It’s a Wonderful Life

Image result for it's a wonderful lifeHAPPY NEW YEAR, FILM LOVERS! I wanted to bring in the new year with a Christmas film which I watched for the first time last year and kick off 2019 with a review of a story which holds a lovely message.

It’s a Wonderful life is a truly wonderful film made by Frank Capra and is beautifully written and beautifully made.  It is the Christmas movie which will survive all Christmas films and should be watched year on year.  It is an ageless black and white Hollywood classic which will be passed down through generations to remind everyone of the true spirit of Christmas and how each and every one of us should try to live our lives.  It has become the annual festive film for many families and will remain to be for many years to come.

It starts off with a slightly cringey, outdated image of some stars talking about what’s going on down on earth and whether an angel needs to be sent to help out in order for the angel to earn his wings.  Even with this cringey image to start off, the film outdoes itself and makes up for it in so many other ways.

The story revolves around the life of George Bailey, played by James Stewart, who is a lovely young boy with many life plans, dreams and wishes as he grows up.  He wants to travel the world and go to college and life a wonderful and fulfilling life.  However, he ultimately ends up sacrificing everything for others as curveballs keep coming his way and he has to keep putting off the life he wants to live.  He has responsibilities at home which he can’t leave at his father’s building society, marrying his child hood sweetheart, played by Donna Reid, and keeping the town happy following an unfortunate misplacing of a large sum of money.

It’s a Wonderful Life is sentimental, touching, joyous and incredibly romantic; everything we look for in a Christmas film.  In a way, the film is like a modern day A Christmas Carol, only in reverse.  The “ghost” shows him what life for everyone would be like without him and his wonderful and happy ways, if he was not born.  Instead of a horrible old man being shown to buck up his ideas, it tells the story of a hero who needs picking up again from despair .

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Not only is it a Christmas film, I truly believe we should watch this any time of the year when needing a pick-me-up (I watched it back in July!!).  Or if we need a little reminder of what people could be like when we find humanity hauls us into despair.  Frank Capra didn’t ever intend it to be a Christmas film so we should watch it as we will.  It was his first film after returning back from the war and wanted to make a film which celebrated ordinary people who did amazing things for others. 

It’s such a gem and I can’t believe how long it’s taken me to see it.  If you’ve not seen it, make it a priority, don’t wait for next Christmas!

It’s a Wonderful Life fell out of copyright many years ago so should be easy to find as most platforms will have it free to view.  I watched it on Sky Movies.

All my love & films
Jen xxx

The Apartment

Image result for the apartment filmThe Apartment is another Billy Wilder classic featuring the marvellous Jack Lemmon as a C.C. Baxter, a bachelor working as an underwriter in an insurance company in New York.  He allows his senior colleagues to  ‘borrow’ his apartment in the evenings whilst entertaining other ladies that they want to keep on the down low from their wives.

I went into this film having no knowledge of the plot or having read anything about it, seen any trailers or reviews.  I enjoyed it much more before because of it.  I became very invested in the main character and in trying to figure him out.  The Apartment is supposed to be a comedy but in a way it’s actually quite tragic and I ended up feeling very sorry for Baxter the majority of the film.  He struggles with a lack of pride and allows himself to be downtrodden by those at work who are more senior and feel they can walk all over him as they have ultimate power over him and his job.  It demonstrates just how brutal the goings ons behind office doors in the city are.  Fred MacMurray stars as C.C. Baxter’s cheating boss.  Baxter also doesn’t care if his neighbours think badly of him and he doesn’t care to correct them when they get the wrong end of the stick.  He is unassertive and just does what he needs to do to get by.  Jack Lemmon plays this gentleman so sublimely that he is an unlikely hero.  You can do nothing but fall in love with his character, especially when he’s full of cold.

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The Apartment swings drastically from ‘rom-‘ to ‘com-‘ exploring a huge range of audience emotions and reactions.  As the film develops, the focus becomes less on the funny Apartment antics and more on the relationship that Jacks character develops with elevator opperator Fran Kubelik (Shirley MacLaine) and he gradually starts to fall in love with her unwittingly facing complications down the line.  A glimmer of fun still remains there throughout.

Billy Wilder plays wonderfully with the idea of affairs and sexual antics in how the script is crafted and the film is shot.  Something that was considered a risk back in the 50s.  There are no obvious comments or remarks about the immorality of it all and it leaves speculation to the viewer.

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It’s such a pleasure to watch as Baxer starts to stand up for himself and claw back the control that others have over him and his apartment.  The Apartment is where the majority of the film is set and really is a beautiful film which is still so relevant and entertaining still today.  The film takes the long nights of winter and you start to think a lot about the people who are alone in the cold, dark evenings around the Christmas period, like C.C. Baxter.  I’m honestly not sure why this isn’t considered a Christmas film!

The film claimed FIVE Oscars at the Academy Awards, including for best picture.  It also scores top marks from me and I grow ever more enamoured with Billy Wilder’s films and Jack Lemmon.

We watched The Apartment on Sky Cinema as we couldn’t find it free of charge anywhere else, the DVD is available on Amazon.

All my love and films,
Jen xxx

Beautiful Boy

Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet in Beautiful Boy (2018)I am fully aware that this isn’t a forgotten classic, one of the world’s best films from movie history so doesn’t necessarily fit into the blog theme that I’m going for. It is, however, festival season in the film world and I was lucky enough to go the UK premiere of Beautiful Boy last night at the BFI London Film Festival.  It’s not out yet in the United Kingdom, but I felt compelled to write about it.  It’s the first film I’ve seen at the festival so far but it really stood out amongst other films I’ve seen in the past few months as a moving real life tale of addiction.

Directed by Felix Van Groeningen, Beautiful Boy is a powerful portrayal of a young, beautiful, smart boy, Nic Sheff, played by Timothée Chalamet and his father, David Sheff, played by Steve Carell.  Nic’s mother and father are divorced but he lives with and has a wonderful relationship with his father’s new wife and little half brother and sister.  The story follows their life over a year during their darkest time when Nic succumbs to addiction.  It shows what they go through and how their lives have been dramatically impacted and consumed by drug addiction.  The film is adapted from 2 memoirs, one named ‘Beautiful Boy’, by David Sheff, the other named ‘Tweak‘ by Nic Sheff.  It contrasts the two sides of the story, a son who is addicted to all sorts of drugs, and the father’s experience of desperately trying to help his son get clean foscusing on their relationship throughout.

The film opens your eyes to some critical issues that normal people who are not touched by addiction may not see or acknowledge.  There is a huge amount of young people in the world that are suffering and going through similar things.  It demonstrates how it impacts, not only your life, but the lives of those around you, in particular your family.

Beautiful Boy explores various themes that the family were going through as it focused on the different sides of the addiction.  How the father heart wrenchingly struggles with maintaining the good friendship he had with his son growing up.  As his son gets consumed further by drugs, Nic’s father is grasping at straws; desperate to be the person that keeps his son alive and back on the right path. The film is edited in such a way that it goes forwards and backwards in time. It dives right into the situation at the start and follows their path which isn’t easy. It doesn’t have a start, middle and end and is a bit messy reflecting the lack of closure to their situation.  It’s doesn’t sugar coat what’s going on and shows the reality of such situation.

A wonderful shot of father and son sat in the darkness but leaning into the light

One part of the film, which I don’t want to spoil with the details, was a real turning point in Steve Carell’s character’s experience, where he and his new wife come to terms with dealing with the fact that they cannot help their son regardless of how much they love him.  It needs to be on their terms; the addict needs to want your help, really want your help, before you can help them.  Until this point, you assume Nic’s step mother, Karen, played by Maura Tierney is emotionally distant.  It reinforces just how much she does care, and how she is trying not to let it impact her family and keep everything stable.  The next scene shows how it is Karen that is truly helping David come to terms with his capacity to help, and how he actually cannot help his son.

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Photo showing a happy family with a lot going on behind closed doors which outsiders are not aware of

The film is so beautifully conceived that throughout the viewer gets incredibly invested in the characters and it’s heartbreaking watching them go through it.  Whatever they face you desperately want them to get out the other side and get better and overcome what they are facing and want them to work through it together.  The audience is made to feel exactly how David Sheff must feel when his son is involved.  The desperation, despair and intense sadness.

Crystal meth is the drug that is most in the news and prevalent at the moment, and the one that seems to feature throughout, even though Nic’s heroin addiction and multiple other drug usage is also widespread.  It does gloss over some of the individual drug experiences but the film is truly about their relationship, not just about the devastating physical affects of drugs.  It particularly attempts to educate the viewer in the health and social impacts of crystal meth on the individual and their relationships.

Nic desperately asking his dad for money, and his father desperately trying to understand this stranger sat in front of him

It’s been about 10 years in production since the producers, Dede Gardner, Brad Pitt and Jeremy Kleiner knew they wanted to make this film.  I’m pleased they saw it through to the end and that it was made in such a beautiful, compelling way.  I wanted to write about this because it’s a film I think everyone should see when it comes out.  It’s a brutally honest film about addiction, and a father and son’s experiences with the whole journey that they face together and the desperate tragedy of it all.  It will be a classic in 50 years time, which I hope will feature on best films lists.  I believe it will always be relevant as there will always be people struggling with addiction in some capacity.

Beautiful Boy is already in cinemas in the USA, and comes out in cinemas in the UK (I believe) on 18th January 2019 (sorry!).

All my love and films
Jen xxx