myself why I was feeling a bit sad for Mom, I began to understand she loves both her father and her son even though she is no match for either of them. Add to that the fact that she cannot turn away from any dog who needs loving. She takes care of all of them.

Vera Farmiga does a fine job of thinking she is delivering her Dad to her sister and pulls us along with a smile as she, in her innocence doesn’t understand what her guys are up to. If any of us had five dogs in the car for that long trip, every one of us would start to come unglued. She creates a fine thoroughly rattled mother.

Christopher Plummer never overacts as the oddball grandfather. He simply creates a quiet, reserved, nut who reveals little of what goes on in his head. In spite of his character’s illegal ways, he makes Grandpa a criminal, but still a slightly lovable one.

It is Lewis McDougall’s Henry who is a genuine original. He lifts us into the world he inhabits as he draws his comic pictures, quietly helps his grandpa, and loves his mom. This is a young actor so right for his zany part that we wonder how on earth he can ever play another character.

Boundaries is an eccentric movie about a family of crazies. Some of you will love it. Others will dismiss it. I left the theater with a nagging curiosity about the personality of director Shana Festa.

Film Critic: Joan Ellis
Film Title: Boundaries
Word Count: 496
Running Time: 1:44
Rating: R
Date: June 17, 2018

This review was posted on June 17, 2018, in Comedy, Drama.

The Seagull

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

The Seagull

Let’s get to the tough news first – and then to the good. Anton Chekhov’s novel The Seagull has been made into a movie with a big cast that lasts just one hour and thirty-eight minutes. That is far too short a time for us to absorb, much less to understand all the characters. Result? We struggle to follow them but are foiled by Director Michael Mayer’s determination to shift scenes with the speed of shotgun pellets.

This story of a large house party unfolding in the Russian countryside may be perfectly suited to book or theater form but reduced to an hour and a half, we have a tough task trying to follow the unfolding emotions of the characters. That said, the fine cast delivers Chekhov beautifully. Just enjoy Annette Benning as ageing actress Irina Arkadina, Elizabeth Moss as Masha, and Saoirse Ronan as Nina. And they have grand support.

Irina (Annette Benning) is visiting her brother Sorin (Brian Dennehy) at his country estate. Her son Konstantin (Billy Howle) lives with brother Sorin because how would a famous actress have time to raise him? Irina is accompanied by Boris Trigorin, a celebrity novelist she turns to repeatedly for acknowledgement of her own beauty and talent.

Nina (Saoirse Ronan), an innocent, falls for Trigorin who consumes her without regard for her vulnerability and conveniently rejects Irina for a while. Irina has rejected her son in a similar way and we in the audience are finding it a bit difficult to root for anyone. The sophisticates – and they are obvious – move along their own selfish paths. Does any one of them think supportively of anyone else?

At this point we begin to wish that all Chekov’s characters had a director capable of digging more deeply, but that doesn’t happen. Instead, Michael Mayer handles the camera as if no subject or conversation could last long enough for us to understand what we are seeing. Confrontations are broken by the shifting camera. The story is fractured and we never learn why.

The characters in Chekhov’s story have a whole weekend to tell their story of a gathering of the famous and their attendees. Perhaps this is a tale that should only be a play or a novel. If director Mayer thought he could deliver all of it in fast cuts, he was wrong. We get quick glances at lives of vanity, misery, fame, art, and money – with a few short looks at love and happiness.

If we cut to the core, it is Annette Benning who soars as she spends her days convincing herself and everyone around her that she is still young, that growing old is not robbing her of either her beauty or her talent. Her son? Her lover? Other guests? They are all her audience. The bulk of the credit goes to Chekhov, of course. Look for some fine acting here and there and just wish the director had concentrated more on that.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : The Seagull
Word Count : 501
Running Time : 1:38
Rating : PG-13
Date : June 9, 2018

This review was posted on June 9, 2018, in Drama.