NEWS & VIEWS OF PHILLIPS SINCE 1976
Friday August 12th 2022

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Ondine & Holy Rollers

Ondine (2009)

Ondine (2009)
***1/2
Wayforce Entertainment
111 minutes
Director: Neil Jordan

Syracuse (Colin Farrell) makes a living by fishing off the coast of his native Ireland free of a catastrophic BP oil spill, with untainted fish at the end of his line. One day Syracuse unexpectedly catches in his net, a woman likened to the Celtic myth of the selkie ”“ a seal that can shed her skin and transform into a human.

Syracuse”'s bright 10 year old daughter, Annie (played extremely well by Alison Barry) realizes her dad”'s past tense story of the mythical mermaid Ondine, is real in the present tense.

Syracuse”'s new guest seems bemused by her surroundings as well as insisting on being away from people. He hides her in his deceased grandma”'s cottage in a cover. Almost reading her father”'s mind, his physically challenged daughter Annie visits the cottage, and finds Ondine swimming in a pool.

Colin Farrell has shown on several occasions his versatility as an actor. Noteworthy is his subtley and nuance “In Bruges” a couple of years ago and again wonderfully exhibiting himself as Syracuse in “Ondine.”

Neil Jordan”'s “Ondine” of what initially appears to be a selkie, illustrates similarities (and differences as well) to John Sayles “The Secret of Roan Inish” (1994). Yet all the while the cameras are clicking, the woman out of the sea likely has a secret. Syracuse divorced and recovering from alcoholism, likewise his ex-wife who hasn”'t put down the bottle altogether, share custody of wheelchair-bound Annie. However the father-daughter combination capture nearly every camera shot.

Ondine is Syracuse”'s secret other than his perceptive daughter, along with Ondine ”“ mean more to him than a fisherman”'s catch. Though Syracuse willingly consults his priest (Stephen Rea) regularly, Syracuse unwisely doesn”'t take his priest”'s spiritual advice on one critical issue.

Holy Rollers (2010)
***
89 Minutes
Director: Kevin Asch

The title “Holy Rollers” may easily throw you off ”“ thinking the plot revolves around some Protestant evangelists but no the characters are Orthodox Jews living in Brooklyn, 1998. For starters, Jesse Eisenberg as Sam Gold, and Justin Bartha as Josef Zimmerman, are Hasidic Jews living in a tight-knit Orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn.

What”'s different, Sam”'s next door neighbor Josef is not being the clean-cut Jewish man rooted in the synagogue but rather a trafficking middle-man for the drug Ecstasy, from Amsterdam to New York.

“Holy Rollers”, like Joshua Marston”'s “Maria Full of Grace” (2004) captures the subject of drug smuggling, the former with less intensity and not with the usual suspects in crime. Sam”'s dilemma is choosing between aspiring to be a rabbi, his father”'s wish, or working for Josef between Amsterdam and New York, by cashing in big time in smuggling and selling Ecstasy. Jesse Eisenberg brings some complexity to his character, a genuine innocence of a boy next door.

Around the same age as Sam, Rachel (Ari Graynor) gives him Ecstasy and asks him to run away with her. Sam”'s structured way of life is severely tested and upstaged by the hedonistic secular world. Once rumors emerge in the neighborhood, Sam”'s new job is unsavory. His father”'s patience runs out and he is then rejected by his father.

Sam is definitely conflicted between his Orthodox Judaism (his father selects the bride) and the unsavory business of drug trafficking. Jesse Eisenberg is good, as the boy next door leaping into the underworld.

Please Give (2010)
***
90 minutes
Uptown
Director: Nicole Holofcener

Another look at dysfunctionalism through a looking glass ”“ a glaring symptom of unhappiness by a family in Manhattan, consisting of lush condos, boutiques and businesses in cramped quarters.

Alex (Oliver Platt) and Kate (Catherine Keenar) own a furniture store which is committed to buy modernist furniture at relatively low prices then sell it at exorbitant prices. In the midst of a bad economy, profiting from people of more than moderate means sees Kate reeling from guilt. Nonetheless Kate going down the streets giving homeless people money, in turn angers her bratty teenage daughter Abby (Sarah Steele).

Alex, Kate and Abby live in a flat on lower Fifth Avenue and have bought the apartment next door where 90 year old Andre (Ann Guilbert) lives with the promise that she can live there until she dies. Andre has two granddaughters ”“ a very attentive Rebecca (Rebecca Hill) and a resentful, gloating Mary (Amanda Peet) who periodically visit her. Mary, the older sister, verbally thrashes her grandmother whenever she can. The patient Rebecca understands and overlooks grandmother”'s grumpiness.

Both Kate and Rebecca have at least one thing in common ”“ doing for others often at the expense of themselves. Looking at Alex (Oliver Platt), he”'s a pedestrian character who makes one too many visits to Mary”'s therapy clinic. His daughter Abby, with bad skin, seeks treatment from Mary. Abby becomes suspicious upon learning her father”'s been to Mary”'s clinic with no consolation ”“ her skin is worse after leaving the clinic. Not only is Abby angry about her botched skin treatment, but she now wonders if her dad slept with Mary.

Similar to Sam Mendi”'s “American Beauty” (1999) and Noah Baumbach”'s “The Squid and the Whale” (2005), “Please Give” ”˜s latent message is of white middle-class and upper middle class families”' communications which are at stagnating or completely breaking down.

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