This week we said goodbye once and for all to the summer and got in all our feel good, no guilt, all pleasure fixes one last time. The heat was on with trying to flex those artistic muscles and when a Dolly Parton movie marathon pops up in your city, you must attend. To close out August, we finished with a nod to the classics in some memorable stage to screen adaptations that brought unfathomable tension and fun, flirty romances.
#TheatreCrushThursday went to The Den Theatre and Greenhouse Theater Center. #FollowFriday went to Read/Write Library, Creative Chicago Reuse Exchange, Chicago Latino Theatre Alliance and Rescue Chicago.
Let's get to it!
Vox Lux is a film that left me flummoxed. I was all here for pop star Natalie Portman bringing diva realness and donning a character she doesn't always get to play. Yet instead what occurred was a half baked idea that started out as a young girl who survives a school shooting and instead becomes a commentary on how the entertainment industry inevitably makes you a monster. There was so much potential to make this a meaningful, interesting story, but the more it progresses it fails to have substance or even originality. It doesn't even include that much music for that matter. Definitely disappointing and too much star power supported a film that wasn't ready to be signed off on.
Punch Up the Jam brings tunes with takes. Hosts Demi Adejuyigbe and Miel Bredouw bring as much comedy as they do musicality with their compelling podcast. Being a history fan and lover of hit music, I love nothing more than learning some random fun facts about songs I've belted out with the best of them. And to top it off, it's impressive to hear what the duo come up with of how to 'improve' the song to the best of their ability. A lot of the time they're impressive and the hosts' musical skills are not to be discounted.
Music & Lyrics equally tries to be a comedy as much as a romantic comedy. You got Hugh Grant, Drew Barrymore, older ladies melting for Grant as an 80s' pop hearthrob and a fine, original song, what more do you need? A lot of the film comes off not so much as charming, but awkward. This is why I'm hesitant to call it strictly a romantic comedy as a lot of the hijinx is about getting a song written with the romance secondary and at times questionable if this is even a good idea. Romantic comedy logic is always a bit foggy when it comes to matters of the heart, but there has to be some structure or sanity! And while I could appreciate some subverting of the genre of Grant and Barrymore realistically navigating a romantic relationship aside from a working relationship they play it too long as uncomfortable to solidify these crazy kids must end up together. Overall, this one is kind of a mess, but there are some moments that are enjoyable.
Dolly Parton always deserves an event in her honor which is why I could not have been more thrilled when the Music Box Theatre announced this celebration. This 9 to 5er was one of many events to commemorate ninety years of the Music Box bringing one of a kind, fantastic programming for cinema fanatics. The timing and theme could not have been more fitting, although why Steel Magnolias was not on the line-up is needless to say a tragedy. Despite recovering from this heartbreak, it shaped up to be a productive evening of cheering on our gal along with Rhinestone bingo, a "Jolene" singalong and getting caffeine buzzed to make it to morning.
The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas is a film most enjoyed with an audience. I felt similar to the viewings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show the Music Box holds that it sometimes enhances the experience of what you're viewing. Especially if it's a little bad or just an unadulterated ball of fun! This musical has always struck my interest, but I never truly knew what the plot was. Now having come out on the other side, it's definitely high on my list of feel good musicals. Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds are a hot couple and their chemistry is worth tuning in alone. The group numbers are enchanting dancing wise and there's a bold amount of stakes regarding advocating for sex workers that's impressive to see for the time. While it's riddled with problematic aspects of that same time, if you can recognize it and temporarily put that to the side it's a hell of a time.
Rhinestone begins under questionable circumstances and at the end reaches a logical, enjoyable conclusion. It takes awhile to get to the crux of why we're here with Dolly Parton needing to make Sylvester Stallone the next big country star. Once we get back to her hometown, we're roaring to go but the journey to get there is rough and Stallone's arch is even tougher. It's also wildly unfair to go from Parton's chemistry with Reynolds to Stallone. It just can't hold a candle and proves that it's hard to find a leading man of quality stature to play opposite Dolly. And ultimately, she's way better off without them anyway.
Straight Talk is a delightful trip as Dolly charms the Second City with her earnest advice. Of all the films, this was the one where she was most vulnerable. And despite there being less music and frills, it was great to see her in a different setting than she's comfortable with. Of course a common trait in all her characters is that she's immediately charming and affable, but here she faces more consequences for her actions. It all works out in the end as it does with her stories, but this one is the most intense of feeling like you really do want it to work out well. I would put this film up there with Desperately Seeking Susan of a surprising film that's easy to sleep on, but you shouldn't!
Ten years in the game and the Fly Honeys continue to shine. Read up on what makes this hive so heavenly and why they're long overdue for a permanent residency.
There's no doubt about it. Doubt undoubtedly holds up as a great film and play, perhaps feeling even more resonant regarding the relationship between the church and child abuse. What makes it tricky now to deal with is John Patrick Shanley's intentionally deceptive dialogue. It's much harder to praise a play where a priest is suspected of sexual assault yet as an audience we're subjected to viewing and engaging with this character for hours. I think it's harder to sit with now and while Doubt might not be as popular as it was a couple years ago, it's still well regarded enough that it's worth examining its effects today, especially in how it handles race and sexual abuse.
It's far from All Quiet on the Western Front. Check out our thoughts on Red Tape Theatre's summer show which instead of delivering what could have been a dusty adaptation packed a punch or two.
Alias Grace makes for the perfect limited drama binge. This Canadian series in just six episodes packs enough in each one to tell this story effectively. As a lover of mystery and wicked females, what a home run. And Sarah Lynn Gadon was a perfect casting choice to lead this series. She plays the line so tense of victim or murderess. I don't think I've been so thrilled from the beginning of a new crime drama since How to Get Away with Murder or Broadchurch with a bit more of a kick to it. Get ready to be obsessed.
Four Weddings and a Funeral is a classic romantic comedy that's worth your time. Hugh Grant owns his element as a puppy dog romantic here and I was able to fall back into being fond of him. Forgiveness was granted for Music and Lyrics. I also was given the gift that is Kristina Scott Thomas and her many extravagant hats. She is a sensation in this film and I didn't realize until recently I first was introduced to her delivering a brilliant monologue in Fleabag! I now need to see everything she's starred in. Hugh Grant and Andie MacDowell also make for a dreamy, charged pair and a love story that brings investment to its soapiness.
The series Four Weddings and a Funeral was good in theory, but not so much in execution. Regardless, I watched every episode. To be fair, it has a strong pilot where its setup includes Mamma Mia jokes, an airport meet cute and enough comedy with contemplation. Yet the more it goes on the jokes don't always land, some of the plots are annoyingly predictable and even the side couples become more interesting than the main ones! Now The Sound of Music production is precious (and that smooch ooo) and Zara's reality television stunt is so watchable that I could have enjoyed seeing that on its own. I just wish the overall experience could have been worthwhile and retained more of the charm from the original.
Bachelorette is a film that's hard to categorize, and I could imagine was even harder to market. It's not quite Bridesmaids or even for the Bride Wars crowd. It's a trio of boozy, bitchy bridesmaids who are too involved in their own drama to focus on a bride they barely even care about. It's a tough sell and while I don't think it's for everyone I enjoyed most of what it brought to the table. Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan and Isla Fisher bring some strong performances and they produce such a lived in, long friendship it feels blisteringly painful. They truly feel like a high school gang with varying levels of having it together as adults yet they still have each other. There's a scene that clocks in around ten minutes of Dunst just holding the entire wedding together that's so phenomenal I was laughing and exasperated in awe of seeing such a flawless performance. I always welcome seeing work where female characters can be unlikeable and messy instead of constantly having to be a championed underdog or a tough fighter.
See y'all next time. You hear?