Review: ‘Double XL,’ starring Sonakshi Sinha, Huma Qureshi, Zaheer Iqbal and Mahat Raghavendra

November 10, 2022

by Carla Hay

Sonakshi Sinha and Huma Qureshi in “Double XL” (Photo courtesy of T-Series Films)

“Double XL”

Directed by Satram Ramani

Hindi with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in India and in London, the comedy/drama film “Double XL” features a predominantly Indian cast (with some white people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Two plus-sized women in their 30s—one who’s an aspiring sportscaster, the other who’s an aspiring fashion designer—become fast friends in London, where they are pursuing their dreams but experience discrimination because of their body sizes. 

Culture Audience: “Double XL” will appeal primarily to people interested in movies centered on plus-sized women and issues about weight discrimination, but the movie mishandles those issues with far-fetched situations and sappy solutions.

Huma Qureshi, Zaheer Iqbal, Mahat Raghavendra and Sonakshi Sinha in “Double XL” (Photo courtesy of T-Series Films)

“Double XL” wants to preach about body positivity and female empowerment, but this inept dramedy is overloaded with witless clichés and irksome performances. Weight prejudices and low self-esteem are used as silly gimmicks in many unrealistic scenarios. Instead of making women look independent and capable of handling their own career decisions, “Double XL” sends a very contradictory and socially backwards message that women need love interests who can help women with their careers.

Directed by Satram Ramani, “Double XL” had the potential to be a good movie, based on the overall concept: Two plus-sized women meet by chance, quickly become friends, and encourage each other to pursue their career dreams, despite being discriminated against because of their weight. “Double XL” is pretending to be that type of female-empowerment movie. But it’s really a messy junkpile of bad rom-com platitudes pushing the misgyonistic belief that men have to set examples for women on how to be confident and make the right decisions.

“Double XL” (with an uninspired screenplay written by Mudassar Aziz and Sasha Singh) is just another lazy and outdated movie that follows an over-used formula of women acting like whiny ditzes until they have male love interests who come to their rescue and help make their dreams come true. The women scream, cry or pout when things don’t go their way. Their male companions are the voices of reason who give pep talks to the women to help boost the women’s self-esteem and give them advice about their careers.

It should absolutely be applauded when people are emotionally supportive of each other and help each other with their careers. But when a movie defines it along gender lines, as one gender being “smarter” (intellectually and emotionally) than another gender, that’s when it’s sexist and problematic. People who have the misfortune of watching “Double XL” will see that the women in the movie are always seeking advice and help from men, but men don’t seek advice or help from women. And that’s why “Double XL” is a fake feminist film.

“Double XL” begins with the biggest stereotype of stereotypical romantic comedies: A woman having a fantasy about meeing a handsome Prince Charming. In this opening scene, Rajshri Trivedi (played by Huma Qureshi) is in her bed, dreaming about being at a fancy gala, where cricket star Shikhar Dhawan (playing a version of himself) sees her and asks her to dance. Her dream is interrupted by the shrieking of her demanding mother (played by Alka Kaushal), who is in the room and ordering Rajshri to wake up.

Rajshri, who is in her mid-30s, lives with her parents and paternal grandmother (played by Shobha Khote) in the rural town of Meerut, India. Rajshri’s father (played by Kanwaljeet Singh) is passive and quiet—the complete opposite of his wife. Rajshri’s mother is the worst stereotype of an angry and pushy mother who demands that her daughter should be a wife and mother by a certain age. And if the daughter can’t meet this demand, she will be considered a failure.

Rajshri knows that she’s not ready to get married at this point in her life, but her mother won’t listen to her and insists on matchmaking for Rajshri. Needless to say, Rajshri has not found a good match with any of the suitors who are introduced to her. The movie shows her having an awkward “date” with a guy named Tito, who is visiting the Trivedi home in a matchmaking setup from Rajshri’s mother.

When Rajshri asks Tito what his dreams and goals are, he says he wants to open a ball bearing shop. Rajshri tells Tito that she wants to be a TV sportscaster (cricket is her favorite sport), and she shows him some test sportscasting videos that she wrote and directed herself. Tito then tactfully tells Rajshri that he’s not attracted to her body size. And then, he bluntly tells her that if she wants to be a TV sportscaster, “you’ll have to lose weight for that too, because the rest of the world is an idiot like me.”

Meanwhile, in New Delhi, another plus-sized woman in her 30s is in a clothing store, where she’s trying on a blouse that’s size XL. She’s an aspiring fashion designer named Saira Khanna (played by Sonakshi Sinha), who is very outspoken about her opinions. Sara wears a lip ring and has green streaks in her hair, so she doesn’t look like a traditional fashion designer. Her tacky choice of clothes that she wears is also questionable for someone who wants to be taken seriously as a fashion designer, but that’s a whole other issue.

The blouse that she’s trying on is too small for her arm area, which causes the blouse to rip. Saira is infuriated because she thinks any blouse labeled size XL should automatically fit her. She marches over to the store’s sales clerk, tells him why the blouse ripped, and she yells at the sales clerk for mislabeling the blouse as XL. Saira also refuses to pay for the ripped blouse because she says that it’s the store’s fault that the blouse didn’t fit her.

It’s misplaced anger, because more than likely it was the blouse’s manufacturer, not the store, that mislabeled the blouse. As an aspiring fashion designer, Saira should know that, but this movie makes the leading female characters look very ignorant about the industries where they want to have professional careers. Saira lectures the store clerk about how she’s a fashion designer, and she would never label a blouse as XL if it’s too small for her to wear. The store clerk sheepishly says he’s sorry and admits that maybe the blouse size was mislabeled.

After going on that ill-tempered rant, Saira gets some good news at home: A company is interested in investing in her work so that she can possibly start her own fashion label. She has to go to London for this job opportunity, and she accepts this offer with no hesitation.

Saira is next seen at a house party. Her boyfriend Viren (played by Danish Pandor) is also at the party, and she can’t wait to find him to tell him the good news. While he’s in another area of the house, Saira overhears a younger woman named Nomi (played by Isha Dhillon) cattily tells some female friends that Viren is just using Saira for money and sex, and that Saira can’t get a better man because of Saira’s physical appearance. Saira looks hurt by these remarks, but she doesn’t let Nomi know she overheard this insult.

Saira has a best friend named Meera (played by Dolly Singh), who doesn’t approve of Viren and thinks Saira should break up with him. At the party, Saira finds Viren and tells him the good news about the job opportunity in London. He is very happy for her and congratulates her. But Saira looks like she’s secretly bothered about what she heard Nomi say about her.

Meanwhile, in Meerut, Rajshri can no longer take the pressure from her mother to find a husband. During a heated argument, Rajshri finally tells her meddling mother that she wants to have a career as a TV sportscaster, and she’s going to pursue this career in London. Her mother thinks it’s a foolish dream.

But they both make a compromise and a bet with each other: If Rajshri can accomplish her goal of becoming a professional sportscaster within a year, then her mother will stop pressuring Rajshri to get married. If Rajshri can’t accomplish this goal within a year, then Rajshri has to move back to India and let her mother find a husband for Rajshri.

Saira and Rajshri both end up in London, but they don’t meet each other immediately. Saira has an older brother (played by Sachin Shroff) who lives in London, so she stays with him while she’s there. Rajshri is staying with her married aunt named Rolie Mausi (played by Swati Tarar), who welcomes Rajshri with open arms.

As soon as viewers find out that Saira has a best friend who doesn’t like or trust Saira’s boyfriend, it should come as no surprise what happens next. Saira has to end her trip to London sooner than she expected. When she’s back in India, she goes over to Viren’s home for an unannounced visit. He looks very surprised to see her and is reluctant to let her inside.

Saira insists on going inside and is suspicious about why Viren is nervous. He tells her nothing is wrong, but she goes from room to room, to find out if Viren is hiding anything from her. And sure enough: A woman is hiding outside on the bedroom balcony, wearing nothing but a blanket. This no-longer-secret lover is Nomi, the woman from the party who was insulting Saira.

Saira predictably has a screeching meltdown, while Viren tries to appease her. His lies and pleas don’t work. Saira, who thought she was going to spend the rest of her life with Viren, breaks up with him. And then she says out loud that she should’ve listened to what her best friend Meera said about Viren.

Saira goes back to London, where she is rejected to be the director of a fashion travelogue because of her physical appearance. Around the same time, Rajshri goes on an open audition to be a sportscaster, but she’s also rejected because of her body size. It also doesn’t help that Rajshri doesn’t dress like a professional sportscaster during a job interview but dresses more like she’s a frumpy schoolteacher or a nanny.

After these rejections, Saira and Rajshri end up sobbing in the same public restroom. They tell each other why they’re crying and find out that they’ve both experienced discrimination because of their body sizes. And just like that, Saira and Rajshri decide that they’re going to become friends who will help each other fulfill their career dreams.

Saira’s brother works at a TV station, so that’s how Saira meets mild-mannered Srikanth Sreevardhan (played by Mahat Raghavendra), a camera operator who is Tamil and barely fluent in Hindi. Saira has decided to do a video fashion shoot of her fashion designs, so Srikanth has been recommended to her as the camera operator. Srikanth has a co-worker friend named Zorawar Rahmani (played by Zaheer Iqbal), nicknamed Zo, a line producer who is a hyper and talkative partier. Srikanth and Zorawar are both bachelors who don’t have girlfriends.

Even though “Double XL” is ostensibly about Saira and Rajshri helping each other, all the big breaks they get are only because of actions taken by their new male companions. Rajshri unrealistically gets to interview real-life, retired cricket star Kapil Dev (playing himself in the movie) because Zorawar set up the interview. “Double XL” makes a point of mentioning that it was Zorawar’s idea for Rajshri to do the interview, and he took the initiative to arrange for the interview to happen, so that he could give Rajshri a pleasant surprise.

But this accomplishment is tainted, because in order to get the interview, Zorawar lied and said that Rajshri operates an orphanage for 150 children. Kapil thinks he’s doing an interview for a charity. This interview (which is not on TV but recorded for Rajshri’s intended demo reel) becomes the source of some ridiculous hijinks that complicate Rajshri’s sportscaster dreams.

Meanwhile, the storyline about Saira’s fashion career becomes a time-wasting drag where her biggest “challenge” is filming models on the streets of London without a permit. She only chooses slender models for her first fashion shoots. And then, Saira has an “a-ha moment” that you know is coming as soon as the movie had that scene with Saira getting angry about trying on a size XL blouse that was too small for her.

“Double XL” is very lopsided in presenting the storylines of Saira and Rajshri, because Rajshri’s storyline takes up the bulk of the anxiety-ridden “drama” in the movie. Saira has a lot more self-confidence than Rajshri has. Saira’s career struggles aren’t as bleak, because she has a talent to create things on her own and just has to find enough people to buy her designs. Fashion designers (unless they are also models) are not judged as harshly for their physical appearance as people whose job is to be in front of a camera.

By contrast, Rajshri’s TV career goal is entirely dependent on being a hired by a mainstream media company that will judge her on how she looks, including her body size. And there’s also the matter of Rajshri being from a rural area and getting used to living in a big city. Saira has been a resident of a big city for a long time, so her adjustment to being in London is a lot easier than Rajshri’s adjustment. The movie has plenty of moments where Rajshri is depicted as a naïve “country bumpkin.”

With “Double XL” focusing almost all of the career problems and self-confidence issues on Rajshri, Saira’s storyline looks less significant in comparison. The biggest thing that Saira does for Rajshri in her career is predictably give her a fashion makeover. But what does Rajshri really do for Saira’s career? Not much, except tag along at her fashion shoots because Saira asked her.

Because’s Saira’s storyline become so uninteresting and limp—literally limp, because Saira sprains her ankle during a photo shoot—”Double XL tries to spice it up by making Saira annoyed with Zorawar and his irresponsible ways. And when a formulaic movie like “Double XL” has two unmarried people of the opposite sex who get irritated with each other but have to spend a lot of time together, you know where everything is going with this contrived relationship.

Rajshri is so caught up in trying to get a job as a TV sportscaster, she doesn’t notice that Srikanth has quietly become attracted to her. He opens up to Rajshri that his dream is to become a feature-film director. Srikanth says that his father encouraged this dream but didn’t live long enough to see Srikanth fulfill this goal. Srikanth eventually makes a huge move to show his affection and admiration for Rajshri.

One of the major problems with “Double XL” is that that the characters are more like caricatures. Viewers with enough life experience and common sense will have a hard time connecting to the four main “Double XL” characters, who all are very immature for their ages. They act more like people in their early-to-mid-20s rather than in their 30s. Rajshri’s storyline is much worse than Saira’s because of all the “only in a movie” fakeness in her plot developments.

Rajshri is also hopelessly ignorant about how the sportscasting industry really works. “Double XL” tries to make this ignorance look like Rajshri is just a sweet, innocent ingenue. But in reality, her ignorance makes her look unprofessional and undeserving of all the lucky breaks that she expects to rapidly come her way, just because she’s in London.

Rajshri gives up too easily, but Srikanth is there to tell her all the right things and improve her confidence. She knows that her body size could be an obstacle to getting certain jobs, but the movie makes Rajshri use her body size as a self-defeating crutch/excuse for every single failure that she has in life. After a while, this self-pity becomes pathetic. Rather than portraying Rajshri as enterprising and clever, “Double XL” makes her into a “damsel in distress” who needs a man to rescue her—in other words, the opposite of female empowerment.

The movie’s dialogue is very trite and mostly not very funny at all. The acting isn’t much better, although Sinha (as Saira) fares the best out of all the principal cast members when it comes to comedic timing and delivering her lines in a way that tries to look natural. All of the other characters in the movie are either too bland or too obnoxious.

“Double XL” has predictable scenes of Saira and Rajshri complaining to each other about how society can body shame women, especially women who are plus-sized. And what do Saira and Rajshri do to further wallow in their misery? They go to a fast-food place and order as much junk food as they can on the menu.

It’s supposed to be an act of defiance, but what are they trying to prove? No one else in the movie cares that Saira and Rajshri want to binge on junk food. This gluttony scene is the type of “comedy” that “Double XL” is desperately trying to convince viewers is funny, but it’s really a thinly veiled mockery of plus-sized women. “Double XL” gets worse as it goes along until it eventually becomes a thinly veiled mockery of real female empowerment.

T-Series Films released “Double XL” in select U.S. cinemas and in India on November 4, 2022.

Review: ‘Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris,’ starring Lesley Manville, Isabelle Huppert, Lambert Wilson, Alba Baptista, Lucas Bravo, Ellen Thomas and Jason Isaacs

July 11, 2022

by Carla Hay

Pictured in front: Lambert Wilson, Lesley Manville, Guilaine Londez, Dorottya Ilosvai and Alba Baptista in “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” (Photo by Dávid Lukács/Focus Features)

“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris”

Directed by Anthony Fabian

Culture Representation: Taking place in 1957, in London and Paris, the comedy/drama film “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” features a nearly all-white cast of characters (with a few black people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A widowed housekeeper in London goes to Paris, where she wants to fulfill her dream of buying a haute couture Dior gown, but she experiences obstacles and bigotry from snobs who think she isn’t worthy because of her working-class background.

Culture Audience: “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” will appeal mainly to people who are fans of star Lesley Manville and the book on which the movie is based, as well as to people who are interested in 1950s high fashion history and stories about working-class people navigating in upper-class society.

Isabelle Huppert and Roxane Duran in “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” (Photo by Dávid Lukács/Focus Features)

Despite a tendency to be cloying and cliché, the comedy/drama “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” has exuberant charm that’s hard to resist. Lesley Manville shines in this fairytale-like story about a woman who believes it’s never too late to chase a dream. On the surface, her dream is to buy a haute couture Dior gown, but the gown represents something much bigger to her: an ability to go outside her comfort zone to get what she wants in the pursuit of happiness.

Directed by Anthony Fabian, “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” is based on Paul Gallico’s 1958 novel “Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris.” The novel was also made into a 1992 TV-movie of the same name, starring Angela Lansbury in the title role. In the “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” movie directed by Fabian, the title character is played by Manville. Fabian co-wrote the movie’s adapted screenplay with Carroll Cartwright, Olivia Hetreed and Keith Thompson.

“In Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris,” it’s 1957, and Mrs. Harris is Ada Harris, a widowed housekeeper who’s in her 50s and who lives in London. (“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” was filmed in London and Paris—the two cities where the story takes place—but the movie was also filmed in Budapest to simulate Paris in the 1950s.) Ada dreams of having a more glamorous life. Ada’s often cheerful demeanor often hides her sadness over not knowing what happened to her husband Eddie, a military man who went missing in action during World War II in 1944.

Because Eddie hasn’t contacted her for all of these years, he’s presumed dead, but Ada can’t bring herself to face this probability. Ada, who lives alone and has no children, has not had a special man in her life since Eddie disappeared. She has long since given up on finding love because she thinks because of her age, occupation and physical appearance, she’s not very desirable.

“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” spends a little too much time in the first third of the movie showing Ada stuck in her drab routine life in London. There are repetitive scenes of her going to a bridge at night, where she talks out loud to her long-lost husband Eddie. Viewers of “Mrs. Harris Go to Paris” will have to have some patience before the movie gets to what the movie’s title is all about.

Ada’s best friend is Vi Butterfield (played by Ellen Thomas), a Caribbean immigrant who is around the same age as Ada. Vi (who also lives alone and has no children) is as confident as Ada is insecure. When Ada and Vi go out together at social clubs, Vi often has to give Ada pep talks to help boost Ada’s self-esteem. When they go out to these clubs, Ada is more likely to play cards at a table than to mingle and dance.

It’s at this nightclub, when Ada and Vi are sitting together at a table, where Ada gets the courage to open a package from the U.K. military that she has been dreading to open in front of Vi. Inside the package are a telegram and some of her husband Eddie’s personal possessions, including what appears to be a university ring.

Ada reads the telegram out loud to Vi. The telegram confirms that Eddie is dead. He was killed in action near Warsaw, Poland, on March 2, 1944. Ada is saddened but not too surprised. After getting this news, she goes to the bridge again and stares mournfully at Eddie’s ring, as if she’s trying get closure over the reality that Eddie won’t be coming back.

Someone whom Ada and Vi see often is their mutual friend Archie (played by Jason Isaacs), a middle-aged local bookie whose social manners are a little rough around the edges. Archie is a bachelor who thinks of himself as a seductive ladies’ man. Whenever, Ada and Vi see Archie at a nightclub, he always seems to have a different woman as his date.

During one scene in the movie, Archie has brought his two dogs Spring and Summer to the nightclub where Ada and Vi frequently go. Archie asks Ada and Vi to look after the two dogs while he goes on the dance floor with his date. Ada sighs and says to Vi about how the men at this club don’t see them as attractive enough: “We’re invisible women.” Vi’s sassy response is: “Speak for yourself! They see me coming!”

Two of the women who are Ada’s regular clients are very different from each other. Pamela Penrose (played by Rose Williams) is a 23-year-old aspiring actress who looks like a cross between Jayne Mansfield and Marilyn Monroe. Pamela is constantly worried about auditions and whether or not she will ever make it big as a movie actress, which is her life goal. Even though Pamela rents an apartment that she can barely afford, she pays Ada on time and appreciates Ada’s cheerful kindness.

The same can’t be said for Lady Dant (played by Anna Chancellor), a middle-aged socialite who spends lavishly but who has come up with many excuses not to pay Ada for the past several weeks. The latest excuse is that Lady Dant has to pay for her daughter’s wedding, which Lady Dant claims is financially draining. When Ada tactfully and politely asks Lady Dant when she can be paid the money that’s owed to Ada, Lady Dant is haughtily dismissive and scolds Ada to be more patient and understanding. Lady Dant also tells Ada that her work hours will be reduced, effective immediately.

Christian McKay is under-used in a small role as Giles Newcombe, one of Ada’s housecleaning clients. A running gag in the movie is that Ada often passes by Mr. Newcombe on a flight of stairs as Ada is arriving and he is leaving the building with a woman who looks young enough to be his daughter, whom he always introduces as his “niece.” The implication is that Mr. Newcombe is married, these young women are really his mistresses, and they have their trysts at the apartment he has in this building.

Ada and Mr. Newcome always greet each other in a friendly manner, with Ada seeming to know that Mr. Newcombe isn’t the “uncle” of these women. Ada is discreet and plays along with the charade though, because Mr. Newcombe is always kind to her. Ada doesn’t judge whatever Mr. Newcombe’s extramarital activities might be because she doesn’t know all the details of his marriage. It’s also this movie’s way of showing that Ada isn’t a nosy gossip.

One day, Ada is doing some housecleaning in Lady Dant’s home, when she sees a stunning floral print sequined dress displayed on a bed. Ada is enchanted by this dress and can’t resist picking up the dress and holding it up to herself while she looks in a mirror. Lady Dant catches Ada admiring the dress, but Lady Dant doesn’t seem to mind.

Lady Dant brags to Ada that the gown is haute couture Dior and that she paid £500 for the dress during a recent trip to Paris. Lady Dant orders Ada not to tell Lady Dant’s husband about this purchase because he will think that she overpaid. As soon as Ada hears about how and where Lady Dant got the dress, it sparks an a near-obsession for Ada to do the same thing.

Ada begins saving her money for a trip to Paris. She also starts a small business on the side called Invisible Mending, where she does seamstress work and other sewing jobs. However, Ada gets a temporary setback when she places a losing £100 bet at a dog-racing track where Archie works.

But then, in an “only in a movie” sequence of events, three things happen literally within minutes of each other that change her fortunes: (1) Ada gets a visit from a military official telling her that the military owes her back payments for being a war widow; (2) Ada gets reward money for returning a lost diamond pin; and (3) Archie shows up at her home to tell her that he actually placed her bet on the racing dog that won, not the losing dog she wanted to bet money on for the race.

And so, with enough money to travel and buy her dream Dior haute couture gown, Mrs. Harris goes to Paris. At the train station in Paris, she meets three homeless winos, and one of them is kind enough to show here where the House of Dior is. Ada notices that there’s a lot of garbage on the streets of Paris, so the homeless man tells her that it’s because garbage collectors are currently on strike. This worker strike is used as a few plot developments later in the movie.

Outside the House of Dior, a model who’s running late for a fashion show, stumbles out of car and trips in front of the entrance. Her name is Natasha (played by Alba Baptista), and she accidentally drops her purse without noticing. Ada picks up the purse and goes inside the building to return it to Natasha, who is grateful.

But those pleasantries are about to end when the pompous House of Dior director Claudine Colbert (played by Isabelle Huppert) notices that Ada is treating the House of Dior like a regular retail store, where people can just walk right in and buy what they want if they have the money for it. Madame Colbert snootily tells Ada that Dior’s haute couture customers have invitation-only access.

Ada most definitely does not have an invitation. Ada gets upset and hastily explains to Madame Colbert that she’s a housekeeper from London who saved up all of her money for this trip and she won’t leave without buying a Dior haute couture gown. When Ada takes out the wads of cash that she has with her, Madame Colbert is even more disgusted by what she sees as crassness from Ada.

However, a society gentleman named Marquis de Chassagne (played by Lambert Wilson), who has been invited to Dior’s upcoming haute couture collection show, notices Ada’s plight and generously tells Ada that she can be his guest at the show. Madame Colbert is miffed, but there’s nothing she can do about it. Unbeknownst to the general public, Dior has secretly been having financial problems, so Madame Colbert tells Dior accountant André Fauvel (played by Lucas Bravo), who has been observing Madame Colbert’s attempted shunning of Ada, that at least they might get a sale out of Ada being there.

Another person who’s annoyed that a “common” housekeeper is attending the show is a spiteful socialite named Madame Avallon (played by Guilaine Londez), who is attending the show with her pouty young adult daughter Mathilde Avallon (played by Dorottya Ilosvai). Madame Avallon gets even more irritated when she sees that Ada will be sitting next to her at the show. And guess who wants the same gown as Ada?

Ada is dazzled by the runway show, but two gowns in particular get her the most excited. Her first choice is a red stunner called Temptation. Ada also literally gasps when she sees an emerald green gown called Eden. Madame Colbert makes sure that Madame Avallon gets the Temptation gown. Oscar-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan did top-notch, award-worthy costume for “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris.”

As a consolation for not getting the Temptation gown, Ada is told that she can be fitted for the Eden gown. However, these fittings would require Ada to be in Paris for several more days. Ada can’t afford to stay in Paris for longer than she had planned, As a show of generous support, André invites Ada to stay for free at the house of his sister, who is away on a trip. Ada eagerly accepts this offer.

A meticulous Dior atelier employee named Monsieur Carré (played by Bertrand Poncet) oversees the fittings for Ada. Predictably, he is sometimes irritated by Ada’s ignorance of haute couture traditions and customs. Fashion icon Christian Dior (played by Philippe Bertin) makes a few brief appearances, as this movie depicts the last year of Dior’s life. (On October 24, 1957, Dior died of a heart attack at the age of 52.) As expected, Ada is star-struck to be in the presence of Dior.

House of Dior’s seamstresses, including seamstress director Marguerite (played by Roxane Duran), are charmed by Ada’s working-class pluckiness in the face of upper-class elitism, so they are rooting for her behind the scenes. While Ada is starting to befriend Isabel and André, she notices that André has romantic feelings for Isabel. And you know what that means: Ada is going to try to play matchmaker for André and Isabel. Meanwhile, Marquis de Chassagne has taken a liking to Ada and asks her out on a date. Could this be the beginning of a romance for him and Ada?

“Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” often goes down a very formulaic route, but it’s always watchable, due in large part to the talented cast members, led by Manville. Huppert plays her “villain” role to the hilt, but Madame Colbert shows some vulnerability and warmth later in the movie. Not everything in the movie is predictable, but there’s enough familiarity in how this story is told that “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” is like having comfort food with a longtime friend.

Focus Features will release “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris” in U.S. cinemas on July 15, 2022.

2022 Critics Choice Awards: ‘The Power of the Dog,’ ‘Ted Lasso’ are the top winners

March 13, 2022

by Carla Hay

With four prizes, including Best Picture, Netflix’s Western drama “The Power of the Dog” was the top winner at the 27th annual Critics Choice Awards, which were presented on March 13, 2022. Also winning four prizes, including Best Comedy Series, was Apple TV+’s soccer sitcom “Ted Lasso.” For the first time in Critics Choice Awards history, the show was held in two cities: in Los Angeles (at the Fairmont Century Plaza Hotel) and in London (at the Savoy Hotel), in order to accommodate attendees of the 2022 BAFTA Film Awards in London, which was held on the same night.

Taye Diggs and Nicole Byer hosted the 2022 Critics Choice Awards ceremony, which was televised in the U.S. on The CW and TBS. Eligible movies were those released in the U.S. in 2021. Eligible TV shows were those with new episodes that premiered in 2021. The Critics Choice Association nominates and votes for the awards.

“The Power of the Dog” director/screenwriter/producer Jane Campion at the 27th Annual Critics Choice Awards at Fairmont Century Plaza in Los Angeles on March 13, 2022. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)

“The Power of the Dog,” which is about a dysfunctional rancher family in 1925 Montana, won the awards for Best Picture, Best Director (for Jane Campion), Best Adapted Screenplay (also won by Campion) and Best Cinematography (for Ari Wegner, the first woman to win in this Critics Choice Awards category). Focus Features’ Northern Ireland drama “Belfast” won three Critics Choice Awards: Best Original Screenplay (for Kenneth Branagh), Best Young Actor/Actress (for Jude Hill) and Best Acting Ensemble. Also winning three Critics Choice Awards was Warner Bros. Pictures’ sci-fi remake “Dune,” which took the prizes for Best Production Design, Best Visual Effects and Best Score.

In the TV categories, “Ted Lasso” won these four prizes: Best Comedy Series, Best Actor in a Comedy Series (for Jason Sudeikis), Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series (for Hannah Waddingham) and Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series (for Brett Goldstein). HBO’s “Succession” received three awards: Best Drama Series, Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (for Sarah Snook) and Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series (for Kieran Culkin). TV shows that won two Critics Choice Awards each in 2022 were HBO’s “Mare of Easttown,” Netflix’s “Squid Game” and HBO’s “The White Lotus.”

“Ted Lasso” co-stars Juno Temple, Brett Goldstein and Hannah Waddington at the 27th Annual Critics Choice Awards at the Savoy Hotel in London on March 13, 2022. (Photo by Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images for Critics Choice Association)

In non-competitive prizes announced several weeks before the show, Halle Berry received the SeeHer Award (for advocacy of positive female representation on screen), while Billy Crystal was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Presenters includes Ava DuVernay, Carey Mulligan, Jamie Dornan, Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Kristen Wiig, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Mandy Moore, Zoey Deutch, Joel McHale, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, J.K. Simmons, Ray Romano, Ken Jeong, Alan Kim, Angelica Ross, Annie Mumolo, Dominique Jackson, Dylan O’Brien, Hailie Sahar, Indya Moore, Jacob Bertrand, Jung Ho-yeon, Kaci Walfall, Lee Jung-jae, Maria Bakalova, Mayim Bialik, Nasim Pedrad, Park Hae-soo, Ralph Macchio, Robin Thede, Los Angeles Rams Coach Sean McVay, Veronika Khomyn, Shawn Hatosy, Sonequa Martin-Green, Issa Rae and Jimmy Kimmel.

The following is the complete list of nominees and winners for the 2022 Critics Choice Awards:




  • Belfast
  • CODA
  • Don’t Look Up
  • Dune
  • King Richard
  • Licorice Pizza
  • Nightmare Alley
  • The Power of the Dog*
  • tick, tick…Boom!
  • West Side Story


  • Nicolas Cage – Pig
  • Benedict Cumberbatch – The Power of the Dog
  • Peter Dinklage – Cyrano
  • Andrew Garfield – tick, tick…Boom!
  • Will Smith – King Richard*
  • Denzel Washington – The Tragedy of Macbeth


  • Jessica Chastain – The Eyes of Tammy Faye*
  • Olivia Colman – The Lost Daughter
  • Lady Gaga – House of Gucci
  • Alana Haim – Licorice Pizza
  • Nicole Kidman – Being the Ricardos
  • Kristen Stewart – Spencer


  • Jamie Dornan – Belfast
  • Ciarán Hinds – Belfast
  • Troy Kotsur – CODA*
  • Jared Leto – House of Gucci
  • J.K. Simmons – Being the Ricardos
  • Kodi Smit-McPhee – The Power of the Dog


  • Caitríona Balfe – Belfast
  • Ariana DeBose – West Side Story*
  • Ann Dowd – Mass
  • Kirsten Dunst – The Power of the Dog
  • Aunjanue Ellis – King Richard
  • Rita Moreno – West Side Story


  • Jude Hill – Belfast*
  • Cooper Hoffman – Licorice Pizza
  • Emilia Jones – CODA
  • Woody Norman – C’mon C’mon
  • Saniyya Sidney – King Richard
  • Rachel Zegler – West Side Story


  • Belfast*
  • Don’t Look Up
  • The Harder They Fall
  • Licorice Pizza
  • The Power of the Dog
  • West Side Story


  • Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza
  • Kenneth Branagh – Belfast
  • Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog*
  • Guillermo del Toro – Nightmare Alley
  • Steven Spielberg – West Side Story
  • Denis Villeneuve – Dune


  • Paul Thomas Anderson – Licorice Pizza
  • Zach Baylin – King Richard
  • Kenneth Branagh – Belfast*
  • Adam McKay, David Sirota – Don’t Look Up
  • Aaron Sorkin – Being the Ricardos


  • Jane Campion – The Power of the Dog*
  • Maggie Gyllenhaal – The Lost Daughter
  • Siân Heder – CODA
  • Tony Kushner – West Side Story
  • Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth – Dune


  • Bruno Delbonnel – The Tragedy of Macbeth
  • Greig Fraser – Dune
  • Janusz Kaminski – West Side Story
  • Dan Laustsen – Nightmare Alley
  • Ari Wegner – The Power of the Dog*
  • Haris Zambarloukos – Belfast


  • Jim Clay, Claire Nia Richards – Belfast
  • Tamara Deverell, Shane Vieau – Nightmare Alley
  • Adam Stockhausen, Rena DeAngelo – The French Dispatch
  • Adam Stockhausen, Rena DeAngelo – West Side Story
  • Patrice Vermette, Zsuzsanna Sipos – Dune*


  • Sarah Broshar and Michael Kahn – West Side Story*
  • Úna Ní Dhonghaíle – Belfast
  • Andy Jurgensen – Licorice Pizza
  • Peter Sciberras – The Power of the Dog
  • Joe Walker – Dune


  • Jenny Beavan – Cruella*
  • Luis Sequeira – Nightmare Alley
  • Paul Tazewell – West Side Story
  • Jacqueline West, Robert Morgan – Dune
  • Janty Yates – House of Gucci


  • Cruella
  • Dune
  • The Eyes of Tammy Faye*
  • House of Gucci
  • Nightmare Alley


  • Dune*
  • The Matrix Resurrections
  • Nightmare Alley
  • No Time to Die
  • Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings


  • Barb & Star Go to Vista Del Mar
  • Don’t Look Up
  • Free Guy
  • The French Dispatch
  • Licorice Pizza*


  • Encanto
  • Flee
  • Luca
  • The Mitchells vs the Machines*
  • Raya and the Last Dragon


  • A Hero
  • Drive My Car*
  • Flee
  • The Hand of God
  • The Worst Person in the World


  • Be Alive – King Richard
  • Dos Oruguitas – Encanto
  • Guns Go Bang – The Harder They Fall
  • Just Look Up – Don’t Look Up
  • No Time to Die – No Time to Die*


  • Nicholas Britell – Don’t Look Up
  • Jonny Greenwood – The Power of the Dog
  • Jonny Greenwood – Spencer
  • Nathan Johnson – Nightmare Alley
  • Hans Zimmer – Dune*



  • Evil (Paramount+)
  • For All Mankind (Apple TV+)
  • The Good Fight (Paramount+)
  • Pose (FX)
  • Squid Game (Netflix)
  • Succession (HBO)*
  • This Is Us (NBC)
  • Yellowjackets (Showtime)


  • Sterling K. Brown – This Is Us (NBC)
  • Mike Colter – Evil (Paramount+)
  • Brian Cox – Succession (HBO)
  • Lee Jung-jae – Squid Game (Netflix)*
  • Billy Porter – Pose (FX)
  • Jeremy Strong – Succession (HBO)


  • Uzo Aduba – In Treatment (HBO)
  • Chiara Aurelia – Cruel Summer (Freeform)
  • Christine Baranski – The Good Fight (Paramount+)
  • Katja Herbers – Evil (Paramount+)
  • Melanie Lynskey – Yellowjackets (Showtime)*
  • MJ Rodriguez – Pose (FX)


  • Nicholas Braun – Succession (HBO)
  • Billy Crudup – The Morning Show (Apple TV+)
  • Kieran Culkin – Succession (HBO)*
  • Justin Hartley – This Is Us (NBC)
  • Matthew Macfadyen – Succession (HBO)
  • Mandy Patinkin – The Good Fight (Paramount+)


  • Andrea Martin – Evil (Paramount+)
  • Audra McDonald – The Good Fight (Paramount+)
  • Christine Lahti – Evil (Paramount+)
  • J. Smith-Cameron – Succession (HBO)
  • Sarah Snook – Succession (HBO)*
  • Susan Kelechi Watson – This Is Us (NBC)


  • The Great (Hulu)
  • Hacks (HBO Max)
  • Insecure (HBO)
  • Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)
  • The Other Two (HBO Max)
  • Reservation Dogs (FX on Hulu)
  • Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)*
  • What We Do in the Shadows (FX)


  • Iain Armitage – Young Sheldon (CBS)
  • Nicholas Hoult – The Great (Hulu)
  • Steve Martin – Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)
  • Kayvan Novak – What We Do in the Shadows (FX)
  • Martin Short – Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)
  • Jason Sudeikis – Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)*


  • Elle Fanning – The Great (Hulu)
  • Renée Elise Goldsberry – Girls5eva (Peacock)
  • Selena Gomez – Only Murders in the Building (Hulu) 
  • Sandra Oh – The Chair (Netflix)
  • Issa Rae – Insecure (HBO)
  • Jean Smart – Hacks (HBO Max)*


  • Ncuti Gatwa – Sex Education (Netflix)
  • Brett Goldstein – Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)*
  • Harvey Guillén – What We Do in the Shadows (FX)
  • Brandon Scott Jones – Ghosts (CBS)
  • Ray Romano – Made for Love (HBO Max)
  • Bowen Yang – Saturday Night Live (NBC)


  • Hannah Einbinder – Hacks (HBO Max)
  • Kristin Chenoweth – Schmigadoon! (Apple TV+)
  • Molly Shannon – The Other Two (HBO Max) 
  • Cecily Strong – Saturday Night Live (NBC)
  • Josie Totah – Saved By the Bell (Peacock)
  • Hannah Waddingham – Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)*


  • Dopesick (Hulu)
  • Dr. Death (Peacock)
  • It’s a Sin (HBO Max)
  • Maid (Netflix)
  • Mare of Easttown (HBO)*
  • Midnight Mass (Netflix)
  • The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime Video)
  • WandaVision (Disney+)


  • Come From Away (Apple TV+)
  • List of a Lifetime (Lifetime)
  • The Map of Tiny Perfect Things (Amazon Prime Video)
  • Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia (Lifetime)
  • Oslo (HBO)*
  • Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas (The Roku Channel)


  • Olly Alexander – It’s a Sin (HBO Max)
  • Paul Bettany – WandaVision (Disney+)
  • William Jackson Harper – Love Life (HBO Max)
  • Joshua Jackson – Dr. Death (Peacock)
  • Michael Keaton – Dopesick (Hulu)*
  • Hamish Linklater – Midnight Mass (Netflix)


  • Danielle Brooks – Robin Roberts Presents: Mahalia (Lifetime)
  • Cynthia Erivo – Genius: Aretha (National Geographic)
  • Thuso Mbedu – The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime Video)
  • Elizabeth Olsen – WandaVision (Disney+)
  • Margaret Qualley – Maid (Netflix)
  • Kate Winslet – Mare of Easttown (HBO)*


  • Murray Bartlett – The White Lotus (HBO)*
  • Zach Gilford – Midnight Mass (Netflix)
  • William Jackson Harper – The Underground Railroad (Amazon Prime Video)
  • Evan Peters – Mare of Easttown (HBO)
  • Christian Slater – Dr. Death (Peacock)
  • Courtney B. Vance – Genius: Aretha (National Geographic)


  • Jennifer Coolidge – The White Lotus (HBO)*
  • Kaitlyn Dever – Dopesick (Hulu)
  • Kathryn Hahn – WandaVision (Disney+)
  • Melissa McCarthy – Nine Perfect Strangers (Hulu)
  • Julianne Nicholson – Mare of Easttown (HBO)
  • Jean Smart – Mare of Easttown (HBO)


  • Acapulco (Apple TV+)
  • Call My Agent! (Netflix)
  • Lupin (Netflix)
  • Money Heist (Netflix)
  • Narcos: Mexico (Netflix)
  • Squid Game (Netflix)*


  • Big Mouth (Netflix)
  • Bluey (Disney Junior)
  • Bob’s Burgers (Fox)
  • The Great North (Fox)
  • Q-Force (Netflix)
  • What If…? (Disney+)*


  • The Amber Ruffin Show (Peacock)
  • Desus & Mero (Showtime)
  • The Kelly Clarkson Show (NBC)
  • Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO)*
  • Late Night with Seth Meyers (NBC)
  • Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen (Bravo)


  • Bo Burnham: Inside (Netflix)*
  • Good Timing with Jo Firestone (Peacock)
  • James Acaster: Cold Lasagne Hate Myself 1999 (Vimeo)
  • Joyelle Nicole Johnson: Love Joy (Peacock)
  • Nate Bargatze: The Greatest Average American (Netflix)
  • Trixie Mattel: One Night Only (YouTube)

2022 BAFTA Film Awards: ‘Power of the Dog,’ ‘Dune’ are the top winners

March 13, 2022

Netflix’s Western drama “The Power of the Dog” and Warner Bros. Pictures’ sci-fi remake “Dune” were the biggest winners at the 75th annual BAFTA Film Awards, which were presented at London’s Royal Albert Hall on March 13, 2022.z Rebel Wilson hosted the ceremony, which was televised in the United Kingdom on BBC and in the U.S. on BBC America. Eligible films were those released in the United Kingdom in 2021.

“The Power of the Dog” took the prize for Best Film, while Jane Campion received the Best Director prize for helming “The Power of the Dog.” Meanwhile, “Dune” went into the ceremony with the most nominations (11) and ended up winning five BAFTA Film Awards: Best Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Production Design, Best Sound and Best Visual Effects.

Here is the complete list of winners and nominations for the 2022 BAFTA Film Awards:


Best Film

“Don’t Look Up”
“Licorice Pizza”
“The Power of the Dog”*

Outstanding British Film

“After Love”
“Ali & Ava”
“Boiling Point”
“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie”
“House of Gucci”
“Last Night in Soho”
“No Time to Die”

Best Director

Aleem Khan, “After Love”
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, “Drive My Car”
Audrey Diwan, “Happening
Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza”
Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”*
Julia Ducournau, “Titane”

Best Leading Actor

Adeel Akhtar, “Ali & Ava”
Mahershala Ali, “Swan Song”
Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Power of the Dog”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “Don’t Look Up”
Stephen Graham, “Boiling Point”
Will Smith, “King Richard”*

Best Leading Actress

Lady Gaga, “House of Gucci”
Alana Haim, “Licorice Pizza”
Emilia Jones, “CODA”
Renate Reinsve, “The Worst Person in the World”
Joanna Scanlan, “After Love”*
Tessa Thompson, “Passing”

Best Supporting Actor

Mike Faist, “West Side Story”
Ciarán Hinds, “Belfast”
Troy Kotsur, “CODA”*
Woody Norman, “C’mon C’mon”
Jesse Plemons, “The Power of the Dog”
Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog”

Best Supporting Actress

Caitríona Balfe, “Belfast”
Jessie Buckley, “The Lost Daughter”
Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story”*
Ann Dowd, “Mass”
Aunjanue Ellis, “King Richard”
Ruth Negga, “Passing”

Best Adapted Screenplay

“CODA,” Siân Heder*
“Drive My Car,” Ryûsuke Hamaguchi
“Dune,” Eric Roth, Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve
“The Lost Daughter,” Maggie Gyllenhaal
“The Power of the Dog,” Jane Campion

Best Original Screenplay

“Being the Ricardos,” Aaron Sorkin
“Belfast,” Kenneth Branagh
“Don’t Look Up,” Adam McKay
“King Richard,” Zach Baylin
“Licorice Pizza,” Paul Thomas Anderson*

Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer

“After Love,” Aleem Khan (writer/director)
“Boiling Point,” James Cummings (writer), Hester Ruoff (producer) [also written by Philip Barantini and produced by Bart Ruspoli]
“The Harder They Fall” – Jeymes Samuel (writer/director) [also written by Boaz Yakin]*
“Keyboard Fantasies” – Posy Dixon (writer/director), Liv Proctor (producer)
“Passing” – Rebecca Hall (writer/director)

Original Score

“Being the Ricardos,” Daniel Pemberton
“Don’t Look Up,” Nicholas Britell
“Dune,” Hans Zimmer*
“The French Dispatch,” Alexandre Desplat
“The Power of the Dog,” Jonny Greenwood


Dune,” Greig Fraser*
“Nightmare Alley,” Dan Laustsen
“No Time to Die,” Linus Sandgren
“The Power of the Dog,” Ari Wegner
“The Tragedy of Macbeth,” Bruno Delbonnel

Film Not in the English Language

“Drive My Car,” Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Teruhisa Yamamoto*
“The Hand of God,” Paolo Sorrentino, Lorenzo Mieli
“Parallel Mothers,” Pedro Almodóvar, Agustín Almodóvar
“Petite Maman,” Céline Sciamma, Bénédicte Couvreur
“The Worst Person in the World,” Joachim Trier, Thomas Robsahm


“Becoming Cousteau,” Liz Garbus, Dan Cogan
“Cow,” Andrea Arnold, Kat Mansoor
“Flee,” Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström
“The Rescue,” Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, John Battsek, P. J. Van Sandwijk
“Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, David Dinerstein, Robert Fyvolent, Joseph Patel*

Animated Film

“Encanto,” Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Yvett Merino, Clarke Spencer*
“Flee,” Jonas Poher Rasmussen. Monica Hellström
“Luca,” Enrico Casarosa, Andrea Warren
“The Mitchells vs the Machines,” Mike Rianda, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller


“Boiling Point,” Carolyn Mcleod
“Dune,” Francine Maisler
“The Hand of God,” Massimo Appolloni, Annamaria Sambucco
“King Richard,” Rich Delia, Avy Kaufman
“West Side Story,” Cindy Tolan*

Production Design

“Cyrano,” Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
“Dune,” Patrice Vermette, Zsuzsanna Sipos*
“The French Dispatch,” Adam Stockhausen, Rena Deangelo
“Nightmare Alley,” Tamara Deverell, Shane Vieau
“West Side Story,” Adam Stockhausen, Rena Deangelo

Best Costume Design

“Cruella,” Jenny Beavan*
“Cyrano,” Massimo Cantini Parrini
“Dune,” Robert Morgan, Jacqueline West
“The French Dispatch,” Milena Canonero
“Nightmare Alley,” Luis Sequeira

Best Make Up and Hair

“Cruella,” Nadia Stacey, Naomi Donne
“Cyrano,” Alessandro Bertolazzi, Siân Miller
“Dune,” Love Larson, Donald Mowat
“The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram, Justin Raleigh*
“House of Gucci,” Frederic Aspiras, Jane Carboni, Giuliano Mariana, Sarah Nicole Tanno

Best Editing

“Belfast,” Úna Ní Dhonghaíle
“Dune,” Joe Walker
“Licorice Pizza,” Andy Jurgensen
“No Time to Die,” Tom Cross, Elliot Graham*
“Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” Joshua L. Pearson

Best Sound

“Dune,” Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Doug Hemphill, Theo Green, Ron Bartlett*
“Last Night in Soho,” Colin Nicolson, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin, Dan Morgan
“No Time to Die,” James Harrison, Simon Hayes, Paul Massey, Oliver Tarney, Mark Taylor
“A Quiet Place Part II,” Erik Aadahl, Michael Barosky, Brandon Proctor, Ethan Van Der Ryn
“West Side Story,” Brian Chumney, Tod Maitland, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom

Best Visual Effects

“Dune,” Brian Connor, Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Gerd Nefzer*
“Free Guy,” Swen Gillberg, Brian Grill, Nikos Kalaitzidis, Daniel Sudick
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” Aharon Bourland, Sheena Duggal, Pier Lefebvre, Alessandro Ongaro
“The Matrix Resurrections,” Tom Debenham, Hew J Evans, Dan Glass, J. D. Schwaim
“No Time to Die,” Mark Bokowski, Chris Corbould, Joel Green, Charlie Noble

British Short Animation

“Affairs of the Art,” Joanna Quinn, Les Mills
“Do Not Feed the Pigeons,” Jordi Morera*
“Night of the Living Dread,” Ida Melum, Danielle Goff, Laura Jayne Tunbridge, Hannah Kelso

British Short Film

“The Black Cop,” Cherish Oteka*
“Femme,” Sam H. Freeman, Ng Choon Ping, Sam Ritzenberg, Hayley Williams
“The Palace,” Jo Prichard
“Stuffed,” Theo Rhys, Joss Holden-rea
“Three Meetings of the Extraordinary Committee,” Michael Woodward, Max Barron, Daniel Wheldon

EE Rising Star Award (public vote)

Ariana DeBose
Harris Dickinson
Lashana Lynch*
Millicent Simmonds
Kodi Smit-McPhee

2022 BAFTA Film Awards: ‘Dune’ is the top nominee

February 3, 2022

by Carla Hay

Rebecca Ferguson, Zendaya, Javier Bardem and Timothée Chalamet in “Dune” (Photo by Chiabella James/Warner Bros. Pictures/Legendary Pictures)

With 11 nominations, the 2021 remake of the sci-fi movie “Dune” is the top nominee for the 75th Annual EE British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards. The ceremony, hosted by Rebel Wilson, will take place at Royal Albert Hall in London on March 13, 2022. BBC televises the show in the United Kingdom, and BBC America televises the show in the United States. Eligible films were those released in the United Kingdom in 2021.

Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Dune” is nominated for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Casting, Best Production Design, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hair, Best Sound and Best Visual Effects. “Dune” is a remake of 1984’s “Dune” and is based on the 1965 Frank Herbert novel of the same name. The cast of “Dune” includes Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya, Javier Bardem, Stellan Skarsgård, Josh Brolin, Charlotte Rampling and Jason Momoa.

Other movies with several BAFTA nominations include the Netflix drama “The Power of the Dog” (eight nods) and the Focus Features drama “Belfast” (six nods). Getting five nominations each are United Artists’ comedy/drama “Licorice Pizza” and 20th Century Studios’ “West Side Story” remake. All of these movies except for “West Side Story” are nominated for Best Film.

Snubs and Surprises

Kristen Stewart in “Spencer” (Photo courtesy of Neon)

Neon’s Princess Diana drama “Spencer” (directed by Pablo Larraín and starring Kristen Stewart) was completely shut out of the BAFTAs, by failing to get any nominations. The BAFTAs also snubbed Netflix’s Jonathan Larson biopic musical “Tick, Tick…Boom!” (directed by Lin-Manuel Miranda and starring Andrew Garfield), even though the movie has been racking up nominations at all other major award shows for movies. Also left out of the BAFTA final nominations list, despite being nominated at many other award shows, are Denzel Washington of A24’s “The Tragedy of Macbeth,” Olivia Colman of Netflix’s “The Lost Daughter,” Jessica Chastain of Searchlight Pictures’ “The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” Nicole Kidman of Amazon’s “Being the Ricardos” and Kirsten Dunst of “The Power of the Dog.”

And even though “Dune” and “Belfast” got several BAFTA nominations this year, Best Director was not one of them. However, as expected “Dune” director Denis Villenueve and “Belfast” director Kenneth Branagh did get screenplay nominations for their respective movies. Surprises in the Best Director category include Audrey Diwan for “Happening” and Julia Ducournau for “Titane,” because those movies did not get any other BAFTA nominations.

Altitude Films’ drama “Ali & Ava,” BBC Films’ drama “After Love” and Vertigo Releasing’s drama “Boiling Point,” which are all nominated for Best British Film, edged out some expected contenders in other categories. “After Love” director Aleem Khan is a nominee for Best Director, while “After Love” star Joanna Scanlan is nominated for Best Actress. In the Best Actor category, the nominees include “Ali & Ava” co-star Adeel Akhtar and “Boiling Point” star Stephen Graham.

Here is the complete list of nominations for the 2022 BAFTA Film Awards:

Best Film

“Don’t Look Up”
“Licorice Pizza”
“The Power of the Dog”

Outstanding British Film

“After Love”
“Ali & Ava”
“Boiling Point”
“Everybody’s Talking About Jamie”
“House of Gucci”
“Last Night in Soho”
“No Time to Die”

Best Director

Aleem Khan, “After Love”
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, “Drive My Car”
Audrey Diwan, “Happening
Paul Thomas Anderson, “Licorice Pizza”
Jane Campion, “The Power of the Dog”
Julia Ducournau, “Titane”

Best Leading Actor

Adeel Akhtar, “Ali & Ava”
Mahershala Ali, “Swan Song”
Benedict Cumberbatch, “The Power of the Dog”
Leonardo DiCaprio, “Don’t Look Up”
Stephen Graham, “Boiling Point”
Will Smith, “King Richard”

Best Leading Actress

Lady Gaga, “House of Gucci”
Alana Haim, “Licorice Pizza”
Emilia Jones, “CODA”
Renate Reinsve, “The Worst Person in the World”
Joanna Scanlan, “After Love”
Tessa Thompson, “Passing”

Best Supporting Actor

Mike Faist, “West Side Story”
Ciarán Hinds, “Belfast”
Troy Kotsur, “CODA”
Woody Norman, “C’mon C’mon”
Jesse Plemons, “The Power of the Dog”
Kodi Smit-McPhee, “The Power of the Dog”

Best Supporting Actress

Caitríona Balfe, “Belfast”
Jessie Buckley, “The Lost Daughter”
Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story”
Ann Dowd, “Mass”
Aunjanue Ellis, “King Richard”
Ruth Negga, “Passing”

Best Adapted Screenplay

“CODA,” Siân Heder
“Drive My Car,” Ryûsuke Hamaguchi
“Dune,” Eric Roth, Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve
“The Lost Daughter,” Maggie Gyllenhaal
“The Power of the Dog,” Jane Campion

Best Original Screenplay

“Being the Ricardos,” Aaron Sorkin
“Belfast,” Kenneth Branagh
“Don’t Look Up,” Adam McKay
“King Richard,” Zach Baylin
“Licorice Pizza,” Paul Thomas Anderson

Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer

“After Love,” Aleem Khan (writer/director)
“Boiling Point,” James Cummings (writer), Hester Ruoff (producer) [also written by Philip Barantini and produced by Bart Ruspoli]
“The Harder They Fall” – Jeymes Samuel (writer/director) [also written by Boaz Yakin]
“Keyboard Fantasies” – Posy Dixon (writer/director), Liv Proctor (producer)
“Passing” – Rebecca Hall (writer/director)

Original Score

“Being the Ricardos,” Daniel Pemberton
“Don’t Look Up,” Nicholas Britell
“Dune,” Hans Zimmer
“The French Dispatch,” Alexandre Desplat
“The Power of the Dog,” Jonny Greenwood


“Dune,” Greig Fraser
“Nightmare Alley,” Dan Laustsen
“No Time to Die,” Linus Sandgren
“The Power of the Dog,” Ari Wegner
“The Tragedy of Macbeth,” Bruno Delbonnel

Film Not in the English Language

“Drive My Car,” Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Teruhisa Yamamoto
“The Hand of God,” Paolo Sorrentino, Lorenzo Mieli
“Parallel Mothers,” Pedro Almodóvar, Agustín Almodóvar
“Petite Maman,” Céline Sciamma, Bénédicte Couvreur
“The Worst Person in the World,” Joachim Trier, Thomas Robsahm


“Becoming Cousteau,” Liz Garbus, Dan Cogan
“Cow,” Andrea Arnold, Kat Mansoor
“Flee,” Jonas Poher Rasmussen, Monica Hellström
“The Rescue,” Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, John Battsek, P. J. Van Sandwijk
“Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, David Dinerstein, Robert Fyvolent, Joseph Patel

Animated Film

“Encanto,” Jared Bush, Byron Howard, Yvett Merino, Clarke Spencer
“Flee,” Jonas Poher Rasmussen. Monica Hellström
“Luca,” Enrico Casarosa, Andrea Warren
“The Mitchells vs the Machines,” Mike Rianda, Phil Lord, Christopher Miller


“Boiling Point,” Carolyn Mcleod
“Dune,” Francine Maisler
“The Hand of God,” Massimo Appolloni, Annamaria Sambucco
“King Richard,” Rich Delia, Avy Kaufman
“West Side Story,” Cindy Tolan

Production Design

“Cyrano,” Sarah Greenwood, Katie Spencer
“Dune,” Patrice Vermette, Zsuzsanna Sipos
“The French Dispatch,” Adam Stockhausen, Rena Deangelo
“Nightmare Alley,” Tamara Deverell, Shane Vieau
“West Side Story,” Adam Stockhausen, Rena Deangelo

Best Costume Design

“Cruella,” Jenny Beavan
“Cyrano,” Massimo Cantini Parrini
“Dune,” Robert Morgan, Jacqueline West
“The French Dispatch,” Milena Canonero
“Nightmare Alley,” Luis Sequeira

Best Make Up and Hair

“Cruella,” Nadia Stacey, Naomi Donne
“Cyrano,” Alessandro Bertolazzi, Siân Miller
“Dune,” Love Larson, Donald Mowat
“The Eyes of Tammy Faye,” Linda Dowds, Stephanie Ingram, Justin Raleigh
“House of Gucci,” Frederic Aspiras, Jane Carboni, Giuliano Mariana, Sarah Nicole Tanno

Best Editing

“Belfast,” Úna Ní Dhonghaíle
“Dune,” Joe Walker
“Licorice Pizza,” Andy Jurgensen
“No Time to Die,” Tom Cross, Elliot Graham
“Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” Joshua L. Pearson

Best Sound

“Dune,” Mac Ruth, Mark Mangini, Doug Hemphill, Theo Green, Ron Bartlett
“Last Night in Soho,” Colin Nicolson, Julian Slater, Tim Cavagin, Dan Morgan
“No Time to Die,” James Harrison, Simon Hayes, Paul Massey, Oliver Tarney, Mark Taylor
“A Quiet Place Part II,” Erik Aadahl, Michael Barosky, Brandon Proctor, Ethan Van Der Ryn
“West Side Story,” Brian Chumney, Tod Maitland, Andy Nelson, Gary Rydstrom

Best Visual Effects

“Dune,” Brian Connor, Paul Lambert, Tristan Myles, Gerd Nefzer
“Free Guy,” Swen Gillberg, Brian Grill, Nikos Kalaitzidis, Daniel Sudick
“Ghostbusters: Afterlife,” Aharon Bourland, Sheena Duggal, Pier Lefebvre, Alessandro Ongaro
“The Matrix Resurrections,” Tom Debenham, Hew J Evans, Dan Glass, J. D. Schwaim
“No Time to Die,” Mark Bokowski, Chris Corbould, Joel Green, Charlie Noble

British Short Animation

“Affairs of the Art,” Joanna Quinn, Les Mills
“Do Not Feed the Pigeons,” Jordi Morera
“Night of the Living Dread,” Ida Melum, Danielle Goff, Laura Jayne Tunbridge, Hannah Kelso

British Short Film

“The Black Cop,” Cherish Oteka
“Femme,” Sam H. Freeman, Ng Choon Ping, Sam Ritzenberg, Hayley Williams
“The Palace,” Jo Prichard
“Stuffed,” Theo Rhys, Joss Holden-rea
“Three Meetings of the Extraordinary Committee,” Michael Woodward, Max Barron, Daniel Wheldon

EE Rising Star Award (public vote

Ariana DeBose
Harris Dickinson
Lashana Lynch
Millicent Simmonds
Kodi Smit-McPhee

Review: ‘The Beatles: Get Back—The Rooftop Concert,’ starring Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr

January 30, 2022

by Carla Hay

Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison in “The Beatles: Get Back—The Rooftop Concert” (Photo courtesy of Apple Corps Ltd./Disney Enterprises, Inc.)

“The Beatles: Get BackThe Rooftop Concert”

Directed by Peter Jackson

Culture Representation: Taking place in London on January 30, 1969, the concert film “The Beatles: Get BackThe Rooftop Concert” features a predominantly white and mostly British group of people (with one Japanese person and one African American person) representing the middle-class and wealthy in this chronicle of the Beatles’ last live public performance.

Culture Clash: Before the band broke up in 1970, the Beatles had internal struggles and disagreements, including if and where they would do this live concert.

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of Beatles fans, “The Beatles: Get Back—The Rooftop Concert” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of 1960s rock music who want detailed observations of what music studio sessions looked like at the time.

Pictured clockwise, from center: Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Paul McCartney, Billy Preston, Mal Evans, an unidentified man, Ringo Starr, John Lennon and George Harrison in “The Beatles: Get Back—The Rooftop Concert” (Photo courtesy of Apple Corps Ltd./Disney Enterprises, Inc.)

If you’ve seen the Disney+ 2021 docuseries “The Beatles: Get Back,” then there are no surprises in the concert documentary “The Beatles: Get Back—The Rooftop Concert,” which consists of the entire rooftop concert that was in the docuseries. The concert, which was the last public performance by the Beatles, took place on the roof of Apple Corps headquarters in London, on January 30, 1969. Footage for the concert was originally directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg for the 1970 Beatles documentary “Let It Be,” and then restored for “The Beatles: Get Back” docuseries by director Peter Jackson.

To celebrate the 53rd anniversary of this concert, Walt Disney Pictures released “The Beatles: Get Back—The Rooftop Concert” in IMAX theaters in select cities worldwide, as a one-day-only global premiere on January 30, 2022. The event included a live Q&A with director Jackson, who was interviewed from New Zealand. He answered questions from a moderator and pre-selected inquiries from the public. (Most of the selected questions can from fans in the U.S.) Ironically, Jackson said during the Q&A that he couldn’t watch the movie in IMAX with the rest of the global audience because there were no IMAX theaters near him in New Zealand. The Q&A was about 30 minutes, while “The Beatles: Get Back—The Rooftop Concert” had a total running time of about 64 minutes.

A complete review of “The Beatles: Get Back” can be found here, including a summary of the concert. For the rooftop concert, the documentary shows the band performing “Get Back” (twice, but not consecutively), “Don’t Let Me Down” (twice, but not consecutively), “One After 909,” “Dig a Pony” and “I’ve Got a Feeling.” The members of the Beatles—singer/bass player Paul McCartney, singer/rhythm guitarist John Lennon, singer/lead guitarist George Harrison and drummer Ringo Starr—are all in fine form. The documentary makes good use of split screens to occasionally show different camera angles of the same scene.

The IMAX screening of “The Beatles: Get Back—The Rooftop Concert” included a new sound mix specifically for IMAX screens, making it well worth it to see the movie in the IMAX format—whether it was to hear the creaking of the rooftop floorboards or the breathing of the band members in between songs. Jackson said in the Q&A that the IMAX sound mixes were supervised by Gilles Martin (son of the Beatles producer George Martin) at Twickenham Studios in London, where the Beatles recorded much of what’s seen in “Let It Be” and “The Beatles: Get Back.” Jackson added that Twickenham is the only studio in the United Kingdom that could do IMAX sound mixing, so it was like full-circle destiny for this documentary. “Twickenham gets the last word,” Jackson quipped.

The concert film has the same introductory summary of the Beatles’ career up until 1969 that was the intro for “The Beatles: Get Back” docuseries. The docuseries included song titles in the captions, whereas “The Beatles: Get Back—The Rooftop Concert” does not have song titles as captions with the concert footage. What also isn’t in “The Beatles: Get Back—The Rooftop Concert” is the behind-the-scenes band squabbling (seen in the docuseries) over whether or not this rooftop concert was going to take place. Harrison initially didn’t want to do the concert on the roof, but he was outvoted by the other Beatles.

During this unannounced, surprise concert, which took place toward the end of a work day on London’s Savile Row, it’s clear that Harrison and the rest of the band were enjoying themselves. Any reluctance that Harrison previously had about doing the show was no longer apparent. The concert was also known for almost being interrupted by police officers, who arrived in response to noise complaints. Ray Dagg, the officer who led the investigation, repeatedly threatened that people would be arrested if the Beatles didn’t shut down the concert. The Beatles knew when to stop the show themselves instead of the police forcing them to shut it down.

“The Beatles: Get Back—The Rooftop Concert” has the same ending as “The Beatles: Get Back”—footage of the Beatles listening to the playback recordings of the concert. And then, the end credits show a compilation of footage taken of the Beatles in the studio recording some of the songs that would end up on the “Let It Be” album, such as the title track and “Two of Us.” An amusing highlight during this end-credits compilation is when Lennon silently and comedically mimics McCartney singing “Let It Be.”

For many Beatles fans, one of the main reasons to go to this IMAX event was to see the Q&A with Jackson, who is a self-described Beatles superfan. He said that there are about three or four hours’ worth of unreleased footage, including interviews that he and his team did with many of the people (including McCartney and Starr) who were involved in the rooftop concert and companion recording sessions. Jackson said he was unsure if these interviews would ever be released, but he knew that he didn’t want these “talking head” interviews in “The Beatles: Get Back” because the interviews would be too distracting to the immersive experience of viewers feeling transported back to January 1969.

However, he noted that if Lindsay-Hogg’s “Let It Be” documentary is ever released on Blu-ray or DVD, Jackson thinks these interviews would make ideal extras for this home video release. (The “Let It Be” documentary was taken out of distribution years ago, but bootleg copies exist.) Jackson said that he also hopes that the documentary’s recording studio footage showing complete performances of songs (not just snippets) will eventually be released too.

As a sneak peek of the “talking head” interviews, Jackson took out his iPad to show an approximately 15-second clip of an interview with Dagg, the constable who was the most agitated and uptight cop when the police showed up at Apple Corps in response to the noise complaints. Dagg, who was 18 years old in January 1969, was the cop making the threats to have people arrested because of the concert.

Jackson said that Dagg has become “a little bit of a cult figure” for some Beatles fans, because Dagg’s irritated reactions to the concert are hilarious in hindsight. In the interview clip that Jackson showed, a now-elderly Dagg is interviewed on the same rooftop where the concert took place. Dagg comments on his threats to arrest people and shut down the concert: “In those days, it was just to get the job done. And they had to stop, as far as I was concerned.”

Jackson urged Beatles fans to put “public pressure” on Disney and Apple to let these interviews and other unreleased footage be seen for posterity. He says of the footage: “I’m sure that Apple, sitting on this gold mine, can figure out some way that it can be used.” Jackson concluded the Q&A by saying of “The Beatles: Get Back” documentary: “I’m hoping at some point that I’ll get to do an extended cut. I’d love to put full-length performances of the songs in, and some songs we didn’t include at all. There are also some conversations that are historically interesting. They should probably be seen at some point.”

 Walt Disney Pictures released “The Beatles: Get Back—The Rooftop Concert” as an exclusive IMAX event screening with a filmmaker Q&A on January 30, 2022. “The Beatles: Get Back—The Rooftop Concert” will have a global theatrical engagement on February 9, February 11, February 12 and February 13, 2022. The complete docuseries “The Beatles: Get Back” is available on Disney+ and will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 8, 2022.

Review: ‘Italian Studies,’ starring Vanessa Kirby

January 29, 2022

by Carla Hay

Vanessa Kirby in “Italian Studies” (Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

“Italian Studies”

Directed by Adam Leon

Culture Representation: Taking place in New York City and briefly in London, the dramatic film “Italian Studies” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some African Americans, Asians and Latinos) representing the middle-class and working-class.

Culture Clash: A British woman, who’s a book author with amnesia, wanders around New York City and tries to befriend a group of teenagers who are complete strangers to her. 

Culture Audience: “Italian Studies” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching meandering films that don’t have much of a plot.

Simon Brickner in “Italian Studies” (Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures)

“Italian Studies” is a misguided stream-of-consciousness drama about amnesia. Too bad the filmmakers forgot to make it an interesting movie. “Italian Studies” is an annoying and repetitive bore that’s trying desperately to be “artsy” and “meaningful,” but the movie ultimately isn’t very creative, and it has nothing to say.

Written and directed by Adam Leon, “Italian Studios” is essentially a 78-minute film where actress Vanessa Kirby plays a character who walks around and acts confused in New York City and briefly in London. In the movie, Kirby portrays a book author named Alina Reynolds, a Brit who has amnesia and no identification on her.

Don’t expect the movie to reveal how Alina got amnesia. Alina doesn’t find out her name until about halfway through the film, but she doesn’t do what most people with amnesia would do if they found out their names: Use that information to find out more about herself, where she lives, and if she has any loved ones who are looking for her.

Instead, the movie wastes a lot of time showing Alina, who is in her 30s, being fixated on hanging out with teenagers who are complete strangers to her. The teens, who are between 15 to 18 years old, are all part of a loosely knit social circle in New York City. Most of them are played by non-professional actors and most of the teenage characters in the movie don’t have names.

Some sections of “Italian Studies” try to go for a vibe that’s similar to Larry Clark’s 1995 teen movie “Kids,” by having several scenes of the teens partying and talking about their lives. The teenagers in “Italian Studies” aren’t as hedonistic as the ones in “Kids,” but they have the same concerns that a lot of teenagers do about finding their identities and where they can get acceptance from other people. Unfortunately, almost all of the teen characters in “Italian Studies” (including Maya Hawke in a small role as a character named Erin McCloud) are forgettable and don’t have distinct personalities. Expect to see these rambling teen scenes go nowhere in “Italian Studies.”

“Italian Studies” also has many scenes that drag out the repetition of showing Alina’s amnesia without her doing much to find out who she is. Before she finds out what her name is, Alina remembers that she was staying at a motel and the room number. She goes to the motel and asks the front-desk clerk (played by Sam Soghor) to give her a spare key to her room because she lost the key. When the clerk asks for her name, she says that she can’t remember, and she doesn’t have any ID on her.

Not surprisingly, the clerk gets suspicious and doesn’t give her the room key. Alina gets irritated that he won’t just hand over the key, which is an indication that not only has she lost her memory, she’s also lost her common sense. This is obviously a motel that doesn’t ask for photo IDs when people check in to get a room, which is why the motel has no record that her identify was verified before they gave her a room. Even if the motel has this lenient check-in policy, Alina should still know that motels don’t just hand out keys to anyone who asks, so her entitled attitude is not justified at all.

There’s another time-wasting sequence about Alina having a white poodle that she left outside on the street and tied to a street post when she went into a convenience store. When she left the convenience store, she forgot to take the poodle with her. It isn’t until an untold number of days later that Alina remembers that she had a dog, and she tries to find it. For anyone who’s not interested in seeing this movie, the good news is that she eventually finds the dog, which was being kept at the convenience store.

“Italian Studies” has some random moments that look like they were put in the movie as filler. While walking on a street in New York City, Alina passes by two young Hasidic Jewish men (played by Misha Brooks and Luca Scoppetta-Stern), who repeatedly ask her, “Are you Jewish?” She answers, “I don’t know.”

In other scene, Alina steals some candy from a convenience store, because she’s hungry and has no money. Not once is she shown making any realistic attempt to find out who she is, or even try to get substantial help in finding out her identity. (This movie takes place in the 21st century, when the Internet and cell phones exist.) Most people with amnesia would seek help, in order not to reach a point of desperation where they have to steal food because they have no money.

A moment that looks “only in a movie” phony is how Alina meets a teenage stoner named Simon Brickner, played by an actor with the same name. They’re in a fast-food place that sells hot dogs. Simon asks Alina if she can buy some of the hot dogs that he recently purchased there. He explains that he used a credit card to buy the hot dogs, because the place has a minimum monetary amount required to use a credit card. Therefore, Simon bought more hot dogs than he can eat, so he wants to resell them.

Alina declines the offer because she’s already eating her own hot dog. (It can be assumed she had a little bit of cash with her, because later in the movie she’s run out of money and steals candy for food.) Alina then tells Simon that she’s actually a vegetarian. Simon asks her why she’s eating a hot dog if she’s a vegetarian. She replies, “I’m taking a break.”

During this conversation, Simon asks if Alina wants to hang out with him. She says yes with no hesitation, as if it’s the most normal thing in the world for a person in her 30s with amnesia to not care about finding out who she is, and hang out and party with a teenager instead. The scenes with Simon and Alina are boring and very self-indulgent.

Viewers learn more about Simon than Alina in this movie. He’s a motormouth 18-year-old who’s not very smart and doesn’t know what to do with his life. He lives with his parents, he has no job, and he has no plans to go to college. Simon likes to smoke a lot of marijuana, which he shares with Alina. Simon keeps his marijuana stash hidden inside a book at a local library, because he says that his mother searches his room.

According to Simon, his parents think that Simon is a loser, and he despises his father, whom Simon calls “an asshole.” Simon also has a younger sister. (His family is not seen in the movie.) Later, there’s a cringeworthy part of “Italian Studies” where Alina makes out with Simon. It just shows that not only as she lost her memory and any common sense, she’s also lost good judgment.

The only reason why Alina eventually finds out her name and occupation is because a woman approaches her on the street and gushes to her about how much of a fan she is of her collection of short stories called “Italian Studies.” The adoring fan also tells Alina that she saw Alina doing a reading of “Italian Studies” two years ago. Because of this conversation, Alina finds out that she’s a successful author, and “Italian Studies” is her first book.

And so, off Alina goes to a library to find her “Italian Studies” book and to see if it could lead to more clues about her identity. It’s at the library that she finds out her name, but the movie is so stupid that it leaves out something that anyone with amnesia would do: Look at the part of the book that lists the author’s biography information.

The movie shows that the book is dedicated to two people named Ade and Richard, but Alina just ignores that information too. She also doesn’t think about contacting the book publisher, which is information that’s also listed. Instead, Alina wants to autograph the book.

Another library patron (played by Joshua Astrachan), who’s sitting at the same table, sees Alina writing in the book, and he tells her that she shouldn’t be doing that. She replies with indignation that she wrote “Italian Studies,” and then tries to shame him for daring to question who she is and why she’s writing in the book. It’s one of many indications of how Alina—amnesiac or not—is an unpleasant and somewhat arrogant person. Alina haughtily tells the man before she leaves the library in a huff: “You’re a cold world. A signed book is a warm world.”

More tiresome and incoherent scenes ensue as Alina hangs out with Simon and his group of acquaintances and friends. She finds out from some of the teens that her next book that she was working on before she got amnesia was going to be a novel about teenagers, so she was interviewing real teenagers as research. She decides to continue this research by interviewing Simon and his friends, who know that she has amnesia, but they don’t seem to care much at all. When one of the teens tells Alina that it isn’t very original to write a young-adult novel about teenage issues, Alina has this obnoxious reply: “Go fuck yourself!”

One of these teens in Simon’s social circle is a talented singer named Lucinda (played by Annabel Hoffman), and Alina becomes fascinated with her. After Alina sees Lucinda singing at a party, she starts showing up at places where Lucinda sings, such as a nightclub and a recording studio. Alina tries to befriend Lucinda, who is a little confused over why this older woman, who’s a stranger, is paying so much attention to her.

Alina tells Lucinda that she thinks Lucinda is very talented. Lucinda’s reaction to Alina is polite caution. Alina also keeps asking Lucinda’s friends for more information about Lucinda, and where Lucinda is if Lucinda isn’t there. It’s all very stalkerish, but none of this creepy behavior is questioned by anyone in the movie.

In fact, it seems like none of the filmmakers questioned the half-baked, irritating and pointless scenes that pollute this entire movie. As the amnesiac Alina, Kirby is hindered by playing such a vague, prickly and unrelatable character. It’s difficult to root for this protagonist. The acting in this movie is not very impressive.

To make matters worse, the dialogue in “Italian Studios” is atrocious and often very unbelievable. The end of “Italian Studies” abruptly throws in a scene that shows if Alina found any of her loved ones or not. But by the time this final scene stumbles into the movie, most viewers will have emotionally checked out and not care at all.

Magnolia Pictures released “Italian Studies” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on January 14, 2022.

Review: ‘The Beatles: Get Back,’ starring Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr

November 25, 2021

by Carla Hay

Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, John Lennon and George Harrison in “The Beatles: Get Back” (Photo courtesy of Disney+)

“The Beatles: Get Back”

Directed by Peter Jackson

Culture Representation: Taking place in London in January 1969, the three-part documentary series “The Beatles: Get Back” features a predominantly white and mostly British group of people (with one Japanese person and one African American person) representing the middle-class and wealthy in this chronicle of the beginning of the Beatles’ last recording sessions, as well as the Beatles’ last live public performance.

Culture Clash: Before the band broke up in 1970, the Beatles had internal struggles and disagreements over who would lead the band and how each member’s talent and contributions were valued within the group.

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of Beatles fans, “The Beatles: Get Back” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of 1960s rock music who want detailed observations of what music studio sessions looked like at the time.

Pictured clockwise, from left: Mal Evans, Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, George Harrison, John Lennon and Yoko Ono in “The Beatles: Get Back” (Photo courtesy of Apple Corps Ltd./Disney+)

The three-episode official Beatles docuseries “The Beatles: Get Back” gives Beatles fans more than enough of what they might be looking for in this intimate chronicle of the band’s recording sessions and rehearsals in London in January 1969. “The Beatles: Get Back” (directed by Peter Jackson) expands on the footage that was in director Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s 1970 Beatles documentary “Let It Be,” which is no longer officially distributed but has been widely bootlegged. “The Beatles: Get Back” is the docuseries for you, if you’re the type of music fan who relishes seeing several different rehearsal snippets of the same Beatles songs that mostly ended up on the band’s 1969 “Abbey Road” album and 1970 “Let It Be” album. If you have absolutely no interest in watching the Beatles in a recording/rehearsal studio, then you might be bored and might not be able to finish watching this documentary.

That’s because most of the footage in this 468-minute docuseries (that’s 7.8 hours) takes place at recording/rehearsal studios: Twickenham and Apple Corps, to be exact. (Apple Corps is the London-based entertainment company founded by the Beatles in 1967, and is not to be confused with the California-based computer technology company Apple Inc. that was co-founded by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak in 1976.) The docuseries culminates with the Beatles performing a brief surprise concert on the rooftop of Apple Corps headquarters, which would end up being the band’s last live public performance. A great deal of the docuseries shows the repetitive nature of doing takes and re-takes of songs in the studio. In that regard, “The Beatles: Let It Be” could have used tighter editing to keep the interest of people with short attention spans.

The vast majority of the docuseries footage is within the confines of a studio. But what happens in that studio is pure magic for people who want to see how the Beatles crafted many of their songs from this period of time. There’s plenty of footage of the band’s personal interactions, but it’s only in the context of this work environment.

And that’s why the docuseries will appeal most to die-hard Beatles fans, who aren’t going to mind that this documentary’s cameras didn’t follow Beatles members Paul McCartney (bass guitar), John Lennon (rhythm guitar), George Harrison (lead guitar) and Ringo Starr (drums) outside of the studio to show what they were like outside of work. People who want to see more controversy in this documentary will be disappointed. However, the filmmakers made the decision not take the tabloid route, so that the documentary would remain focused mainly on the Beatles’ music.

“The Beatles: Get Back” is an insightful look at the band dynamics that foreshadowed why the Beatles broke up in 1970, but the documentary also shows the special chemistry and camaraderie that the Beatles had together. People who know Beatles history are the ones who will have the most appreciation of this deep-dive look into these recording/rehearsal sessions. After all, how many times does someone need to see the different ways that Beatles songs such as “Get Back,” “The Long and Winding Road” or “Don’t Let Me Down” were recorded or rehearsed? Die-hard fans will tolerate this type of repetition the most. The documentary also shows that the Beatles spent a lot of time in the studio performing cover songs for fun.

At the time this documentary footage was filmed, the idea was to record the next Beatles album live in the studio and make a documentary about it. (“Abbey Road” was actually recorded after the “Let It Be” album, but “Abbey Road” was released first.) The band also planned to do a live concert as a TV special. Lindsay-Hogg was the director hired for the documentary and the TV special, with the entire project tentatively called “Get Back,” named after one of the hit songs that would be on the “Let It Be” album. A big problem was that with less than three weeks before the concert was to take place, the band still couldn’t agree/decide on where the concert should be.

In the docuseries, band members have disagreements with each other, but no one has screaming arguments or destroys instruments in anger. Yoko Ono (an avant-garde artist who was Lennon’s girlfriend at the time and became his wife in March 1969) is not seen pitting Lennon and McCartney against each other, and she doesn’t try to tell the band what to do. In other words, this not the Beatles version of the 1984 rock mockumentary “This Is Spinal Tap.” That might come as a surprise to people who have come to expect drama akin to a soap opera in behind-the-scenes music documentaries about rock bands on the verge of splitting up.

And so, people looking for that type of turmoil won’t find it in “The Beatles: Get Back,” whose producers include McCartney, Ono (Lennon’s widow), Olivia Harrison (George Harrison’s widow), Starr and Jackson. The documentary does show how George Harrison briefly quit the Beatles, but his departure is not the disaster it could have been. That’s mainly because the other band members carry on with their work, as if they know deep down that Harrison will change his mind and come back less than a week later. (And that’s exactly what happened.)

Harrison’s temporary split from the Beatles was not made public at the time. This abrupt departure of someone from the most famous band in the world would be harder to keep a secret in today’s celebrity news environment, where this type of news would spread quickly on the Internet. It’s a testament to how the Beatles employees and associates who knew about Harrison quitting back then were discreet enough to not leak this information.

There’s so much to delve into “The Beatles: Get Back” because each episode of the series is longer than the average episode of a docuseries. Episode One is 157 minutes. Episode Two is 173 minutes. Episode Three is 138 minutes. “The Beatles: Get Back” director Jackson (who is a Beatles superfan) and his team lovingly restored the footage that was originally directed by Lindsay-Hogg.

Over the 21 days that Lindsay-Hogg and his team documented the Beatles in January 1969, there were about 60 hours of filmed footage and about 120 hours of audio recordings that ended up being edited for “The Beatles: Get Back” docuseries. The results are footage and audio that look and sound clear and crisp. The songs performed in the studio sessions have quick-cut editing in the docuseries. It’s as if the filmmakers don’t want the entire performance of each song to be seen, in anticipation of the Beatles’ rooftop concert. On-screen captions indicate which takes of these songs ended up on a Beatles album.

It’s explained in the beginning of the series that the Beatles had the daunting task of writing and rehearsing 14 new songs within a two-week period, in order for them to make the deadline for the TV concert. The Beatles didn’t agree on everything, but they all agreed that if this concert was going to happen, it wouldn’t be to play their old hits. They wanted it to be a showcase for their new songs. For recordings and rehearsals, they started off at Twickenham Studios for the first eight days, and then spent the remaining 13 days at Apple Studios.

Here’s a summary of the highlights from each episode:

Episode One

(Days 1 to 7)

John Lennon, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr in “The Beatles: Get Back” (Photo courtesy of Apple Corps Ltd./Disney+)

The episode begins with a brief chronological history of the Beatles, leading up to January 1969. At this point in the Beatles’ career, the band members were managing themselves, ever since Beatles manager Brian Epstein died of a sedative overdose in 1967, at the age of 32. McCartney is clearly the band member in charge, but disagreements over who should be the band’s next official manager were among the big reasons why the band broke up. Beatles fans will notice in this docuseries that these tensions were brewing and an indication of trouble to come. More on that later.

Even though Epstein wasn’t much older than the Beatles, certain band members still refer to him as “Mr. Epstein” and describe him as a father figure who was the one who kept them disciplined and taught them a certain work ethic as a band. With Epstein gone, McCartney has tried to step into the role of a leader who expects everyone to be their best and show up on time. But it’s how McCartney handles that leadership role that causes friction with other members of the group, especially Harrison and Lennon.

Lennon and McCartney co-wrote most of the songs that ended up on Beatles albums. If McCartney wrote most of a Lennon/McCartney song, McCartney was the one who sang lead vocals. If Lennon wrote most of a Lennon/McCartney song, Lennon was the one who sang lead vocals. Harrison would write Beatles songs on his own and sing lead vocals on them, but his songs were very much in the minority on Beatles albums. On rare occasions, Starr (whose real name is Richard Starkey) got a songwriting credit and lead vocals on a Beatles song.

This is the type of Beatles history that is not explained in the docuseries. However, people who are unfamiliar with the Beatles can discern these group dynamics when watching this docuseries, because every time a song is performed, the song’s title and the last name(s) of the songwriter(s) are listed on the screen. Even people with scarce knowledge of the Beatles have some idea that the Lennon/McCartney songwriting duo was the dominant songwriting partnership in the Beatles.

Although early in the Beatles’ career, Harrison was nicknamed in the media as “The Quiet Beatle,” Starr was actually the quietest member of the Beatles at this point in 1969. He’s often seen silently observing (and sometimes napping) while the other members of the band hash out some of their differences. He’s also the most easygoing member of the Beatles and the one most likely to want to keep the peace. It’s probably why the Beatles chose Starr’s home as the place for the Beatles to meet with Harrison after he abruptly quit the group.

McCartney is either motivational or bossy, depending on your perspective. He’s the one most likely to have big ambitions for the Beatles. He repeats throughout the documentary that he doesn’t just want to do albums. He wants the Beatles’ music to serve a bigger purpose and have more visual documentation of their art, such as filming the recording of the album.

Lennon is the sarcastic joker of the group. After recently getting involved in an intense love affair with Ono, he is shown as becoming less interested in arriving on time for band meetings and studio sessions. Lennon and Harrison are the Beatles members who are most likely to be tardy in these studio sessions.

Ono is never far from Lennon during most of these sessions, where she often sits next to him as if she’s also a member of the band. She doesn’t talk much, but her influence over Lennon is obvious, since she’s the only woman who’s allowed to join in and contribute vocals with the Beatles when they’re writing and recording. She doesn’t sing. The sound that comes out of her mouth is more like screeching or caterwauling.

During the first days of these sessions, Harrison seems motivated and greets people warmly. Harrison and Starr say “Happy New Year” to each other the first time that the band meets for these sessions. In another scene, Harrison compliments McCartney by saying of McCartney’s newly grown facial hair: “I think the beard suits you, man.” But as time goes on, Harrison looks both emotionally alienated and exasperated. And it’s not just because McCartney is telling Harrison how he wants Harrison’s guitar playing to sound.

It’s also because Harrison can see that, once again, most of his song ideas are being ignored. At this point in Harrison’s life, he was deep into Hare Krishna spirituality. It shows in the documentary, because a few of Harrison’s Hare Krishna friends/hangers-on, including two named Shyamsunder Das and Mukanda Goswami, are seen occasionally sitting cross-legged in the background, looking zoned-out or meditative.

For the concert TV special, McCartney was keen for the Beatles to perform a live concert again for the first time in three years (the Beatles quit touring in 1966), but he doesn’t want the band to perform in a typical and predictable setting. It’s here that McCartney tries to assert his leadership because he comes up with the idea that the Beatles should do a surprise concert at a place where they could get arrested. He half-jokingly suggests that the Beatles perform at the House of Parliament, where the band would undoubtedly be ejected. “You have to take a bit of violence,” McCartney says of his idea to do a guerilla-styled concert.

Lindsay-Hogg hates the idea. “I think it’s too dangerous. You could go back to Manila,” he says. It’s a reference to the Beatles’ harrowing 1966 experience of facing a group of angry citizens who aggressively manhandled the Beatles for skipping a meeting with Imelda Marcos, the wife of then-Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos. Lindsay-Hogg is fixated on an idea to have the Beatles perform at an open-air amphitheatre in the desert of Subrata, Libya. (It’s a terrible idea because of the difficult logistics involved. The ancient amphitheatre was not built for a 1969 rock concert that would require a lot of electrical wiring.)

Lindsay-Hogg also suggests that maybe the Beatles could perform at orphanages. He appeals to Harrison’s charitable side by trying to get him to agree to a charity concert. “They say charity begins at home,” Harrison quips. McCartney responds by joking that they should have the concert at Harrison’s house.

Film producer Denis O’Dell pushes for the Beatles to do the concert on some type of ship or boat. However, practical-minded Harrison says that this idea is “insane,” because the acoustics would be substandard and the production costs would be too high. Harrison mentions the Beatles’ widely panned 1967 TV special “Magical Mystery Tour” as an example of an expensive mistake. Lennon doesn’t seem to care where the Beatles play, while Starr says almost nothing at all when it comes to ideas or suggestions.

It’s in this docuseries’ first episode that viewers are also introduced to many of the key crew members who were part of the Beatles’ inner circle for this documentary. There’s Lindsay-Hogg, an American-Irish hotshot director who talks in an upper-crust accent and is often seen puffing on a cigar. He likes to remind people that he’s a huge Beatles fan, not just a hired gun. Far from being a “yes man,” Lindsay-Hogg is very opinionated and isn’t afraid to disagree with some of the Beatles’ ideas.

Beatles music producer George Martin conducts himself with the air of a calm and dignified businessman, but he is surprisingly not in this documentary as much as people might think he would be. Instead, engineer Glyn Johns (who is most definitely not a businessman type) has the most screen time as the one who takes charge of the technical side of the recording sessions. Other staffers and associates who are seen in the documentary, beginning with this episode, include Apple president Neil Aspinall, music publisher Dick James, roadie/personal assistant Mal Evans, roadie Kevin Harrington, cinematographer Tony Richmond, camera operator Les Parrott, song recordist Peter Sutton and electronic engineer Alexis “Magic Alex” Mardas.

Harrison is the first one the documentary to mention that the Beatles should break up. “Maybe we should have a divorce,” Harrison tells the other Beatles. Lennon quips, “Who would have the children?” McCartney jokes, “Dick James.” McCartney’s comment refers to how, at the time, James (through his Northern Songs Ltd. publishing company) owned the copyrights to Beatles songs written by Lennon and McCartney. Later in 1969, James sold Northern Songs to Associated Television (ATV) without telling Lennon and McCartney in advance. The battle to own the Beatles’ song publishing could be its own documentary.

Starr’s wife Maureen Starkey makes a brief appearance. Just like the other women in this documentary, she doesn’t say much. The episode ends with Harrison getting up and announcing he’s leaving the band. Lennon says that if Harrison doesn’t come back in a few days, the Beatles should get Eric Clapton as a replacement. (Clapton was Harrison’s best friend at the time.) An episode epilogue caption says that the attempted reconciliation with Harrison at Starr’s house did not go very well.

What the documentary doesn’t mention is that Starr’s wife Maureen Starkey and Harrison were having an affair at the time, according to several books about the Beatles. Meanwhile, Clapton was in love with Harrison’s wife Pattie (Clapton wrote the 1971 song “Layla” about her), and she would eventually leave Harrison in 1977 for Clapton, who became her second husband two years later. If this is the type of love triangle drama that people wanted to see in this documentary, you’re not going to find it.

Episode Two

(Days 8 to 16)

Paul McCartney, George Harrison and John Lennon in “The Beatles: Get Back” (Photo courtesy of Apple Corps Ltd./Disney+)

As we all know, Harrison eventually did come back to the Beatles, as seen in this episode. During his absence, the other band members have a bittersweet laugh when a bouquet of flowers arrives for Harrison at the studio. Starr opens the greeting card and sees that the flowers are from a Hare Krishna group that obviously doesn’t know that Harrison had recently quit the band.

But the most intriguing part of the episode is that McCartney starts to get real about the band’s problems. The documentary mentions that a hidden microphone was placed in a flower pot to capture a conversation between Lennon and McCartney over Harrison’s unhappiness in the Beatles. This secret recording was clearly the filmmakers’ attempt to find out McCartney’s true feelings, since he was the band member who tended to be the most image-conscious and careful about what he said on camera.

In this undercover conversation, Lennon says of Harrison’s discontent: “It’s a festering wound that we’ve allowed … and we didn’t give him any bandages. We have egos.” McCartney says of Harrison’s concerns: “I do think he’s right.” McCartney also tries to appeal to Lennon’s ego by saying that the Beatles will always be Lennon’s band.

Through his actions and words in this documentary, McCartney seems to want to give the impression that he’s stepping up in a leadership role because no one else in the Beatles wants to do it. The problem, which has also been documented in several books about the Beatles, is that the other members of the group get frustrated when McCartney acts like his ideas are usually the best ideas. Harrison isn’t the only one who’s starting to drift away and feel alienated.

In another part of the episode, when McCartney knows that he’s being filmed, he says to a group of people (including Eastman and Starr) that Lennon is losing interest in the Beatles. If Lennon had to choose between the Beatles or Ono, McCartney predicts: “Obviously, if it came to a push between Yoko and the Beatles, it’s Yoko.” McCartney also says that he and Lennon are spending less time writing songs together because their lifestyles have changed. He mentions that because the Beatles weren’t touring, he and Lennon weren’t spending time together in hotel rooms, where Lennon and McCartney would get a lot of songwriting done.

New romances were affecting the Lennon/McCartney friendship. Linda Eastman, a photographer from New York, had recently begun dating McCartney and would become his wife in March 1969. Eastman is in the documentary as a laid-back presence, who occasionally takes photos and snuggles with McCartney. During a band meeting where they discuss Harrison quitting the group, Eastman pipes up that she noticed that at the reconciliation attempt at Starr’s house, Ono seemed to be talking for Lennon instead of Lennon talking for himself.

The documentary doesn’t give a lot of evidence to support a lingering perception among some Beatles fans that Ono is mainly to blame for breaking up the Beatles. She doesn’t talk much when she’s with the Beatles in these studio sessions. On the rare occasions that she smiles, it’s when she gazes lovingly at Lennon or shows other public displays of affection with him. She’s shown as not being particularly close to anyone in the Beatles’ inner circle except for Lennon. McCartney says prophetically, “It’s going to be such an incredible, comical thing, like in 50 years’ time [people will say], ‘They broke up because Yoko sat on an amp.'”

Still, there’s no denying that there’s unspoken tension between McCartney and Ono. During a group discussion, McCartney talks about how he still wants the Beatles to be on the top of their game in the documentary. “We want to show the world what we have,” McCartney says. Ono chimes in, “Or what we haven’t.”

The reality seems to be sinking in with McCartney that he and his longtime pal Lennon are going in different directions with their lives. McCartney seems to want to hold on to an idea that the Beatles can continue, but only if they agree with his wish that they don’t do anything in a boring and predictable way. Meanwhile, a frustrated Harrison seems like he wants to be a solo artist, whether the other band members approve or not. As for Starr, he just seems to want to know if he has a job and where to show up. When McCartney half-jokingly suggests that the Beatles should announce their breakup at the end of their upcoming concert, Starr reacts with a mortified look on his face that’s priceless.

In between all of this interpersonal drama, the Beatles are still capable of working together in a respectful and cohesive manner as musicians in a studio. Harrison starts to become more jovial, while Lennon cracks jokes to lighten the mood. After Harrison comes back to the band, McCartney seems more mindful of how he gives suggestions to Harrison, in order to avoid looking like an overly critical taskmaster.

McCartney also mentions to his bandmates that he has personal film footage of the time that the Beatles spent at a 1967 retreat with the spiritual guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who was exposed years later as a con artist. McCartney vividly describes scenes from this footage, some of which are shown in the documentary. Lennon and McCartney have a laugh when McCartney comments on the retreat, “You can see from the film that it’s very much like school.”

Harrison’s wife Pattie appears very briefly in this episode when she visits the studio. Out of all of the Beatles’ significant others at the time, she’s the one who is seen the least in the documentary. Pattie was busy with her modeling career at the time, but she and other people have since revealed that her marriage to Harrison was in deep trouble in 1969, because of the love triangle with Clapton.

A great scene in this episode is when comedian/actor Peter Sellers (who was Starr’s co-star in the 1969 movie “The Magic Christian”) stops by for a visit. It’s the first time that Sellers has met the members of the band, other than Starr. Sellers is quiet and bashful. Some viewers might speculate that he seems a little star-struck by the Beatles. He also seems a little bored, because he doesn’t stay for long. Maybe he thought being in a recording studio with the Beatles would be one big party.

In this encounter with Sellers, Lennon proves to be a lot funnier than world-famous comedian Sellers. As Sellers says a “nice to meet you” goodbye to the group, Lennon makes a drug joke when he says to Sellers: “Just don’t leave the needles lying around.” Everyone in the room laughs, except for Sellers, who seems a little taken aback by this joke and that someone can get bigger laughs than he usually does.

Speaking of drug references, there are some noticeable ones in this episode. Lennon shows up late at the studio one day, and he says it’s because he stayed up all night while he was on drugs. “I was stoned and high and watching films,” Lennon confesses. McCartney, ever aware of the Beatles’ image, looks slightly alarmed, knowing that Lennon was caught on camera with this comment. McCartney responds, “Is there a need to do this in public, Mr. Lennon?”

Earlier in the episode, Starr is seen on camera asking personal assistant Evans, “Do you have any pep pills?” And the band’s goofiest antics and loopiest comments in this episode and the other episodes in the docuseries could be interpreted as actions of people under the influence of unnamed substances. At any rate, no one actually says out loud which illegal drugs might have been consumed. The Beatles are seen smoking a lot of cigarettes and drinking alcohol (usually wine or beer) during these sessions. Even if illegal drug taking had been caught on camera, it wouldn’t have made the final cut in a Disney+ documentary.

This episode shows how image-conscious the Beatles were, since there are multiple scenes of them reading articles about themselves in newspapers and magazines and making comments about what they see in this media coverage. Harrison is irked by a Daily Mail article written by Michael Housegro, in which Housegro claims that Lennon and Harrison got into a fist fight and that the Beatles are on the verge of breaking up.

Housegro was wrong about the fist fight, and Harrison asks someone in the room if the Beatles can sue over the article. The answer is no. Harrison and Lennon have a bit of a laugh over it though, and pretend to get in a fist fight when the article is read out loud. Later, McCartney reads the article out loud in a very sing-song, sarcastic manner while plugged into a microphone and pretending that article’s words are lyrics to a song.

The Beatles move their recording/rehearsal sessions to Apple when their scheduled time at Twickenham comes to an end. When they begin working at Apple, it’s the first time that the documentary shows life outside the studio bubble. The members of the band show up in separate cars and walk inside without any bodyguards or entourages. If there were any paparazzi photographers lurking about, they’re not shown in this documentary.

It’s in this episode that Apple Scruffs (the nickname for the female fans who would wait outside Apple headquarters to get a glimpse of the Beatles) are first seen. Two Apple Scruffs named Eileen Kensles and Sue Ahearne are interviewed. They both say that what they want most for the Beatles to do next is to perform a live concert.

At Apple headquarters, Magic Alex had constructed a custom-built studio for the Beatles. However, the band discovers that this custom studio equipment has too much distortion. Beatles producer Martin comes to the rescue by letting the Beatles use some equipment that he had, thereby diverting a major setback.

Things get livelier when keyboardist Billy Preston joins the sessions. His enthusiasm and talent seem to lift the Beatles’ spirits. McCartney briefly considers eventually making Preston a permanent member of the Beatles, but McCartney ends up nixing the idea. “It’s bad enough with four [members of the band],” McCartney comments.

And if you didn’t already know that “Get Back” was originally going to be a protest song against white nationalism, anti-immigrant racism and xenophobia, then you’ll find out what were some of the lyrics that McCartney originally wanted for the song. “Get Back” eventually evolved into a non-political song, but it’s interesting to see the thought process that went into the crafting of this song. At this point in his career, McCartney avoided making overt political statements in his songs, so his original intention for “Get Back” would have been a major departure for him.

Another song that went through a metamorphosis was Lennon’s “The Road to Marrakesh.” Never heard of it? That’s because the docuseries shows in this episode that “The Road to Marrakesh” was an early version of “Jealous Guy,” a song that would end up on Lennon’s 1971 solo album “Imagine.” The song’s melodies essentially remained the same, but the lyrics became very different when the song morphed into “Jealous Guy.”

Making brief appearances in this episode are photographer Ethan Russell (the cover of the “Let It Be” album features his photos), Apple executive Peter Brown and art dealer Robert Fraser. Brown and author Steven Gaines would later write the unauthorized Beatles tell-all book “The Love You Make: An Insider Story of the Beatles,” which was published in 1983. It’s considered one of the first exposés of the Beatles in-fighting that went on behind the scenes.

Lindsay-Hogg was also the director of the concert TV special “The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus,” which featured Lennon and Ono among the guest performers. Lindsay-Hogg is seen asking Lennon if he wants to be a guest on this TV special, and Lennon readily agrees. It’s because of “The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus” that Lennon came into contact with Allen Klein, who was the Rolling Stones’ manager at the time.

Klein was a controversial figure in the histories of the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. By all accounts, he desperately wanted to manage the Beatles. Klein does not make an appearance in “The Beatles: Get Back” docuseries, but it clearly shows through Lennon’s descriptions of Klein how Klein began to woo and charm his way into the Beatles’ lives.

In this episode, the idea to have a live TV concert is scrapped. And it comes as no surprise, because the band was never ready to do a live TV show with just two weeks of preparation. However, McCartney still wants the Beatles to perform their new songs live somewhere and having it filmed. Lindsay-Hogg and Johns suggest doing a surprise show without a permit on the rooftop of Apple Corps, thereby making McCartney’s idea to have a guerilla-styled Beatles concert become a reality.

Episode Three

(Days 17 to 21)

Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon in “The Beatles: Get Back” (Photo courtesy of Apple Corps Ltd./Disney+)

Considering the internal problems that the Beatles were experiencing at the time, you would think that this strife would get worse as this docuseries goes on. In fact, this last episode is the most light-hearted of the three. One of the main reasons why it has so many laugh-out-loud moments is because of how it shows people’s various reactions to the Beatles’ surprise rooftop concert. The Beatles also seem more relaxed with each other, compared to previous days of the sessions.

During the rooftop concert, people are interviewed on the street by members of the film crew. Reactions are mostly positive. One middle-aged man says of the free concert: “It’s nice to have something for free in this country at the moment.”

Meanwhile, the complainers look like out-of-touch grouches in retrospect. One young man snarls angrily that the roof is “a bloody stupid place to have a concert.” An elderly woman is infuriated when she comments on the Beatles doing a free show on a rooftop: “I don’t see how it makes sense! It woke me up from my sleep, and I don’t like it!”

There’s also a very Keystone Kops moment when two young police officers are the first cops to respond to the noise complaints caused by the concert. One of the cops wants to take charge, but it’s obvious that he’s reluctant to arrest anyone in the Beatles. He does a lot of huffing and puffing and says this empty threat: “We’ve got 30 complaints within minutes … Turn it [the volume] down, or I’m going to have to start arresting people!” Meanwhile, the agitated cop’s partner barely says a word. You can tell that these reactions were not scripted, which makes everything even more hilarious.

Earlier in this episode, Eastman’s then-6-year-old daughter Heather (from Eastman’s first marriage) is shown being an adorable and happy kid in the studio. She brings a lot of joy to the people around her. McCartney treats her like a doting father (he bounces her up in the air and hugs her a lot), while the other Beatles (especially Lennon and Starr) are friendly and attentive to Heather. She’s talkative, curious, and is allowed to run around and play in the studio. When Heather sees Ono shrieking in a microphone, Heather starts to do that too. Lennon reponds to Heather’s vocal imitations by saying jokingly: “Yoko!”

Heather isn’t the only one acting goofy in the studio. A scene in this episode shows Starr, McCartney, Martin and Lindsay-Hogg appearing to have a serious conversation. Suddenly, Starr blurts out: “I’ve farted. I thought I’d let you know.”

Some Beatles associates featured in this episode include tape operator (and future artist/producer) Alan Parsons, sound engineer Keith Slaughter, Apple press officer Sally Burgess, producer/engineer Chris Thomas, Paul McCartney’s younger brother Mike McCartney, Apple office doorman Jimmy Clark and Apple office receptionist Debbie Wellum. When the cops show up during the Beatles’ rooftop concert, Wellum does a brilliant job of acting ignorant in stalling the cops as long as possible from going up to the roof.

But problems in the Beatles remain. While planning the rooftop concert, Paul McCartney is enthusiastic about it, while Harrison says irritably: “I don’t want to go on the roof.” Starr and Lennon chime in and both say consecutively: “I would like to go on the roof.” And with those statements, Harrison is outnumbered, and he seems to stop complaining about having to do this rooftop concert. However, Harrison still voices his dislike of the idea that the Beatles should continue to do films. It’s the opposite of how McCartney feels.

At this point in the Beatles’ history, Harrison is openly discussing taking his rejected Beatles songs and making a solo album out of it. He talks about it with Lennon and Ono, who tells Harrison that she thinks the solo album is a good idea. Meanwhile, Harrison is seen helping Starr come up with some ideas to finish Starr’s song “Octopus’s Garden,” which ended up on the “Abbey Road” album. It’s an example of how underrated Harrison was as a songwriter for the Beatles, because Starr (under his real name, Richard Starkey) is the only credited songwriter for “Octopus’s Garden.” This documentary clearly shows that Harrison co-wrote the song.

In this episode, Harrison talks about trying to finish a song that would become one of his most beloved ballads: “Something,” an “Abbey Road” hit single that was inspired by his then-wife Pattie. The first line of the song ended up being: “Something in the way she moves attracts me like no other lover.” But the documentary shows that Harrison had difficulty coming up with that first line.

Harrison considered using the phrase “attracts me like a Cadillac” or “attracts me like a pomegranate.” Lennon advises Harrison to just write what naturally comes to mind. “The Beatles: Get Back” is superb when it has this type of camaradie moment that shows a glimpse into how a classic Beatles song was written.

Lennon is in mostly a good mood during these final days of filming the documentary. He announces jubilantly that Ono’s divorce from her second husband Anthony “Tony” Cox has become final. (Lennon had already offically divorced his first wife Cynthia in November 1968.) Lennon is also seen praising Klein.

“I think he’s fantastic!” Lennon gushes to Harrison about Klein. “He knows everything about everything! He knows what we’re like. He knows me as well as you do!” The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were both signed to EMI Records at the time. Lennon also says he’s impressed that Klein was able to get an EMI royalty rate for the Rolling Stones that’s higher than the Beatles’ royalty rate, so Lennon wants Klein to do the same for the Beatles.

The Beatles have ther first meeting with Klein in this episode, but the meeting was not filmed for the documentary. In a voiceover, Johns is heard expressing cautious skepticism about Klein: “He’s a strange man, but very, very clever.” Johns also describes Klein’s habit of abruptly changing the subject in a conversation if someone says something that Klein doesn’t want to hear. “That bugs me a bit, actually,” adds Johns of Klein’s rudeness.

Harrison and Starr seem noncommittal about Klein at this point. However, people who watch this documentary should observe the expression on McCartney’s face when Klein’s name is mentioned by Lennon. Beatles fans now know that McCartney had already been planning to have Linda Eastman’s attorney father Lee Eastman take over management duties for the Beatles. McCartney is clearly concerned (and probably annoyed) that Lennon could persuade the other members of the band to want to hire Klein as the manager of the Beatles.

It’s a red flag of the management disagreements that would end up being a huge part of the Beatles’ breakup. But the docuseries ends in the best possible way, by showing the rooftop concert that would be the last time that the Beatles would ever perform together in public. (All of the Beatles’ wives/girlfriends are there except for Harrison’s.)

For the rooftop concert, the documentary shows the band performing “Get Back” (twice, but not consecutively), “Don’t Let Me Down” (twice, but not consecutively), “One After 909,” “Dig a Pony” and “I’ve Got a Feeling.” All these years later, the Beatles are still considered by many people to be the greatest rock band of all time. “The Beatles: Get Back” is a densely layered exploration into their artistic side, but it admirably never loses sight of the Beatles’ human side.

Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon in “The Beatles: Get Back” (Photo courtesy of Apple Corps Ltd./Disney+)

Here are the songs that are featured in “The Beatles Get Back” docuseries:

Beatles-Written Songs (for the Beatles or for Solo Material) Performed as Excerpts

In alphabetical order:

  • “Across the Universe”
  • “All Things Must Pass”
  • “Another Day”
  • “The Back Seat of My Car”
  • “Because I Know You Love Me So”
  • “Bonding”
  • “Carry That Weight”
  • “Castle of the King of the Birds”
  • “Commonwealth”
  • “Dehra Dun”
  • “Dig a Pony”
  • “Dig It”
  • “Don’t Let Me Down”
  • “Every Little Thing”
  • “Fancy My Chances With You”
  • “For You Blue”
  • “Get Back”
  • “Gimme Some Truth”
  • “Golden Slumbers”
  • “Half a Pound of Greasepaint”
  • “Help”
  • “Her Majesty”
  • “I Bought a Piano the Other Day”
  • “I Lost My Little Girl”
  • “I Me Mine”
  • “I’m So Tired”
  • “Isn’t It a Pity”
  • “I Told You Before”
  • “I’ve Got a Feeling”
  • “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)”
  • “Just Fun”
  • “Let It Be”
  • “The Long and Winding Road”
  • “Love Me Do”
  • “Madmen”
  • “Martha My Dear”
  • “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer”
  • “Mean Mr. Mustard”
  • “My Imagination”
  • “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”
  • “Octopus’s Garden”
  • “Oh! Darling”
  • “Old Brown Shoe”
  • “One After 909”
  • “On the Road to Marrakesh” (which later became “Jealous Guy”)
  • “Please Please Me”
  • “Polythene Pam”
  • “She Came in Through the Bathroom Window”
  • “Song of Love”
  • “Strawberry Fields Forever”
  • “Suzy Parker”
  • “Teddy Boy”
  • “Too Bad About Sorrow”
  • “Two of Us”
  • “What Do You Want to Make Those Eyes at Me For?”
  • “Within You, Without You”
  • “You Wear Your Women Out”

Cover Songs Performed as Excerpts

In alphabetical order:

  • “Act Naturally”
  • “Blue Suede Shoes”
  • “Bye Bye Love”
  • “Gilly Gilly Ossenfeffer”
  • “Going Up the Country”
  • “Hallelujah I Love Her So”
  • “Hi-Heel Sneakers”
  • “Honey Hush”
  • “House of the Rising Sun”
  • “Johnny B. Goode”
  • “Kansas City”
  • “The Midnight Special”
  • “The Mighty Quinn”
  • “Miss Ann”
  • “New Orleans”
  • “Queen of the Hop”
  • “Rock and Roll Music”
  • “Save the Last Dance for Me”
  • “School Days”
  • “Shake, Rattle and Roll”
  • “Stand By Me”
  • “Take These Chains From My Heart”
  • “Twenty Flight Rock”

Disney+ premieres each of the three episodes of “The Beatles: Get Back” on November 25, November 26 and November 27, 2021.

UPDATE: Walt Disney Pictures will release the feature film “The Beatles: Get Back—The Rooftop Concert” as an exclusive IMAX event screening with a filmmaker Q&A on January 30, 2022. “The Beatles: Get Back—The Rooftop Concert” will then have a global theatrical engagement from February 11 to February 13, 2022. The complete docuseries “The Beatles: Get Back” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on February 8, 2022.

Review: ‘Vengeance Is Mine’ (2021), starring Con O’Neill and Sarah-Jane Potts

October 19, 2021

by Carla Hay

Con O’Neill in “Vengeance Is Mine” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

“Vengeance Is Mine” (2021)

Directed by Hadi Hajaig

Culture Representation: Taking place in London in 2019, the action film “Vengeance Is Mine” has a nearly all-white cast of characters (with a few people of Indian heritage) representing the working-class, middle-class and the criminal underground.

Culture Clash: An embittered middle-aged man goes after the men responsible for the hit-and-run deaths of his wife and 9-year-old daughter.

Culture Audience: “Vengeance Is Mine” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in formulaic and violent vigilante movies.

Perry Jaques, Philip Bulcock and Matt Bainbridge in “Vengeance Is Mine” (Photo courtesy of Vertical Entertainment)

“Vengeance Is Mine” does absolutely nothing unique or creative in a story that has been recycled from the dozens of better vigilante movies that have come before it. A grieving husband/father, armed with weapons, is out for revenge. You know exactly what’s going to be in this movie as soon as you find out that this is the entire plot.

Written and directed by Hadi Hajaig, Vengeance Is Mine” not only skimps on originality, the movie also skimps on compelling conversations, since there isn’t much dialogue in this movie. “Vengeance Is Mine” is so by-the-numbers, you practically can do a countdown to the killings and when the movie’s big showdown will happen. It’s also easy to predict what will happen to the suicidal protagonist by the end of the movie. It’s the only conclusion that wouldn’t be controversial, considering all the murders he commits.

The protagonist of “Vengeance Is Mine” is down-on-his-luck Harry Kane (played by Con O’Neill), a widower in his late 40s who has been living by himself in a church’s back room in London. In exchange for free rent, Harry does maintenance work at the church. Not much is revealed about what Harry’s life was like before a traumatic tragedy changed his life forever.

It’s 2019 in this story. Five years earlier, Harry’s 43-year-old wife Elizabeth Kane (played by Annabel Wright) and their 9-year-old daughter Lucy (played by Lucy Pedrero) were killed in a hit-and-run car accident that Harry witnessed. The movie has several flashbacks to when Elizabeth and Lucy were alive, as well as to what happened in the reckless crime that took their lives.

There were several men in the car that killed Elizabeth and Lucy. Harry got a good look at all of them, but they have not been caught. He hired a private investigator named Henderson (played Ricky Grover), who has his own detective agency named after himself. The movie shows Harry glumly looking at some of the letters that Henderson has sent to Harry over the years. In the letters. Henderson says that there is nothing new to report.

Harry is so grief-stricken that an early scene in the movie shows him climbing on a high ledge at the church, with the intention to jump and commit suicide. He changes his mind and goes back to his depressing and lonely existence. Harry is essentially a bitter recluse.

Harry’s quest to find the hit-and-run criminals takes a sudden turn in August of 2019, when he gets a letter from the Henderson Detective Agency. The letter says that Henderson has information and asks Harry to meet him at a nearby cafe at a specific date and time. During this meeting, Henderson says that he heard through an informant that a man, who’s a regular at a local pub, has been bragging about causing the hit-and-run. The criminal braggart usually goes drinking at the pub on Thursdays.

Harry demands to know which pub, and Henderson reluctantly tells Harry. This detective seems to know what Harry wants to do and knows that nothing will stop Harry from doing it. Harry goes to the pub on the day that he knows he will probably see the suspect. And sure enough, Harry immediately recognizes one of the men at the pub as being one of the men who was in the car that killed Harry’s wife and daughter.

Harry notices that the man has a van parked nearby, so he quickly hides in the back of the van to find out where the man will be going after leaving the pub. (Conveniently, the back of the van was unlocked.) When the mystery man drives the van away, he goes to a run-down house in a somehwat remote area. And what do you know: Harry sees a few more men who were in the car that killed his wife and daughter.

It turns out that the men in the car are local criminals who are involved in drug dealing and robberies. The thugs, who are all in their 30s and 40s, are very generic with no backstories or discernible personalities. A few have names, such as Mark (played by Philip Bulcock), Karl (played by Perry Jaques) and Joe (played by Matt Bainbridge), while others don’t even have names. The film’s end credits list Villain 1 (played by Justin Pearson) and Villain 2 (played by Barry Green).

Harry goes home to fume and plan and his next move. Anyone who’s seen the most basic vigilante movies will know what happens next. And it does. “Vengeance Is Mine” tries to throw in some sentimentality in the story, by giving Harry a potential love interest. Her name is Emma (played by Sarah-Jane Potts), who oversees the church’s soup kitchen and is Harry’s supervisor. Emma is a kind-hearted widow who is also grieving over her dead spouse.

The possible romance between Harry and Emma is just a way to make it look like Harry hasn’t lost his sensitive and emotional side. But make no mistake: Any possible “love story” in this movie is just filler. “Vengeance Is Mine” is all about cold-blooded revenge. The movie puts the most effort in the bloody fight scenes, not in character development.

The problem is that these characters, the action, the story and everything else about this movie are bland and derivative. The acting is mediocre. The direction is clumsy, with hokey music for the slow-motion scenes showing Harry’s awful flashbacks to witnessing the hit-and-run that killed his wife and daughter. Because so much of “Vengeance Is Mine” is predictable junk, viewers won’t find much to care about in this movie. It’s hard to care about a movie that’s so uninspired and forgettable.

Vertical Entertainment released “Vengeance Is Mine” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on October 8, 2021.

Review: ‘Rare Beasts,’ starring Billie Piper, Lily James and David Thewlis

September 4, 2021

by Carla Hay

Jolyon Coy, Leo Bill and Billie Piper in “Rare Beasts” (Photo courtesy of Brainstorm Media)

“Rare Beasts”

Directed by Billie Piper

Culture Representation: Taking place in London and in the Spanish city of Girona, the dark comedy film “Rare Beasts” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few black people) representing the working-class and middle-class.

Culture Clash: A single mother in London navigates her way through the dating scene and family relationships with cynicism and hope. 

Culture Audience: “Rare Beasts” will appeal primarily to people who can tolerate foul-mouthed and offbeat comedy about love and romance.

Toby Woolf and Billie Piper in “Rare Beasts” (Photo courtesy of Brainstorm Media)

“Rare Beasts” tries a little too hard to be the opposite of a typical romantic comedy, but its brazen and often-vulgar attempts at being original end up working well for the story, more often than not. The movie is a memorable showcase for Billie Piper, who is the writer, director and star of “Rare Beasts,” which offers a deeply jaded and brash take on love, dating and family relationships. The tone and language of the movie can be very off-putting to people who want safer and more conventional romantic comedies. But for viewers who are a little more adventurous and who don’t mind watching very unhappy people trying to find love any way that they can (even if the love is all wrong for them), then “Rare Beasts” is a deliberately squirm-inducing ride.

In “Rare Beasts” (which is Piper’s feature-film directorial debut), Piper obliterates the notion that comedic heroines who are looking for love have to be perky and plucky people-pleasers. Piper’s Mandy character, who lives in London, is depressive and often rude. Mandy vacillates between wanting to be independent and wanting to admit she’s looking for a man help her feel more fulfilled. She doesn’t think that “feminism” is a dirty word, but she also thinks that feminism shouldn’t mean that men and women don’t need each other.

Mandy is a single mother to a son named Larch (played by Toby Woolf), who’s about 6 or 7 years old. He’s an eccentric loner child with some emotional issues because he’s prone to randomly throw temper tantrums. The movie infers that Larch is somewhere on the autistic spectrum. Mandy adores Larch, but because she’s not a typical rom-com single mother, she sometimes acts as if she’s embarrassed or burdened by being a single mother because her parental responsibilities can get in the way of her love life. Larch’s father (who is shown briefly later in the movie) is an ex-lover who is not involved in raising Larch because Mandy never told this man that Larch is his son.

The opening scene of “Rare Beasts” sets the tone of what type of movie it is, because almost all the adult main characters in the movie are so forthright with their crassness. Some might call it “brutal honesty,” while others might call it “diarrhea of the mouth.” In this opening scene, Mandy is on a first date with a bespectacled misogynist named Pete (played by Leo Bill), who reveals a lot of his insecurities while Pete and Mandy (who are both in their late 30s) have dinner at a restaurant.

Pete begins his rant by saying, “I find women, in the main, intolerable. But I realize that I can’t live without them. My parents—it’s hard to find a love like that.” Viewers later find out that Pete’s parents have been married for about 45 years. Pete and his family have very conservative and traditional views of love and marriage, including believing that the man should always be the dominant partner in heterosexual relationships.

Right from the start, viewers know that Pete and Mandy will be a mismatch for each other. Pete mentions that he’s very religious, while Mandy says that she’s an atheist. Mandy also tells him on this first date: “In the spirit of honesty, Pete, you should know I give really bad blowjobs.” Then they talk about the use of teeth and gums during oral sex. Mandy says sarcastically, “Do you want teeth by day, gums by night?”

Pete then complains about modern, assertive women by saying, “You’ve got more testosterone running in your veins than blood!” Mandy is alarmed (or is amused?) by Pete’s blantant sexism and replies, “You’re going to rape me, aren’t you? Those are classic rapist remarks.”

The date ends shortly after this thorny conversation. While waiting for a taxi outside the restaurant, Mandy vomits on the street. Even though this date is a disaster, Pete says to Mandy: “You’ll marry me in a year.”

And just as you might expect in a comedy that aims to upend people’s assumptions, Mandy and Pete begin dating each other. And how’s this for potentially messy? Pete and Mandy work together. They’re both screenwriters for an unnamed TV series.

Viewers might be asking themselves, “What are these two people thinking by going into a train-wreck relationship? Are Mandy and Pete that lonely and desperate?” As the unlikely romance between Mandy and Pete continues, the answer is: “Yes, people can make bad relationship choices when they’re lonely and desperate.” You don’t need a movie to show it, because there are many examples of it in real life.

Essentially, Pete is up front from the start that he’s on the hunt for a dutiful wife. Mandy has gotten tired of being a single parent and wonders if her son would be better off if he had a father figure to help Mandy in raising Larch. Mandy and Pete both came along in each other’s lives when they felt they didn’t have any better options for a love partner. And now they’re in a relationship that could lead to marriage. Pete and Mandy predictably argue, because their core values are so fundamentally different from each other.

There are other big reasons why Mandy is in this relationship with Pete, but she doesn’t say it out loud. However, it’s all on display in the movie. First, her mother Marion (played by Kerry Fox), who’s a bitter, chain-smoking divorcée, lives with Mandy and Larch in a very cramped house. It’s obvious from Mandy and Marion’s interactions with each other that they have a love/hate relationship. Mandy is probably thinking that getting married would be the perfect reason to force her mother to live elsewhere, without Mandy being the “villain” to kick her mother out of the house.

Secondly, Mandy is unhappy in her job, which is a male-dominated company called Woo Productions. The details of the TV show she writes for are never really made clear in this movie. But based on conversations, it’s a TV show about women, and it has a mostly female audience. However, the people who run the show are men.

It’s implied that Pete makes a lot more money than Mandy in this job, although they both seem to have the same or similar job titles and duties. It’s probably gone through Mandy’s head more than a few times how she can afford to leave this job that she hates when she is the only breadwinner for her household. (Mandy’s mother Marion is retired. )The fact of the matter is that many people consider a partner’s income as one of many important reasons to get married to that person. Pretending that people don’t think this way is like living in a fantasy world.

Mandy’s boss is a sexist American named Leonardo (played by Trevor White), who gives this type of critique about how she writes screenplays: “Nobody wants to read about miserable women, because they don’t exist.” He also scolds and warns Mandy by saying that she could be close to getting fired: “No more late arrivals, no more sad women, no more miserable conduct.” Meanwhile, it’s shown that Pete can be late for a staff meeting, and he doesn’t get reprimanded by the boss.

In staff meetings, Mandy and her few female co-workers are frequently talked over and treated dismissively by their male co-workers, who think they know better than the women about how women think, feel and act. The disagreements sometimes spill over into arguments between the men and women, but since they all have a sexist male boss at this company, it’s easy to know whose side he takes in these arguments. In real life, Piper has been a star and an executive producer for the female-oriented TV series “The Secret Diary of a Call Girl” (which was on the air from 2007 to 2011) and “I Hate Suzie” (which debuted in 2020), so she knows more than a few things about the gender dynamics of TV creatives behind the scenes.

Underneath the crude conversations that many of the characters have in the movie is some snarky social commentary about women’s self-esteem and how—like it or not—many people in society place a woman’s worth on her marital status or who she’s dating. Mandy’s mother Marion is the type of outspoken, “no filter” person to blurt out to Mandy when they talk about their sex lives: “I’ve never used a condom!” Mandy’s sarcastic reply: “You should probably get tested.” And yet, Marion is still treated like a selfish homewrecker by her ex-husband Vic (played by David Thewlis) because Marion wanted to end their miserable marriage. Vic is an alcoholic who cheated on Marion when they were married.

During parts of the movie, Vic (who lives alone) tries to convince Marion to move back in with him, even though their marriage has been over for six years. Vic alternately tries to put Marion on a guilt trip and gives her phony flattery, by saying that living with him again is the least she can to do help him live longer because she’s better at certain domestic duties (such as cooking and cleaning) than he is. He even goes as far to suggest to Marion that it’s not a good look to be a woman of a certain age who isn’t living with a man. It’s pathetic emotional manipulation that doesn’t work. Marion and Mandy might not always have the best relationship, but they both agree that Vic is too toxic to really trust.

During the course of the movie, there are some “Greek chorus” type scenes of female passersby on the street who chant self-affirming mantras out loud, as if Mandy (and the viewers by extension) can hear their thoughts. It’s the movie’s way of saying that everyday people are wracked with insecurities, but women have to work harder to overcome self-doubt because men are more likely than women to be rewarded for being confident. Later in the movie, during a pivotal scene, Mandy has a soul-baring monologue on the street, and several female strangers congregate and react to what Mandy says.

“Rare Beasts” pokes fun at two rom-com clichés involving a couple who’s dating: the “meet the parents/family” scenario and the “guests at a wedding” scenario. Mandy meets Pete’s family (his parents and three sisters) over a predictably awkward dinner at the parents’ house. During this dinner, one of Pete’s secrets is revealed, and he shows a very nasty side to himself when he lashes out in anger. This scene also re-affirms that Mandy would not fit in well with this very religious and conservative family.

The wedding scene, which takes place in Spain, is more amusing. Pete’s family is a friend of the bride. The bride Cressida (played by Lily James) and the groom Woody (played by Jolyon Coy) are a blissfully happy but shallow couple. (James shares top billing in “Rare Beasts,” but she’s only in the movie for less than 10 minutes.) When Woody is introduced to Pete, Woody says to Mandy, “I hope his penis is as big as his heart!” Meanwhile, Cressida is preoccupied with how the wedding photos will look, and she describes her relationship with Woody as “our brand.”

In contrast to Cressida and Woody’s happiness, Mandy and Pete end up arguing when Pete finds out that Larch’s father Matthew (played by Ben Dilloway) is at the wedding too. It’s a sheer coincidence that Matthew is there. (It’s a big wedding and stranger coincidences have happened in real life.) And even though Matthew is not in Mandy’s and Larch’s lives, Pete (who likes to be the “alpha male”) still feels threatened when he sees that Matthew is better-looking and more self-assured than Pete is.

As unlikable as Pete can be, Mandy is no angel either. She likes to do cocaine at parties. She sometimes acts like she wishes she didn’t have the responsibility of parenthood. (But she’s never cruel to Larch.) And she can be a bit of a whiner who feels very jealous of others when she thinks their lives are going better than hers.

Piper’s directing style for “Rare Beasts” is to present a world where politeness isn’t really considered a virtue. People just regurgitate whatever is on their minds without thinking too much about hurting other people’s feelings or embarrassing themselves. (A perfect example is the scene where Mandy and Pete have sex with each other for the first time.) The tone is snappy, and some of the jokes don’t land very well, but viewers will get the sense that this movie was made by people who are fed up with boring rom-com tropes.

None of the adult characters in this movie has a “cute personality,” even though having a “cute personality” is an expected cliché in a romantic comedy. Piper and the movie’s other principal actors commit to all the unpleasant personality traits of their “Rare Beasts” characters. It’s a consistency that should be admired under Piper’s direction, when too often filmmakers might cave in to pressure to create more “likable” characters in order to make a romantic comedy appealing to the masses.

However, “Rare Beasts” is not a heartless film. Even in this crude and tactless world of “Rare Beasts,” people still want to be loved and respected. Some of them, such as Mandy and Pete, have terrible ways of going about it. The people who will dislike “Rare Beasts” the most will probably be those who expect British romantic comedies to be a certain way that isn’t delivered in this movie. This a very British film, to be sure, but it’s the equivalent of a cup of tea served with a lot of pepper and vinegar.

Brainstorm Media released “Rare Beasts” in select U.S. cinemas, on digital and VOD on August 20, 2021. The movie was released in the United Kingdom on May 21, 2021.

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