It’s your choice this week, serious Meryl Streep or outrageously campy Meryl Streep. Which one will you choose? If Streep isn’t your thing, perhaps a time bending love story called “Wander Darkly” might be the alternative for you.
With all the new releases at your fingertips, and without having to go out or pay theater prices, I hope stay-homers will take risks and check out films this holiday season they normally might never would have gone to the cinema to see.
If you liked Ryan Murphy’s “Glee” or his subsequent television projects, his latest “The Prom” might deliver the same escapism you’ve come to expect. On the one hand “The Prom” is a colorful, glittery, up-lifting musical. It’s entertainment the entire family can enjoy with a message of tolerance, acceptance and life lessons for young and old.
Adapted from the Broadway musical with adult roles recast with Meryl Streep, James Corden, Nicole Kidman and Kerry Washington. Streep revives her obnoxious campy charm last seen in “Death Becomes Her,” with vocal stylings akin to Patti LuPone, and a look that’s seemingly an homage to “Postcards from the Edge” co-star Shirley MacLaine.
Corden is the film’s largest misstep because of his miscasting, playing another stereotypical gay role. Kidman and the rest of the cast are fine but newcomers Jo Ellen Pellman and Ariana DeBose, who play same-sex teenage sweethearts banned from their high school prom, belt out the tunes you will likely be humming long after the film is over.
I stress the word “long” here because Murphy’s adaptation runs slightly longer than it should. Trying to give too many characters their own narrative arc gets burdensome. By the time we get to the song “Love Thy Neighbor,” Andrew Rannells’ center stage solo, the excitement of the production has worn off.
“The Prom” is now playing on Netflix.
If you need something a little more serious and thought provoking, “Wander Darkly” might be the alternative to both Streep films this weekend.
The editing of this traumatic love story starring Sienna Miller and Diego Luna takes center stage. An accident leaves Adrienne (Miller) mentally incapable of discerning reality from fantasy.
Has she died? Did she lose her mind? Is this purgatory? She struggles to understand what’s happening as partner Matteo (Luna) talks her through their relationship and why they chose to have a child together. Through flashbacks, we see their world take shape leading up to present day.
For much of the film, the audience is as confused as Adrienne. Is this amnesia or life after death? “Wander Darkly” has an extremely specific goal if the viewer can find the patience to make it to the rewarding conclusion.
The perspective you are left with is a powerful one, and a rewatch with all the answers will show how carefully the story is pieced together. “Wander Darkly” leaves us with a profound reminder of how precious life is. You can find “Wander Darkly” on premium video on demand and select theaters this weekend.
This week’s second Streep film is by Steven Soderbergh who recently directed the three time Oscar-winner in “The Laundromat.” Soderbergh has always challenged himself as a filmmaker, whether shooting a thriller on an iPhone like “Unsane” or the male stripper film “Magic Mike.”
This time he shoots the entire film “Let Them All Talk” on a transatlantic crossing between New York and Southampton. Even more impressive there was no script, just an outline, with the actors improvising nearly all the dialogue. While Streep is enjoyable as the snobbish writer Alice, desperate to deliver her next book, it’s Candice Bergen who steals the film.
Alice has invited her two best friends from college on a cruise, along with her nephew, played by Lucas Hedges. Throughout the cruise, Streep attempts to reconnect with friends Roberta (Bergen) and Susan (Dianne Wiest), but she finds little to nothing in common with the women she used to consider her best friends.
Bergen’s character is full of realistic Dallas stereotypes, equal parts hilarious and authentic. Most of us will think or say “I know someone just like her.” While “Let them All Talk” isn’t much of a mystery in the genre sense, it’s compelling in conversation and character development.
In this one, Streep channels, Susan Orlean, her character in “Adaptation,” who was also a writer (and a real author opposed to the fictional one here). The subplot with Hedges (“Boy Erased”) and Gemma Chan (“Crazy Rich Asians”) is one of the movie’s detractors.
“Let Them All Talk” also unexpectedly works as a visual substitute for those desperate to take a cruise again. Soderbergh does a fair job of exploring interiors and exteriors of the Queen Mary II.
“Let Them All Talk” is now streaming on HBO Max.