The Morning After: Jul. 16, 2018

Welcome to The Morning After, where I share with you what movies I’ve seen over the past week. Below, you will find short reviews of those movies along with a star rating. Full length reviews may come at a later date.

So, here is what I watched this past week:

Love, Simon

As Call Me by Your Name was to 1980s gay coming of age stories, Love, Simon is to the 2010s. While the former was pure drama, the latter is a comedy with dramatic elements throughout.

It’s a John Hughesian film about a High School senior who becomes penpals with a fellow student, neither of whom are out publicly. After he inadvertently leaves his e-mail account open on a public computer, his secret is threatened to be exposed adding pressure to an already tense situation.

Nick Robinson is terrific as the titular Simon who must navigate his mundane suburban life with a secret he feels so terrible that he dare not speak of it publicly. As the events of the film unfold, he becomes more comfortable in his own skin. Jennifer Garner and Josh Duhamel are solid as his successful and supportive parents while Katherine Langford, Alexandra Shipp, and Jorge Lendeborg Jr. are believable friends. Talitha Bateman as his sister is the strongest of the supporting cast while Logan Miller as the exuberant drama classmate Martin is the weakest.

Helping navigate the cold waters of being gay in a modern space is director Greg Berlanti who brings his own experiences to bear on a drama that benefits greatly from it. There’s a universality to the coming out story that transcends decade as the events depicted in the film, while decidedly light in town, reflect life as a gay teenager in almost any decade, except with a stronger emotional network than perhaps in prior generations.

The Purge: Election Year

As the modestly political first film gave way to the more pointedly political second film, Purge: Election Year is an even more outwardly political affair on the third go around.

Set a few years later, Leo Barnes (Frank Grillo), who nearly sacrificed his humanity in The Purge: Anarchy, has applied his skills as the chief security specialist for Senator Charlie Roan (Elizabeth Mitchell), a politician who’s family was slaughtered in front of her and who now makes ending the annual Purge her campaign centerpiece. As the independent in the race, the New Founding Fathers party fears that she could become the next president.

As political figures become exempted for the first time, Charlie and Leo must contend with betrayal and pursuit as the navigate the city streets hoping to survive until morning.

Never a film series built on strong performances, The Purge: Election Year is nevertheless filled with solid ones. While none of the cast stands out, they all walk the fine line between credibility and cheesiness with great care and success. The only characters that fall into cartoonish territory are the villains of the piece, the politicians hell bent on preserving their annual carnage.

What this series has always represented is the idea that there are forces in the world whose desire to subjugate and diminish the poor and minorities are gaining a foothold in this nation. While this film came out just prior to the 2016 presidential election, it was a stinging rebuke of the kind of rhetoric being supported and enabled by the Republican Party, which has only been strengthened over the last couple of years.

It’s a rebuke of the demagoguery that has gotten us to this point and while the outlandish nature of the evil NFFA members in this film is a trifle absurd, sometimes the best sociopolitical commentary is the kind that strikes its point from the realm of outlandishness. It enables the audience to see parallels and realize just how close we can come to such a world. As Betty Gabriel’s character Laney Rucker observes after a streetside encounter with a wife and her husband, she shot him because she thought it would make her feel better about his infidelity, but it didn’t.

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