Hey friends! Well, I had a very busy day today at the Sundance Film Festival so I will get right to it! I saw 4 films and ended up with my first change from my preview post. I was going to see Promising Young Woman but I really didn’t want to because I don’t love horror movies especially with violence. Luckily someone at The Grand was offering tickets for the Bruce Lee documentary Be Water at the Rose Wagner Theater so I rushed over and got into that film instead!
I still have yet to see a movie that has blown me away like Blinded by the Light or Maiden did last year. Hopefully I will find it but there were some interesting films today so here are my reviews:
First up is a new documentary from director Ron Howard profiling the citizens of Paradise, California and the year after their town is decimated by fire. The whole movie is compelling and moving but I was especially impressed by the first 20 minutes that get you right in the fire. The footage was intense!
You watch these people driving with fire surrounding the car and it’s hard to believe they made it out alive. They also got Hans Zimmer to score the film which adds a lot of gravitas especially to those first 20 minutes. It’s my favorite film I’ve seen so far at Sundance.
8 out of 10
Four Good Days
This film tells the story of a mother (Glenn Close) of a heroin addict (Mila Kunis) who tries to help her daughter go through detox so she can take an anti-opioid shot that will help her kick the habit. There is a lot of good in Four Good Days, especially in the performances, which is why it is so frustrating that in the end the film didn’t work for me.
I think both Close and Kunis play their respective roles well. They both have the right amount of warmth and distrust that anyone in that situation would have. Kunis’ character is trying to get clean but just how strong is her resolve? She is clearly a pathological liar who does not care how she impacts her Mother but then she has moments when she does care, which makes her character interesting. That aspect works well. (Although I did think Close is a little old for this part but oh well).
Where the movie fell apart for me is in the 3rd act. Close’s character makes a choice that seemed completely out of character and unbelievable. I didn’t buy it for a second especially because it put her daughter at great risk. And then she seems to blame her very poor choices on the staff of the treatment hospital- like she didn’t just do something incredibly stupid.
The whole ending felt cheap and unearned and hurt the good moments, which had come before it. It’s a real shame because it had a lot of potential.
4 out of 10
I’ll state out front before reviewing the documentary US Kids that I am a conservative, and I volunteered for one of the candidates, Mia Love, that is made an object of great victory by the makers of this film. You could say I’m biased, but I like many documentaries about people I disagree with. This just doesn’t happen to be one of them.
US Kids follows several of the kids from the Parkland School shooting as they go on their March for Life bus tour before the 2018 midterm elections. We see a lot of their campaigning and hear them talk about the trauma they experienced. This is all compelling and true. My problem with the film is that’s where it ends.
I watched this documentary and learned almost nothing about these kids. I don’t know anything about their family life (none of the parents, teachers or adults are ever interviewed in the film). I don’t know if they are gay or straight. I don’t know what religion they are or if they like to go to the movies. I know nothing about them.
Of course this film is going to preach well to the crowd at Sundance but if it is going to be effective in a broader message it needs to do more than just repeat talking points. I already know what those are! What policies do they want enacted? Why do they think those will work when other policies have not? We heard a lot of speeches but not much else.
I honestly learned much more about all the kids in the q&a after than I did from the documentary. I got some clear ideas of what policies they support and what their personalities actually are. This shouldn’t be the case in a good documentary.
4 out of 10
This was my surprise film of the day! I love biographies about people- famous or not, and I’m a huge sucker for the 30 for 30 series on ESPN. This is a series of documentaries about sports-related topics that are fascinating and that’s basically what you get in Be Water. In fact, it is even released by ESPN Films so it may as well be called 30 for 30: The Bruce Lee Story.
Watching Be Water definitely feels like a television experience more than a movie, but I like martial arts films and have always found the story of Bruce Lee with his early passing to be very tragic. The documentary includes interviews from his daughter, wife, friends and students, which was fascinating. It is especially relevant right now with the rather unflattering portrayal of Lee in the recent Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
I don’t know why Quentin Tarantino decided to portray Lee in the way he did, but I’m glad the Lee’s got to state their own case and correct the record publicly about their father and husband. It was cool!
Be Water is not going to change your life but if you like interesting biographies you’ll enjoy it.
5.5 out of 10