Two Stories About Love: Is Dorfman the Warmest Color?

This weekend I watched two movies about love. Both dealt with young women in search of themselves, young women in search of love, young women who had to struggle with loss and with being misunderstood.

One of the films got great reviews and won prestigious awards. One of the films was a bit of a flop.

Now, I know I’m not a film critic, or a critic of any kind. I’m just a person who has been watching movies and TV for a lot of decades. Even though one of the letters on my Myers-Briggs is a J for judging, I am not a judgmental, critical minded person. I’m easy to please where entertainment is concerned.

So when I see two films that are very alike in theme and subject matter, it makes me wonder what sets them apart. Is the quality of the acting? The skill of the director? The originality of the script? I want to come back to this, but first let me explain the two stories I’m talking about.

The two films are Blue is the Warmest Color and Dorfman in Love. If you pay attention to film news, you know that Blue is the Warmest Color is the one that got the great reviews and won awards.

Blue is the Warmest Color

Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux in Blue is the Warmest Color
Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux in Blue is the Warmest Color

Blue is the Warmest Color is a French film about a young woman, Adèle, played by Adèle Exarchopoulos. It’s three hours long and covers years of Adèle’s life. She falls in love with Emma, played by Léa Seydoux. Emma is older, artistic, and out. When they meet Adèle is still in high school and not clear about her own sexuality. As the years pass, the two women live together for a while but it isn’t a successful long-term arrangement. For years after they part Adèle continues to long for Emma until she finally comes to terms with their parting and walks away from her past. There are long scenes of explicit sex.

Dorfman in Love

Sarah Rue in Dorfman in Love
Sarah Rue in Dorfman in Love

Dorfman in Love stars Sarah Rue as Deb Dorfman. She is a grown woman who lives with her dad (Elliot Gould) and works in her brother’s (Jonathan Chase) accounting firm. She has a fantasy love attachment to a friend of her brother’s played by Johann Urb. Deb takes care of everyone in her life, especially the three aforementioned men, who do not appreciate anything she does. Then she meets Cookie, played by Haaz Sleiman. With Cookie’s help, she begins to understand who she is and what her true worth is. She is able to leave her past behind. There is no sex in the film but there are a couple of straight kisses.

Who and How Do We Decide on Great?

In terms of acting, Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux both do a fantastic job. Especially Adèle Exarchopoulos, who has to age from a naive teen to a responsible adult before our eyes. But the acting in Dorfman in Love was perfectly adequate. The actors weren’t called on to do anything especially intense the way the actors in Blue is the Warmest Color were, but does that mean they didn’t act as well as the two French women in the parts they were given?

The approach of the directors in these two films was very different. Blue is the Warmest Color was full of close-ups, often focused on the two women in minute detail. Dorfman in Love took a much more expansive approach. I found the directing styles suited to the material – they certainly wouldn’t have worked in reverse – but they were perfect for the stories they were telling. One film was a serious examination of a young woman’s maturation and growth, while the other was firmly in the romantic comedy camp of maturation and growth. Is one genre more worthy of success than the other?

Does the intensity of the subject matter, the intensity of the emotion portrayed make one film better than another? Is it the seriousness of the approach vs. the comedic approach? Is it the closed-in focus of one film that makes it better than the more open look of the other – is that somehow more artistic? Does all the daring sex in one make it more weighty?

What I’m getting at here is that secret something that makes one film an international hit and topic of conversation around the globe while the other feels passed over. Somewhere there is a magical line between good and really, really good that these two films exemplify perfectly. But who decides where that magic line is? Critics? Ticket buyers? Award givers? The folks on the living room couch?

And what does that mean to someone who might love Dorfman in Love but finds Blue is the Warmest Color long and tedious? Is that person wrong or someone whose tastes don’t count?

I can’t tell you how many people have told me I should watch Breaking Bad because it’s really, really good. But I cannot bring myself to watch a story about a teacher who sells meth. And I’ve told others they should watch Friday Night Lights because it’s really, really good only to realize they won’t watch a series about football. Is there a right and wrong in this?

I’d really like to know the answers to these questions. I really would.

Watch This: Preview for Bomb Girls Facing the Enemy

The preview for the upcoming Bomb Girls: Facing the Enemy that will appear on Canadian Global TV is available now.

I loved the series about women working in a Canadian munitions factory during World War II and am happy about the movie. Not sure when Americans will be able to see it, but I can’t wait.

I reviewed the Bomb Girls story in more depth in this post. It describes the characters and more about the story.

What do you Think of the Summer Pilots?

The other day I mentioned a couple of pilots on TNT that I’m super excited about that star Jennifer Beals and Julia Stiles. The big networks – NBC, CBS, ABC, CW, and FOX – all have a full slate of summer shows lined up. You can see the full list by following the links.

I want to mention the ones that look good to me, the ones that have a female in the leading role, and the ones I think might be worth watching. I’d love to hear what you think about the summer lineup, so speak up in the comments.

There are lots of comic book spinoffs, zombies, and aliens in the schedules. Lots of comedies and a few dramas.

On NBC

A variation on the zombie craze, Babylon Fields will star Virginia Madsen, Meagan Good, Skeet Ulrich, Ritchie Coster, Yul Vazquez and Kyle Schmid.

Debra Messing will lead the cast in a police procedural called Mysteries of Laura. It’s based on a Spanish series. Messing and her husband solve crimes while dealing with their twin sons.

Odyssey has a female soldier at the helm, played by Anna Friel. The plot centers around an international mystery.

Katherine Heigl will join the CIA in State of Affairs. She’s counselor to the President. Maybe she’ll run into Olivia Pope in D.C.

NBC has a ton of new comedies. The most interesting one stars Natasha Lyonne and is called Old Soul. I’ve mentioned this one before.

Another comedy that looks promising is produced by Ellen DeGeneres. One Big Happy is about a gay woman (Elisha Cuthbert) and her straight best friend (Nick Zano), who decide to have a baby together.

On CBS

Tea Leoni will be the Secretary of State in Madam Secretary. Morgan Freeman is producing this one. Tim Daly, Geoffrey Arend, Patina Miller, Erich Bergen and Katherine Herzer will also star.

Patricia Arquette will star in an as-yet-unnamed CSI spinoff. It sounds very high tech in concept, rather like the current show Intelligence because it involves a lot of cyber security. But I don’t think any of the FBI agents in this show have chips in their brains.

Jamie Lee Curtis is a hospital administrator whose four children – quadruplets – all work at the hospital. Oh, and the children grew up on a reality show. This show doesn’t have a name yet either.

On ABC

Danish series have been adapted for American TV with great success. Jennifer Carpenter will be in Sea of Fire, another Danish adaptation. This one is an FBI story.

Warriors will be a medical drama. The cast includes Morena Baccarin, Don Hany, Courtney B. Vance, Justina Machado, Greg Grunberg, Steve Kazee, Hampton Fluker, Abbie Cobb and Eloise Mumford.

On FOX

Cabot College is a comedy produced by Tina Fey. A show can’t get much more promising than that.  Margaret Cho, Fortune Feimster, Bonnie Dennison, Ely Henry, Asif Ali, Jack Cutmore-Scott and Brandon Jones will star.

On the CW

I don’t see anything that tempts me on this network.

Again, you can see the full lineup of summer shows here: NBC, CBS, ABC, CW, and FOX. I’d love to hear what you think about the ones I consider hopeful, or if you see something else that didn’t catch my eye that looks really good to you.

Review: Adore

The poster for the movie Adore
The poster for the movie Adore

Let me explain what you’re looking at in the poster for Adore. If it makes you cringe, the you don’t need to bother to read the rest of this review.

From the left you see Lil (Naomi Watts), a 40 something mom. She’s holding hands and making googly eyes at Tom, (James Frecheville) the 20 something son of her best friend Roz. Next you see Roz, (Robin Wright) a 40 something mom who is snuggling with Ian, (Xavier Samuel) who is the 20 something son of her best friend Lil.

Still with me?

Okay, I’ll back up a bit. Lil and Roz grew up together on the sun-drenched coast of New South Wales in Australia. They lived near each other, they swam together and worked together and stayed friends. As married women, they raised their sons side by side and the sons were BFFs just like their moms.

As the moms hit their 40s several things happened at once. Lil’s husband died. Roz’s husband moved to Sydney for a job and they divorced because Roz wouldn’t leave her idyllic home by the sea. The two boys turned into young men who were almost godlike in their beauty.

And then there was sex. Did the sons seduce their best friend’s mom, or was it the other way around? Either way they all consented.

It sounds incestuous and vaguely distasteful, but it didn’t feel that way to me as an observer of the film, or to the people involved in these delicate arrangements of love and passion. The characters had depth and nuance and subtlety as they explored the relationships between the four principal characters.

I don’t want to give you too many spoilers, but I will say that the two women came to the conclusion that the arrangement had to stop. The young men both married women their own age and both had daughters, who learned to swim in the beautiful sandy bay where their grandmothers adored and worshiped them. But that isn’t the end of the story. I won’t give you the end.

The film was directed by Anne Fontaine, a French director. This is the first film she’s directed in English. The film had a non-judgmental Frenchness to it where love and sex are concerned, and this allowed the actors to give a lot of meaning to their relationships. Odd as it may seem to say, this was not a purient movie. It was an intricate exploration of friendship, parenting, love, loneliness, and desire.

On of the most telling lines in the film came in a scene between Lil and Roz as they talked in a crisis moment toward the end of the film. Roz thinks it’s all her fault. Lil says, “it couldn’t be your fault, because you’re the only one who isn’t behaving badly.” Roz answers, “Then it really is my fault.”

The look of the film, with scenes of sun-dappled ocean, sand, gorgeous vistas, beautiful homes and beautiful people was breathtaking.

Have a look at the trailer.

If you’ve seen this film, I’d love to hear what your reaction to it was.

TNT, I love you

Today I celebrate two intelligent, talented, and inspiring actresses who have starring roles in two new TNT pilots.

Jennifer Beals will be in Proof, which is described as a supernatural medical drama. Beals will play a surgeon. The executive producer is Kyra Sedgwick.

Julia Stiles will star in Guilt by Association. This story is based on a book by former prosecutor Marcia Clark. Stiles plays a Deputy DA in the LA County District Attorney’s office. Rose Rollins and Elisabeth Röhm are also in the cast.

I love this news from TNT. I love that new shows are developed that star such awesome women. I love that they are coming from a cable network. I can’t wait to see both of the pilots and hope the shows are picked up for many happy seasons with Jennifer Beals and Julia Stiles at the helm.

Doing the happy dance over the possibility of two more female lead dramas on my TV each week.

Annie Remake to Star Quvenzhané Wallis

A delightful looking remake of Annie is schedule for release on Christmas. It stars Quvenzhané Wallis as Annie with Jamie Foxx, Rose Byrne, and Cameron Diaz.

The producers are Jay Z and Will Smith. The director is Will Gluck.

It’s wonderful to see young Quvenzhané Wallis in a role that has traditionally gone to white actors. Ditto for Jamie Foxx. Looks like a fabulous film and one that I think everyone in my family will enjoy seeing on Christmas Day on our yearly holiday movie outing together.

Watch This: First 2 Minutes of Veronica Mars, the Movie

Just in case you wanted to go see the movie Veronica Mars and don’t know the TV series that spawned this lady detective tale of female empowerment, here is the whole story. It will be the first two minutes of the new Veronica Mars movie.

Now you know the rest of the story, you are free to attend the movie.

What the Ellen Selfie at the Oscars was Really About

I’ve seen all sorts of snarky comments about how the star-studded selfie tweeted by Ellen during the Oscar show was about product placement or self-indulgence. Or how it was a waste of time and only made the Oscars longer and more boring.

But the fact is, it worked. People responded. There were more retweets of that moment than of anything that has ever happened on Twitter before.

If it was such a bad idea, such a waste of time, why did it work?

All the snarky pundits are missing a key point about social media. It’s social. It’s community. It’s shared experience. When Ellen asked the audience to retweet her selfie to set a new record on Twitter, it was something that everyone watching the Oscars could participate in together. An audience, a socially engaged audience, could make something happen together. It was a moment of community engagement and action.

It was the most brilliantly successful thing ever accomplished with social media. Could it be reproduced in other ways, at other times, by other people?

There were some built in advantages for this particular selfie.

  • There was a huge audience for the tweet watching on TV and already engaged on Twitter
  • People like Ellen. When she asks for something, giving an affirmative response is easy.

If you didn’t start off with those advantages would you be able to pull off a successful social media event? Maybe someone else couldn’t set a new record like Ellen can, but someone else could come up with a creative idea and get a large response. Stuff goes viral all the time. This event was viral times infinity.

Can we learn lessons from this selfie phenomenon that could be applied to more serious situations? Hurricane relief, citizen uprisings, floods, crimes, causes?

Who will the next social media genius to mimic an effect like this be? Are you thinking about how to do it?

Review: The Guilt Trip

Generally speaking, I don’t like Seth Rogan movies. I know he’s supposed to be funny, but I think he’s mainly funny to 20 something guys, and not to elder women. On the other hand, I love Barbra Streisand. I’ve been a devoted Streisand fan since the 1960’s when those 3 one hour specials she did on TV just blew my mind completely. Streisand and I have grown old together and my love for her talent has never wavered.

Along comes The Guilt Trip, starring exactly two people: Seth Rogan and Barbra Streisand. Obviously, I watched it, or I wouldn’t be typing about it right now. It was excellent. It didn’t make me a big Seth Rogan fan, but it does force me to admit that he’s good at what he does. Rogan and Streisand are fabulous together as a mother and son – a Jewish mother and her long-suffering son – which is a good thing because the two of them are pretty much the whole movie.

The Guilt Trip poster
The Guilt Trip poster

They drive in a small car, share hotel rooms, talk, argue, kvetch, reminisce, reach some understanding with each other, and find a way to be a new version of mother and son. It’s lovely. That’s my final judgement: lovely. A lovely movie. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Here’s one of the trailers for the film.

One other thing I learned from watching this film: Barbra Streisand remains fabulous!

Review: And While We Were Here

And While We Were Here is set on the Italian island of Ischia. It’s full of picture postcard views and gorgeous scenery. The film stars Kate Bosworth as Jane, Iddo Goldberg as her viola playing husband, and Jamie Blackley as a young American slacker Jane meets while in Italy.

Kate Bosworth and Jamie Blackley in And While We Were Here
Kate Bosworth and Jamie Blackley in And While We Were Here

Overall, And While We Were Here is subdued and reflective. Even the “fun” escapades Jane has with her young American are muted. The story, seemingly about a love affair, is really about loss and the letting go of loss.

Jane and her husband are in Italy for his work as a musician. She’s writing a book about her grandmother’s experiences in World War II and listens to recorded conversations with her grandmother a great deal of the time. (The grandmother is voiced by Claire Bloom.) This couple have suffered several miscarriages. They are still hanging in, still care for each other, but the marriage isn’t working.

The young American lover is merely a way for Jane to accept the inevitable consequences of her losses and move on with her life. He’s a way to unlock from the past and move toward the future.

As the film ended, I decided I would give the film a rating of 3 out of 5 stars, meaning it was worth watching but not fabulous. Then the credits rolled and Jennifer Warnes starting singing “Famous Blue Raincoat” and the whole story suddenly made sense. It was a movie version of “Famous Blue Raincoat.” I looked the film up and, indeed, the writer and director Kat Coiro was quoted as saying that she was inspired by the Leonard Cohen song. This knowledge doesn’t make we want to improve my rating, but it certainly puts the film into context and deepens my understanding.

If you enjoy introspective films that unfold slowly and deal with human efforts to “go clear,” you will enjoy this film.

Here’s the trailer.

The film was released in 2012. I found it on Netflix, so I’m sure it’s available on other streaming services as well.