Plan B

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Plan B was a pleasantly surprising recent release with elements of the classic coming-of-age story and modern comedy. Director Natalie Morales is a well-known comedic actress and has a few directing credits under her belt, but this is her feature film debut.

We are immediately introduced to our protagonists: best friends Lupe and Sunny, children of immigrants in a mostly-white suburban town. Even in the exposition, the film tastefully (although not subtly) explores the struggles that come with being minorities, young women, and blossoming sexual beings. Their average day at school includes digs about race and class from the mean girls, an awkward sex ed class, and hopeless pining over their crushes.

Lupe is a force to be reckoned with: a rebellious pastor’s daughter who wears dark makeup and punk fashions. She’s known to go through boyfriends like a wildfire and doesn’t take shit from anyone. Sunny is the perfect daughter: diligent student, goody-two-shoes, reserved and innocent.

The action starts after Lupe convinces Sunny to throw a party while her mom is away. Sunny loses her virginity to the token Christian nerd while Lupe is stood up by Logan. The morning after, Sunny realizes she needs a Plan B pill… but their local pharmacist refuses to sell it to her. This sends the girls on a wild 24-hour adventure: road-tripping to the nearest Planned Parenthood with 100% unplanned meetups with zany rest stop cashiers, strung out drug dealers, and both girls’ crushes.

I was impressed by the sharp dialogue, especially because of the way most made-for-teens content breaks down Gen Z’s colloquialisms into nothing but disjointed, insipid slang. The script was witty and fresh. The cast had great chemistry, with vibrant performances from Kuhoo Verma (Sunny) and Victoria Moroles (Lupe). Scenes between the girls and their love interests were genuinely romantic and felt very natural. Their various peers also added a lot of fun supporting work. Mason Cook certainly stood out as Kyle the Jesus freak. I admit I wasn’t laughing out loud, but the film made up for its low-key humor with touching moments of bonding, realization, and breakdown. I was especially happy to discover that Lupe’s newest boy is actually a girl—it was refreshing to see a heroine whose sexual identity wasn’t her only personality trait, but still appropriately important to her growth.

Plan B‘s message is simple and straightforward: the morning after pill should not be a big deal. And in the end, Sunny’s mother makes this explicitly known by going straight to the local pharmacy to rub the purchase in the antagonist pharmacist’s face. Sunny comes clean about the entire weekend with her mother which begins repairing their distant relationship, and Lupe is able to reconnect with her father, having seen just how unconditional his love is.

I honestly wasn’t expecting to like this movie as much as I did, and was really happy with its representation of today’s teenagers. Most coming of age stories that resonated with my parents didn’t do the same for me. Superbad, Dazed and Confused, and American Pie were funny, but always felt too raunchy, too out-there. Even more recent attempts like Booksmart or Lady Bird struck me as rather unrealistic. Plan B hit the sweet spot between funny, heartwarming, depressing, and honest for a perfect slice of life in modern America.

The Gunman

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Gunman is one of those films that tells you everything in the first five minutes. Apart from the predictable genre—action thriller a la Taken (even directed by Pierre Morel)—there is a pleasantly surprising level of new perspective in this movie. From the jump, you know what to expect: fistfights, black ops maneuvers, an honorable anti-hero, and flashbacks from his dark past. But the setting and elements of political conflict and butterfly effects add a level of sophistication that was completely unexpected.

The basics are the same as many other action-thrillers. Retired badass Jim Terrier (Sean Penn) is roped back into his shady past, forced to face demons he ran away from and save the woman he loves. 8 years ago, after assassinating the Congolese Minister of Mining and triggering an era of chaos, Jim went into hiding. He left behind his girlfriend, NGO (non-governmental organization) doctor Annie, who of course is given no meaningful role in the entire 2 hours of film, despite being a seasoned medical professional and humanitarian.

In the present, Jim suffers from painful flashbacks and dizzy spells that nearly incapacitate him, allegedly a remnant of many head traumas he suffered as an operative. He now works as a humanitarian himself, building wells and pipelines to get fresh water into Congolese villages. On an average day, he is assaulted by a hit squad and discovers that there is a price on his head to do with his last mission—the assassination.

This sets him off on a whirlwind journey across 3 different countries to locate his old partners in crime and keep himself alive. In London, he and an old friend find out that his ex-boss has begun a private firm offering protection to government figures, and wants to eliminate everyone involved in the Congo assassination to keep his records clean. Now the firm’s hit team is chasing him around the clock, to Spain, where he reconnects with bitter colleague Felix and ex-girlfriend Annie.

This section of the movie is far too long. Annie is half-nude in every scene, and Jim spends at least half an hour pining over her and convincing her to cheat on Felix with him. This could be excusable, but Jim and Annie have no chemistry whatsoever, which makes watching it all incredibly painful. Javier Bardem does an excellent job playing the alcoholic and unhinged Felix, jealous and stuck in the past, but it all amounts to nothing as the hit squad kills him, leaving Jim and Annie free to carry out their old romance with no consequences.

Mark Rylance, however, who played Jim’s ex-boss Terrance Cox, made an incredibly unconvincing villain. He reminded me of a clown at Halloween—not scary, but deeply unsettling. The obviousness that he is the villain is clear from his very first scene, making the rest of the movie more of a how-dunnit than a whodunnit, and not a very interesting one at that.

Overall, The Gunman was very predictable, only vaguely interesting, and rather unsatisfying. I considered turning it off multiple times, but Javier Bardem kept stealing the scene. He was absolutely the hidden gem here, and part of the reason I’ve chosen two stars, not just one.

Army of the Dead

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I don’t actively think of myself as a zombie-movie lover, but when I think back on the zombie movies from the past decade, I find myself surprisingly happy with my options. The gritty World War Z, the romantic Warm Bodies, the hilarious Shaun of the Dead and the unforgettable Zombieland. With all that said, Army of the Dead is a disgrace to the genre. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a totally tolerable and, at times, vaguely enjoyable movie. In fact, the fantastic opening credits lull you into a false sense of security, with a punchy opening song (Viva Las Vegas) and fast-paced shots of undead Vegas brides and Elvis impersonators, and a quick introduction to our main characters. But I think it says a lot about a movie when the opening credit sequence is, by far, the best part of the otherwise tiresome two and a half hours. The main issue with Army of the Dead is that it really doesn’t know what it should be. Is it gritty, romantic, or funny? No, it’s not really any of those. It’s just another poorly executed blockbuster (although can it even be called that, with a straight-to-streaming release?).

Army of the Dead’s director (and producer, and cinematographer, and writer) Zack Snyder, now best known for his work in the DC extended universe, has been getting a lot of press recently with his version of the Justice League film. I suppose, after having millions of devoted followers tweet #ReleasetheSnyderCut, and having one of the biggest production studios in the world give you 70 million USD to complete your vision for a superhero movie, your ego might get a little inflated. And that’s what this film feels like. While Snyder has said that this film has been in the back of his mind since his version of the Dawn of the Dead, Army of the Dead instead feels like a director filled with bravado pulled two words out of a hat (‘zombie’, and ‘heist’) and made a film.

With that said, the actors do seem like they’re giving it their all. Dave Bautista captures your attention (even if as a knock off Vin Diesel/Dwayne Johnson from the Fast and Furious franchise) and Matthias Schweighöfer is actually quite charming as German lockpicker ‘Dieter’. And the actresses truly are giving their all as bad-ass zombie slayers, but it’s clear their character design is entirely from a male gaze (really, you’re going to wear hoop earrings to go fight zombies? And who has time to do their eyeshadow in a quarantine camp, even if it is to match your mysterious nickname?).

So, this is my lowest rated film yet so far on this blog. Truly, a hot piece of garbage. But if that’s your thing (see; Sharknado and other iconic hot pieces of garbage) then give it a go. Who knows, maybe Dave Bautista’s tiny glasses will bring you some joy.

The Serpent

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I am an avid consumer of true-crime content in many forms, from documentaries to podcasts, and though I am usually wary of actor portrayals of real life events, The Serpent defied every low expectation I had for it. I blew through this series in a matter of days because of the captivating storyline and characters.

The first episode was a bit slow—a fair amount of exposition was necessary to introduce us to the large cast of key players. First up we have our principal antagonist: Charles Sobrahj. For most of the series he goes by the name Alain Gautier, and sometimes by the names of his victims, whose passports he steals to adopt new identities and travel across Asia and Europe under the radar. His accomplices, Marie-Andrée Leclerc (AKA Monique) and Ajay Chowdhury do the same at his instruction, helping him poison, murder, and burn bodies across the continent, under the guise of smuggling and dealing gems.

Next we meet the team of crime-fighters, a ragtag group who come together out of necessity and a sense of duty. Herman Knippenberg, a Dutch diplomat, and his brilliant wife Angela lead the charge against Sobrahj with fervor that threatens their careers and their marriage, to stop Sobrahj from killing more innocent people. Nadine and Remi Gires are a young French couple unlucky enough to find themselves neighbors to “Alain” and “Monique” in Bangkok, the reluctant champions of the couple’s many victims. Finally, we have Herman’s one true ally among diplomats: Paul Siemons. The Belgian attaché lends his expertise on the ins and outs of the Thai government and the embassies to subvert the system and find loopholes to justice. The forces of evil and bureaucracy oppose the five at every turn, making for a simultaneously devastating and inspiring story of perseverance and the ease of evildoings.

By nature of being a true story, The Serpent has an intensity that doubles down on the disturbing nature of Sobrahj’s crimes. But the stellar cast and vivid writing played an important role in creating rich, complex relationships that I felt I’d been following for years (and could follow years longer). Tahar Rahim embodies the serial killer with poise, charm, and an unbridled rage against the world—all the things that made Sobrahj so terrifying. Jenna Coleman delivers intricate layers of facade and inner turmoil, while Mathilde Warnier and Amesh Edireweera portray the fear and bravery that came with Alain and Monique’s “friendship.” But in my opinion, the most captivating aspect of the series was the small but stunning performances from every single victim, which made it impossible to stop watching until the serpent was caught.

You root for each one to triumph over Charles’ evil, even more so every time you remember they are all based on real people. You want them to succeed, escape, and make the right decisions that will lead them away unscathed, no matter how many times his manipulation wins. And the more lives he destroys, the more invested you become—like Herman, and Angela, and Paul—in the inevitable failure or slip-up that will get him caught and punished. In a few words? A must-see.

Palm Springs

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Some might criticise Palm Springs as another version of the tired Groundhog Day trope. And to that I would say, who cares? While the film certainly wasn’t entirely revolutionary in its premise, I was more than delighted to watch a few hours of Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti adorable dancing across the screen. Samberg’s charm seems to have no ends in this movie, and his character Nyles is loveable from the first shot of him on a pool floatie to the last.

The concept of the movie is simple. At her sister’s wedding, maid-of-honour Sarah is charmed by the laid-back, Hawaiian-shirt-wearing Nyles. They spend the evening together, drinking, making fun of Nyles’ cheating girlfriend, and eventually find themselves alone in the desert together. Unfortunately, before things get too hot and heavy, Nyles is struck by an arrow. As we follow along, we realise that Nyles’ has been trapped in a time-loop for an extraordinary amount of time, and has come to the conclusion that his life is without meaning.

At its core, just as with Groundhog Day, this movie is a romantic comedy. Even before they enter the time loop, both Nyles and Sarah have very little to live for. Nyles is in a dead-end relationship, and Sarah’s self-destructive tendencies have isolated her from friends and family. Freed from all forms of normal morality, the two seem initially to have found the perfect escape from real life. As their feelings grow, however, both Nyles and Sarah wonder if there’s more to their endless life than choreographed dances at the local bar. Palm Springs neatly and light heartedly explores ideas of pain and love.

A review of this film would not be complete without a mention for J.K. Simmons’ endearing performance. His character mainly serves as an initial roadblock and antagonist for Nyles, but eventually becomes a sage of advice. His ability to go from bow-and-arrow toting maniac to doting father and husband adds to the charming absurdity of the film.

The film is short but rapidly paced and doesn’t stop for breath throughout its short 90-minute runtime. The cinematography is vibrant and comical, and, in its style, unlike any other romantic comedy I’ve seen. It has the quirk of Samberg’s artistic touch, and keeps humour relevant and upbeat, never once crossing into the cheap vulgarity many contemporary comedies seem to rely on. Nyles and Sarah also share the on-screen space as main characters, and while we use Sarah initially as navigation into the life Nyles has grown accustomed to, she does not serve as a plot device, but instead grows as a fully fleshed character. I would argue, in fact, that while Nyles is the central character for the first half, Sarah’s ambitions turn her into the protagonist and hero of her own story.

There is little else to say about Palm Springs, other than it is a must-watch. While it is simple in its premise and storyline, it accomplishes both fantastically.

The Ritual

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As a lover of horror movies, I felt well-prepared for the plot of The Ritual: four friends with skeletons in their group closet venture into the Nordic woods for a hiking holiday, where brutality unfolds. The plot itself was nothing new—the forest is always full of dangers for young men stranded outside civilization—but the expert cinematography and stunning performances all-around made for a pleasant surprise. Without giving anything too important away, I can say for certain that The Ritual is a great addition to the genre, and a testament to the chops of director David Bruckner, writer Joe Barton, and stars Rafe Spall and Sam Troughton.

From the first moment, we can see the rifts within our group of heroes. They’ve known each other since university and growing up has pushed some of them apart. Luke, played by Rafe Spall, is our main man, racked with guilt over the death of old friend Rob in a robbery-gone-wrong. Dom (Sam Troughton), the nerdy family man of the group, blames Luke for Rob’s death. Phil takes a background role, staying mostly quiet, while Hutch acts as the voice of reason.

The trip itself is an homage to Rob, the only one who really considered hiking in Sweden fun. In past years, they’d gone on lads’ trips to Ibiza and Amsterdam, but in honor of their late friend, hiking it is. All is well until Dom hurts his leg and the boys decide to take a shortcut back to the lodge… off the trail… through the forest… I’m sure you see where this is going.

The forces of nature and things unseen join forces against the four, stranding them in the dense woods with limited supplies and willpower. Our motley crew is thoroughly spooked by the time they are first attacked and press on through the woods despite a gutted elk hanging in the trees and a spooky house that riddles each with nightmares. Cleverly, Hutch is the first taken out by the antagonist—an unseen force for much of the film. With their level-headed leader gone, the group begins a descent into madness, sped up by fighting, injury, and terrifying discoveries. The plot is well-paced and I was impressed at the flow of the dialogue and dream sequences, often weaving certain imagery or motifs into each scene.

A number of good scares made their way into the final cut, and I have to admit I flinched more than once. The antagonist is terrifying, even before it rears its ugly head, and its minions are creepy enough to at least stay in your head for a few days. I would put myself solidly in the middle of the “Easy to Scare” scale, and the gore and unease of this movie did not put me off. If you’re looking for a good scare and a good story, The Ritual is the film for you. On the surface, it evokes a classic horror premise. Deep down, it’s a story about becoming an adult and facing your fears. The ending isn’t necessarily a twist, but it does leave you satisfied with the character growth and movie lore.

Signs

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

As I was sitting down to watch an M Night Shyamalan film, I felt fairly well prepared for to what I was about to watch. And that’s not a bad thing. Shyamalan has a knack for thrillers that is unmatched within the genre. Most thrillers are filled with unexplained twists and turns, over the top chase scenes, and a plot that grows ever the more confusing by the minute. Unlike those, Shyamalan feeds you more and more information through the film, clearing your understanding at the same pace as the main characters’.

The movie follows the Hess family, who, after finding crop circles on their farm, are forced to reconsider whether or not they are alone in their universe. They are led by patriarch Father Graham Hess, a former priest who renounced his title after his wife suddenly passed away. His younger brother, Merrill, came to live on the farm to work and to help with the children. Graham’s kids, Morgan and Bo, are struggling without their mother, and Graham’s surety of his world is entirely shaken. For a movie about alien life, Shyamalan does an excellent job at reinforcing the theme of faith, both in religion and in one another. As a thriller, most scenes are nonconfrontational, and instead rely on incredibly close shots of Mel Gibson’s face and a distant but rising global threat to build tension.

Watching this movie in a pandemic felt more disconcerting than usual. Especially scenes where Merrill, played by a young Joaquin Phoenix, sits in a closet, his eyes fixated psychotically on a television. He obsessively watches news broadcasts of the end of the world, which, if it had been set twenty years later, would undoubtedly be replaced by obsessive doom scrolling. As the end of the world draws near, each family member takes to a different obsession. Somehow, I feel that if Shyamalan had written this is 2020, Mel Gibson would be aggressively making sourdough bread.

The pièce de résistance of this film, however, just as with most M Night Shyamalan films, is the way every neatly clicks into place in the last fifteen minutes of the film. Everything that was first presented as bad omens become lifesaving, like Graham’s wife’s final words, Bo’s obsession with water glasses, Merrill’s failed baseball career, and Morgan’s crippling asthma. Unlike most thriller writers, Shyamalan understands how to make his audience feel clever. Most thrillers take pride in their obscurity and use unexplained plot holes to cover their poorly written plots. Or, on the flip side, they patronise their audience, and spoon feed the entirely unsurprising plot twists.  

Overall, this film completely itches the scratch. It’s a thriller, horror, and mystery tied into one, and Shyamalan imbues just enough humour to cut through the darkness. It is, however, more of a fun thought experiment than a fleshed-out film. Other than Graham, most characters don’t get fully realised development, and instead serves as plot points to fill up Graham’s story. Despite this, Signs is a fun and gripping watch.

I Care a Lot

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Rosamund Pike takes centre stage again as a cunning and sinister ‘lioness’ in the new thriller I Care a Lot. Pike plays Marla Grayson, a career driven woman who makes her profit from swindling the elderly and fooling the justice system. Grayson, along with her friend, a corrupt doctor, convince courts to allow Grayson full guardianship of elderly patients, citing their inability to care for themselves. Once the patients are secure in care homes, away from the protection of their family and friends, Grayson’s team empty out any valuables and assets from their victims, and pocket the money for themselves. With a dark and sinister overtone and Rosamund Pike at its centre, the movie takes on a very ‘Gone Girl’ aesthetic. Pike has proven once again that she is incredibly suited to playing these ‘lioness’ characters, and I appreciate how solidly they stuck to this characterisation.

Many of these types of female characters, written to be heartless or cold-blooded, are then either made to be ugly, or eventually find their humanity as part of some wider character development (usually involving a man). But Grayson, a sadistic lesbian with excellent fashion taste, carries the same energy as DiCaprio in the Wolf of Wall Street, but never once sacrifices her femininity or her goals. Her meticulously designed pantsuits and dresses remind you of this in every scene, and although she’s more than happy to get her hands dirty, her charisma is what makes her so successful. While I was disappointed that Grayson’s counterpart was not another tall, beautiful merciless woman, I was happy to see that it was Peter Dinklage. His contrast, even just physically, to Rosamund Pike make the duo an unexpected but well-welcomed pair on screen. Their chemistry was not exactly electric, but it did firmly hold my attention. They play what I would normally describe as a cat and mouse game, although for these two it’s more like a couple of wild barn cats running circles around one another.

The film overall is sinister and dark, but surprisingly fast paced. There are action scenes for those who want them, quick-witted court scenes for others, and, in case I haven’t made it clear thus far, many scenes of Rosamund Pike strutting around in a pastel pantsuit for everyone else. While it’s listed as a comedy, I would not say that the film is comedic so much as it has a sense of humour. There aren’t necessarily any laugh out loud moments, but more of a cheeky and self-aware tone.

The one real downside of I Care a Lot is the act structure. The story peaks far too early, and the film is forced to elongate the climax for a good hour of the film. While I think this is rather common for action movies, the moments of quiet between the big action scenes are not really quiet enough. Instead, we get a rather repetitive and at times tedious onslaught of events. Although the exposition and conclusion are sharp and to the point, the pace of the middle act feels forced and convoluted. Nevertheless, I Care a Lot is a fun and upbeat thrill ride well worth a watch.

Star Trek: Lower Decks

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Star Treks: Lower Decks was an unexpected gem. I’ve never been a big Star Trek fan, and I assumed it would be something like Star Wars: Clone Wars, which is much more serious, but also quite juvenile. Halfway through the pilot, I could tell that this show was so much more. Lower Decks is made of entertaining characters with interesting backgrounds, and throws them into a previously unexplored but familiar environment. The concept is, by itself, an amusing idea. Who is plumbing Spock’s toilets? Who is dry-cleaning Kirk’s uniform? Lower Decks answers these questions, and expands on the Star Trek universe.

 The USS Cerritos (which I assume is named after the comedically boring city of Cerritos, California) has the typical cast of characters; a headstrong captain, a dashing first mate, and a clever but sarcastic doctor. But these are not our main cast. Instead, the show follows the quirky adventures of Beckett Mariner, an ensign with a taste for mischief, and Brad Boimler, another ensign who is desperate to please anyone above his station. Mariner is a loveable troublemaker, who believes that the brig is the best place to be. Her character is really what makes the show compelling. She leads her crewmates, and the audience, through the world of Star Fleet, and positions the narrative from a new and exciting perspective. There are interesting points made about difficult topics, like the consequences of foreign diplomatic intervention that I absolutely did not expect from a comedic, animated show. Bradward Boimler is her perfect counterpart. The two are dissimilar in most ways, but bond over the Lower Decks traditions. In a really interesting dynamic, they both somehow play the straight man to the other’s crazy. Over the series they grow to be each other’s best friend, and provide most of the quick and witty banter. What I most appreciate about this show is its ability to walk the fine line of animated television between crudeness and childishness. The only show in recent memory that rivals this feat is Bob’s Burgers. The show is made up of fast paced action and ‘blink and you miss it’ punchlines. It has a drier humour than most television, and, importantly, does not fall into the Family Guy trap of relying on dirty lines when wit can’t be found. While I think this sets it up for a slightly younger audience, it does not by any means come across as children’s television. In fact, I think children could be traumatised by it (especially scenes like the ones where ‘Badgey’, still coming to grips with his own sentience, goes on a murderous hunting spree).

The main failing of Lower Decks is that, if you were a Star Trek fan, you could be entirely disappointed. While I think this is my favourite version of this universe, I understand that it does not carry the same atmosphere of past Star Trek content. Lower Decks is far more suited for a viewer like me, who knows enough about Star Trek to understand the jokes, but wouldn’t care if they insinuated Kirk was a Vulcan.  

Malcolm and Marie

Rating: 4 out of 5.

It’s difficult to know where to begin reviewing Malcom and Marie, especially when Malcolm spends half the movie ragging on movie critics. But the easiest way to start is to say this is a spectacular movie that is deeply personal but widely relatable. The plot follows an argument on the evening following the opening night of Malcolm’s debut film. Over the course of the night, the ties that hold him and his girlfriend Marie together completely unravel after he forgets to thank her in his speech.

Both Malcolm and Marie are strongly written, but the performances from Zendaya and John David Washington are what make these characters. They are both complex and very human. In many ways, their faults outweigh their redeeming characteristics. They are silly with one another, and certainly enjoy each other’s company, but more often than not they are the source of each other’s emotional damage. Zendaya’s performance of Marie is charming but manipulative, and John David Washington plays Malcolm as clever and egotistical. Their argument explores the complex nature of drug use, jealousy, and gratitude in a relationship. They slowly become more hurtful, and purposely target each other’s weak points. More viciously, I would say, than a normal couple, and with a serious understanding and judgment of the other’s character. Their words are meant to kill their relationship, and yet they continuously reconcile. It shows a stubborn resilience from both, who have decided that this is their person, for better or for worse.

There is an interesting use of physical space. The house contains their resentment and anger. It suffocates the two of them, and they fail to maintain a cool head while within it’s walls. Even when they try to leave, the darkness of the night ensures that they have to return, sometimes angrier than when they left. When the sun comes up, they are finally able to reconcile. An interesting metaphor, considering the nature of the pandemic. The suffocation, and danger, that many have felt during the pandemic is addressed here. While everyone is locked inside, relationships reach their make-or-break point. In this house, Malcolm and Marie take their relationship as close to the edge as they can.

It is not without its faults, however. Each time the two seemingly reconcile, it is mere minutes until they are at each other’s throats. The first two peaks and troughs feel like they follow the natural course of an argument, but the recurring pattern becomes almost farcical after the third. The movie also falls into a trope I like to call the La La Land Complex, where Hollywood movies love to talk about how difficult it is being in the spotlight. Malcolm believes that he is entirely misunderstood, and that he alone truly understands the old classics. He is a reflection of the narcissistic nature of the film scene. While it’s not an uninteresting story, we have seen it hundreds of times over, even in just the past few years. Oscar nominations and wins went to films like Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, A Star is Born, and Judy. Even the age difference between the two could be seen as more evidence of the self-reflective nature on Hollywood and filmmaking. Or, as I think is more likely, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. By making a comment on age gaps between Hollywood stars and their partners, it hires two actors who play right into that complex. This otherwise interesting comment on the nature of relationships and self-destruction instead became a self-indulgent comment on the film industry.  

Regardless of this self-indulgent nature, the film is still a fantastic film about relationships and what we mean to one another.