Movie Review: The Photograph (2020)

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Summary: A series of intertwining love stories set in the past and in the present.
Pros:
Cast and Characters. So we meet two sets of “main characters”, we have Mae and Mike and then Christina and Isaac.
  • Issa Rae is Mae Morton, she works in a museum, her mother recently passed and she is learning about her life, reading a letter that was left for her, and by going through her things. Mae is an independent, intelligent woman and she is learning about her mother, what her life was like and why throughout her life growing up, her mother wasn’t quite the parent she could have been. Issa Rae is great as I usually find her, she’s fun to watch on screen, she’s funny, she is great at reacting with her face and her character is pretty low-key throughout the film. She’s just mellow. Also, the costume designer on this film did a great job with her, she always looked put together, and her hair always looked good. She never seemed “overtly sexy” and that yellow dress she wore towards the middle of the film was everything.
  • Lakeith Stanfield is Michael Block and he is a reporter for a well-known newspaper and he meets Mae because he is doing an article on something that happened in Louisiana. He sees the picture of Christina, finds out about her and meets Mae who is doing an exhibition on her for the museum. Mike is immediately taken with Mae and he goes out of his way to run into her again. I quite liked his persistence, it wasn’t icky or “too much”. Being a reporter, it worked for his character, it made sense. I really like Lakeith Stanfield, he is also a pretty “low key” person it seems so he was also a bit mellow in this role, maybe a bit more “open” compared to Mae but he had his own issues.
  • Chanté Adams as Christina Eames. She was a young woman whose story was told through flashbacks while Mae read her letter. We were able to see bits of her romance and adult life. She was a photographer and often looked at life through her lens, but things didn’t always work out the way she thought. Her relationship with her mom was interesting, which seemed to trickle to how things were with Mae (but we never saw that). I thought she was the most interesting and I would have liked to have seen the movie of her story to be honest. I don’t believe I’ve seen this actress in anything before but I liked her, she had a silent strength to her that radiated when she was on screen. One of my favorite moments of the film is the scene in the car with Isaac when Mae was a little girl, we see two sides of that moment and both times it was amazing. She handled that moment beautifully.
  • Rob Morgan as Isaac Jefferson. We don’t see a ton of him since he’s the older version, but he’s a nice man, clearly still in love with Christina even since their lives went separate ways.
    • Y’lan Noel as Young Isaac Jefferson. Of course I know him from Insecure, and I liked him. Isaac is very much content with staying in Louisiana and he would love to just be with Christina in this life. He doesn’t come off as selfish, he doesn’t do anything that I found to make a horrible person, he just didn’t want to leave his home and there’s nothing wrong with that. I thought he had great chemistry with Chanté Adams and the sequence when Christina went back to Louisiana, he was really great.
Shout out to Lil Rel Howery (Kyle, Mike’s older brother) who was a joy every time he was on screen with Teyonah Parris as his wife. They were also great together as the married “settled down” couple. They were funny, had chemistry and it was nice to see they had a very nice house, loved each other and loved their daughters. Also shout out to Jasmine Cephas Jones and Kelvin Harrison Jr. as Rachel and Andy, Mae and Mike’s friends from work. It was great seeing all of them in this movie and be entertaining characters when on screen.
The Story/Parallels. Soooooo I like the story and how these two were brought together. The idea of this man meeting Mae due to him doing research and by six degrees of separation he meets her is pretty cool. Then the fact that he pursues her in her world first was great. I liked that Mike found out about her mother through an article he was writing. It was nice that they both had great jobs and were successful. I liked watching their romance unfold, it was slow and cute. As for Christina and Isaac, I was also into that romance as well, they were cute and I think they set up their personalities a lot better. I also loved meeting Mike’s brother and his family, which were highlights. I’ll mention this later, but I also see where the movie was trying to go with the parallels between the present and the past. I get the intention and I see it for the most part but there are some things I think they could have handled better when it came down that.
Genuine Romance. I’ll have stuff to say on the chemistry between the two leads but I felt like the story of their romance was pretty genuine. How they met was cute, he was doing an article on Isaac, which led him to Christina which led him to Mae. They pretty much instantly hit it off and our romance goes from there. It didn’t feel rushed, it didn’t feel dragged out. I was along for the ride and I liked the moments they had together where they just connected. It wasn’t just a physical relationship, it was meant to be intimate and I saw that. I even liked at the end which I won’t spoil. I was pretty invested even with the problems I had. I was also invested in the Christina/Isaac romance of the film. Isaac was a chill dude and he didn’t need much “spontaneity” in his life whereas Christina had different ideas. She was a photographer, she got a little taste of freedom and being independent and she didn’t know how to shake that which caused issues but I was probably a little more invested in their romance than I was Mae and Mike. Just a little, probably helped that those two had chemistry lol. It was just nice to see that they had a relationship without being pushed together through trauma or something crazy happening to them. It was just two people, meeting, connecting and falling in love.
The Music. I’m not terribly familiar with Robert Glasper who led the charge with the music in this film but I was really feeling it. The song choices were great and the instrumentals were beautiful. Music always helps to set the tone of a film and I think it did that very well.
Cons:
Characterizations! Okay, while I was writing this review, I was going over my notes I put in my phone and what I remembered. I have a good memory with movies and how I felt while watching etc. I saw this movie recently and I am having a hard time putting a set characterization on Mike and Mae. The basics were there buuut whenever I do my “cast and characters” part of this review, I usually can go pretty in detail what that character was like but I couldn’t do that because Mike and Mae didn’t quite have the characterization they should have received. Yes, they connected about music and yes we get moments here and there but other people told us things about them. I’m pretty sure that both Rachel and Andy are the ones who mentioned about their careers being more important to them both than love. I’m sure that Kyle (Mike’s brother) also says that along with his issues of commitment or whatever due to his ex-girlfriend. Most of his conversations with his brother is about his personality instead of just showing us one instead. They’re likable characters and there was a ton of potential but it wasn’t as realized as it should have been. I kept putting off this review because of this issue I realized I had with the film.
Inconsistent Chemistry. I didn’t look at a ton of reviews before I saw this movie, I generally try not to do that but I did see a lot of people say they thought there wasn’t much chemistry between our two leads and… I agree. Don’t get me wrong, I liked them together and I think it was there sometimes but a majority of the time, it felt like they only had a “connection” because the script told them they had to have one. It was awkward and not in the way that Issa Rae is awkward with guys in Insecure or how Lakeith Stanfield has this quirkiness about him that worked with Tessa Thompson in Sorry to Bother You, but in that “this is so awkward its borderline uncomfortable”. I think they are both amazing actors and I think they worked really well together, but I didn’t feel that spark between them whenever they were on screen together. I don’t necessarily want to compare but Daniel Kaluuya and Jodie Turner-Smith were fire on the screen in Queen & Slim. It’s unfortunate, you root for them but the spark was missing for me to fully invested other than the script telling me to be and the fact that I love these two actors.
Parallels? So we get this back and forth with present time and Mae’s mother and her romance with Isaac and it seemed like they wanted to present this thing that the women in her family do. They push people away because they’re independent or they don’t want to worry people. We see that with Christina and her mother but we don’t quite see that with Mae. I actually thought they were going to parallel the Christina and Isaac relationship with Mae and Mike and that Mike was going to be Christina because something happens and he wasn’t going to tell Mae even after they got close. I thought that would be interesting because we still get the parallel but not quite in the way we would think… being a family “curse”. But then the movie tried to say that Mae was always that way and I never quite got that throughout the film. Sure, she’s independent, but I never got the sense she pushed people away because she never learned to need someone. That should have been explored more for that entire conversation to land better for me.
Execution. So as I said, I enjoyed the two stories being told in the movie and I completely get when we had a flashback without a time stamp, the problem I found with this is that it just happens. There’s a part in the movie where there’s no lead up to the flashback, it just happens and I was like whoa wait. There’s no color change, there’s no one telling the story, and no one reading a letter. I think there’s one time where a flashback starts and then after the moment it shows Mae reading the letter. I like flashbacks most times, I enjoy time jump moments, as evident by how much I liked it in Little Women, but if you’re going to do it without any typical set up, make sure it flows. It literally felt like two movies just put together in one movie.
Overall, I really liked The Photograph. It’s so refreshing to see a love story between two black people, where they are both well off, independent, have great jobs and have not been pushed together because something crazy happened. Nor did the movie feature some major trauma because black people live lives without “extreme” trauma all the time. I liked the characters, the acting was great. I really dug the genuine romance set up between these two, yes it hit some cliché movie tropes but I was okay with it. The soundtrack was fire and I really just loved the feeling and tone of the movie. I liked the story and what they were going for with the parallels but with that said, there are a lot of story elements I found lacking in the film. I think it could have benefited from one more rewrite. While I get the parallels, they didn’t quite match up with what we were shown, we had to be told things and that doesn’t help with characterizations. It also sucks that while you like them together, Issa and Lakeith didn’t have a ton of chemistry. It was weird in places. But with that said, I thought the movie was a great depiction of positive black love. We need more movies that do this, just make sure the characters are fully realized here people! Great date night movie!
Rating: 3.89 out of 5 stars. 
Have you seen The Photograph? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments below!
What is your favorite black romance film?
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Movie Review: Knives Out (2019)

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Summary: A detective investigates the death of a patriarch of an eccentric, combative family.
Pros:
Cast and Characters. There are a lot of people in this movie. I’m not going to go into all of them as I would some but I’m still going to include them all because what’s in this picture is really what we see.
  • Daniel Craig as Benoit Blanc. He has great eyes lol, but he is a private detective called upon to investigate Harlan’s murder. He mysteriously received money and a tip that Harlan’s murder was not a suicide so now he’s upended this family, but he’s determined to figure it out. His southern drawl killed me the entire film it’s so funny and I think he had fun doing this role. He always looks so disinterested when I see him, but I think he had fun here. He’s smart but there are times where you think he’s going to be outsmarted by whoever did the murder, but we then learn that he’s been on top of it the entire time even if he didn’t know all the details lol.
  • Chris Evans as Hugh Ransom Drysdale. He is Harlan’s grandson, Linda and Richard’s son, and a spoiled playboy. I love how people were shocked in the trailer to see him play this kind of role “it’s against type” and I know people are used to him playing Captain America but if anything, Cap is against type. He’s played this kind of role far more than the “straight man”. Anyway, he’s a jerk lol and we meet him officially about 20-30 minutes into the movie. He ends up partnering up with Marta to do some digging. We learn that he’s really smart, like really and I would have loved to know more about his character. I love Chris Evans, I always have (Cap has made me love him more though and he made me love Cap). But he’s so good in this movie and he gets to do a couple of different things and he is clearly having fun in this role as well. It was so weird to see his hair so dark though. I was like “wow, he looks so different” when his hair is not even as blond as it is when he’s Steve lol.
  • Ana de Armas as Marta Cabrera. She is Harlan’s nurse and caretaker who had a close relationship with him. I kept thinking she was Linda Cardellini because she looks a lot like her. Anyway, I would argue she’s the lead of the film. She knows this family well and most of them know her, even though they are very ignorant as it’s a running joke that no one except for Meg, really knows where she’s from. She’s a good person and it sucks what she must go through in the film. But Ana de Armas is very likable, you’re on her side really in the movie and it’s fun to watch her interact with Daniel Craig, especially with her quirk of literally not being able to get away with lying.
  • Jamie Lee Curtis as Linda Drysdale. She LOOKS so good! As soon as she came on screen, I was like ugh beautiful! She’s Harlan’s eldest daughter, Ransom’s mom and Richard’s wife. She is a real estate mogul who runs her own company with her husband’s support. Being the oldest, she has a lot to say about the others and what’s best for the family. JLC is great, I thoroughly enjoyed her character and I thought her, and Don Johnson worked really well together. She also had great style.
  • Michael Shannon as Walter “Walt” Thrombey. He is Harlan’s youngest son, Donna’s husband, and the CEO of his father’s publishing company. He has a lot of motive in the film and he comes off weird and creepy at times too but that’s also just Michael Shannon because I find him scary in general lol. But he’s a great actor.
  • Don Johnson as Richard Drysdale. Harlan’s son-in-law and Linda’s husband, who helps run his wife’s company. He is a nut. Don Johnson is still handsome lol and he was hilarious.
  • Lakeith Stanfield as Detective Lieutenant Elliot. He is a local detective involved in the investigation. I LOVE HIM. He’s such a good actor. His role isn’t big or anything, but he works with Daniel Craig on solving the mystery. It’s clear he thinks the family is crazy lol, but he just wants to move on and close this case.
  • Toni Collette as Joni Thrombey. She is widow of Harlan’s deceased son Neil, and Meg’s mother who is a lifestyle guru and influencer. She’s funny with the voice she was putting on, not to mention, her entire character was like… Paris Hilton in how she talked lol. I loved her style though.
  • Katherine Langford as Megan “Meg” Thrombey. She is Harlan’s granddaughter, Joni and Neil’s daughter, who studies at prestigious liberal arts college. She’s cool, very outspoken and has a friendship with Marta. I like Katherine Langford, even if her characters are unlikable, she’s likable to me.
  • Jaeden Martell as Jacob Thrombey. He’s Harlan’s grandson, Walt and Donna’s son, who holds alt-right views and is always on his phone. He doesn’t get many lines, he’s always in the background looking at his phone, which is a running joke, not to mention his views. I swear they call him “little Hitler” or something along those lines and I laughed each time lol. I like this kid though, everything I’ve seen him in, I’ve thought he’s good at his job. I hope to see more of him.
  • Christopher Plummer as Harlan Thrombey. He is a wealthy mystery novelist who invites his family to his 85th birthday party and is found dead. He has three children — Linda, Walt, deceased Neil, and three grandchildren. He is a legend to me, Sound of Music will always be the movie I know him for, even if he hates it lol. But we only see him in flashbacks, and I love how he interacts with his family and Marta. He cares about them all, but he has his reasons for the things he does. Christopher Plummer is always good.
Intriguing Mystery. I love mysteries, I love puzzles, this is the kind of stuff that I thoroughly enjoy because you can make your own theories, think you know who did it and then the movie could shock you with its twists and turns. Harlan Thrombey’s death was ruled a suicide but it’s revealed that it might not be and now everyone is on edge trying to figure out what it could be. Everyone has their secrets, as usual, everyone has motive, so you’re not sure who to trust and I think this mystery is so straight forward but so smart that as it unfolds and then revealed later, you’re like WHAT even if you figured out who did it lol.
Great/Entertaining Writing. The writing is super smart and entertaining. The dialogue is great and the way the story unfolds doesn’t feel childish or convoluted in how it’s presented. There are flashbacks as characters think of moments that’s happened previously and what not, but it’s not annoying or out of place. It makes sense. The characters all have great chemistry with each other, their lines are smart and quippy. I liked it. I think it’s very well written and as it unfolds, it makes sense. I was never once confused. This is what Murder on the Orient Express (2017) tried to be.
Cinematography. This movie looks really stylized. It’s set in current times, but it has this 70’s look to it with the clothing choices and the glossy look of the film. I think it’s beautiful.
Cons:
Feels Too Long. I do remember feeling like the movie felt really long when we were watching it. It’s like two hours but at some point, it felt like they were dragging it out and I wanted them to go ahead and tell me I was right without dragging it out more.
Overall, I really liked this movie a lot. It’s one of the best of the year and it’s going on my list. I liked the characters; the cast was great and clearly had a ton of fun playing these roles. The story is written really well written, with smart and funny dialogue. The film also has a great look to it. My only problem, that I could think of was that it feels too long, it’s probably not too long but it felt like it. But in the end, Knives Out is a fun and smart murder mystery that allows the viewer to be interested in the characters while also working with the detective to figure out just who murdered Harlan Thrombey. Worth the watch.
Rating: 4.89 out of 5 stars. 
Have you seen Knives Out? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!
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