What's on at the Tropic
by Phil Mann
In THE LOVELY BONES mega-director Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings) brings mega-best-selling author Alice Sebold's novel to the screen. Despite a great cast, led by young Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) and Stanley Tucci -- who's got a Best Supporting Actor nod -- Jackson has his work cut out for him adapting a novel narrated by a murdered 14-year-old girl.
But Jackson brings an apt background to the task. His first major writing-directing effort was Heavenly Creatures, based on a true story of two teen-aged New Zealand girls who killed one of their mothers when she tried to break the pair apart. And he followed that with The Frighteners, a sci-fi horror flick about a psychic exorcist. So he's really returning to his roots with Lovely Bones. Staying true to the novel, Susie, the deceased girl, remains the center of the movie, sometimes in reality and sometimes in dream/fantasy, as she watches her father, her sister, and a cop try to catch her killer.
Perhaps it's because I didn't read the book, but I agree with a critic who observed that the movie is "soulful, respectful, masterful, horrifying, rending and emotionally true. It may not be the Lovely Bones that you have in mind, but it’s a fine and powerful one. " (Portland Oregonian)
THE BLIND SIDE and IT'S COMPLICATED both are major Hollywood releases that the Tropic has brought back for local filmgoers who may have missed them earlier. A dark horse favorite for the Best Picture Oscar, The Blind Side is a surprise hit, and its star Sandra Bullock is a favorite for Best Actress. In case you haven't heard, the movie is based on an inspirational, uplifting true story of a white family who take in a homeless black teenager and turn his life around, while he develops into a football player who's now made it in the NFL.
On the other hand, there's nothing the least bit inspirational about It's Complicated. Maybe that's why Meryl Streep's performance as a woman playing hanky-panky with her remarried ex-husband (Alec Baldwin) didn't succeed in grabbing her sixteenth Oscar nomination. (Instead they gave it to her for Julie and Julia.) You've got to love the scenes between beefy Baldwin and stunning Streep. They've got all the best lines, leaving traditional funnyman Steve Martin to provide the serious relief as Meryl's more-appropriate lover.
Counterpoint to all this is THE FOUR SEASONS LODGE, a documentary from the legendary Albert Maysles (Grey Gardens) shot at a Catskills bungalow colony occupied by a group of 80-to-90-year old Polish émigrés, all orphaned survivors of the holocaust. They created "a family from our friends," as one woman puts it, and they're still a family more than a half-century later. Survivors all, they have something to teach us about life.
The big Special Event this week is a double feature of two short documentary films made by local directors about local events. THE NEWCOMER is an eye-opening tale about Richard Heyman, the first gay Mayor in America, and an amazing politician to boot. The Key West we know came of age during his terms as Commissioner and Mayor (1979-85, 1987-89) and rudely entered the AIDS era as Heyman himself died from the disease in 1994. AUDIENCE WITH THE QUEENS is right out of contemporary Key West, a backstage peek at the life and lives of drag queens, starring the justly-famous Sushi, and featuring a bevy of other 801 Duval habitués. Both John Mikytuck, Producer-Director of The Newcomer, and Robbie Hopcraft, Producer-Director of Audience With the Queens, will be on hand for Q & A after their films.
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[from Key West, the newspaper]