Welcome to WeeklyWilson.com, where author/film critic Connie (Corcoran) Wilson avoids totally losing her marbles in semi-retirement by writing about film (see the Chicago Film Festival reviews and SXSW), politics and books----her own books and those of other people. You'll also find her diverging frequently to share humorous (or not-so-humorous) anecdotes and concerns. Try it! You'll like it!

Tag: 59th Chicago International Film Festival

“May December” Screens at CIFF on October 18, 2023

May/December is a riff on the infamous Mary Kay Letourneau scandal of 1997, but that is where the similarities end. None of the information contained within this film can be taken as “true” in regards to the real couple who inspired the film. Todd Haynes directed and Natalie Portman and Julianne Moore star.

“May December”  is a weird film. The tone is serio-comic, with vacillation between the two. “I’m Not There”—Haynes’ 2007 film with different actors playing Bob Dylan—was also weird. Last year, he made “The Velvet Underground,” a good straight-forward documentary. May/December is not a straight-forward anything and most definitely not a documentary.

One of the producers on this film was Will Ferrell. What does that tell you? The tone at times reminded me of Ferrell’s ice-skating movie “Blades of Glory,” except that “Blades of Glory” was actually amusing. This one, for me, was just campy, schmaltzy, and cringe-worthy.

The opening barbecue scene, where Gracie remarks “we’re going to need more hot dogs” comes off as  funny only in a semi-sick way. The accompanying melodramatic music was part of the ill-advised plan to play half of this movie for laughs and half of it as serious.  I hoped the film might provide insights into why something like this true life 1997 Mary Kay Letourneau incident might have occurred.  The “framing device” for the film is that Natalie Portman as the character Elizabeth Berry has agreed to play Gracie (Julianne Moore) in a bio-pic; she is trying to “get inside” Gracie’s head and figure out what makes her tick.


The film is not a straightforward recitation (even with names changed to protect the guilty) of the infamous Mary Kay Letourneau case, involving a 34-year-old teacher who began a sexual affair with her middle school student. In real life, Mary Kay’s sixth grade student was just shy of thirteen when the two began having sex.

The story collaborators apparently thought this real-life soap opera drama would be “funny.” It didn’t seem “funny” at the time to the public. It certainly didn’t seem humorous to the families affected by that May/December coupling. It doesn’t seem funny when Gracie was Joe’s teacher. We exist in a time that has seen an increase in child pedophilia. Maybe it’s the fact that I come from a long line of teachers, but I did not find the underlying premise of the movie to be a fountain of comic moments.

Of course, the real-life couple staunchly maintained that they were merely star-crossed lovers for 20 years. It is only late in the plot that Joe begins to articulate some doubts about whether the couple love each other as much as they have claimed through those years. In one scene, Joe (Charles Melton) actually says, “I didn’t know what a big deal it was—having kids.” A strange statement from a young man whom Julianne Moore’s Gracie describes as having been “an old soul” long before she decided to hire him as her assistant at a pet shop and have her way with him in the storage room. (Not, by the way, based on the Letourneau reality.)


For those who don’t remember the Mary Kay Letourneau case, Mary Kay spent 1998 to 2004 in prison as a result of being convicted of felony second degree rape of a child. She was forever listed as a sex offender.  The pair did not obey the judge’s order to have no further contact, conceived two children, and married in 2005, soon after Mary Kay was released from prison. (In real life, Mary Kay Letourneau had six children, four from her first marriage to Steve Letourneau and two with Vili Fualaau.) She and Vili remained married for 14 years, separating just one year before Mary Kay’s death at age 58 of stage four colon cancer on July 6, 2020.

Not surprisingly, Steve Letourneau, her first husband, moved to Alaska, remarried (and had more children) and refuses to even comment on Mary Kay. In this film, Steve Letourneau/Tom Atherton is well played by D.W. Moffett. The depiction of him is not favorable.

The letter that is read in the film by Natalie Portman (from Gracie to Joe) indicates that Gracie’s sex life in marriage number one left a lot to be desired. Once she tasted the forbidden fruit that Joe represented, she was loathe to go back to reality—or so the letter, read onscreen by Portman in a scene that made me cringe for her—seems to say.

The fact that the principals in this Romeo and Juliet doomed lovers set-up had a 22-year gap in age is  not the reason for censure. There are marriages that feature couples with a large difference in age. Two very senior citizens on the Hollywood scene, major movie stars, have very recently had offspring with their much-younger paramours. Twenty-two years difference in age doesn’t even seem that large when measured against such realities.

 So, the difference in age isn’t the issue. The issue is whether a minor (12 or 13) is really capable of making an informed decision when an authority figure in his or her life is suggesting a sexual relationship. Gracie/Mary Kay was put in a position of authority with her young charge and crossed the line, sexually. 

Joe is constantly depicted as trying to please, placate, or serve Gracie. She is still in control.  One line about Gracie, from a neighbor, is, “She always knows what she wants.” Gracie, as portrayed by Julianne Moore, has logical explanations for actions with her children, but those actions often seem very passive/aggressive. She seems very controlled and in command in the dinner parties and interactions depicted. But let some neighbors cancel their bakery order and Gracie descends into near-breakdown hysteria.

The real Mary Kay Letourneau was diagnosed with bipolar disease. She was told to take her medication and not see her young lover again. She obeyed neither of those orders from a judge, which is why she spent so long in prison. (She was sent back for disobeying the judge’s orders. Donald Trump: take note.”)

In this fictionalized case, the student is in 7th grade (not 6th) and is Korean, not Hawaiian. The pair does have children, who are about to graduate and go off to college. In real life, Mary Kay Letourneau and Vili Fualaau were married for 14 years, until they separated in 2019.  They had only two children. In this film there are twins, a girl away at college, Mary at home, and what seems to be a large number of children, when her former offspring are factored in.


This film stars Julianne Moore, who won an Oscar in 2014 for playing a woman afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, “Still Alice..” She has appeared in 107 films. She has made many, many wonderful films; the subject matter of many is often racy (“Boogie Nights” comes to mind.)  I felt sorry that she had to appear in this one, which, for me, fell flat.

Similarly, Oscar-winner (“The Black Swan”) Natalie Portman appears as an actress named Elizabeth Berry, a celebrity with a TV show about animals called “Nora’s Ark”, who has been hired to portray Julianne’s character of Gracie in the upcoming bio-pic. She wants to get close to the real Gracie. Gracie and Joe  allow her to come to their home. (And what a home it is, for a couple with a wife who only bakes for others and a husband who appears to perhaps be an X-ray technician. How do they afford this elegant home in Savannah, Georgia? How are they going to pay for at least four kids in college simultaneously?)

The young man who portrays Julianne’s young husband (22 years younger in the real Letourneau case) is Charles Melton as Joe Yoo. He does what he can with this part, as do the two experienced actresses.  Charles Melton is one of the few bright spots in the film, but he still provokes gales of laughter because the scripted things he is given to say are that bad.


From the moment we see a butterfly chrysalis onscreen (Joe is interested in helping re-populate the Monarch population) and the ponderous, schmaltzy music begins playing, you think, “What the f___?” Marcelo Zarvos wrote original music and adapted Michel LeGrand’s melodies from “The Go-Between.” The music is heavy-handed and melodramatic.

Later, in a café scene, we see one of Gracie’s children from her first marriage, Georgie (memorably played by Cory Michael Smith), singing. The lyrics “Oh, Baby, I love your ways” float over to us, before Georgie delivers the cringe-worthy line, “I’m a Phoenix rising from the ashes.” (Yikes! Who talks like that in real life?)


There are so many awkward, uncomfortable scenes that I hate to single out the back room of a pet shop, where the duo was supposedly caught in flagrante delecto, or the other questionable scenes, meant to be comic. Natalie Portman seemed to get more of the truly execrable scenes than Julianne, including one where she relives the storage room romance of the pet shop all by herself, writhing and moaning with wild bird noises in the background. And there’s the one where she faces the camera and has to deliver a bad monologue that was a letter Gracie wrote to Joe. There is also her inappropriate description of playing sex scenes, delivered to a high school class where Mary Atherton, Gracie’s daughter, is in the audience.

Nothing about the situation seemed “funny,” to me, especially since so many lives, including those of six children, were negatively impacted. There are actually two bad pet shop scenes, one involving a snake. Which is worse? You decide if you watch this on Netflix when it begins streaming on December 1st, or in a theater beginning November 17th.


One shot showed Joe looking through a wire fence at his graduating children. That one, with its symbolism, was interesting. But on the very day her children are graduating, we see Julianne Moore as Gracie, accompanied by two Russian wolfhounds, stalking the land while holding a rifle. (A WTF moment.) A fox is on one side of the field. Julianne and the fox exchange glances. Oh. My. God. (Just shoot me now, Julianne).

When Charles Melton asks his oldest son, Charlie Atherton-Yoo (Gabriel Chung), if he is sad that Charlie is soon going to be leaving for college, the young man says he is very happy to be leaving. [Can’t blame him there.]

The cinematography by Christopher Blauvelt (“Emma,” “Zodiac”) was good and the Savannah, Georgia area photographs beautifully. It is shot on 16-millimeter film.  Haynes’ usual cinematographer is Ed Lachmann (“Far From Heaven,” 2002; “Carol,” 2015).


The opening scenes of the film seem to promote a picture of Gracie as loving and committed to her marriage to the much younger Joe. However, her abandoned son, Georgie (from her first marriage) tells Natalie Portman, “Lady, she’s messed up in the head.” He relates  tales of early incest abuse by his mother’s older brothers, but we never know whether that is true or false.

Indeed, there is evidence that supports Gracie and Joe as loving parents, but the real Mary Kay Letourneau was diagnosed as bi-polar and essentially abandoned her husband four kids for a twelve-year-old. Not exactly comic fodder; who thought this would make for a good movie that is half comic and half serious?


Mary Kay gifts her daughter who is going off to college with a scale. She implies to a younger sister Mary (Elizabeth Yu) that her arms are fat, as the daughter tries on dresses for graduation. Gracie also loses it over a canceled baking goods order. It seems that baking is what Gracie does well; Friends in the area order things from her out of good will. The comic/not that funny line  is, “How many pineapple upside-down cakes can a family eat?”

It also brings up the valid question, “So, is the community generally supportive of Joe and Gracie, as with the ordering of baked goods, or does she receive more packages of canine feces than orders for baked goods?” It’s also valid to ask, “How do they afford this big house with the small pool and the ocean view and also sending multiple children off to college at the same time? Where is the money coming from?”

Early on, a neighbor tells Natalie Portman as Elizabeth to “be kind” in her portrayal of Gracie. The film doesn’t seem to have made up its mind about whether or not the mis-matched couple has really been accepted, since Elizabeth, upon arrival, brings a package she found outside the house containing dog feces, only to learn that it is a routine occurrence for such packages to be left there.

This didn’t seem all that humorous, or all that accepting or forgiving on the part of the community.


I felt embarrassed for two such fine actresses to be appearing in this movie. It has nothing to do with disapproval of the theme. One of Julianne Moore’s All Time Best roles was in “Boogie Nights,” a classic about the pornographic film industry.This film is not a classic and whoever had the idea to make it half-funny/half-serious should rethink that decision. The tone is all over the place. The only people who seemed to be enjoying it were mocking the many cringe-worthy scenes or statements.

The only way to think you haven’t wasted your time sitting through this is if you mock it. I didn’t want to mock it. I respect the actresses in the lead roles too much. I just wish they had had a better script or at least one that picked a consistent tone that came through clearly. Samy Burch and Alex Mechanik wrote the story and Samy Burch scripted. Shame on them

I was very disappointed by this movie. However, this line from the film applies, “Keep your expectations low and you’ll never be disappointed.”

Unfortunately for me, I had higher expectations for something that might give us a bit of an idea what the real life of Mary Kay Letourneau might have been like after crossing society’s boundaries in 1997. I just felt sorry that these two talented performers somehow ended up in this, after all their good work throughout the years. The film screened at the 59th Chicago International Film Festival on October 18, 2023.

The “best” part of the movie is the trailer. After that, it’s either laugh or cry.

“The Killer” Is Riveting Entertainment from David Fincher with Michael Fassbender

David Fincher’s thriller “The Killer,” starring Michael Fassbender, opens in theaters on October 27 and streams on Netflix starting November 10th. It is a return to form for David Fincher, who has had this adaptation of Alexis Nolent’s graphic novel as a passion project for 20 years. “The Killer” is a no-holds-barred look at an assassin without scruples who is constantly focusing on the task at hand with dog-eat-dog, kill-or-be-killed determination. He avoids empathy, saying “Empathy is weakness.”

The Plot

Michael Fassbender in The Killer (2023)

Michael Fassbender as “The Killer.”

Michael Fassbender stars in David Fincher’s “The Killer,” which screened at the 59th Chicago International Film Festival on October 17, 2023.

The film begins in Paris, where Fassbender’s character has set up shop in a WeWorks empty office space and is waiting for his target to appear in the windows of Le Petite Raphael, a tony hotel directly across the street at 3 Rue du Grav. The killer complains about the boredom of his work (“It’s amazing how physically exhausting it can be to do nothing.”)

The killer doesn’t want to know why he is eliminating his victims. He just wants to be successful. “Fight only the battle you are paid to fight. What’s in it for me?” These are axioms that guide him, as are “Trust no one” and “Anticipate, don’t improvise.”  (“I am what I am. Consider yourself lucky if our paths never cross.”)

Fassbender has been quite successful since being recruited by Hodges, a Black attorney in New Orleans (Charles Parnell of “Grand Theft Auto”). He jettisoned a law career for a life of crime. Now he has a palatial hide-away hidden somewhere in the Dominican Republic, shared with a beautiful woman who loves him. When visiting New Orleans, the omnipresent voice-over tells us that New Orleans is a city with many good restaurants, but only one menu. Humorous asides like that make the voice-over amusing. So do the many aliases that the killer adopts including Felix Unger, Oscar Madison, Howard Cunningham, Archibald Bunker, and Sam Malone.

The problems begin when the killer’s planned hit in Paris goes awry. The dominatrix moves into the shot at the moment of truth and the real target (Endre Hules, “Apollo 13”) escapes. A secondary team is sent to the Dominican Republican to prevent any “blowback”  by eliminating the killer. When the assassin  (Fassbender) is not there, they rough up his lady love. Now the killer is going to make sure that, as he promises her brother Marcus (Emiliano Pernia), “Nothing like this will ever be allowed to happen again.”


The film has “chapters” in Paris, New Orleans, Florida, New York and Chicago. The last three locations are the homes of the hit-man and hit-woman (Tilda Swinton) and the client behind the initial Paris hit.  There is also an Epilogue. The shots of exteriors in those locations gave the film the look (and sound) of real life. There are also great close-up shots of Fassbender’s eyes as he is concentrating for a kill shot. Cinematographer Erik Messerschmidt provides a riveting, thoroughly engrossing visual feast.

The sound effects and music (Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross) add immeasurably to the thoroughly professional look, sound and feel of this David Fincher (“Seven,” “FightClub”, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”) film.


The film is 80% voice-over, with Fassbender’s voice conveying observations not only on how best to be successful as an assassin, but remarks about his take on humanity, the music of the Smiths, and the relative intelligence of Claybourne, the Chicago mark, who hired Fassbender  through intermediaries. As Claybourne tries to excuse himself from any culpability, he tells the killer the hit  wasn’t personal. “They told me it was insurance to prevent any blowback. Clean-up on Aisle 3;” this cost Claybourne (Arliss Howard, “Moneyball,””Mank”) an additional $150,000.

The use of voice-over has often been criticized and really fell out of favor. But films such as “Goodfellas,” Casino,” “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Taxi Driver,” and “Raising Arizona” have used voice over to good effect. It has been a long time since I’ve seen a film so thoroughly given over to the use of voice-over. The asides and remarks were amusing enough that it did not come off as weak. [I particularly enjoyed Fassbender’s remark that Claybourne did not appear to be a member of MENSA, but there were many clever remarks.]

Fight Scene

There is a terrific fight scene when the killer reaches Florida. (Voice-over aside:  “Florida: the Sunshine State. Where else can you find so many like-minded individuals outside a penitentiary?”) Fassbender has to drug two pit bulls that roam the yard of the hired hit-man before he can enter his house. The hit-man does not take kindly to the intrusion and a knock-down, drag-out fight to the death ensues. At the end, the killer is racing for the exit with the two now-conscious dogs chasing him. The scene took me back to 2017’s “Bullet Head,” where dangerous dogs terrorize three men in a warehouse.

Tilda Swinton

Tilda Swinton in The Killer (2023)

Tilda Swinton portrays the female assassin in “The Killer,” whom Michael Fassbender hunts down.

The always awesome Tilda Swinton has a scene with Fassbender that opens up some plot thoughts.  It’s not as good as her climactic scene with George Clooney in “Michael Clayton,” but it’s an excellent scene. The two are in a restaurant called “The Waterfront.” The killer has joined her at her table, uninvited. Tilda is a regular and well-known to the staff. (She also knows their names). Fassbender has tracked her down for revenge, since she was the female assassin who “looked like a Q-tip.”

The logical thing for Ms. Swinton to have done would have been to cause a scene inside the restaurant— if she wants to live, that is. True, she might not succeed and others might become collateral damage, but the killer has told us early on that 75% of all murderers are caught, ultimately, because of eye witnesses. Even if she were to be executed on the spot, she would, in a sense, be potentially taking the killer down with her.

There is a cinematic reason for Swinton to have meekly followed Fassbender outside, which I will not reveal here, but people who are facing death will go to great lengths to save their own skins. To me, Tilda’s decision to obey Fassbender’s instructions regarding leaving together represented the Kiss of Death and was somewhat illogical.


The killer has stashed away over 8 and ½ million dollars. He hopes to kick back and enjoy his ill-gotten gains with his pretty companion on a beach somewhere (much like in “The Shawshank Redemption” or 1993’s “True Romance.”) You’ll have to check it out at the theater (beginning October 27) or streaming on Netflix  November 10th to see if the killer achieves his goal.

“The Killer” is a thoroughly enjoyable 118 minutes of engrossing filmmaking.

“Eric LaRue” Screens on Friday the 13th (2023) with Director Michael Shannon

Judy Greer as Janice LaRue in the Michael Shannon-directed movie “Eric LaRue.”

Michael Shannon steps behind the camera to direct the film version of a play written by good friend and award-winning writer Brett Neveu. The 2002 play, “Eric LaRue,” deals with the aftermath of a school shooting. It does not focus on the crime itself, but on the effect the murders have on the shooter’s parents and on the community, at large. The film premiered at Tribeca and played the 59th Chicago International Film Festival on Friday, the 13th of October, 2023.

Four films come to mind that “Eric LaRue” resembles:  “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (2011); “Mass” (2021)  “Vox Lux” (2018); and 2010’s “Beautiful Boy.”  In each case, the school shooting plunges the families of those involved into chaos. In this film, the entire community is upset. Janice works at Dellride’s Rightsmart and the floor manager, Jack (Lawrence Grimm), while vaping outside the store, tells Janice that her return to work has upset everyone and she should take another 2 to 4 months off. When Janice asks what she should do during that time, he says, “Meditate. Read a book.” Nobody wants to be around Janice. However,  often working is what helps keep a traumatized person sane.

Shannon, in the Q&A following the film’s screening at the 59th Chicago International Film Festival, said, “This movie really seemed to be about this country. Only one word sums it up: confusion. The country doesn’t make any f***** sense, so I wanted to make a movie about that, and I did.” Indeed, at one point, in a climactic scene opposite his mother Janice (Judy Greer) the title character, now in prison, says, “At the time, I thought I had no choice. Now it makes no sense.” Nation Sage Henrikson plays the teen-aged Eric in the film’s climactic scene. He adds, “Things got out of control in my mind and I screwed up.” The surprising thing is that Eric expresses and feels real remorse, while his mother seems bent on defending the indefensible. That made no sense. Referencing Director Shannon’s remarks at the beginning of this paragraph, that seems true of the nation and the world right now. (GOP, Israel, Ukraine, weather—no need to go on.)

Director Michael Shannon

Michael Shannon on October 13, 2023 at the 59th Chicago International Film Festival.


The acting from this cast of luminaries is as good as it gets. For a small film, it has a stellar ensemble.  Judy Greer (“The Village,” “Adaptation”) plays Janice, the mother of a school shooter, and Alexander Skarsgard (“Big Little Lies,” “Succession”) plays her husband, Ron LaRue. Tracy Letts—who has been in 5 pictures that were Best Picture nominated—plays Pastor Billy Verne at Redeemer Church. (Letts is better known for his play “August: Osage County” or “Killer Joe.” He appeared in “The Big Short” (2015); “The Post” (2017); “Lady Bird” (2017); “Ford vs. Ferrari” (2019) and “Little Women” (2019).)

Judy Greer carries this film on her slim shoulders.  Her performance is Oscar caliber. Janice is doing her best to cope with the horror of her son’s actions. While Ron, her husband, turns to religion in a big way, Janice LaRue actively rejects giving her troubles to Jesus. She is trying to cope, but she has to do it her way, not her husband’s dictatorial way. Quoting 1st Timothy about a husband’s right to rule his household and apologizing to one of the mothers who lost a son in a teary breakdown is not cutting it for Janice, who tells Ron so. (Ron to Janice: “I don’t think you know what you think.”) For Janice, the “His blood will heal you” talk is not cutting it.

Plus, it appears that Ron’s attendance  at Bible readings with Allison Pill may be thinly-concealed unconsummated lust. She is his manager at work and seems to be quite fond of hugging Ron at every opportunity in an overly flirtatious manner, whether appropriate or not. (“I’m the H.R. manager, so I make the rules.”) Ms. Pill does a great job with the part.


The discordant sounds of hymns that are off-key and Jonathan Madro’s original music add a lot to the mood, which is, as you would expect, grim and depressing.


Andrew Wheeler was the cinematographer and the Wilmington, North Carolina area is the film’s setting. The cast took up residence at the Residence Inn. They socialized nightly. Kate Arrington (who plays the mother of one of the murdered boys) is Michael Shannon’s wife and the mother of his two daughters. (Kate plays the mother  who is working on forgiveness.)


Eric LaRue

(L to R), Mimi Plauche, artistic director of Cinema Chicago, Screenwriter Brett Neveu, and Director Michael Shannon onstage at the Music Box Theater on October 13, 2023.

There were a number of interesting shots  in the film.

One was the close-up of a stained glass window that seems to show a Biblical figure about to cut his wrists with a wicked-looking dagger. Another was the truly inspired shot of the Bible-thumping Ron in a booth opposite a crowned-with-thorns Jesus, who is sipping a soft drink through a straw (while bleeding from his wounds). [Genius!] And, of course, there is the final scene, which was beautifully composed,with Janice walking away down a long gravel road and shedding her jacket as she goes. Does this symbolize Janet “walking away from” the entire situation? Or was it simply failure of the gymnast to stick the ending? Out of appreciation for the talents involved, I’ll stick with the former for what seemed like an anti-climactic ending.


There is A LOT of religious fervor shown onscreen and A LOT of quoting of religious phrases. A good editor could cut out about 20 to 30 minutes of this, as the film runs just one minute shy of 2 hours. There is also a great deal of plot devoted to which pastor (!st Presbyterian or Redeemer) will do the honors on assembling the mothers of the 3 slain boys in a meeting with Janice LaRue, the mother of the murderer. The entire middle of the film hinges on which pastor (Tracy Letts or Paul Sparks) will win out. Do we care? Some of us think it’s a lousy idea, since it could lead to more bloodshed. Stephanie Grazer (Annie Parisse) is embittered and blames Janice and her entire family. That seemed normal and logical. She asks the browbeaten Janice, “When you go home at night with your son in prison and your neck massage husband, are you happy?” (A: “No.”) That is right before Stephanie tells Janice to “Go to hell.” Stephanie also alludes to the family being outcasts long before Eric went postal, while Eric’s Mom retells stories of school bullying of her son.

When you have a character like Minister Steve Calhan moderating a potentially explosive meeting of three women (one woman, Laura, has gotten religion Big Time and does not attend the meeting at 1st Presbyterian, but is shown talking in tongues and having a fit at Redeemer Church with Janice’s husband Ron), you are asking for trouble.  Example of Pastor Steve’s words of wisdom:  “We all understand your involvement—that you weren’t involved.” (Eye roll).  Steve Calhan seems out of his depth.


Eric LaRue

Michael Shannon at the Music Box Theater during the Q&A following the screening of “Eric LaRue” on October 13, 2023.

The logical end of the film might have been the prison meeting between Janice and Eric. The only way I “get” the walk-down-the-road ending is if Janice is walking away from it all (which she probably should have done much earlier in this film.)

I enjoyed Michael Shannon’s remarks about Janice being like a film director. Said Shannon, “People give you notes, and you either say (a) I’m not doing that (b) Why did they suggest that? Or (c) What’s a better thing I could do? I think Janice is like a film director in responding to her situation the same way.”

Shannon did not sound as though he was inspired to direct more movies. Said Shannon, “I can’t afford to make more movies. I can make more money kicking an ATM. It is impossible to get one made, impossible to fund them, and impossible to sell them.” He said, “We’re going to take something that is pretty much impossible and make it completely impossible.”

But, as Writer Brett Neveu said, “We were all working together to find the truth.”

“The Hypnosis”Amuses Crowds at 59th Chicago International Film Festival

“The Hypnosis” is a 98-minute Swedish/Norwegian/French film from Director/Co-writer Ernst DeGeer. Mads Stegger collaborated on the witty script, an entry in the New Directors’ Competition. The film is described as “a satire of entrepreneurial culture.”

A young Scandinavian couple, Andre Sandru (Herbert Nordrum) and Vera Joseffson (Asta Kamma August), are pitching their start-up company at something called Shake Up. Shake Up brings young entrepreneurs together to pitch their unique ideas to investors. Vera and Andre have created an app that will help improve female health named Epione after the Greek goddess of health.

The couple’s entire pitch is built on a lie. Vera starts off their presentation with the story of her first period and how her hemophilia made it life-threatening. Vera doesn’t have hemophilia; she has claimed to suffer from it to craft a catchy opening for their joint pitch.

When Vera tells that opening story, Julian (David Fukanachi Regnfors) is impressed. He compliments her, finding her presentation natural, heartfelt and affecting. When Anerdre begins his portion of the joint pitch, however, Julian interrupts him, criticizing Andre’s delivery and his guarded body language. After Vera’s opening, Julian says, “But what came after that. Just no. You’re an amusement park of nervous gestures.” In a “Variety” interview, Director De Geer said, “I think from the beginning I was most interested in what would happen if someone close to me suddenly started to act different.  I wanted to explore the feeling of second-hand embarrassment in a close relationship, and how suffocating that can be for the other person and, it turns out, also for the person feeling the embarrassment.”

Vera had been hypnotized shortly before the couple’s big day at Shake Up for her smoking. Because of her visit to Kungshelmen’s Hypnotherapy, like Jim Carrey in the 1997 film  “Liar Liar,” Vera begins being completely truthful. When Andre inquires of the hypnosis firm what, exactly, they have done to his live-in love, the hypnotists explain that hypnosis is just a tool to alter patterns.

Things go South at Shake Up. The relationship between Andre and Vera,  who have been together 6 years, is negatively impacted. Vera becomes a madcap devil-may-care semi-loon. She engages in behavior that is so different from her normal self that Andre even says, “She’s just having a little psychoses.” Situations become weird and zany.

The film may be poking fun at hypocritical commercial gatherings like Shake Up, but it also, ultimately,  underscores the truth of Andre’s remark about relationships: “Find someone that you’re happy being together.” Andre considers his own words during a photo op and makes a dramatic decision to try to salvage their troubled relationship.

In a gesture of apology and reconciliation, Andre, at film’s end, out-does Vera in the psychotic behavior department. That’s putting it mildly.(Oh, those wacky Scandinavian lovers says the reviewer with a Norwegian-from-the-Old-Country maternal grandfather, Ole Monson!)

Along the way, the audience laughed loudly at the clever script and the surprise ending.

“The Hypnosis” was a fun film at the 59th Chicago International Film Festival.

59th Chicago International Film Festival to Run October 11-October 22, 2023

The Chicago International Film Festival’s 59th iteration will screen at 8 locations in Chicago commencing October 11th. In a preview of the full range of offerings on September 18th at the AMC Newcity Theatres on North Clyburn Avenue.

Other venues where films will be screened this year include the historic Music Box Theater, the Chicago History Museum, the Gene Siskel Film Center, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, and some other pop-up venues on the South and West sides of the city.

In other years, nearly all films have been shown at a central location, the AMC Theater on Illinois. I learned that I could make it from my condo to the venue in about fifteen minutes, but the cost of parking has exceeded the cost of tickets in recent years. It appears that the large AMC Theater may have priced itself out of the market. I was also told that they are renovating the theater (and removing many seats), which had been all the buzz before the pandemic hit, i.e., will the AMC go belly-up as a result of their ambitious upgrading plans and the costs of same at a bad time, historically. I was told that the AMC New City Theater had previously existed under a different owner and was snapped up by AMC.

While it took me over an hour to drive from the Field Museum to the North Clyburn Avenue location for a 6:30 p.m. meeting (i.e., during Rush Hour), I was able to park for free on the street and there are restaurants within the New City complex that could make killing time between films much easier. There weren’t many good places near the large AMC complex, and the good ones like P.J. O’Rourkes often closed.

I went back to the beginning of my Weekly Wilson blog and found reviews from 2007 on. I think I actually reviewed cinema offerings earlier than that, but not on my own blog. Now, of course, I publish here and on The Movie Blog.

Director Mimi Plauche and Sir Henry Branagh at the Music Box Theater on Opening Night of his film “Belfast.”

This year, the panels picking what we will be able to see reviewed 7,500 films before boiling it down to 57 offerings. There were 5,500 short films that were viewed to narrow the offering to 99 shorts. The films came in from 123 countries and the Opening Night film will be “We Grown Now,” directed by Minhal Baig and starring Jurnee Smollett as Dolores, the mother of a young Black boy in the Cabrini-Green Housing Project who must decide whether to stay or move away.

Tickets this year run $35 for Opening/Closing Nights, and $23 for Special Presentations. A general screening, if you are a member of Cinema Chicago, is $18 and $22 if you are not a Cinema Chicago member.

It is my fervent hope that the parking this year will be cheaper, as it had really gotten out of hand last year.

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