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By Sarah Payne
Glass – January 18th – This month, the sequel to M. Night Shyamalan’s movies Split (2016) and Unbreakable (2000) finally hits theaters. Though I enjoyed each prequel, I enjoyed them independent of each other. I have mixed feelings about Shyamalan combining universes. It feels a little like The Avengers – how focusing on so many characters at once means as a viewer you never get to delve too deep into any one character. In fact, Shyamalan told Digital Spy last year that his first pass at the film was more than three hours long. I’m not really surprised, considering his focus on three separate “superheroes.” He also told Digital Spy that Glass has been his most difficult movie to make in his career. “It’s super ambitious for its budget and the days. There was a lot of people and a lot of characters to arc.” Need I mention that Shyamalan has a history of being overly ambitious and failing terribly – i.e. The Village (44% on Rotten Tomatoes) and Lady in the Water (25% on Rotten Tomatoes)? I’m also skeptical about this movie, just considering the fact that it’s been in postproduction for more than a year. That’s never a good sign, especially if the later release disqualifies the film for this year’s Oscar season.
Wanderlust – What most impressed me about this six-episode original drama on Netflix is that it immediately drew me in, despite the fact that the subject is a bit outside the usual for me. Starring Toni Collette as Joy, it follows the story of a middle-aged British couple with grown children who decide to try an open marriage instead of getting a divorce. The premise might sound risqué and flashy, but Wanderlust is actually quite thoughtful and moving. I enjoy the fact that the series focuses on several different couples at once, all connected in some way to the two main characters (similar to Love Actually). Joy is a psychiatrist, and the whole series explores the idea that our past experiences and trauma have a profound impact on our ability to form healthy relationships with our partners. As viewers, we slowly find out more about Joy’s past, which begins to explain her behavior. I’ll admit that the show almost lost me halfway through episode five, which is essentially one long, continuous therapy session. It’s tedious and uncomfortable, but the show turns a corner in that moment and changes trajectory in a really interesting way.
Instant Family – You know how the saying goes, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” I was totally guilty of that when it came to Instant Family. I saw Mark Wahlberg in the trailer and immediately dismissed it as another silly comedy (though his movie Daddy’s Home was quite fun). Truthfully, I only saw the movie in theaters because I was desperate to get out of the house and see anything that was playing. But I was wrong (I love when that happens) and Instant Family is actually very heartwarming. And for me, it was educational. It opened my eyes not only to the flaws in the foster care system, but also to the unbelievable generosity and love that foster parents give their children. I only have one little one, and she shares my DNA. It’s hard to imagine suddenly bringing three nearly-grown children into my home. Loving and patient foster parents are real-life superheroes. Mark Wahlberg and Rose Byrne also have great chemistry with each other and with their three foster kids in the film. And don’t worry, there are plenty of laughs in Instant Family, too. One of the big takeaways for me is life is tough enough, so why not have a sense of humor about it?