Tagged Millenials

James White: Burden, Childishness, Disease, and Love Everlasting

James White. 2015. Directed & Written by Josh Mond.
Starring Christopher Abbott, Cynthia Nixon, Scott Mescudi, Ron Livingston, Makenzie Leigh, David Call, David Cale, Benjamin Brass, Lori Burch, Scott Cohen, Adriana DeGirolami, Jeanette Dilone, David Harris, Rosemary Howard, & Sue Jean Kim. BorderLine Films/Relic Pictures.
Rated R. 85 minutes.
Drama

★★★★
POSTER
Producer Josh Mond has been behind a few really excellent films such as Martha Marcy May MarleneAfterschool, and others, as well as the upcoming Christine (not a Carpenter remake). His first feature film, James White, is a little flawed, but overall an honest, raw look at the life of a New York City Millenial stuck in a brutal situation between trying to reign in his own childish behaviour and taking care of his very sick mother, all after the death of his father. In a day and age where many young people are starting to deal with the death of parents, just as every generation has before them, this is certainly a film with huge impact.
Often the battle against cancer is portrayed in an almost romanticized way. Many movies will show the devoted individuals caring for their sick loved ones as unabashed caregivers, noble, nearly saint-like. Instead of the cliched, emotionally manipulative picture many mainstream Hollywood movies paint, James White is the portrait of a young man, imperfect and stubborn, whose life is upended. He becomes caretaker to his mother while also trying to discern his own place in the world. Along the way we watch his destructive self unfolding in the emotional massacre of his life. There are portions of this film that are genuinely sweet and beautiful. Still, the ugly side of love in a time of disease is on display to make sure the honest truth never slips from our memory.
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The center of this film, above its gritty real life feel, are the two major performances from Cynthia Nixon and Christopher Abbott. I mean, honestly, this doesn’t have to be your cup of tea. Although, if it doesn’t move you there may be parts of your insides made of concrete. Immediately we’re drawn into the reality of this story because of cinematographer Mátyás Erdély (Son of SaulMiss Bala), his natural feeling lens hooks the eye. We’re able to drop into the perspective of the main character James because the camera follows closely behind him, near him, hovering over his shoulders constantly. So once we’re put in that position, Abbott’s talent further pierces us. He is enigmatic, and at the same time upfront. He’s enigmatic because there are things he’s not saying, leaving below the surface, as the drinking problem and everything else, his bravado, masks what’s truly going on. Simultaneously, the camera lets him be upfront because we see his darkest moments. And under all that machismo, there’s a sensitive part which eventually breaks through those barriers. Abbott is able to give us all the aspects of James that makes him interesting. They’re not always easy to watch, nor are they enjoyable. Sometimes you want to smack him and scream into his entitled face. But always, always he is able to command your attention with a brave, truthful performance.
Added to Abbott is the fantastic(ally underrated) Nixon. Her performance is even more exceptional, simply because of the condition she portrays. Her character, Gail, is often difficult, though loving, and many other opposites. Because the disease is ravaging her. It’s the way she shows us the disease which is powerful. It will stop you, freeze your eyes to the screen. One in particular sees her unable to speak, as she says later her brain couldn’t get the words to her mouth, and that moment between her and James is extraordinarily gripping. You’ll almost want to hold your breath.
Ultimately, the two performances together, the relationship between James and his mother, this is what drives the film. I love the look and feel of it all, but these are what makes the whole thing worth it. The threat of cancer and disease is something we all know, and if not yet then someday soon. It touches everybody. To examine the issues – such as how a child might end up having to totally care for a sick parent in an event like James experiences – can really turn heartbreaking. And no doubt, James White both character and film will break your heart to pieces.
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A major aspect of why this movie is intense lies in the decision to look at how a young man out of the Millenial Generation is forced to cope with a parent dying. There are so many dumb think-pieces in the media these days, so many ridiculous opinions about the younger generations today, that we’re often forced into believing there are no serious issues at stake for Millenials – and so you know, I just barely fall into this category being born in 1985. With an intensely emotional screenplay by director-writer Mond, this movie allows us a window into a microcosm of that generation. Left with one parent, whose time is numbered due to cancer, James is confronted with trying to make dreams into reality. He’s a struggling young man that wants to be a writer, though circumstances in his life throw him into complete chaos. In an already bad economy, being a writer is a tough life decision; one I know all too well personally, being a writer (I don’t only write reviews). With his father gone, his mother on the way out, he’s almost got a limited amount of time to construct his life. And with so much time spent being there for his mother, he’s had no time to concentrate on getting himself better, he has neglected his best interests. While there’s a noble aspect to that, he is left with a gaping abyss ahead of him, and with no one there to help guide him.
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This is a film about cancer, the effects it brings down upon those caring for a sick loved one. It also comes at a time where people in their twenties can relate. Because even as the older generations start to die out (Gail here is not particularly old though) and make way in a sense for the younger ones, there is an element of loss, aside from personal loss, because now we are the ones left to guide the way forward, to steer the future. And like in the case of James, not everyone is ready for the burden.
Absolutely a 4-star experience, from the cinematography and its hyperreal atmosphere, to the directing and the screenplay from Josh Mond. Hopefully Mond will go on to do more directing, apart from his great track record as producer. He is talented, and the personal nature of his writing shines through, even if things are grim, uncertain throughout. James White is difficult but necessary cinema in many ways. Aside from its raw look at something which affects us all, this film really speaks to a passing of the torch, willingly or not, from parents to children. And the torch will pass, no matter if its ugly, or if it passes silently in bed during the night.

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American Horror Story – Coven, Episode 7: “The Dead”

FX’s American Horror Story
Season 3, Episode 7: “The Dead”
Directed by Bradley Buecker
Written by Brad Falchuk

* For a review of the previous episode, “The Axeman Cometh” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Sacred Taking” – click here
screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-9-12-50-pmThis episode begins with a flashback to Kyle (Evan Peters) and his bros at a tattoo shop, back before they were smashed to bits after most of them gang raped Madison (Emma Roberts). Kyle rocks out to Toto, deflecting awkward jokes about his mother – who we now know molested him – as well as shares his aspirations to be an engineer. And that’s why he does not want to get a tattoo: “I got one life, and I’m not wastinit.” Even as a man with tattoos, I respect him for that, wanting to go into a particular career path and wanting to do everything as straight and narrow as possible. Particularly it’s admirable because he wanted to get away from his mother, who caused him terrible pain. Then we flash to the now Frankenstein-like Kyle; he wails after finding the tattoos of his friends on his newly pieced together body.
But will he live much longer? Zoe (Taissa Farmiga) is armed with a gun in hand coming down to the basement of the academy. And it looks as if she intends to put poor Kyle out of his misery.
screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-9-14-51-pmMadison is back. She doesn’t seem too pleased, though. In a voice-over, she talks about the Generation of Entitlement, supposedly, the Millenials. There is a great sadness in watching her sort of haunt the halls of Miss Robichaux’s Academy, trying to find a way to not “look like Marilyn Manson anymore.” She can’t feel anything, holding a lighter under her palm as it fries. Not a thing, not since coming back from the dead.
Downstairs, Zoe tells Kyle: “You know how this has to go, right?” And he sort of does, cowering at the sight of the gun. The sad part about this is that Zoe doesn’t have any idea what Kyle’s mother did to him, she thinks he’s just gone crazy and that coming back from the dead like this made him into an animal. But deep down she doesn’t want him gone, she doesn’t want him to die.
One of the funniest scenes in this season yet comes when Delphine (Kathy Bates) and Queenie (Gabourey Sidibe) go to a fast-food restaurant. The way LaLaurie reacts to the drive thru speaker is a crack up. More than that, the way LaLaurie talks about Queenie never being a real part of the coven because she’s black, it resonates with Queenie. You can tell this is going to start causing some problems.
Worse problems yet are the ones Hank Foxx (Josh Hamilton) plans on bringing. He has a ton of guns, he’s drinking. Will it be absolute savagery? Or will someone prevent a massacre?screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-9-15-42-pmMeanwhile, Cordelia (Sarah Paulson) runs into Madison in the halls and discovers Fiona (Jessica Lange) was the one who killed her. Bam. But her dear mother is still with the Axeman (Danny Huston). They’re back at his place listening to some music, having a drink together. Despite being a brutal mass murderer, this guy has style; how could he not, played by Huston? I love him and Lange playing off one another in a scene. They are two incredibly respectable actors in their own rights. To see them as a pair onscreen is like a treat, one of a magnitude we rarely see on television. Plus, it’s interesting to see where this new relationship is headed. To what end will the Axeman’s character play a part? He’s got bodies in the bathtub, she’s the reigning Supreme, a murderer and cancer patient.

Love transforms

Zoe is trying to teach Kyle to talk again, almost as if he were an infant. They use little cards like a child might. But he gets angry, smacking them out of her hands. He’s frustrated, naturally. I love the interpretation of the Frankenstein type story of Kyle, how he learns to be a person again after coming back from the grave. Because there’s a juxtaposition with others who come back to life, in particular Madison. Whereas she has her own troubles, Kyle is really fucked up because he’s only partly himself; other bits are made up of other people, friends he once knew sadly. So I thought this was great writing, the way each person depending on how they died/how they come back has a different sort of disposition. We’ll see more of this to come with another character.
Over at the hair salon, Queenie shows up to see Marie Laveau (Angela Bassett). Of course more of the racial divide shows up now, with Marie stoking the flames – as well as making what looks like awesome gumbo. However, she makes sense at times. While Queenie isn’t exactly mistreated over at the academy, nobody truly appreciates her. She takes a backseat to the other white witches, when I’m sure Marie could easily integrate her into the house of voodoo she has going over there. Still, might take more than that to completely convince Queenie. You can see she wants to go. Yet some reservation, though. Either way Marie wants her to bring Delphine back to her. Not saying why, or what she’ll do. But she wants that old racist woman in the palm of her hand.


Cordelia’s new sense of sight has brought her more assertiveness. She and Zoe have a frank chat, as Cordelia tips a bit of liquor in her own tea. A little more of a lax type Cordelia now. With all the threats to the coven, and from Fiona no less, she’s finally making sure these young witches are ready for what comes next. Or what’s coming for them. Then there’s more tension between the witches, after Zoe finds Kyle violently humping Madison. Two walking corpses having sex, wow.

Kill her once. Kill her good. Kill her dead.”

More romance for Fiona and the Axeman. He reveals to her how long his admiration has been growing. Ever since Fiona was a little girl, he watched her in the house and looked out for her. His fondness for Fiona began so long ago, now the Axeman grew out of a fatherly sense of love for her into one of romantic intention; seeing her become a gorgeous young lady, a bonafide woman, he had to have her. So in a sense it’s an eerie, creepy type of voyeur relationship on his part. At the same time, he doesn’t creep on her. He is very charming. Especially considering she’s at the end of her days, Fiona might consider this a good thing. Only she takes it all as insult, as if he “watched her grow old.” Though, he tells her in such a loving way. But she believes he haunted her life.
Up in the attic of the academy, Zoe seems to have found a tongue – belong to, of course, Spalding (Denis O’Hare). Now she has him tied up to his bed in that creepy little room he keeps, his tongue back in working condition. In fact, it was in a box belonged to the recently crispy Myrtle Snow (Frances Conroy). Only Myrtle couldn’t bring it back. Zoe’s powers are stronger and she managed to put it back in place; a very neat and weird little sequence, which I loved. Except after the tongue is back in Zoe compels Spalding to say only truths, looking for information, and he gives it up – Fiona killed Madison. Then he gives up his life. Not willingly, though.


Queenie asks Delphine what the worst thing she ever did was, which prompts a story about one of the slaves who used to serve in her home, back in the day. Turns out LaLaurie had an unfaithful husband whose extramarital affairs involved a servant. A super unsettling moment where Delphine has a new batch of bloody makeup, revealing exactly where it came from to her frightened servant girl; this prompted the poor girl to commit suicide the next morning, jumping off the balcony. Hearing all this, as it would, disgusts Queenie. LaLaurie tries to justify it as being in a “different time” and a “different world.” She genuinely seems to be repentant in how she talks to Queenie, but still. She did atrocious things.
Then there is the new problem between Zoe and Madison. Although, Madison doesn’t seem attached to Kyle. She only wanted to have sex, I guess. It makes her feel something, as opposed to nothing else making her feel anything, at all. She proposes they share Kyle. He’s basically meat in this season, which is fine. There’s always a great powerful female vibe in each season, but I dig how Coven most of all has a very female-centred plot and how the men sort of play these peripheral, yet at times important roles. Overall, it’s all about the ladies and I find it refreshing.
The episode’s end comes with a finale that shocked me, in a great way. Queenie brings LaLaurie out on the town – dressed in a hilarious bedazzled tiger shirt – except they end up at Laveau’s place, in the salon. Now we can see Queenie is giving herself over to the voodoo queen. There are genuinely terrible things about to happen to Delphine, not that I can say she doesn’t deserve it. She does. But it’s sad to see her and Queenie fall out, I thought somehow, some way, Queenie might take a higher road. All the same, I don’t blame her really. Further than that it makes things interesting heading into the next episode. Where will this lead? What more intensity will this bring? Well before the episode finishes, Laveau is applying her own bloody makeup, made from the drained essence of LaLaurie herself. How the tables have turned.screen-shot-2016-11-24-at-9-19-39-pmStay tuned with me for the next episode, “The Sacred Taking.”