Gilmore girls: A Year in the Life

This year, I had one big reason to be thankful- the return of Gilmore Girls. After many teasers and marketing ploys by Netflix the much anticipated Gilmore girls: A Year in the Life premiered on Netflix this Friday. I decided to bravely not venture from my couch and binge watch all of the four (ninety minute) episodes which start off ten years after the ending of the original TV show.

The episodes are cut up to highlight the four seasons. Winter begins with picking up where all of the characters left off. Rory is a writer going back and forth between London, NYC and Stars Hollow. She’s still trying to figure out her life and career. Lorelai and Luke are still together and managing their respective businesses. A lot of the series, especially for Emily Gilmore is focused on the main characters dealing with the death of Richard (Edward Herrmann). The main characters deal with their grief in many different ways, though Emily takes it the hardest trying. Lorelai is dealing with the loss of Suki at the Inn and restlessness on what to do with the rest of her life. Throughout the four episodes many of the original Stars Hallow characters make an appearance from Kirk, to Taylor, and even the troubadour . All of Rory’s boyfriends of past and present show up, especially Logan who Rory is still continuing a secret relationship with.

Every episode was written and directed by original show-runner and creator Amy Sherman-Palladino and her partner Daniel Palladino. The pair left the show in the last few seasons so it’s nice to see that the writing and dialogue reflects that of the beginning of the show. The ninety minute episodes allow for a more cinematic feel to the storyline. Which is also seen in the cinematography. The swooping arial shots and dreamlike sequences are able to highlight the story on a much larger scale than in its original format. While the dialogue remains the regular repartee the major plot points are very loosely filled out and a bit frustrating. This made the episodes feel very long (especially when watching them in succession) and they could have been cut down to hour long episodes. The end encapsulates this frustration where the viewer is left with more questions than answers.

The season is a nice return to Stars Hallow and all of its inhabitants. Though it could have been a bit shorter and the plots left much to be desired, in many ways it feels like returning to visit an old friend.

Gilmore girls: A Year in the Life is available to stream on Netflix with subscription

How to be Single

After a stressful few weeks, all I wanted to do was to sit back and relax with a mindless romcom. That need was answered with the film How to be Single.  It’s a little different from the average romcom as the main message is more about finding and loving yourself than a mate. The film stars Dakota Johnson as Alice, a new recently single college grad, her party animal friend Robin (Rebel Wilson) and her older sister Meg (Leslie Mann) an Ob-Gyn who tries to avoid relationships and having a baby of her own at all costs. Another storyline is that of Lucy (Alison Brie) a hopeless romantic who’s determined to find the perfect man by putting herself through a series of hapless online dates under the watchful eye of super commitment phobe Tom (Anders Helm) the owner of the bar downstairs from Lucy’s apartment.

Alice delves headfirst into NYC single life, however it becomes a lot harder to manage as she sees her ex-boyfriend Josh quickly couple up, while still is trying to find her independence.  In the end Lucy and Meg end up finding love when they least expected it and Tom learns that sometimes it might be good to give love a chance. Alice also realizes that sometimes, being single is not so bad after a series of short dating mishaps. A lot of the dating dos and don’t of 21st century courtships are highlighted and very relatable to the films’ intended young female audience. The characters online dating and technology issues as well as hookup culture is something that nearly every millennial has experienced.

Dakota Johnson plays her part of the straight (wo)man amongst comedic genius Rebel Wilson, whose best moments of witty and slightly shocking one liners seem appropriately improvised. Leslie Mann and Alison Brie also lend excellent support in this mostly female driven comedy. It is nice to see a romantic comedy where the woman doesn’t need the help and support of a man in the end and can find peace and happiness on her own. The storyline of Lucy and Tom however seems pretty disconnected from the rest of the group and isn’t necessary in Alice’s journey. In the end the film serves its purpose. It is funny, relatable, and a good amount of escapism, as everyone finds their happiness or starts to find their way in the end.

How To Be Single is available to stream on HBOGo with subscription.

The Crown

The Crown is Netflix’s newest original series and its most expensive production to date. The series starts at the very beginning of Elizabeth II’s reign from her marriage to Prince Philip in 1947 and continues throughout the 1950’s. The series delves into hot political scandals of the day from the former King Edward and his wife trying to make their way back into the London social circles t0 Princess Margarets relationship with a commoner.

The main relationships at the center of the season are between Claire Foy  and Matt Smith as Elizabeth and Prince Philip. A large part of the season revolves around Prince Philip grappling with being second in command to his wife in all matters. Matt Smith evolves well as the slightly restless and naive Philip to loving husband and confidante who is willing to play second place to the queen. Claire Foy achieves a touchingly subtle performance as Elizabeth, while holding her own against established actors like Jared Harris and John Lithgow. Some of the most moving scenes involve Princess Elizabeths relationship with her father King George as he helps to prepare her to take on the hard tasks as regent.  Jared Harris shines as King George, who in the last years of his life struggles with lung cancer and balancing political alliances with Winston Churchill (John Lithgow). Regardless of the petty fights and hierarchal trials, I developed a slight lack of empathy towards the cast of characters. As it is always quite apparent that they are living a life quite privileged from that of most, as seen in the episode “The Great Smog”. Churchill’s secretary Venetia Scott acts as a stand-in for the struggling public when she finally gains his attention and compassion after the smog affects his relationship with her.

The plot is quite slow which helps to highlight the extraordinary production value as well as the top quality acting. The production value extends to the great directing and cinematography that underscores the postwar mood. This involves capturing the old establishment that Elizabeth and others are trying to breakup for more progressive change. The show grasps onto some historical events and timelines making it a treat for history nerds and anglophiles alike.

The Crowns’ first season shows that Netflix has been able to expertly evolve in the production of their original shows. While the Crown rivals the production value of other historically based originals like Marco Polo it does not feel as weighed down by their factors, relying on the subtle acting of its leads and light dialogue. It will be interesting to see if it can continue to evolve with season two as history unfolds.

The Crown  is available to stream on Netflix with subscription.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

I’ve been wanting to check out Me and Earl and the Dying Girl after hearing great festival reviews when it was released early last year. The film focuses on high school senior Greg, who has managed to evade the social hierarchy of high school for the past three years while never really allowing himself to be vulnerable – like never setting foot in the lunch room.

Along with his friend (who he calls his co-worker) Earl, Greg makes pun styled remakes of classic movies to pass the time. Greg believes he can continue to skate by senior year until his mother (played by the always brilliant Connie Britton) forces him to visit Rachel, a family friend who was just diagnosed with leukemia. Greg begrudgingly goes to hang out with Rachel, and soon discovers that he actually likes spending time with her. Soon Greg starts visiting Rachel every day and a friendship develops. Eventually Greg and Earl are commissioned to make a video to raise Rachel’s spirits as she continues to get sicker. In an effort not to make it a cliche get well video, Greg has a writers block. He does this while alienating Earl and many people at school in the process. While I won’t give away Rachel’s fate, she helps Greg to grow up and leave his self-imposed bubble in more ways than one.

The film has a charming “Wes Anderson” like feel to it with the director filming in 2:35 widescreen. The color scheme has a lot of soft pastel colors and light greens throughout the set design. The editing also reflects the theme with steady long shots and weird angles. The setting of Pittsburgh and the houses that were used also captured a perfect snapshot of suburban America and the angst and boredom that is associated with high school.

One of the highlights of the film is the amazing adult supporting cast. Connie Britton and Nick Offerman are excellent as Greg’s quirky but slightly overbearing parents and Molly Shannon is perfect at balancing grief and rage as Rachel’s wine loving mother. The young and relatively unknown teenage cast of Greg (Thomas Mann), Rachel (Olivia Cooke), and Earl (R.J Cuyler) also stand on their own and deliver very touching and nuanced performances about growing up and viewing mortality.

The film is a touching, slightly quirky, and very real take on teenage heartbreak and growing up. With a stellar cast and a fresh plot the film will make you laugh, cry, and reminisce about your teenage angst all in one sitting.

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is available to stream on HBO Go with subscription.