Being the Ricardos
Writer-turned-writer-director Aaron Sorkin has always operated on the edge of a knife for me. His fast-paced, quippy dialogue has garnered him massive recognition — and it is well-deserved — but it’s always one bad step away from being grating. More often than not (Moneyball, The Social Network, Molly’s Game, Steve Jobs, A Few Good Men), Sorkin’s shtick works, but when it doesn’t (The Trial of the Chicago 7, The Newsroom), the shtick just feels like schlock. But at least he typically has a story that warrants his wordiness.
Being the Ricardos is not that. The story of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz before their divorce is worth being told, but it never seems to fit Sorkin. You can almost feel that he wasn’t interested in the film, which he wrote and directed. Its saving grace, though, is the two leads in Nicole Kidman and Javier Bardem. Casting controversies aside, those two performers are always welcome faces, as far as I’m concerned. So while the movie may be a little bit all over the place, and while its messages may not jive with what we know about Sorkin’s real life ideas, it’s still a fine movie that’s potentially worth a watch if you’re a fan of I Love Lucy.
The new Mahershala Ali film, Swan Song feels like it was an Alex Garland project from beginning to end. The setting is highly reminiscent of Garland’s masterpiece Ex Machina, and there are other aspects that feel like a mix between his limited series Devs and an episode of Black Mirror. The film is about a man (Ali) who is dying, so he goes to a rich person’s (Glenn Close) facility to have his body duplicated so his wife and son don’t have to have him taken from their lives too soon. It’s not necessarily an original premise, but it sure is compelling.
However, Swan Song, despite an unsurprisingly heart wrenching double performance from Ali, feels inconsistent both tonally and narratively. At some points it’s a thriller, and at others, it’s a drama, and the movie never quite makes up its mind what it wants to be. Despite this, it can be extremely emotionally raw and affecting, which is nothing to scoff at. It brings up questions of self, grief, love, and morality, but never actually engages with the idea that this is a process that a family might not want to have happen. I prefer to engage with a movie on its own terms, so in doing so, the frustration dissipates a bit, but it’s still present in the back of my mind. It all comes together to create a film that I would confidently recommend to the right people, if only for Ali and the film’s various moral quandaries.
The systematic abuse perpetrated by priests in the Catholic church is absolutely gut-wrenching to discuss or even think about, and it goes without saying that it’s infinitely more so to have experienced it and live with the consequences. The Netflix documentary Procession deals with this exact idea, as it brings together a group of six men who were abused as children and are now in search of healing and closure. This is a difficult, but important doc to watch, as it shows how some scars run so deep that you wonder if they’ll ever be able to heal. Not quite surprisingly for a piece of art, the film posits that processing your hurt via creating art can be a beneficial way to tackle it. Seeing this, along with the way the six men come together and form an undying support system, makes this at the very least compelling, and at the most, hopeful.