Friday, May 23, 2008

"Then She Found Me"

Actress/Director Helen Hunt

Award-winning actress Helen Hunt makes her feature directing debut with, "Then She Found Me," adapted from the best-selling Elinor Lipman novel about an adopted woman who wants to have her own child.

At first, I had some problems getting into it. The opening sequences felt rushed and contrived. Before April has a chance to deal with one tragedy, another one takes it's place. Writer/Director Helen Hunt seems to rush through some life altering events without allowing her character to learn the inherit lessons.

April has an urgent need to have her own baby to experience that special bond that she never felt as an adopted child. That's when her shallow, self-centered husband (Matthew Broderick) chooses to leave her.

Before she has time to digest that her husband is gone, she meets a man who just might be her soul mate - the father of one of her students. The film seems to be saying that love doesn't come in a neat little package (a bundle of joy) or even at a good time. Love is messy - full of human weakness and flaws. In this case, the package comes with a lot of extra baggage. Colin Firth is vulnerable and sexy as the recently dumped father of two who bumbles his way through the initial stages of this potentially important relationship. Helen Hunt gives an honest, nuanced performance as the confused and conflicted April. Kudos to Ms. Hunt for creating the most romantic relationship I've seen in a very long time.

To further complicate matters, April's birth mother (Bette Midler) turns up to show how really flawed love can be. This is your typical sitcom fare with Midler playing it predictively over the top. However, despite the best jokes being thrown away in the trailer, the Divine Miss M got some good laughs. And there are some touching moments of genuine bonding between the two women.

I also appreciate how the film touches on the spiritual side of being Jewish - not just having the characters perform rituals for the sake of tradition.

Sometimes good art, like life and love, can be flawed. I found this to be the case with THEN SHE FOUND ME. I'm looking forward to seeing it again. If you've been longing for a truly romantic comedy, go see THEN SHE FOUND ME as soon as possible and bring your friends. Lets send a message to Ms. Hunt to keep up the good work!

Movie Blessings!
Jana Segal

Sunday, May 11, 2008

"The Visitor"

"The Visitor," a film by Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent), is about how an act of kindness can enrich the life of the giver. This is a quiet film about a quiet man. Sixty-two year old economics professor Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins from Six Feet Under) is pretending to work at teaching and writing as he sleep walks through life.

While in New York for a conference, he discovers a couple living in his apartment - victims of a real estate scam. It soon becomes clear that the Syrian musician Tarak (Haaz Sleiman) and his Senegalese girlfriend Zainab (Dani Gurira) have no other place to stay. Walter reluctantly opens his home to them. This unplanned act of kindness changes his life in ways he never expected. Out of gratitude, Tarak introduces Walter to the exuberant world of African drumming. Their shared passion bridges cultural and age gaps connecting the two men. When Tarak is unfairly arrested as an undocumented citizen and held for deportation, Walter is compelled to help this near stranger. Walter finds a purpose and passion in his life that was sorely missing."Kindness as it's own reward" is an important theme for our times. In our busy, self contained world it's easy to forget how good it feels to help another person. I'm grateful to Director Tom McCarthy for reminding me.

Movie Blessings!
Jana Segal

Reel Inspiration's mission is to encourage and promote the production and theatrical success of diverse films with entertaining, powerful stories that uplift, challenge, give hope or inspire the human consciousness.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


Guest reviewer:
Angeline R. Hazime

Tonight I watched an independent film at the Loft Cinema in Tucson, AZ, titled "Caramel." This romantic comedy was Lebanon's official submission for Best Foreign Language Film at the 80th Annual Academy Awards. It is the story of several Lebanese woman living their daily lives in Beirut while running a beauty shop. It appeared at first to represent their love lives, but for me it was so much more than that. The title "Caramel" is symbolic of something deeper; something inside the women's souls even. Caramel is smooth and tasty, and rich and sweet, yet it can be so sticky and hard to chew. It is used for waxing; the desired way to remove hair from the body in Lebanon - not just for women but for the men. Actually, I am pleased with the title because waxing in Arabic, especially Lebanese culture, is so central. My Lebanese husband did it on average once a week to his face. In this film the process of the waxing with caramel really is used in key points to represent the way it can be smooth and inviting, even warm... For me it represented these ladies desire for love and acceptance; acceptance of themselves. And then there is the moment of when the caramel goes on and it gets painful and aggressive. I believe the writer/ director Nadine Labaki's point is that love and self identity can be just as painful and aggressive.

I also enjoyed how Lebanese culture was shown in the film. All the dynamics of the different people, and also how Christians and Muslims do actually get a long in Beirut. It isn't all what the American Media makes it out to be over there. The use of the beauty shop and the different subplots was so enthralling for me. Yes, I understood much of what was going on for I personally have been exposed to Lebanese culture being that I am from the Detroit area in Michigan, but I feel anyone would appreciate this opportunity to get a window into to not just the Lebanese people, but to a side of Middle Eastern culture. It is far from the caves of Afghanistan.

It is a foreign film, so the paradigm is going to be much more different than what Americans are use to. I loved the ending and I knew its point, but that is all I will say for the ending. I don't want to give it away. I will say though that one must give into the flow of Caramel and follow the smoothness and the ripping effect in one, and you will get it.