Review: ‘Gigi & Nate,’ starring Marcia Gay Harden, Charlie Rowe, Josephine Langford, Zoe Colletti, Hannah Riley, Jim Belushi and Diane Ladd

September 8, 2022

by Carla Hay

Charlie Rowe and Allie in “Gigi & Nate” (Photo by Anne Marie Fox/Roadside Attractions)

“Gigi & Nate”

Directed by Nick Hamm

Culture Representation: Taking place over a five-year period in Tennessee and briefly in North Carolina, the dramatic film “Gigi & Nate” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few African Americans and Latinos) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: After getting quadriplegia at the age of 18, Nate Gibson’s life is changed at the age of 22, when he gets a capuchin monkey named Gigi as a service animal, but that special relationship is threatened when an animal-rights activist group works to ban capuchin monkeys as household pets. 

Culture Audience: “Gigi & Nate” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching sappy and frequently boring melodramas about cute animals.

Charlie Rowe, Allie and Marcia Gay Harden in “Gigi & Nate” (Photo by Anne Marie Fox/Roadside Attractions)

If the adorable capuchin monkey in “Gigi & Nate” could speak a human language, she would say, “Get me out of this embarrassing movie.” The monkey is the best thing about this overly sappy, tedious and predictable melodrama. Unfortunately, the trailer for “Gigi & Nate” already reveals about 90% of the movie’s plot. The story’s main conflict is rushed in the last third of the film. And so, that leaves the first-two thirds of “Gigi & Nate” to be a lackluster slog of a self-pitying young man with quadriplegia who starts to have a more positive attitude about life when he gets a capuchin monkey as a service animal.

Directed by Nick Hamm and written by David Hudgins, “Gigi & Nate” doesn’t start off as a terrible film. The last third of the movie, which is supposed to be the best part, is what’s mishandled the most and thereby ruins the movie. In the beginning of “Gigi & Nate,” 18-year-old Nate Gibson (played by Charlie Rowe) is spending his summer vacation with his family in an unnamed city in Tennessee. (“Gigi & Nate” was actually filmed in North Carolina.)

Life is going very well for Nate, who lives several miles away in Nashville and is about to go to an unnamed university in the fall. One day during this vacation, Nate goes with some other young people to an outdoor swimming hole located near some cliffs. Accompanying him on this swimming outing are Nate’s feisty older sister Katy (played by Josephine Langford); Katy’s boyfriend Travis Holter (played by Emilio Garcia-Sanchez); Benji Betts (played by Olly Sholotan); and 17-year-old Lori (played by Zoe Colletti, also known as Zoe Margaret Colletti), who has recently stuck up a mild flirtation with Nate. Lori met Nate at the fireworks outdoor stand where she works.

Nate is a bit of a daredevil, so he takes a dare to jump of a cliff and do a back flip into the water. The water is deep enough not to cause him any injuries. But when Nate emerges from the water, he looks slightly disoriented. It’s a foreshadowing of what’s to come later.

After this swimming trip, Nate is having dinner with family members and friends. In addition to Nate and Katy, the other members of the Gibson family who are on this vacation are Nate’s outspoken homemaker mother Claire Gibson (played by Marcia Hay Harden); Nate’s mild-mannered younger sister Annabelle (played by Hannah Riley), who’s about 15 years old; and Claire’s sassy and sometimes-crude mother Mama Blanche (played by Diane Ladd). Claire’s husband, Dan Gibson (played by Jim Belushi), who is the family patriarch, is away on a business trip.

Nate tells his mother that he’s having very painful headaches, and she advises him to take some aspirin. But what’s wrong with Nate can’t be fixed with aspirin. He collapses in the bathroom, and he ends up in a hospital. Dan is called away from his business trip for this emergency, and he frantically rushes to be with Nate and the rest of the family.

The medical diagnosis is that Nate contracted amoebic meningitis from the water he ingested during that fateful swimming excursion. The meningitis has left him with quadriplegia (paralysis of his arms and legs) and needing to use a wheelchair to move around. Early on in Nate’s hospitalization, Claire makes the decision to have Nate sent by helicopter to their home city of Nashville, where he can get advanced medical care.

This medical condition is emotionally devastating to Nate and his loved ones. He becomes hopeless and bitter, and he spends the next four years of his life basically being a shut-in, because Claire is overprotective and doesn’t want Nate to spend a lot of time outside in public. At one point, Nate becomes so depressed, that when he’s outside in his home’s backyard, he tilts his wheelchair so that he deliberately falls into the backyard pond. It’s a huge cry for help instead of a serious suicide attempt, because Dan is nearby in the backyard, and he immediately rescues Nate.

When Nate is 22 years old, his life changes for the better when Claire comes up with the idea to get Nate a service animal to keep Nate company and to give him encouragement and a better motivation to live. And that’s when capuchin monkey Gigi (played by Allie) comes into Nate’s life. Gigi, who was rescued from a petting zoo, does all the expected things that inspirational pets do in movies like “Gigi & Nate.”

Gigi cheers up Nate when he’s feeling depressed and anxious. Gigi is an enthusiastic assistant during Nate’s physical therapy sessions. Gigi also makes human-like expressions on her face to show that she has a distinct personality and feelings. (Some CGI effects were used in some of the monkey scenes.)

In other words, Gigi helps Nate come out of his reclusive shell. He starts to venture out in public more, with Gigi as his constant companion. One day, Nate is at a local grocery store with Gigi and his mother Claire, and he sees Lori working at the store as a stock clerk.

Lori has not seen or kept in touch with Nate since the day at the swimming hole. And so, at first, Lori doesn’t recognize Nate when they see each other. His hair is longer than it was that day, and he’s now in a wheelchair. Lori is shocked to see Nate in a wheelchair, and she bluntly asks him what happened. She then profusely apologizes for coming off as a little harsh.

Nate tells Lori why he now has quadriplegia, and that Gigi is his service animal. Lori is utterly charmed by Gigi, and she encourages Nate to set up a social media account to document his life with Gigi. And you know what that means later in the story: The videos go viral, and Nate becomes a little famous. Nate and Lori also get closer to each other, since there’s still a romantic spark between them.

At the grocery store where Nate and Lori had their unexpected reunion, someone sees Gigi in the store and isn’t happy about it at all. Her name is Chloe Gaines (played by Welker White), the Tennessee chapter president of Americans for Animal Protection. It’s a group that works to ban certain wild animals as pets in private households, because the group believes these animals should be in a more natural habitat.

Chloe tersely confronts Claire and Nate and informs them that the monkey shouldn’t be in the grocery store because it’s a violation of health code laws. And even though this movie depicts Chloe as a meddling, unreasonable shrew, she is right about the health code violation. Nate allowed Gigi to climb all over the packaged food on the grocery store shelves. As cute as this monkey is, it’s just not sanitary to have animals crawling over food in a grocery store or any place that sells and stores food.

Claire and Nate are very defensive and tell Chloe that Gigi is not just a pet. Gigi is a working service animal. But that’s not a good-enough explanation for Chloe. As shown in the trailer for “Gigi & Nate,” Chloe becomes the “villain” of the story, as she launches a campaign over the next year to ban capuchin monkeys as household pets in Tennessee. The trailer also shows that Gigi gets taken away from Nate. This conflict is crammed in too late in the movie’s last half-hour.

The Gibson family is in regular contact with Carolyn Albion (played by Mishel Prada), the leader of the animal rescue group that saved Gigi from mistreatment at the petting zoo. She’s on the Gibson family’s side in their battle against the Tennessee chapter of Americans for Animal Protection. Nate also has a caretaker named Nogo (played by Sasha Compère), who is also part of the Gibson family’s support system.

The only crucial plot point that isn’t shown in movie’s trailer is how the conflict is ultimately resolved. That part is hastily and sloppily contrived and shown in the movie’s last 10 minutes. It all comes across as very shallow and cloying.

“Gigi & Nate” has a talented cast, but most of the supporting characters are written in a bland way. Mama Blanche has a few lines of dialogue as cheeky zingers, but she’s mostly a sidelined character. Harden and Rowe, as Claire and Nate, have some poignant mother/son moments, while Belushi’s Dan character is a workaholic who has arguments with Claire about Nate’s ongoing care. Dan thinks Claire is overly cautious, and he believes that Nate should have more freedom.

As soon as the monkey comes into the picture as Nate’s service animal, “Gigi & Nate” becomes more about the animal antics and less about the human psychological challenges of adjusting to life with quadriplegia. If the filmmakers thought this psychological angle would be too depressing, then they still could’ve made “Gigi & Nate” a better movie if they made the conflict of the Gibson family versus Americans for Animal Protection a bigger part of the story. That’s why the movie’s showdown scene in a Tennessee state legislative hearing is very truncated and anticlimactic.

“Gigi & Nate” isn’t a completely terrible movie, because the acting performances are competent. It’s just a disappointing film that handles many important issues in a very cringeworthy way that overloads on being hokey, and thereby cheapens the intended messages of the movie. “Gigi & Nate” has some appealing monkey scenes, but is missing a lot of the realistic human grit needed to make this movie more interesting and meaningful.

Roadside Attractions released “Gigi & Nate” in U.S. cinemas on September 2, 2022.

Review: ‘Olympia,’ starring Olympia Dukakis

July 13, 2020

by Carla Hay

Olympia Dukakis in “Olympia” (Photo courtesy of Abramorama)

“Olympia”

Directed by Harry Mavromichalis

Culture Representation: Taking place in the United States, Greece and briefly in Canada and Cyprus, the documentary “Olympia” interviews an almost all-white group of people talking about Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis, including entertainers, other colleagues, family members and Dukakis herself.

Culture Clash: Dukakis battled against sexist stereotypes and ethnicity biases by founding a theater company and not limiting herself to one type of outlet for acting.

Culture Audience: Besides the obvious target audience of Olympia Dukakis fans, “Olympia” will appeal primarily to people who like biographies about entertainers who refuse to be pigeonholed.

Louis Zorich (far left) and Olympia Dukakis (third from right) in “Olympia” (Photo courtesy of Abramorama)

The documentary “Olympia” is a lot like the Oscar-winning actress Olympia Dukakis herself—opinionated, funny, candid, foul-mouthed, sometimes rambling, but never boring. Directed by Harry Mavromichalis (in his feature-film debut), this up-close and personal biography of Dukakis will delight her fans as an updated companion piece to her 2003 memoir “Ask Me Again: A Life in Progress.” People who didn’t read the book might discover many things about Dukakis that they didn’t know but will probably end up liking.

This movie clearly was not a rushed job, since a lot of the “new” footage is obviously several years old. The movie begins with Dukakis in California to get her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—an event that happened in 2013. There’s some other footage of Dukakis (who was born in 1931) celebrating her 81st birthday in 2012. And in one of the movie’s funniest segments, she’s in San Francisco, as a grand marshal for the 2011 San Francisco Pride Parade. As she’s perched in an open car and waves to the parade crowd, she chuckles and makes this self-deprecating comment through her smile, “Some people don’t know who the fuck I am.”

The documentary will give viewers a pretty clear of idea of who Dukakis is because it’s fairly comprehensive in the access that director Mavromichalis had to Dukakis, her family, friends and colleagues, as well as her personal archives, such as photos and videos. She’s perhaps best known to the general public for her Oscar-winning role in 1987’s “Moonstruck,”  but Dukakis is also a longtime theater star and has several other roles in movies and television, including the 1989 film “Steel Magnolias.”

While in San Francisco for Gay Pride Weekend, Dukakis was honored for her memorable role as transgender woman Anna Madrigal in the 1993 PBS miniseries “Tales of the City,” based on the book series by Armistead Maupin. “Olympic knew she was part of something historic,” Maupin says of Dukakis’ “Tales of the City” role. “And she knew that what she was saying through that character had not been said before [on TV], not with such affection and clarity.”

“Tales of the City” executive producer director Alan Poul says of Dukakis as the Anna Madrigal characters: “It was a fearless and groundbreaking portrayal at a time when that kind of imagery in entertainment media didn’t exist.” The documentary also includes some hilarious footage of Dukakis having dinner with Maupin in a hotel room with some other friends. What’s in the movie makes people wish they could’ve been a fly on the wall to hear the entire dinner conversation.

Most people familiar with Dukakis already know that she was never an overnight sensation and had to pay her dues for decades. She says in the documentary that from an early age, she was “rebellious,” “independent” and resistant to conform to the strict gender roles that were expected of people in her generation.

Dukakis (who was born in Lowell, Massachusetts, and went to Boston University) talks about clashing with her strict mother, Alexandra (nicknamed Alec), when Olympia was growing up. She describes her mother as a disciplinarian who used sticks and belts—behavior that would be considered abusive by today’s standards. Olympia says about her mother: “Her job was to to keep shame from the family,” and Olympia’s independent streak “scared” her mother.

One of the ways that Olympia defied stereotypes was by becoming a Junior New England Fencing Champion when she was a teenager. Her cousin Michael Dukakis (the 1988 Democratic nominee for U.S. president) says in the documentary: “How many Greek kids were fencing champions or even fenced?”

Joyce Katis Picard, one of Olympia’s former Boston University classmates, remembers that she and Olympia stood out for their non-Anglo ethnicities, in a student body that consisted primarily of people of Anglo Saxon descent. Katis Picard says of her college friendship with Olympia: “We bonded as a way of protection.” She adds that even in her college days, Olympia was a feminist and nonconformist: “She moved beyond the messages of the time.”

In the documentary, Olympia talks about going through a period of time when “I was the queen of the one-night stand,” and having casual flings was a way of life for her. But that all changed when she and actor Louis Zorich fell deeply in love with each other. They married in 1962, and stayed married until his death in 2018. They had three children together: Christina (who declined to be interviewed for the documentary), Peter and Stefan, who are both interviewed in the film.

Although Olympia ended up taking a traditional path of getting married and having kids, that doesn’t mean that she was a traditional mother. In the documentary, she expresses remorse over some of her parenting skills: “I regret that I wasn’t able to handle my children better. I didn’t create boundaries and discipline. I did the best I could.” She also says she’s horrified by the memory of forgetting to pick up her son Stefan from school one day. He had to wait 45 minutes at the school while all the other kids had already left.

Peter says of his childhood growing up with two busy actors as parents: “At the time, I kind of wished my parents were more normal. They weren’t doing any gender roles in their marriage. At 8 years old, I was doing my own laundry.”

Although Olympia and her husband were married for 56 years (a rarity in a showbiz marriage), that did mean that they didn’t have some rough patches. She mentions that Louis was having an affair when she was pregnant with her first child, Christina. He made the decision to end the affair and stay with Olympia, who co-starred with her husband in multiple off-Broadway plays, including 1963’s “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and 1980’s “The Cherry Orchard.”

In the documentary, Louis says that he didn’t expect to get married until he fell in love with Olympia. He remembers falling in love with her was the first time that he felt that way about anyone, even though he jokes that when he proposed to her, he couldn’t quite get the word “marry” out during the proposal. And he comments, “If someone says on my deathbed, ‘What do you remember about Olympia, it’s those two or three incredible [acting roles,” which he says include her starring role in the 2013 off-Broadway production of “Mother Courage,” which he says brought him to tears every time he watched her perform in the play.

“It’s one of my favorite relationships I’ve ever known,” actor Austin Pendleton says of the marriage of Olympia Dukakis and Louis Zorich. “They embrace each other in every sense of the word. They recognize each other on such a deep level.”

Olympia also opens up about a dark period in her life when she says she was addicted to “uppers and downers” for about two years. She decided she was going to quit one day when she looked in the bathroom mirror, and she heard a voice inside herself say, “You’re trying to kill yourself.” Olympia also mentions that there were other times in her life when she was suicidal, including an incident when she deliberately stepped in front of a truck, but a woman pushed her out of the way and saved her life.

In retrospect, Olympia says of her drug addiction: “A lot of these drugs were about trying to run ahead of everything.” Olympia also opens up about her thoughts on dying, by admitting that she’s afraid of death for this reason: “It’s a loss of what little part of myself is separate from everything else.”

She also admits to lifelong insecurities about not fitting in and being judged by her looks. “It never goes away, that thing of being ‘outside,’ that thing of being ‘different.'” She adds that at some point in her life, she found a way to fight the urge to fix herself and instead figured out how to accept herself for who she is instead of trying to change herself to please other people.

One of the obstacles she faced early in her career was being told that she was “too ethnic” for many roles. Instead of giving up, Olympia decided to create her own opportunities, by founding the Whole Theater Company in Montclair, New Jersey. Thomas Kean, who was governor of New Jersey from 1982 to 1990, comments in the documentary: “Olympia had high standards. Her feeling is, ‘Only the best.’ They [the Whole Theater Company] took chances.”

Carey Perloff, former artistic director of the American Conservatory Theater, has this to say about Whole Theater: “They did all kinds of crazy stuff … And they really talked to the audience,” in order to get their feedback.” Olympia is also seen in the documentary in rehearsals for Shakespeare and Company’s 2013 production of “The Tempest,” with Olympia in the role of Prospero.

And, of course, the documentary includes plenty of praise of Olympia from her colleagues and friends. Olympia’s “Tales of the City” co-star Laura Linney says of Olympia’s ability to move seamlessly between the worlds of theater, movies and television: “She was one of the first people to do that … [which was] very brave of her, because at the time, it was looked down on.”

Lynn Cohen, an actress who passed away in February 2020, affectionately describes Olympia as “generous,” “totally open” and “crazy.” Whoopi Goldberg adds, “She’s like a summer storm … Her range is frightening and wonderful to watch. It’s what every actor wants.”

Olympia’s longtime actress friend Diane Ladd says, “She’s a total professional. She doesn’t play diva or mademoiselle or goddess. She doesn’t pull any rank. She’s all heart. She’s a perfectionist. I like that.”

Other people interviewed in the documentary include Olympia’s actor brother Apollo Dukakis; Shakespeare and Company artistic director Tony Simotes; playwright Leslie Ayvazian; actress Lainie Kazan; former HBO executive Kary Antholis; and actor Rocco Sisto. The film has footage of Dukakis doing a Q&A of “Moonstruck” with director Norman Jewison, during a retrospective tribute to Jewison at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.

There’s also some great behind-the-scenes footage of Olympia getting ready for the 1988 Academy Awards, where she won the prize of Best Supporting Actress for “Moonstruck.” There’s also video of her family members’ reactions to her winning the award, including her mother who burst into tears at this victorious moment.

The documentary has some slices of humor, such as showing Olympia fumbling with a Siri device (you can tell how old the footage is from the version of Siri that’s seen in the film); going grocery shopping and interacting with star-struck fans while she vacations in Cyprus; and dictating an email message to her personal assistant Brenda Low-Kamen to send to actress friend Brenda Fricker and going off on a humorous tangent in the message.

One of the highlights of the film is when Olympia goes back to her family’s original hometown in Greece. (Her daughter Christine and some of her grandchildren are also there for the trip.) It’s in this footage that Olympia is not treated as a famous actress, but as a nostalgic, almost wistful person who’s rediscovering and finding a new appreciation for her family’s history. After she talks with a quartet of female villagers in her age group who’ve been lifelong friends, Olympia is so emotionally moved by the experience that she breaks down and cries when she thinks about how her life could have turned out differently if her parents had stayed in Greece.

Is “Olympia” a perfect film? No. Some of the documentary’s production values, such as the cinematography and editing, probably would’ve been better with a more experienced director in charge. For example, some of the non-archival footage looks like shaky outtakes from home movies. And some of the interior scenes could’ve benefited from better camera lighting.

However, this unpolished look to some of the movie isn’t too much of a hindrance, considering Dukakis’ unpretentious nature. She certainly wouldn’t want a documentary about herself to look too slick or ostentatious. As for the “new” footage that’s several years old, that isn’t too much of a problem either, since Olympia’s personality probably hasn’t changed in the years since that footage was filmed. “Olympia” is a movie that understands that a documentary about a celebrity shouldn’t really be about just chronicling a lifestyle but instead should be more about opening up a window, however briefly, into someone’s soul.

Abramorama released “Olympia” in select U.S. virtual cinemas on July 10, 2020.

UPDATE: Olympia Dukakis died on May 1, 2021. She was 89. She had been in ill health for quite some time, according to a family statement about her death.

Review: ‘The Last Full Measure,’ starring Sebastian Stan, Christopher Plummer, William Hurt, Ed Harris and Samuel L. Jackson

January 22, 2020

by Carla Hay

Sebastian Stan and William Hurt in “The Last Full Measure” (Photo by Jackson Lee Davis)

“The Last Full Measure”

Directed by Todd Robinson

Culture Representation: Set in the United States and Vietnam, the male-centric military drama “The Last Full Measure” centers on predominantly white (and a few African American) characters who are connected in some way to the U.S. Air Force.

Culture Clash: The conflicting agendas of politicians, military officials and war veterans are depicted in the process of deciding if a deceased military man will get the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Culture Audience: “The Last Full Measure” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in movies about military veterans and the Vietnam War.

Jeremy Irvine in “The Last Full Measure” (Photo by Wasan Puengprasert)

The military/political drama “The Last Full Measure” gets its title from the phrase used to describe the ultimate sacrifice that a military person can give in service. Inspired by a true story, this appropriately solemn movie chronicles the journey of Pentagon staffer Scott Huffman (a fictional chracter played by Sebastian Stan), who investigates a decades-long request for the Congressional Medal of Honor to be given to Vietnam War hero William Pitsenbarger, a U.S. Air Force Pararescue medic who died in combat in 1966, at the age of 21.

Pitsenbarger (nicknamed Pits) lost his life during a battle at Xa Cam My that was part of a secretive mission called Operation Abilene. He was a para jumper (or PJ), who saved approximately 60 men in the U.S. Army’s 1st Infantry Division during his military service in the Vietnam War. The movie’s story unfolds in a way that is similar to a mystery, since Scott uncovers secrets that certain people in the government do not want to be revealed. According to “The Last Full Measure” writer/director Todd Robinson (who tried to get this movie made for 20 years), the fictional Scott Huffman character is a composite of himself, historian Parker Hayes and unnamed Pentagon staffers who fought for Pitsenbarger to get the Congressional Medal of Honor.

The beginning of the movie takes place in Washington, D.C., in 1999, when F. Whitten Peters (played by Linus Roache) abruptly retired from his position as U.S. Secretary of the Air Force. Knowing that he’ll soon be out of a job because he worked on Peters’ staff, Scott reluctantly takes an assignment from the smirky and arrogant Carlton Stanton (played by Bradley Whitford), a Pentagon public-relations employee who delights in giving to Scott what they both perceive as a trivial and distracting task—looking into a Congressional Medal of Honor request that has been rejected for decades. (Viewers can see from the get-go that Carlton will be the movie’s power-hungry villain who will do whatever it takes to climb the government ladder.)

At the time he is given the assignment, Scott is more concerned about where he’s going to find his next job.  He’s the father of a kindergarten-age son, and he’s expecting his second child with his pregnant wife Tara (played by Alison Sudol), who encourages him to approach the investigation with compassion and an open mind. The three people who are the biggest advocates for Pits to get his posthumous Congressional Medal of Honor are retired Air Force Sgt. Tom Tulley (William Hurt), who was Pits’ best friend and mission partner, and Pits’ parents Frank and Alice (played by Christopher Plummer and Diane Ladd), who have never fully recovered from the untimely loss of their son.

Scott interviews them, as well as several U.S. military veterans who were eyewitnesses to Pits’ bravery, including Billy Takoda (played by Samuel L. Jackson), Ray Mott (played by Ed Harris), Jimmy Burr (played Peter Fonda, in his last movie role, which is essentially a camero) and Kepper (John Savage), who still lives in Vietnam. Scott travels all the way to Vietnam to interview Kepper, and during his conversation with Kepper, Scott has a powerful awakening. Through the interviews, Scott pieces together the puzzle of the ill-fated Operation Abilene that led the U.S. soldiers into a Viet Cong ambush. Showing uncommon bravery, Pitsenbarger refused a chance to escape and instead stayed on the battleground to help save lives and attend to the wounded, while also taking up arms to defend his comrades. The battle scenes are shown in flashbacks, with Jeremy Irvine portraying Pits.

But what really caused that deadly ambush at Xa Cam My? And how much did the U.S. government know but chose to hide from the public? As Scott gets closer to the truth, he knows that revealing the truth could destroy his career and possibly put his life in danger. It could also kill the chances of Pits getting a Congressional Medal of Honor if the full story comes out about Operation Abilene. It’s a tricky dilemma, because some of the same government people whose votes are needed to approve the Congressional Medal of Honor going to Pits are also the same people who could squash that request if Scott goes public with the full story.

During the course of the movie, viewers see Scott’s transformation as a somewhat rigid character who tends to see issues in black and white to someone who begins to understand that issues come in many shades of grey. For example, in one scene in the movie, Scott is assembling a crib and he refuses to look at the instructions, because “that would be cheating,” he says—an indication of not only his hardline approach on how to solve problems but also an assertion of how he perceives his strong masuculinity. But as the stories about Operation Abilene unfold, Scott begins to question his views on ethics in the context of war. He must also confront issues of patriotism and personal sacrifice—issues that can sometimes be at odds with each other and can be tested if it involves reporting government corruption.

Fortunately, Stan does an admirable job of portraying this metamorphosis in a realistic way. He and co-star Hurt have a few emotional scenes in the movie, which doesn’t veer too much into melodrama for the characters. In addition, “The Last Full Measure” respectfully handles the issues of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and how it not only affects war veterans but also their loved ones. The movie responsibly shows how people can react to PTSD in different ways and how military machismo sometimes hinders people from dealing with these issues in a beneficial and healing way.

Because “The Last Full Measure” is a male-oriented film and the military is a male-dominated field, the female characters don’t have much to do except play “the supportive wife” or “the supportive administration employee.” However, that doesn’t mean the women in this movie are doormats. In particular, Ladd’s Alice Pitsenbarger character shows inspiring determination to keep pushing for the family’s cause when her ailing husband’s health issues indicate that he won’t be around much longer.

“The Last Full Measure” is an engrossing and heartfelt story that might seem like a paint-by-numbers military movie because the ending is very easy to predict, but it stands out for its top-notch cast of stars (who all deliver convincing performances) and the fact that Vietnam War stories about the U.S. Air Force are rarely told in movies. At the end of the film, “The Last Full Measure” points out the extremely low percentage of Air Force people and even lower percentage of enlisted airpeople who have received the Congressional Medal of Honor. The movie is ultimately a tribute to U.S. military people, especially those who made personal sacrifices during wars, whether or not they made it out alive.

Roadside Attractions will release “The Last Full Measure” in U.S. cinemas on January 24, 2020.

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