Film Review: FIVE FEET APART (USA 2019) **

A pair of teenagers with life-threatening illnesses meet in a hospital and fall in love.


Justin Baldoni

FIVE FEET APART is an American teen weepie based on a script written and sold (they paid for this?) by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis.

FIVE FEET APART belongs to the genre of teen romantic comedies, the type I used to avoid when I was a teen movie-goer.  Films like LOVE STORY with corny dialogue like “love means never having to say you’re sorry,” or S.W.A.L.K. (SEALED WITH A LOVING KISS) with Bee Gee songs gave me goosebumps.   I hate goosebumps! Now after all these years, arrive 5 FEET APART, a film about two kids suffering from C.F. (cystic fibrosis) falling in love that is supposed to tug (and perhaps break) ones heartstrings arrives.  The film will be a bit too much to take in for many but still there is a healthy market for these teen tearjerkers.  The film also comes filled with cliches including that dreaded one of the gay best friend.

The film centres on Stella (Haley Lu Richardson from COLUMBUS and SUPPORT THE GIRLS) who has made a home in the hospital – comfortable and friends particularly for her caring nurse (Kimberly Hebert Gregory).  She meets another C.F. patient. Will (Cole Spouse from RIVERDALE) who has a bacteria that requires him to stay at least six feet apart from anyone one else with C.F.  Death will and has resulted in the past, according to the nurse who insists the rule be maintained.  Of course, the lovers break the rule, 1 foot at at a time.  She gets a stick 5 feet long to keep herself and the now true love apart.

There are a few but too many coincidences in the story.  One is the nurse who has already experienced an identical situation that resulted in death.  “It won’t happen again, not on my watch,” she insists.  Stella has a dead sister, from a diving accident who will make her guilty with the sister appearing in her dreams to bring up the tears several notches.  The parents are conveniently left out of the story.  So obvious is this fact, is that when Stella’s father suddenly appears at the end of the film, audiences will likely wonder: “I never knew Stella had one.”  The parents never visit.

Actors Richardson and Spouse do what they can with the limited material and fare quite well, all things considering.

The film’s soundtrack is filled with indie songs.  But it is so manipulative to observe the way these tunes are drummed into the audience.  In the hospital scene, the nurse and others move in slow motion so that the song on the soundtrack can be finished by the time the scene ends.

To the film’s credit, it reveals a few points of awareness of the disease.  The film is also too obvious in being politically correct, which includes a nurse that has to be black.

Stay hundreds of feet apart from this one.


Film Review: SUPPORT THE GIRLS (USA 2018)

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Support the Girls Poster

The general manager at a highway-side ”sports bar with curves” has her incurable optimism and faith, in her girls, her customers, and herself, tested over the course of a long, strange day.


Andrew Bujalski


What is worse that working under an unreasonable boss?  A reasonable boss having to support all of his or her employees.  This is the premise of SUPPORT THE GIRLS, a film with the appropriate themed title that centres on an angel (but with a foul mouth) who supervises a burger and beer joint called “Double Whammies”.  This is not a strip club but the staff are scantly clad, which is a formula for trouble.  But the “Double Whammies” franchise is not that far out an idea.  Toronto has “Hooters” a franchise which is basically the same thing.

Lisa (Regina Hall) is the mother-hen manager of “Double Whammies”.  When the film opens, the audience sees her at work.  She is faced with a number of problems while hiring a few new girls.  There is a man stuck in the duct, some guy trying to break into the place – a good idea at that time.  At work, she has to find a babysitter for one of the other girls, organize a fundraiser to support one of the girls in distress and a cable outage just before the big fight when business is expected to pick up.  “You are the best manager ever, ” Lisa is complemented by one of the staffers in the film.  Lisa runs the place so that there is zero tolerance for abuse.  Touching and insulting are not allowed.  She does not need to call the cops as the cops are usually present in the venue as customers.

Of all the dramatic set-ups, the best segment is the one where a biker calls one of her waitresses fat.  She forces him to apologize or get kicked out of the place.  This scene caused a stir in the audience when the film debuted at SXSW 2018.  It is always a pleasure to watch an asshole, especially a female abuser get his comeuppance.  There are a number of rules that must be followed at “Double Whammies”, the first of which is “No Drama”.  How can one keep that one?   Lisa complains to the ass-hole owner of the place.

The soundtrack is mixed including some rap and Motown music.

Regina Hall holds her own playing Lisa.  Also starring as the wait-staff are Haley Lu Richardson as the cheery pro, Shayna McHayle (aka music artist Junglepussy) as the unflappable vet and Dylan Gelula as the newcomer who’d like to sleaze things up a bit.

The film is summed up by Lisa’s point of view expressed at an interview for a job at Man Cave.  The film’s climax has two staffers screaming at the top of their voices from a rooftop with Lisa looking on.  Their screeching voices are nothing short of irritating.  What should be an exhilarating segment turns out the complete opposite.   What was director Bujalki thinking?

SUPPORT THE GIRLS, good intentions aside (the film stresses the message of respect) runs down the predictable route.  Nothing really expected or surprising is in the script which he also wrote.

Recommended maybe for the staff of “Hooters”!



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Film Review: SPLIT (USA 2017) ***1/2

split_poster.jpgDirector: M. Night Shyamalan
Writer: M. Night Shyamalan
Stars: James McAvoy, Anya Taylor-Joy, Haley Lu Richardson

Review by Gilbert Seah

 The first thing on the mind of anyone venturing to see a new M. Night Shyamalan film is whether the film is going to be a bomb like AFTER EARTH and THE LAST AIRBENDER or a hit like his early films THE SIXTH SENSE, SIGNS and UNBREAKABLE. His last film THE VISIT pleased the majority of filmgoers and SPILT should do the same.

The film begins with the abduction in a car in broad daylight of three teenage friends Claire (Haley Lu Richardson), Marcia (Jessica Sula) and difficult outsider Casey (Anya Taylor-Joy). The three girls get seated in the car while the father of one of them puts their gear in the trunk. “Can I help you?” the father says to a stranger whose face is off-camera.

From the car mirror, Casey senses something is wrong when she sees their bags on the road. She turns to get a glimpse of the man who has just moved into the driver’s seat and it is not her friend’s father. This is top notch camera work worthy of Hitchcock and proves a hard act to follow. True enough, none of the rest of the film can match the first 10 minutes of pure suspense.

Their captor Kevin (James McAvoy) locks the trio in a windowless room, then proceeds to frighten and baffle them. One minute he’s wearing eyeglasses and obsessive about cleanliness, the next he is presenting as female (PSYCHO style), and later he acts like a nine-year-old boy. It is revealed that Kevin exhibits 23 alternate personalities, and in order to escape, his captives must convince one of the personalities within him to set them free, before the arrival of the 24th and final personality, the “beast”.

James McAvoy delivers a really creepy performance worthy of Heath Ledger’s Joker. Teen actress Taylor-Joy need not have to do much. The film is scary enough and all she has to do is register fear in hr face. Shyamalan often has the camera in close-up.

To add more to the simple plot of abduction, the story of Casey’s life is told in flashbacks. Her father has passed on from a heart attack and she is looked after by a creepy uncle who may be a pedophile. Kevin is a patient under study by Dr. Fletcher (Betty Buckley) who hopes to rehabilitate him.

As in all Shyamalan’s films, there is a surprise twist – the best of which were in his first two films. There is a big surprise at the end of this one too, but only consequential to the goings-on. Still, Shyamalan fans should not be disappointed.

Shyamalan’s films all make money even his two big critical flops. SPLIT only cost a paltry $10 million to make, primarily for its use of inexpensive stars and absent unneeded special effects. SPLIT is expected to gross $20-25 million this weekend alone which means that there should be another Shyamalan thriller/horror the next year. No one should be complaining.


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Movie Review: THE BRONZE. Director: Bryan Buckley

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the_bronzeTHE BRONZE (ISA 2015) ***
Directed by Bryan Buckley

Starring: Melissa Rauch, Gary Cole, Haley Lu Richardson

Review by Gilbert Seah

THE BRONZE is a feel good crowd pleaser about a has-been foul-mouthed bronze gymnastic medallist that makes it good. The trouble with feel-good films like the recent EDDIE THE EAGLE is that it is too formulaic, with all the right buttons pushed that everything is predictable right up to the secret smile of a coach to the end credits. Fortunately for THE BRONZE, the niche of the lead character being a foul mouth breaks the trend – a little anyway.

It all began a decade ago when Hope Ann Greggory (Melissa Rauch) was America’s sweetheart. Her inspired performance on a ruptured Achilles at the world’s most prestigious gymnastics tournament clinched an unlikely bronze medal for the U.S. team and brought glory to her hometown of Amherst, Ohio. But in the years since that epic third place victory, Hope has wasted her life. Still living in her too loving/possessive dad Stan’s (Gary Cole) basement, still sporting her daily uniform of a Team USA gym suit with teeny-bopper bangs, ponytail and scrunchie, she spends her days at the mall milking her minor celebrity for free food and favours.

Hope’s routine is upended when she learns that she must coach Amherst’s newest gymnastics prodigy Maggie (Haley Lu Richardson) in order to receive a sizeable financial inheritance. Hope is faced with a serious dilemma: whether to jeopardize her “hometown hero” status by devotedly training this rising star to achieve the dreams she never could?

The film plays like STRANGERS WITH CANDY, another comedy with a lead character similar to Coach Hope’s. In fact Melissa Rauch’s mannerisms in THE BRONZE are so similar to the lead’s in STRANGERS WITH CANDY that one wonders if she uses that film as her inspiration. It works anyway. The success of THE BRONZE lies largely on Rauch’s nuanced performance and she delivers it right up to the very end with her very vulgar end credits rendering of the rap song called “F That”.

Some things are still predictable in the script like her romance, her turning over a new leaf and her final making-up with her long suffering father.

Director Buckley serves his humour without constraint. The gymnastic sex segment is a prime example of humour gone bonkers. A second example is the the vulgar F That song at the end credits.

The gymnast competition segments are also exciting enough – executed with superior camera work and choreographed synchronicity.

Buckley also approaches the film with a no-nonsense approach. The first 10 minutes of the film, for example are used to establish Hope’s character – ranging from user (getting free favours at the local mall from her past glory) to sympathetic (aiding an invalid with money to fix his wheel chair). Her one-liner “I’m a star, not a coach,” effectively captures all that needs to be shown. In a similar way, this is a comedic version of WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY HOPE?

Not too preachy, sufficiently hilarious, well shot with a prize performance from the lead actress Rauch, THE BRONZE is an entertaining enough time waster.


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