In case you haven’t heard, there’s a live-action Barbie movie in the works featuring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. I’m kidding! Of course, you’ve heard—it’s only been absolutely everywhere for the last several weeks.
The film isn’t being released until next summer, but it’s already primed to be a blockbuster hit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m beyond excited about Barbie. Like every other millennial woman on the planet, I’ll be spending July 21, 2023 squarely in the theater, reveling in all the pink and sparkly nostalgia on screen. After all, I did play with barbie dolls well past the age it was considered socially appropriate. But, with so much public anticipation, are we actually setting the movie up for failure?
The optimist in me wants to say ‘No! Of course not!’
Sure, the famed doll has had its fair share of controversy over the years. Remember when Mattel decided ‘Oreo Barbie’ was a good idea? And not long after that PR disaster, they introduced ‘Mexican Barbie,’ which came with a traditional chiapaneco dress, passport, and chihuahua. Or how about the fact that Barbie’s extremely unrealistic physical proportions work to promote an unhealthy body image in girls? If she were a real woman, her BMI would be so low that she likely wouldn’t be able to menstruate (I guess that explains why we’ve never seen a ‘Period Barbie.’)
Seeing as Barbie is being brought to life by Greta Gerwig, the Oscar-nominated filmmaker behind Little Women and Lady Bird, I think we can safely assume that this Barbie won’t be nearly as problematic. Gerwig, who co-wrote the screenplay with Marriage Story director Noah Baumbach, is known for her progressive and feminist approach to storytelling.
On top of that, Barbie boasts one hell of an all-star cast. I mean, Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling were practically born to play Barbie and Ken. Just look at all the photos of them on-set! Rollerblading through the beach in bright neon, 80’s-style workout gear. Or strolling down the street in matching his-and-hers cowboy outfits.
Lest you start to worry about this stereotypical blonde, blue-eyed depiction, though, other, more diverse versions of Ken and Barbie will appear in the film. So far, that includes Simu Liu, Ncuti Gatwa, Issa Rae, and Hari Nef. America Ferrera, Kate McKinnon, and Will Ferrell are also on the cast list, but so far, it’s not entirely clear what their roles will be.
And that is one of the biggest issues with the constant hype surrounding Barbie—for all the on-set photos and publicity being generated, we still don’t actually know what the movie is about. On IMBD, it’s described as “a live-action film based on the popular ‘Barbie’ franchise.” Which tells us exactly nothing. Elsewhere, the plot is said to center around a Barbie doll who leaves ‘Barbieland’ and enters the real world. Details which are only slightly more insightful and bring to mind images of Tyra Banks in Life Size.
Other than that, no one really knows what to expect with Barbie. Having a screenplay by Gerwig and Baumbach, I’d be tempted to categorize it as some sort of heartbreaking and tender drama. (And, yes, I know that Marriage Story is technically billed as a Comedy/Drama/Romance, but I failed to see any comedic or romantic undertones in that one.) But a leaked on-set video of Ryan Gosling’s hilariously high-pitched Ken-doll scream would suggest a more satirical take.
While either of those options sounds promising, the fact that people are so excited about it already is risky. Right now, the expectations for Barbie are sky-high, and it could easily fail to live up to all this hype. Every other day we’re getting tiny morsels of Barbie intel. And while I for one love knowing that all female Barbies got together for a slumber party, I do think they could stand to scale it back just a smidge.
Remember what happened with Suicide Squad? Constant stories about Jared Leto’s method acting on-set and an A-list ensemble cast couldn’t stop it from being an absolute critical and box-office flop. Compare that to films like Get Out and This Is The End. Both were unexpectedly amazing, in part because they weren’t expected. We weren’t bombarded with insider information and on-set photos to obsess over for a year prior to the release.
Barbie has the potential to be the next Lego Movie. It also has the potential to be the next Indiana Jones 4. And while I, too, love the photos of Ryan Gosling with bleached hair and hot pink shorts, I think seeing him decked out as Ken will be better on the big screen.
Image: MEGA/GC Images via Getty Images
Well, well, well, look who it is. It’s me. And Vanessa Hudgens. Playing 3 different versions of Vanessa Hudgens. Yes, people, that’s right. I am back with the recap nobody (except literally my one friend) asked for. At this point, I consider my annual (or however often these movies come out) Princess Switch recap a rite of passage. I will warn you in advance, buckle up for this one. This movie was an aggressive hour and 45 minutes. And also, it’s been so long since Princess Switch 2 that I *may* have forgotten some of the details. We don’t know what we’re in for with this one, but it will be over-the-top and Vanessa’s accents will be bad. I will say, if they add a fourth Vanessa Hudgens to this movie, I swear. I can only suspend my disbelief so much, ya know?
We open with a quick recap (thank god) and a note that Fiona, after impersonating the Duchess and trying to throw the whole country of Montenaro into disarray, only got sentenced to community service, not prison. I’m sure that’s something that won’t come back to haunt the country, right? (Things we say about January 6th.)
This year, Stacey is co-chairing an International Christmas Festival with Margaret. I gotta say, there’s no way that would fly in 2021. A holiday festival, at least?? In any case, the Vatican has loaned them the “Star of Peace”, “a priceless relic that once belonged to St. Nicholas himself,” which is going on top of the big Christmas tree. Surely, there’s no way this star is valuable, and also no way Fiona would find herself at this festival and try to steal the star, right? RIGHT??
Kevin and Margaret are a happy couple once again, although noticeably absent? Kevin’s daughter. They FaceTime her, and is it just me or did this girl age 10 years between movies? I could have sworn she was like, in middle school.
What’s funny to me is that while Stacey and Margaret are planning the acts for the International Christmas Festival (we have to have a yodeler because they “don’t want to offend the Swiss ambassador”), Margaret remarks, “we don’t want to offend anyone.” Oh, is that why you’re having an INTERNATIONAL CHRISTMAS FESTIVAL in the year 2021? Good luck with that!
But the planning is interrupted when we learn there’s “a bit of a situation” involving the police.
That “situation”? You guessed it. The Star of Peace is gone — the guards were drugged and the Star stolen.
Margaret: Just please promise us you’ll get it back in time for the ceremony.
Chief of Police: I’m afraid that would be a pie crust promise — easily made, easily broken.
Oh, god. So this is the type of dialogue we’re working with. Who on EARTH has ever called something a “pie crust promise”? Also aren’t pie crusts kind of hard to make by hand? All I know is you have to smash a lot of graham crackers and mix it with a looot of butter, or literally make a dough from scratch. This isn’t Great British Bake-Off. Easily made for whomst??
Stacey’s boyf (I am really sorry, I forgot his name. Prince Phillip? That feels right) is like, “no pressure, but when the crown jewels of Belgravia were stolen, my father was nearly deposed. Don’t stress Margaret out! She’s already dealing with enough, thinking police are effective, even when they have clues or leads (of which they currently have none). The thieves apparently managed to smash a whole glass case and not leave ANY forensics, which seems…. literally impossible.
Stacey is like, “you know what this means, right? If the police have no leads, that means it’s up to us to come up with some.”
Stacey: What we need is someone with information the police don’t have
…Right. You should go right to Quantico with those amazing detective skills of yours.
So they’re going to enlist Fiona’s help them solve this crime. They’re going to bust her out of the convent at which she’s currently serving community service. Man, the Montenaro justice department is weird.
Lol this bitch is working in a convent with a full sequined hat on, red lipstick, and sky-high heels. Why would you want to mop floors in that? Just who, exactly, is she trying to impress??? Gotta stunt on those nuns, I guess.
Fiona arrives to the palace with her squad in what I can only describe as one of those headbands with antennae attached to it that you’d use for your 2nd grade Bug’s Life costume. What was the style direction on this girl? All sequined everything, and the more deranged the headpiece, the better.
I have to believe that Vanessa’s stylist is still trolling her for those early comments she made about covid. Ugh, Fiona’s still calling her cousins “cuzzy”. Here’s how this should be handled:
The next morning as Fiona updates the Good Guys on her progress, she’s in this like, brocade minidress. She’s really busting out the Fashion Pass first thing in the a.m. Honestly, respect. There’s a brief, bad joke where Prince Philip misunderstands what “the GOAT” means (he thinks they’re talking about a literal animal), that could have really been left behind in 2019. I’m starting to see why this movie is just shy of two hours. We’re 12 minutes in, and I’m on my second page of notes.
So Princess Fiona gets driven to this castle, where she meets some guy who’s like a cross between a mad scientist and Troy Bolton (because he has a basketball court inside his castle, obviously). His name, which I will forget imminently, is Peter Maxwell. He’s managed to dig up the Interpol case file and finds that the drug used to knock out the guards was purchased at some crack pharmacist’s in Geneva. Our wannabe Penelope Garcia over here manages to track down the pharmacy’s CCTV footage to locate an image of our suspect, who just so happens to work for a billionaire hotel tycoon. Why did a billionaire steal the Star of Christmas? Because he likes collecting shit.
I’m just spitballing here, but wouldn’t it not be in your best interest as a hotel tycoon to steal shit for a hobby? Cause, ya know, you wouldn’t be able to enjoy any of the perks of being a hotel tycoon from behind bars?
They can’t go to the police because “Hunter has friends everywhere”. The only thing they can do? You guessed it, obviously: steal it back by infiltrating his big party. What kind of Ocean’s Eleven knock-off is this? Everyone notices the chemistry between Peter and Fiona, because they are about as subtle as a whack on the head.
Stacey: That bad boy had a thing for you, huh?
Fiona: We had a bit of a steamy. But he’s not my type.
A. Bit. Of. A. Steamy???? Please somebody find me the screenwriter for this movie. I just want to talk.
Anyway, some important context about Peter: he was accused of diamond theft when working at Interpol, but those charges were dismissed. He’s doing this consulting work for free.
Peter: Let’s just say, I have my reasons
*30 second back-and-forth of Peter and Fiona looking at each other*
Good god, could these filmmakers be any LESS subtle?? Me and my intelligence are insulted.
Anyway, Fiona’s trying to set a honeytrap by running into Hunter while he’s walking his dog, dressed up like a bootleg Cruella DeVille. Unfortunately, the dog chases after a squirrel, pulling Fiona into a bush. Well, that didn’t work. Time for Plan B, which I guess is just showing up at some party he’s at.
I will say, this party looks lit. I will also say, the cronies sitting on couches reading newspapers and wearing Bluetooth earpieces DURING A PARTY is not at all subtle. I mean. THAT’s your cover? Being the guy reading at a party?
Hunter spots Fiona and she’s like, “what are you doing here?” Uh, aren’t you at his house? Hunter is smarter than he looks, because he’s like “ok, what’s the real reason you’re here?” Fiona makes up some lie—is it a lie?—about having spent almost all of her inheritance and wanting to turn the Pembroke estate into a hotel. She secures an invite for the party.
I also have to say that I have like an hour left of this movie and I’m already sick of Vanessa Hudgens’ approximation of a classy British accent. It sounds like how the Watch What Crappens guys do impressions of Karen Huger. Real ones know. I actually might put a candy cane through my eyeballs before this is over. It’s only funny when Ronnie and Ben do it.
Oh so now we’re flashing back to Fiona’s childhood, where her mom can’t be bothered to spend the holidays with her? I’m sorry, is this a villain origin story movie or the fucking Princess Switch?? I don’t want my impeccably dressed yet supremely annoying villain to have any depth, what do you think this is??
Also, idk, “I tried to take over a country because Mummy didn’t pay me enough attention as a kid” is not really the justification Fiona thinks it is.
So back to Baby Fiona, who is like, moping to Baby Peter about how her mom doesn’t love her because she didn’t want to spend Christmas together. Peter is like, “look outside, that’s the North Star. No matter what happens just look up there and I’ll be looking there too.” Does my memory deceive me or did they just rip this out of Love Actually or something? I also definitely got the will-they-won’t-they-they-definitely-will plotline without this extended walk down memory lane. See: the 30-second back-and-forth of them staring into each other’s eyes.
And now we have a scene where these idiots are practicing for their Ocean’s Eleven heist with some fake lasers that they have to limbo through. Fiona is like “watch and learn” and then just proceeds to do a sexy yoga flow through the lasers? Lmao, going to try that at my next heist. Who knew the secret was Downward Dog into Pigeon pose?
Peter is fully turned on, though. This man would not be able to handle a Y7 class.
That night, Peter and Fiona set off into a helicopter while Margaret watches from a window like, “Wow they really are just adorable, aren’t they” Margaret, need I remind you that this girl tried to kidnap you and STEAL your COUNTRY??? And you’re just happy for her that she’s finding love??
Fiona and Peter go to some Christmas market, where Fiona has this zinger that she definitely didn’t plan for hours: “Looks like Santa’s elves smoked a little too much mistletoe.” If someone said that to me IRL I would immediately cut them out of my life. Peter asks Fiona for a dance and her response is, “You’re just determined to smother us in holiday cheese, aren’t you?” Ma’am, the only abundance of cheese is spewing straight out of YOUR mouth. Good god, who wrote this dialogue?
In another montage that could have been left on the cutting room floor because I don’t have all day, Fiona and Peter dance in the middle of this Christmas market’s ice skating rink to a country song. And they’re about to kiss when she wipes out out of nowhere, and instead of being like, “ouch!” they both laugh hysterically, splayed out on the ice. Sure.
Meanwhile, I don’t like this foreshadowing I feel is happening with Kevin, where he kisses Margaret goodbye before he drives off, promising he’ll be back soon. He will be back soon, though? Right?? Nothing bad is going to happen to Zaddy Kevin, on Christmas no less, RIGHT???
Okay, now HERE is how the switch will happen: Reggie was supposed to be in Ocean’s Eleven but got hurt while trying to repel down a building. Classic Reggie. The only person skilled enough to replace him is (remember the yoga moves)? Fiona. Only problem? She’s supposed to be distracting Hunter at his party. So Margaret will pretend to be Fiona and take the role of distracting Hunter at the party.
Prince Philip (I still haven’t learned his name and at this point, I don’t think I will) is vehemently against the plan and Stacy and Margaret are for it. What ensues next is a bootleg Princess Diaries montage where Fiona tries to teach Margaret how to walk and act like her.
Fiona and Margaret practice tango-ing and Peter walks in and is like, “hold on, the frame is all wrong,” so he cuts in and starts dancing with Fiona. My dude, she is not the one who needs the frame reference. Margaret does. Stop seducing and start helping!
Well, Fiona and Peter get into a fight because, as Peter puts it: “Whenever you start to feel something for someone, you pull away.” Oh blah blah, poor little evil rich girl is too scared to form genuine connections because her mom bailed on Christmas. Play me a sad song on the world’s smallest violin. I’m sorry, if Fiona is the future of this Princess Switch franchise, I will simply not abide! Absent parents or not, are we supposed to care about someone who just so thoroughly sucks? I’m really not even talking about the greed and identity theft, it’s literally everything else about her (except her fashion sense, which is pretty dope).
Andddd we have a problem: Princess Fiona’s disciplinary review at the monastery (things that totally happen) is randomly pushed up to tonight. Fiona HAS to be there. But she also has to be with Hunter. And navigating the laser field. Good thing we have another spare Fiona!
Okay so looks like I was wrong and his name is Edward. Whoops! No, I will not be using find + replace to fix any of this.
In any case, our shitty Charlie’s Angels over here have managed to break into the control room and have located the Star of Peace. (I do realize I called it the Star of Christmas elsewhere… again, go with it.) I wonder why they don’t just turn off the lasers if they’re already in this room that has all these servers? Too much logic for this movie, I guess.
Once inside the library, we run into a snafu: the keypad that was supposed to be there isn’t there, and Hunter is about to come into the library! But he’s too busy berating some champagne girl dressed as a slutty Marie Antoinette to notice. What is the theme of this party?
They find the keypad, because otherwise the movie would end right here. Which it honestly could, this thing is an hour and 45 minutes. But anyway, over in the monastery, Stacy is not killing it as Fiona. Her accent is just… not good. Prince Edward decides to act as her character witness.
He’s like, “she did kidnap my wife but she has a really good heart” — spoken like every defense for a rich white defendant.
Back at the heist, what do you know, the code to the keypad is Fiona’s birthday.
Time for the laser minefield! The moment we’ve been training for, and the Christmas Star or whatever tf we’re calling it is smack dab in the middle of all the lasers.
Back at the party, Margaret is trying to hide her revulsion for Hunter with a duck face (it’s not not working) and as a diversion from having to go upstairs with him, she suggests they tango. While this happens, our two criminal lovebirds are doing a tango of their own between the lasers. And Fiona’s sentence in the monastery gets commuted. Mother Superior cannot hide her excitement. Tbh, I don’t blame her.
Real Fiona and Peter turn off the lasers and Fiona picks up the star. Just then, the alarm starts blaring. It’s all very:
After like five minutes of fucking around and eating, the security guys finally do their jobs and decide to address whatever is setting off the alarm. Hunter realizes something is amiss, and Margaret tries to distract him — with a kiss! Ooooh, you’d better hope Kev isn’t the jealous type.
In the mad dash to get out, the thieves go all “every Fiona for herself” and leave Margaret behind. No honor among thieves, amiright?
Oh, and Peter LITERALLY left his calling card at the scene of the crime. Which I guess he stayed to create a diversion? But if you’re physically there, why leave your business card? Was he using the heist as a branding opp?
They all make it back to the palace, but Fiona doesn’t have the star! Peter switched it out with a basketball at some point. Ok but how did you not notice him carrying a basketball through a heist? Was he just walking around with it under his shirt and you were like, “well, the guy does love Christmas cookies…”
Well it looks like Peter has something up his sleeve that Fiona refuses to tell the others about? She goes to meet him at her old school the next morning before fleeing to Capri with her cronies. She meets him upstairs, and how is the school chill with letting this grown-ass man just hang out there and set up a meeting? Peter’s like, “I just wanted to get your attention. I’ll give you the star, I just need you to pop over to the dining hall.”
He says, “she wants to talk to you,” so I’m guessing her mother is waiting there. And again, I wonder how the school is like, sure, go ahead use our boarding school for this forced family reunion. I guess they are rich, so that pretty much explains it.
Damn, Peter tells Fiona that this is the end of the line for them. Nah, this has to be the part in the rom-com where a simple misunderstanding almost causes the two main characters to break up forever.
Haha, I was right! It is her mom! Am I smart or is this movie extremely predictable? Don’t answer that.
Ok I am Team Fiona on this because the mom is like, “I’ve spent the last decade traveling the world but it wasn’t until I was on a retreat in an Ashram that I realized my life was empty.” This just might be the most realistic rich-people depiction we’ve gotten in this movie so far.
Oh and it’s all supposed to be ok that this lady abandoned her daughter because Fiona’s father was cruel to her? And because she kept a Christmas card Fiona drew for her as a kid, we’re supposed to forget all this abandonment? Okay, maybe that backstory did work on me, because now I’m soft. Or perhaps these filmmakers do know what they are doing? Much to think about.
Honestly, respect to Fiona for not letting her mom pull this “Oh it’s Christmas, I was a terrible mom but can’t you forgive me after I put in no work to show I’ve changed and just apologized one time?” The Ramona Singer of it all…
Oh what the hell?? Fiona walks outside but then immediately turns around and sobs into her mom’s arms. BOOOOO.
So Fiona and her mom are staying at the palace for Christmas. Fiona’s like, “is that all right?” And Margaret’s like, “All right? You’re family.” And again I say, are you part where she kidnapped you and tried to steal your royal title??? Over on r/AmITheAsshole people cut off family members for way less. I am just saying.
The Christmas Festival looks great. Hunter is arrested. Everybody’s happy, blah blah blah. And who should show up, but Peter? Of course. He and Fiona both apologize to each other. IDK why this has to take such a morbid turn: “we don’t know how much time we have left with the people we care about” seems to be the throughline. Like, is somebody gonna die?
Lol for the third time they get cock-blocked on the kiss, because as they start leaning in, the trumpets start sounding for an announcement from Margaret. I never get why people in movies can’t just kiss anyway. Like, people in New York City streets will kiss despite people screaming about the apocalypse, an ambulance driving through them, you name it.
The lights on the tree turn on, the star is a hit. Hooray! We did it!
Ok finally Fiona and Peter get to kiss. Good for them. And that’s the end. Overall, turning a Christmas movie into a bit of a heist movie was an interesting choice. Did I hate it? Jury’s still out. Will I watch another one of these? Only if Fiona isn’t set up to be the protagonist. See you next year, cuzzies!
Mark Mainz/NETFLIX © 2021 (4); Netflix; Giphy (4)
Every once in a while, a story comes along that is so touching, so inspirational, so beautiful that it makes you stop and think about how you view the world. Dear Evan Hansen, as it turns out, is not that story, though scores of obsessed fans of the Broadway show could’ve had me fooled. If you’re unfamiliar, here’s a brief rundown of the actual plot of this real story that someone thought was a good idea (spoiler alert, but who really cares?): After Troubled Teen™ Connor Murphy takes his own life, friendless Evan Hansen claims that he was the subject of Connor’s suicide note, and constructs an entire web of lies to pretend he was secretly best friends with Connor. He grows close with the Murphy family and starts dating Connor’s sister Zoe, whom he had a crush on before any of this started. Inevitably, this doesn’t end well.
So there you have it—an inspirational story about how you can lie your way to a new life in 12 easy steps! Before the movie even premiered, it was being maligned for the nepotism-fueled casting of its lead character, but watching it, I felt extremely uncomfortable,, and not just because I got rained on on the way to the theater. If you want to see it, I’d recommend bringing a flask or an edible, but be warned: it’s a bumpy ride. Here are some of my lingering questions after seeing the musical misfire of the season.
Why Does He Look Like That?
By now, we’ve all heard the complaints that Ben Platt looks too old to be playing a high schooler, and while I certainly don’t disagree, there’s something else even more upsetting about his physical appearance. Simply put, he looks like an embalmed corpse. Somewhere in the process of trying to make him look younger, they landed on a gray-ish skin tone and sweaty sheen that’s really not doing him any favors. No one else in the cast suffers from the undead filter, but it’s particularly noticeable in Platt’s scenes with Amandla Stenberg, whose makeup is like, a little too flawless at all times. Has no one involved with this movie ever seen a teenager?
How Does The Speech Go Viral?
One of the movie’s most baffling sequences is when Evan’s speech at the memorial for Connor ends up online and goes extremely viral, racking up millions of views and bringing in thousands of dollars for the Connor Project. But here’s the thing. In the movie, the speech takes the form of “You Will Be Found,” easily one of the best songs in the score—but the song doesn’t actually happen in the real world. Instead, we’re supposed to believe that Evan fell in the middle of the stage, then stood up and delivered a spoken performance powerful enough to get the attention of people around the world? No, I refuse to believe it. In the real world, this might have gone “viral” in a local moms Facebook group, but that’s about it.
What Are Amy Adams & Julianne Moore Doing Here?
Once upon a time, I guess this was supposed to be a movie with awards buzz, but those days are long past, and this movie’s cast feels like a wasteland of people whose agents told them this would be a slam dunk. Why else would Oscar winner Julianne Moore sign up for a minor role as a tired mom whose only semi-standout moment is a song where she says “truck” half a dozen times? And God bless Amy Adams, because she really tries her best here, but combine this with other recent misfires Hillbilly Elegy and The Woman in the Window, and you have to wonder what’s happening. The woman has six Oscar nominations, let her burst free from this mediocrity!
Where Are The Consequences?
Evan can’t keep the plates spinning forever, and after Alana posts the fake suicide note, he finally comes clean about the fact that he’s been pathologically lying for months. Obviously, Connor’s family is upset, and Evan’s relationship with Zoe (which is built on lies, remember) hits the rocks. But as for any tangible consequences, those don’t really happen. Evan goes back to being unpopular at school, but we never even get the satisfaction of Alana confronting him over his betrayal. He takes a gap year before college, but there’s no inkling that colleges might actually have an issue with this whole situation. And honestly, I feel like the police would have had some questions for Evan, considering he raised $100,000 based on a fraudulent campaign of lies. But hey, I’m sure eating lunch alone for the last week of senior year was rough, too.
Image: VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images
Presented by SkinnyPop
Well, you did it. Over the last year-plus of pandemic living, as you got more and more desperate for stimulation, you gradually caved and subscribed to every possible streaming service. Somehow, these monthly fees actually do add up, but while you’re busy being too lazy to cancel any of them, you might as well make the most of your plethora of options. The only problem is, sometimes getting to the good sh*t on these streaming libraries takes way more effort than it seems like it should. To kickstart your viewing, I’ve made this list of the best (read: my favorite) movies currently available on seven of the top streaming services. Go!
Netflix – ‘Lady Bird’
These days, I mostly just use Netflix to watch the same three seasons of Grey’s Anatomy (I miss George, sue me), but they still have a solid movie selection if you do a little digging. Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s hilarious-yet-painful coming of age story, is an evergreen rewatch option, and I’m honestly thinking about watching it right now before I write the rest of this article.
Hulu – ‘Nomadland’
Somehow it’s only been two months since the Oscars, but we all know time isn’t real. Nomadland won several top prizes during this year’s award season, but if you weren’t in a movie mood at the time, you may have missed it. Well, it’s streaming on Hulu, and it really lives up to the hype. I’ll warn you, the beautiful Southwestern scenery will probably make you want to plan a trip, but now that you’re all vaxxed up, you actually can!
HBO Max – ‘In The Heights’
One of my favorite movies of the year so far, In The Heights is probably best seen in theaters, but if you’re feeling lazy, it’s also available to stream on HBO Max. In The Heights is the musical that put Lin-Manuel Miranda on the map, so if you or a loved one won’t shut up about Hamilton, this is an absolute must-see. Hot take: personally, I prefer In The Heights over Hamilton, but you can decide for yourself after watching.
Amazon Prime – ‘Sound of Metal’
Like Nomadland, Sound of Metal is a 2020 award season favorite that you can stream right now. Riz Ahmed is incredible in this movie about a drummer who struggles to figure out how to live his life after losing his hearing. It sounds super depressing, and I guess it kind of is, but in a good way?
Peacock – ‘Jurassic Park’
Even if you’re the kind of person who rolls your eyes at big blockbuster movies, there’s no denying that the original Jurassic Park is a classic. This movie has everything: giant dinosaurs, a sweeping score and scenery, and Laura Dern! I dare you not to enjoy it. Peacock also has the second and third movies, which are not nearly as good, but sometimes you just need to watch all three.
Paramount+ – ‘Spontaneous’
Paramount+ has only been around for a few months, but the service has a lot more to offer than just reboots of iCarly and Rugrats. They’re adding a lot of great movies from the Paramount catalog, and one of my personal favorites is Spontaneous. It has many of the trappings of your typical high school rom-com, but things get real very quickly when members of the senior class start spontaneously combusting. It sounds dumb, but it works, I promise.
Disney+ – ‘Hidden Figures’
With a wide assortment of classics from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars, it’s usually not difficult to find something to watch on Disney+, but there are some surprising titles in the mix if you dig a little deeper. Like, who knew that Hidden Figures was on there? This true story about three Black women working as NASA mathematicians during the Space Race works for whatever mood you’re in, and whomever you’re watching with.
Images: Surface/Unsplash; Giphy (3); Searchlight Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, Amazon Prime Video, Paramount Movies / YouTube
What’s the biggest scam you’ve fallen for lately, and why was it watching The Woman In The Window? The trailer for Netflix’s latest thriller starring Amy Adams makes it seem like a twisty thriller along the likes of The Girl on the Train (you thought I’d compare it to Gone Girl, didn’t you, but let me be clear that my expectations were not quite so high). Although the reviews were not good, I tuned in anyway, the nearly two-hour version of your S.O. handing the milk carton to you and saying, “smell this, I think it’s bad.” In any case, I hadn’t read the book, so I figured I’d at least be surprised by the ending.
While, like I said, I wasn’t expecting The Woman In The Window to be the next Gone Girl, I certainly wasn’t expecting… whatever it was. Truthfully, I started writing a listicle entitled “17 Things More Suspenseful Than ‘The Woman In The Window’” but felt that in order to do the ridiculousness of this movie justice, I needed to recap it. Yes, that means I watched this ill-conceived movie not once, but twice. They say all great artists suffer for their art, but even I found this (completely self-inflicted) punishment a bit extreme.
But, this will be good for me since I mostly texted through my first viewing (although I feel confident in stating that I didn’t miss much).
In any case, we open with Amy Adams, aka Dr. Anna Fox, waking up on the floor of what’s supposed to be a brownstone on West 121st St. in Manhattan, but, as anyone who’s ever stepped foot in a Manhattan apartment can tell you, is actually just a mansion the filmmakers have plunked into Harlem. I mean, even the main floor has multiple palatial rooms in it, and this brownstone has three floors and a basement apartment. Plus, the bedrooms can fit way more than a full-sized bed. I rest my case.
Realty deception aside, the film opens with Anna watching a family move in across the street—the Russells. She’s having a conversation with her husband and daughter, but even my first time watching this, I immediately knew they were both dead. Know how I know that? Because this woman repeatedly throughout the movie has conversations with disembodied voices. Come on. Twist one, ya blew it.
Already, we’re supposed to know that something is up with this family: Anna remarks, “who moves in after a one-day paint job?” And it’s like, um, every single renter in NYC. Most of us don’t have the luxury of waiting for the paint to dry before we can move in because we have to GTFO of our previous rentals.
Anna sees a patient, but it really seems like the patient is seeing her, since she’s updating him on her life and the neighborhood. This is giving me big Grace in The Undoing vibes, because both of them were terrible psychologists. This patient of Anna’s is very interested in the neighbors who just moved in across the street, and Anna knows from speaking to the broker that the husband is a banker and the family just moved from Boston. And again, another unrealistic plot point. I’ve lived in my apartment building for three years and couldn’t pick any of my neighbors out of a lineup. I literally just had someone move into the unit below me and the broker wouldn’t tell me sh*t about them. Anyway.
Just kidding, turns out the patient was actually Anna’s doctor making a house call. Apparently she’s not doing too great, which, yea, I could have guessed by how she’s having full conversations with dead people. Also, she’s taking a medication that you’re not supposed to drink on. But Anna treats that suggestion much like I treat any warning not to mix a medication with alcohol:
At night, the boy who just moved in across the street rings Anna’s bell to drop off a gift. She tells him she’s not letting in visitors and he says, “I’m not really a visitor, I’m more like, a neighbor.”
She lets him in, even after that criminally terrible line. Definitely not weird at all to go over to your neighbor’s in what appears to be the middle of the night…
Anna tells Ethan that she and her family are “separated”, and it’s like, yeah. Separated from this Earth. Don’t come for me, I really don’t think that’s a spoiler! Use your brain cells!
Ethan, who is supposedly just shy of 16 but looks about 25, is shocked that Anna is a child psychologist. He can’t fathom “why a kid would need a psychologist” and it’s like, dude, where have you been for the past five years? We’re de-stigmatizing mental health.
He does concede that being a child psychologist is “more interesting than like, working at Taco Bell” (bizarre observation) and automatically assumes Anna treats the kind of children who are plotting “school shootings or torturing someone,” which I feel should have been a red flag.
Already Ethan starts acting extremely weird, flinching when Anna tries to touch his shoulder and also, as I mentioned before, simply being over there at night? Then they go look over Anna’s movie collection—again, not at all a weird thing to do with a child (who is clearly an adult in a hoodie) that you just met.
After Ethan leaves, Anna falls asleep watching some old movie, cracking up on her couch. The movie in question does not seem at all funny.
The next day, we meet David, Anna’s tenant who’s apparently been living there for three months, but who we are just hearing of now. It’s also Halloween, and they fight over whether Anna will answer the door for trick-or-treaters (no) or leave a bowl of candy out (no, because “they’ll take all the candy, and then they’ll take the bowl”). Geez, what a grinch. Somebody tell this woman about disposable bowls!
Her reputation as a grinch must be preceding her, because the neighborhood kids egg her house. Anna opens her front door to confront those meddling kids, then promptly blacks out. When she comes to, Julianne Moore is in her house. At first I wondered how Julianne Moore could have seen Anna have a panic attack from insider her own home, but then I noticed it was because she was at the door right when Anna opened it to yell at the kids. See, it was worth watching twice!
Anna surmises, “you must be Jane Russell.” Julianne Moore replies, “what makes you say that?” and again, that should throw up a red flag! Like, the only reason I’d respond this way would be if I was a celebrity and trying to troll a fan. Maybe one day…
Why Anna and Jane strike up anything resembling a friendship is beyond me, because Jane acts like a huge c-word right out of the gate. When Anna reveals she’s agoraphobic, Jane replies, “You’re stuck inside this shitty house,” and then, if that weren’t clear enough, she reiterates, “Oh man. I’d hate to be stuck inside a house this shitty.” Ma’am! This is a mansion in the middle of New York City (well, not the middle—the top part. You get the point). The house is not, by any measure of the word, shitty! And also, how unbelievably rude!
Amping up the rudeness, Jane asks, “so what do you do all day? You work?” Damn, lady! Which pack of wolves taught you manners? Why Anna hasn’t kicked her out already is beyond me.
Anna again reiterates that she is separated from her husband and that her daughter Olivia is “with her father.” Ominous…
After trying to pry and ask Anna if she wants to go outside, Jane bursts into laughter when Anna curtly tells her she has a shrink of her own. I don’t know what kind of acting direction these people were given, but having taken one screenwriting course in college, I can confidently say this is not it. And next they’re talking about Anna’s pills, and what each of them do, and I can’t help but think this is all incredibly invasive. And I’m supposed to believe this is a sudden friendship these two struck up? I’ve been more polite to my enemies.
Anna tries to change the subject—again, because this woman is prying like she’s a human crowbar—and Jane goes, “oh wow. Subject change,” and then mimes a neck injury, like she’s getting whiplash. Again, weird acting direction. Would anyone ever do this IRL? It seems terribly corny.
Anna compliments Jane’s earrings, and Jane remarks that they were from an old boyfriend. Anna asks if her husband knows, and like, why is that information your husband would need to know? He keeps track of where every single one of your belongings comes from? You’ve never heard of just saying they’re from TJ Maxx? I mean, I just claim most of my clothing and accessories are from Macy’s because there’s a 99% chance that’s true. Anyway, Jane says her husband has trust issues and they both laugh about it, and I’m sitting here, not a psychologist, but even I know that if your husband is so jealous that he can’t stand you wearing earrings you got from an ex, that’s a problem!!
Anna asks, “why is your family complicated?” and Jane plops down a sketch she apparently just drew of Anna, even though she’s had the notepad in her hand for approximately three seconds. Oh what, so only you can be invasive, rude, and call out when people are trying to change the subject? Ok, Jane. Ok.
After Jane leaves, Alistair Russell is at Anna’s door to ask “if any of my family has come around to see you this evening.” What a weirdly vague way of putting that. Also, have these people never heard of a phone? Anna says no, for reasons unknown, which catches Alistair off-guard. Probably because he knows she’s lying. But then why not just ask directly…
After he leaves, Anna hears some movement in her kitchen and immediately calls 911 to tell them she thinks there’s someone in her house. Except it’s just her tenant, rummaging around in the kitchen he pays to use. Why would that be your first reaction when you know someone else lives in your house…?
David is another asshole, because after he pokes around on Anna’s skylight when he notices there’s mold on it and Anna yells at him to come back inside (because it’s not sturdy, this will be important later), he scares her by jumping out of a corner and yelling “Boo!” you did it, bro. You cured her agoraphobia with your sick prank.
Maybe the next night, or later that night (I can’t tell because time elapses like molasses in this movie), someone apparently screams at the apartment across the street. I say “apparently” because this is a main plot driver, yet I did not hear the scream when my TV volume was on loud; I’m only aware of it because my closed captions said . This woman has got to have some bionic ears for knowing precisely which apartment the screams are coming from. When I hear people scream or make a noise from my apartment, I can barely tell if it’s coming from the apartments to my front or the ones behind me. And yet, she’s located the precise building and unit from whence these screams originated? Ok.
So naturally Anna calls Ethan to ask if everything is ok. She then sees Jane leave the apartment, looking over her shoulder. Alistair calls back Anna’s number being like, “hello, you just called here?” which is another thing that would never happen because Ethan picked up the phone; it wasn’t like there was a missed call. Who goes through their call log to call back every number you accepted a call from??
Anna then calls David out of his room to ask if he heard the scream across the street. Damn, this lady is an annoying landlord. It’s New York City, who isn’t screaming?
Then she grabs a camera just in time to see Ethan headed over to her place. He basically says that his dad is abusing him, and Anna gives him her number and assures him her house is a safe place. And yet, does she call CPS? No. She justifies it by saying that it’s just her word against the dad’s, but I’m sorry, is this woman not a mandated reporter? Isn’t this literally her job to call CPS?? Nah, just gonna call the police on my tenant for being in his kitchen instead.
Well, that ethical dilemma is not met with another thought, as we next see Anna learning French for some reason. An apple twirls on the screen while she repeats the French word for apple. This Duolingo lesson is not significant to the plot in any way. I want to personally ask why this was kept in instead of, oh I don’t know, any character development or detail.
Anna falls asleep in front of the TV again, this time, to some 1940s-era doctor being like, “I’m going to freeze your face” and honestly I know it’s supposed to be scary, but it just feels like when Derek Zoolander went to that Daiye Spa. Anna wakes up in a panic because she can’t find her phone and keeps repeating to herself, “backtrack.” Like, ma’am, backtrack to what? I know it’s a big brownstone, but you don’t leave the house. Just search your home. It’s not like when I lose my credit card and I have to backtrack to brunch, then the after-brunch bar, then my ex’s apartment…
Anyway, at this moment Anna notices something strange happening across the street, so she grabs her DSLR camera. She sees Jane getting shoved backward, then stumbling forward with a knife in her stomach and falling over. And what does this woman do? She snaps a picture of it with the camera she’s holding in her hands for something exactly like this moment. Just kidding! She fucking drops the camera and rushes to the landline, which is mysteriously not working. Useless. Useless.
Then she goes bothering David again, and finds her phone under his bed.
Anna calls 911 and tells the operator that she watched her neighbor get stabbed. The 911 operator is extremely unhelpful and just asks if she stabbed her neighbor. Um, is that how 911 calls go? We’re going by the “whoever smelt it, dealt it” rule?
Anna tries to rush across the street to help Jane and falls on her way down the steps, ultimately not making it. At least she tried!
When Anna gets back, there’s an NYPD detective INSIDE HER HOUSE, which has got to be illegal. She didn’t give them permission to enter, and last I checked, she called to report a crime in progress across the street. Where’s the probable cause?? Alistair is also there. Again, that’s gotta be breaking all kinds of laws. Finally, a realistic portrayal of life in New York!
Alistair is only there to insist that Anna has never met his wife. The cops are extremely antagonistic, insisting that nothing happened and berating Anna for not having taken a picture. Helpful.
Anna then asks what we’re all thinking: then where’s Jane? Enter, a totally different woman, insisting she is Jane Russell. Ethan, too, insists Anna has never met his mother. Rather than asking a single follow-up question about what Anna did see, the cops just inform her that making a false police report is a crime. Solid police work, boys, thank you for your service!
The next morning, Anna tries to stalk Jane Russell online. She comes up empty-handed, but she does find Alistair’s LinkedIn. She starts calling up his workplace (totally normal) and learns that he no longer works at his old company. She finds this strange, but like, people change jobs all the time? Especially considering they just moved from out of state?
In her Facebook stalking, Anna also comes across a woman named Pam Nazin, who worked with Alistair. Pam died. A Google search brings up the headline, “Woman Found Dead In Brookline” which is really not as ominous as the over-the-top suspenseful music wants us to believe it is. People can be found dead for all sorts of reasons. The fact that she was an exec at Alistair’s company at the time seems like a tenuous thread.
She calls up the New York office and finds out that Pamela was not an executive, but Alistair’s executive assistant. And then she immediately tips her hand by asking suspicious questions to which she already knows the answers. Yikes, she is not good at this. Apparently Pam fell off a balcony. Still not really seeing the connection.
Then this lady goes to bother David AGAIN (however below market value the rent she’s charging may be, it’s still too high). When she doesn’t hear an answer, she goes to his room and starts looking at his mail. Not a good look, considering David opens the door right at that moment, and he is pissed.
Literally no one:
Seriously, I did not notice this even though they zoomed in on his mail:
David: Ok yeah! You caught me! I’m in violation of my parole! I’m supposed to be in Springfield, Massachusetts.
David: NO! NOT OK! It was a stupid bar fight, I got jumped and I reacted.
Uhh dude, she was saying it’s fine that you’re violating parole by living in her apartment. Maybe just take the W and shut up?
Anna continues taking photos of the Russells’ apartment and manages to capture an argument at the dinner table, only to get a voicemail from the real Jane Russell saying, “stop watching our house or I’ll call the police.”
The next morning, Anna can’t find her cat (probably went the way of the mysterious missing cell phone). Damn, I’m literally right because the cat is also under David’s bed. These two need to draw up some serious boundaries, because this is getting creepy on both sides.
Just then, Anna notices something: Jane (first Jane)’s earring on David’s nightstand. That’s odd.
While having another conversation with her dead husband in her head, Anna breaks a glass in her sink. Then she spots Ethan walking across the street, and opens out her window and yells, “Ethan, where’s your mother!” So then Ethan runs over, understandably, to be like “ummm you can’t just yell at me while I’m on the street!” they get into an argument that goes like this:
Anna: I know what I saw!
Ethan: You don’t, you’re just wrong!
Anna: But I know what I saw!
Ethan: You don’t, you’re just wrong!
No, I did not hit ctrl+V too many times. They literally repeat the same lines of dialogue. And by “repeat” I mean scream, because nobody actually acts in this movie, they just yell. I feel like I could have auditioned.
Anna yells, “why are you lying for him?” Ethan whispers, “I can’t tell you” (ooh, range) and Alistair then storms in, clocking Ethan in the face and then yelling at Anna. He calls their relationship inappropriate (true) since Ethan’s 15-and-a-half and Anna is a mature woman (I don’t know about mature, but, true).
Alistair gets all up in Anna’s face like he’s going to kiss her but instead hollers, “Stay away from my son! Please!” while Anna snivels in between his arms. God, this acting. Put me out of my misery.
The next day, Anna witnesses Ethan walk out of the apartment and get into a black van. Not at all sketch. She then decides to go through her photos on her computer and an email comes in from the cleverly named address, [email protected]. Inside the email is a picture of Anna sleeping, which seems to have been taken from inside the house.
Anna freaks out and calls the cops, who’d look about as thrilled to undergo a colonoscopy as they do to respond to this report. Actually, they would much rather prefer the colonoscopy, you can just tell. These cops are so actively mean to her that, again, it’s almost a satire. Maybe this whole movie is meant to be a scathing indictment on the NYPD?
Take this exchange, for example.
Anna: Can you track it?
Cop Played By Paper Boi From Atlanta: Track it?
Anna: Or… trace it?
Paper Boi: You can’t track a Gmail account.
First of all, bro, you knew what she meant. We all knew she meant trace. It’s the same thing. We know you know she didn’t mean track as in an Amazon shipment. Second of all, one Google search told me that you can find someone’s IP address even if they use Gmail. Then again, cops being too lazy to click one link in Gmail? Sounds about right. Instead, the lady cop just victim-blames, telling Anna, “you could’ve sent this to yourself.” They really don’t even try to hide their disdain.
And just then, Alistair comes storming in, clamoring on about how Anna called his office and how she’s a drunk and a drug addict. Again… who gave this man permission to enter her home?
Anna pulls out what she thinks is a trump card, the drawing “Jane” drew at her apartment. I’m sorry, but this doodle doesn’t prove shit. Just then, David walks in (this is a clusterfuck) and Anna snitches on him! Talk about disloyal. She knows full well why David would want to lay low around the police right now, and when the cops ask David if he has a last name, he tries to be slick like, “no. It’s just David. Like Sting.” And this narc goes, “It’s Winters. David Winters.” Anna! Why would you do that?
Even worse is that she doesn’t even get his last name right, it’s apparently Winter, singular. Nosy and wrong, name a worse combination.
David says he’s never met Jane Russell, and Anna says, in front of everybody, “her earring was on your nightstand.” Instead of being like, “oh damn, this is a revelation,” the lady cop immediately goes, “what were you doing in your tenant’s bedroom?” I’m sorry, is that illegal? She could have been fixing something…
David reveals the earring belongs to a woman named Katherine who “spent the night” with him the other week. Then Anna goes FULL RAT on David and tells the cops that he borrowed a box cutter from her (not sure what that has to do with anything, we all saw the woman get stabbed with a knife) and then tells the cops that he’s violating his parole by being in New York!! You really should get that boxcutter back, Anna, because we all know what happens to snitches.
Now Anna’s just taking shots at everybody, literally pointing fingers: “he’s been to prison and borrowed a knife from me (way to be prejudicial, and also, a box cutter ≠ a knife); he’s abusive and was fired from his job and his assistant died; I saw Alistair slap Ethan in my home yesterday.”
She’s spiraling on a monologue about how someone needs to help Ethan, and let me say this is poorly written and also bizarre. “If my husband were here,” she says, “he would help.”
“Dr. Fox, your family is dead,” the lady cop says. Again, this is like, apparently supposed to be some huge twist but seemed very clear to me from the get-go. Know how I know? She was having conversations with her husband the whole movie, but they weren’t in person… or on the phone… so there really was only one explanation.
Anna says, “I don’t know how you can live with yourself if you let something happen to a child,” and then we cut to: Christmas, the year prior, and Anna and her family are driving somewhere. They’re getting into an argument because they’re sick of pretending, because (gasp) Anna cheated and guess who happens to be calling her cell phone at that moment! Yep, her side bro. Mister? IDK what you call a male affair partner. Anna drops her phone and tries to reach for it, then ends up swerving off the road and crashing into a tree, killing her husband and daughter.
Damn. The lady doth project too much.
Anyway, this was supposed to be a bombshell but was about as explosive as a fart.
So then this woman comes to in a That’s So Raven-esque way:
And everyone is staring at her like bitch, you good?
She’s clearly not good, because she looks out into the other room where her car is bottoms-up in the snow and then we’re back at the accident scene. God, I hate the way they did just about everything with this movie.
At this moment, Anna thinks maybe she’s just hallucinating from her meds and apologizes to the Russells.
The next day, she has a talk with her psychiatrist in what might be the only good scene in the movie. It’s a frank discussion about how badly Anna’s mental health has deteriorated. Although I didn’t love the psychiatrist laughing at her when Anna remarked that the Elevan might not be good for her. He chuckled like, “no shit, not if you’re hallucinating.” Felt a little dickish. But whatever!
Then, Anna’s crushing up all her pills into a powder and starts filming a suicide note. Damn, this took a dark turn. Does this woman even have any living relatives at all? The purpose of the video seems to just be so that David isn’t implicated in her death, which is nice of her now that she likely got the guy sent back to jail.
But then, as she does a pre-death scroll through her photos (don’t we all?) Anna notices something: the reflection of the woman she thought was Jane in her wine glass, in a picture she took. It’s then that she hears some thumping around in the basement, and David is back.
This bitch is literally giddy, showing David the face in the wine glass. He’s really not amused. He’s just like… “yes, the woman I told you I slept with does, in fact, exist. So?” This is kind of sad.
David explains that the woman’s name is Katie, she’s Ethan’s birth mother, and they had a one-night stand on Wednesday. He says she was basically, completely insane, and “I spent a night on a couch in Astoria just so I could get away from her.” I mean, ouch, no need to bring Astoria into this. What did our Greek food ever do to you?
Apparently Katie ran away when she was 8 months pregnant and Alistair found her in some meth commune and she went to jail. (Are meth communes… a thing?) Then she got out and stalked the family, basically. This is a pretty wild story, and yet Anna is treating it with as much surprise as you would when you realize the grocery store is out of the brand of yogurt you prefer to buy. Hello??? Meth commune??? Prison??? Why is nobody reacting to this??? Twist 3, ya botched it.
Even though David does acknowledge that yes, Katie is a real person, he has no desire to find out if this woman is alive or dead. I know she was a stage 5, but damn that’s harsh. The woman was maybe stabbed!
And while she’s yelling at David to go to the police with her (when will she learn that the police actively do not want to help her), this fool drops her laptop and shatters the screen. I’m sure that pic is still up on the iCloud, but still.
And then from a corner, someone sneezes. ACHOO! It’s Ethan, since he’s allergic to cats! (Sorry, seemed like a random detail earlier). And he’s holding a knife! Note, Anna, how different it looks from a box cutter! He evil villain monologues about how he has an alibi since everyone thinks he’s in New Hampshire in a “wilderness program” which is really a juvenile prison facility. He also monologues that he killed David with Anna’s knife and intends to frame her for the murder, and implies that he set a fire to the prison before escaping. Is this really the same guy who couldn’t fathom why a child would need to see a psychiatrist?
He then reveals that he watched Anna make the suicide video and that he’s been in the house all week and continues to evil villain monologue about how he’s a budding serial killer whose M.O. is to kill unfit mothers, he just doesn’t have a method of choice nailed down yet. He literally says, “I don’t have a pattern yet. There’s so many choices. Who do I wanna be when I grow up?” this line of dialogue sounds like it’s ripped from the career counseling office of a liberal arts college, not a pre-murder speech.
Ethan says, “I just wanna watch you go” as if he simply enjoys seeing people die and not the act of murdering them. I just feel like there are a few lines of work you could go into if you simply are desensitized to death. You obviously like the killing part, so just say it! So Anna dumps all her crushed-up meds into her wine and is like, “fine, you wanna watch me die? Watch me.” Then at the last second she hits him over the face with her wine bottle.
Thus begins a mad and drawn-out chase all around the house (ugh, why is this house so big?). First Ethan stabs David (who was, up until that point, still alive). Then Ethan and Anna end up on the roof (yes, Anna actually went outside! To probably the worst location possible, because now she’s trapped on a roof with a murderer instead of just being trapped in a house with a murderer!), and of course it’s raining. It’s always raining in these things.
Ethan yells, “STOP FIGHTING ME!” and keeps reiterating shit like, “you don’t even want to live anymore!” like this is supposed to be some kindness, brutally stabbing someone in their own home with a rake to the face because they were struggling with their mental health. What a little asshole.
Obviously, at the last minute, Anna maneuvers Ethan on top of the skylight and sends him crashing through it, killing him. See, I told you that would be important.
Afterwards, the same fucking cops show up to the hospital where Anna’s at (they have some nerve). The first thing out of Paper Boi’s mouth? “Don’t stay on the painkillers too long because that shit feels good.” Oh, NOWWW you’re concerned about this woman’s mental health? GTFO. The SECOND thing is “I’m sorry.” Way to have your priorities on straight.
Then Paper Boi reveals he saw her video and does the one nice thing he’s done this whole movie and covers so she can delete the video before her phone goes into evidence and everyone else sees it.
She’s like, “really?” and he’s like, “look I messed up this case so badly i don’t think one more thing’s gonna hurt me, alright?” He’s not wrong.
His last words are, “I’m not gonna have to worry about you, right?” and he doesn’t even wait for an answer, just a faint smile, before he walks out of the room. Hahah tell me you don’t give a shit without actually telling me.
Nine months later, Anna is selling the brownstone. She says one last goodbye to the spirit of her dead husband in a scene that lasts like five full minutes, and we all get the point. I still don’t really get what was with the dead assistant. I guess Ethan killed her, but why? Was she having an affair with his dad? I suppose it doesn’t matter. Anna gets into a cab and drives off, and that’s the end.
All in all, this movie was really not worth my hour and a half. For a thriller, the one moment that made me jump was a fake-out when, right before Anna bent down to pick up David’s mail, a piece of clothing fell down from the ceiling (which, by the way, was never explained). None of the twists were dramatic or altogether surprising. And for all the yelling the characters did, none of them acted surprised in any way when the twists were revealed. I can’t believe I got through this movie once, let alone twice. If you endured it even once, I hope you enjoyed this recap.
Images: Melinda Sue Gordon / Netflix; Giphy (3)
You marched and protested for Floyd and Taylor and the countless others who came before and after them. You donated. You called. You denounced white supremacists IRL and on social media. You call yourself an ally to Black and brown people and back up that talk with actual action, like cutting off that Karen in your crew or, even better, you’ve got receipts, because you’ve voted for politicians who tout anti-racist platforms. (Dope.)
OK, alright, you can call yourself woke.
But you really cannot call yourself woke unless you truly know Black History, my sistrens. Thankfully, there’s plenty to binge-watch and catch up on if you’d like a crash course in the deep-rooted ugliness of what it’s like to be Black in America. While it’d be virtually impossible to include every doc and flick that’s worth watching, this handful is a good start. From the moments the first Black people were stolen from their African homelands to the demolition of Black Wall Street to the civil rights movement to the Black people who are still suffering from this country’s policies of mass incarceration, here are a few titles to start with.
Enslaved (Prime Video)
You’ll follow Samuel L. Jackson around the globe as he retraces the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade from the shores of Gabon to the U.K. to the Florida Keys and more, through the eyes of deep-sea divers in search of six sunken slave ships, the skeletal remains of their shackled human cargo, and relics, to historians who unfurl centuries-old scrolls of petitions to abolish slavery. There’s even an appearance from the late civil rights leader John Lewis, he of “good trouble”, who invited the divers to Washington, D.C., for a face-to-face shortly before his death in July.
Harriet Tubman: They Called Her Moses (Prime Video)
Sure, you can watch the action-packed but much-maligned 2019 box office darling Harriet, or you can get the real deal Holyfield. This documentary traces Harriet’s early days in Maryland to her first journey up the Underground Railroad to Pennsylvania and beyond, again, again, and again in her rescue of an estimated 300 slaves.
The History Channel: In Search of History—Black Wall Street (YouTube)
Once located in the heart of Tulsa, Oklahoma, Black Wall Street was a thriving mecca of more than 300 Black-owned businesses such as movie theatres and doctor’s offices. But that all came to a violent and bitter end after a young white woman’s allegations of being raped by a Black teen sparked a race riot that would leave hundreds of Black people dead and the city leveled. By one estimate, the damages then, in 1921, totaled $2 million, or $50 million today—a massive economic blow to Blacks who endeavored to both build financial stability for themselves and create lasting generational wealth. “Maybe if we talk about it enough, it’ll never be again,” mused one survivor in her testimonial.
I Am Not Your Negro (Netflix)
Before their untimely deaths, what was life like for outspoken civil rights leaders Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers? This doc is based on Remember This House, an unfinished manuscript written by the trio’s pal, essayist James Baldwin, who only managed to pen 30 pages of prose before his own death. But his musings are enough for Samuel L. Jackson, in a voiceover, to string together troubling footage past and present of simmering racial tensions that not only led to Malcolm, Martin, and Medgar’s assassinations, but also illustrate the disturbing racial inequities that remain in America today.
Loving (Netflix, YouTube, Prime Video, & more)
Before a history-making 1967 Supreme Court ruling, interracial marriages were not only taboo, but illegal in many places. One couple’s determination changed all that. Loving is based on the true story of Richard and Mildred Loving, who had to flee their home in Virginia, one of 20 states that forbade mixed-race unions, for a safe-haven in D.C., and the story of their fight to live and love freely.
Selma (Hulu, YouTube, Prime Video, & more)
The Ava DuVernay-directed Selma depicts civil rights leaders’ and hundreds of Black voters’ history-making march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, in protest against the denial of Blacks’ voting rights. White supremacy looms large with plenty of intimidation tactics and brutal beatings, but the throngs persevered, finally reaching Montgomery. The moment became the catalyst for the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a major win for the civil rights movement. What was not a win? This flick’s Oscar snub for Best Picture.
Land of the free? Not quite. In yet another hit from DuVernay, this jaw-dropping documentary unveils the troubling statistics of Black Americans behind bars. The film’s title references the 13th amendment that abolished slavery but provided for incarceration as punishment for a crime. The truth bombs drop from the very start with statistic after sobering statistic. “The United States is home to five percent of the world’s population,” booms Barack Obama’s voiceover, “but 25 percent of the world’s prisoners.” And they continue throughout, like the fact that Black people make up 13.4 percent of the American population but 40.2 percent of the prison population.
CORRECTION: This article has been updated with the correct statistic that Black people make up 13.4 percent of the U.S. population.
Images: Focus Features
As someone who holds a lot of sentimental value wrapped in familial guilt for the holiday season, Christmas movies are a staple in my household during this time of year. There’s something comforting about watching a movie filled with red and green or silver and gold where people do things like play in snow and you know for a fact that things are going to turn out well. Kevin McCallister is going to outsmart the burglars. Cameron Diaz will find true love at a cottage in the English countryside. The Grinch’s heart will grow three sizes. It’s all good stuff, and I’ve seen most of these a million times, so as much as I love the oldies, I’m also on the lookout for new, fresh material, especially when it features a demographic I have a lot of experience with. In this case, that’s lesbians who are nervous to introduce their significant other to their weird families. Enter: Happiest Season on Hulu.
Happiest Season is a love story featuring two lesbians, Harper (played by Mackenzie Davis) and Abby (Kristen Stewart), and the story of how Harper invites Abby to her house for Christmas without telling her family they’re together or that Harper is, you know, gay. If that sets off major warning bells in your mind, that feeling is correct. There are some heartwarming moments, and as a Kristen Stewart fan, I love watching her awkward expressions, and I also loved to see a decent amount of making out and on-screen affection. Is there anything gayer than having sex with your significant other as quietly as possible in the basement of your parents’ house while you pretend to still be interested in your high school ex-boyfriend to make your mom happy? That’s being home for the holigays, man. It takes me back.
That said, even Kristen Stewart’s awkward charm cannot save this movie from its tired and borderline offensive plot, which is centered on Harper not being out to her family. In the beginning scenes, Harper first told Abby that she had come out to her parents, that she’d told them she was dating Abby over the summer, and they’d taken it really well. It is not until they are driving to Harper’s hometown for Christmas that she admits not only that she lied about telling her parents about her relationship with Abby, but she’s not actually out to them at all, or to anyone in her hometown. It was at this point I would have caught a ride back to my apartment. I’m just saying, if someone ever admits they’ve been lying to you for months not only about telling their family about your relationship, but also about being out of the closet at all, and then tells you to “act straight” while you’re home with them, they’re maybe a sociopath or deeply repressed, and you should run while you can.
My question came somewhere in the middle of this movie, when Abby and Harper are at a party at a country club (this movie is really, really white, in case you hadn’t already gathered that), and Harper is being paraded around as part of her father’s mayoral campaign while Abby hovers and attempts to appear straight in the background: why does this have to be the conflict the whole movie revolves around?
To clarify, there’s nothing inherently wrong with not being out to your family. The coming out process is indeed, as pointed out by the incomparable Daniel Levy, different for everyone. The timing of that kind of decision is a personal one, and it completely differs from person to person. There’s no way to know when the time is right, and it depends on a lot of factors. The issue I have with Harper is not that she’s still in the closet—it’s that the movie revolves around the reductive plot device of someone who’s afraid to come out, resulting in her lying to her girlfriend about just about everything. It’s a major red flag—not that she’s still in the closet, but that she’s tangled in a web of lies about her identity. And when she has a chance to come clean in front of her family and friends and salvage a relationship she’s already dragged down to rock bottom with her, she doubles down on denying who she is, and by extension, who Abby is to her.
Harper’s whole shtick is that she has been afraid to come out as gay her whole life because of all the familial pressure to be “perfect.” Her cover is blown after her older sister, Sloane, outs her at the family holiday party in a scene that makes you cringe and want Sloane arrested. But she still doesn’t admit it—out of fear, Harper denies being gay, again, to the entire party, in front of her girlfriend. Later that night to her parents and siblings, Harper finally admits she really is gay in an effort to save her relationship with Abby, but the responses from her family are still problematic. Her mom responds by telling Harper’s father that she’s always wanted to try karate but has been afraid of embarrassing the family. This is insulting for a couple reasons, but mainly because being gay is not the same as being interested in karate, and also, being gay is not an embarrassing secret. Sloane, the vindictive, sinister older sister, also responds to outing Harper with the truth that Sloane and her husband are divorcing. (I won’t say I don’t understand why.)
To recap, the parallels being drawn to coming out are a secret desire to try karate and a heterosexual divorce. I understand not wanting to tell your family about your marriage falling apart, but let’s all agree that it is still far less taboo and stigmatized then coming out as LGBTQIA+. For this movie to take this topic and then equate coming out as gay with the “shameful” secret of wanting to do karate is, let’s say, not great. It minimizes the bravery that defines coming out and puts it on the same level as a hobby, which feels even more tired than making coming out the central plot in the movie.
I also hate the fact that the movie makes it seem like what Harper puts Abby through is something they have to go through to make their relationship stronger. Being hidden from someone’s family isn’t a relationship milestone; it’s a major red flag that they aren’t ready to be truthful or transparent about your relationship to the people they love.
When the conflict of a gay movie is the trauma of coming out, it denies viewers the chance to watch a relationship play out onscreen that isn’t defined by subterfuge. All the attempts to hide the relationship from Harper’s family are genuinely painful to watch. To watch Abby willingly submit to it is almost harder; it is not the love any of us deserve, and for it to play on a screen as comedy was rough. It makes it so we never get to just watch two women being together and living their lives. It invalidates any love they do have for each other and cheapens everything true about the relationship by drowning it in Harper’s desperation to stay in the closet. We get almost no interactions with supportive family that aren’t toxic (and that don’t involve the movie’s climax being when the main character’s father decides that his daughter being gay maybe won’t ruin his entire life).
While every coming out process is totally unique to the individual and it’s never perfect, falsifying your relationship, lying to your significant other about it, and asking someone who is out to get back in the closet for you is harmful. Even at the end of the movie, where we flash forward a year to seeing Harper’s family depicted as being totally supportive despite some very clear signs that might not have been the case, with Abby and Harper engaged, it didn’t totally feel like an ending we’d earned or that the situation would have wrapped up that neatly. It felt sort of like a happy ending added on to make all the conflict behind it seem worth it, and I’m just saying that if Riley and Abby had ended up together instead, leaving Harper to do some much-needed soul searching alone, I wouldn’t have been mad about it.
Images: Lacey Terrell/Hulu
We are three days away from Halloween which means, by my book, we are four days away from the pre-Christmas season. I am that person, and I welcome your ire. I can’t hear your vitriol over my highly contested “All I Want for Christmas is This Playlist” playlist, which has been queued up since the leaves began to change in September. For those who are curious, it is a 14-track playlist, consisting of 11 covers and/or remixes of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, and three repeats of the original song.
Yes, I understand that November is technically still fall and thus belongs to Thanksgiving. But that does not mean that you can’t begin to prime yourself for November 27th, when the gourds are dumped into the garbage and the pumpkin spice is shoved to the back of the cabinet to make room for all things garland, pine, and peppermint. It is also the earliest possible date that it becomes acceptable to break out everyone’s favorite Christmas movie to hate: Love Actually.
Much like your highly entertaining but socially unacceptable drunk aunt, Love Actually has many… shall we say… “quirks” sprinkled throughout its two-hour-and-twenty-five-minute runtime that don’t necessarily hold up as well in today’s world as they did back in 2003. The horribly inappropriate relationships, the general fat-shaming, the rampant wish-fulfillment of middle-aged men ending up with young, hot women, just to name a few.
But guess what? We love it anyway. We take all that criticism, examine it, and then still manage to relish in this chaotic and well-meaning holiday classic. Why? Because It’s 2020, baby. Entertainment requires analysis, but that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable. Recognize that a necessary step in consuming media is to critique it, and move on.
After you’ve taken the time to examine Love Actually for what it is, flaws and all, you’ll come to find that the characters range from those with questionable judgement to objectively immoral. That is not to say that there are not great people in the movie, because there are. May I present to you, a short list of the best characters in Love Actually:
Billy Mack, who leans so far into entirely crude and crass conduct that he manages to circumvent dislike altogether and emerge relatively wholesome and entirely likable.
Liam Neeson, a stepfather who set an unreasonable and unattainable bar for stepfathers for the rest of time.
Bean, who clearly knew what was up and tried to expose a cheater when he had the chance. A true ally.
The Octopus Kid in the car during Hugh Grant’s admission of love, whose contribution is obvious enough to not require further discussion.
Aurelia’s Sister, the wise and wary sibling we may all be so lucky to have in our lives.
Thomas Brodie-Sangster, who is entirely pure of heart and either 4 or 14 years old, but we will never be sure either way.
Everyone else lands in a moral grey area that I will spend every Christmas for the rest of my life exploring, the worst of which I’ve attempted to rank below. Here are the worst characters in Love Actually ranked by terribleness.
8. Jamie (Colin Firth)
You may think it’s callous of me to put Jamie on this list considering the movie kicks off with him catching his wife sleeping with his brother, but that’s exactly the trap that Love Actually wants you to fall into. Jamie is not a bad guy. He is, however, a super cringey guy who projects his misguided emotions onto a younger woman in his employ, and that’s enough of a reason for me to dislike him. This is especially difficult to reconcile with my long-held, deep devotion to Colin Firth, but humans are multifaceted creatures.
Not only does Jamie show up in Portugal on Christmas Eve with his haphazard declaration of love for Aurelia, but he does it at her place of work in front of basically everyone she’s ever known. Public proposals are inherently unacceptable. But public proposals to someone whom you’ve never actually had a conversation, professing affection that could be, to your knowledge, entirely one-sided? Unforgivable.
7. Prime Minister David (Hugh Grant)
Much like Jamie, David is not a bad person. His is, in fact, one of my favorite storylines in this movie. But that doesn’t change the fact that he incited a low-key international incident because he had a raging crush on his employee (a theme, perhaps??) and didn’t know how to handle it. That’s just not acceptable any way you slice it.
I am definitely not siding with Billy Bob Thornton here, but I just feel like there were a number of productive ways to address his inappropriate behavior toward Natalie, and a live international press conference was not of them. Sure, it seems like a pretty insignificant event compared to the unrelenting political circus we all live through today, but that shouldn’t be a litmus test for acceptable behavior in any regard, fictional or otherwise.
6. Aurelia’s Dad
This man was ready to straight-up sell either of his daughters to the first English guy to come knocking, no questions asked. Historically, when a white man shows up unexpectedly in your country to lay claim to something that does not belong to him, bad things tend to follow. But Aurelia’s dad was too busy calling his other daughter Miss Dunkin Donut 2003 while leading a parade towards Jamie’s potential hostage situation of a proposal to think about that, I guess.
5. Literally Everyone Who Called Natalie Fat
This list is inclusive of but not limited to: Natalie’s recent ex-boyfriend, the President of the United States, Annie (Daniel’s chief of staff), and Natalie’s father (yes, we’re counting “plumpy”). You are all invited to physically fight me.
This isn’t a groundbreaking insight, but Mia just sucks. Totally and completely sucks. The onus to not cheat on his wife was 100% on Harry, and I’m not making any excuses there. But repeatedly, brazenly, and frankly uncomfortably pursuing your boss who you KNOW is married with children is just textbook sh*tty behavior. This is not slut shaming, but just decent f*cking person shaming.
3. Billy Bob Thornton as the President of the United States of America
Remember a time when the president of the United States being a giant creep and open sleazebag was an outlandish plot in an ensemble rom-com and not just like… a slightly more generous take on reality? Remember that? Ha. Ah ha. Ha. Ha.
A younger, more idealistic version of myself may have put President Billy Bob Thornton close to number one on this list. But the current state of U.S. politics has ground me into a hollow, broken shell of my former self, and to be quite honest, I’d be pretty psyched if the Love Actually caricature of a U.S. politician was President. I would also accept the Hugh Grant version of a Prime Minister, Hugh Grant as any role he played throughout his nineties heyday, or even actual Hugh Grant. His not being a U.S. citizen poses a bit of an issue here, but may I remind you that nothing matters anymore anyway?
Mark has come under real fire in recent years, as it would appear we all collectively woke up and realized his sham of a romantic gesture and general lurk-y antics were actually restraining order-caliber behavior.
Let’s start out with the wedding, where his first unforgivable act was to wear an eggplant satin shirt with an identical shade of eggplant satin tie. Clearly sabotage from the start.
Then we learn that, against Chiwetel Ejiofor’s wishes, he arranged for Brazilian sex workers at the bachelor party, likely in an attempt to entrap his best friend into cheating on his fiancée so that Mark could swoop in with another ill-advised stunt.
After that, as we all know, Mark goes on to record some truly unhinged wedding footage of his best friend’s wife, played by Kiera Knightley. And while he had the foresight to plan for a surprise full choir and big band performance, Mark did not stop to think that perhaps anyone at the wedding, love interest included, would ever ask him for any of the footage that he was very openly and obviously recording. Like, this is an era before functioning phone cameras, buddy. Your home video will be in high demand.
I get it. Unrequited love is rough. But there are many avenues to take with it, and none of them should involve creating your own personal spank bank of your best friend’s wife on their wedding day.
After being caught with the incriminating footage, Mark has two options: apologize profusely and then avoid this couple for the foreseeable future, or lie and act like he had no idea the shot was excruciatingly zoomed in all day. Our man boldly pursues a third, highly inadvisable option, by doubling down on his stalker vibes and showing up at Peter and Juliet’s home with a truly ill-conceived performance, with which we are all intimately familiar. But just in case you need a refresher, see below.
There are many, many flaws here (absolutely including Kiera Knightley rewarding this act of desperation with a kiss), but the one I’ve decided to take the biggest issue with is Mark validating his behavior with the sentiment “at Christmas you tell the truth.” Christmas is a time for many things, but truth telling is not one of them. I would actually say that it’s a time for shutting the f*ck up and not trying to blow up the lives of the people you love, a sentiment I gleaned from watching every single bad Christmas movie Netflix has to offer.
After all that, I wish I could say that he got it out of his system, but the flash forward at the end of the movie begs to differ, with Mark unnecessarily third-wheeling Peter and Juliet to the airport to pick up Jamie and Aurelia. “I just decided to tag along.” We see you Mark!! This will not stand!
1. Harry (Alan Rickman)
The number one spot on this list is only surprising in the sense that Alan Rickman has managed to play not one, but two characters I actively despise while being one of the most likable men of all time. It’s called talent, sweeties. Look it up.
(Author’s tangent: Yeah that’s right, Snape sucks. No redemption arc makes up for the fact that he spent his adult life psychologically torturing children because his childhood crush didn’t like him back. We’ve all suffered heartbreak without going on to become Ms. Trunchbull. But I digress.)
You might think we’re going to just touch on the blatantly obvious reason that Harry managed to secure the coveted title of Worst Character in Love Actually, a feat that’s all the more impressive when you consider there are two actual world leaders amongst his contenders, but no, we will be going one step further.
I went back and re-watched Love Actually in October (which is strictly against my own protocol) for the sole purpose of pulling together an itemized list of every awful thing Harry does throughout the movie. To even my own surprise, it is extensive.
– A now verified theme—let’s start with workplace behavior. Harry summons Laura Linney to his office just to confront her about her obvious crush on Karl, which kickstarts the saddest plot point in a movie that also features an orphan and widow at Christmas time. I get that 2003 was a pre-Me Too era, but this isn’t Mad Men! I don’t care how close Harry and Sarah may be, by Laura Linney’s own admission she had only been working at the company for two years, seven months, three days, and two hours. No man who has known you for that insignificant of an amount of time is allowed to talk about the unrequited feelings you may or may not have for your coworker who is also an Armani underwear model. Those are the rules!!
– He openly hates the office Christmas party. I know this isn’t an uncommon opinion to have but as someone who loves the office Christmas party, I am going to count it against his character anyways
– He knows someone named Kevin in the office has a penchant for fondling the breasts of his coworkers at said Christmas party, but has apparently done nothing about it other than recommend people steer clear. A cheater and an enabler, to boot.
– Goes on to dance with Mia in front of his wife multiple times at the Christmas party that he supposedly despises.
– Did not object when Emma Thompson said she was the size of Pavarotti. Even if she was actually the size of Pavarotti, it is his job to tell her that she is not.
– Not a personality flaw per se but just worth pointing out that Harry has atrocious taste in jewelry.
– Effectively ruined Joni Mitchell for his wife, because now it will only remind her of her philandering, worthless husband.
– If I confronted my husband about cheating on me with his clichéd sexy secretary and he had the audacity to respond with “I am so in the wrong, a classic fool”? Murder. The only reasonable reaction. Entirely justified. No one could convict me.
To round it all out, let’s just be abundantly clear that this absolute buffoon pursued a short-lived, and entirely sex-motivated affair with an employee at CHRISTMAS. I rest my case.
Honorable Mention: Whoever Decided That Laura Linney Doesn’t Get A Happy Ending
Karl was so clearly into her! Did you see that chemistry? That was not “drunk sex with your co-worker after the Christmas party” passion. That was “I have also been pining after you for two years, seven months, three days, and two hours” passion. Give me post-credits closure or give me death!!
And no, I am not accepting the 2017 Red Nose Day Actually short as recompense. Patrick Dempsey is Rodrigo Santoro.
Images: Giphy (7), YouTube