The FilmWatcher Posts

Reviews - DVD/Streaming

Image courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.

Frozen River: **
Leave No Trace: ****

This week, we’re going to take a look at two films – one old, one new – that feature protagonists who live in poverty. The first, Courtney Hunt’s Frozen River (2008), tells the story of Ray (Melissa Leo), a mother of two who smuggles illegal immigrants across the U.S.-Canada border in upstate New York. (The premise may sound far-fetched; in reality, however, it’s anything but.) Conversely, Debra Granik’s new film, Leave No Trace, follows Will (Ben Foster) and Tom (Thomasin McKenzie), a homeless father and daughter who illegally live in a public park outside Portland, Oregon. (Again, unfortunately, the premise isn’t as improbable as it might seem.)

Reviews - Compare and Contrast Reviews - DVD/Streaming Reviews - New Releases/Festivals

Image courtesy of Focus Features.

*** (out of 4)

On the surface, Morgan Neville’s new documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, might appear to be yet another misbegotten piece of well-intentioned but cloying glop. The subject of the film, after all, is Fred Rogers, the television host who won the adoration of an entire generation of Americans with his childlike smile, aw-shucks persona, and ability to sing things like “I have always wanted to have a neighbor just like you!” The movie’s trailer, moreover, isn’t exactly an exercise in restraint. In its usage of sentimental music – plus blurbs that prominently feature words like “kindness” and “empathy” – it makes the film out to be the latest exemplar (after last May’s RBG) of nauseatingly fawning idolatry.

Fortunately, the good news is that Won’t actually turns out to be anything but schmaltzy, thanks in large part to Neville’s willingness to expose Rogers’ imperfections.

Reviews - New Releases/Festivals