Tag: Documentary

Image courtesy of Zipporah Films.

**** (out of 4)

Depictions of rural America frequently fall prey to two sorts of caricatures. On the one hand, films like Captain Fantastic portray non-urban environments as paradisiacal, suggesting that they embody a kind of emotional purity that you simply won’t find anywhere else. Meanwhile, ever since Donald Trump became president, many commentators have instead encouraged the notion that rural America is a haven for bigots, a backward part of the country that teems with rednecks and gun nuts.

In his latest documentary, Monrovia, Indiana, Frederick Wiseman repudiates both of these conceptions. Instead, through his depiction of everyday life in the titular town, he portrays rural America as a region that suffers from three particular afflictions – none of which have anything to do with Trump.

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

Image courtesy of CNN Films.

* ½ (out of 4)

It’s hard to overstate just how big an impact Ruth Bader Ginsburg has had on American society. Back in the ’70s, the now-85-year-old Supreme Court justice already earned a claim to fame with her advocacy in landmark cases like Frontiero v. Richardson. When she arrived at the high court in the ’90s, she only further cemented her place in history with her opinions in cases like U.S. v. Virginia. And now, in the sunset of her life, Ginsburg has also become the most unlikely of pop culture icons, a “notorious” celebrity who’s referenced just as often in Hollywood blockbusters as in law reviews.

Ginsburg’s story, in short, is the kind that practically begs to be recounted, dissected, and interpreted on the silver screen. Unfortunately, however, Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s new documentary RBG proves woefully ill-equipped for the task.

Reviews - New Releases/Festivals