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payne’s picks

By Sarah Payne

Movie Releases

Little Women – December 25 – Did you know several scenes in the latest adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women were filmed in Massachusetts? It makes sense, since the story is set in a town loosely based off of Concord. The eighth adaptation of Alcott’s novel, this version was written and directed by Greta Gerwig, who also directed the highly acclaimed film Lady Bird in 2017. While the cast includes names like Meryl Streep, Emma Watson, Saoirse Ronana, and Laura Dern, I suspect Gerwig is trying really hard to make an overt social statement with the film, as she did with Lady Bird. In a New York Times review, Amanda Hess writes, “The result is a meta tale that cracks open the world of ‘Little Women’ to make a larger point about the stories we tell about women and girls.” Directors with blatantly obvious agendas tend to turn me off, because it feels like they’re trying to prove something even more than entertain the audience (which is really all I care about these days), but Gerwig could still surprise me.

1917 – December 25 – A lot of families (including my own), head to the movies on Christmas. Perhaps you’re of the mindset that a war film is more festive – or entertaining – than Little Women. Thankfully, 1917, directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty and Revolutionary Road), will premiere the same day. At a Deadline event, producer Pippa Harris shared a bit about the inspiration for the film: “Sam’s grandfather was in the First World War and told him a number of stories when we were kids and from that Sam got it in his head to tell a WWI story. He and Krysty [Wilson-Cairns] went and read every first-person account in the Imperial War museum and many other sources and from that created a fictional story.” What’s even more fascinating is the entire film is made to look like one continuous shot, so you feel like you’re actually in the trenches with the soldiers.

Move Reviews

El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie – Netflix has been killing it lately with what seems like an endless stream of original content. Variety reports the company paid $15 billion in 2019 alone to ramp up this part of the business. I suspect a lot of it goes unwatched, simply because of all the choices people have today (including binging old favorites like The Office and Friends – guilty!). But Netflix made the right bet to exclusively release El Camino, which had 6.5 million viewers its opening weekend. I think the film lives up to the hype, but I was a bit disappointed that Breaking Bad fans didn’t really learn anything new about the ending to the story. The film certainly caters to diehard fans, as if each scene is a wink to an inside joke only someone who’s seen the whole series will understand. I’m not sure I needed this chapter of the story to see that Jesse ends up OK, but it is fun to re-visit beloved characters in a new context (which is why I’m so excited for the next season of Better Call Saul!).

TV Review

Living with Yourself – Season 1 – A co-worker recently asked if I had watched Netflix’s new show Living with Yourself. I told her I did and she asked what I thought of it. I paused. It’s difficult to explain how I feel about the show. It stars Paul Rudd as a middle-aged man looking for a quick fix for his depression and overall ineptness. In the process, he ends up with a clone who’s a healthier, happier version of himself, but with all the same memories. The plot raises interesting questions about humanity and happiness. Do we need the inner struggle and fallibility to be happy? To be human? It’s a bit depressing, but there are many funny moments in the show, too. I like the way the story is told from Rudd’s character in one episode and the same events are told from the clone’s perspective in the following episode. It hasn’t yet been picked up for a second season, but the finale leaves that open as an option.