I’d read so many reviews of this movie that I didn’t know what to think going into the theater tonight. I did know that I wasn’t a fan of the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow version of the film (I hadn’t seen the previous two) and I’d given director Baz Luhrmann’s last venture, “Moulin Rouge,” an “A” for effort but hadn’t really enjoyed it.
And yet I loved Luhrmann’s “Gatsby.” Yes, it’s irreverent in that it throws Jay-Z at the jazz age and uses digital effects when conventional camera work would be more expected and casts Brits and Aussies in quintessentially American roles. And yes, it’s campy and excessive (in Luhrmann’s world, more is always more) and jam-packed with party scenes that can be exhausting. But in many ways it’s truer to the novel than I expected. In fact, Fitzgerald’s words are lifted right onto the screen – literally – and the bittersweet tone of the movie is his.
DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby is every bit as beautiful as Redford was but much more animated. He’s a man obsessed and yet full of hope – charismatic and enigmatic, generous and dangerous, a master of contradictions. Carey Mulligan is a good actress who does her best with the character of Daisy, the object of Gatsby’s devotion, but I kept wishing for an actress with a more commanding screen presence. I can’t stand Tobey Maguire’s voice, so having him narrate much of the film wasn’t my favorite element. But I loved the music and loved the cinematography and loved how Luhrmann went boldly into this adaptation and made it his own. It was that rare film that compelled me to stay through the credits, because I was so captivated by what was on screen.
This one, like “Django Unchained,” is definitely in the hate-it-or-love-it category. When I asked Michael what he thought of it, he said, “Liked not loved.” I guess there’s another category too.
I liked director Noah Baumbach’s “The Squid and the Whale,” and Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote and stars in this one, is a charming comic screen presence. Which is another way of saying I looked forward to today’s Cinema Society screening, especially after all the buzz about the film on the festival circuit. But – and this is a big but – I really didn’t like the movie. Didn’t. Like. It. At. All.
Supposedly an homage to Woody Allen’s “Manhattan,” shot entirely in black and white and set in various boroughs of NYC, it’s the story of a 27-year-old woman named Frances who has only the vaguest idea of what to do with her life. She teaches dance (sometimes). She loves her best friend. Then her best friend gets a boyfriend and moves out of the apartment they share. Then we follow hapless but plucky Frances as she drifts in and out of unpleasant living situations, acting goofy and falling down a lot and trying to be a good person. Yawn.
The audience today was split. Michael and some of my friends really enjoyed the film and found it quirky, well-written fun. The director of our Cinema Society, who’d seen the film at Telluride or Toronto, can’t remember which festival, introduced it by calling it “delicious.” I wish I’d shared their enthusiasm. It left me bored to tears. It’ll be interesting to see how it does when it opens in limited release on May 17th.
My niece was married over the weekend at a grand wedding, and Michael and I flew to New York for the festivities. One of the pleasures of the occasion for me was spending time with my mother, who turned 96 in January, and with my Aunt Maxine, who’s 98. She and Mom had their share of estrangements over the years – sibling rivalry to the max – but now that they both have memory impairment they’ve forgotten that they were ever mad at each other. See that? Dementia does have its silver linings, as I write in You’d Better Not Die, and Mom and Maxine are the perfect example. They’re both still sharp – smart, articulate, intellectually curious. They look so youthful it’s almost scary. And they laugh easily and often, just the way they used to. What’s changed is that there’s no tension between them, no simmering animosity, only affection. It’s a beautiful thing. Nowadays, they get together often for lunch. They repeat the same stories and ask the same questions, and if you tell them something they won’t remember what you said. But I sure hope I’m doing half as well as they are if I make it to my 90s. I mean look at them. Seriously.
First came You’d Better Not Die or I’ll Kill You: A Caregiver’s Survival Guide to Keeping You in Good Health. Now comes its sequel….sort of. I’m not actually writing another book on the subject, but I’ve just partnered with the premier speakers bureau on healthcare to travel around the country and talk about caregiving.
Speakers on Healthcare has the absolute best roster of speakers – from celebrities like actress Meredith Baxter and broadcaster Anderson Cooper to health gurus like Dr. Oz and Deepak Chopra to prestigious journalists like Jane Gross and Jane Brody. Now I’ve joined this stellar list with my own page on the SOH site. I’m really eager to get started and speak to groups everywhere and spread the word that caregiving, while demanding, also has its rewards – if we make sure to take care of ourselves.
A festival fave that Variety called “the best American movie at Cannes” last spring, “Mud” opens in limited release next week and I urge everybody to see it. Written and directed by Jeff Nichols whose “Take Shelter” I liked a lot, “Mud” stars Matthew McConaughey in the role that will finally elevate him from rom com hunk to award-worthy character actor. In fact – going out on a limb here – I predict he’ll get an Oscar nomination for Best Actor.
An adventure story that’s also a coming-of-age tale, it begins as two boys living on an Arkansas river learn about a boat that washed ashore on a nearby island and is now perched up in a tree. Understandably curious and eager to distract themselves from their troubled home lives, they set out to explore the boat – and find it’s inhabited by a strange man named Mud (McConaughey). Mud describes fantastic scenarios —he killed a man in Texas to rescue his lady love and now vengeful bounty hunters are coming to get him. He says he’s planning to go on the run with his girlfriend once he can get a motor for the boat. Skeptical but intrigued, the two boys agree to help him.
Is Mud a liar? A murderer? A crazy man? Is his girlfriend really planning to escape with him? Can love be trusted or will it always end in a broken heart?
These are among the questions this film asks over its leisurely (yes, that means long) running time, and I wasn’t bored for a second. The cinematography is beautiful. The story is interesting. The acting is great across the board – from McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon to Sam Shephard and especially to Tye Sheridan, the boy who plays Ellis (he’s fantastic).
If “Mud” doesn’t turn up on my 10 Best List at the end of the year, then it’s going to be a very good year for movies.
Usually, I wait until I finish a book before blogging about it, but I’m making an exception in the case of Jojo Moyes’ Me Before You. I’m about a third of the way into the novel, and I love the setup, the characters and the possibilities of how things will go.
I’ve been writing a lot about caregiving since You’d Better Not Die came out in November, so you’d think Moyes’ novel about a caregiver would have been on my Must Read List. Somehow, it slipped under my radar despite all the great reviews.
Like last year’s French film sensation “The Intouchables,” which I also loved, Me Before You features a quadriplegic millionaire and his unlikely helper. In this case, the helper is a twentysomething British woman who’s out of a job, lives with her family and has no idea what she wants out of life. She has no purpose other than to contribute to the household income. Her charge is a man who once lived life to the fullest – a success in business and in romance. An adrenaline junkie, he embraced adventure and risk. After his accident, he’s angry, bitter, wants to die. What’s a naive, inexperienced caregiver to do?
I’m about to find out.
It seems that caregiving is on a lot of creative minds these days, and I’m not surprised. It’s rare to find someone who hasn’t been or isn’t being touched by the experience personally, so it’s only natural that the subject has made its way into the zeitgeist. The more we share those experiences, the better it’ll be for all of us.
Roberta Mittman is a wellness practitioner with a thriving practice on Park Avenue in Manhattan. She’s all about helping her clients live healthier, happier lives, but she also knows that not everyone can come to New York and meet with her face to face.
So…she created what she calls “Telesummits” for those who want to love their minds and bodies more (and who doesn’t). The latest one will run from April 8th-12th and it’s free! All you have to do is click this link, sign up and you’ll be able to hear the 30-minute interviews Roberta has conducted with over 15 experts in the wellness field (like me!) sharing advice about health, beauty and empowerment. (I’ll be talking about How to Take Care of You While Caring for a Loved One.) You’ll be able to receive special gifts and bonuses from each of the experts too (I’m offering some secret prizes, so go look!). Listen on a computer at home or at work or wherever you happen to be while the Telesummit is taking place or save the interviews in the archive and listen whenever it’s convenient. Personally, I think it’s a brilliant idea and I’d think so even if I weren’t one of the experts Roberta interviewed, so I hope lots of readers will sign up.
Others that will be participating include:
holistic nutrition expert Alexandra Jamieson
anti-aging expert Alison Heath
weight loss coach Andrea Albright
“language architect” Hilary Rubin
psychiatrist Dr. Hyla Cass
cancer specialist Dr. Nalini Chilkov
OB-GYN women’s health physician Dr. Anna Cabeca
Sex-at-any-age expert Dr. Jennifer Landa
Celebrity nutrition and fitness expert JJ Virgin
Herbal medicine expert Kami McBride
And here are some of the topics covered:
How to rediscover your IDENTITY, VALUE, AND CONFIDENCE while finding your mission in this life.
How to navigate through THE AGING PROCESS with expert guidance and tips.
A WELL-KEPT SECRET to naturally REGULATE YOUR APPETITE.
How and why EMOTIONAL BAGGAGE could have been responsible for your pain all this time.
How to ACCESS YOUR INNER PHYSICIAN intuitively and spiritually—something that can save your life.
How to access the #1 STRATEGY to change your belief about WHAT’S REALLY POSSIBLE FOR YOU RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW.
Knowing how to use local, must-try, NATURAL HERBAL MEDICINE for optimal health.
The secret to why weight loss has been a challenge—FOOD INTOLERANCE.
How to surrender the struggle and overwhelm with PROVEN STEPS TO FIND FLOW IN YOUR LIFE.
How messages from the past can block abundance, prosperity, and MONEY.
How to become a hot, SENSUALLY EMPOWERED woman now.
What you can do naturally today to prevent any type of CANCER.
What you can do when starting to EXERCISE! (Do this first if you want it to stick.)
How to recognize and cope effectively with TRIGGERS FOR EMOTIONAL EATING.
How to extinguish NEGATIVE SELF-TALK FOR SOARING SELF-ESTEEM.
How to RELEASE WEIGHT: what’s been holding you back, and how you can overcome those barriers.
Why you still feel FLAT and UNFULFILLED even when you reach your goals.
How to handle the inevitable plateau—what you need to know to STAY ON TRACK.
I don’t even know where to begin. I just finished this novel, which has been a sensation in Europe and which will haunt me for days, maybe longer. It’s so dark, dense and twisty – much more so than the accessible “Gone Girl” – and the characters are anything but likable. And yet I couldn’t stop reading. I stayed up late to keep reading and got up early this morning to finish it. And now….what to think about it all.
Translated from the Dutch, it’s about two couples who meet at a pretentious, extravagantly expensive restaurant for dinner, and the structure of the novel is formed by the various courses of the meal. Paul, the narrator, skewers the food, the servers, the fact that his brother Serge has chosen such an over-the-top place for them to meet. At first we think Paul’s the sane one in this group, but that perspective changes soon enough and we’re thrown into the reason for the dinner: what the two couples are going to do about the horrific crime their sons have committed.
I kept thinking the story couldn’t get any more ugly and then it does, but “ugly” in a way that made it impossible for me to look away – like rubbernecking when you pass a car accident.
In the end, I loved the novel because I found it thoroughly engrossing and I admired the author’s ability to tell such a complicated story. But I truly hated the people in the story. Which is sort of a contradiction, but then so is “The Dinner.”
What a whimsical novel this turned out to be. I had no idea what I was getting into when I bought it. I’d enjoyed Ephron’s previous work and assumed her latest would be a comedy of some sort, but I wasn’t expecting a story that’s a cross between “The Runaway Bride” and “Thelma and Louise” with a bit of “The Wizard of Oz” thrown in.
Yes, there really is a lion in the story, and he – his name is Marcel – is a very central character due to his almost magical ability to empower the three women whose lives we follow.
Tracee, Lana and Rita are all running away from something. They have baggage, in other words. Tracee is a kleptomaniac who’s stolen a diamond necklace. Lana is a recovering alcoholic who goes to AA meetings when she’s in the mood but is in denial about her anger issues. And Rita has fled her minister husband and his domineering ways. When their car breaks down in a backwater town in North Carolina, they wander into a bar that happens to have a caged lion in it. And they stay, having nowhere else to go, eventually moving into a nearby motel while they earn enough money as waitresses to pay for the car repair.
Over the course of the novel, the three women form an attachment to the lion, to each other, and – in the cases of Rita and Tracee – to the men who offer them unconditional love.
Ephron clearly has a vivid imagination, having come up with such a fantastical plot, but her characters are endearing and her ending is a happy one (always a plus for me). While this wasn’t the comedy I had anticipated, it was a really interesting read – unique and charming.
Having written a few novels of my own, I know how hard it is to tell a story in the voice of someone else, particularly when that voice is very different than yours. In Best Enemies, for example, I used the first person to narrate Amy’s version of her turbulent friendship with Tara and then switched over to Tara’s point of view in several of the chapters. It was challenging.
Ann Leary, the wife of actor/comedian Denis Leary, is an accomplished author who has now written a bestselling novel told from the perspective of a 60-year-old real estate agent. Ann Leary is far from being 60, and yet she wrote about Hildy, her protagonist, as if she were absolutely in her head.
While Leary may not know what it’s like to be 60 firsthand, she does know about having the drinking problem Hildy has. Apparently, she’s a recovering alcoholic and she has a unique ability to describe Hildy’s denial, her love for alcohol, her bouts of shame and self-doubt and her fears of her daughters finding out about her drinking. The result is a story that’s compelling, poignant and occasionally comical.
But “The Good House” isn’t just about alcoholism. It’s about a small New England town and the conflict between those who’ve lived there for generations and those who’ve come to town with shiny new assets. It’s about negotiating the boundaries of families and about finding love in mid-life. It’s a novel I couldn’t wait to get back to every night when it was “Kindle Time,” as I call it. Leary is definitely an author to watch.
If it’s rolling around in my head, it’ll find its way here – from what I’m writing, reading and watching to what and who makes me laugh. Also look for news of upcoming projects, answers to readers' questions, even recipes from friends!