“The Worst Person in the World” (Amazon)
With the exception of Richard Brody in the New Yorker (that’s two in a row we agree on!), critics raved about “The Worst Person in the World“. I didn’t hate it, glad for an evening’s distraction. And maybe my expectations were too high, but I didn’t love it. Admittedly there are a lot of things to like about it: the acting is fantastic, cinematography–great, setting–who doesn’t like Oslo or the Norwegians? My problem is with the theme and character development. Julie, the main character, is a thirty year old single trying to find herself. Fine. And now that Thirty is the new Twenty, there may be lots of young women who might identify with our anti-heroine, Julie. But I hope not. I found her vague, narcissistic, and a little mean. We have to assume that she has depth, but the filmmaker doesn’t show her with much passion for anything except sex. If that’s what the film is about, then it might be more interesting. But it’s not. What I fear is that this is a male director’s view of what feminism is. Of course women have the right to be as “sexually expressive” as men and they have the right to be as self-centered. what I wanted the film to do was to trace her journey to becoming an actualized person. but it doesn’t–at least not in any substantial way. It’s pretty clear that we are supposed to, if not identify with, at least like, Julie. I never give spoiler alerts but it would be so much easier to discuss the film in light of the ending. Do me a favor: stream it (it’s only $6 now, watch it (it’s quite watchable–you can cover your eyes if the graphic cunnelingus scene makes you squeamish), and then give me your opinion.
“Licorice Pizza” (Amazon)
I really enjoyed this delicious romp through 70’s San Fernando Valley. Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s son plays Gary, a charming and precocious 15 year madly in love with a 25 year old, Alana, who like Julie of “Worst” is at a loss as to what to do with her life. In real life Alana is rock star Alana Haim. Her sisters (members of her rock group Haim) delightfully play her sisters and her parents also play themselves. Unlike Julie, sex is not the motivator for self-realization. Her bad posture, lack of vanity, and non-traditional good looks, add to her appeal. Occasionally director Anderson stumbles. Some of the stereotyping pokes fun at 70’s stereotyping but it’s a bit too broad and misses the mark. But on the whole I loved the film (and the music) for its madcap irreverence and all the qualities I mentioned. One question up for discussion: what if the premise of the film were reversed ( a 15 year old girl deciding that a 25 year old man was someone she was “going to marry”)?
“Julia” (HBO Max)
This is a very watchable mid-life bio series about the impressively famous and enduring Julia Child. In some ways it is a bit like a fairy tale we want to hear over and over again: a charming menopausal wife of a retired diplomat rises from published, but not famous, cookbook author to become the nation’s darling and the saveur savior of PBS. Charming, self-aware, ambitious– but kind–she broke through male barriers, rising to the top with a savvy combination of anima and animus. Ironically (for me anyway) there are many parallel themes in “The Worst” and “Julia” In the first episode Julia and her diplomat husband, Paul, are pulled from Oslo, Norway and sent back to Cambridge Massachusetts. “The Worst Person..” is set in Oslo. As part of her feminist statement Julie writes a piece “Oral Sex in the Age of #MeToo”. Nearly sixty years earlier, Julia Child makes a double entendre joke about eating “Coq”. Norwegian Julie is more than ambivalent about motherhood. Julia, unable to have children takes on the “French Chef” as a passionate substitute. Both women have difficult, distant fathers. Both have partners who encourage and compliment them. Julia adores hers. Julie not so much. Both are a kind of Coming of Age tale but with vastly different ages. Julia’s success owed a great deal to female bonding and support, none of which is evident in Norwegian Julie’s life. So what to make of it? Not sure. Your thoughts?