Tag Archives: Edie Falco

“Megan Leavey”

LOUISA: 4 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

Animal lovers, get those Kleenex ready: the true life story of a U.S. Marine and her bomb-sniffing hero dog has been given the big screen treatment in the biopic “Megan Leavey.” This is a touching, uplifting story about companionship, devotion, and the lifelong friendship that develops from a mutual respect between a human and her animal.

Megan Leavey (Kate Mara, in a heartfelt and earnest performance) is a young Marine who, after a night of drinking and conduct unbecoming a soldier, is punished by being assigned to kennel cleaning duty in the military’s K9 unit. Eventually she is put in charge of training Rex, an extremely aggressive German Shepard. The two find that they both needed a little discipline and grow to understand each other.

Soon after, Megan is suddenly deployed to Iraq with her combat canine to sniff out bombs. (In real life, the pair completed more than 100 missions). When an IED explosion injures both of them, Megan is sent back home and Rex is assigned to a new trainer — but she won’t give up until she can adopt Rex and bring him home to live out the final years of his life with her.

It’s a fantastic true tale that’ll be a surefire hit with animal lovers (and women too), but it’s also something audiences rarely see: a military drama with great warmth. It’s not political, it’s not religious (as so many military movies are nowadays) — it’s just a good, old fashioned, all-American story.

There are some heavy undertones present, like the brief mention of PTSD that’s suffered by our soldiers of both the two legged and four legged variety, but the movie never gets too serious and instead chooses to go the uplifting route. Criticize that if you want, but the story is well told and stirring, and it manages to avoid the trap of launching into a sappy, overly melodramatic, clichéd mess. Yes, Megan “finds herself” by finding love and a special bond with her dog, but nothing about Gabriela Cowperthwaite‘s direction or Pamela Gray‘s script feels hollow or hokey.

The performances radiate the utmost sincerity. I found myself fully invested in all of the characters, including Bradley Whitford and Edie Falco as Megan’s estranged parents, Common as her military boss, and Tom Felton and Ramon Rodriguez as two fellow soldiers.

Regardless of how you feel about our military, this movie will give you the highest respect for our servicemen and women and it may even make you want to stand up and cheer. And animal lovers: don’t forget those Kleenex.

Sundance Review: “Landline”

LOUISA: 4.5 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

In a crowded sea of male-dominated Hollywood films and paper-thin female characters, little independent gems like “Landline” generate even more of an electrifying spark. Writer / director Gillian Robespierre follows up her abortion dramedy “Obvious Child” (which earned an Honorable Mention on my Top 10 Movies of 2014 list) with a look at a dysfunctional Manhattan family that bonds over lying and cheating.

The film is set in 1995 and features many intermittent references to the time period, from smoke-filled bars to record stores with cd listening stations to a discussion about Helen Hunt’s unfortunate wardrobe choices on “Mad About You.” The pre-cell phone era setting isn’t exactly crucial in order to tell the story, but it manages to work without being gimmicky at all. It actually makes perfect sense as a method of taking social media and 24/7 connectivity out of the equation, even if the film does feature the prerequisite car singalong to a pop hit from the era (in this case, it’s appropriately Steve Winwood’s “Higher Love”).

Dana (Jenny Slate, in what is easily one of the best performances of her career) and her sweetly devoted fiancée Ben (Jay Duplass) are dealing with their own twentysomething relationship issues while mom and dad (an excellent John Turturro and Edie Falco) are wrapped up in their own accusations of cheating and falling out of love. Dana’s high school senior sister Ali (Abby Quinn) is a rebellious, drug experimenting teen suffering through the trials of impending adulthood and the struggles of becoming her own person. The family may be flawed as individuals and as a whole, but their doubts and insecurities are what makes them endearing and all the more human.

Robespierre and her co-writer Elisabeth Holm have a beautiful knack for penning honest, credible and fully realized characters, especially when it comes to women. I haven’t seen such a great representation (or understanding) of the female psyche in a movie in a long time, and the script rings with an eye-opening truth that shines a light into the relationships we have between lovers, friends and family. These are complex, fully developed characters that provide remarkable insight, and their organic (and sometimes raunchy) dialogue speaks the truth — no matter how painful that may be.

The movie is at times very funny yet also surprisingly tender with a slightly subversive feel. It’s an accurate, realistic exploration of how family bonds grow stronger through the cheating, lying and discord that is life.

This film was screened and reviewed at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.