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Amor de madre (Honeymoon with my mother) (2022)

Title characters in vacation clothing and an embrace. She looks thrilled and is squeezing his cheeks. He looks miserable. there are palm trees, an airplane, leaping dolphins, and canceled stamp behind them. In front are some tropical flowers, an umbrella, a lobster, balloon letters spelling love, fruit, a drink, a beach, water, and UNA PELICULA DE NETFLIX AMOR DE MADRE.

What an absolutely bizarre concept for a movie. Perhaps there is a way to make a touching, funny (even slapstick) movie about a man getting jilted at the altar and then taking his honeymoon trip with his slightly overbearing and fun-starved mother, but maybe not, and either way, this isn’t it. 

Everything is set for José Luis (Quim Gutiérrez) to marry his fiancée Teresa (Celia Freijeiro) in a lovely outdoor wedding. But when it’s time to say I do she hesitates. Then a handsome man crashes his car into the giant white letters spelling LOVE, jumps out of the car, rushes up the aisle, and declares his love for her. She does not hesitate in high tailing it the heck out of there with him. This is where José Luis begins scowling in the way he scowls for most of the movie. His mother (Carmen Machi) comes up behind him to say she never liked Teresa anyway. The officiant nervously mentions that he is still going to have to charge for the ceremony. And, most importantly, it turns out the all-inclusive honeymoon to Mauritius is non-refundable. After some back and forthing with his mother, who never had her own honeymoon, José Luis is convinced that they should take the trip together. (Why wouldn’t he just SEND HIS PARENTS and stay home to lick his wounds!) Anyway, there’s a catch that his mother doesn’t mention until they’re at the resort—but you knew there would be a catch. The very luxurious room that they’ve booked with the all-inclusive fancypants resort is only for couples and will be revoked if they’re not a couple. Yes, that’s right, José Luis and his mother have to pretend to be a newlywed couple or they will be kicked out. Do you need to read that again? I mean, I usually think of this situation as the makings of a Greek Tragedy or as guaranteed funding for a therapist’s vacation home(s), but here it’s just the plot for nearly two hours of laughs, gaffs, misunderstandings, and touching reconciliations. You should be reading all those words with air quotes around them, including the nearly two hours, because I swear to the gods and goddesses of streaming that the timer kept resetting itself on this movie.  

Look, I’m not going to lie, Carmen Machi is, as always, funny. She crackles with life. She’s appealing enough that there were moments when I actually thought she might be enough to make this movie decent. She manages to make the part of the overprotective mother feel relatable and empathetic instead of just the usual cringe-worthy stereotype, which is quite a feat in a movie like this. The scenes where she expresses her years-long yearning for travel and excitement are kind of moving.  But, when you stack that up against things like: a jilted hotel worker angling for a threesome, loud and lewd gastrointestinal distress from local water, drug-related arrests, potentially violent and duplicitous locals, genitalia stung by jellyfish, and mother and son competing in games designed for lovers, well, it’s too much to ask of anyone. There is also the whole part about how once they were married José Luis’s father simply stopped taking her out anywhere and how ignored she has felt throughout their marriage, which, I thought maaaybe was going somewhere. But no, this movie that allows itself  NEARLY TWO FULL HOURS, then allots a whopping two minutes for that whole thing to be resolved with fucking flowers and a romantic trip. You can walk straight off a cliff with that bullshit, thank you so much for asking. And then there is the ending, which, holy hell, friends. HOLY HELL!! I’m sorry because you may watch and find it entirely touching that—SPOILERS ARE COMING!!—a mother and son end up in a scene that’s meant to look like a wedding while he expresses how he’s come to understand her as a woman, but, well, I have a LOT of thoughts. 

Overall Rating on the Chronically Streaming Pain Scale:

Distressing: I’m so uncomfortable. I wonder if this will ever stop. I might want to be sedated. Thanks to Carmen Machi and only Carmen Machi, I really did debate between this rating and Meh.

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Entire cast of movie standing or sitting in the desert. Behind them is the setting sun and the pyramids and sphinx. In yellow letters against a purple sky is DEATH ON THE NILE

You know sometimes when a movie is just jam packed with recognizable names how it can feel like they were so focused on the star power that they fumbled on the rest and the movie turns out to be kind of a plonker? That’s how I feel about Death on the Nile

I mean, it’s fine in parts, I guess. Though I did find a lot of reasons to pause it—snacks, bathroom breaks, burning internet questions—while watching. Admittedly, I was also very distracted, annoyed, and disgusted by the fact that Armie Hammer has a lead in this movie in spite of the horrendous accusations that have been brought against him. It’s not at all surprising, of course, as we’ve all witnessed many white men complain bitterly about how horribly affected their lives are by the consequences of their gross actions while simultaneously seeing few actual long-term consequences. See, for example: Louis C.K. winning a Grammy for whatever this year and Kevin Spacey getting a role in whatever this year, to name just two of SO FREAKIN’ MANY. The scenes with Sophie Okonedo as an American Blues singer are better because Sophie Okonedo is a treasure. But you could also watch something like Flack and get to see a whole lot more of her and less of other people. Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders feel largely wasted in terms of comedic value. 

Oh, wait! I forgot to tell you the plot! Jacqueline de Bellefort (Emma Mackey) and her beloved Simon Doyle (Armie Hammer) meet up one night with her dear (and very wealthy) friend Linnet Ridgeway (Gal Gadot) at a club in London. At Jacqueline’s insistence, Linnet and Simon take a spin on the dance floor and there’s a spark between the two that you can tell is going to catch fire. Months later we catch up with them in Egypt where Linnet and Simon are on their honeymoon (oopsie doodles) and Jacqueline is stalking their every move. Eventually, they, along with an eclectic cast of characters including the one and only Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), end up sailing down the Nile on the S.S. Karnak, which is host to luxury and Murder Most Foul. You can probably mostly hum the melody from there, though it lacks a lot of the moxie and tension that you want in an Agatha Christie adaptation.  

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. But really this should be agony because it’s agony that we have to keep watching predatory men saunter back into their careers.

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Main characters are all in individual squares that go in rows of three across. The title is across the bottom with the U in Fuck made out of a broken heart.

This romantic comedy from the Netherlands is basically a series of disparate scenes hacked together with montages that kind of tells a coherent story. It relies heavily on a lot of the tropes that need to be retired, like jokes about sex work, people getting tased, and various other grotesqueries masquerading as jokes. And, of course, that old faithful standby misogyny! None of the characters have depth and the plot is almost certainly held together with eyelash glue, spilled beer, and Axe Body Spray. I honestly have felt deeper emotions for strangers I watched interact for mere minutes from across a crowded restaurant than I felt for any of these characters. 

Lisa (Bo Maerten) is on a wonderful around-the-world-trip with her boyfriend Jim (Geza Weisz) until he admits that he doesn’t want children. Then I guess she breaks up with him and cuts the trip short? Who knows! Certainly not us, because this movie is all kinds of choppy. Next thing we know we’re at her grandmother’s funeral meeting her friends Bo (Yolanthe Cabau) and Said (Maurits Delchot), a married couple who are supposed to bring the slide show. Said is well-meaning, but he’s always screwing things up. Case in point, he manages to drop his phone in the coffin and later knocks over the coffin attempting to retrieve it. As if that’s not enough, he also accidentally brings a thumb drive with a homemade sex tape instead of the photos. And I guess it’s enough of a reason that Bo kicks him out because she wants him to take more initiative? Or screw things up less? It’s all kind of hazy. Then there is Kiki (Nienke Plas), who has always been the wild single one, but who chooses the funeral as the time to announce her engagement. Also at the funeral is Cindy (Victoria Koblenko), who got pregnant with Lisa’s other ex-boyfriend Jack (Edwin Jonker) while he and Lisa were still together, but what Cindy doesn’t know is that he is ALSO the father of another child with ANOTHER pregnant woman. Romance! True love! Jokes for days! Another really great joke is when a doctor is on the phone having a whole separate conversation while he’s doing a vaginal checkup on one of the pregnant women. Oh, oh! And then there’s the time when Jack asks Said if he’s “on his period” because he looks sad. Did a twelve year old in 1985 write this script? Also, Jack has the audacity to ask the pregnant woman who is not his wife if she is sure the baby is his, but, friends, it’s all okay because at some point he will realize the error of his ways and promise to be a really good father, which is all it takes in life to fix things!! Misogyny is evergreen!! Will Said later take relationship advice from Jack? He will! Why? I literally have no idea, but I’m pretty sure it was so they could cram a dick pic, the aforementioned tasing, another arrest, a reference to non-vanilla sex, and a break-in caper into this movie. Wow, am I selling you on watching this or what? Anyway, an attractive old friend of Lisa’s also shows up at the funeral, and he now owns a bunch of vacation houses in Ibiza, which is how Lisa, Kiki, and their friend Angela (Bettina Holwerda) all end up there for Kiki’s bachelorette party. Kiki will complain a lot about how her vagina has dried out because it’s been so long since she’s had sex. Meanwhile Lisa dances with the guy who owns the vacation house until she falls in the ocean, which leads to them having sex and professing their love at least until her ex-boyfriend, but not the one who has gotten two women pregnant, shows up. Is any of this making sense? If not, don’t worry, because it also doesn’t when you’re watching the movie. And I haven’t even gotten to the part about the Spanish gigolo with the heart of gold. I mean, on the upside? Parts of it are so meaningless and inane that my brain just went numb, which can really have its benefits.

Overall Rating on the Chronically Streaming Pain Scale:

4-Agony: Holy hell. Everything is awful. Is this for real? I can’t remember when anything was good. Give me all the drugs at once.

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Alana standing with her hands on her hips in the foreground and Gary in the background leaning against a shiny blue convertible. ALANA HAIM COOPER HOFFMAN SEAN PENN TOM WAITS BRADLEY COOPER BENNY SAFDIE PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON LICORICE PIZZA

Here’s a quick little Choose Your Own Adventure that might help determine how you’ll feel spending two hours and thirteen minutes (!!!!) watching Licorice Pizza. 

Imagine it is 1973 and you are an aimless 25-year-old, working as a hype woman for a somewhat handsy school photographer in Los Angeles. As you’re listlessly offering kids combs and a mirror to primp before their portraits, a fifteen year old boy, surrounded by all his friends, asks you out to dinner. He’s not lacking in confidence or determination. When you ask how he’ll pay for dinner he mentions some movie roles he’s had—mind you, he doesn’t want to brag, but you did ask how he’d pay. He mentions maybe it’s fate that brought you together. He says that if you decide you’re interested he’ll be at the Tail o’ the Cock. He’s there every Thursday night, and you should come by. He’s trying to spend time with you. Is that so bad? You can just be friends, but clearly he’d be happy for more. 

Now, it’s time for you to choose. If your response is to feel curiosity about this fast talking, wise-beyond-his-years-sounding-guy, and his ability, as a fifteen year old, to have a standing dinner reservation, then you may want to skip this review and go straight to watching the movie, which, in the general consensus of reviewers far filmier than I, is all kinds of amaze-balls. However, if you feel a growing sense of the heebs and the jeebs from the above interaction. If you’d use words less like “determination” and more like “pestering” and “haranguing” to describe his endless patter and questions. If you would want to get home as fast as you could to call your friends on your rotary phone to tell them about the weird kid who wouldn’t leave you the heck alone. Then welcome, my friends to my review of Licorice Pizza, a movie which I’m sure has a lot of very high class film redeeming qualities, but felt to me from start to finish like a sweaty male fantasy of the dream girl who is foul mouthed and tough, can drive a truck and think on her feet, but still looks good in a bikini, wants to make a man happy, and is just lost and soft enough to get caught up in all the guy’s schemes. All of which is really too bad, because Alana Haim’s performance in this is good, and I wish she could have had more interesting material to work with.

What I described above is the first meeting between Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman), a fifteen-year-old sometimes child actor and hustler whose auditions are drying up as puberty hits, and Alana Kane (Alana Haim), a twenty-five-year-old with little direction or ambition, who still lives at home with her older sisters and parents (played by her real life family). Alana does take Gary up on his invite to dinner (we never really know why) where he asks her questions about her future as if he were her eighty-year-old uncle. At this first meeting, where he lays out that he’s an actor and has a PR firm with his mother, Alana points out that he’ll have a mansion by the time he’s sixteen and forget all about her. It lays the groundwork for much of the movie, which is that Alana will be constantly searching for some version of herself, but she’s only allowed to look for it through the gazes of different men: Gary, another, slightly older actor, a character played by Sean Penn, and a politician. In each of these instances you watch Alana craving their approval in different ways, and it’s so disappointing.  At one point she leans toward a clearly horrible man who is spouting endless bullshit and whispers, “I don’t understand, but I’m still sexy, right?” Alana is almost always wearing short babydoll-style dresses, which feels sometimes  incongruous with her character, but not out of step with the fantasy of her character. The dresses keep her appearing younger, more innocent, more vulnerable, and sexy in an approachable way in ways that other clothes wouldn’t. The only female characters that Alana seems to know are her sisters and young women who are in some way connected to Gary: a waitress who knows Gary, a woman who models for Gary, a talent agent who works for Gary. Actually, we barely hear from women at all in this movie other than Alana. Her mother never speaks, her sisters only have a few lines, and other women only speak in passing. Even Gary’s mother only appears in a couple of scenes before she disappears entirely. Maybe it’s supposed to be a commentary on the times or feminism, but I doubt it and if so it fails entirely. The same is true of the couple of attempts to discuss racism. Sean Penn’s character makes a grotesque reference to his Black friends in Africa being beheaded and John Michael Higgins as the white owner of a Japanese restaurant speaks to his ever-changing Japanese wives in a deeply offensive accented English, admits he doesn’t understand them when they speak Japanese, and hires only white waitresses who then are dressed as Geishas. If they are meant to be social commentary, none of them really work, especially since they’re presented by white actors in a movie that is almost entirely devoid of BIPOC actors. Aside from Maya Rudolph‘s one scene and Iyana Halley brief turn as a saleswoman in a waterbed/wig store, where we mostly see her only from Gary’s prone position as he admires her from the undulating bed, I can’t think of anyone. 

Anyway, at this first meeting between Alana and Gary they establish this kind of push and pull, flirtatious relationship where he talks like a big shot, older than his years and she often cuts him down but is also clearly impressed by him. For all his posturing, he is obviously very much a horny teenage boy who wants his paws on her body. What she feels is less clear, because, again, she’s more of a fantasy than a fully realized character, but I think we’re meant to understand that she likes the way he adores her. When his mother isn’t available, Alana acts as his chaperone for a trip to New York where Gary appears on a television show, and this really kicks off the beginning of the relationship. Together they start a waterbed business, though Gary is in charge and Alana is his assistant. When the oil crisis causes that to go under, Alana moves into politics and Gary transitions to pinball arcades. In between there are side relationships that make them both jealous and crises that pull them back together. 

Usually, I try to avoid reading other people’s reviews before writing my own, but I bent that rule a little this time, and I was STUNNED and FLABBERGASTED by the mental gymnastics people went through to justify the relationship between Alana and Gary. One reviewer said very flatly that there is no sexual relationship between the two. I’m sorry, what?!? Did we watch the same movie? No, they do not physically touch for most of the movie, but there are a number of looks shared that sometimes verge on what we in the poetic writing business call “eye fucking.” Plus, a wide variety of people seem to assume they are together and don’t consider it problematic and encourage it. Not to mention the time that Gary takes Alana to meet an agent and sits in on the meeting with her (which is very ew and icky and why would he do that?) and then is pissed that she says she would do a topless scene when SHE WON’T EVEN SHOW HIM HER BREASTS. Because she’s willing to show the whole world, but not him, which is classic abusive language in case you were wondering. Well, Gare Bear, it sounds like you could be patient and see her breasts on the big screen with the rest of the world because you’re not actually entitled to see any part of your friend’s body. Alana eventually does show him her breasts in a fit of anger, and she doesn’t seem to get the part in the movie. And I had to pause watching because my blood pressure got too high. My point is that this IS VERY MUCH A KIND OF SEXUAL RELATIONSHIP. And then she wears a bikini for an event and says something about how it’s good he likes it, which is again implying not only some power dynamics, but also some sexualness in the relationship even if they aren’t touching. I mean, fucking fuck people. Putting the penis in the vagina is not the ONLY PART OF THIS ONSCREEN SEXUAL RELATIONSHIP!! Do we need to go back to basics on this? There are also scenes in which the camera shows us Alana’s body from Gary’s perspective where we are practically looking down her pants while she is lying down, so HE’S certainly having a sexual relationship with her body whether she consents to it or not. And another time when his hand hovers over her breast as he considers touching it. So, look, long rant short, they may not be having sex, but they are certainly having a sexaulized relationship, which feels entirely inappropriate given their ages. Another reviewer says that it is a romance, but a chaste one, which they say is okay because Alana’s character is so stunted and Gary is wise beyond his years. Oh, good, yes, let’s bring up that old chestnut of the “wise beyond their years” child and the “immature” adult. Excellent. Not problematic. Excuse me while I just pop out to casually have a rage-filled panic attack. 

I spent a lot of this movie with my face looking like a David Rose reaction GIF (close your eyes and pick one at random, and I likely looked like it at some point), but still I kept thinking there would be something at the end that would justify the slog, I mean, journey. There were two parts that I found amusing. In one, Alana is running down a sidewalk crowded with young people, and she yells out, “Fuck you, teenagers!” I laughed, and it also summed up a lot of my feelings about this movie. In another scene she brings a boy home for Seder dinner where he announces that while he was born a Jew he now identifies as an atheist. Seething with anger that he would spring this knowledge on her in front of her whole family, Alana takes him outside and interrogates him about the state of his penis. When he confirms that it is in fact circumcised, she yells that then he’s “a fucking Jew” before storming off. I do really, though, wish she had stormed straight out of the film, so I wouldn’t have had to hear her speak the last line of the movie, which really left me feeling hopeless that Alana had ever been intended to be anything other than a teenage boy’s fever dream.

Overall Rating on the Chronically Streaming Pain Scale:

4-Agony: Holy hell. Everything is awful. Is this for real? I can’t remember when anything was good. Give me all the drugs at once. Oh, I know, the film bros (if they knew I existed) would be coming for my head!

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Rebel Wilson in a green and white cheerleader outfit with her hands up to adjust a green hair bow. Tagline: High school has changed. But she hasn't. Rebel Wilson. Senior Year

Ugh. No. Why? How did this movie get made? Why is anyone still making movies that center on adults going back to high school? And why on earth are we still making “comedies” about people waking up from 20 year comas? Is it just so there’s an excuse for someone to say a bunch of grossly outdated and offensive phrases? They’re not fooling anyone. We see what you’re doing and it’s pretty nasty!! The dialogue in this movie made my ears bleed. None of us need another movie where the main message is that, coma or not, women never outgrow their competition over an absolutely worthless human man or patriarchal popularity contests until near ruin teaches them a lesson. So charming. I will say, the actual teenagers in this are pretty good. And their costumes were a lot of fun. The rest of it should have been burned with fire. Also, according to the credits, it took three whole grown men to write this script. Do with that information what you will.

Overall Rating on the Chronically Streaming Pain Scale:

4-Agony: Holy hell. Everything is awful. Is this for real? I can’t remember when anything was good. Give me all the drugs at once.

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