Definition Please Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Definition Please is written and directed by Sujata Day, as she takes us into former Scribbs Spelling Bee champion, Monica Chondry’s (Sujata Day) world. The film highlights family identity, mental illness and internal struggles, in a powerful and realistic way. When Monica’s brother, Sonny (Ritesh Rajan) returns home, to take care of their sick mother Jaya (Anna Khaja), tensions arise and past trauma reveals itself in different ways.

Courtesy of Atajus Productions,
(center) Esha Chundru as Young Monica

Sonny lives in California and has become a personal trainer, living a very different lifestyle than his sister. Monica lives at home with her mother and she tutors young students in the area, while keeping her artistic side, as she occasionally paints in her treehouse. Both siblings are polar opposites and when they come together, the hidden rivalry slowly comes back to the forefront.

Both siblings had a very different perception, on how their life would turn out and being under the same roof, forced them both to reevaluate their current living situation. The film resonated with me because I’m currently in my mid-twenties, trying to navigate my life and to see Monica struggling as well, made me feel better. We are all on our own path and sometimes life derails you, on to many different journeys, in order to get to your final destination.

Courtesy of Atajus Productions
(left) Ritesh Rajan as Sonny and Sujata Day as Monica

As the one year anniversary of their father’s death approaches, Sonny and Monica are pressured by their mother to reconcile. What impressed me the most about this film, was how strong the writing was throughout. Everything was perfectly placed and the secrets were revealed, at the most opportune moments. It was incredibly emotional, lighthearted, and perfectly balanced.

The representation of Indian culture, shown through the soundtrack, family structure, pop culture and religious Hindu ceremonies, combined with American ideology, told a heartfelt story about achieving the American Dream. Sujata Day incorporated so many elements into this story, by creating such well rounded characters, that people can fully relate to.

Courtesy of Atajus Productions
(left) Sujata Day as Monica and Ritesh Rajan as Sonny

More importantly, she addresses the failures or questionable decisions that were made and finds that silver lining for her characters. The film also addresses mental health and has a very open discussion about it with its audience. The sibling dynamic between Sonny and Monica felt authentic, as they struggled to come to terms with who they are, together.

Definition Please is authentic, well written, charming and incredibly heartfelt. It’s a film that people need to see because of how wonderful these characters are and how important their journeys can be for so many people watching. It is a Dramedy, that has great balance and strong sense of direction from Sujata Day, in presenting a story that is important to her.

Kajillionaire Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Kajillionaire written and directed by Miranda July, is a pretty obscure film about trauma, family dysfunction and self discovery, that never reaches its full potential. It is an extremely slow film, that can be confusing at times because of the constant con jobs. It felt like a downward spiral, for all of those characters, especially for Old Dolio, played by Evan Rachel Wood.

It does have something to say about the class system in America and how the economy functions. Low income families need to find other avenues, in order to survive and July shows that, in the quirkiest way possible. It is a bland film that doesn’t know what it’s supposed to be. The family dynamic was interesting to study, but their connection with each other, became very irritating. The choices that were made, did not make any sense either, which was incredibly frustrating to sit through.

Courtesy of Focus Features
(left) Debra Winger, Evan Rachel Wood and Richard Jenkins

Thankfully halfway through the film Melanie, played by Gina Rodriguez breathed some life into Evan Rachel Wood’s dead character, whose backstory was interesting and emotional but it was never fully explored. There was so much to unpack with Old Dolio and I wish the story focused on her, more than the con job. The growing tension between Old Dolio and Melanie, was the saving grace in this piece, it’s the only thing that kept me interested until the end of the film.

It is a film that does not really have a clear journey, it feels disjointed and spaced out because of Old Dolio’s characterization. The quirkiness was too much and it felt like Evan Rachel Wood was overacting at times, in order to achieve maximum quirkiness. I didn’t find it humorous at all and some moments made me cringe because of how awkward it was. I understood that there was past trauma and that they tried to explain it but it wasn’t executed properly.

Kajillionaire had some great camerawork and unique emotional moments but lost itself in the quirkiness of Old Dolio. It’s an obscure film, that will pull at the heartstrings at key moments, but will lose you for the majority of the runtime. It is the opposite of a fast paced con job, with odd characters and a wild card coming in halfway through.

HBO Max Original: UNPregnant Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

UNpregnant is one of the best films of the year! It is a buddy comedy, that rekindles the relationship between two former best friends, Veronica (Haley Lu Richardson) and Bailey (Barbie Ferreira), as they journey across state lines to get an abortion. It is adapted from the novel, under the same name, written by Jenni Hendriks.

First of all, this film is incredibly important because of how informative it is on the topic of abortion. In previous films or television shows, the topic of abortion has always been this difficult thing to openly talk about. The right measures are usually never taken and it is always shown in a negative light. UNpregnant addresses all these unanswered questions and brings them to the forefront, all while adding a very humorous duo to keep the balance.

This is THE coming of age film that no one saw coming. Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira were dynamite together! They complimented each other so well and I really appreciated that they were both unapologetically themselves. Veronica and Bailey acknowledged their flaws and toxic traits but embraced who they were, which was great to see. What I really enjoyed was the exploration into each of their backstories and how they became separated from each other in high school.

The film had great pacing and there was never a dull moment because they continued to reveal small pieces of their friendship puzzle, throughout the film. On their journey to Albuquerque for the abortion, they meet some funny characters who end up helping them along the way. Veronica and Bailey also grow to understand the other a bit more and realize that their friendship holds more value than they remembered.

Courtesy of Berlanti Productions, HBO Films and Picturestart
(left) Barbie Ferreira and Haley Lu Richardson

The most important scene in this film is the entire abortion clinic sequence. It is done in such a tasteful manner because of the wonderful writing and direction from these two women, Jenni Hendriks and Rachel Lee Goldenberg. The right to choose and having the proper information are both incredibly important. I appreciated the fact that they created a safe, dreamlike space, to go through the entire process with Veronica.

UNpregnant is a totally fun, raunchy, and heartwarming coming of age film. This film will most definitely be discussed for its boldness, but timely position, on the topic of abortion. It is addressed in such a lighthearted way that the emotional moments are placed perfectly in the film, to rope you back into the reality of the situation. Haley Lu Richardson and Barbie Ferreira are definitely the duo of the year!

Make sure to catch UNpregnant on HBO Max September 10th!

Enola Holmes Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

The game, is most definitely, afoot!

Enola Holmes was surprisingly delightful, witty and incredibly charming, thanks to the wonderful Millie Bobby Brown. The film had its own style, while still trying to incorporate, previous iterations of Sherlockian themes. While it is set in the Victorian Era, it still tethers the voices of women all over the globe, spanning generations of fighting the patriarchy.

On Enola’s fourteenth birthday, her mother (Helena Bonham Carter) disappears and leaves clues for her young daughter. Her sons, Sherlock (Henry Cavill) and Mycroft (Sam Clafin) return home to find their sister all grown up. Sherlock assessed Enola, the second he saw her and noticed similar character traits that they share. Brown, Cavill and Clafin all gave great performances, it truly felt like they were born to play these roles and I would love to see them in a sequel.

Courtesy of Netflix (left) Millie Bobby Brown as Enola and Henry Cavill as Sherlock Holmes

The most entertaining aspect of Enola Holmes, was that there were two different mysteries trying to be solved, at the same time and it wasn’t lacking at all. Enola crossed paths with young Lord Tewksbury (Louis Patridge) who is on a mission of his own. The pair go on their own little adventure, trying to escape the hands of a hired hitman. They instantly grow fond of each other because they both feel unwanted in their own home. So being alone, together, is something that they both seem to be fine with.

What was really beautiful and heartwarming about the film was the journey Enola went on. She felt lost without her mother and Mycroft was forcing her into a ‘proper’ lifestyle, she never felt like she could be apart of. On this journey, Enola uses the “ideal” standard of dressing in gowns and makeup to her advantage, as she navigates her way through the case without anyone knowing she’s present. She’s incredibly versatile, as she dresses in clothes for men and women throughout the film.

Courtesy of Netflix (center) Millie Bobby Brown as Enola Holmes

Enola not only finds out who she is meant to be, but she becomes educated on what is happening in London and how being a woman is more than a role that is constructed by the patriarchy. Enola slowly realizes how important of a role she plays in the evolution of women’s rights in her own country. Enola also changes the mind of Sherlock, as he folds into loving his younger sister and caring for her more than he ever did.

Enola Holmes was playful and energetic, just like Millie Bobby Brown, who also broke the fourth wall multiple times. The fourth wall break, was what really brought this piece together because you felt an instant connection with her. This is one of my favourite Netflix original films and hopefully it gets a well deserved sequel!

Make sure to catch Enola Holmes on Netflix September 23rd!

Mulan (2020) Review


By: Amanda Guarragi

Disney has given us another live action film from their vault and it is completely different, than what anyone had in mind. To some, the change of pace can be seen as refreshing, honest to the cultural story and beautifully shot. On the other hand, it can also be seen as a very bland, uninteresting, heartless reconstructed version of the Mulan we know and love.

The film lacks any emotional connection to Mulan (Yifei Liu) because her performance was so wooden and lifeless. The fact that her journey as a woman is completely stripped in this film, is what turned me off. The whole point of her story, is to see her grow into the woman she wants to become, not the ideal, that everyone in her village wants for her. I feel like that entire journey was lost because the story focused on the army, instead of her.

The cinematography is probably the best part of the entire film because there were some beautiful shots, but everything else was lacking. The first act felt rushed and yet the story also dragged on. There were quick cuts during action sequences, which made it difficult to understand what was happening. The VFX that was used looked like it was unfinished and at some points, it seemed like the green screen was visible.

It was really hard to get into a film that didn’t have any substance, it just felt weaker than the other live action films and I really wish I enjoyed it. I loved that there is representation on screen. It was great to see Asian culture depicted properly, and on such a grand scale, but I just couldn’t get into the film at all. I just wish there was better dialogue and a stronger story.

Mulan is a bland restructured version of the animated film we all know and love. The heart of Mulan is stripped away in this film and the acting is unconvincing. The tight combat scenes are executed well but the poor editing, creates plenty of issues for the film as a whole. It is always hard not to compare it to the animated film because so many of us grew up only knowing that version.

These live action films are very tricky to adapt because of our connection to the material. Animation is a beautiful medium on its own, so naturally people will be overly critical of a live action adaptation. In this case, Mulan is a completely different version because its focus is on what she can do for her country, instead of discovering who she is inside.