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Films with Finder

Evan Finder, Staff Writer

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Eighth Grade

Bo Burnham’s directorial debut is grounded in a devastatingly awkward realism and that’s where it succeeds. The plot revolves around Kayla (Elsie Fisher), a girl about to graduate eighth grade, whose main hobby is making YouTube videos in which she gives life advice to her viewers. The film, which feels almost like a documentary at times, chronicles her struggle with self-esteem and finding an identity – things that everyone goes through. The film is on a small scale, but is able to make Kayla’s moments of courage feel big, such as when she tells off two girls who have snubbed her throughout middle school or when she resists the advances of a high school boy. The script is competent, but the film’s power comes from Elsie Fisher, whose believability never fails throughout the movie. She perfectly captures the frustration, anxiety and confusion of what it’s like to be an adolescent.

Sorry to Bother You

Without giving too much away, Sorry to Bother You is about Cassius Green (yes, Cash is Green), a black telemarketer living in an alternate Oakland, who rises up the ranks after being encouraged by a coworker to use his “white voice.” At first, Cassius enjoys his high pay and luxurious lifestyle, but soon discovers some disturbing secrets about his job and about a CEO for whom he indirectly works. Like any great satire, Sorry to Bother You uses humor to explore uneasy topics in a way that manages to be entertaining while still reminding you of the serious subject matter. Boots RIley’s humor ranges from subtle to absurd, always hits its mark, and offers commentary on Capitalism, racial profiling, over-emphasis of the media and institutional slavery. Late-stage Capitalism is the primary theme that runs through the film. The fake “white voices” are dubbed into the film, which enhances both the comedy and eeriness of the idea. But the” white” voices” are not the main part of the film, as the trailer might have you believe, but are merely the first step in a ladder of dishonesty and greed that Cassius travels up. Cassius is played by Lakeith Stanfield who also played Andre in “Get Out,” the character who was sold as a husband to an older woman and even yelled the title words at one point. Stanfield gives a nuanced, understated performance that embodies the character of a normal person who is sucked into an evil system. Armie Hammer offers the other standout performance as Steve Lift, the CEO of a company called Worry Free, in which desperate people essentially volunteer themselves into slavery. Sorry to Bother You is a comedy like very few others — it is bizarre at times, shocking at others,but it is endlessly imaginative and clever in a way that few other movies are. Not everyone will find it enjoyable but everyone will find it memorable.

BlacKkKlansman

The latest film from visionary director Spike Lee is a distillation of many of the themes Lee has worked with throughout his career. His body of work has thoroughly explored topics such as racial identity, prejudice and conflict in films like the charming comedy She’s Gotta Have It, the epic biopic Malcolm X and his masterpiece Do the Right Thing. All of the same themes are present in BlacKkKlansman, which is based on the unbelievable true story of Ron Stallworth, a black police officer from Colorado Springs who establishes contact over the phone with the local Ku Klux Klan, eventually becoming a member. Stallworth is played by Denzel Washington’s son, John David Washington, who is able to skillfully alternate between a professional who takes his work seriously and a young person who likes to have fun. For obvious reasons, Stallworth can’t be physically present at Klan meetings, so he needs a white officer, Philip Zimmerman, played by Adam Driver, to pretend to be Stallworth at the meetings. Zimmerman is of Jewish heritage, so he is no more of a friend to the Klan than Stallworth. Lee is able to take advantage of the absurdity of the story by giving the film humorous overtones but he and his co-writers never employ humor in a way that distracts from the seriousness of the story. Stallworth’s romantic interest, played by Evanston’s Laura Harrier, is a member of the Black Student Union at Colorado College and she and Stallworth have many thought-provoking arguments about who is really doing the right thing for their cause. Spike Lee is undoubtedly one of the greatest directors alive but throughout the last decade his films opened to mixed reviews and poor box office numbers (although Chi-Raq was a fascinating film that a Chicagoan would be remiss not to see). BlacKkKlansman is expected by many to be his comeback, and deservedly so. Lee’s direction as well as the script presents us not only with an unusual story but a film that is funny, thought-provoking and ultimately tragic. The characters, particularly Stallworth and Zimmerman, become layered and realistic people, rather than stereotypes that are only there for the convenience of the plot. This is a film that once again demonstrates Lee’s ability to make the audience both think and feel, and, although it takes place in the Vietnam era, the story is just as relevant today.

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again

Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again is exactly what you’d expect it to be. The ABBA songs are fun, the acting is competent, the script is…nonexistent. It’s a whimsical, mindless entertainment, and that’s exactly what it aspires to be. The story is a continuation of the original Mamma Mia, but Meryl Streep’s character, Donna, is now dead. Donna’s daughter, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), is attempting to reopen Donna’s hotel. The most interesting part of the film story-wise is that it cuts back and forth between past and present. Donna’s story of traveling the world and becoming pregnant with Sophie is shown, as well as Sophie reopening the hotel. There is nothing exceptional about the film, nor necessarily should there be. But audiences can enjoy it the same way they enjoy a bowl of popcorn.

 

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Films with Finder