2017 Movies: Lady Bird and Downsizing

I've been on a mission to watch as many movies that came out in 2017 as possible, and I decided earlier to create a series of blog posts within which I review two that I've seen. So far I have seen 7, so there will be some catching up. I'll be rating them using my own made up system of pluses, minuses, & other marks of punctuation, including but not limited to exclamation points, parentheses, exponents, & more.

LADY BIRD (contains spoilers)
There is little to dislike about this coming-of-age film set in the early 2000s in California. Lady Bird is well-written, well-acted, and features extremely sympathetic and at times relatable (esp. if you grew up during the birth of the internet and came of age during the heydays of AIM) characters, Lady Bird/Christine herself and her friend Julia being the two I rooted for the most. Lady Bird, however, despite her self-inflicted oddness and ownership of it at the Catholic High School she seemingly happily attends, does have some of that Harry Potter 5-ness to her--remember, when Harry was an insufferable teenager, clearly just trying to Figure Shit Out in a way that couldn't but annoy the crap out of you? Luckily for LB (unlike HP), it doesn't last the whole book, or in this case, film. And the aggravating things about Lady Bird are more extraverted than moody Potter's annoying jealousy/lovesickness. The film is, ostensibly, about a complicated mother-daughter relationship and the state of California--there's something about setting anything in California that just makes it about California. It begins with a Joan Didion quote, I mean, c'mon. Greta Gerwig, the film's writer, was born in California, and even in Sacramento, but I could have probably told you that confidently without having looked it up on imdb. In fact, the deeper I get into Gerwig's biography there, the more this film seems based closely on the facts of her own life-- all-girls Catholic High School, describes herself as "an intense child," less than a year older than me, went to Barnard College (oops, there's that spoiler). While I liked this movie and enjoyed it for its nostalgic moments and the seamless blend of reality and "film-iness" it evokes, I didn't LOVE it like so many people seem to love it. I thought the end tied too many neat bows (the brother getting the job, and more importantly the seeming resolution of the complex mother-daughter relationship felt a little too "neat" for me--).  I did, though, really like it.

FAVE THINGS: Lady Bird listening to the church choir in NYC, Lady Bird & Julia dancing at prom
DECENT PROFESH REVIEW COMMENTS: I keep seeing Gerwig's understated style compared to Woody Allen and also outpouring of respect and kudos to Saoirse Ronan for her impeccable acting, which some critics believe is the cornerstone to the film's wild success.
FINAL RATING: +(!)

DOWNSIZING (kind of contains spoilers)
Geoff and I saw quite a few commercials for this film. The TV-version of the ads for it didn't give much away about the plot, though the movie-version I saw in theaters was longer and gave away more. Geoff, then, had a few more surprises in for him, which he noted that he appreciated when the reveals I'd seen in the previews came in the film. However, perhaps the film's bungling identity issues are what prevented a more revealing TV preview in the first place. Is this film about the revelation and implementation of a (would-never-happen) scientific discovery, making it a sci-fi film? The opening twenty minutes or so might have one believe this. However, the next hour or so, the film tries out being an environmentalist armageddon film, a love story, a commentary on class and capitalism, and even at times a slapstick comedy. Will Matt Damon's intentionally boring character ever find love? Will the Earth be destroyed because not enough people agree to downsize? Look, a stock character missing part of her leg is being humanized oh no wait, now she's the butt of a joke--ah, wait, human again! The movie's premise is interesting, but its writers needed for it to pick a clear focus from start to finish for it to be a success. Geoff, despite having said Downsizing was a film he might actually want to see, lost interest somewhere about halfway through if not sooner, and though he picked up the story at the end, I know he was disappointed.

FAVE THINGS: I won't lie, I love a good inter-racial love story. Also, I very much enjoyed the very beginning, all the science-y parts and even Matt Damon's character's quiet interest in the scientific discovery and how it's made subtly but not obviously apparent in the film--even if you'd never seen a preview for it.
DECENT PROFESH REVIEW COMMENTS: A Wall Street Journal reviewer puts what I was trying to say above into an excellent sentence here: "It’s a movie in which too-muchness ends up being not-enoughness, since the script lacks a vital center." Hear, hear!
FINAL RATING! + (--)

ALL 2017 MOVIES REVIEWED, IN ORDER OF BEST-NESS*
1) Lady Bird
2) Downsizing

(*this will obviously change when I review the other 5 I've seen!)

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