Boundaries is a dramedy about single mother Laura (Vera Farmiga) taking her estranged father Jack (Christopher Plummer) and socially awkward son Henry (Lewis Macdougall) on an involuntary road trip. Jack is crotchety and wasn’t emotionally present for Laura’s childhood, Henry draws people naked (which everyone reacts to as if he is a budding serial killer) and gets expelled from school, and Laura hoards animals and doesn’t believe in herself.
As dysfunctional family comedies go, Boundaries presents nothing new in the trope, which would be fine if only it weren’t working so hard to tug at the heartstrings. With the exception of Plummer, a delightful appearance by Christopher Lloyd, and another by Kristen Schaal as Laura’s sister JoJo, there really aren’t enough likable characters to draw in the viewer. Laura is at times shrill and self-centered when she is supposed to be sympathetic, Henry is sullen, and Jack is emotionally distant, offering arch commentary on Laura’s mistakes even as he strongarms his grandson into helping him sell weed. Yes, there is a weed angle.
You can probably guess how the film ends, but spoilers will still appear below the cut, as always.
There are a lot of reviews of Ocean’s 8 out there, and probably more than 80% of them are by men. I could let my own observations about the movie pass by, but the second I read Brie Larson’s quote about the disproportionate number of men who review movies, I realized that nowadays it’s a call to action. If you’re a woman and you like a movie, you should probably find time to write about why.
Reviews have been written about Ocean’s 8 and how director Gary Ross lacked the lightness of Steven Soderbergh’s touch, or the layer upon layer of seemingly incidental conversation that turns out to be central to each plot. But whatever, Ross (formerly of Seabiscuit, The Hunger Games, and Pleasantville) did a fine job crafting a heist movie with a powerful and overt message: that you don’t actually have to like the women on screen for them to be viable characters.
There are many reviews that miss this point, but I am not here to parrot those. I’m here to tell you that this movie offers a rich and complex portrayal of women that is found very, very rarely in your average blockbuster (we’re not talking about indie films), and watching it is a revelation. It also might explain why men who like a certain kind of narrative about women are going to be unsettled enough to give the movie a poor review.
I’m going to hop straight into spoilers to show you why.
As a lifelong horror fan, I can confidently say that there are two kinds of horror movies that do well at the box office.
The first kind of horror movie delivers on thrills and jump scares. Friends have fun clinging to each other, spilling popcorn and jumping in their seats. Afterward, the group quote lines at each other or mimic trademark gestures or sounds, and Halloween Horror Nights has a new haunted house theme. These movies are certainly effective, but it’s not that hard to leave them at the theater.
Hereditary is the other kind of horror movie.
I don’t mean I’m going to check under my bed for anything scary tonight. I mean something else entirely, and quite honestly I don’t even want to talk about it too much because I want people to experience the film for themselves. But I’m going to talk about it and so of course, spoilers will go below the cut.
Hereditary begins with an obituary. A matriarch has died, and right away Annie (played by Toni Collette) gives a halting but brutally honest eulogy about the complicated relationship she had with her mother. Grandma’s death sets off a chain of events that at first seem normal to a family dealing with grief, but soon even the cracks start to show cracks.
Hereditary is getting mixed reviews, and for good reason: not everyone is going to get it. I don’t say that to sound cool or jaded, I say that because I could hear other moviegoers laughing at certain parts that I found incredibly effective–parts that were almost too effective. This movie upset me quite a bit at times, even though the projector broke two-thirds in and we had to wait half an hour for the staff to fix it.
But when the action started back up, nobody moved or laughed for the rest of the movie.
I can absolutely recommend Hereditary to fans of real, provocative horror. Casual filmgoers might want to wait for home release.