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My Sister’s Keeper
Abigail Breslin plays the youngest sister in a family of three who narrates the story of how she came to be a genetically engineered donor-sibling for her sister, who was dying of leukemia. The movie is an adaptation of a popular novel by best-selling author, Jodi Picoult that raises questions about family, love, death, hope, and letting-go. The heartbreaking story, through the eyes of an eleven-year old in an unimaginable position is captivating. In the diversity of this family in tragedy, you’re sure to find a character you empathize with, even if you disagree with some of things they do. There were a few times where the plot strayed from the big idea to portray teen angst with forced effort. Otherwise, a successful family drama.

American Beauty
The themes are all over the board on this one: facades in this Western culture which consumes us, pursuing passions, everything American, materialism, beauty, art, sexual desire and it’s worth.  That’s the short list.  If there’s something redeeming, it’s hidden in that which I already love about art culture: that artists are folks whose lives are spent “searching for truth and beauty” in things.  They find, live in it, create it. 

To this end, I don’t think this film succeeds.  I thought I enjoyed Sam Mendes’ work (Away We Go, The Kite Runner, Things We Lost In The Fire) but he’s most often the producer, not the director.  Kevin Spacey is captivating.  When I hear his name on the roll call for a film, my ears always perk up.  His character, Lester Burnham, so deeply disturbs me with the way he carelessly and casually lives out his mid-life crisis that other attempts in the movie at beauty are shadowed and gray.  It’s a tragedy, really.  My favorite character is the next-door neighbor, Ricky, a prolific drug dealer whose father disciplines him harshly and loses it when he suspects that his son is gay.  I find Ricky to be the least disturbing and most hopeful pursuit of beauty in a movie that claims to search for such a thing.  Overall, beauty is not found here.

Man on Wire
A documentary about a French tightrope walker whose life dream became conquering the space between New York’s twin towers. The film documents how he claims his dream: the plot that was attempted, abandoned, re-planned, plotted, disguised, by strokes of luck – pulled off. And how the conquering of his dream destroyed all the relationships he had spent his entire life constructing. The details of his tightrope walking were unique as far as discipline and fascinating as far as skill, but the overall take-away of the film was a heartbreaking reality of ignorant and selfish pursuit disguised as dreaming.

Up
The latest Disney/Pixar about an old man journeying to acheive his late wife’s dream and running into all sorts of hullabaloo en route. Oh, and by the way, he has his house attached to his back with a garden hose, and it’s floating in the air, suspended by about a trillion helium balloons. Yep. The film was quirky enough to stay interesting. There’s an entertaining boy scout character who functions as a tag-a-long to the old man’s journey and provides for surprising insight, opening up the old man’s one-track mind. Cute flick, entertaining hour and howevermany minutes.

The Proposal
Romantic comedies are not my favorite. But I got sucked in. Ryan Reynolds seems so innocent; how can he be pathetic? And I really enjoy Sandra Bullock. So, foolishly, I had high hopes. I’ll start at the end: don’t expect anything better than every horrible chick flick you’ve ever seen. These are the most unimaginative, sappy, predictable endings of any movie genre. Yech. But on the way to the horrible ending, there were some legitimately funny parts. The entire flick is based on a fake marriage between an aspiring editor (Reynolds) and his about-to-be-an-illegal-immigrant-boss (Bullock). Reynolds’ Mom is the Mom from Elf; she was cute then and she is completely lovable in this flick, too. The Grandma is Betty White from Golden Girls, and she’s a straight hoot. Worth one good belly laugh, and a buncha genuine chuckles inbetween.

Whip It
It took me until the last scene of the movie to remember that the snarky roller chick from the opposing team was Juliette Lewis from Basketball Diaries and What’s Easting Gilbert Grape (these were my I love Leo days). Couldn’t figure that out. Ellen Page is a real gem. She fills out her role with a fiery, independent flare. Her character has respect for her out-of-touch mother and a deep desire to pursue her own interests, of which roller derby becomes one. The comedic moments are many, with a whole host of quotable lines and memorable characters. Plus, as an added bonus, there’s a surprising amount of solid roller derby footage, and a decent explanation of the rules. I actually felt like I understood the emerging sport. Way to go, Drew Barrymore, who I usually don’t dig.

Adam
A charming story of a couple, a brilliant young man with Asperger’s syndrome and a his new neighbor, a teacher who wants to be a writer and is dealing with heavy dynamics of her family and father. Their friendship and ensuing relationship is awkward and staccato but also brimming with tender love and understanding amidst the challenges of each character’s baggage. The soundtrack is fabulously coupled with an evenly-paced script and dynamic performances by Hugh Dancy and Rose Byrne.  The ebb and flow of the film is so natural, so real, that the choices will break your heart with their depth and their human-ness.

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