AMERICAN MADE Review & Analysis

American Made showcases all of star Tom Cruise’s major strengths: the charisma, the winning smile and the lovable cockiness.  While the story may be vaguely based on the experiences of government informant Barry Seal, this is a Tom Cruise movie through-and-through.  Every character fades into the background as little more than poseable set dressing.  It isn’t that the actors aren’t good in their roles, but that they haven’t been given parts other than as hangers-on.

Perhaps the biggest surprise from American Made is the product placement connected to Tom Cruise.  He’s a star who knows the value of branding and, as such, rarely allows any recognizable products in a scene with him and certainly not in his own hands if possible.  So, when he mentions Harley Davidson motorcycles by name, it’s a far bigger shock than any of the plot.

For more about American Made and product placement, take a look below:

—>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  For the direct link to the review, click here.

All film photos are courtesy of Universal Pictures.

BATTLE OF THE SEXES Review & Analysis

Battle of the Sexes is based on the 1973 real-life tennis match between Billie Jean King (Emma Stone) and Bobby Riggs (Steve Carell).  While the event itself is significant, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a 29 year old player triumphs over a 55 year old.  The meaning is derived from the context the time period provides King’s personal life and professional career.

During the years leading up to the match, female tennis players on tour made 1/8 of the men’s earnings.  Arguments for the disparity ranged from the need to pay men more as the household breadwinners to the fact that the women weren’t as competitive.  This film is about more than a single tournament; Battle of the Sexes shows how fundamental King is to the feminist movement.  It’s not a matter of being better than the men, but equal to them.  King’s triumph on the tennis court is analogous to that of women everywhere.

King personal life is a challenge as well.  She has to conceal her homosexuality through marriage to an inexplicably understanding husband in order to retain her place on the professional tennis circuit.  Exposure can end her career.  As with 2015’s Carol, the time period contributes to the gravitas of the story.

Battle of the Sexes strives to balance the personal and professional aspects of King’s career within the the movie’s runtime.  Yet, neither storyline feels complete through no fault of the actors.  Stone is as solid as expected.  Carell and Sarah Silverman (Gladys) are particularly impressive.

Battle of the Sexes also stars Andrea Riseborough, Natalie Morales, Bill Pullman, Alan Cumming and Elisabeth Shue.  It was directed by the husband and wife team Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.

For more about themes in Battle of the Sexes and eagle eye details to watch for, take a look below:

 

—>Keep in touch with the author on Twitter and Instagram @realZoeHewitt.  Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

All film photos are courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation / Fox Searchlight.

LION Movie Review & Analysis

LION is based on the true story of a young Indian boy named Saroo who mistakenly travels nearly 1,000 miles from home when he boards a train.  After living on the streets for a period, he winds up adopted by an Australian couple.  When he’s older, Saroo uses Google Earth to zoom in on particular train stations and areas in order to finally locate his hometown in India.  More than 20 years after leaving home, Saroo returns and reunites with his mom and siblings.  Adult Saroo is played by Oscar nominee Dev Patel. Saroo’s adoptive mother is played by previous Oscar winner (and current Oscar nominee) Nicole Kidman.  Saroo’s girlfriend is played by Oscar nominee Rooney Mara.  Young Saroo is played by newcomer Sunny Pawar.  LION is directed by Garth Davis.

LION is a well-made and well-crafted story.  I really enjoyed the standard timeline intercut with some flashbacks and visions, similar in that regard to the recent Tom Hanks film SULLY.  

The acting is very good, though I think young Saroo, played by Sunny Pawar, is more deserving of an Oscar nomination than Nicole Kidman, who plays his adoptive mother.  He has to express a variety of emotions throughout the film and  had to learn all of his lines phonetically since he doesn’t speak English.  So, not only is his performance deeply believable and moving, but from that technical standpoint it’s amazing as well.

I really love the relationship between young Saroo and his older brother.  It is loving and particularly gentle as Saroo seems to worship his older brother.  Their relationship also serves as a counterpoint to Saroo’s later relationship as the older brother in Australia to another Indian boy whom his parents adopt.  Pay attention to the evolution of that relationship between brothers as well.

For more about LION, including the color choices in the film and how Google Earth succeeded as a brand integration, take a look below:

—>Looking for the direct link to the video?  Click here.

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