After her father is arrested by the Taliban, a young girl must pretend to be a boy if she wants to support her family.
Directed by Nora Twohey
Starring Saara Taudrey, Soma Bhatia, and Kawa Ada
Review by Jon Kissel
I’m as big a fan of Pixar as anybody, but there’s something about the opaque nature of creating computer graphics that makes the iconic studio’s style of animation somewhat less impressive. I have no doubt there’s a level of craftmanship in turning all those one’s and zero’s into photorealistic water or curly red hair, but I can’t help preferring the stop-motion of Laika and Wes Anderson’s pair of animated movies or the hand-drawn elegance of Studio Ghibli and Cartoon Saloon. Movies from these studios inspire the viewer to momentarily step back and marvel at the amount of finely-tuned labor that went into a single frame. Cartoon Saloon’s The Breadwinner has several of these moments within it, but it doesn’t subsist on visual awe though there’s plenty of it. Studio co-founder Nora Twohey’s film leaves behind the Ireland of Cartoon Saloon’s earlier Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea for Talbian-ruled Afghanistan and a desperate story of survival under tyranny whose charm isn’t lost in spite of its dire setting.
To a greater or lesser extent, all of Quentin Tarantino’s movies have been partly about movies, or his life as viewed through the prism of movies. Reservoir Dogs is about acting and performance, and Inglourious Basterds is about film being the literal weapon that topples fascism. His characters talk about movies, and model themselves after other fictional characters. Despite Tarantino’s obsession with cinema, none of his work has featured characters who actively work in the movie business, with the odd exception of Basterds’ Goebbels. Tarantino’s filmography, now supposedly with only one film left to go, would feel incomplete if he didn’t put aside his criminal/assassin/historical surrogates and just make a movie about actors already. Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, a title befitting a man constantly making references and allusions to days of cinema past, sees Tarantino do exactly that as he indulges in a nostalgic journey into mindless TV serials and B-movies filmed on dingy backlots. Despite functioning as a potentially infantile time travel device into a hazy period Tarantino missed out on, the film’s low-stakes setting allows him to do what he does best without having to worry about outbursts of violence, resulting in perhaps in his most mature and meaningful film.
We discussed personal favorite World’s Greatest Dad a few years ago, and I praised that film to the rafters for its satirical, black-hearted take on dead teenagers and the survivors’ subsequent reactions. It turns out World’s Greatest Dad had an antecedent in Heathers, a film somehow blacker and more cynical than Bobcat Goldthwait’s black and cynical work. World’s Greatest Dad exists in a recognizable reality that acknowledges that everyone has their particular weaknesses and blind spots that can be exploited at will, but Heathers takes place in a heightened world where empathy is a foreign word and death and murder are meaningless outside of whatever personal gain can be wrung out in the aftermath. I thought Heathers was going to be some pointed teen comedy, like a sharper Clueless or Fast Times, but it stands alone in the (personally foreign) teen comedy genre.
I’ve now seen two John Lee Hancock movies but I suspect that I know exactly what the rest are like: earnest performances from actors in inoffensive packages. Unmemorable scores, Americana, fundamentally conservative. That’s always been my impression of The Blind Side and Saving Mr. Banks. The Alamo is the kind of movie a bored history teacher would show his class. My mom loves The Rookie (nuff said), and The Highwayman was only notable because it was about the cops who chased down Bonnie and Clyde, in opposition to the classic film that followed the robbers and heralded the beginning of Hollywood’s last golden age. Football, baseball, Disney, pop history, and Texas Rangers are all boxes for Hancock to tick on his USA bingo card, and with The Founder, fast food gets inked out, too. I eagerly await his future work about Levi Strauss, the digging of the Erie Canal, and Pecos Bill.
The mileage one gets out of MacGruber is going to be directly proportional to how much the viewer appreciates Will Forte’s facial gymnastics. I personally love it every time his weird face scrunches up in agony or fury, so this is a movie that works on me. Jorma Taccone, away from his Lonely Island roots, essentially makes a straight action flick and staffs it with a character who not only is a ripoff of an absurd 80’s primetime detective but is also the direct antithesis of every bad-ass testosterone-fest from the same decade. A solid premise plus whatever Forte is doing with his eyes in any given moment makes MaGruber into one of the decade’s better comedies, and one more unjustified commercial flop on the Lonely Island’s collective resumes.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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