The Beguiled and The Big Sick

Happily, the audience for the delicate, moody-erotic The Beguiled is not that lowest common denominator so often seen at the Biff-Bam school of entertainment, where special effects rule.

 

The Sofia Coppola-directed historical drama is rich with atmosphere, with photographic meditations frequently invoked through the sultry, tenebrous Spanish moss-draped Southern landscapes, wild grasses and brambles, figurative representations of the subcutaneous emotions of the seven young boarding school charges of Nicole Kidman's governess, Martha Farnsworth, in bucolic Virginia during the late Civil War.

 

With several murkier films under her directorial belt, Coppola just became only the second woman in film history to take the Cannes Film Festival's Best Director prize. 

 

The toothsome found enemy, a Union soldier with a broken leg, played by the sinewy Colin Farrell, lying in favored state, is attended to by the bevy of boarding school beauties sequestered as the war proceeds within actual earshot, just miles away.  We hear the muffled booms of the cannon from afar.

 

How the houseful of lissome and flirtatious young ladies succors the manipulative, perhaps dangerous but handsome soldier with his wounded leg is the tale.  Each sedate but demurely aroused female demonstrates unambiguous interest in this unwonted male guest as a semi-resident in their cloistered enclave.  Amusing to note their individual stratagems for dropping in on their soldier.

 

Farrell is, of course, the "other side," and thus a risk, both to them and to any home-team soldiery who might come to claim him. 

 

For all the suppressed erotic longings, it is a decorous series of weeks, furtive-innocent nighttime visits, on many pretexts, from cups of water to berries fresh picked – with period language and comportment worthy of Henry James.  Coppola wrote the script from a novel penned by someone else.

 

Nicole Kidman starred as a governess previously in the tense Gothic ghost story The Others (2001), another film with elements of psychological horror (directed by Alejandro Amenábar) evoked by the current decorous offering.

 

Standouts in the cast are Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning as two of the steamy-repressed ladies in waiting under Kidman's ministrations and tutelage.

 

The Big Sick, on the other hand, is the true story of how Pakistani comedian Kumail Nanjiani met his real-life wife, Emily.  Aside from the misconceived and off-putting title, this is an endearing, warm-hearted, exceptional biopic with a goodly trove of laughs and insights into the often irksome life of a comic, especially one whose family is traditional Muslim – and disapproves utterly of their son's raffish and low-esteemed career.

 

How does "comedian" rate to his Pakistani parents?  "First comes doctor, then lawyer, then 100 worse careers – then ISIS...after which is stand-up comic," explains Kumail to his comedy-den audience.

 

This Michael Showalter-directed film seems a cleaned up and sweeter version of a new and exceptional cable drama series produced by Jim Carrey, on the uglier behind-the-scenes aspects of being a stand-up comic.  Starring the amazing Melissa Leo as the steely doyenne of a comic cabaret on the Strip in the 1970s – the better to include references to comic geniuses like Richard Prior, Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, et al., I'm Dying Up Here scalds with each talon-tipped skin-peeling episode.

 

Sick, though, features Kumail doing his slightly woebegone, slightly homely uncrazy stand-ups; colleagues like Aidy Bryant (SNL); and occasional fraternal losers in the comedy game that is scalpel-sharp about the clamber to get time on mic and top venues, TV exposure, and making actual money from the seedy comic lairs' "gigography."

 

Kumail, seen in cable's Silicon Valley, has a touchingly underdog comic delivery and is outstanding as himself, as a comic under duress and as a loving son of parents and siblings he does not wish to copy.  He grows on you as you watch and get into his mindset and miseries.

 

Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are hilarious as Emily Gordon's uncomfortable, rueful parents, as they woe through days at hospital "grieving rooms," Kumail in attendance, awaiting news of whether their beloved Emily (played with delightful breeze and near-goofy unaffectedness by Zoe Kazan) will pull through her critical viral coma.

 

Though there are end-to-end ripples of mirth throughout, it is not hardy-har, but humor that comes from known and understood circumstances.  We all know, though we think we don't, the table teasing and family squabbles of American Pakistani families.  A break from Greek, Italian, and Jewish family dramas.

 

In the end, we and they are all human, and parents seek the best for their offspring, even in the face of hoary religious or familial tradition.

 

Even very late on a Monday evening, the theater was packed with...adults.  Leaving afterward, they were satisfied with the experience.  "There wasn't one stunt effect," one attractive Pakistani woman commented to me [she knows all the Nanjiani family firsthand, she confided] as she and her husband walked out.  "Just a tender, warm-hearted story of a happily married couple, something we hardly ever see when we go to the movies."

 

The Beguiled and The Big Sick – two warming evenings in the popcorn emporium.

Happily, the audience for the delicate, moody-erotic The Beguiled is not that lowest common denominator so often seen at the Biff-Bam school of entertainment, where special effects rule.

 

The Sofia Coppola-directed historical drama is rich with atmosphere, with photographic meditations frequently invoked through the sultry, tenebrous Spanish moss-draped Southern landscapes, wild grasses and brambles, figurative representations of the subcutaneous emotions of the seven young boarding school charges of Nicole Kidman's governess, Martha Farnsworth, in bucolic Virginia during the late Civil War.

 

With several murkier films under her directorial belt, Coppola just became only the second woman in film history to take the Cannes Film Festival's Best Director prize. 

 

The toothsome found enemy, a Union soldier with a broken leg, played by the sinewy Colin Farrell, lying in favored state, is attended to by the bevy of boarding school beauties sequestered as the war proceeds within actual earshot, just miles away.  We hear the muffled booms of the cannon from afar.

 

How the houseful of lissome and flirtatious young ladies succors the manipulative, perhaps dangerous but handsome soldier with his wounded leg is the tale.  Each sedate but demurely aroused female demonstrates unambiguous interest in this unwonted male guest as a semi-resident in their cloistered enclave.  Amusing to note their individual stratagems for dropping in on their soldier.

 

Farrell is, of course, the "other side," and thus a risk, both to them and to any home-team soldiery who might come to claim him. 

 

For all the suppressed erotic longings, it is a decorous series of weeks, furtive-innocent nighttime visits, on many pretexts, from cups of water to berries fresh picked – with period language and comportment worthy of Henry James.  Coppola wrote the script from a novel penned by someone else.

 

Nicole Kidman starred as a governess previously in the tense Gothic ghost story The Others (2001), another film with elements of psychological horror (directed by Alejandro Amenábar) evoked by the current decorous offering.

 

Standouts in the cast are Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning as two of the steamy-repressed ladies in waiting under Kidman's ministrations and tutelage.

 

The Big Sick, on the other hand, is the true story of how Pakistani comedian Kumail Nanjiani met his real-life wife, Emily.  Aside from the misconceived and off-putting title, this is an endearing, warm-hearted, exceptional biopic with a goodly trove of laughs and insights into the often irksome life of a comic, especially one whose family is traditional Muslim – and disapproves utterly of their son's raffish and low-esteemed career.

 

How does "comedian" rate to his Pakistani parents?  "First comes doctor, then lawyer, then 100 worse careers – then ISIS...after which is stand-up comic," explains Kumail to his comedy-den audience.

 

This Michael Showalter-directed film seems a cleaned up and sweeter version of a new and exceptional cable drama series produced by Jim Carrey, on the uglier behind-the-scenes aspects of being a stand-up comic.  Starring the amazing Melissa Leo as the steely doyenne of a comic cabaret on the Strip in the 1970s – the better to include references to comic geniuses like Richard Prior, Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, et al., I'm Dying Up Here scalds with each talon-tipped skin-peeling episode.

 

Sick, though, features Kumail doing his slightly woebegone, slightly homely uncrazy stand-ups; colleagues like Aidy Bryant (SNL); and occasional fraternal losers in the comedy game that is scalpel-sharp about the clamber to get time on mic and top venues, TV exposure, and making actual money from the seedy comic lairs' "gigography."

 

Kumail, seen in cable's Silicon Valley, has a touchingly underdog comic delivery and is outstanding as himself, as a comic under duress and as a loving son of parents and siblings he does not wish to copy.  He grows on you as you watch and get into his mindset and miseries.

 

Holly Hunter and Ray Romano are hilarious as Emily Gordon's uncomfortable, rueful parents, as they woe through days at hospital "grieving rooms," Kumail in attendance, awaiting news of whether their beloved Emily (played with delightful breeze and near-goofy unaffectedness by Zoe Kazan) will pull through her critical viral coma.

 

Though there are end-to-end ripples of mirth throughout, it is not hardy-har, but humor that comes from known and understood circumstances.  We all know, though we think we don't, the table teasing and family squabbles of American Pakistani families.  A break from Greek, Italian, and Jewish family dramas.

 

In the end, we and they are all human, and parents seek the best for their offspring, even in the face of hoary religious or familial tradition.

 

Even very late on a Monday evening, the theater was packed with...adults.  Leaving afterward, they were satisfied with the experience.  "There wasn't one stunt effect," one attractive Pakistani woman commented to me [she knows all the Nanjiani family firsthand, she confided] as she and her husband walked out.  "Just a tender, warm-hearted story of a happily married couple, something we hardly ever see when we go to the movies."

 

The Beguiled and The Big Sick – two warming evenings in the popcorn emporium.