Joshua Astrachan

Joshua Astrachan

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Paterson Review

Excellent

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into this offhanded comedy-drama. The central theme this time is poetry, as Jarmusch weaves the quiet everyday observations of William Carlos Williams' writings into a movie set in his hometown. It's a whimsical story packed with wry humour, thoughtful emotion and some spicy details in both the people and places.

It takes place in Paterson, New Jersey, but the title is also the name of the central character. Paterson (Adam Driver) is a bus driver who enjoys his daily routine with his girlfriend Laura (Golshifteh Farahani). As he scribbles poetry in his journal, Laura longs to be a cupcake-baking country singer. Their days are livened up by their expressive bulldog Marvin, who accompanies Paterson to the bar each night, where he chats with barman Doc (Barry Shabaka Henley) and the locals. Then one day his routine is broken, and a series of small events seem to conspire to change the course of his life.

There isn't actually much plot in this movie, which gently observes Paterson's repetitive days with a sense of sardonic wit. Driver and Farahani are terrific in their roles as dreamers whose lives are coloured with artistic expression. They're so cheerful, even in challenging situations, that we can't help but love them. By contrast, Paterson's boss (Rizwan Manji) has a list of complaints to recite every morning, and a couple in the bar (William Jackson Harper and Chasten Harmon) seem to be fighting about nothing. And then there are three other intriguing poets Paterson encounters over the course of the film: a rapper (Cliff Smith), a young girl (Sterling Jerins) and a Japanese tourist (Nagase).

Continue reading: Paterson Review

Short Term 12 Review


Excellent

Documentary-style authenticity gives this understated drama a real kick as it explores the fallout of child abuse from an angle we'd never expect. But this isn't the usual devastatingly gloomy approach, as filmmaker Cretton creates people and situations that are so honest that we have no trouble identifying with them. And he remains realistic and hopeful about the future.

The story centres on Grace (Larson), a counsellor at a short-term group home for at-risk teens. She's secretly in a relationship with her colleague Mason (Gallagher), and has a shock when she learns that she's pregnant. The real surprise is how this news dredges up memories of her own troubled childhood. But she doesn't have much time to take care of herself, because she, Mason and their coworkers (Malek and Beatriz) have a variety of kids who need their help. These include Marcus (Stanfield), who's about to turn 18 and move out on his own, and new arrival Jayden (Dever), who keeps trying to run away to see her abusive father.

Writer-director Cretton reveals Grace's personal history only as she's willing to face it herself. This allows Larson to deliver a remarkably transparent performance, as we see her confronting things she won't admit to herself. Her scenes with Gallagher are packed with jagged emotion as all of these issues swell up around them. And we can see that Mason's past in much more stable foster homes has given him more tools to handle these things.

Continue reading: Short Term 12 Review

Friends With Kids Review


Excellent
With a hilariously smart script and a terrific cast, this romantic comedy rises far above the pack, engaging us emotionally and intellectually while offering some telling observations on the state of modern relationships.

Jason (Scott) and his best friend Julie (Westfeldt) are a bit horrified when their coupled pals Leslie and Alex (Rudolph and O'Dowd) and Ben and Missy (Hamm and Wiig) have children. So they decide to have a child without the baggage of a relationship, freeing them to find the right person once they're already single parents. Their baby son is adorable, and raising him brings them closer as friends while allowing them to pursue romances with the hot Mary Jane (Fox) and the sexy Kurt (Burns). But no one else is buying it.

Continue reading: Friends With Kids Review

Joshua Astrachan

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Joshua Astrachan Movies

Paterson Movie Review

Paterson Movie Review

Unpredictable filmmaker Jim Jarmusch ricochets from his artful vampire movie Only Lovers Left Alive into...

Short Term 12 Movie Review

Short Term 12 Movie Review

Documentary-style authenticity gives this understated drama a real kick as it explores the fallout of...

Friends With Kids Movie Review

Friends With Kids Movie Review

With a hilariously smart script and a terrific cast, this romantic comedy rises far above...

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