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Hello Editors

I’m a film critic and freelance writer in Detroit looking for new outlets. Here are some recent examples of my work from The Village Voice and LA Weekly. The review of Can You Ever Forgive Me? was considered a medium-length review (500 words), and Tully is the longest they ran from freelancers (1,200 words). The rest are capsule reviews, around 250 words. Contact: thecinemagirl@gmail.com


Can You Ever Forgive Me?

The real Lee Israel, the celebrity profiler turned forger who died in 2014, was a more boastful figure than the sad-sack recluse Melissa McCarthy plays in Marielle Heller’s sympathetic biopic, especially when methodically detailing her brief, prolific criminal spree in the early 1990s. Israel explained in interviews that she wrote biographies of women with large personalities, such as Tallulah Bankhead and Dorothy Kilgallen, because she considered herself equally interesting. She even quoted a letter she had faked and credited to Dorothy Parker for the title of her 2008 autobiography, Can You Ever Forgive Me? [more]


Tully

Following Juno (2007) and Young Adult (2011), Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman have completed their trilogy of self-delusion with Tully, a gently sardonic look at a forty-year-old woman who finds herself in a cluttered house, with a clueless spouse, preparing to have a third child. The staid suburbia Marlo (Charlize Theron) inhabits isn’t defined by conformity but by all that’s left unsaid. This deliberate silence can be played for laughs, such as when her boring husband, Drew (Ron Livingston), tries to describe his number-crunching job and no one can muster enough interest to get a decent explanation out of him. But for Marlo, barely cognizant of her life beyond daily demands, not saying what matters is a way to avoid acknowledging the unhappiness that dulls her every thought. [more]


Memoir of War

In adapting the wartime diaries of Marguerite Duras, Emmanuel Finkiel captures the author’s oblique style, which filters events though a thick layer of ennui, and centers on women who deal with inflicted trauma by torturing themselves. When Duras’s episodic memoir was released in 1985, her U.S. publisher changed the French title La Douleur (Pain) to a more generic The War: A Memoir. Writer/director Finkiel (Voyages) deals with both aspects, using voiceover narration and subjective visuals to express Duras’s anguished emotional state, and also presents a clear-eyed vision of history as nerve-wracked Parisians anticipate the end of Nazi occupation. [more]


Oh Lucy!

The wistful longing of discontented Japanese salarymen in films like Shall We Dance? is absent from the bracingly funny Oh Lucy! Setsuko Kawashima (Shinobu Terajima), an office lady tugging at her restrictive white collar, bubbles with anger and resentment. She barely masks contempt for a retiring co-worker who fawns over their male boss, stuffing the sweets she’s proffered into a desk drawer already overflowing with them. Younger women greet the supervisor’s paternalistic pronouncements with graceful nods and demure smiles, but Setsuko’s head jerk and pained rictus express a bilious disdain. [more]


Jinn

There’s nothing preachy about Jinn, even though Nijla Mu’min’s elegant debut feature is about a teenager coming to terms with her mother’s newly embraced religion. Summer (Zoe Renee) is in limbo during the spring of her senior year, awaiting word from CalArts (Mu’min’s alma mater) about admission into its dance program. She’s a confident, goal-oriented high school student who is accustomed to certainty, and it’s during these tenuous months that her mother Jade (Simone Missick) guides the skeptical Summer toward Islam. [more]


Santa & Andrés

The Orwellian image of totalitarianism is bleak and urban, with thought police lurking around every corner. Sunny rural Cuba seems a world away, but in Carlos Lechuga’s delicate drama Santa & Andrés, ideological rigor has seeped into everyday life and relationships are drawn along the party line. Santa (Lola Amores) marches up to the hilltop home of Andrés (Eduardo Martinez) with all the authority of a state official, even though her job is caring for livestock at the collective farm. [more]


Matangi/Mia/M.I.A.

When a longtime friend profiles a controversial artist, the portrait is automatically suspect, its author vulnerable to the lazy analysis of amity. Director Steve Loveridge has been a friend and collaborator with the rapper M.I.A. since they met as film students, but what saves his first documentary Matangi/Maya/M.I.A. from the pitfalls of an adoring, glossed-over portrayal is the simple decision to take her seriously. [more]


Good Manners

Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra’s contemporary fairy tale is a heady blend of heightened reality and grounded fantasy set in a São Paulo envisioned as an orderly steel-and-glass fortress surrounded by the colorful chaos of improvised neighborhoods. High and low are clearly delineated, and when Clara (Isabél Zuaa) arrives at the condo tower where a demanding, pregnant Ana (Marjorie Estiano) is interviewing potential nannies, her unease is expressed in twitchy discomfort. The visual style (color-saturated modern gothic) and tone of empathic fatalism can be described as Guillermo del Toro meets Jacques Demy, but Rojas and Dutra have created a singular fable where anxiety and fear are directed inward, even when the danger is all too real. [more]


Permission

The American accents of former Cambridge University flatmates Rebecca Hall and Dan Stevens are a thing of beauty. There’s a softness to their voices, and the slight uplift of hesitancy at the end of sentences. When their characters, Anna and Will, chirp “I love you” during frequent (if routine) sex, it sounds apologetic as much as encouraging. It’s easy to see what drew the adventurous actors, known for buttoned-up British period pieces, to the messy emotional exploration of Brian Crano’s Permission, but their glowing performances are contained in a wan road-not-taken drama. [more]


Maurice

Maurice is the overlooked middle child in Merchant Ivory’s trio of E.M. Forster adaptations, sandwiched between the lighthearted mainstream hit A Room With a View (1985) and the prestigious critical juggernaut Howards End (1992). Thirty years later, Maurice has aged quite well, especially James Wilby’s challenging central performance as a testy Edwardian gentleman who embraces his sexuality during a time when being gay would not only get you shunned by polite society but also was punishable by flogging or imprisonment with hard labor. [more]