Review: ‘Epic Tails,’ starring the voices of Ellie Zeiler, Mark Camacho, Wyatt Bowen, Terrence Scammell, Kwasi Songui and Patrick Emmanuel Abellard

April 5, 2024

by Carla Hay

Chickos (voiced by Wyatt Bowen), Sam (voiced by Mark Camacho) and Pattie (voiced by Ellie Zeiler) in “Epic Tails” (Image courtesy of Viva Pictures)

“Epic Tails”

Directed by David Alaux, with the participation of Eric Tosti and Jean-François Tosti

Culture Representation: Taking place in ancient Greece, the animated film “Epic Tails” features a cast of characters who are talking animals and ancient Greek gods.

Culture Clash: A mouse, a cat and various other animals travel on the ship Argo to find treasure and to help a city that is being threatened with destruction by the god Poseidon. 

Culture Audience: “Epic Tails” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of animated adventure stories and Greek mythology, but “Epic Tails” is a mishandled and dull film that fails to deliver on many levels.

A scene from “Epic Tails” (Image courtesy of Viva Pictures)

“Epic Tails” should be called “Epic Fails.” It’s a dull and muddled misfire with a terrible message that bullies should be enabled. This animated film that’s set in ancient Greece has shallow Greek deities and generic main characters. Children under the age of 5 might enjoy this forgettable film because they’re probably be too young to know how bad “Epic Tails” is on every level.

Directed by David Alaux, with the participation of Eric Tosti and Jean-François Tosti, “Epic Tails” was written by all three filmmakers. The movie is originally from France, where the movie is titled “Pattie et la colère de Poséidon” (“Pattie and the Anger of Poseidon”). “Epic Tales” is the English-language version of the movie. No one is expecting a children’s oriented animated film to have an unpredictable ending. But these types of films should be at least fun to watch. And even better: They can be educational and inspirational if handled in a creative way.

Unfortunately, “Epic Tails” does none of that. Instead, it’s a monotonous and unfocused movie that wastes many opportunities to have intriguing characters and an epic adventure. The characters plod along from place to place, saying silly and hollow dialogue. The story is very messy and tedious when it did not have to be.

In “Epic Tails,” an optimistic and “book smart” mouse named Pattie (voiced by Ellie Zeiler) dreams of becoming a nautical adventurer, just like her hero Jason, who is famous for his Argo ship and Argonauts crew. Pattie is ridiculed by her peers for having this goal. Pattie’s best friend, who is also a father figure to her, is an overprotective cat named Sam (voiced by Mark Camacho), who agrees to go with Pattie to find Jason. They are accompanied by a friendly rat named Luigi (voiced by Wyatt Bowen), who is a somewhat goofy sidekick.

Meanwhile, Greek god king Zeus (who is portrayed as an egotistical leader) is gloating over a new statue of himself built by the citizens of the port city of Yolcos. Zeus’ brother Poseidon (voiced by Terrence Scammell)—the god of large bodies of water, earthquakes and horses—gets very jealous, so Poseidon goes to Yolcos and tells the citizens that they must build a grand statue of Poseidon in seven days. If they don’t do what he tells them to do by the deadline, Poseidon says he will destroy Yolcos.

“Epic Tails” does so little with the Greek gods and goddesses in the movie, none of them except for Poseidon are listed in the film’s end credits as characters. Hermes’ speed superpowers are briefly mentioned, but that’s about it. The Greek gods and goddesses are just shown doing things like hanging out in a hot tub and looking down from the heavens at some of the action happening in Greece.

Meanwhile, Pattie, Sam, and Luigi find the famous Argo ship and find Jason (also voiced by Scammell), who is now a physically weak, elderly man. All of Jason’s Argonauts are dead, but Pattie finds a way to resurrect all the Argonauts (don’t ask), who steer the ship slowly because they’re supposed to be a bunch of old skeletons. Pattie finds a treasure map and is convinced that they can find the treasure. Somehow, she gets mixed up in finding a valuable trident that needs to go on the statue of Poseidon.

During this very monotonous “adventure,” Pattie and her friends meet a talkative seagull named Chickos (also voiced by Bowen) and mischievous twin rats named Bernardo (voiced by Kwasi Songui) and Gerardo (voiced by Patrick Emmanuel Abellard). The members of this motley crew encounter some obstacles, such as a giant octopus that vomits green slime and a Cyclops that operates a giant rock robot. Pattie and Sam have an argument that separates them, but you just know that they will eventually reconcile.

There is absolutely nothing that’s surprising about “Epic Tails,” which has basic animation, unimpressive voice performances, and a story that is so sloppy, there are many time-wasting scenes with insipid dialogue. (For whatever reason, Poseidon has a weird habit of saying, “Hasta la vista!”) The movie’s hero characters go out of their way to appease Poseidon, who does not face any consequences and is unapologetic for his bullying. It’s a horrible message in an equally horrible film targeted to children and families.

Viva Pictures released “Epic Tails” in select U.S. cinemas on April 5, 2024. The movie was released in Europe, Asia, and Brazil in 2023.

Review: ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3,’ starring Nia Vardalos, John Corbett, Louis Mandylor, Elena Kampouris, Gia Carides, Joey Fatone, Lainie Kazan and Andrea Martin

September 18, 2023

by Carla Hay

John Corbett, Maria Vacratsis, Melina Kotselou, Nia Vardalos, Elena Kampouris, Andrea Martin and Elias Kacavas in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” (Photo by Yannis Drakoulidis/Focus Features)

“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3”

Directed by Nia Vardalos

Culture Representation: Taking place in Greece and briefly in Chicago, the comedy film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few Arab people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A large Greek American family goes to Greece to spread the ashes of a recently deceased patriarch and to deliver his beloved journal to his old friends, but complications and distractions happen during this chaotic family trip. 

Culture Audience: “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of star/filmmaker Nia Vardalos and the “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” franchise, but people who saw the first movie in the franchise will be appalled or disappointed by how low the quality has sunk for this third film in the series.

Gia Carides and Joey Fatone in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” (Photo by Yannis Drakoulidis/Focus Features)

The third time is not the charm for the “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” movie series. Writer/director/star Nia Vardalos should have given “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” the title “My Big Fat Pathetic Excuse for a Movie Sequel.” This dull, unfunny film drags down to embarrassing levels of stale jokes that would be rejected by amateur comedians. This is not going to be the movie that will erase the “one-hit wonder” image that Vardalos has in filmmaking.

When the romantic comedy “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” was released in 2002, this low-budget independent film became a surprise blockbuster hit in telling the story of a 30-year-old Greek American named Toula Portokalos (played by Vardalos) who works at her family’s Greek restaurant in Chicago, and is being pressured by her large and opinionated family to get married to a nice man of Greek heritage. However, Toula falls in love with a nice non-Greek man named Ian Miller (played by John Corbett), who is a school teacher. Vardalos, who was born and raised in Canada, got an Oscar nomination for writing the screenplay for “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” which is based on a one-woman play that she did in Los Angeles in 1997. The play was inspired by her own life as a woman of Greek heritage who married a man who does not have Greek heritage.

“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2” (released in 2016), a very unworthy sequel, told the story of spouses Toula and Ian dealing with their 17-year-old daughter/only child Paris (played by Elena Kampouris), who wants to go to a university far away from her parents. Shenanigans happen when the family finds out that Toula’s Greek immigrant parents Konstantinos/Kostas “Gus” Portokalos (played by Michael Constantine) and Maria Portokalos (played by Lainie Kazan) aren’t legally married because of a technicality. You can easily guess who’s having the big wedding in that movie. In “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3,” it’s not revealed right away who will have the movie’s big wedding, but when it does happen, it’s so hastily thrown into the movie, it looks very fake and rushed. It’s really just sloppy screenwriting

Vardalos wrote the screenplay for all three of these movies (where Toula is the narrator), but “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” is the first time she’s directed a movie in the “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” franchise. Her feature-film directorial debut was 2009’s “I Hate Valentine’s Day” (also starring Vardalos and Corbett), which was a cringeworthy flop in every sense of the word. Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson and Gary Goetzman are the producers of the first three “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” movies, which have had diminishing returns in creativity and profits. In other words, sometimes all you need are some rich friends who will pay for your awful movie and can afford to lose money if the movie rightfully bombs.

You’d think that with a seven-year gap between “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” sequels, that would be enough time for Vardalos to come up with some clever ideas. But no. “My Big Fat Weekend 3” is just a mostly boring hodgepodge of badly edited skits in desperate need of a coherent plot. The movie jumps from one subplot to the next, while stuffing these subplots with cheesy gags and hokey scenarios and never fully developing these subplots.

“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” also has a weird fixation on making tasteless jokes at the expense of elderly women because of their ages and physical conditions. It’s “insult comedy” that has no wit or even a glimmer of charm, because the jokes are very idiotic, as if they came from the mind of a less-than-smart 12-year-old brat. For example, in “My Big Fat Weekend 3,” Toula’s widowed mother Maria now has early-onset dementia. (Constantine, who played Maria’s husband/Toula’s father, died in 2021.) The movie makes Maria (who’s in the movie for less than 15 minutes) the butt of jokes because Maria has this very traumatic medical disease.

The first two “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” movies took place in Chicago. “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” takes place mostly in Greece and briefly in Chicago. The movie was filmed on location in Greece, so there are plenty of aesthetically pleasing camera shots of the gorgeous Greek landscape. But this movie isn’t a video travelogue, although many of the most basic travelogues are more exciting than this dreadful dud of a movie.

Toula and her very large family (without Maria, who’s too ill to travel) go to Greece to have a memorial for Toula’s recently deceased father, whose wish was for his treasured personal journal to be delivered to his group of male best friends, whom he knew when he was living in Greece. Toula’s father was cremated, so the urn with his ashes is brought on this trip, with the intention to scatter the ashes in the Greek village where he was raised. Recent college dropout Paris, who left New York University because of too much partying, is on this trip. And so are Toula’s dimwitted brother Nick Portokalos (played by Louis Mandylor) and Maria’s two annoying sisters: talkative and controlling Voula (played by Andrea Martin) and weak-minded and creepy Frieda (played by Maria Vacratsis), who are all unflattering stereotypes of Greek Americans.

This movie sets up sight gags of this large group (at least 20) of Toula’s family members boarding the airplane like a noisy group of squawking chickens. Except for the above-mentioned relatives who are in Toula’s immediate circle, the additional family members are really just glorified extras who don’t have significant lines of dialogue or storylines. And in a very contrived plot development, Paris’ most recent former suitor (a guy she barely knows because she rejected him after only one or two dates) is on the same flight. He is a handsome Greek American named Aristotle (played by Elias Kacavas), who tells a horrified Paris that he was hired to help Voula (the movie never really explains what type of “help” Aristotle agreed to do), only to find out that it’s an obvious setup for Aristotle and Paris to get back together.

Upon arriving at the airport in Greece, things get more ridiculous when a cheerful young stranger (about mid-to-late 20s) whose name is Victory (played by Melina Kotselou) greets this boisterous clan and offers to give them a tour of the village where the family will be having the memorial. Victory claims to be the mayor of this village, which Victory later announces has only six residents. The circumstances under which Victory knew about this family’s airplane flight are vaguely explained, much like many things are inadequately explained in this poorly written movie.

“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” keeps dropping big hints that Victory is a non-binary person, but the movie won’t really come right out and say the word “non-binary.” It’s as if Vardalos wanted to appeal to political liberals for having an “inclusive” movie, but she also didn’t want to offend political conservatives by having an openly non-binary character in the movie. It’s playing both sides, which comes off as kind of manipulative.

The movie isn’t that inclusive, when it comes to race. Except for a few characters of Arab heritage, everyone who has a speaking role in this movie is white. “My Big Fat Wedding 3” is polluted with overused family comedy clichés of meddling aunts who are obsessed with everyone else’s love lives; pouting young people who want freedom from their parents’ expectations; buffoonish uncles/brothers, who act like clueless clowns; and a central couple who wants to hold the family together and make everyone happy.

Another big family comedy cliché is a grouchy old woman whose main purpose is to make the characters uncomfortable. In the case of “My Big Fat Wedding 3,” this cranky senior citizen is Alexandra (played by Anthi Andreopoulou), who suddenly shows up and keeps interfering in the family’s business. Alexandra says that she is a former girlfriend of Toula’s father, and they dated before he met Maria. Here’s an example of one of the movie’s terrible jokes: Alexandra announces to the group: “I can do facials with Greek yogurt. Enemas too.”

Alexandra has a friendly personal assistant named Qamar (played by Stephanie Nur), who is a Syrian refugee with no family members in Greece. Qamar is dating a good-looking local Greek man named Christos (played by Giannis Vasilottos), but they’re keeping their romance a secret from Christos’ family, because they’re afraid his family won’t accept Qamar for not being Greek. You know where this is all going, of course. Later in the movie, a local Greek man named Peter (played by Alexis Georgoulis), who’s a few years older than Toula, is introduced to Toula and her family. Toula immediately thinks that Peter is attracted to her.

Voula’s two children Nikki (played by Gia Carides) and Angelo (played by Joey Fatone) make tangential return appearances that are awkwardly shoved into “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3.” Nikki and Angelo are summoned from the U.S. to go to Greece and are tasked with finding the long-lost friends of Toula’s late father. Nikki, who was in the first two “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” movies, was a vital character as Toula’s best friend in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” In “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3,” she’s a sidelined and cartoonish character. And so is Angelo, who came out as gay in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2,” but his personal life is not part of the storyline in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3.”

As for Toula and Ian, their relationship is portrayed on a very superficial level in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3,” with no real insight into how they’ve evolved as a couple since “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.” Toula and Ian kiss and cuddle each other and show other signs that they are still in love, but it’s like reading a greeting card for someone’s wedding anniversary: The loving words are there, but they’re just showy expressions. On screen in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3,” the marriage of Ian and Toula doesn’t have much substance and often looks too much like an acting performance. Toula and Ian, whose passion is supposed to be the driving force of this franchise, have become a bland and monotonous couple.

“My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is a pile-on of empty-headed dialogue and scenarios. In one scene, Toula has had a little too much alcohol to drink. She says, “I forgot there’s alcohol in alcohol.” Watching “A Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” is like watching human brain cells die from all the stupidity in this time-wasting movie.

In another scene, a goat has accidentally wandered into the house where Toula and her family are staying. This unexpected goat intrusion happens early in the morning, when everyone is still asleep. Voula lets out a big scream when she sees the goat in the living room. She later quips about seeing the goat: “I thought my husband had come back from the dead.”

In yet another scene that’s supposed to be funny but just falls flat, Paris (whose wardrobe suddenly goes from frumpy to flirty in this movie) goes for a swim by herself on a beach, only to discover that she’s at a nudist beach. (There are no naked private parts in this movie.) She decides to go with the flow and take off all her clothes before going in the water for a relaxing swim. And then, Paris is shocked to find out that Voula and Frieda are at the beach too and right there in the water with her. The movie then quickly cuts to another scene.

“My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” is an example of a bad movie that was made because the producers didn’t step in and demand a rewrite of this horrible screenplay. Vardalos’ aimless direction shows that she has learned nothing from the disaster that was “I Hate Valentine’s Day.” What’s most disappointing of all is that Vardalos created some very vibrant and interesting characters in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” but she has turned these characters into shallow props for a lot of jokes and slapstick set-ups that are lazy, worn-out and very misguided.

Focus Features released “My Big Fat Greek Wedding 3” in U.S. cinemas on September 8, 2023.

Review: ‘Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery,’ starring Daniel Craig, Edward Norton, Janelle Monáe, Kathryn Hahn, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Madelyn Cline, Kate Hudson and Dave Bautista

November 23, 2022

by Carla Hay

Kate Hudson, Jessica Henwick, Daniel Craig and Leslie Odom Jr. in “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” (Photo by John Wilson/Netflix)

“Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery”

Directed by Rian Johnson

Culture Representation: Taking place in 2020, mostly on an unnamed island in Greece and briefly in the United States, the comedy/drama film “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African American and Asians) portraying the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Southern gentleman detective Benoit Blanc is invited to the private Greek island of a technology billionaire, who is hosting a murder mystery party, where at least one person gets murdered for real.

Culture Audience: “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of 2019’s “Knives Out,” star Daniel Craig, and murder mysteries that are also incisive social satires.

Edward Norton, Madelyn Cline, Kathryn Hahn, Dave Bautista, Leslie Odom Jr., Jessica Henwick, Kate Hudson, Janelle Monáe and Daniel Craig in “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” (Photo by John Wilson/Netflix)

Simply put: “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” is a sequel that’s better than the original movie. This comedy/drama is a fantastic follow-up to 2019’s “Knives Out,” another comedically dark murder mystery with its central location being the home of a wealthy person. Both movies, which are self-contained stories written and directed by Rian Johnson, deliciously skewer arrogant, rich elitists and other people with bad attitudes, while American Southern gentleman detective Benoit Blanc (played by Daniel Craig) solves the murder mystery. “Glass Onion” had its world premiere at the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival.

Johnson has said in many interviews that his greatest inspirations for his “Knives Out” movie series are Agatha Christie mystery novels and movie adaptations of these novels. In that respect, Benoit is like an American version of Christie’s “world’s greatest detective” Hercule Poirot from Belgium—someone who can deduce and reveal complex details and secrets about other people’s lives, but his own personal life remains a self-guarded mystery. (Craig is British in real life, but you can tell he has fun with doing a leisurely American Southern accent when he’s in the role of Benoit.)

Because the “Knives Out” movies are self-contained, it’s not necessary to see the first “Knives Out” movie to understand “Glass Onion.” However, seeing “Knives Out” can give viewers a better appreciation of how “Glass Onion” is an improvement from the first “Knives Out” movie, which is enjoyable but more predictable than “Glass Onion.” (“Knives Out” received several accolades that comedic murder mystery movies rarely receive, including an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay.)

In “Glass Onion,” several people from different parts of the U.S. have each received in the mail a mysterious box from American technology billionaire Miles Bron (played by Edward Norton), a pretentious blowhard who loves to name drop and show off his wealth. Miles, a bachelor who lives alone, has made his fortune from co-founding a company called Alpha Industries. The box that he has sent contains an elaborate puzzle that reveals an invitation to go to Miles’ private island home in Greece for a murder mystery party. In the invitation, Miles says that he will play the murder victim.

Benoit is one of the people who receives this box as a mail delivery. Later, when he gets to the party, he finds out in an awkward way that Miles didn’t actually invite Benoit. But now that Benoit is at the party, Miles doesn’t want Benoit to leave, because Benoit is just another celebrity whom Miles can brag about attending one of Miles’ parties. Who sent Benoit that box? That answer is revealed in the movie.

“Glass Onion” begins on May 13, 2020—the day that the boxes are delivered. It’s just a few short months into the COVID-19 pandemic, before a vaccine was available, and when mask-wearing and social distancing were becoming a way of life for people who cared to take those precautions. Some of the party guests are more concerned about the pandemic than others.

Before going to the party, Benoit is seen having a relaxing bath at his home. He’s on a videoconference call with an eclectic group of famous friends, such as Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim (who died in 2021), classical musician Yo-Yo Ma, actress Angela Lansbury (who died in 2022), retired basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and actress Natasha Lyonne, who all make these quick cameos as themselves in the movie. It’s in this scene that viewers see that Benoit likes to play quiz games with his friends during the pandemic.

The only other peek into Benoit’s personal life is when he’s on a videoconference call with a man named Philip (played by Hugh Grant), who seems to know a lot abut Benoit and his personal life. In this scene, viewers can speculate how close Benoit and Philip are to each other and what kind of relationship they might have. Ethan Hawke makes a brief appearance in the role of an unnamed Miles Bron employee, who sprays a COVID-19 medical screener inside each guest’s mouth when they arrive at Miles’ Greek island home. The implication is that this screener can make any possible COVID-19 symptoms disappear, and Miles is so rich, he can afford this medical treatment before it’s legally sold to the public.

Miles’ party guests have been transported by a private boat to the island, whose biggest building is a high-tech mansion that Miles has named Glass Onion. The property’s centerpiece is a giant glass structure shaped like an onion and located inside a glass atrium. (The onion can also be seen as a symbol of the story’s layers that get peeled to reveal the truth. The Beatles song “Glass Onion” is played during the movie’s closing credits.) Inside this nouveau-riche home are dozens of glass sculptures and gaudy indications that Miles is a narcissist, such as a giant portrait painting of a shirtless Miles that makes his physique look more athletic than it really is.

In addition to Benoit, the other people at this party are:

  • Claire Debella (played by Kathryn Hahn), a progressive Democratic politician who is very image-conscious and currently running for re-election as governor of Connecticut.
  • Lionel Toussaint (played by Leslie Odom Jr.), an experimental scientist who has recently been testing a mystery product called Klear that Miles wants to sell, but Lionel has been warning Miles not to send this “volatile substance” on a manned airplane flight.
  • Birdie Jay (played by Kate Hudson), a controversial former supermodel who is now a fashion entrepreneur, who says and does racially offensive things on social media, and who is currently embroiled in a scandal about her fashion company using an exploitative sweatshop in Bangladesh.
  • Peg (played by Jessica Henwick), Birdie’s always-worried assistant who constantly has to clean up Birdie’s messes and prevent Birdie from doing more damage to Birdie’s reputation and career.
  • Duke Cody (played by Dave Bautista), a very sexist and gun-toting loudmouth who has become a famous social media influencer and “men’s rights” activist promoting the belief that men are superior to women.
  • Whiskey (played by Madelyn Cline), Duke’s airheaded girlfriend/social media sidekick who doesn’t seem to be doing anything with her life but being a hanger-on/gold digger/social climber.
  • Andi Brand (played by Janelle Monáe), Miles’ former business partner, who lost a bitter lawsuit against him, in which she claimed that she came up with most of the ideas for Alpha Industries, and she accused Miles of stealing her share of the company from her.

It’s eventually revealed in the story that Miles, Andi, Claire, Lionel, Birdie and Duke all knew each other from 10 years ago, when they were struggling to “make it” in their chosen professions. Andi was the one who introduced Miles (who was unlikable even back then) to the rest of the group. They all used to hang out at a bar called Glass Onion.

Miles is a big talker who is very good at making people believe that he’s smarter than he really is. For example, he makes up words that don’t exist. His incessant namedropping becomes an ongoing lampoon in the movie. He mentions how he got famous composer Philip Glass to write original music for him. Miles also brags about his other connections to celebrities, such as getting a personal gift from actor/musician Jared Leto and getting invited to a recent birthday party for CNN anchor Anderson Cooper.

As the story goes on, cracks begin to show in many of the party guests’ façades. Birdie wants people to think that she’s confident, but she’s actually very insecure about being perceived as unattractive and a has-been. Peg, who appears to cool-headed and logical, is actually on edge and desperate, because she has spent most of her career with loose cannon Birdie, so anything that destroys Birdie’s career will probably destroy Peg’s career too. Lionel is uncomfortable with being paid by Miles to approve this mystery product Klear that Lionel says is too dangerous to approve.

Claire, who prides herself on being a “take charge” control freak, is worried about how wild this party might get and how it could affect her reputation in this crucial election year. Duke becomes uneasy when he sees that Whiskey is openly flirting with Miles, who does nothing to stop this flirtation and seems to be enjoying it. Andi, who is the most mysterious guest, keeps her distance from the group for a great deal of the movie, and she seems to be tough-minded and occasionally rude, but her emotional vulnerabilities are eventually exposed. When Andi arrives at the island, Miles tells her that he’s surprised that she accepted the invitation.

Of course, Andi appears to be the one who has the biggest grudge against Miles. She is also different from the other guests because she was the only one who didn’t bother to figure out the box puzzle but just smashed the box instead and found the invitation. In a group of characters with larger-than-life personalities, Monáe delivers a complex performance that is one of the highlights of “Glass Onion.”

It would be revealing too much to say who actually gets murderded in “Glass Onion,” but it’s enough to say that the movie has more twists and turns and than “Knives Out.” The comedy in “Glass Onion” has much sharper edges that result in some intentionally hilarious moments. The dialogue and scenarios portray in stinging accuracy what can happen when people try to impress each other too much and wallow in self-centered pretension.

Peg and Benoit are the only people at the party who don’t show any completely obnoxious qualities, for different reasons. Peg, who seems like a decent person overall, is at the party in the capacity of being a subservient employee who’s afraid of losing her job. Benoit, as always, is a keen observer of people and doesn’t really jump into action until there’s a murder to be solved. Craig, who seems born to play the role of this sly and sarcastic private detective, has no doubt found his next big movie franchise after retiring from the role of James Bond.

Also turning in very good performances are Norton as billionaire jerk Miles and Hudson as spoiled celebrity Birdie. These two characters have some of the best lines in “Glass Onion,” which makes them the type of characters whom viewers will love to hate. However, if we’re being honest, Norton and Hudson have played these types of unlikable characters in other movies before, so people might not be as surprised by these performances. Monáe shows a range in “Glass Onion” that she hasn’t had a chance to show in her previous movies. The rest of the principal cast members in “Glass Onion” have characters that are a bit shallow and underdeveloped.

The production design of “Glass Onion” (which was filmed on location in Greece) is quite striking and has more originality than the “old money” mansion setting of “Knives Out.” Johnson’s screenplay and direction for “Glass Onion” are sharp, witty and thoroughly engaging, even when the characters are saying and doing awful things. “Glass Onion” also benefits from having less characters than “Knives Out” had, thereby making the “Glass Onion” story less cluttered than “Knives Out.” Most of all, “Glass Onion” admirably avoids one of the biggest mistakes that most movie sequels make: It doesn’t try to copy its predecessor. To put it in baseball terms: It swings big in its ambitions and hits a home run.

Netflix released “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” for a limited one-week engagement in U.S. cinemas on November 23, 2022. The movie will premiere on Netflix on December 23, 2022.

Review: ‘King Otto,’ starring Otto Rehhagel

May 20, 2022

by Carla Hay

Otto Rehhagel in “King Otto” (Photo courtesy of MPI Media Group)

“King Otto”

Directed by Christopher André Marks

Greek, German and English with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Greece and other parts of the world, the documentary film “King Otto” features an all-white group of men who are connected in some way to Greece’s national soccer team of the 2000s.

Culture Clash: German soccer coach Otto Rehhagel, who had success in coaching German professional soccer teams, took a big risk to coach Greece’s national soccer team, which was on a losing streak for decades, to transform the Greek team into underestimated winners.

Culture Audience: “King Otto” will appeal mainly to people who are fans of soccer and underdog sports stories.

Otto Rehhagel (top center, in black and white outfit) in “King Otto” (Photo courtesy of MPI Media Group)

You don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy the documentary “King Otto,” the inspirational story of how German coach Otto Rehhagel transformed Greece’s national soccer team from a group on a losing streak into international champions in the 2000s. It’s also a story of how people can overcome language barriers and cultural differences to succeed in common goals without losing their identities. “King Otto” follows a familiar documentary format for this type of story, but the thrilling archival sports footage and insightful interviews make this movie an engaging watch from start to finish.

Directed by Christopher André Marks, “King Otto” is also just the right length (82 minutes) to tell the story well without being too long or too short. At the center of the interview footage is Rehhagel, who has a compelling way that he shares his memories of how he took the Greek national soccer team from the bottom of the pack to the top of the heap. He was with the Greek team from 2000 to 2010. It’s a story of massive risk-taking and how confidence and the right teamwork can pay off to great rewards.

Most coaches who are at the top of their game with a championship and well-respected track record don’t decide to do an about-face to relocate to another country and coach a losing team. But that’s exactly what Rehhagel (a former soccer player himself) did in 2000, when he began coaching the Greek national soccer team. When Rehhagel took the job offer to coach the Greek team, he was a very famous soccer coach in Germany. He had the nickname King Otto because of his charismatic leadership qualities.

Rehhagel had his greatest success in German soccer as the coach of Werder Bremen from 1981 to 1995. During this time period, Werder Bremen was transformed from a modestly winning team to a powerhouse, winning German championships in 1988 and 1993, as well as the European Cup in 1992. Rehhagel left Werder Bremen to coach rival team Bayern Munich from 1994 to 1995, but it was a tumultuous change that resulted in Rehhagel being fired.

Rehhagel then moved on to manage the German soccer team Kaiserslautern from 1996 to 2000, to mixed results. The team won the German national championship in 1998, but that turned out to be the peak victory for the team under Rehhagel’s leadership. He resigned from Kaiserslautern in 2000. It’s no wonder, under these circumstances, that Rehhagel probably thought it might be good for him to do something radically different. And that’s when he accepted the offer to coach the Greek national soccer team.

In the beginning of “King Otto,” Rehhagel is shown looking around at an empty Panathenaic Stadium in Athens, Greece. In a voiceover, he makes this comment about why Greece appealed to him: “We admire the Greeks for their history. They have given so much to the world. I, as a German, had a special relationship with the Greeks.”

He continues, “And if someone had told me what would happen one day, no one would have believed it. We were outsiders in the entire world of football. But, as Greek history teaches us, the gods always have their own plans.”

Most of Rehhagel’s interview footage is of him in a room literally sitting on a throne, which was probably the “King Otto” filmmakers’ idea, not his. Although Rehhagel’s nickname is King Otto, he doesn’t put on pretentious airs. There are touches of arrogance in his storytelling. However, this pride isn’t so much about himself as it is about the collective pride that he feels about what he was able to accomplish with the team members who were widely underestimated and disrespected in the world of soccer until Rehhagel came along.

Greek National Team president Vassilis Gagatsis was the one who recruited Rehhagel for the job. Gagatsis says in the documentary: “I wanted to hire Rehhagel because I thought [Rehhagel] being a German, he would be able to instill the discipline that we Greeks lack.” Gagatsis describes Greek culture as a lot of partying and procrastination—two words that he said also could describe the Greek National Team at the time.

There were other problems too. Gagatsis remembers, “When I became president, the National Team was like a traveling circus.” By the time Rehhagel joined as the coach, the team still didn’t have its own training center. “The team had to wander around and beg local clubs to let us use their facilities,” adds Gagatsis.

Rehhagel (who was born in 1938) remembers that he was reluctant to take the job at first. For starters, he was in his early 60s, an age range when most people in his line of work are retired or plan to retire within a few years. Second, there was a language barrier, since Rehhagel did not speak Greek, and none of the Greek players spoke German. And third, there was no denying that it was going to be an uphill battle to transform an underfunded, perpetually losing team into winners.

But take the job he did. And it wasn’t easy, because Rehhagel’s strict and intense style clashed with the Greek players being accustomed to a more laid-back way of coaching. Rehhagel also refused to permanently relocate to Greece and maintained his home in Germany in those early years, thereby adding to the perception that he was just a visiting outsider. With tensions rising between the German coach and the Greek team, something had to be done to solve this problem.

Understanding that he couldn’t bridge the gap alone, Rehhagel recruited Ioannis Topalidis, a former soccer player who was fluent in Greek and German, to be Rehhagel’s assistant coach. In the documentary, Topalidis says that in his translations to the team members, he would “sugar coat” Rehhagel’s often-harsh criticisms to the team members. In other words, Topalidis would translate Rehhagel’s comments as being nicer and more humorous than what Rehhagel was actually saying. The trick worked, because Topalidis said the team started responding better to Rehhagel when they thought that what he was saying was more diplomatic.

Also interviewed in “King Otto” are several former Greek National Team members who worked with Rehhagel as their coach. They include midfielder Giorgos Karagounis, defender Georgios “Giourkas” Seitaridis, goalkeeper Antonios Nikopolidis and defender Takis Fyssas. Their interviews—along with the interviews of Rehhagel, Gagatsis and Topalidis—provide lively play-play-play recollections of some of the team’s best tournaments, including the 2004 European Championship. (David Beckham and Thierry Henry in their youth are included in the documentary’s archival footage.)

“King Otto” does what every good sports documentary does, even if you might already know the outcome of the matches shown in the movie: It makes you root for the protagonists, feel the pain of defeat, and rejoice in the glory of hard-won and well-deserved victories. It’s a well-edited documentary where the pace never drags.

There’s also even-handed mix of the archival footage and the interviews, all presented in a straightforward manner. “King Otto” does not make the documentary mistake of having too many talking head interviews. Some viewers might get a little emotional at the end of the documentary, which shows a sentimentally sweet moment when former coaching partners Rehhagel and Topalidis reunite at an empty Panathenaic Stadium to reminisce together about their best memories of the Greek National Team.

Sports are often indicative of how people overcome obstacles in other areas of their lives. Sports can teach people how it’s important not to get too conceited or too comfortable in life’s accomplishments. In this unique soccer story, “King Otto” also proves that it’s never too late to take bold risks in life; to mentor people who need mentoring; and to be willing to work hard to make seemingly unattainable dreams a reality.

MPI Media Group released “King Otto” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on March 25, 2022.

Review: ‘The Lost Daughter,’ starring Olivia Colman, Dakota Johnson and Jessie Buckley

December 19, 2021

by Carla Hay

Dakota Johnson and Olivia Colman in “The Lost Daughter” (Photo by Yannis Drakoulidis/Netflix) 

“The Lost Daughter” (2021)

Directed by Maggie Gyllenhaal

Culture Representation: Taking place in Greece, England and Italy, the dramatic film “The Lost Daughter” features an all-white cast of characters representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A British woman, who works as a comparative Italian literature professor, goes on vacation in Greece, where she has flashbacks of her troubled background as a young mother, after she encounters a young mother from a boisterous Italian American family who are staying in the same vacation villa spot. 

Culture Audience: “The Lost Daughter” will appeal primarily to fans of star Olivia Colman and expertly acted psychological dramas.

Jessie Buckley (center) in “The Lost Daughter” (Photo by Yannis Drakoulidis/Netflix) 

“The Lost Daughter” upends the stereotype that mothers depicted in movies are supposed to think that parenthood is the greatest thing that ever happened to them. Much of the discontent in the movie has to do with doubts and insecurities that mothers have when they find out that motherhood doesn’t make them as happy as they were taught to believe it would. The movie might start off looking like a mystery thriller, but it’s really a psychological drama that takes viewers inside the restless and uneasy mind of woman during a tension-filled vacation and how she affects other people around her. Olivia Colman anchors the movie with a memorable and intriguing performance.

“The Lost Daughter” is the feature-film directorial debut of Maggie Gyllenhaal, who wrote the adapted screenplay, which is based on Elena Ferrante’s 2006 novel of the same name. It’s a fairly faithful adaptation of the book, but the movie changes the nationalities of the main characters and the coastal vacation setting from Italy to Greece. “The Lost Daughter” benefits from cinematic elements (such as production design and music) that very much enhance the mood and emotions conveyed in the story. Just like in the book, the movie centers on a vacation that is fraught with some psychological torment and guilt over motherhood issues.

In “The Lost Daughter,” Colman portrays Leda Caruso, a 48-year-old university professor of comparative Italian literature. Leda is originally from England: She grew up in Leeds and currently lives in Cambridge. Leda is on vacation in Greece, where she is renting a villa during this trip. (In “The Lost Daughter” book, Leda is an Italian native who is a university professor of English and vacationing in Italy.)

Leda is divorced with two adult daughters: 25-year-old Bianca and 23-year-old Martha, who are not seen in the movie but whose voices can be heard when they talk to Leda on the phone. Ellie James is the voice of the adult Bianca, while Isabelle Della-Porta is the voice of the adult Martha. At different points in the movie, Leda has flashbacks to when her daughters were underage children. In these flashbacks, Jessie Buckley plays young Leda, Robyn Elwell plays Bianca at approximately 7 or 8 years old, and Ellie Mae Blake plays Martha at about 5 or 6 years old.

Leda is looking forward to spending some quiet and relaxing time alone on this vacation. Two of the first people she meets are Lyle (played by Ed Harris), the middle-aged caretaker of the villa where’s staying, and Will (played by Paul Mescal), an Irish college business student who works at the resort during the summer as a lifeguard and general handyman. Lyle and Will are both friendly and accommodating. Lyle mentions that he’s been the villa’s caretaker for the past 30 years.

Leda’s plans for a tranquil holiday become disrupted when her vacation becomes anything but quiet and relaxing. Not long after Leda finds a space on a beach to settle down and get some sun, a large and very loud Italian American family shows up and interrupts Leda’s peace and quiet. There are about 12 to 15 people in this group of raucous newcomers.

Two of them are a married couple named Callie (played by Dagmara Dominczyk) and Vassili (played by Panos Koronis), who ask Leda to move out of her spot on the beach to make room for some people in the group. Leda firmly says no. In response, a young man in the group calls Leda a derogatory and sexist name that rhymes with “punt.” Callie and Vassili walk away, visibly annoyed with Leda.

Needless to say, Leda and this family do not make a good impression on each other. From where Leda sits on the beach, she observes this family. Leda notices a strikingly good-looking couple who’s part of the group: They are Callie’s younger sister Nina (played by Dakota Johnson) and Nina’s husband Toni (played by Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who seem to have a passionate marriage, based on their public displays of affection. Nina and Toni have a daughter with them named Elena (played by Athena Martin Anderson), who’s about 5 years old.

Shortly after the awkward encounter with Leda, Callie approaches Leda again on the beach. This time, it’s to make an apology for the family being so rude. Callie brings a piece of cake as a peace offering, and she asks Leda about herself. Leda doesn’t really seem interested in making friends with anyone on this trip, but she reluctantly answers the questions, such as where she’s from and what she does for a living.

During this conversation, Callie is talkative and friendly. Callie says her family is from New York City, but they have other family members who’ve lived in this part of Greece for “300 years.” She mentions that she’s 42 years old and seven months pregnant with her first child, which the family already knows will be a girl. This talk abut motherhood makes Leda visibly uncomfortable. Leda comments to Callie: “Children are a crushing responsibility.”

During her observation of this family on the beach, Leda notices that Elena shows a strong attachment to a girl doll that Elena carries around. Elena also shows signs of possibly disturbed behavior because she bites the doll in an unusually aggressive manner. The doll and what happens next to Elena end up being the catalyst for most of what triggers Leda’s memories and actions during this trip.

While the family’s adults are partying on the beach, Elena suddenly goes missing. A frantic search ensues that takes a few hours, but Leda ends up finding Elena by herself in a wooded area near the beach. When Leda brings Elena back to her family, Leda is treated like a hero. But deep inside, Leda doesn’t feel like a hero.

That’s because Elena’s disappearance reignites a painful memory of when Leda’s elder daughter Bianca went missing on a beach when Bianca was about the same age as Elena. This memory and other things that happened in Leda’s past are presented as flashbacks in the movie. And that’s when it’s revealed that Leda didn’t really enjoy being a mother very much.

Slowly but surely, viewers find out how Leda was as a mother to two young children; what led to the demise of Leda’s marriage to her husband Joe (played by Jack Farthing); and what happened when a young Leda was accepted into grad school at a university in Italy. Gyllenhaal’s real-life husband Peter Sarsgaard has a supporting role as Professor Hardy, a charismatic professor of an Italian literature class that Leda took when she was in grad school.

Colman gives a compelling performance as Leda, who seems brittle on the outside but has emotional vulnerabilities on the inside. Elena’s doll and what happens to it are symbolic of clinging to youthful memories. As Leda’s memories from the past come flooding back, she also becomes increasingly caught up in what’s going in Nina’s life and the distress that’s caused when Elena’s doll goes missing.

At one point, Will warns Leda that Nina and her family are “bad people.” How dangerous are they? Leda finds out at least one big secret about Nina, who remains somewhat of a mystery throughout the entire movie. Buckley’s portrayal of a young Leda gives a necessary emotional depth to the older Leda, who wants to keep her inner turmoil hidden from the world.

“The Lost Daughter” is best enjoyed by audiences if people know from the beginning that this isn’t a movie filled with big action scenes or with any obvious villains. It’s a searing portrait of how one woman reflects on how she handled motherhood and how her personal encounters with another mother often feels like an eerie and upsetting reminder of the past. The title of the movie refers to a child who goes missing in two separate parts of the story, but the overall emotional arc is how a woman finds parts of herself that she wants to lose or forget.

Netflix released “The Lost Daughter” in select U.S. cinemas on December 17, 2021. The movie premieres on Netflix on December 31, 2021.

Review: ‘Monday’ (2021), starring Sebastian Stan and Denise Gough

April 21, 2021

by Carla Hay

Denise Gough and Sebastian Stan in “Monday” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

“Monday” (2021)

Directed by Argyris Papadimitropoulos

Some language in Greek with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in Athens, Greece, the romantic drama “Monday” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few black people) representing the middle-class.

Culture Clash: A musician/party DJ and an immigration attorney, who are both American and in their 30s, meet in Greece, impulsively hook up with each other, and try to deal with problems in their relationship after they move in together.

Culture Audience: “Monday” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching the annoying shenanigans of a badly mismatched couple in an uneven, overly long movie that irritates more than it intrigues.

Sebastian Stan and Denise Gough in “Monday” (Photo courtesy of IFC Films)

If you’re in the mood to watch two American lovers in their mid-30s act like immature, self-absorbed partiers while living in Greece, in a shallow story that mostly goes nowhere, then feel free to waste about 115 minutes of your time watching this movie. The actors seem to be putting their best efforts forward to make their characters as realistic as possible, but it’s not enough to salvage “Monday,” which is bogged down by a meandering story filled with bad clichés that viewers might expect to see in a frat boy movie. “Monday” also needed better editing, because there are too many scenes that drag on repetitively.

Directed by Argyris Papadimitropoulos (who co-wrote the screenplay with Rob Hayes), “Monday” doesn’t tell a story as much as it strings together insufferable and often-dull scenes of a mismatched couple in Athens, Greece. It’s a movie about how two Americans meet in Greece, they quickly fall in lust with each other, and then they try to make their relationship work when they move in together after knowing each other for a few days. The biggest problem with “Monday” is that it’s more concerned with showing this couple’s antics instead of explaining why they ended up in this dysfunctional relationship.

The filmmakers of “Monday” might think the movie is “edgy” because it’s got full-frontal nudity (male and female), and it portrays people in their 30s acting like irresponsible brats in their early 20s. But “Monday” is just a series of rehashed stereotypes of any movie about young people who quickly hook up after they first meet. “Monday” director/co-writer Papadimitropoulos says in the movie’s production notes that the central couple’s relationship “is a very realistic take—maybe more than we can handle—on all relationships.” However, the “realism” that the movie is trying desperately to depict just comes across as very phony.

There’s even a “race to the airport” scene to stop someone from getting on a plane, which is an overused trope in movies about romance. It’s a trope that’s ripe for parody, but that “race to the airport” scene is in “Monday,” without any wit, irony or campy self-awareness. “Monday” has several of these types of lazy clichés littered throughout the film. Viewers who’ve seen enough of these types of movies will be constantly rolling their eyes at the cheesiness of it all.

The opening scene of “Monday” is a very “male gaze” trope of mostly attractive women (who might or might nor be intoxicated) dancing at a house party. The DJ at the party is named Mickey (played by Sebastian Stan), who is interrupted by the obnoxious party host Argyris (played by Yorgos Pirpassopoulos) because his friend Argyris wants to introduce someone to Mickey. Mickey is slightly annoyed at having to be pulled away from his work, but he obliges, because Agryis is technically his boss at this party.

Argyris (who is in his late 30s or early 40s) introduces Mickey (who is in his mid-30s) to a party guest named Chloe Gaines (played by Denise Gough), who’s also in her mid-30s but she mentions later in the movie that she’s older than Mickey. Before she meets Mickey, Chloe is seen drunkenly yelling into a phone to someone on the other line: “Fuck you, Christos!” It’s at this point in the movie that viewers can predict that Christos is her ex-boyfriend, and he’ll eventually show up in the movie. That’s because (cliché alert) movies like this always have at least one love triangle.

When Argyris introduces Chloe and Mickey to each other, he says it’s because they’re both American, as if that’s enough to make Chloe and Mickey compatible. In a very “only in a movie” scene, as soon as Chloe meets Mickey, she grabs him for a kiss, they start making out with each other, and they run out of the house together to have sex on a nearby beach. Meanwhile, Mickey seems to have forgotten all about the fact that he was in the midst of working as the party’s DJ.

The next morning, Mickey and Chloe wake up completely naked on the beach, and some families with young kids nearby express their shock and disgust. Someone has called the police on Mickey and Chloe for indecent exposure. Two cops (played by Michalis Laios and Mihalis Alexakis) are already at the beach when Mickey and Chloe wake up naked, so Mickey and Chloe get arrested and are hauled to a police station.

In the back of the police car, Mickey and Chloe introduce themselves to each other and tell each other their names for the first time. Yes, it’s that kind of movie. And apparently, Chloe and Mickey also forgot that that were already introduced to each other by Mickey’s friend Argyris.

At the small police station, the police chief (played by Giorgos Valais) on duty has this far-fetched reaction to the arrest: Once he hears that Mickey and Chloe are American, he asks, “Which basketball team do you support?” And he starts talking to them as if they’re having a conversation in a pub, not a police station. The police chief quickly lets them them go with no consequences and barely a warning.

Why? Because the filmmakers want viewers to think that when white Americans behave badly in other countries, it’s not only a privilege, it’s a right. At least that’s the attitude of Mickey and Chloe, as their boorishness gets a lot worse. Without giving away spoiler information about what happens later in the movie, it’s enough to say that this brush with Greek law enforcement won’t be the last time that Mickey and Chloe engage in illegal acts and have a run-in with the police in Greece.

The clichés continue about “irresponsible partiers in a movie.” Chloe finds out that she left her purse behind at the house where the party was held, so she asks Mickey for a ride back to the house. In the first of many signs that Mickey is floundering in his life, he has a motor scooter instead of a car. Chloe and Mickey go back to the house, but no one is there. Mickey calls Argyris to come back to the house so that Chloe can retrieve her purse.

The movie then has a somewhat dull stretch of Chloe and Mickey wandering around until she can get her purse. This self-centered couple actually spend some time asking questions about each other, but the information revealed is the bare minimum. It’s in this part of the movie that viewers will find out that Chloe is an immigration attorney who works on an independent contractor basis. She’s originally from the small town of Blanchester, Ohio, and has spent time living in Chicago. Chloe tells Mickey that she’s lived in Greece for the past 18 months, and she is moving back to Chicago in two days.

Mickey says that he’s originally from New Orleans, but he spent about 10 years living in New York City, where he was a musician in a band for an unnamed period of time. He’s been living in Greece for the past seven years. And he has a 6-year-old son named Hector, who lives nearby, but Mickey rarely sees Hector because Hector’s mother (Mickey’s ex-girlfriend Aspa Karas) had a falling out with Mickey. Mickey doesn’t go into details and will only say that trying to have a cordial relationship with Hector’s mother is a “work in progress.”

And during this “barely getting to know you” phase of their relationship, Mickey tries to persuade Chloe that she shouldn’t move back to the U.S. and that she should stay in Greece to be with him. Keep in mind, this is within 24 hours after they meet. Chloe hems and haws and acts offended that Mickey can be so presumptuous about what she wants and what will make her happy. But it’s not spoiler information to say that Chloe and Mickey end up living together, because their often-turbulent live-in relationship is about 80% of this movie.

“Monday” tries to fool audiences into thinking that Mickey and Chloe have a “love at first sight” romance, but any reasonable adult can see how the relationship is based mostly on sexual attraction, not true love. Mickey and Chloe say “I love you” to each other many times in the movie, but it doesn’t really appear to be that genuine. They’re saying it not because they mean it, but because they don’t want to be alone.

What made Chloe change her mind about living with Mickey? After Chloe and Mickey avoid jail time or any fines for indecent exposure, Chloe eventually gets her purse back, and she says what she thinks will be goodbye to Mickey. But then, that “race to the airport” scene happens, with Mickey running up to the metal detector area, just as Chloe has put her baggage on the conveyor belt.

Because Mickey isn’t a passenger with a ticket, a security officer is holding Mickey back as Mickey shouts at Chloe to get her attention. And the next thing you know, she’s moving in with Mickey. The only thing that’s slightly different about this moronic “race to the airport” scene is that it’s done fairly early on in the movie, instead of it being a typical climactic scene.

Part of the un-realism of “Monday” has to do with the huge gaps in Chloe and Mickey’s conversations before they move in together. Viewers never find out if Chloe or Mickey have ever been married or if they have any family members, except for Mickey’s son Hector. Chloe and Mickey are never shown asking each other these questions or talking about basic things people would want to find out about each other before they move in together as a couple. It’s one of many examples of how badly these characters are written.

And the entire time that Chloe knows Mickey in this story, she doesn’t seem curious to know anything about his son. She doesn’t even ask Mickey to see a photo of Hector. But there’s a whole section of the movie where Chloe tries to help Mickey get visitation rights to Hector. It’s all so “only in a movie” fake.

As for why the movie is called “Monday,” there’s a gimmick where many of the scenes start off with the word “Friday” in giant letters appearing on screen. The concept is that milestones in Chloe and Mickey’s relationship happen on a Friday. Chloe and Mickey met on a Friday. They also move in together on a Friday. You get the idea. And toward the end of the movie, something major is supposed to happen that will change Mickey and Chloe’s living situation. But that occasion (which won’t be revealed in this review) is scheduled to take place on a Monday.

Mickey lives in a two-bedroom condo that used to be owned by Argyris’ late grandmother, who had multiple properties that Argyris inherited. Argryis (who is Mickey’s closest friend) is weasel-like, crude and completely irritating. It’s implied that Argryis lives off of his family’s money because he doesn’t have a job, and his main priority is partying.

It’s easy to see why Mickey wants Argryis as a friend, because of all the perks that Mickey gets out of this relationship. It’s mentioned in the movie that Mickey gets to live rent-free in this condo. And as seen in the beginning of the movie, Mickey is hired to DJ at Argryis’ parties and can ditch the job whenever he feels like having sex with a stranger he just met at the party. The movie quickly fills up with examples of Mickey acting irresponsibly and facing no real punishment or consequences.

If people are wondering why Argyris has the same first name as the director of “Monday,” Papadimitropoulos explains it in the production notes: “The film was shot in places that I know like the back of my hand. The party where [Mickey and Chloe] meet is the same party I throw every year for my birthday. The beautiful island where they spend their first weekend together is the place I spent my last 25 summers and also the island I shot ‘Suntan’ on. Mickey lives in Kypseli—Greek for beehive—the bohemian and multicultural neighborhood of my youth. This is not only a cinematic game or an homage to places I love, it’s a way of making this feel even more personal.”

Personal? More like self-indulgent. Although “Monday” seems to have been inspired by Papadimitropoulos’ youthful memories, the arrested-development characters in the movie are just a little too old for their reckless antics to be considered endearing. It’s all actually quite pathetic.

Mickey hangs out with the type of men who think it’s funny to urinate or ejaculate in a woman’s drink without her knowledge, and then laugh when they tell her what she just drank. And since Chloe has no friends, Mickey’s friends become her friends. Most self-respecting adults would not want to be friends with people like Mickey and Chloe.

One of the more annoying aspects about “Monday” is how it wastes so much time on things that, at best, should have been deleted scenes. Chloe’s move-in day is a chore to watch, because viewers really won’t care about all the details of how Mickey got the truck to transport her furniture and other belongings. The movie spends at least 10 minutes explaining how Mickey got the truck. But apparently, that’s just an excuse to show Mickey and Chloe spontaneously pulling over on a street so that they can have sex in the back of the truck.

And viewers also won’t care to see an extensive segment showing how long it took to try to move Chloe’s favorite sofa into Mickey’s apartment. There’s visual repetition of Mickey and Chloe huffing and puffing while trying to move the sofa, and the sofa being dropped in frustration, because these dimwits refuse to accept that the sofa is too big to be carried up the narrow, winding staircase. (The building doesn’t have an elevator.)

Chloe whines about how it’s is her favorite sofa and she won’t abandon it. And yet, she apparently didn’t figure out early enough that the sofa was too big to be carried up the stairs. Instead, she wastes time trying to get someone to carry the sofa up the stairs, over and over. For an attorney, Chloe doesn’t have much common sense.

But then, later that day, after Chloe made such a big deal out of not wanting to get rid of her beloved sofa, she enthusiastically goes along when Mickey puts the sofa in the front of the building, he pours a bottle of liquor on the sofa, and lights the sofa on fire. This arson happens while Mickey has somehow gathered a lot of people to watch, like it’s some kind of bonfire party. And did we mention that he’s DJ’ing at this gathering too? It’s all just so stupid and contrived in this movie. The cops show up, but Mickey and Chloe run safely into their apartment with no consequences for committing this arson.

Mickey is fairly transparent about who he is, but “Monday” does a big disservice to the Chloe character by not giving her any depth or a real identity. She’s the one who makes the most sacrifices in this relationship, but the movie never gives any hints of why she has blown up her life to be in this dead-end relationship with Mickey. Chloe is given almost no backstory in this movie.

There are hints that Chloe is the type of person who worries about the future and likes to plan ahead. At one point in the movie, she says to Mickey if he ever asks himself, “What am I doing?” (As in, “What am I doing with my life?”)

Mickey flippantly says no, he never thinks that way. So what is Chloe doing with Mickey, who’s the epitome of an impetuous hedonist who only wants to live in the present? Opposites can attract, but there’s nothing in the movie that shows that these two have any real love for each other.

“Monday” tries to make it look like Chloe has somehow decided to get rid of her hangups after she’s met Mickey. But did she really? Viewers never find out what kind of person Chloe was before she met Mickey. There’s no indication of any past relationships she’s had, except with Christos (played by Andreas Konstantinou), who is depicted as a wealthy control freak.

Christos is not in the movie long enough to find out much about the relationship that Chloe had with him. Chloe doesn’t want to talk about Christos, and the movie doesn’t have flashbacks, but it’s inferred that she broke up with him. However, if Chloe ended the relationship with Christos because of his controlling nature, she’s jumped into another co-dependent relationship with Mickey. Most of what Chloe does in her relationship with Mickey is either cater to Mickey’s needs or enable his immaturity.

There are plenty of people whose careers are going well, but their personal lives are a mess. There are plenty of women who seem to have orderly lives but who have a pattern of going for “bad boys” who make their lives chaotic. Is Chloe that type of person? Viewers never find out. The filmmakers don’t want her to be a whole person. Her personality is essentially just a series of reactions to whatever Mickey says or does.

Based on things that are mentioned by people who know Mickey, it’s clear that he’s had an “I don’t want to grow up” attitude for a very long time, which explains a lot of things about how he lives his life. In one of the better-acted scenes in the movie, Chloe is sent by Mickey to have lunch with his ex-girlfriend Aspa (played by Elli Tringou), who is Hector’s mother, to discuss Mickey’s visitation rights for Hector. Aspa, who’s known Mickey longer than Chloe has, tries to burst Chloe’s bubble about Mickey, by warning her that Mickey is “a child.”

When Chloe speaks in glowing terms of how she and Mickey are in love, Aspa gives Chloe a reality check about Mickey’s selfishness. Aspa says that Hector speaks mostly Greek, but Mickey refuses to learn Greek and expects Hector to speak in English when Hector and Mickey communicate. Chloe brushes off this insightful information like a typical person in denial. Instead, Chloe chooses to think of Aspa as a bitter ex-girlfriend who’s jealous that Mickey has moved on to someone new.

It’s very telling that (1) Mickey would take the cowardly way out and not deal with the child visitation issue himself, by sending his new girlfriend to do the dirty work for him, and (2) Chloe was willing to do it. Can you say “doormat”? Later in the story, Chloe, not Mickey, comes up with the idea for them to learn a children’s song in Greek, as a way for Mickey to communicate with Hector in Greek.

The only indication that Mickey is making some attempt to be a caring father is that he has a room furnished for Hector, in case Hector comes to visit. Chloe knows that Aspa has denied visitation rights to Mickey, so Chloe volunteers to help Mickey with these legal issues, even though family law is not her specialty. In the meantime, Chloe wants to use Hector’s room to store some of her belongings. Mickey is very reluctant to allow it because of what the room represents. How this issue is resolved is an example of how awkwardly Chloe and Mickey have to navigate their relationship when they barely know each other.

While Mickey and Chloe are living together, Chloe decides to work from home until she finds office space. This arrangement turns out to be a hassle because Mickey, who makes some of his money by writing commercial jingle music, also works from home. Mickey’s home studio is in the living room, while Chloe’s “office” is in a room next door. It’s easy to predict some of the conflicts that arise.

There’s a tedious scene in the movie where Chloe and Mickey both have business meetings in their home with their respective clients at the same time. Not surprisingly, Mickey’s work involves playing music loudly, which disrupts the meeting that Chloe has with a man who wants to hire her for an immigration case. Mickey also gets into an argument with his client, who’s not happy with the music that Mickey created for the jingle. For some unknown reason, Argryis is in Mickey’s client meeting too, piping in with his opinions, even though Argryis doesn’t have a job and he has no discernable talent.

Chloe asks Mickey to keep the noise level down, but he barely does. Meanwhile, when Chloe finds out that the man she’s meeting with was referred to her by her ex-boyfriend Christos, she abruptly ends the meeting and tells this potential client that she can’t be his attorney. It’s easy to see that Chloe got upset as soon as Christos’ name was mentioned. Don’t expect this movie to give details on why Chloe and Christos broke up.

“Monday” gives a little bit more insight into Mickey’s past when his ex-bandmate Bastian (played by Dominique Tipper) shows up at Chloe and Mickey’s home, at Mickey’s invitation, because she’s in Greece to perform at a headlining show. Bastian is now a semi-famous solo artist who still lives in New York City. During their conversation, Bastian remarks to Mickey: “You’re not really happy unless you’re failing, and that’s why you left the band.”

It’s revealed that Mickey and Bastian used to be in a New York City-based band called Saint Claude. The band had a record deal and was doing pretty well, but Mickey quit toward the end of a successful tour. Mickey has some remorse, but not much. And it’s never explained why he quit, but it’s implied that he didn’t want to deal with any pressures that come with success. During her visit, Bastian tries to persuade Mickey to move back to the U.S. and work with her, but he immediately declines the offer.

After Bastian leaves, and Mickey and Chloe are lying in bed together, Chloe asks Mickey what Bastian meant by Mickey not being happy unless he’s failing. Mickey doesn’t really a straightforward answer, but he looks somewhat hurt and haunted, as if he knows that what Bastian said is entirely true. It’s one of the rare moments in the movie where someone shows some inkling of introspection.

But those moments are overshadowed by more shallowness and some drug-fueled antics. And, of course, there’s another cliché of a romantic drama that’s easy to predict the moment that Chloe is seen vomiting into a toilet in the middle of the day. And it’s not because she’s got a hangover.

Even without some of the insipid things that happen in this disjointed and wandering story, “Monday” fails on a very basic level of a romantic drama, by making the central couple so superficial. That doesn’t mean that they have to be likable. But viewers should feel like the couple can be relatable and that the romance is worth rooting for in some way, even if this duo is all wrong for each other. Chloe and Mickey’s romance is supposed to be the soul of this movie, but “Monday” is almost entirely soulless.

IFC Films released “Monday” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on April 16, 2021.

Copyright 2017-2024 Culture Mix