‘House of Gucci’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Versace. Armani. Gucci.

Those are three of the most notable fashion designers that hail from Italy. When you think of them, you think: suave, sleek, and sexy. Like any Europeans – but especially Italians- there is this air that comes with being Italian. It’s not necessarily pride, or arrogance; it’s more of knowing who you are and being able to carry it well. Your last name also carries so much weight because it is a gift to be a part of your family. The family connection combined with care for your craft is something that is cherished and will bloom in your soul. When making a film about Italian royalty, like Gucci, all of this needs to be incorporated in order to sell the story you’re telling.

The main issue with Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci, apart from the script being an absolute mess, and the accents constantly being dropped, is that it does not feel Italian. It doesn’t matter if you shove Italian songs in your soundtrack or drink espresso like it’s going out of style, it simply did not give off that essence within the atmosphere of this film. It did not feel sleek, suave, or sexy, and that is what I was expecting. This film takes place in the 80s and the colour palette was very dull. This is a film about Gucci and it was lacking in glamour? The wardrobe was wasted because the clothes ended up wearing the actors, instead of the actors owning the fact that they are dripping in Gucci from head-to-toe.

When you look at this cast, you think that it’s stacked, but when you actually watch the movie, they were only as strong as their weakest performer. Unfortunately, the accents did not work for me whatsoever and the execution of this lacklustre script made this film drag on. The tone shifted from romantic drama, to generic biopic. Then everything changed to a straight mockery of Italian culture with Jared Leto’s performance. The authentic Italian essence came from Al Pacino himself. Then, miraculously, towards the end of the film, Adam Driver finally understood the air of Gucci. What can be said about Stefania Germanotta’s Patrizia Reggiani is that she attempted to act like her instead of fully embodying this character.

House of Gucci is a very generic biopic that does not stick the landing. There are choices made by Ridley Scott that do not work for the world that he was trying to emulate. For a film to lean so heavily on Italian culture and for there not to be an ounce of that European essence makes for an inauthentic film. We all want to be apart of the glamour or a fashion dynasty and to be able to wear these brands, but you do not feel like being apart of their world at all. It all felt very bland and stretched out to make the murder of Maurizio Gucci be this grand thing but even that was wasted in this movie.

‘Pig’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

We have gotten films that have explored people living out in the wilderness, far away from society and the bounds that it comes with. The more you become detached with the social conditioning that capitalism is the only way to survive, the more you become one with yourself and with nature. In Michael Sarnoski’s Pig we see Robin Feld (Nicolas Cage) living alone in the Oregon wilderness, after choosing to step away from his life back home. He is a truffle hunter who returns to Portland to find the person who stole his beloved pig.

This was such an ambitious film for Sarnoski’s debut feature film. The story, written by Sarnoski and Vanessa Block, is the most unique piece this year. It is intriguing because we have never explored the black market of truffle hunters on screen before. The journey that we go on with Robin Feld is straightforward on the surface; he wants to find his pig, but then his past life haunts him as he returns to the city. Sarnoski peels back these layers with each chapter heading, and in those headings, we slowly discover how he entered the truffle hunting business.

The film does suffer from pacing issues because the story can only be stretched out for so long. How long can he search for his lost pig? The more Robin dives into his past and takes this trip down memory lane, the more he loses the exterior he built out in the wilderness. There are moments where we see the internalized hatred for the industry he’s in and what lead him to throw it away. This is also one of Cage’s best performances to date. It is such a reserved role for Cage, but he manages to strike and be assertive when necessary.

Pig is one of the most interesting movies of the year. It explores capitalism, social conditioning and how they are factors in the destruction of human connection. We see the greed and arrogance through Amir (Alex Wolff), who is the black market businessman Robin works with, which all ties into the hierarchy of power in the corporate food chain. Who ends up suffering in the end? Who loses everything they have, while others grow richer? It’s such an impressive directorial debut and it really can’t even be categorized in one particular genre. Even if you’re not completely in love with the film, you can appreciate the originality that Sarnoski presented.

‘C’mon C’mon’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Over the past couple of years, the world has changed drastically. It has affected all of us and many adults have attempted to change our society and our planet, but no one is even asking how it’s affecting younger kids. We have been conditioned to look at children and teenagers as not being fully developed mentally. How could they possibly understand what is going on, when they haven’t even experienced life yet? In C’mon C’mon, Mike Mills explores the mental state of young children and their perspective on life.

We meet Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) who is an emotionally stunted and soft-spoken radio journalist. He travels the country interviewing a variety of kids about their thoughts concerning their world and their future. Johnny then takes on the responsibility of caring for his young nephew Jesse (Woody Norman). Jesse brings a new perspective and, as they travel from state to state, effectively turns the emotional tables on Johnny. The entire film is dependent on their dynamic and we see a budding friendship develop into something beautiful.

Courtesy of A24

As Johnny reconnects with Jesse, he learns more about himself in that short period of time. Mike Mills integrated the interviews from other children with Jesse’s behaviour in order to show the difference in expressing oneself. Jesse internalized his feelings about everything and he would express it in very obscure ways, to the point where his mother Viv (Gaby Hoffman) had to research how to approach her son. We see that Jesse has been through a lot with his parents and he has trouble understanding his feelings on an emotional level causing him to lash out in different ways.

What Mike Mills educates audiences on is how we can all become emotionally mature if we all help each other. How can we, as humans, become more mindful of our neighbour? What questions can we ask? How can we conduct ourselves? It is an interesting dynamic because you have an adult in Johnny, who expresses himself through his work, but bottles up his past without fully healing. Then with Jesse, there is no filter when he is asking hard hitting, personal questions, but he closes himself off the second someone questions him. Jesse and Johnny learn to trust each other and it’s more than a standard uncle and nephew connection, that bond was formed through an emotional understanding.

Not only does Mills weave the importance of these radio interviews with Jesse and Johnny’s journey with each other, but the film’s structure elevated their characters in a unique way. As the film went on, there were important book titles that accurately depicted past struggles in order to give a bit of backstory. Mills showed Viv’s relationship with her husband Paul (Scoot McNairy), Johnny’s relationship with Viv and their mother, and lastly Jesse’s relationship with his parents. All of this was shown while one of the books highlighted was being read aloud. There is the expression of the emotional and behavioural aspects through the dialogue that helps the visuals in the flashbacks.

Courtesy of A24

Mills created a very intimate story between a nephew and his uncle, while diving into larger topics to show how other children are thinking. It is a wonderful piece of writing that explores the nature of our society and how children are conditioned to stay quiet because they don’t know what’s best for them. Instead of controlling them, which is also stunting their mental and emotional growth, they should have room to feel everything and understand their emotions in a healthy way. Jesse is the central focus of all of this and we see that Johnny changes his outlook.

C’mon C’mon is beautifully made and one of the most introspective films of the year. Mills presents mental health and healing through important conversations. More importantly, this film is special because of the importance placed on how children can be affected by the decisions adults make. Hopefully this film will give adults more insight in how to approach children in actually having these large-scale conversations about the world because they are fully aware of what is happening around them. Adults just need to give them the chance to express themselves and maybe society, and our world, will change.

‘Bruised’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

In Halle Berry’s directorial feature debut Bruised she uses a female lens to tell the story of a disgraced MMA fighter, Jackie Justice (Halle Berry). Justice finds redemption in the cage, and the courage to face her demons when the son she had given up, as an infant, unexpectedly re enters her life. Berry and writer, Michelle Rosenfarb assembled a fresh, unique take on women in this industry that really hasn’t been explored on screen before. Even though it did falter at times, it is still an impressive debut for Berry.

The film does go through the motions of a typical sports film, especially those centered on boxing, but the female centric story adds another layer to it. It is the journey that Jackie Justice goes on in this film as a fighter, as a woman, and lastly as a mother. We see that Justice is completely rundown because of her manager, who is a drunkard, and doesn’t treat her properly at all. She has this rage inside her, which she used to express in the ring, follow her after she quit. She has always needed an outlet and unfortunately, alcohol filled that void.

While watching this film, I was trying to understand why the movie felt a bit weak. It wasn’t because of Berry’s direction, it seemed like she was really taking risks and trying to make viewers understand her Justice’s struggle through her visuals. Instead, it was Rosenfarb’s script that didn’t work for what Berry was attempting to do with this. It felt like two clashing ideas that never fully developed into something meaningful. Visually it was interesting and definitely engaging because of the sport, but the script itself felt disjointed by incorporating too much into the story.

Bruised is a strong directorial debut from Berry. She also delivers a very emotional performance as Jackie Justice. Her character goes through so much and it was nice to see that the connection with her son is what grounds her. We see many sides to Justice and that just shows how talented Halle Berry is. Not only did Berry have a clear vision for the film she wanted to make, she also assembled an all female soundtrack with some of the best in the industry today. If it weren’t for this film and her drive, we wouldn’t have a female-led boxing film and that is what makes this a good watch.

‘King Richard’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

Throughout history we have seen shifts in certain industries and that is because of peoples determination to change the system. A system that has worked against marginalized groups of people for decades. One man had a plan, a 78-page plan for his daughters, and his name is Richard Williams (Will Smith). He was determined to write his daughters, Venus (Saniyya Sidney) and Serena (Demi Singleton), into history. He would coach them on tennis courts in Compton, California, he helped shape their commitment and love for the sport. Even though his teaching methods were unconventional, it always came with the best intentions.

As someone who really enjoys watching father/daughter relationships on screen, the connection in King Richard felt a bit strained for me. There was closeness between Richard, Venus and Serena, but they somehow felt disconnected at the same time. The warmth of the family dynamic actually came from Brandi Williams (Aunjanue Ellis) and it felt like she held the family together more. As talented of a performer Will Smith is, and he will most likely win an Oscar for this performance, it wasn’t his best, we just missed seeing him. That’s all I kept thinking while watching this, is how much I’ve missed him on the big screen. Which shouldn’t equate to how good his performance is in this.

The film somewhat disappointed me because it had strong emotional beats and really beautiful, uplifting moments but it dragged on. All of the great moments felt lost within the pacing of this film and the odd choices from Reinaldo Marcus Green. I felt like the script, written by Zach Baylin was strong and he knew the story Venus and Serena wanted to tell, but the execution of it lacked any form of inspiration in the storytelling. The story was well-written and the performances were strong but the direction was weak, which made it a chore to sit through. Even the editing and the framing of the tennis matches didn’t capture the essence or even the spirit of the Williams sisters.

King Richard has plenty of beautiful moments showing that love, hard work and humility will always help you through life no matter what. If it weren’t for Will Smith’s performance as Richard Williams, this film wouldn’t have been as strong as it was. The supporting cast also helped this movie along the way with Ellis really shining alongside the breath of fresh air that was Jon Bernthal midway through the film. Even though the story is very inspirational, Marcus Green did not translate that through the visual storytelling in this film to create that atmosphere.