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marry me (2022)

Jennifer Lopez in a wedding dress and veil holding a microphone and pointing toward an audience. Behind her are Maluma in a silver metallic jacket and Owen Wilson holding a sign that says Marry Me. Above it says JENNIFER LOPEZ, OWEN WILSON, MALUMA. Below it says Marry Me.

I really wanted to like Marry Me. I have a soft spot for Jennifer Lopez-led rom-coms, and especially for the way she always, always manages to work in a couple of coordinating brimmed caps and turtlenecks. Sadly though, this was a largely soggy and boggy affair that mostly felt like a slow slog toward an uncaptivating end. I’m not saying absolutely don’t watch it. Maybe you feel like you’ve plumbed the depths of the rom-com canon, and you just need something shiny with a happy ending where the acting is above sub-par. In which case, meh, you could watch this.

Kat (Jennifer Lopez) is a huge pop star with a hit song “Marry Me” who is just days away from marrying her equally famous fiancé Bastian (Maluma) during a live concert that will be televised and live streamed to 20 million fans. Everyone is talking about what she’ll wear, how many times she’s been married before, and whether this time it will stick. That part—that the woman is mostly the focus and the butt of the jokes—they absolutely got right. Also, Jennifer Lopez is twenty-five years older than Maluma in real life, and they play it off like they are around the same age, which I very much liked. There is a mention of her being “upwards of thirty-five” in an industry that isn’t forgiving to women at any age, which is one of a few feminist adjacent moments in the movie. 

Charlie (Owen Wilson) is a divorced dad and math teacher who doesn’t have the first clue about anything pop culture. He’s just trying to get his daughter Lou (Chloe Coleman) to rejoin the Math Club and stop being so embarrassed by him. Then, after she breaks up with her girlfriend, Charlie’s bestie Parker (Sarah Silverman) strong-arms him into bringing Lou and joining her at the big concert/wedding. It’ll be a way to show Lou how cool he is, she says, and we all know that’s a failsafe parenting technique. Never problematic. Moments before they are to be betrothed on stage, Kat finds out that Bastian cheated on her with her assistant. Who could have predicted it! She is heartbroken, but she goes out on stage in her wedding dress anyway and makes a speech (none of which I remember) and sees Charlie—who just happens to be holding Parker’s hand-lettered sign that says (you guessed it!) Marry Me. She pulls him up on stage and he, seeing her pain and anguish, agrees to marry her then and there. I mean, sure you could see that as kind and selfless or you could see it as him lacking boundaries and having some kind of savior complex. Anyway, they decide to give the whole thing a go because, as Kat says through tears, “nothing else has worked. Maybe this will.” Yes, friends, what is a highly successful, accomplished, intelligent woman without a husband? Trash. That’s what. Sure, I get that she wants a life partner, but that’s not what this sounds like at all. 

I saw a lot of complaints about Owen Wilson being cast opposite Jennifer Lopez, but I get why they at least chose someone like Owen Wilson. They needed someone who was really going to sell the boring, goes to bed at 8pm, doesn’t understand pop culture, hates social media, and still uses a flip phone schtick. Plus, he needed to feel like the total opposite of Maluma. And Owen Wilson definitely checks all those boxes. Unfortunately, he and Jennifer Lopez are about as exciting to watch together as a wet cardboard box. To be fair, it’s not like Jennifer Lopez and Maluma have much more chemistry, which is odd because they have decent chemistry in at least one of their music videos. Though, I do maintain that Maluma is always most invested in his chemistry with Maluma, which makes him slightly less attractive to me, but, I mean, you can only argue so much with genetics. Jennifer Lopez has the most sparks not when she is with either man, but instead when she performs the song “Church.” Her backup dancers are dressed in skimpy vinyl priest and nun costumes and she has a multicolored cross tastefully covering just her bits and bobs. As she sings “you’ve opened my gates, and showed me the truth,” she grabs her knees and pulls them apart, so you can probably guess that what I like most is its tasteful subtlety.

Anyway, from Kat helping Lou overcome her stage fright to Charlie making a speech about not belonging in her world to a gender-swapped airport dash to Kat attending a semi-formal dance, very little will surprise in this movie, which, as always, is not a criticism. What is a criticism is the whole part where Charlie tells Kat that she’s beautiful even without all that “stuff.” Now, mind you, he hasn’t yet seen her without makeup or hair extensions or fancy clothing or any other stuff, so I don’t know how he purports to know any of  that. And what the fuck does it matter either way? This is her job and her life and she’s going to what? Just be like, Oh, hey, actually fuck the entire patriarchy. I’m going to throw away everything I’ve spent my ENTIRE LIFE working toward because some guy I’ve known for, like, a second told me I didn’t need all that stuff? I can’t. Furthermore, it’s none of his damn business what she does with her body. And later, when something really important happens for Kat he gets all huffy because he’s jealous, which is not cool and shouldn’t be overlooked so quickly. But that’s not actually what I was going to complain about. What bothered me the most is when he “challenges” her to do EVERYTHING without help because his mother always believed in self-sufficiency. Hang on there, Mathlete, are you sure she believed in self-sufficiency or was she maybe over-compensating for the fact that she, like so many women, grew up in a time when she was simply expected to do everything without help and with a goddamn smile on her face? As for what he’s asking of Kat. Are you fucking kidding me you pompous, over-privileged, glass of lumpy milk? She’s writing and performing her own music all around the world while employing lots of people. Of course she needs assistants! And you’re going to make a joke out of the fact that she screwed up making her own smoothie one morning? You couldn’t even have a conversation with your own kid three weeks ago, so maybe you shouldn’t start throwing proverbial stones. And no one is asking you to clean the school classrooms or drive the school bus to math competitions, for example, but a woman should, of course, be able to do it all. Oh, but they try to gloss it over because Kat challenges Charlie to set up Social Media accounts. Oooooooh. How incredibly difficult for him to do that and then immediately have a huge following simply because he’s connected to a superstar. What a burden. 

Whatever. Did I mention that Jennifer Lopez manages to pull off a couple of newsboy caps in this movie like we all time traveled to 2002? Or, wait. Has it been long enough that the early aughts are now considered retro? Do not answer that. 

Overall Rating on the Chronically Streaming Pain Scale:

2-Sometimes I have the distinct desire to remove an eyeball to relieve the pain, but I can’t complain too much. Drugs would dull the discomfort, but I can get through without.

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SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE (2022)

Bridget Everett standing with her head turned to one side in front of a field of crops and a blue sky. The text reads BRIDGET EVERETT A COMING OF MIDDLE AGE STORY. HBO ORIGINAL SOMEBODY SOMEWHERE NEW SERIES STREAMING JAN 16 HBO MAX

Somebody Somewhere is a melancholy, funny, tender, and frank show that packs an unexpected amount of life and feelings into its spare and trim seven episodes. It was like a sucker punch of honest emotions, but in the best way possible. 

Sam (Bridget Everett) has returned to her hometown of Manhattan, Kansas where she works at a soulless job grading standardized test essays. She meets, or rather re-meets, Joel (Jeff Hiller) when a girl’s “pretty mediocre” essay about helping her sister take off her training wheels triggers Sam’s memories of her own recently deceased sister, which makes her burst into tears in a silent room full of work colleagues. Joel follows her outside, offers her tissues, reminds her they were in Show Choir together in high school, and tells her to take the rest of the day off. It’s not an auspicious start to a beautiful friendship, but this isn’t a show with flashy meet-cutes or punched up lines, which is what makes all of it hit so hard. Unlike anyone else in Sam’s current life, Joel admires Sam. During one of their first conversations, when they’re reminiscing about high school, he tells her, “I used to love watching you sing. You were so joyful. It, like, soaked into me. Nothing made me happy in high school, and that made me so happy.” My God, don’t we all deserve to be loved and believed in like that by someone? Joel introduces Sam to Choir Practice—a kind of open mic, underground gathering of people on the fringes of Manhattan, Kansas’ otherwise very mainstream community—where she sings and begins to feel at home. Lest you think that their friendship is one of those one-sided deals, well, it’s not. Joel has a boyfriend, but he’s not someone who opens up easily or has a lot of friends, and Sam pulls (maybe yanks) him out of his comfort zone. What I’m saying is that they offer each other solace and love. 

The situation with Sam’s family is, to put it mildly, more complicated. All of them are still grieving Holly’s death six months ago. Sam still sleeps on Holly’s couch and can’t bring herself to clean out things. Her mother (Jane Brody), who won’t even speak of her dead daughter, is a quietly raging alcoholic who hides bottles of cheap vodka all over the house and barn. Her father (Mike Hagerty ), who just wants to keep their farm above water, is enabling their mother’s drinking, even covering up when she accidentally injures him. Sam’s remaining sister Tricia (Mary Catherine Garrison) constantly attacks Sam for being forty and not having any direction. Tricia, on the other hand, has a teenage daughter (Kailey Albus), who she is angry to find asks Sam for advice, and a husband who plays video games with the gusto of a teenager. Along with her perky and incredibly patronizing best friend, she owns Tender Moments, a local shop filled with scented candles, embroidered pillows, and other knick-knacks, which Joel absolutely adores and Sam abhors. 

Bridget Everett is wonderful to watch, but it’s Jeff Hiller’s character who really steals the series. I never knew I could get quite so much out of watching a person bless some pets or do some Zumba. There’s a lot here to parse and talk about, but the parts that left me a beautiful sobbing mess were the way the series ultimately defined church and home, both of which might make you sing with joy if you’ve never felt included by traditional ones.

Overall Rating on the Chronically Streaming Pain Scale:

0-Bliss: Every little thing feels all right. Nothing hurts. If I am dreaming, please do not wake me up.

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CODA (2021)

The four main characters sitting in the back of a pickup truck with a lighthouse and fishing boat behind them. Above them it says AN APPLE ORIGINAL FILM CODA and it lists several Sundance prizes the film won.

As is often the case, I’m late to the party. Who hasn’t written a (likely glowing) review of this movie yet? Anyway, I too got swept up in CODA while I was watching it, and fully enjoyed the often funny coming of age story that wears its heart proudly on its sleeve. Afterwards, though, when I wasn’t being affected by the emotional tides of the movie and I had time and space to think, I was more concerned than I expected about some important aspects. 

No one hears Ruby Rossi (Emilia Jones) when she belts out “Something’s Got a Hold of Me Now'” as she helps haul in the morning catch on her family’s fishing boat before school. Her father (Troy Kotsur)  and brother (Daniel Durant), who work alongside her, are both deaf, as is her mother (Marlee Matlin). (All of the deaf characters in the movie are played by deaf actors, which shouldn’t even be something that needs to be noted, but it still very much is.) Apparently, her family doesn’t even know that Ruby’s favorite thing in the world is singing. No one really does. Ruby spends a lot of her time interpreting for her parents. She negotiates with the hearing middle men on the fishing docks, where she worries they’re lowballing her because she’s a kid and her family is deaf. She goes to doctor’s appointments where she has to explain her parents’ shared jock itch and relay the doctor’s advice for them to abstain from sex for two entire weeks. (They’re outraged.) Her family appears to interact with the hearing world as little as possible. Her brother Leo, though, seems frustrated that it’s always Ruby who takes the lead, and he wants the chance to assert himself in the larger world. In school Ruby keeps to herself a lot, sometimes falling asleep in class after her 3:00 am start on the boat. When she started school the kids bullied her because she spoke like a deaf person, and they still bully her because she sometimes comes to school reeking of dead fish. She thinks her life is pretty set—she’ll stay in the family business, being the hearing interpreter, for the foreseeable future—until she sees the cute boy she likes sign up for chorus and, impulsively, she does the same. 

Side note: CODA stands for Children of Deaf Adults and, in music, means the finale or conclusion. 

Chorus is led by the prickly but dedicated Bernardo Villalobos (Eugenio Derbez), who immediately sniffs out Ruby’s raw talent and encourages her to audition for Berklee School of Music. He offers her private tutoring sessions, which, not surprisingly, will conflict with her familial responsibilities. He also assigns a duet for the fall concert to Ruby and Miles (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo), the boy she has a crush on. I’m sure you cannot begin to guess what will happen there. Ruby’s parents don’t understand her desire to attend music school. Is she even any good, they wonder. At one point, her mother scoffs that Ruby is just a teenager and wonders if she were blind if Ruby would want to paint. It’s a line that’s far crueler than it’s given credit for in the movie. I mean, she essentially discredits Ruby’s entire self as a silly act of rebellion. You could extract years of therapy from that pointedly mean sentence. 

You can pretty much predict where this movie is going beat for beat, but it’s still enjoyable watching it get there. Tony Kotsur as Ruby’s father is hilarious and touching and he every bit deserved his Oscar. There is a scene where he graphically signs to Miles that he should put a condom on his soldier, and it’s gloriously awkward and lewd. He embarrasses Ruby by picking her up at school with Gangster rap blaring, which he refuses to turn down because he likes the way it makes his ass vibrate. And, in a more tender moment, he asks Ruby to sing for him while he places his hands on her throat to feel the vibrations she creates. 

But for all of that, the movie remains oddly superficial. The conversations around Ruby and her family’s close-knit dinner table rarely veer from business and Leo’s Tinder profile. Ruby finds strength in her singing voice through one pep talk from her music teacher. Attending school is easily solved through a scholarship and an easily gotten audition that you just know is somehow going to involve her entire family. When fishing times get tough, the family rebounds with a business idea that seems to come to fruition without a single piece of red tape. Also just a strange choice? That her brother, who is at least older than twenty-one, starts dating a teenager. Icky. 

There is also the issue of disability in the movie. There are a lot of positive aspects about disability: the use of deaf actors, the inclusion of so much ASL, deaf people shown as layered, sexual adults, a scene showing a concert from the deaf attendees’ perspective, Leo’s constant rallying cry that deaf people are not helpless. Simply the visibility of a significant number of the scenes taking place in ASL is hugely important, I feel. But, I struggled with some other aspects. The way the story centers on Ruby and pushes her deaf family members to the margins bothered me. Inclusion is great, but not as great when it’s supporting the same old story. The way it makes it seem that deaf people largely can’t appreciate or understand music at all isn’t true. In one part Leo says that hearing people need to adapt to them, which is absolutely true, but the movie does little to nothing to show us how or if this kind of accessibility comes to pass. Why would the movie opt out of showing what accessibility looks like? There are other parts where the movie makes the family look almost wholly dependent on Ruby, which is, obviously, so problematic. In a courtroom scene, where they most certainly would be afforded an ASL interpreter, Ruby is shown interpreting for them. In another part, they’re required to have a hearing person on their boat to hear emergency alerts, seemingly overlooking alert systems specifically designed for deaf people. I was also really troubled by a part toward the end, which I saw coming but still didn’t like, where it felt like Ruby’s family was used almost as inspirational porn to benefit her ultimate success, which just never needs to happen. 

Look, I’m always one for saying that it’s perfectly fine to turn off parts of your brain and just enjoy the heck out of something, and I really tried, but in the end, I couldn’t help but want a bit more from this extremely good movie. 

Overall Rating on the Chronically Streaming Pain Scale:

1-Comfortable: Maybe there are some annoying twinges here and there, but overall the good outweighs the bad.

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HASTA QUE NOS VOLVAMOS A ENCONTRAR (WITHOUT SAYING GOODBYE) (2022)

Maxi Iglesias and Stephanie Cayo in profile with the title in yellow below.
Did someone involved not like Maxi Iglesias? Because this is one of the least flattering photos I’ve ever seen of him.

You would expect that between Maxi Iglesias’s Genetically Blessed Face, his known ability for Excellent Longing Looks, and a plethora of glamour shots of Perú this movie could whip up some kind of dramatic tension, but instead it’s just pretty flat. Watchable (again, see Maxi Iglesias and Perú), but pretty lackluster and blah.

Salvador (Maxi Iglesias) is a very successful Spanish architect working for his daddy’s company building big, fancy hotels. He’s handsome as heck and full on fit, but he does not have time for love because he’s so busy work, work, working. He finally gets a Big Opportunity when he is tapped to head up a project to build a Super Duper Fancypants hotel in Cusco, Perú. It’s all going to be just perfect, until one night his key breaks off in the lock of his Airbnb and he’s forced to go to the hostel next door to find the owner, Lichi (Wendy Ramos). Inside the hostel, it’s a riot of color, sound, and music, which is pretty much the opposite of Salvador’s stuffy, routine, grey life. Women are singing, and Salvador is immediately drawn to the tallest and blondest of them all, Ariana (Stephanie Cayo), who is also Lichi’s niece. Ariana later dances with a piece of paper tucked into the back of her pants with the idea that the right person for her will be able to ignite it with the flame of their candle. I’ll leave it to our imagination if Salvador lights her fire. The only thing stiff about Ariana, who is, of course, an artist, are the random dreadlocks in her long, flowing hair. She is Emotionally Unavailable, never stays in one place for long, and definitely does not believe in Traditional Relationships. Into each other’s pants is where they both immediately want to be!! But there are complications! Salvador wants to buy Lichi’s land for the hotel, Ariana is morally opposed to a huge hotel in Cusco, and they disagree about the importance of money in life. But that attraction! You know where this is going, Ariana’s freeness is going to open Salvador’s eyes to the wonders of the world behind a grey desk in a grey office, and Salvador is going to open Ariana’s eyes to the beauty of not constantly running to the next thing. The whole thing feels slightly unbalanced, you know? She teaches him to give up on a soul sucking capitalistic way of life. He gets a whole new perspective on life, a new job, happiness, and freedom. And out of that same deal?  She gets to hang out with him? I’m mostly joking, but also, think about it.  

A lot of the movie plays like a promotional video for Perú, with the occasional sassy interjection from Ariana about Spaniards as colonizers. It’s cute, but I’m also pretty sure Ariana is a direct descendant of those conquistadores, which makes it feel superficial. And really, that’s how a lot of the montages of Peruvian landscapes, foods, and dances in the movie feel: fun, but cosmetic. It’s all gorgeous, but with no real attempt to give us any understanding or depth, it’s all just background noise. Which is largely what these two attractive people end up feeling like. Even though they have decent chemistry and look just fine with their clothes on or off, there’s nothing about the writing or the characters that really makes this movie feel urgent or exciting. That’s not the end of the world, though, because who doesn’t have room in their life for a 90-minute souped up informational tourist video with a romantic narrative? Pop it on, kick back, and let your brain take a little vacation. 

Overall Rating on the Chronically Streaming Pain Scale:

2-Sometimes I have the distinct desire to remove an eyeball to relieve the pain, but I can’t complain too much. Drugs would dull the discomfort, but I can get through without.

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DONKEYHEAD (2022)

Mona in an olive winter coat and orange hat standing alone in the snow. Her head is turned to one side. Her hands are in her pockets.

Donkeyhead just feels like someone’s first movie, you know? It seems deeply personal, but somehow remains surface level. It goes on a bit too long and the story kind of rambles, but doesn’t go anywhere, which isn’t to say it’s not worth watching. The story of family trauma and the possibility of reconciliation and growth is pretty evergreen. Plus, the light in some of the shots is gorgeous and might be worth the long stretches of melancholy wandering.

Mona (Agam Darshi, who wrote and directed the film) is a mess. Unlike her three successful siblings who escaped the small city of Regina, Saskatchewan, Mona still lives in their childhood home, caring for their once domineering father (Marvin Ishmael) as he slowly dies of cancer. In her early twenties she was considered a promising writer, even getting a $20,000 advance for a novel that she failed to write, but now she spends her days having a clandestine affair with her father’s married attorney (Kim Coates), being rebellious toward her observant Sikh relatives, and verbally sparring with her father. Since childhood, Mona has been considered the black sheep of the family, receiving the bulk of her father’s wrath and strict discipline, so it’s unsurprising that she feels a desperate need to prove herself by keeping him alive as long as possible. In the few scenes where we see him interact with Mona he is gruff and short-tempered, reminding her sharply to “buy more canned milk.” It’s not until Mona has shut his bedroom door behind herself that he says softly, too softly for her to hear, “You’re a good girl.” When her father has a stroke that leaves him comatose, Mona refuses to accept his DNR order, instead bringing him home and, through her weed dealer, acquiring an IV drip and oxygen. Her twin brother Parm (Stephen Lobo), a doctor who is an observant Sikh, her sister Sandy (Sandy Sidhu), a therapist, and her brother Rup (Husein Madhavji), a real estate agent, all descend upon the house, full of judgment about Mona’s life choices and her unorthodox medical treatment for their father. As you can imagine, arguments will be had, secrets will be revealed, and reconciliations will eventually be made. A lot of what happens is pretty predictable, but whether that’s because the story isn’t innovative enough or because family issues are universal will largely depend on your perspective. I wish that Mona had been just a smidge more likeable. It was hard to rally behind her getting her shit together or sticking it to her siblings when what little there was to her character was so…blah. Yes, she’s clearly traumatized by the years of mental abuse by her father, but it takes most of the movie to really tease that out, and I didn’t feel like the movie let us know her well enough to find much empathy for her. Maybe if we’d been allowed to see more of her caring for her father? There could have been less time devoted to her rolling around mostly naked with Brent (Kim Coates), the married attorney, on a mattress that seems to have lost its bottom sheet and more time teasing out why she so strongly dislikes having her aunt and the priests pray downstairs. Plus, how she betrays one of her siblings is pretty extreme, but the movie portrays it as easily forgiven, which seems like a mistake. And, if you’re expecting a satisfying ending wrapped up with a bow, you’ll be entirely disappointed. The film just kind of ends, almost mid-thought, which feels about right for this personal, rambling, and somewhat superficial movie.

Overall Rating on the Chronically Streaming Pain Scale:

2-Sometimes I have the distinct desire to remove an eyeball to relieve the pain, but I can’t complain too much. Drugs would dull the discomfort, but I can get through without.

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