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Ford v Ferrari

Ford v Ferrari

If you avoided seeing Ford v Ferrari because you aren’t interested in car racing, you might just reconsider. Why did I avoid it? Car racing and all-male casts have never drawn my interest. How could an audience be held in suspense for two and a half hours of men speeding around in circles to a deafening soundtrack? Yet finally, there I was in the movie, on that track, rooting for the good guys.

During a five-year sales slump at the Ford Motor company, designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) begins to wonder how to make the Ford badge stand for victory rather than loss. When he confronts Ford president Henry Ford II with the need for dramatic change – “You can’t win a race by committee,” Shelby lures Ford into a dramatic shift in the company culture.

When Shelby turns to driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), the movie soars into high gear. It is Bale’s superb performance as a race car lover that lifts both the movie and the audience into another world. His love of racing is driven by more than passion. It’s obsession. Miles, a good human being, becomes a man driven by this in a way few of us have ever seen or felt. His is a superb passage from determination to success. Christian Bale’s creation of this character is sublime.

As we watch this driver, we learn he has an astonishingly fine wife, Mollie (Caitrona Balf), and a young son Peter (Noah Jupe) who is already in love with racing. In their touching performances, these actors create a family of three who audiences come to love. Though their family story doesn’t dominate the film, they deliver a rare and beautiful portrait of a family where each supports the other. The beauty comes as we begin to understand the mutual love among the three in spite of the danger and preoccupation of the husband/father. It’s not ordinary to see family love as subtle as this.

This story explores men to their cores. Drivers are passionate competitors. Businessmen are successful bores like Henry Ford II (Tracy Letts). Watch quiet, capable actor Matt Damon eat away at Henry Ford’s business personality as he lures him to the core of love for racing. Damon creates a tough, controlled ex-racer who infects Ford with the excitement of breaking all the rules of his business.

This is a cast that manages to take a theater that is bursting with roaring sound into a deep well of caring for all the characters. Writers/brothers Jez and John Henry Butterworth and director James Mangold have created a film that is a magical creation of racing as an assortment of men, car parts, money, driving genius, and obsession. These details are given us with such skill that we non-racers finally understand what it is like to become a body moving through space and time at 7000 RPM. That happens because there is not one mediocre acting performance in the whole story.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : Ford v Ferrari
Word Count : 499
Running Time: 2:32
Rating : PG-13
Date : December 8, 2019

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

If you are one of millions who plan to see A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, you may be in for a surprise. Isn’t this the story of Fred Rogers’ TV relationship with the children who idolized him when they were small? Not quite.

Parents of that time were grateful for the certainty that their smallest children were in a positive, secure space when they tuned into the program. Mr. Rogers was soft and wise in his performances. He listened.

Tom Hanks paints a portrait of Fred Rogers’ quiet way of reaching his very young audience. Here he is again in his cardigan sweater and calm demeanor. But this time he is helping Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys), a serious, angry man with negative view of everything in life. Mr. Rogers can’t resist trying to help.

Vogel is married to Andrea (Susan Kelechi Watson), a quietly pleasant wife who adores their new baby and is developing a deep sadness at her husband’s lack of interest in the little guy. We learn quickly that Vogel is an unpleasant man at work, at home, and with all people. He has been assigned by his magazine to write a 400-word interview with TV personality Mr. Rogers.

Vogel’s negativity meets Mr. Rogers’ deeply rooted positive approach to life and that 400-word article turns into an extended interaction between the two men. The clash is set and we watch Mr. Rogers’ careful, quiet determination to extinguish Vogel’s dark view of life. That’s it. As the movie unfolds, a mild dullness sets in. Why are people in the audience groaning a little? Why am I feeling bored when I have such respect for Tom Hanks?

This is an actor so well-known and admired for his own kindness and talent that it seems odd that the movie feels weak. It’s possible that despite what is unfolding in the remainder of the story, he is always Tom Hanks even though he tries with quiet modesty to create the gentle Mr. Rogers. Given this problem of his total familiarity, we feel we are watching actor Tom Hanks rather than the quiet, shy, gentle Fred Rogers who once was equally familiar. One famous man is creating another. Isn’t it possible that a lesser known actor might have been able to become Mr. Rogers more successfully?

Sad to say, that’s probably the answer. Each of these two good human beings became so famous in their own fields that it doesn’t work for one to play the other. It happened earlier this year when the fine singer Rene Zellweger played Judy Garland in a movie that never worked. Zellweger created a fine singer but audiences were far too familiar with Garland to enjoy watching her created on screen by a stranger. Famous people are best captured in documentaries with clips of themselves in action (See RBG where Ruth Bader Ginsburg plays herself). Beautiful Day is a perfect example of the difficulty of dealing with fame and fiction.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Word Count : 501
Running Time : 1:48
Rating : PG
Date : November 17, 2019