Friday, May 30, 2014

“The Case Against 8”– Movie Review




This week, The Film Society Of Lincoln Center invited its members to a free screening of the new documentary, “The Case Against 8”.


When the state of California votes to forbid same-sex marriage, two same-sex California couples join forces to fight for their ability to legally marry.


On America’s Election Night of 2008, liberals across the nation rejoiced when Barack Obama was elected President of The United States, but their joy was tempered by the fact that in the state of California, voters approved Proposition 8 – an amendment to the state’s Constitution which would ban same-sex marriage. Activists immediately sprung into action and decided to fight this in court; they found two same-sex couples in the state who would act as the plaintiffs: Kris Perry and Sandy Stier (a lesbian couple from San Francisco) and Paul Katami and Jeff Zarrillo (a gay couple from Los Angeles).

In engaging a major law firm to represent the couples, they curiously find that Ted Olson is willing to take on the case. Olson was an unlikely ally because he is a well-known conservative attorney who represented George W. Bush back in 2000 after that year’s disputed presidential election. Hiring Olson turned out to be a controversial decision: his fellow conservatives considered him a traitor and liberals suspected him of having a hidden agenda, seeking to sabotage the efforts of the gay and lesbian community. On this one matter, however, Olson sided with the liberals, citing that this was an issue conservatives could support because it supported family values.

Making matters even more interesting is that Olson teams with David Boies; Boies was Olson’s opposing counsel in the 2000 court case about that year’s Presidential election (Boies represented former Vice President Al Gore’s campaign). Together, this unlikely team works to fight the amendment on the basis that the ability to marry is a civil rights issue and Proposition 8 essentially violates the civil rights of not only the plaintiffs but also all gay and lesbian couples in the United States. Ultimately, the case is taken to The Supreme Court Of The United States where the two attorneys must try to convince the nine justices their clients’ concern is legally valid.  


One of the obvious disadvantages the filmmakers have when documenting a high-profile court case such as this is that everyone knows the outcome. As a result, it’s difficult to maintain much suspense throughout the film. Therefore, there are other aspects of the story that have to be detailed in order to keep your attention. On the one hand, they do a good job of this because we’re given a behind-the-scenes view of how the plaintiff’s side of the case was put together. Where “The Case Against 8” fails, however, is that it only tells that one side of the story and does so in a rather slanted way.

“The Case Against 8” is basically a documentary intended to preach to the converted. If you’re looking for something “fair and balanced”, keep looking because there’s very little in the way of objectivity here. This is unfortunate because it was a landmark case that illustrates society’s changing mores; hearing the perspective of the other side would’ve been welcome even if you didn’t necessarily agree. Unfortunately, the opposition is made to look either evil or idiotic or both. A chance at a political or legal (or even philosophical or religious) discourse would’ve gone a long way to making this a more substantial work.

Following the screening, a representative from The Film Society Of Lincoln Center interviewed the filmmakers and plaintiffs from the documentary. Co-directors Ben Cotner and Ryan White said that this has been a five year project for which their footage was submitted for editing in the autumn of 2013; the expectation was that the editing would need to be completed within a period of a few months.  White said that given the tremendous amount of footage shot over the years, just a few months didn’t seem to be a realistic goal. Kate Amend, the film’s editor, wound up pleasantly surprising everyone by providing a version of the film by the specified deadline.

The Case Against 8 (2014) on IMDb

Thursday, May 22, 2014

“Words And Pictures”–Movie Review



This week, the Spring Semester of my movie class concluded with a screening of the comedy-drama “Words And Pictures”, starring Clive Owen & Juliette Binoche and directed by Fred Schepisi.


When two teachers at a New England prep school battle each other over the value of their respective disciplines, they develop a mutual attraction to each other – but will the personal issues in their life inhibit a romance?


Jack (Owen) is comfortably ensconced as an English teacher at a preparatory school in Maine; recently, his promising career as a published writer has been derailed, likely due to his drinking problem. Because of this and the erratic behavior that has resulted, he now finds that his job is in jeopardy. Around this time, Dina (Binoche) starts working at the school as an art teacher; a successful and highly respected painter from New York City, she relocated to lead an art class, but not entirely by choice. Suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, her painting skills have gradually deteriorated because of limited mobility and dexterity.

When the two meet, they don’t exactly hit it off. Soon, Jack learns from his students that Dina is waging something of a “war” against him – she has made it known that the visual images of pictures are more meaningful and expressive than mere words. Jack accepts this challenge and defends his side, trying to prove that proper, well-chosen words make more of an intellectual or emotional impact than any picture could ever hope to accomplish. During their “battle”, the two realize that they’re very drawn to each other.

Meanwhile, as the editor of the school’s periodical, Jack publishes work under his name that he’s plagiarized. Eventually, the administration of the school become aware of this and he submits his resignation. Following a drinking binge, he confesses this to Dina and in his drunken state, manages to destroy a painting on which she’s been working. This results in Dina completely cutting off any contact with Jack, both professionally and personally. Due to the students’ involvement in a formal debate scheduled on the “words vs. pictures” issue, they expect both teachers to attend to support their respective viewpoints. But given Jack’s impending job loss and Dina’s growing health concerns, will they reunite for the debate and repair their professional and personal relationship?


Good performances by Owen and Binoche are unfortunately not enough to save “Words And Pictures” from some rather contrived situations; shots of mugging at some of the jokes certainly don’t make them any funnier – although sometimes a few of the lines are as smooth as the quadruple-distilled vodka Jack pulls from his refrigerator every morning. The screenplay appears to make an effort to tackle certain serious issues –namely, the lives of adults trying to overcome limitations of debilitating illnesses either self-inflicted or not. However, the subject matter is severely undercut – if not trivialized – by trite events tossed in as subplots but wind up being merely filler.

Among the subplots for Owen’s character are his relationship with his grown son, investigation of bullying between students and participation in an Alcoholics Anonymous group. The bullying subplot feels like the biggest contrivance in the script; Dina is also asked to join this investigation, putting she and Jack in a position where they are forced to work together, thus increasing the tension between them. Ultimately, it’s never entirely clear what drew these two characters to each other since there seems to be so much overt hostility between them.

Following the screening, our instructor interviewed director Fred Schepisi. Schepisi said that while the schedule called for a 35 day shoot, he really could’ve used 42 days because there were so many set-ups required each day. Although the story took place in Maine, he said they wound up actually shooting in Vancouver, Canada because of more attractive tax incentives. While most of his experience has been shooting on film, this was one of Schepisi’s first times shooting a feature film on digital video; he said this came out of necessity – in Canada (and in his home of Australia), there are no more film laboratories and in the United States, there are only two or three left.


 Words and Pictures (2013) on IMDb


Monday, May 19, 2014

“Lucky Them”– Movie Review




This weekend in my movie class, we had a bonus screening of the drama “Lucky Them” , starring Toni Collette, Thomas Haden Church and Oliver Platt.


When a rock music critic researches an article about a long-missing musician who is also her ex-boyfriend, will she succeed in finding him – and does she really want to find him in the first place?


Ellie Klug (Collette) is a respected long-time rock music journalist based in Seattle. As a staff writer for Stax magazine, her editor Giles (Platt) has placed a huge burden on her shoulders: in order to prop up the sagging readership of their magazine, he wants her to see if she can locate Matthew Smith, a one-time rock star particularly popular in the Seattle area. Smith completely dropped out of the scene approximately 20 years ago without any word or warning and many have presumed him dead, possibly by suicide. What complicates matters for Ellie is that Smith is also her ex-boyfriend.

Finding the research daunting on her own, Ellie enlists the aid of Charlie (Church), a wealthy acquaintance whom she also briefly dated once. Charlie, a man of many interests who possesses a personality that’s simultaneously entrepreneurial and obnoxious, agrees to loan her money to assist Ellie’s research. However, there are strings attached: Ellie must allow Charlie to accompany her so he can videotape her adventure to turn it into a documentary. Desperate, Ellie agrees to his conditions and they hit the road to seek people who may be only remotely aware of possible leads to Smith’s whereabouts.

Some leads turn out to be useless while others more promising. Meanwhile, new potential romances appear as though they may be blossoming: Ellie meets Lucas (Ryan Eggold) an aspiring young musician who’s struggling to make ends meet until his career takes off; Charlie has met a spacey young woman whose relationship has been put on the fast track – after a brief courtship, they become engaged and plan to marry. Upon resuming their search, Charlie and Ellie come upon a lead that looks as though it may actually pan out. But now that she’s encountered the reality of confronting her ex-beau, will Ellie follow-through, despite any ramifications this might have on each other’s’ life?


It appears that the moral to the fable in “Lucky Them” (and why that title?) is to stop wallowing in unresolved issues from your past else you’ll waste your present and neglect your future; by the movie’s end, it seems to make this point rather clearly. However, in wrapping up the story, it appears to be opening up the possibility of yet another romantic entanglement for Ellie; the choice here doesn’t make sense. Possibly this is intended to show that Ellie will continue to make the same mistakes of picking the wrong boyfriends, but it’s not entirely clear. If that’s not what the film is trying to convey, then we’re left to believe Ellie is winding up with someone who is not entirely deserving of her.

How sympathetic is Ellie as the protagonist? On the one hand, she’s an admired rock critic of long standing and great repute; on the other hand, the fact that she doesn’t exhibit the most mature behavior in either her personal or professional life. Ellie’s notorious for sleeping with many of her interviewees, which may not exactly be the most ethical behavior; add to that her indulgence in various substances, possibly to excess, and general careless, reckless actions which impact others to varying degrees. It begs the question of why we should bother rooting for her at all? Ellie might be an anti-hero, but doing so can be dangerous. How much stupid behavior by your protagonist can an audience tolerate before they stop caring about her altogether?

“Lucky Them” played here in New York City during the recent Tribeca Film Festival, but I wasn’t able to catch it at that time. In the end titles, “Lucky Them” is dedicated to the late actor, Paul Newman; his widow, Joanne Woodward, is credited as an Executive Producer on the film. Apparently, the story behind this is that Newman had originally planned to produce (and possibly appear in) this movie, but he passed away before having the chance. Eventually, Woodward resumed the project. One curiosity about the motion picture is the big reveal of Matthew Smith near the end; the character is played by a major Hollywood star listed in the credits; this is something of a spoiler, so it’s a little unclear why he’s mentioned since it somewhat gives away the ending.

  Lucky Them (2013) on IMDb


Thursday, May 15, 2014

“Lullaby”– Movie Review



This week in my movie class, we had a screening of the drama “Lullaby”, written and directed by Andrew Levitas.


When a family re-unites for the pending death of their patriarch, they are forced to confront issues that have caused a schism – but can they resolve their differences before the father passes away?


After several years, Jonathan (Garrett Hedlund) is returning home to New York City to see his family – but the reunion won’t be a pleasant one. His father Robert (Richard Jenkins), who has been battling cancer for over a dozen years now, is hospitalized and is preparing for the end. To make matters worse, Jonathan’s sister Karen (Jessica Brown Findlay), a legal student, has been at odds with him for quite some time. Upon Jonathan’s arrival, the two siblings immediately start sparring, but the tension between them only increases when Robert reveals his plans to have his doctor (Terrence Howard) oversee his assisted suicide in the next couple of days.

Complicating the situation is Robert’s revelation that neither of his children will be getting an inheritance once he’s gone; the money they were expecting has been either given away or spent. Instead, Robert will be leaving the house, his life insurance and some of his savings to his wife (Anne Archer). Robert’s reason for doing this is because as much as he loves both of them, he believes his offspring are spoiled. Jonathan went to California in order to pursue a career as a musician; he’s been particularly dependent on money from Robert because he’s since become a substance abuser.

These new wrinkles have greatly exacerbated long-standing disagreements between Jonathan and Robert as well as between Jonathan and Karen. Jonathan has long felt Robert’s emotional support with respect to his career and lifestyle choices has long been absent. Likewise, he feels that Karen has spent the past few years buttering up Robert to make Jonathan look bad in his eyes. With the impending time coming for Robert to be disconnected from his life support system, will Jonathan be able to finally find it in his heart to forgive his father and resolve outstanding issues with him?


If you draft a screenplay where every possible dramatic narrative contrivance is strung together scene after scene, then you’ll probably have a reasonably good idea what “Lullaby” is like. When you consider that this is writer/director Levitas’ first effort in either of these roles, then it’s understandable; were he a more seasoned filmmaker, it might border on unforgiveable. But should an audience keep this in mind when watching the movie? Furthermore, should it in any way have an impact on an audience’s reaction to it as well? I would respond no to both questions. If you’re watching a movie based on a book, you shouldn’t have had to read the source material in order to be able to appreciate or understand the film. Likewise, you shouldn’t have to take into consideration a filmmaker’s level of experience in order to appreciate their work.

Levitas’ primary background is as an artist and photographer; as such, he has a naturally good eye for composition when framing shots. Particularly clever was the way he was able to visually depict Robert’s passing near the end of the movie; he gradually reduced the number of people in his hospital room until it was completely empty with the room cleaned and bed made. Also, “Lullaby” began with a rather compelling first shot that could initially leave the viewer a bit disoriented until realizing exactly what you’re seeing. By contrast, however, he made slightly too much use of mounting a camera on one of his actors to accentuate the feeling of a chaotic situation early on in the motion picture.

Following the screening, our instructor interviewed Levitas. He said that “Lullaby” was shot in only 21 days under a budget of merely $3 million. Amy Adams has a small role in the movie as Jonathan’s ex-girlfriend; Levitas said that although the film was mostly shot in chronological order, Adams’ scenes were the exception. Due to the fact that she had a particularly hectic schedule which limited her availability, her few scenes had to be shot in a three day period. Surprisingly, Levitas said that there was nothing he would have done differently if he’d been supplied a bigger budget; he was satisfied with what was done in the time he was allotted to complete the shoot.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Bitters Truth




Bitters. They’re often one of the most forgotten and overlooked ingredients to a good cocktail. A dash or two (or even three!) can completely change a drink’s flavor profile, as well as its aroma. That’s why I signed up for a seminar at The 2014 Manhattan Cocktail Classic called “I’ll Take Manhattans: The History And Origins Of Aromatic Bitters”, taught by King Cocktail himself, the great James Beard Award-winning mixologist and author Dale De Groff. It was sponsored by Bulleit Frontier Whiskey and also served as a means by which De Groff could promote his own brand of Pimento bitters.

The seminar gave us an opportunity to be taught the various botanicals and spices that go into the manufacture of bitters. Additionally, we tasted bitters from different producers, then tried each of them in a Manhattan made with Bulleit Rye.

Angostura bitters is arguably the best known of them all. Founded in 1824, it tastes of nutmeg, cinnamon and allspice. Interestingly, it does not contain actual Angostura bark in its recipe. It does, however, contain Gentian root, which has a reputation of being extremely bitter.

Interestingly, a company named Abbotts produced their own bitters that did contain Angostura bark, which they proudly mentioned in their name. This resulted in the company being sued by the Angostura bitters company over their name; the Angostura company eventually won and it wound up that the Abbotts company was forced to rename their product.


It may sound odd to hear this now, but many bitters were originally marketed for medicinal use. While much of the claims about its curative effects may have been questionable, companies tended to do this because marketing their product as a medicine was more cost-effective. As a result, many people had to get their bitters from a pharmacy. That said, the bitters always contained a small amount of alcohol, which is the real reason why many people bought them.

The first known use of bitters was in the late 1600’s when an English company named Stoughton was credited with their invention. It wasn’t patented until 1712 although they actually came out with their product some years before. Their brand was one of those intended primarily for medicinal use.

A fellow by the name of Harry Johnson was known as being one of the seminal bartenders who contributed to the perfection of the cocktail. In 1888, he wrote a book called “The Handbook For Bartenders” which was used as a bible by many at that time who aspired to mixology. Quite a few of the recipes in his book called for the use of bitters; mentioned by name throughout the work were Angostura, Boone Camp and Stoughton. Other unbranded bitters documented included orange bitters and sherry wine bitters.

There is said to be an old joke that goes something like this: What’s going to last longer – my marriage or my bottle of Angostura bitters? That’s because very often, a bottle of bitters would be purchased and used so sparingly when mixing cocktails at home, it seemed as though that one bottle might last forever. For quite some time, bitters fell into disuse; over the past few years, however, there appears to have been something of a resurgence in the cocktail culture and with it, bitters seems to be making something of a comeback (although they never really left).

Thursday, May 08, 2014

“The Discoverers”– Movie Review




This week in my movie class, we saw the new comedy-drama “The Discoverers”, starring Griffin Dunne.


When an author decides to bring his teenage children with him to promote his latest book, they get detoured when his mother dies – but once his father’s mourning disrupts everyone’s life, will he be able to juggle his personal and professional responsibilities?


Lewis (Dunne) teaches history as an adjunct professor at a local community college in Chicago. Having spent many years working on a book about noted explorers Lewis & Clark, it appears he’s finally getting it published by a small university press. To promote the book and get some advanced orders from universities across the country, he agrees to attend a conference in Portland, Oregon where he’ll be able to network with university representatives. Divorced, his weekend custody with his teenage children happens to fall at the same time as the conference, so he decides to take them with him.

While en route to the conference, Lewis gets a call from his brother, who informs him their mother is sick.  Since Lewis is geographically closer to their parents, he’ll have to check in on them. Upon arrival, his father Stanley (Stuart Margolin) isn’t exactly pleased to see Lewis, from whom he’s been estranged for quite some time. Shortly after Lewis’ arrival, his mother passes away and he’s left to deal with Stanley, whose mourning takes the form of a near-catatonic state. Discovering the next day that Stanley is missing, Lewis is eventually able to track him down; he’s in the woods with a group of his friends who enjoy partaking in historically-correct Lewis & Clark recreations in full costume.

Needing to keep an eye on Stanley, Lewis reluctantly agrees to participate in the group’s recreations, even though it means his arrival at the conference will be delayed. Since Lewis is with the group, his teenage kids have to join him – and they do so with even greater reluctance, especially since it also happens to be his daughter’s birthday. Forced to role-play with the rest of the group, Lewis and his teenagers grow increasingly restless and irritable. Even worse, Lewis learns his book’s publication may be in jeopardy. With Stanley on the verge of what seems like a nervous breakdown, his kids about to revolt and his career about to implode, will Lewis be able to pull everything together in time to attend the conference, or will something have to suffer as a result?


“The Discoverers” is very reminiscent of Alexander Payne’s work – “The Descendants” and “Nebraska” come immediately to mind. Although there are terrific performances by a great cast – including and especially its star, Griffin Dunne – it’s not quite enough to overcome the material’s shortcomings. The first feature film by writer/director Justin Schwarz shows promise, but doesn’t give a sense that he’s yet able to tell a long-form story. Despite the fact that the movie is a reasonable running time of less than two hours, it drags a bit in its second act; the fact that it provides what turns out to be a false ending in its third act doesn’t help, either.

Most of the second act and the first portion of the third act take place in the woods with this group of recreationists re-enacting the trek of Lewis & Clark. Finding these people and this situation rather hard to take taxed my patience. Also, the character of Lewis is problematic; in spite of Griffin Dunne’s performance, Lewis is delineated as something of a patsy, making him quite unsympathetic. It’s difficult to root for someone who masochistically invites so much trouble upon himself. The script, written by someone who clearly has a detailed understanding of Lewis & Clark, at times feels like something of an unwelcome didactic history lesson.

Prior to the screening, our instructor interviewed the film’s writer/director Justin Schwarz and following the screening, he interviewed its star, Griffin Dunne. Schwarz has a fascinating background; under the Clinton administration, he was a policy writer and thought he might pursue a career in politics until he saw how it could be divisive and polarizing. Dunne talked about what his childhood was like growing up in Hollywood as the son of Dominick Dunne; he initially had such disgust for the filmmaking community that he wanted to become a journalist. However, after trying his hand at acting, he changed his mind and moved to New York to pursue a career in theater.

The Discoverers (2012) on IMDb

Sunday, May 04, 2014

“Chinese Puzzle”– Movie Review




This weekend, my movie class had a bonus screening of the new French romantic comedy “Chinese Puzzle”, written and directed by Cédric Klapisch. 


When a wife leaves her husband, she moves from their home in France to live in New York City with their children – but after the father relocates to New York City to be with them, can he adapt to this new culture?


About to turn 40, Xavier (Romain Duris) finds his life increasingly complicated.  After a decade of marriage to Wendy (Kelly Reilly), she chooses to leave him, moving from their home in France to New York City, where she met a man during a recent business trip.  To make matters worse for Xavier, she brings their son and daughter along with her.  Distraught over not being able to see his kids, Xavier decides to move to New York City also in order to care for them and be able to watch them grow.  A novelist, Xavier is so overwhelmed by his life that he titles his latest book, “Chinese Puzzle” because it’s so intricately complex. 

In addition to his two children with Wendy, Xavier has also donated sperm to his lesbian friend Isabelle (Cécile De France) so she and her partner Ju (Sandrine Holt) can conceive.  When Isabelle and Ju move to New York City as well, they allow Xavier to temporarily stay with them until he finds a place of his own – which eventually turns out to be Ju’s tiny, run-down old apartment in the Chinatown section of downtown Manhattan.  Wendy and the children, on the other hand, are now comfortably ensconced in the expansive Central Park South apartment of her wealthy new boyfriend. 

As Xavier and Wendy prepare to divorce, he hires the cheapest lawyer he can find; his advice to Xavier is to get a job and get married so he can remain in the country.  Desperate, Xavier takes a job as a bicycle messenger in Manhattan; as far as the wife is concerned, he cashes in a favor and marries the daughter of a man whose life he saved.  Martine (Audrey Tautou), Xavier’s first wife, comes to New York City on a business trip; when she sees him again, it is apparent that they’re still in love with each other.  Later, when Martine comes back for a vacation, she stays in Xavier’s tiny flat.  Slowly, Xavier realizes he needs Martine back in his new life.  But can Xavier’s situation stabilize to the point where he can convince Martine to live with him in New York City?


If you’re in the mood for some light entertainment that’s something of a French version of Woody Allen’s “Manhattan” combined with the television show “Modern Family”, then “Chinese Puzzle” might be for you.  The key word here is “might”.  Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t stack up terribly well when compared to “Manhattan” (there’s even a foot chase scene at the end where Xavier pursues Martine before she returns to France much like Woody Allen’s character chased after Mariel Hemingway before she traveled to Europe). 

Another problem I had with “Chinese Puzzle” was the translation.  The movie contains subtitles and I don’t think it was well translated – or at least not by someone familiar with idioms in standard American English.  There are a few lines which seemed a bit stilted in their wording.  One example is a scene after Isabelle gives birth to her baby; Xavier tells someone that Isabelle contacted him to stop by the hospital to “recognize” the infant.  The term “recognize” was used a couple of times and it had me scratching my head a bit.  Also, the opening credits are overdone; watching them almost gave me a headache.

Although I characterized “Chinese Puzzle” as a romantic comedy, it is probably closer to a comedy-drama.  There aren’t too many quotable lines from the movie, nor are there a number of laugh-out-loud scenes; there are a few silly situations that sometimes border on the farcical (e.g., when the agent from the Immigration And Naturalization Service surprises Xavier by suddenly showing up at his apartment to see if his marriage is a sham), but despite its overall light-hearted tone, there are quite a few serious moments as well.  While “Chinese Puzzle” might not be one of those run-out-and-see-it-immediately types of flicks, it might be well-served as a rainy-day rental instead. 

Chinese Puzzle (2013) on IMDb  

Thursday, May 01, 2014

“For A Woman”– Movie Review




This week in my movie class, we saw the French drama, “For A Woman”, written and directed by Diane Kurys.


When a woman’s mother dies, she researches her parents’ past – but once she learns of their dark secrets, how will this change her relationship with her family?


When Anne (Sylvie Testud) learns that her mother has finally passed away, she and her older sister Tania (Julie Ferrier) rush to their father’s side. Although their parents have not been together for quite some time, they nevertheless wanted to comfort their surviving parent. The sisters begin to look through their mother’s mementos partly to choose how she’ll be buried and partly to divide the remaining items between them. This gives the inquisitive Anne further opportunity to research her parents’ history before either child was born. Between finding photographs, jewelry and correspondence, Anne begins to assemble a more detailed explanation.

Michel (Benoît Magimel) and Lena (Mélanie Thierry) were Russian Jews who met at the camp where they were being held during World War II; due to a connection Michel had with a supervising officer at the camp, he was able to secure his release. He informed Lena of this and offered to have her join him on the condition she would marry him upon being granted freedom; reluctantly, she agreed, so Michel was able to convince the officer to release both him and his “fiancée”. Settling in Lyon, France, they wed and Michel’s affiliation with the Communist party help them to obtain an apartment, a job and eventually, French citizenship. With Michel working as the proprietor of a haberdashery, he and Lena soon give birth to their first child, Tania.

Eventually, Michel is found by his long-lost younger brother, Jean (Nicolas Duvauchelle), whom he thought had died during the war. Jean is very mysterious about his background and how he was able to track down his brother, causing both Michel and Lena to grow increasingly suspicious. Nevertheless, they let Jean stay at their apartment. Unknown to Michel, Jean and Lena wind up developing an attraction to each other; later, Michel’s suspicions about Jean’s recent history become realized when the police question Michel about his brother, implicating him in a murder. Once Michel learns of Jean’s affair with Lena, will he end up turning in his brother to the police in order to save his family?


A romantic story sure to attract women, it may be somewhat of a difficult sell to a male audience (unless, of course, wives/girlfriends wind up forcing their men to go with them). In any event, “For A Woman” didn’t really have much to keep my attention – or maybe there was too much. The story itself is a rather complicated one and despite some rather skillful efforts by writer/director Diane Kurys to tie everything together by the end, you really have to have a substantial emotional investment in the story to hang in there long enough for the payoff. Unfortunately, I didn’t really have the patience to stay with it – which is too bad because it was an interesting twist that came at the end.

The movie tries to take on too much in that it’s telling the backstory of the woman’s parents, then goes on to tell the tale of her relationship with her father after learning the truth about her family. It’s really two films compressed into one; if you separate them, either probably could’ve been a sufficient story on its own. Also, it was not so much a story about love but more about the absence of love: Lena did not love Michel and it could be argued that ultimately, neither Lena, Michel nor his brother wound up having anyone to love or love them. It is a depressing but suspenseful story, but which is the subplot: the love story or the suspense story? Therein lies the problem.

Prior to the screening, Diane Kurys, the writer/director of “For A Woman”, was interviewed by our instructor. Kurys said that the story is very personal as it’s partly based on her own family, but a fictionalized version. Regarding her background, she explained that France has had a long and difficult history with Jewish people, which exists to this day; of World War II, her parents told her that the French weren’t pro-Jewish so much as they were anti-Nazi. As far as her professional background, Kurys shared with us that she started out as an actress, but later had an opportunity to direct a film; once she did that, she found that was her true passion and stuck with directing thereafter.

  For a Woman (2013) on IMDb