Film · Longing · Movie Review · Movies · Uncategorized

A Star is Born – Review

MV5BMjE3MDQ0MTA3M15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwMDMwNDY2NTM@._V1_Bradley Cooper has established himself as one of the best actors in Hollywood, versatile and adaptable, he’s made a name for himself in his serious dramatic roles, as well as comedy. Now Cooper is flexing a different muscle, as his directorial debut A Star is Born drops and it has garnered significant critical praise, with the talk of Academy Awards swirling around the film like a cyclone.

Something’s Missing

Cooper’s deft direction brings out the authenticity of the life of a star, one that has everything, yet still finds themselves feeling hollow without the means to fill the void. There is a moment, early in the movie where Cooper’s Jack is playing a song for just a few people as he waits for Gaga’s Ally to get ready. The lyrics to the first verse are,

Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die
Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die
It takes a lot to change a man
Hell, it takes a lot to try
Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die

It’s a clear admission from the character that what he’s doing in life is not working, but that the road of change, even trying to change is hard. It takes everything in us as humans to make that 180, especially when we find ourselves so addicted to and wrapped up in things that it becomes almost impossible for us to see ourselves without those vices.

The theme is further accentuated when Ally shares the lyrics of a song she’s been writing with Jack in a parking lot and they capture the essence of the problem perfectly.

Tell me something boy
Aren’t you tired tryin’ to fill that void?
Or do you need more
Ain’t it hard keepin’ it so hardcore?

And the later they sing the song together and the first first verse completes the theme,

Tell me somethin’ girl
Are you happy in this modern world?
Or do you need more
Is there somethin’ else you’re searchin’ for?

r0rtbf8blilknpm8m8xuAll the fame, money, sex, drugs, things, even people, cannot fill the hole that burns so brightly inside of us. We, like Jack are left trying everything under the sun and yet left wanting. Like Solomon in Ecclesiastes you can almost hear the characters in the movie saying, “Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity….What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.”

What is fascinating is that the answer to this problem is actually found in the song that Jack sings in the bar as he waits for Ally, sadly, that verse is never sung except on the soundtrack. It goes,

Nobody speaks to God these days
Nobody speaks to God these days
I’d like to think he’s lookin’ down and laughin’ at our ways
Nobody speaks to God these days.

It’s there, the answer to the longing and searching. God. He waits for us to speak to him, to look to him for the fulfillment that can only come from him. Yet he doesn’t laugh at our ways, he cries. Jesus did,  “’O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate.'” 

The movie paints the portrait of a life spent in the futility of longing and it is heartbreaking.

The Movie

Cooper’s debut as director is authentic and real. The film feels as raw as it is characters, which is exactly what is needed. The performances are stellar. Cooper and Gaga shine in their roles. Cooper has always found ways to disappear into his performance, but it is Gaga that truly transcends. Her persona of Lady Gaga is hard to forget, but her performance here makes you forget all of that and see only the character of Ally. Sam Elliott as Cooper’s brother is perfect casting.

Bradley Cooper has created a wonderful remake, showing that you can bring something fresh and timely to old material if one pours their heart and soul into it. The film is affecting, with resonant themes, incredible performances, great music and will leave you with a melancholy that’s hard to shake. A Star is Born is rated 4.25 out of 5 stars.

 

Film · Loneliness · Longing · Love · Movie Review · Movies · Uncategorized

Eighth Grade – Review

EG_final-onlineBo Burnham’s directorial debut Eighth Grade is the most uncomfortable, real and important movie of the summer. The film follows Kayla Day as eighth grade comes to a close and life is on the brink of another titanic shift from middle school to high school. What follows is an intimate look at the life of kids today, who must navigate the digital deluge all while trying to figure out who they are and who they’ll be.

All Too Real

Eighth Grade is a raw movie. It offers an uncompromising and unflattering look at the state of adolescence in the United States in the 2010s. These are the children of the digital revolution, with iDevices in their hands before they can walk. For them there has never been a moment without some form of entertainment at their fingertips. Constantly inundated with images and messages, their perceptions of reality are filtered through Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook. The struggle to be “cool”, with its ever-changing standard, is real. The digital domain is pervasive, so that even when these kids are hanging out with each other, it’s usually half-heartedly, lest they miss something coming in from the never-ending stream of social media conscientiousness. It’s a lonely way to live, constantly being reminded that you’re never going to be good enough, skinny enough, funny, hip or cool enough.

It’s said that information is power, yet this generation has all the information of the world in the palm of their hands but lacks the wisdom or experience to use it well. They know way to much, way too early and are in turn forced to think about and deal with things they are just not mature enough to handle. This 24/7 marination in pop culture  makes it difficult for anything else to impact them on the same level. How can parents hope to have anywhere close to the same influence when time is not on their side? The movie does not have many answers, but it does shine a light on something parents are going to have to start addressing as the film shows just how harmful these devices of unlimited potential can be on children.

Unconditional Love

Throughout the film Kayla makes YouTube videos. They are little vignettes of advice on all the things she portrays herself to be an expert on, yet the rest of the film shows she’s anything but. She’s constantly being told that she should be all of these different things through social media and, consequently, she is lost. She has no idea who she is or wants to be beyond what she’s told is “cool”. So each day she works to earn the friendship and respect of others based on what she thinks people want. It’s exhausting for her.

Throughout the film, the one person who’s tried to truly interact with Kayla has been her father. He tries to talk to her and get to know who she is, but she constantly rejects his help and love until the end of the film. When Kayla finds herself at the end of her rope, she finally asks for her father’s help to burn something in the back yard. As they sit there, watching her sixth grade time capsule burn, he asks her what they are doing. She answers that she’s burning her hopes and dreams. She then asks him if he is sad to have her as a daughter. It’s a powerful moment as he begins to tell her how much joy she brings him, how unconditionally she is loved and that he’s always been honored to have her as his daughter. In that moment she climbs into his lap and is held in the arms of love. This moment brings a change in Kayla. She lets go of her videos and the need to be “cool”. It’s almost as if her father’s words of acceptance have nestled into her heart and freed her from the need to earn the acceptance of others.

There is a bit of beautiful Biblical truth in this scene. Isaiah reminds us that all of us, like sheep have gone astray, we’ve searched for everything under the sun to fulfill us and make us whole. Yet there is only one thing that can and because of this God has laid on Christ, the sin of us all, to allow us the opportunity, like prodigals to run back into his arms. Kayla’s rejection of “cool” and acceptance of love brings to mind Psalm 139, we are wonderfully made by a heavenly Father to be something unique, fully known and fully loved by the creator of the universe. Truth and reality are not defined by the forever-changing concept of “cool” but by God, who is the same yesterday, today and forever and his love never ends.

Conclusion

If you are someone that works with youth, if you are a parent, if you have children this age or will have, this movie is one you should see. In fact, if you have children this age, you should see this movie with them and talk about it together. This is an important film that takes seriously the ways in which our changing world is impacting the coming generations. It’s painful to watch sometimes, but ultimately rewarding. Eighth Grade is rated 4.5 out of 5.

 

Christianity · Faith · Film · Lady Bird · Longing · Movie Review · Movies · Uncategorized

Lady Bird – Review

vMYzdmdmednGmEr0FZaLFZj2ptZLady Bird is the new film from director Greta Gerwig in a semi-autobiographical work staring Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Mefcalf (Gerwig has said nothing in the movie happened to her, but the feelings and core of the movie did). The film is an exploration of the troubled relationship between a mother and daughter, struggling to find understand each other.

Longing

Lady Bird is not actually her name, it’s the name she’s given herself. She’s determined to find out who she is and be that, on her own, with no help from others. She has a profound longing in her soul to be known, loved, understood by herself and others. Her “Lady Bird” moniker is one of her many ways of trying to satisfy this lacking sense of being and belonging. Yet, as we see throughout the movie, her attempts to satiate her desire is through molding herself into what others want. She tries to be what different boys want, reading their same books, smoking what they smoke and this is not limited to just boys. Lady Bird does the same thing with girls, trying to be their friend but “hating” what they hate, telling lies about where she lives to seem “cooler” and shunning her actual life. Her search for meaning leads her from one quicksand to the next, continually finding herself drowning in the disappointment of another false identity.

She works to not only define herself through others, but wrestles with this internally. She  wants to be good at things she already knows she’s not. There’s a brilliant scene that exemplifies this when she’s talking to one the nun’s, at her Catholic school,

Lady Bird: What I’d really like is to be on Math Olympiad.
The Nun: But math isn’t something you’re terribly strong in.
Lady Bird: That we know of yet.

Of course we already do know she’s dismal at math, since we’ve already seen her in math class and the grade she received proves the nun’s point. Lady Bird, like many of us, seeks to be everything she is not because what she is, seems completely incomplete.

Lady Bird is not the only one with this sense of longing, permeating their lives. Her mother grapples with working double shifts at the hospital in an attempt to keep the family afloat. Her father’s depression has worsened because of his inability to find a job, in an culture that sees him as too old to contribute. Lady Bird’s best friend pines over her teacher who is nice to her,  a wishful desire for a father figure that is lacking her life. The film is replete with characters who are aching for something they might not even be able to put a finger on.

The end of the movie beautifully brings all this longing into focus. Lady Bird has gotten her wish to attend college in New York, “…where culture is…”. She’s at a party and starts a conversation with a guy, asks him if he believes in God, to which he says no, because it’s ridiculous and her reply is most interesting. She says, “People go by the names their parents made up for them, but they don’t believe in God.” The next morning, she wakes up on a hospital bed, not remembering how she got there. She leaves and as she walks the streets, asks a man what day it is, he say’s Sunday. She finds her way to a church and as she’s there, you can see the wheels turning in her head. Maybe life is not about being what others want me to be, maybe it’s about being who I was made to be.

To accentuate the point she calls her parents and leaves them a message on the answering machine. She calls herself by her given name Christine for the first time in the movie. She’s dropped all pretense about who she is and begun to accept it. Where she is from, how she was raised, her parents, all of it. It’s a powerful moment.

DI_0SwQVoAAQ9DzA bit earlier in the movie, she’s asked her mother if she likes her. Her mother says to her,

Marion McPherson: I want you to be the very best version of yourself that you can be.
Lady Bird: What if this is the best version?

At the end, Christine accepts who she is, for who she is and it seems that it will actually free her to finally become the best version of herself. She recognizes the name that her parents gave her, which earlier she equated with a belief in God. Maybe she’s realized that the longing to be loved, known and accepted can be fulfilled, if she’ll will take hold of it. She’s been fully known from the beginning of her life. In that conversation with her mother, she wanted her mother to say something nice and her mother ask her, “Do you want me to lie?”. The ugly truth about love is that it does not lie to protect our feelings, it pushes us to see our faults and loves us too much to leave us in them. It’s only by knowing the bad news about who we are that we can be ready to accept the good news.  Tim Keller puts it this way,

“The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

Conclusion

The more I think about the movie the more I like it and that’s always a good sign. It’s well acted and moving. I highly recommend Lady Bird, it’s rated four and a half out of five stars.