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

The Peanut Butter Falcon

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

The Peanut Butter Falcon

The Peanut Butter Falcon offers a complex movie experience. Some of you will be thoroughly absorbed while others may well be disappointed. Whichever emotion claims you, just know this movie is beautifully acted and directed. If ordinary movie makers had set out to tell the story of Zak (Zack Gottsagen), a boy in his 20s wrapped in Down Syndrome, they might have handed us the problems, the heroes, and a solution. None of that happens here.

One quote captures the whole: “Friends are the family you choose.” The family Zak chooses is thoroughly unpredictable. This isn’t a story of an afflicted boy rescued by experts. With the help of his roommate (Bruce Dern), Zak escapes the retirement community where he lives to follow his dream of becoming a wrestler. Out in the world, impaired as he is, he ends up hiding under canvas in the boat of Tyler (Shia LeBeouf), a man on the run from the men whose boat he destroyed. The trust that grows between these two runaways is the core of the film and it is trust we never expected.

Eleanor (Dakota Johnson) is the professional who oversaw Zak’s care in the professional home he ran from. She searches everywhere because she is fond of him and feels responsible. When she finds him with Tyler deep into their escape, she wants to bring Zak back to professional safety – until she sees what friendship with Tyler has done for Zak. During their wanderings through the wilderness, Tyler helps Zak summon inner courage, helps him become the wrestler he dreams of being.

After a short while we stop telling ourselves that none of this could ever happen. Instead, you’ll ask yourself who on earth could have thought of this plot, written it, and cast it. Directors Tyler Nilson and Mike Schwartz have written and directed all of it.

It has become a fantasy of three people who aren’t hemmed in by rules as they follow the dream of a handicapped boy. As the three bend to that goal, each of them finds his/her inner self. Dakota Johnson brings the caretaker quietly alive as she steps out of her role as responsible professional. Shia LeBeouf is quietly amazing as the man who grows into personal change as he helps the damaged young man come alive. Zak Snyder, a young man who has created an acting career in his life with Down Syndrome has an astonishing inner drive that has allowed him to do it.

What I marvel at is the combination of these actors, writers, directors, and filmmakers who all said yes to making a film that on paper or in conversation sounds impossible. Because of their deep commitment, their talents have created a story that is rooted in a goodness that we rarely see on screen or in real life. Without silly solutions, three people grow together in the wilderness. Love it or not, it’s beautifully done.

Film Critic : Joan Ellis
Film Title : The Peanut Butter Falcon
Word Count : 494
Running Time : 1:37
Rating : PG-13
Date : 1 September 2019