“The truth has many faces,” is the tagline for director Julius Onah’s latest drama, Luce. The psychological thriller follows a gifted student named Luce who has the weight of the world on his shoulders as he tries to live up to everyone’s expectations of him. The film stars Kelvin Harrison Jr., Octavia Spencer, Naomi Watts and Tim Roth. Spoilers after the trailer.
Four Sides of a Story
Right after the opening credits, this film doesn’t waste any time establishing its main characters and creating an uncomfortable tone that’ll be found throughout its runtime. Luce Edgar (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) was adopted at 7 years-old from war-torn Eritrea by Amy (Naomi Watts) and Peter Edgar (Tim Roth).
Luce has rehabilitated from all the anger and violence that he witnessed while living in Eritrea and now he’s an outstanding high school student, well-liked by everyone and the valedictorian of his class. He attends a majority white school and the film does a fantastic job at developing his character without it being exposition dump.
Tokenism is an underlying message early on in the film because Luce is presented as “one of the good ones.” It was not until after Luce’s parents met his teacher, Ms. Harriet Wilson, that the word tokenism was mentioned in the film. She’s worried about Luce because of a paper that he wrote which had underlying themes of domestic terrorism; however the paper, as assigned, was written in the voice of Frantz Fanon.
Being a black woman in a white space she wants what’s best for Lucebecause she recognizes his potential and wants him to succeed, which is something that is relatable for black educators in America. Depending on how you feel about the situation, Ms. Wilson violates Luce’s privacy, or ensures school safety by searching Luce’s locker and alerting his parents of the contents behind his back. This is pulled off well-enough that the viewer has to decide whose side they are on from the onset.
Onah’s direction and storytelling goes to the next level when examining the relationship between Amy and Peter Edgar, and how adopting Luce has changed their lives. There aren’t many movies that reach the big screen that tackle the issues face when black children are adopted by white parents and attend white spaces in modern day America. Watching how Peter and Amy view their son versus what each wanted out of a child being opposite was intriguing to watch.
Peter loves his son but if he had to do it all over again he would’ve wanted it to be easier or raised his own biological child. Whereas Amy loves Luce to death, and would not change anything because she’s worked so hard to get him to where he is. At first she seemed as if she was going the route of stereotypical movie mom, who is too naive to do what is best for her child, which usually ends in her demise, but refreshingly, Onah did not write her character that way.
What makes these characters work is that you can understand where each one is coming from and their views on the situation. Peter and Amy may have had a disagreement about what they thought they were getting into after adopting Luce but at the end of the day they loved him as if he were their own flesh and blood. When Ms. Wilson tries to drive a wedge between the family, the Edgars remain a unit and do not let her tactics phase them. This is also helped by the fact that Luce is charming and manipulative enough where it is tough to second guess his motives.
Harrison’s performance as Luce was among the best performances of the year. The character is written so well that it’s hard for the audience to know if he is every bit of danger that Ms. Wilson says he is or does he live up to the expectations of his peers and family. You can see the nuances of the inner struggle throughout Harrison’s performance and the film’s third act is where things come to a satisfying close.
Luce is a psychological thriller that delivers on its “truth has many faces,” tagline in an uncomfortable, yet thought provoking way. It’s a powerful film that makes its viewers question whose side they agree with. It’s a film that makes viewers understand how societal pressures affect decision making from various vantage points that aren’t often represented in film. The fact that the screenplay for Luce was developed during President Obama’s presidency and is still topical nearly four years later is nothing to scoff at. Onah effortlessly weaves a study into how race, class and identity affect us without making the film feel preachy.
Performance wise, Luce is filled with superb performances throughout thanks to its veteran cast, including Octavia Spencer, Tim Roth and Naomi Harris, while Kelvin Harrison Jr. has a breakout performance as the titular character. During awards season, his performance should come up when it’s time to announce the nominees for Best Actor. Luce is an insightful and engaging look into an often overlooked part of America, but if it’s playing near you then I highly recommend checking this one out.
The Obsessive Mother-Like Figure trope in horror films has finally received a version of the character that is seasoned in Blumhouse’s 2019 psychological-thriller Ma. Directed by Tate Taylor and starring veteran actress Octavia Spencer, Ma follows a group of teenagers who befriend a lonely middle-aged woman who allows them to party in her basement, only for startling and crazy things to happen. Ma came about because Octavia Spencer was tired of not being offered a lead role and director Tate Taylor, who worked with Spencer on The Help, said he wanted to create something that was “f****d up and MAAAAN, did they DELIVER!
Kids, drugs are bad, MMMKAY!
This movie will relate to people who grew up in a small town the most. Maggie Thompson (Diana Silvers) and her mother Erica Thompson (Juliette Lewis) have moved to Erica’s hometown in Ohio after Maggie’s father cheated on her mother. Being the new girl at her high school, Maggie befriends a group of friends that just like to party and get drunk. If you’ve ever been to a gas station then you’ve more than likely experienced some random underage teen asking if you will buy cigarettes or alcohol for them. Maggie and her friends are that kid.
The problem is they asked the wrong person. Kids, this is why you shouldn’t talk to strangers. They ask what turns out to be a lonely sociopathic middle-aged veterinary technician named Sue Ann (Octavia Spencer). At first glance Sue Ann seems normal but she is far from that. She became obsessed with Maggie and her group of friends right off the bat. She invites them to come to her house and drink in her basement. One of the teens gave her the nickname Ma and her place became the go-to spot for the kids to drink, party and cut loose. The only rule that Ma has is for the kids to keep the party in the basement and not venture upstairs, y’know, respect her house.
Of course in this type of movie someone has to go not follow the rules and go upstairs. Maggie and Haley (McKaley Miller) have to be the ones that go and investigate but when they hear strange noises coming from another they get creeped out and don’t want to go back to Ma’s. Haley even goes far enough to tell the rest of her classmates not to go back there and they put the kibosh on future party attempts.
Yet, for some reason, the script calls for the kids to go back to Ma’s for the most absurd reasons, even after finding out that Ma was stealing from them and noticing that she was off her rocker. The great thing about this movie is that the script is B-level but the direction and acting elevates past the things that are holding it back. To the film’s defense there is a reason why these kids would make such a foolish decision.
During the film’s third act, when the horror aspect picks up, Diane Silvers shines as the Final Girl trope. Even Ma comments on her doey eyes which are perfect for expressing the fear that is racing through her mind as she’s tied up to a dog collar watching her friends being tormented.
Another thing about this movie that made it enjoyable was that the parents of these teenagers cared about their child. Erica is a passive-aggressive mother for the first two acts of the film and it’s completely understandable because she and her daughter have just moved and they’re going through some things. Once Erica finds out about Ma, giving her daughter drinks and a place to party, she does some parenting and tells Maggie to stay away from Ma and confronts Ma to stay away from her daughter. Maggie being the rebellious teen that she ends up going back to Ma’s house anyway but once Erica finds out she curses up a storm. This small scene establishes a lot because there are too manyfilms in the horror genre that make the parents complete idiots.
Don’t Let Me Drink Alone
What makes Ma stand out in comparison to the unseasoned version of the psychotic mother-like stalker thriller is Octavia Spencer’s acting and the film is not taking itself too seriously. When one of the teens gets too mouthy with Ma she pulls a gun out on them and things become tense for the character and those watching the film, yet Ma laughs this off and quips with “Do you think I’m Madea or something,” which releases the tension. Sue Ann keeps that thaaang on her.
Ma is definitely campy and there are moments that don’t make sense or are just presented too conveniently for the plot, especially when the film delivers Sue Ann’s backstory. Sue Ann never left the town the film was set in and when she was in high school the students played a cruel prank – and this prank was VERY MESSED UP – on her. Turns out the main group of teenagers that we’ve seen throughout the film are the children of the kids that picked on Sue Ann in high school. Before this is revealed in the film you can tell that things are headed this way.
Even knowing that twist was coming, it didn’t hurt the film because of the strength of Spencer’s performance. She’s everything you would want in a horror villain, creepy, mysterious, quick-witted and terrifying. She killed one character with her car and it got a laugh out of me. By knowing when to and when not to take itself seriously, Ma is a film that audiences who see movies with a group of friends would love.
Spencer said she took the role because she was tired of not being offered lead roles in films and if the movie doesn’t offer her those opportunities then nothing will. This was her LeBron James moment and the script was the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals and although horror’s rarely get Oscar nominations, I hope she gets one for this.
One thing that should be stated about Ma and the people behind the scenes, is that 2019 has been such a marvelous year for black women in horror and Blumhouse has produced two wonderful films with strong black leads. When Octavia Spencer was pitched this role, she asked if she was going to die first and it turns out she was the last death in the film. Progress.
The undertones of seeing a black lady who was picked on by her peers in a predominately white town enact some type of revenge is something you do not see every day on the big screen. The film addresses race in a comedic way by having Ma paint the only other black person in the film, white:
If you’re looking for something fresh and original then give Ma a chance while it is still playing in theaters. Remember, don’t talk to strangers and don’t let her drink alone.
Following up on the 2016 hit, Get Out, director and writer Jordan Peele does not suffer from a sophomore slump with his latest horrifying, psychological thriller, Us. Peele’s Monkeypaw Productions and Blumhouse have teamed up with Universal Pictures to deliver another entry into the doppelgänger subgenre of horror. Us stars Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph, and Evan Alex as an African-American family who has been confronted by a group of doppelgängers known as the Tethers.
Technically, It Doesn’t Peele Anything Back
After Get Out and Us, it’s safe to say that director and writer Jordan Peele is the new face of horror for the 2010s and beyond. Peele has a knack for building suspense in his films and does a perfect job of framing each scene in unique ways. He uses small details for foreshadowing and in turn it adds to the film’s narrative. There’s a scene early on where the Wilson family is walking on the beach and Peele uses a bird’s-eye shot to focus on the family’s shadows as they walk by. This is a sly way of introducing the idea of the doppelgänger that is shadowing the family. When the big reveal happens later on in the film, the image below may possibly have a different meaning.Peele knows how to effortlessly blend horror with comedy to balance out the suspense and the thrill. The scene where the Tethers are introduced is a good example of how he fuses comic relief while something terrifying is happening, while not allowing it to distract from the tone of the film. In the clip below, Gabe Wilson (Winston Duke) confronts the family of Tethers, who is outside of his family’s beach house, and Peele’s writing shows that this is a suspenseful moment, yet there is plenty of humor in Wilson’s dialogue that fits the composition of the scene.
While there is a lot to praise about the film’s writing, there are some storytelling elements that the film could’ve done a better job with. The opening 5 minutes before the opening credits should have been woven throughout the film’s narrative or left on the cutting room floor. The issue with this part of the movie is that it takes the surprise from the big reveal that happens during the third act. As a screenwriter, since Peele kept that part of the film, then the narrative of the film should’ve changed since the audience already knows the motivation of Red/Adelaide Wilson (Lupita Nyong’o). If he changes the film’s narrative then he doesn’t have to cram an explanation as to why Red is doing what she’s doing and the film won’t have as many loose ends at the end of the film.
Speaking of the confrontation between Red and Adelaide, Michael Abels returns with a perfect score. Abels provided the score for Jordan Peele’s critically acclaimed directorial debut, Get Out, and he brought his A-game to Us. The composition of the sounds that he uses creates a suspenseful environment that sonically adds an additional layer of depth to the film. During the big climax the film uses the version of “I Got 5 On It” that was in the trailer and it works perfectly. Luniz would be proud.
Adelaide From A Wonderland
Performance wise, the cast of Us deliver performances that will be etched in history when it comes to actors acting in dual roles. The Tethers are sinister versions of the main characters and everyone, from the adults to the kids, knows how to convey the proper emotion from their characters without it looking cringeworthy. Lupita’s performances as Adelaide and Red will be talked about for years and should see her get an Oscar nomination. In an interview with Variety, Lupita stated that Peele shot her scenes as Red and Adelaide on different days, and that she would stay in character when the cameras were off. This type of commitment to her character manifests itself throughout the scenes when both characters are paired in the same scene. Lupita also has an expressive face, so she does not have to say a single word because her expressions do the talking for her.Lupita Nyong’o and Winston Duke weren’t the only members of the Wilson family that brought out the best in their characters, it was a family affair because their spawns children were just as formidable. Zora Wilson/Umbrae (Shahadi Wright Joseph) and Jason Wilson/Pluto (Evan Alex) are half the size and twice as gruesome as their parents. Pluto and Umbrae are relentless, there are points in the film where Umbrae attacks people that aren’t even related to her human counterpart. Meanwhile, Pluto is a demon child who wants to watch the world burn through Hell, fire and brimstone. Evan Alex’s performance is what sells the events at the end of the film because he has to portray complete fear as Jason and that can be hard to do for such a young actor.
Down The Rabbit Hole (Spoilers Below)
Us would not be a horror from the mind of Jordan Peele if it wasn’t filled with any sort of symbolism or easter eggs that convey a deeper meaning. Back in 2018, Peele tweeted out a rorschach poster that explains the film’s duality. In the film, Jeremiah 11:11–“Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will bring on them a disaster they cannot escape. Although they cry out to me, I will not listen to them.'” — which is similar to an expression by another Rorschach.
The duality of the number 11 is more than likely why that verse was chosen in the film. One creature that is shown throughout the film are rabbits. There are rabbits before the opening credits, there are stuffed rabbits, rabbits in the underground tunnel. The fact that there is a tunnel underground where the Tethers live is what makes the rabbit hole theme so prevalent. Scissors are the weapon of choice and Peele has stated that scissors represent the idea of being bound together (the Tether and the human) yet a scissors function is to tear things apart (the Tethers kill the humans). Also, scissors look like rabbit ears, which adds another element to them being chosen as the weapon in the film.
Zora, a track runner, is pictured with a rabbit on her shirt as she spends the first act of the film outrunning her tether. If this was folklore then the hare would defeat the tortoise in this race. The image above also shows Adelaide Wilson in a white shirt. Everyone knows that the color white is used to represent purity yet by the time the film finishes that shirt is stained crimson from all of the blood. By the end of the film, Adelaide is Red, both figuratively and literally. The big revelation at the end of the film is that the Adelaide that we’ve been watching this whole time is really a tether and the tethered is actually the real Adelaide. Adelaide is the only character who has a tethered that is named after a color, and Peele does an inconspicuous job at showing the transition within the film’s larger story.Jason is the character in the film that was used for the most nods and easter eggs to other horror movies. He is a character that is always pictured in a mask as if he was a certain slasher that comes out to play every Friday the 13th. During the film, Jason is also the only human that is able to make his tether mimic his actions. The film never really explains why, nor why it only works some of the time. The only thing that I can think of is because he and his tether are both a human-tether hybrid, which means they share half of a soul since Red stated that the tether were like humans but without the soul. This may also be the reason why at the beach (picture #1) the shadows of Jason and Zora (tether-human hybrids) are pictured at the same peak as Adelaide (full tether) yet their father’s (full human) is substantially larger.Jason is also wearing a Jaws shirt which is a nod to the Steven Spielberg classic. Jaws exploit the fear of the deep blue sea whereas Us shows the fear of ourselves. Like the shark that attacked in Jaws, the Tethered in Us also came out from beyond the deep, except these horrifying creatures crawled up from unused tunnels.
Although not a perfect movie and not as great as Jordan Peele’s previous film, Us, overall, is a stellar outing for the sophomore director. The acting was flawless all around and Lupita Nyong’o has the best performance of any actor so far in 2019. Winston Duke shines in every scene that he’s in, Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph were some of the best child actors in a horror movie since the cast of 2017’s It. Peele’s work behind the camera is just as good as ever and he knows how to capture the suspenseful moments. The writing could’ve been better and more consistent. One second the tethers seemed to have some sense of enhanced speed or strength and other times they seemed like normal humans. Overall, 2019 has been a rough year in film so far, but Peele delivered a proper follow-up to his 2017 hit. If you haven’t seen this one on the big screen then check it out when you get a chance.
So far, 2019 has not been a good year for Hungarian characters in film and director Neil Jordan’s Greta attempts to buck the trend. The psychological-thriller stars Chloe Grace Moretz as Frances McCullen and Isabelle Huppert as the film’s titular character, Greta Hideg.
Normally, these types of psycho-thrillers heavily rely on the subjects being in a romantic relationship before things get crazy, so maybe co-writer and director Neil Jordan will bring something fresh to the film
Going into this one I wasn’t sure what to expect. Based on the trailers, the premise of an older lady obsessed with — a stranger as a surrogate daughter — sounded different from the usual roles in these types of films. Normally, these types of psycho-thrillers heavily rely on the subjects being in a romantic relationship before things get crazy, so maybe co-writer and director Neil Jordan will bring something fresh to the film. Reader, he did not. Throughout the film there are too many moments that have already been done before that it kills any suspense the film tries to build. The characters are shallow and do not act like any rational human beings.
The film is set up with Frances McCullen (Chloe Grace Moretz) on a train ride home where she finds a purse left by a stranger. Frances returns the purse to its rightful owner, Greta (Isabelle Huppert), an older French lady who lives by herself, and the two quickly become friends. Frances’ mother passed away and Greta says that her daughter has left for France so she’s been lonely ever since. Frances is new to New York City and returns home to her apartment with her rich roommate and former high school classmate Erica Penn (Maika Monroe). The relationship between Frances and Erica is used in stressing the point that Frances is new to the city. When Frances is returning home, the film sets up that Greta is a stalker. Greta is using social media to find out more information about Frances, she finds her Facebook and goes through her pictures, and this is where the movie starts transitioning to full Fatal Attraction.
The crazy things that Greta does to torment Frances in this film are LOLworthy because they’re portrayed in such an absurd way. Frances works as a waitress and Greta comes to her place of employment standing outside staring at her restaurant during her entire shift. When Frances tells the police they say they can’t do anything because Greta is on private property, which sure, we can let that slide even if it sounds ridiculous. Later that week, Greta returns as a patreon of the restaurant and Frances tells her manager that Greta has been stalking her, but her manager does not give a single f*ck. He tells Frances to “handle it” and not to make a scene. What? Yeah, and it gets worse. Greta pops up at the restaurant as a customer and she requests Frances as a waitress. Again, Frances’ terrible manager forces her to serve Greta instead of using a different waitress. Greta insults her, makes a huge scene (which is what the manager didn’t want), yells at Frances about needing Greta as a mother, and eventually ends up being strapped down to a stretcher out of the restaurant.
Somehow all of that takes place and Greta is free to roam the streets, lololololok? She ends up kidnapping Frances, and somehow she breaks into Frances’ apartment, poisons her coffee and takes her back to her house. All of this during a broad day in New York City. The only two people that end up looking for, the now missing, Frances is her father (Colm Feore) and her roommate Erica. Frances ended up being missing for a few weeks and there were only two people that contacted her over that time period, sure. This movie even has a whole scene where her father hires a detective to investigate and Greta ends up killing the detective, so many cliches. Frances even has her moment where she almost escapes but doesn’t because she’s movie-stupid and makes the dumbest decisions for someone who was kidnapped and nearly murdered. The big climax is when Erica returns a purse to Greta and saves Frances. It’s supposed to be that moment in the movie where you’re supposed to clap and feel good but it falls flat.
Filmmaking and Acting
Overall, the script of this movie is what hinders this movie but the acting is what helps balance it out. It’s a shame that the script was this bad because the direction and the acting are both well-polished. Isabelle Huppert was the perfect choice as the film’s titular character. She portrays Greta as someone who is unpredictable, evil and terrifying. Sure, there’s plenty of head scratching things that Greta does throughout the film, but Huppert’s portrayal is reminiscent of Heath Ledger as the Joker. She brings the right blend of comedy to this twisted, delusional and sinister character. Right behind her is Hit-Girl herself, Chloe Grace Moretz. Even though her character was portrayed as a naive dunce throughout the whole film, Moretz does her best with the material she’s given.
From a directing aspect, Neil Jordan shot a competent film. He didn’t rely on jump scares and used the characters to create the suspense in the film. There’s a scene where Greta stalks Erica and Jordan knew when to use close shots to keep things tight and not revealing Greta’s location too soon. There’s also a well-shot scene where Frances is poisoned and the film departs from its realistic aspect and goes down the effects route. Doing this gave the viewer the experience of being on a hallucinogen like Frances was. Also, when Frances escapes from Greta’s house, Frances locks Greta in a chest and wedges an Eiffel Tower in the latch of the chest so Greta is stuck there. This was a somewhat clever way to end the film because France was where Greta’s daughter vacated, it’s also a play on Frances name, and it symbolized Greta being the one stuck in France, so to speak.
The script for Greta was not worthy of a cinematic run and I think a film like this would’ve been better suited to a Netflix release. The acting by the two lead actresses brought life to a script that was filled with cliches and that deserves a salute. However, this movie has been done better over the last 20 years and Greta failed at bringing something new to the table.
This past weekend one of my friends (shoutout to Esméralda) asked me if I had ever seen You on Netflix. I had not…but after learning of the premise of the show I was intrigued to give it a viewing to see what the hype was about. Usually, a well-directed and well-acted thriller is worth the watch. Based on Caroline Kepnes’s novel of the same name, You is a psychological-thriller (dark comedy?) that follows bookstore manager (read: creeper) Joe Goldberg (Penn Badgley) after he falls in love with Guinevere Beck (Elizabeth Lail) and becomes obsessed with her.
The first season of the show originally aired on Lifetime during the fall of 2018, but Netflix picked it up for season 2, and made season one available for streaming one day after Christmas. Ever since America’s No. 1 streaming service made the show available, it has taken on a second life on social media. The show’s structure is what makes Netflix the perfect home because it’s written in a way that makes binge-watching the most effective way to watch it. It is easy to digest and the first season is only 10 episodes long, and each episode is around 45 minutes long, which only took about 2 days to binge. Spoilers after the trailer.
A Solid Start
The pilot uses an interesting color palette to set the tone for the show. The opening scene is set in Mooney’s bookstore in New York, and it’s filled with a lot of different shades of brown, and both of the two main characters are wearing brown. Bookstore manager Joe Goldberg is doing his best Dexter Morgan impression and starts narrating about a woman who has walked into the store and he’s analyzing everything about her. He sparks up a conversation with her, finds out her name is Guinevere Beck, and then he proceeds to be obsessed with her. After their initial conversation any sense of realism that You had walked out the door with Beck as soon as she left the bookstore.
Creeper Joe goes home, does his Googles on Beck, narrates all the details that he discovers about her, and uses an image from one of her profiles to find out where she lives. Stalker Joe goes to her home, which is on a main street, and spies on her through her curtainless and blinds-less windows. The show is self-aware enough to mention that not having blinds or curtains is a major privacy concern, but I guess we can chalk that up to being a Two Americas thing. As he continues monologuing about being a white knight, Stalker Joe stalks Beck all day and all night, watches her and her boyfriend Benji hook up, and continues to perv on her until the coast is clear for him to enter her home. While he’s snooping through her home she returns earlier than expected, and there’s a moment where he hides in the shower as the show tries to build up the suspense of him getting caught.
Beck is an aspiring writer and she’s performing her poetry later that night. Joe stalks her while she’s at the bar. She performs and nobody likes her poetry. The blonde 20s something leaves the bar drunk, and the goofiest moment of the first episode happens when Drunk Beck falls on the train tracks like a damsel in distress and Joe saves her. This assured me that this show is also supposed to be a dark comedy. Can’t make this up folks. They take a taxi back to Beck’s place and Joe manages to take her phone from her, so he can spy on all aspects of her life with ease, and once they arrive they are greeted by Beck’s boyfriend Benji Ashby (Lou Taylor Pucci) to Joe’s chagrin.
At Mooney’s bookstore there’s a basement that contains this huge glass sound proof box that Mr. Mooney (Mark Blum) used when he wanted to have quiet time while reading. There’s a couple of flashbacks throughout the series that shows Mr. Mooney acting as a father figure to Joe and he would lock Joe in the box to discipline him. Creeper Joe lures Benji to the basement because he views him as an obstacle in his pursuit of Beck. Benji tells Joe that Joe isn’t a killer and Beck isn’t worth it, but Obsessive Joe is too obsessed to listen and ends up killing Benji.
The initial comparison of Joe Goldberg to Dexter Morgan from Dexter isn’t fair to the complexity of a character like Dexter. Joe is not nearly as complex or cerebral. He’s messy, and for any rational person watching this show it’s nearly impossible to root for him, even if none of the other characters are likeable. You tries it’s hardest to give Joe some sense of normalcy. He has a little kid as a neighbor named Paco (Luca Padovan) that likes to read books but his step-father Ron (Daniel Cosgrove) does not like it when Paco talks to Joe. Ron is the Doakes of this show and he thinks that Joe is a weirdo (which he isn’t wrong). Ron works as a parole-officer and when he gets home he beats Paco’s mother Claudia (Victoria Cartagena) and Paco. Their apartment building has thin walls and Joe can hear the whoopings. The pilot episode does a solid job of setting up events for the rest of the series.
The Rest and the Mess
The pilot episode wasn’t mind-blowing, but it was interesting enough for me to check out the rest of the show. There are at least two episodes that could’ve been fused into one to make the show move more fluidly. A few episodes have noticeable editing gaffes. A character will be talking to another character, and as the camera switches back and forth for reactions the character’s positions are completely misplaced. Granted, this is episodic television, so it comes with the territory.
At times logic escapes You. When Joe kills Benji he stores his body in the trunk of his car. The body has been decomposing in Joe’s little glass box of death for a couple of days and there’s fluid slowly oozing out of it. Yet when Beck’s friend Peach (Shay Mitchell) is sick and needs to go to the hospital, Joe lets her and Beck ride in the backseat of the whip and Peach can smell odors coming from the body. Beck never mentions it and tries to act as if she does not smell anything. The counterpoint is there are moments throughout You that the show does a phenomenal job at escalating the stakes and raising the “Ohhhh 💩 He’s About to Get Caught” Factor. One scene in particular is when Stalker Joe follows his now girlfriend Beck and Peach take a staycation to Peach’s family estate that is an hour away from New York. Stalker Joe stalks but he’s already got hands laid upon him by Ron so he is suffering from a concussion. He keeps seeing and talking to what appears to be a ghost of his ex-girlfriend Candace Stone (Ambyr Childers). He hits a deer while driving at night and gets pulled over as soon as he wakes up the next morning. Good thing he’s a sociopath with a bit of privilege so he’s able to talk Officer Nico (Michael Maize) out of giving him a ticket. I’m saying, Joe looks suspicious as hell that I can’t even chalk him getting away to it just being a TV show because some cops just can’t see obvious signs.
Once Joe arrives at the estate his worries that Peach wants to be more than friends with his girlfriend Beck is confirmed. The fact that everyone on this show has money, yet won’t invest in a security system nor lock their doors is plot device too convenient. Concussed Creeper Joe is in the estate the whole weekend without anyone noticing. He manages to pee in a jar and leaves it sitting on a dresser. Peach and Beck end up arguing which results to Peach staying at the estate solo because Beck is tired of her shit. Once Peach catches Joe at the estate she thinks Joe is her stalker. The two get into a scuffle and Peach turns into cobbler when Joe shoots and kills her.
Shay Mitchell’s performance as Peach is the strongest female performance on the show. Her character is hateable yet she’s one of the few characters that seems like an actual human being, a rich stuck-up snobby one but an actual person nonetheless. Of the five people we see Joe kill, she’s the only one that puts up a fight on-screen. Peach has her issues when it comes to her feelings for Beck, but like Ron she realizes that there’s something wrong with Joe and his Mr. Perfect facade. She’s far from an angel because she ruins her friends lives, she’s manipulative and just as dangerous without physicality unlike other characters on the show. I’ve never watched Pretty Little Liars, which is what Shay Mitchell is known for, but from what I’ve heard her character on that show is pretty much the same character on You. With that said she was a perfect choice for the role of Peach.
Guinevere Beck & Joe Goldberg: A Tragedy
Beck discovers Joe’s “trophies” | Netflix
Gotcha, Beck!| Netflix
“You… you are him. You are the bad thing that you should’ve killed… You are not special, you are broken. I could never love YOU.” – Guinevere Beck
During the last two episodes of You, Beck finds all of Joe’s trophies (photo 1), so he does what any obsessive controlling stalker would do, and locks her up against her will (photo 2). She tries to escape so he kills her. Before we get to that point, the show does not present Beck as an angel. She and Joe breakup because there’s no trust in their relationship unbeknownst to her that her boyfriend is a stalker. There’s an episode where she gets to narrate for half the episode and the show would’ve been better off if she narrated the full episode or not at all. Joe suspects that Beck’s cheating on him with her therapist, Dr. Nicky (John Stamos), which we later found out she did indeed. Three months later Joe moves on and is happy with his new girlfriend, Karen Minty (Natalie Paul), but homeBecker homewrecker Beck manages to cause Joe and Karen to breakup.
For most of the series Elizabeth Lail’s acting is serviceable. She has her moments where she is interesting, but a lot of the times her acting seems flat. Compared to other actresses on You like Natalie Paul and Shay Mitchell, Lail doesn’t seem as seasoned. Her best work in the series comes during the last episode when she monologues to Joe after locking him in the glassbox. The way that Lail says, “You… you are him. You are the bad thing that you should’ve killed… You are not special, you are broken. I could never love YOU,” with conviction and disgust, was by far her best acting during the series.
The character of Beck’s life is a complete mess at the beginning of the show. She went from her poetry being booed, to not having any prose for herMASTERS IN FINE ARTS, to writing about the death of her father, who isn’t really dead to peaking as an author once Joe murders Peach because she is able to write her best work about Peach’s death. What makes Beck a complex part of You isn’t necessarily her. She’s gassed up from the start because Joe is narrating about how beautiful she is and all these good qualities about her that the audience doesn’t see. She is extremely naive and shallow when it comes to all the obvious red flags. She lies to him, she cheats on him, she doesn’t even take her masters program seriously. You spotlights all of these flaws to amplify the obsessiveness that Joe has for her. He even tells her there’s not line that he will not cross for her. Yet there are people who view Joe as some sort of hero and think that Beck does not deserve that kind of attention from Joe. Check out the tweet below:
Actor @PennBadgley of the hit show You is taking great pains to remind fans that his character is not supposed to be someone you root for, or would like to meet. https://t.co/5fNx3fXJMl
People that actually like Joe Goldberg or do not think he’s the villain of You are opps. These are the type of problematic people you’ve got to look out for. Beck’s monologue during the last episode does a spectacular job at pointing out that her wrongs are nowhere near his. He spends the whole show stalking her, manipulating her, calls out Peach for stalking Becks while he is stalking Beck, and he murders two people in her life so he can be with her. None of Beck’s mishaps come close to those of Joe. The man is a psychopath and killing Ron for Paco still doesn’t justify his behavior. During Season One of You there isn’t any kind of gray area that can convince you that Joe Goldberg is some sort of anti-hero like Dexter Morgan, The Punisher or Walter White. His behavior from the show’s pilot is grimey, and by the end of the season it just gets worse.
From an actor standpoint Penn Badgley’s performance as Joe Goldberg is compelling. I did not watch Gossip Girl so I am not familiar with his work but he does a marvelous job on You. He has the crazy-stalker look that you see on the news on an article starting with the headline of “Florida Man…” Salute to him for reminding people that his character is not to be liked.
Usually, when it comes to content that is originally presented on Netflix it’s only good for memes or it’s immensely overhyped, but You delivers on a pretty fun experience. If you’re thinking about watching the show then it’s better if you view it as a satirical psychological-thriller-dark comedy. There’s social commentary scattered throughout the series. There’s commentary on the Me Too movement, the show raises awareness for viewers to think twice because of stalkers, and the conversation on the show has people telling on themselves. For a show that originally aired on Lifetime this was better than I expected. It’s not too Lifetime-y and most of the acting is good. The last 3 minutes of the finale was probably my least favorite part of the series. The big twist at the end felt like it was shoehorned in just to setup a second season. Season 2 is supposed to be based on Caroline Kepnes novel Hidden Bodies so it’s going to be interesting to see how that turns out.
Escape the room and survive is the synopsis for Sony’s newest psychological thriller, Escape Room. Directed by Adam Robitel, Escape Room, follows six strangers as they try to work their way through multiple deadly escape rooms, and that requires them to work together as a team to survive. The PG-13 film was previously titled The Maze because each escape room worked as a maze to get through. Light spoilers after the trailer.
Before watching this movie I had no idea that escape rooms were an actual thing that people go to. For a PG-13 film, Escape Room makes the most out of the rooms to give the film a personality since they’re not able to be gory as movies like Saw. There are five different escape rooms and each one has its own original look. The designs of the various escape rooms in the film were intricate, and you can tell the production crew took their time to create them. The best room in the entire film was the one that’s designed to be an upside down pool hall and bar. It’s one of the most creative set pieces in the film. There’s a lot of depth in this room, and the set designers paid a lot of detail to the small things like the posters on the wall. With only a 9 million dollar budget, the sets do not feel like they were rushed, which was a positive.
The characters in the film are enjoyable, but there’s no one that really stood out for me. They were mostly just tropes, but in a movie like this, it worked because the rooms and traps were the stars of the film. Zoey (Taylor Russell) is the main character and she’s introverted and the most intelligent when it comes to the rest of the crew. Ben (Logan Miller) is the loser of the bunch. He works at a grocery store and doesn’t have anything in his life going for him. Amanda (Deborah Ann Woll) is a former military servicewoman and her character is to be the badass of the group. Mike (Tyler Labine) is the oldest member of the six strangers, and he’s been on hard times, yet he’s also used as comic relief for most of the film. Jason (Jay Ellis) is a jerk trope, he’s an overachiever who butts heads with the rest of the group because he’s full of himself. Danny (Nik Dodani) is a naive nerd, he’s been in escape rooms in the past, so he has experience, but none of his previous experiences were in escape rooms that tried to kill him. As usual in these types of films, there’s a convoluted reason why they were all brought together.There’s some humorous lines exchanged early on in the film during the first room. Jason and Danny had the best banter amongst each other. Even when the ways that some of the characters died were creative, I wish it would’ve given me more in that aspect.
The biggest issue is that the film could not escape its ending in time. Escape Room is only 109 minutes long, so the length of the movie wasn’t a problem, but where they decided to end it… let’s just say the last 10 minutes did not need to happen. There’s 3 times within the last 10 minutes this movie would’ve ended, and by the third time, it’s tiresome because the movie drops the ball. I assume someone at Sony felt like Escape Plan had to set-up a sequel, so we can explore a world where the movie is set in deeper depth. The first possible ending would’ve been lazy, but it would make sense based on the events of the rest of the film; after that the second ending had “WE MUST HAVE A SEQUEL,” written all over it, eye roll but sure, make your money; however, what they do for the third and final time, makes you leave the theater asking what kind of nonsense is this? Outside of that ending, and some LOL-funny script writing moments, this movie was cool for a January release. I would recommend this to anyone who did not like the grotesqueness of the Saw films or any pre-teens. There are movies like Cube that do the puzzle-maze-room setting more effectively. Fittingly, a film titled Escape Room didn’t know, before its eventual conclusion, that it had plenty of room to escape.
[All Mames Wey]
Escape Room was released in theaters January 4, 2019.