Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The BC Review: Frozen River

Much to my mother's dismay, it has taken me some many months to finally catch her recommendation from almost a year ago (and well, honestly it took an active choice to move the title from somewhere in the middle region of my Netflix queue to commandeer to the top slot) but I finally watched Frozen River over the long 4th of July holiday weekend.

I should caution you, this film is certainly similar to this past year's Best Picture nominee-- Winter's Bone-- in its wrenching portrayal of a woman struggling to survive and the questioning of morality and the virtue of "following the rules".

Frozen River, released in 2008, stars Melissa Leo (winner of the Best Supporting Actress in The Fighter) as Ray Eddy, a not-so-young, but at the same time not-so-old (the deep lines of worry on her face may deceive us) mother living in upstate New York along the Canadian border, scraping to get enough money together for her dream house. No, this is not Malibu Barbie's mansion or even a modest split level home with three bedrooms and two and a half baths, it is a double wide. A double wide trailer. A significant upgrade from her current trailer she shares with her two sons and her gambling-addicted husband who's just run off with all of her savings just a few days before Christmas.

Working part-time at a local dollar store aptly called Yankee Dollar, Ray can barely afford to put food on the table (and sometimes even that is a stretch as on more than one occasion Ray is reduced to feeding her two sons popcorn and tang).

On arguably a fortuitous trip to the local Mohawk Reservation so-called "high stakes" Bingo, searching for her degenerate husband, Ray recognizes her husband's car in the parking lot. Following the vehicle as it peels out of the driveway leads Ray to another trailer (in possibly worse condition than her own) and to a Mohawk woman named Lila. From this first meeting we learn that Lila makes her living in an inventive, if not illegal, way - smuggling illegal aliens across the border from Canada.

From here it is not long (and a few more hardships begin to take their tole) and Ray is pulled deeper and deeper into the smuggling game. The question is, how long until the smuggling duo's luck runs out? And, will Ray triumph over all and finally get that double wide?

Melissa Leo gives a commanding performance as Ray. If you've ever spent time in upstate NY (to some of us who have fondly referred to as "the frozen tundra") you will recognize Ray in every down trodden woman looking to take care of her kids on a minimum wage salary while contending with frozen pipes, addiction, K-Mart's short operating hours, and searching for a good deal on food stuffs at the local "Chopper" (Price Chopper that is) food market.

Little known Misty Upham (also seen in HBO's Big Love) portrayal of Lila Littlewolf is reminiscent of the character "Sue" in Clint Eastwood's triumph Gran Torino (another great film, but for entirely different reasons)-- honest and bare-- and what one might expect of a single mom working just enough to get by on the reservation.

Frozen River is not for the faint of heart, but is recommended for movie goers who enjoyed Winter's Bone, The Fighter, and perhaps Leonardo DiCaprio's portrayal of Jim Carroll in 1995's The Basketball Diaries.

The Bee Charmer Review Rating: B+

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The BC Review: The Trip

I'm sorry to report that my life has become increasingly busy these last couple of months and as a result my film watching (and reviewing for that matter!) has suffered.

Until last Friday evening when my husband so pleasantly surprised me with a "date night" trip downtown to catch one of my beloved Indie flicks, the last movie I caught was back in April and well, it was Scream 4. Yes, you read that correctly, I spent good money to catch the fourth installation of the 1990s era horror sensation and well, actually it wasn't terrible. Certainly not Bee Charmer Review worthy, but if you are a fan of the slasher series, you'll likely enjoy it.

In any case, if you're wondering why the title of this post makes no reference to Wes Craven, I will tell you (probably to the delight of most) that I am not reviewing Scream 4, and instead will compose my thoughts on that Indie film I mentioned, pleasantly and appropriately titled, The Trip.

The Trip, starring British actor Steven Coogan (you may recognize him from The Good Guys) and Welsh funny man Rob Brydon, is the delightful tale of two friends who set off on a week's road trip throughout the picturesque northern country side of England, tasting gourmet food and wine (yes, I realize the oddity of this - British cuisine not always associated with the description "gourmet" but surprisingly some of the dishes do in fact look delicious), sleeping in quaint and sometimes famous inns (one locale the basis for Bronte's Wuthering Heights) and well - just enjoying themselves along the way.

And that certainly goes for us too - this riproarious comedy depends on these two friends, one-Coogan- a womanizing, not entirely unattractive in that Englishman with long hair and awkward speech, struggling to find that one break out acting role that will bring his career to new heights and his funnyman friend Rob (Brydon) who's pleasantly content with his young wife and baby at home and his positively expert impersonations, the likes of which include Al Pacino, Michael Caine, Billy Connelly, and Hugh Grant.

And the impersonations - let me just say, these are what make the film. As we follow these two on their journey (true, there is a bit of a more serious underlying story of Coogan trying to find meaning in his life), but it is the constant dueling of two that will start you and keep you rolling in the aisles. My favorites including the battle"this is how Michael Caine speaks" wherein each believes his impression reigns supreme (and it is truely difficult to say which one best characterizes the famed British actor) and Brydon's "small man in a box" (if you have the time, check out these two segments posted on Youtube).

Overall, a light and enjoyable film that may end in you standing in front of the mirror making your own effort to impersonate the best of the best!

The Trip is recommended for those inclined for a good laugh and all lovers of food!

The BC Review Rating - B+