Pfeiffer a luminous ex-pat

If there were ever a film that succeeds thanks to the charismatic turn of its lead performer, it’s Azazel Jacobs’ French Exit, an adaptation of Patrick DeWitt’s novel that rests firmly on Michelle Pfeiffer’s shoulders. It goes without saying that she’s more than capable of bearing this load as a New York socialite who, having run out of money, flees to France to live in a friend’s vacant apartment, her son Malcolm (Lucas Hedges) in tow. It’s a delight to see the screen veteran cast a withering look, toss off a barbed bon mot or instantly take control of a room by simply strolling in as she navigates a new life that seemingly will lead to no good end. The film gets off to a rocky start, but rights itself in the second half, and while it would be a bit unfair to say it would be a failure with anyone else but Pfeiffer in the lead role, it’s hard to imagine it succeeding at all without her. Available on Video on Demand.

Wright’s Land a beautiful story of healing

Stepping behind the camera for the first time, Robin Wright delivers a quiet, emotional knock out with Land, a genuinely moving story of one woman’s efforts to get past an unspeakable tragedy. Running from the past, Edee (Wright) has bought a remote cabin in the wilds of Wyoming, despite having no survival skills at all. It becomes plain early on that she has come here to die, and she almost gets her wish until a kindly hunter (Damian Bichir) finds her on the brink of starvation and nurses her back to life. The friendship that develops between these two thankfully does not go down the expected narrative path. No, this is a story about healing, forgiveness and redemption, one rendered with a sense of sincerity as Wright never allows the film to become maudlin or melodramatic. The result is a truly beautiful, deeply moving piece of work. Available on Video on Demand.

Fiery Judas is vital viewing

Tragic and incendiary, Shak King’s Judas and the Black Messiah tells the story of civil rights leader Fred Hampton and Bill O’Neal, the man that betrayed and helped up set up the 21-year old’s assassination. Gripping from the start, this is vital history that’s not taught in school, a story of racism, abuse and hope that is tragically as timely now as it was in the late 1960s. Well-acted and directed, this is necessary viewing and will be in the conversation come awards season. In theaters and on HBO Max.

Cowboys: An unlikely tale of understanding

There’s a great deal of misunderstanding in Anna Kerrigan’s Cowboys. Young teen Joe (Sasha Knight) is confused about her sexuality as she was born a girl but knows this is a mistake and wants to be treated as a boy. Her mother, Sally (Jillian Bell), wants to support her but is afraid of the abuse she will endure so refuses to recognize her child as she’d like to be. Her father, Troy (Steve Zahn), used to being treated as an outsider, understands his daughter’s feelings and does all he can to support her, even going so far as taking her on an unauthorized trip to Canada without mom. A manhunt ensues, bonds are tested, broken and repaired, and each of these three take a meandering path towards acceptance. This sleeper, a narratively economic movie, tells its tale briskly and effectively, leaving us entertained, moved and educated in a little under 90 minutes. Oh, that more films were this concise and to the point. Available on Video on Demand.

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