Archive for the Drama Category

Hamilton

Posted in Biography, Drama, History, Music, Musical on July 9, 2020 by Mark Hobin

hamilton (1)STARS4For those living in a cave, Hamilton is a musical about Alexander Hamilton who was one of the founding fathers of the United States.  The play is known for a couple of daring distinctions.  It stars mostly non-white actors and incorporates hip hop, R&B, pop, and soul into “a story about America then, as told by America now.”  The stage production may make creative selections in casting but it still uplifts what is known as the American Dream for a group of men who were immigrants to a new land.

No musical has had a greater cultural impact on Broadway in the last decade.  Over the past 5 years, shows have consistently sold out and when you could buy a ticket they were prohibitively expensive.  This is a filmed version of the phenomenon that debuted in 2015.  There’s no trying to hide the theatricality of it all which makes it is a rare treat for audiences.  At this point, it’s unclear when theater will resume.  Fans can now witness the visual representation of the work they know by heart.  This was accomplished utilizing the original cast.  Creator Lin-Manuel Miranda inhabits the starring role and Leslie Odom Jr. portrays Aaron Burr.  There’s also Daveed Diggs as both the Marquis de Lafayette & Thomas Jefferson, Phillipa Soo as Hamilton’s wife Eliza, Renée Elise Goldsberry as Angelica Schuyler, Christopher Jackson as George Washington, and Jonathan Groff as King George.  Those are the featured actors.  There are many other talented performers as well.  I wish I could list them all.

The play received a record 16 Tony nominations and won 11 including Best Musical in 2016.  This is a chance to see the magnificent achievements of Leslie Odom Jr., Daveed Diggs, and Renée Elise Goldsberry for which they all won.  They may not be conventional choices for those roles, but they are extremely captivating.  Furthermore, the performances from Lin-Manuel Miranda, Phillipa Soo, Jonathan Groff, and Christopher Jackson were all nominated.  The cast is indeed outstanding.  You can literally see the spit fly when Groff as King George III enunciates his lines and music.  It may be surprising to realize that the rest of the cast actually outshines Miranda in both singing and acting.  One scene where he’s required to cry feel particularly forced.  I saw this performed when the national tour came to San Francisco.  An actor named Julius Thomas III played the titular role and he was incredible.  However, Lin-Manuel Miranda is still a genius for writing the music and screenplay.  This is a work of art.  (He received Tonys for the Book and Original Score.)

Hamilton, the 2020 film of the Broadway experience, is much more than simply a filmed stage play.  Director Thomas Kail edited from 3 shows (2 with an audience, one without) during June 2016 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in Midtown Manhattan.  This all from the finest seat in the house.  This is a view better than any theater patron could have ever imagined.  Kail knows when to pull back and afford the presentation a broad overview and when to zoom in and be intimate.  He utilizes close-ups, Steadicam, crane, and dolly shots to give the viewer the very best perspective possible.  It is an impressive achievement and most definitely a perfect manifestation of Lin-Manuel’s artistic vision.  A filmmaker must make many critical decisions when presenting a live performance.  Director Kail’s craft elevates the spectacle to maximum effect.  There’s something undeniably special about being physically present in the theater.  Nevertheless, this is the optimal way to see Hamilton for most people.  Few records of this type have ever felt so immediate, vibrant, and vital.

P.S. It’s hard to catch all of the crucial lyrics of the songs and rap battles as they’re delivered. Turn on closed captioning for subtitles that will make your experience even better!

07-03-20

Shirley

Posted in Biography, Drama, Thriller with tags on July 3, 2020 by Mark Hobin

shirleySTARS2It’s now considered a classic, but when Shirley Jackson’s short story The Lottery was originally published in the New Yorker back in 1948 it was extremely controversial. Readers called it “outrageous,” “gruesome,” and “utterly pointless”. Most people were confused by the fable. In a similar fashion, this movie appears to seek the same reaction from viewers.  Shirley unfolds like one of her tales.

Shirley is a completely fictionalized biography of the acclaimed American writer.  Shirley Jackson was an actual person.  The author is well known for horror and mystery.  The Lottery became one of the most frequently anthologized short stories in English.  It’s essentially mandatory reading in the U.S. curriculum so chances are you were forced to read it in school.  That’s not a dig. I agree it’s an effective composition that evokes dread, but * full disclosure * my introduction to it was involuntary.   Another work of hers includes The Haunting of Hill House which has been adapted to film in both 1963 and again in 1999.

Shirley, however, isn’t really about anything that concerns those contributions.  Actually, the facts of this story are a humorous detail.  The movie, directed by Josephine Decker, is adapted by Sarah Gubbins from the novel of the same name by Susan Scarf Merrell.  In what I assume was an innovative attempt to make the career of Shirley Jackson more interesting, her life and that of her husband Stanley Hyman (Michael Stuhlbarg) has been reimagined.  Jackson is suffering from depression, unable to write.  She rarely leaves her bedroom.  Stanley invites a couple — Rose (Odessa Young) and Fred (Logan Lerman) — to come to live with them in North Bennington to help out.  This situation inspires Jackson to write a book.  There is some validity.  Shirley was a married author who released a novel called Hangsaman.  The screenplay fictitiously envisions that piece was inspired by this arrangement.  However, the rest of the narrative including the very existence of this couple is made up.  I’m all for creative license, but why in this case?  Was the truth even more dreary?  If the writers had been a slave to authenticity perhaps there might be some excuse for the banality of this tale. Yet this is a complete fabrication where the writer could have created any number of scenarios in which to delight the audience.  The fabrication they chose didn’t do it for me.

Shirley is such a bizarre film because it seems to eschew the basic qualities that make a captivating picture.  The central protagonist isn’t likable, it moves at a snail’s pace and nothing particularly exciting happens.  Elisabeth Moss conspicuously goes the actorly route by sporting unkempt hair and a pair of unflattering spectacles.  How closely her behavior matches the real author is not something I am qualified to review.   I know what I find entertaining, however, and this ain’t it.  I’ll concede that Moss is good.  She perfectly affects a decidedly unique personality so her achievement is effective on that level.  A devotee of the author could easily imagine that the actual woman might be a dark person.  However, in this portrait, she isn’t a subject that you’d want to construct an entire production around.

An amusing addendum.  I recognize that Shirley Jackson’s most famous work was originally published in the New Yorker in 1948.  That esteemed magazine was a pioneer in giving the author significant attention.  The periodical could well be considered her very first fan.  That “weekly” publication (47 times annually) still exists and continues to review films as well.  Their numerical assessment of this movie?  40/100 according to Metacritic.com.  Ouch! And I thought I was being harsh.

06-09-20

7500

Posted in Action, Drama, Thriller with tags on June 30, 2020 by Mark Hobin

sevenfivezerozero_ver2STARS2.5Airborne thriller concerns the hijacking of a plane by Islamic terrorists.  Add this to the growing list in the aviation genre that includes movies like Airport, Alive, and Final Destination.  This is definitely one selection that will never become a part of your  in-flight entertainment.  Count your blessings.   That’s a good thing in this case.  The narrative is efficient in the extreme as the drama ultimately becomes a two-hander between one pilot (Joseph Gordon Levitt) and one terrorist named Vedat (Omid Memar).

Our central protagonist is Tobias, an American co-pilot on a flight traveling from Berlin to Paris.  A small group of Islamic extremists — and I’ll clarify, I counted 3 — attempt to take over the aircraft.  Their weapons of choice are shards of broken glass.  Writer-director Patrick Vollrath was previously nominated for an Oscar in 2016 for his live-action short Everything Will Be Okay.  He makes his feature directorial debut with this economical drama.  That’s a nice way of saying the entire picture is completely set in one room — the cockpit of a plane.   To say this drama is claustrophobic would be an understatement.

7500 creates a harrowing scenario so there is tension but it’s unpleasant without being engaging.  All of the exciting moments occur in the first half.  The hijackers make demands.  People are threatened.  The navigator is conflicted.  Then our attention begins to wane as Vollrath seems to repeat the cycle with more of the same.  Joseph Gordon Levitt does his best with substandard material.   However, the characters are superficially detailed.  I mean they’re people so we care because they represent human life but the screenplay is unable to afford them any depth.  They aren’t relatable or interesting.  Director Paul Greengrass tackled very similar material in an infinitely better way with United 93.  My recommendation is to watch it instead if you haven’t seen that far superior film already.   You would do best to skip this….unless you happen to be a Joseph Gordon-Levitt completist.

06-20-20

Da 5 Bloods

Posted in Adventure, Drama, War with tags on June 25, 2020 by Mark Hobin

da_five_bloodsSTARS3.5Oh boy, I’ve seen a lot of movies.  But you needed’t be a film studies major.   As Da 5 Bloods unfolded it sparked the fond memories of two classics.      This narrative is clearly inspired by an amalgamation of Saving Private Ryan and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.  Ah, but with Spike Lee, the filmmaker certainly puts his own spin on it.   This has an added component that when filtered through the context of our current reality.  Da 5 Bloods is a blistering critique of U.S. exploitation of African-Americans in war and in general.  It is presented as nothing less than a major statement for our time.   Spike Lee still has his finger on the pulse of modern America.  As a piece of entertainment, it’s adequate but as a reflection of the current zeitgeist, it’s one of the most noteworthy releases of the year.

Spike Lee’s work is a  blending of pop culture references.   Even he acknowledges his debt to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.  When Paul (Delroy Lindo) demands to see the credentials of a Vietnam official  waving a gun named Quan (Nguyen Ngoc Lam), the man replies, “We don’t need no stinking official badges.”   That’s an obvious reference.   There are more: The Bridge on the River Kwai, Apocalypse Now, Platoon, and Three Kings are others.   Lee is a student of film.  Meanwhile, the soundtrack utilizes songs from Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, a concept album released in 1971 that is just as much of a political statement then as it is now.

Spike gets even more serious with an intro that he usually saves for the climax utilizing historical footage of Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X then blissfully confronting the viewer with every recognizable Vietnam- era photograph in a deluge of snapshots.  A little background history: the montage includes the suicide protest of Buddhist monks Thích Quảng Đức & Ho Dinh Van, also Phan Thi Kim Phuc running from a napalm attack and the Execution of Nguyễn Văn Lém.  I recount their names out of respect which is significantly more due than that the movie affords these individuals in this rapid-fire array.  These are iconic portraits so powerful that they singlehandedly changed the public perception of an entire war.  The superficial appropriation of these images is problematic in this context.  My review largely disregards this brief sequence but I think its inclusion bears a mention.

“Male bonding” is a cliched phrase but here it is the enjoyable highlight of the picture.   The story was developed by Lee and his regular collaborator Kevin Willmott from an original script by Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo.   It concerns 4 black war veterans returning to Vietnam.   Officially they’re there to locate and recover the remains of their fallen squad leader “Stormin’ Norman” (Boseman).  Why the nickname of Gulf War general Norman Schwarzkopf is invoked as a comparison to this individual is a mystery.   Anyway, the band is also trying to uncover a stache of buried gold bullion once thought to be lost.   What ultimately endears an adventure to an audience is the people involved.   The best thing about this narrative is the camaraderie between the four principals they each have a distinct personality and the way their personalities mesh is the enjoyment of the picture.  The four actors are Clarke Peters, Norm Lews, Isiah Whitlock, Jr., and Delroy Lindo.

Delroy Lindo is the standout as Paul.  The actor plays a Vietnam veteran whose conservative politics are driven by a mentality of betrayal.  Lindo surprisingly dons a MAGA hat revealing himself to be a Donald Trump supporter.   But as we get to know Paul, the layers behind his stance become apparent.  His performance is restrained yet intimate.  Director Lee has worked with Delroy Lindo on three productions before Malcolm X (1992), Crooklyn (1994), and Clockers (1995).  They collaborate here on a character that makes perfect sense in his motivations and desires.  What’s not surprising is that his achievement is garnering Oscar talk.

Da 5 Bloods is a mid-level work for Spike Lee.  It’s good but not great.  Comparatively, BlacKkKlansman from just 2 years ago was better.   To its credit, the plot is inherently simple at its essence.   Yet there’s an overabundance of labored machinations in this 2-hour 34-minute feature.   Thankfully the story hits its stride in due time within the 2nd half.   I prefer the simplicity of a straight-ahead narrative.   As such, I am not a fan of flashback sequences.  They are a cinematic affectation that should be used sparingly.    However, this saga has an almost obsequious reliance on them.  Each one further highlighted because it’s shot on 16mm film.   Regardless,  the timing couldn’t be more prescient.  The Black Lives Matter movement currently blankets every single aspect of American life.   Furthermore thanks to COVID-19, Hollywood studios have essentially placed a  moratorium on new releases.  Meanwhile, Da 5 Bloods has been rightfully elevated as a major cultural event because critics have deemed it to be a “work of art”.   That makes this one of the most significant releases of 2020 to be sure.

Addendum:  Da Five Bloods debuted on Netflix on June 12.  After briefly occupying the #1 position, it promptly dropped out of the Top 10. The current #1 movie?  An animated picture from ToonBox Entertainment called The Nut Job that made under $65 million in 2014.

06-13-10

Fast Film Reviews on talkSPORT radio

Posted in Drama, Podcast on June 20, 2020 by Mark Hobin

I was a guest on talkSPORT radio with Will Gavin to discuss the latest movies. On this week’s movie segment, hear my thoughts on THE LOVEBIRDS (Netflix) and THE WRETCHED (Video on demand).

My segment begins just 4 minutes into the 2:00-2:30 section (about 26 minutes from the end).

Click the link below and hit play:

Source: The world’s biggest sports radio station | talkSPORT

The High Note

Posted in Comedy, Drama, Music, Romance with tags on June 10, 2020 by Mark Hobin

high_note_ver2STARS3At first, the focus of this fetaure appears to be Grace Davis (Tracee Ellis Ross), an R&B/pop music superstar along the lines of Beyoncé or Rihanna.  However, Grace Davis is older than those artists.  To its credit, the screenplay makes a feeble attempt to address the concerns of an aging woman in the music industry.   Unfortunately,  it merely pays lip service to those feelings without tackling them in any meaningful way.  Manager Jack Robertson (Ice Cube) assumes that her hit-making days have passed.  He advises Grace to accept a Las Vegas residency.  He’s not wrong.    I’ve always regarded a residency as an impressive honor.  In the last decade beloved performers such as Celine Dion, Elton John, and Britney Spears have solidified their ongoing appeal in this way while reaping millions of dollars in the process without having to tour.  Curiously the drama regards the very consideration as an embarrassing desire — an acknowledgment of being irrelevant.  Call me crazy, but the idea is not hitting rock bottom folks.  Far from it.  This is in fact an account detailing the enviable choice between two very attractive options.   There are literally no stakes here and therefore the plot is inconsequential at best.

The narrative slowly morphs, however, into a tale centered around a completely different person.  Grace is indeed a big personality.  She is a demanding individual with a huge talent and the sizable ego that comes along with it.  But she also has Maggie, a personal assistant (Dakota Johnson) who is a dedicated and overworked soul.  Maggie’s job description apparently requires her to do trivial things like break in Grace’s new pair of shoes.  Maggie’s dream is to be a record producer.  Much to my surprise, it is really her ambitions that ultimately become the main focus of the film.

Figuring out the point of view of The High Note is rather confusing.   You’d think supporting the achievements of an aging woman in show business would be something we should admire.   Yet Grace Davis is presented as a wholly self-centered creature.  She carelessly dismisses a request from a fellow accomplished and well-known musician (Eddie Izzard) because he doesn’t have as many Grammys as she does.  In other scenes, Grace is hellbent on suppressing her own creativity.   It has been years since the artist put out new material.  Assistant Maggie encourages her boss to release a new album because she believes in her talent.   Nonetheless, Grace doesn’t agree.  She counteracts with a declaration highlighted in the trailer:  “In the history of music, only five women over 40 have ever had a No. 1 hit and only one of them was black.”  [Fact-check: Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Bette Midler, Cher, Madonna, Sia and Mariah Carey have all had #1’s over the age of 40.]  Maggie is trying to support the creative expression of this celebrity, while the woman herself argues against the idea.  Maggie has taken the time to learn everything she can about her employer.   She is uplifted as an intrinsically kind-hearted human.   I’ll admit these admirable qualities may be a requirement of Maggie’s job but Grace can’t even be bothered to learn Maggie’s last name.  Ouch!

The High Note is a glossy pop distraction directed by Nisha Ganatra (Late Night) and written by first-time screenwriter Flora Greeson.  This superficial fable won’t any awards for originality.  However, it’s well-acted by the entire cast.  It exists as lighthearted entertainment that is easily consumed as comfort food to make you feel good while sheltering at home during dark times.  Let’s not ignore the fact that this music superstar is depicted by the daughter of one of the most iconic personalities that ever lived: Diana Ross.  Tracee Ellis Ross brings knowledge and depth to a role that few others could.  There are two additional standouts: Dakota Johnson is engaging as the assistant.  I continue to be impressed by her.  Check out The Peanut Butter Falcon if you need further proof.  There’s also Kelvin Harrison Jr. who plays David, an aspiring singer who becomes Maggie’s love interest.  The actor was also in Waves last year and he’s definitely a rising star.   See the movie for them.  If you want to watch something new and you need it now. The High Note will suffice.

05-30-20

The Vast of Night

Posted in Drama, Fantasy, Mystery, Science Fiction, Thriller with tags on June 1, 2020 by Mark Hobin

vast_of_night_ver2STARS3The camera slowly enters a black and white TV set.  We overhear a familiar-sounding narration and are presented with opening titles that recall Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone.  The narrative gradually morphs into color.  It mostly stays this way, but every so often it turns black and white again as an affectionate reminder of the homage.  Director Andrew Patterson retro ode recreates a 1950s mood that concerns a mysterious sound that bewilders two teens.  There’s switchboard operator Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) and the comparatively more worldly DJ Everett Sloan (Jake Horowitz) at local station WOTW.  The Vast of Night is set in the small town of Cayuga, New Mexico and it’s certainly an impeccably fashioned period piece.  The portrait has been lovingly put together.  Although I’m surprised no one associated with this production realized that call letters for radio stations west of the Mississippi begin with a ‘K’.

The Vast of Night has a beguiling approach.  All of the events take place after dark.  The initial dialogue is delivered at a breakneck pace and it can be hard to follow at first.  During the first 30 minutes, the meandering introduction felt especially unfocused.  Stick with it though because this is superfluous exposition.  The proper story doesn’t even begin until half an hour later when Fay hears a bizarre audio frequency coming through the electronic circuits.  She forwards the intonations to Everett who plays it on the air.  The strange humming noise is identified by a disabled veteran named Billy (Bruce Davis).  The phone caller conveys his experiences in an extended auditory sequence.  Later on, the duo travels to meet an elderly woman named Mabel Blanche (Gail Cronauer).  She too recounts her experiences with the same sonic vibrations in another static shot.  Her verbose monologue is a long-winded sequence that may test the patience of most viewers.

The Vast of Night is a gloomy drama built solely around an enigmatic reverberation.  Evidence suggests a conspiracy theory involving a military experiment.  Most of what makes this saga compelling is its commitment to a B movie atmosphere.  However — save for a few showy unbroken tracking shots — the assemblage is not particularly cinematic. The film is regrettably centered entirely around the recollections of two loquacious individuals: Billy and then Mabel. Their lengthy monologues would be perfect vignettes for a popular radio program. That is before TV became the dominant entertainment medium in the 1950s. The interludes are not the most visually captivating. Some have labeled this release science-fiction but honestly, this extremely low budget tale is more mystery than anything else. It isn’t until the final 10 minutes that the feature ultimately succumbs to a spectacle that deems it as sci-fi. It’s unquestionably a powerful ending to a protracted buildup but its effectiveness also serves to underscore another insight. It’s at that moment we the audience suspect the film’s lo-fi aesthetic was more due to a lack of finances than art.

05-29-20

The Wretched

Posted in Drama, Horror with tags on May 29, 2020 by Mark Hobin

wretched_ver2STARS3If nothing else, this movie will be an answer to the trivia question: What was the highest-grossing film in the U.S. during the Coronavirus pandemic?  The Wretched is a box office hit.  Theaters are still mostly closed in the U.S.  But thanks to around 60 drive-ins that have been allowed to operate across the nation, it has earned nearly $700,000 to date.  That’s pretty impressive.

This horror offering doesn’t really dwell on grotesquerie.  It’s more of a supernatural coming of age tale about a lonely teen named Ben (John-Paul Howard) whose parents are getting a divorce.  He’s currently staying at his father’s home.  While there, he gets a summer job working at the marina.  There he makes a friend in Mallory (Piper Curda).   Then the neighbor’s child Dillion (Blane Crockarell) doesn’t show up for his sailing lessons.  Things get more disturbing when his whereabouts become a mystery.   The family clearly had a son but now the father Ty (Kevin Bigley) denies ever having one.  He’s seemingly under the spell of his wife Abbie (Zarah Mahler).  She has been acting extremely weird.  Ben suspects the woman might be a witch.

The Wretched is a decent amalgamation of scary movies and journey into adolescence.  This is one of those stories where the protagonist is trying to reconcile his ability to fit in while also having to deal with some mystical shenanigans at the same time.  Puberty is hard enough!  I’ll admit the screenplay isn’t particularly innovative.  It’s a throwback to teen flicks like Fright Night, The Faculty, and Disturbia.  Let’s face it.  Even those pictures aren’t that original either so this is like a copy of a copy.  Nevertheless, among horror films being released in 2020, it holds up.  The production is stylishly attractive.  The practical effects are refreshingly subtle while remaining creepy nonetheless.   Additionally, the leads are rather likable.  That goes a long way in propelling this release into something worth watching.

05-24-20

The Way Back

Posted in Drama, Sports with tags on May 22, 2020 by Mark Hobin

way_back_ver2STARS3In 2010 there was a release called The Way Back about a POW who walked 4,000 miles to freedom during WWII.  The Way Way Back was a 2013 coming-of-age comedy with Steve Carell.  Now comes this 2020 athletic drama starring Ben Affleck.  The oft used title is as generic as this feature.  I’ll concede this isn’t a bad flick.  The chronicle is fitfully entertaining.  As part of a long hallowed tradition of sports movies, many rely on a standard blueprint to tell a story.  This is no different.  It employs a familiar narrative with a corny redemption arc.  Only a newborn or an alien from another planet unaccustomed with the concept of cinema would find this plot inventive.  Yet, this is well-acted and emotionally compelling in parts so I wasn’t immune to its charms.

I’m not going to pretend that the saga isn’t a hackneyed setup for a sports tale.  It is.  Jack Cunningham is a construction worker and an alcoholic.  His glory days are long behind him.  Once the star player on his high school basketball team, he is being recruited as the head coach at that very same high school.  The team hasn’t made the playoffs since Jack attended.  A messy divorce and addictive behaviors are a major part of Jack Cunningham’s existence.  It’s to the film’s credit that the screenplay is careful not to elevate basketball as the be-all and end-all remedy of the ails from which the protagonist suffers.  Although coaching basketball gives him something to do, his issues run deeper.

Ben Affleck is the MVP of this production.  It’s hard to ignore that the troubles of the actor himself unfolded upon a public stage.  The fact that his real-world experience may have overlapped here and there with the character he plays is key.  He delivers a poignant performance.  Having an intimate understanding of those weaknesses first-hand needn’t be a prerequisite for an actor to play an individual with the same qualities.  Nevertheless, it probably doesn’t hurt.  The part gives Affleck a distinct advantage.  Luckily he is more than up to the task as he exemplifies Jack.  The role feels lived in and honest.  That lays the groundwork into propelling this conventional fable into something that I ultimately embraced.

05-18-20

The Photograph

Posted in Drama, Romance with tags on May 20, 2020 by Mark Hobin

photographSTARS2.5The Photograph is living proof that a compelling story matters.  Gorgeous cinematography, a soothing jazz score (by Robert Glasper), and a pair of charismatic stars are indeed appreciated.  Yet, all of those lovely ingredients ultimately come up short.  The screenplay is the most important component of a movie.   A drab tale can tank a film no matter how many sophisticated and artistic elements are employed.  This production has the look of quality.  I’ll admit that director Stella Meghie (Everything, Everything) is a talented individual.  She is nothing if not prolific.  The Photograph is her fourth feature since 2016.  There is so much to admire here.   Nonetheless, the script that director Meghie also wrote for this drama isn’t one of them.   It’s stridently humdrum although it’s not distasteful at least.   For some, that will be enough to recommend this lifeless flick.   I — however — am not one of those people.   30 minutes in and I was already checking my watch.

Michael (Lakeith Stanfield), a reporter from New York City is captivated by a portrait of a beautiful woman he inadvertently discovers named Christina (Chanté Adams). His investigation uncovers the mother has a daughter Mae (Issa Rae). She happens to work as a curator at the Queens Museum.  His intern Andy (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) sets up an interview.  Michael and Mae meet and they chat about a variety of topics including rap. He likes Kendrick Lamar.  She prefers Drake. Nevertheless, sparks fly between the potential couple.

The Photograph is a romance built upon a foundation of wistful stares and longing looks.  This is a decidedly light and gauzy affaoir.  Thankfully the leads have chemistry.  That’s significant because the plot is a complete snooze.  Director Stella Meghie employs a non-stop playlist of R&B classics to underscore every scene.  I love listening to legends like Chaka Khan, Al Green, Anita Baker, and Whitney Houston as much as the next person.  Honestly, I probably cherish those artists more because (statistically speaking) I’m likely older than most of the readers of this column.  I’m OK with that because with age comes wisdom.  The music undoubtedly serves to enlighten the mood but a greatest hits of Quiet Storm ballads can only go so far.  The stakes here are pretty low.  Meanwhile, there’s precious little passion to engage our emotions.  It’s hard to give a care about whether two fashionable professionals with fabulous wardrobes and impeccable smiles get together or not.  Sorry, but I prefer more substantial pursuits.

05-14-20