No, I didn’t actually get Nick Hornby to write this post. I’m stealing it from the May 4 New Yorker, ((see attached))”Shouts and Murmurs” because it made me laugh out loud (in spite of the fact that it is poking fun of the very movie reviewing I am doing in this blog). That said, my faith in the real New Yorker reviews of streaming movies has been shattered.
After two attempts and $7.99 later, I have watched films I ordinarily wouldn’t, only to discover that my first instincts were right. Last night because of a glowing NY’r review I started watching “Pain and Gain” (Amazon). Awful. But if you are into body building and really disgusto violence this might be your kind of film. Director Michael Bay ( “Transformers” movies, “Bad Boys”–what was I thinking???) shapes the narrative so that we are on the side of the bumbling and vicious perps. The kidnappee is an obnoxious rich guy (wearing a huge Jewish star) Mark Wahlberg is a the Jewish body builder ring leader ( Jewish is implied. He doesn’t wear a star but he has a Jewish surname and recognizes when the intended victim is at shabbat.) The real life character he is based on doesn’t have a Jewish name, so I can only assume that Bay did this to offset any antisemitism charges. Another bodybuilder gang member is Dwayne Johnson(!!!). He is his usual huge and lovable self even when beating up a recovering addict priest who has made a pass at him. This possible homophobia is offset by the third body trainer gang member, the very lovely looking Anthony Mackie, soft spoken with a cocaine induced impotence problem. (there’s a confusing scene with a doctor who gives him penis injections). Since I stopped watching the movie I don’t know if the problem evolves into his coming out, counteracting the earlier Johnson priest-beating. The movie is based on a real kidnapping in which a Miami businessman was horribly tortured for nearly a month and forced to sign over papers giving the perps ownership of his business. According to what I read, in real life the kidnappers were all violent sociopaths with no redeeming virtues. What even attracted Michael Bay to this brutal tale? I guess he had to shape it in the way that he did because a mindless movie needs someone to root for, even if it happens to be three ruthless, not very bright sociopaths.
Not violent, but an equally bewildering choice for several Top Tens and a New Yorker recommendation is Young Adult.(Amazon–more money down the drain) Charlize Theron plays a former small town prom queen-high school beauty now approaching 40 with little to show for it: a failed marriage, once best-selling books now on the overstock shelf (and she’s only the ghostwriter for the series). She decides that her one true love was her high school sweetheart. She must leave Minneapolis and resume a life with him. Unfortunately he is happily married with a new baby. It’s predictable except for the fact that Charlize’s character seems to learn nothing from her humiliation. Granted, it would take a master filmmaker to create a film with depth based on this premise. I can only guess that he (of course it’s he!) was creating a vehicle for those of us who secretly want to believe that the girl who was so beautiful and so mean in high school was a failure in later life. I won’t give away the details of the plot in case you want to indulge in this bit of schadenfreude. By the way, the movie gives the Young Adult genre a bad rap. There are some wonderful choices for teens that deal with real problems ( a pitch for librarian friend Carla’s blog below)