Category: Drama

As much as I enjoyed the movie, I am a little embarrassed to admit I did not follow the movie through and through. As the credits begin to roll down on the black screen, my mind was still struggling to recapitulate the gist of the movie. I somehow felt let-down by the ending of this superbly intricate and involving drama. On some level I desired something more from the climax, on another I can’t think of an appropriate ending on my own.

Sam Mendes’ directorial Debut, American beauty portrays the life and challenges of an American household and the dark side of the culture where your outward projection matters the most. He achieves the desired effect through a number of characters as they interact with each other and face internal conflicts. American Beauty is a character-dominant and dialogue driven movie, these elements forming the heart and soul of the film.

We have 42 yr old Lester Burnham played by Kevin Spacey whose only high time of the day is when he jerks off in his shower. His wife Carolyn (Annette Burnham) and his daughter Jane (Thora Birch) despise him and treat him as non-existent. Carolyn spends all her efforts and energy in creating and portraying a thriving and up-class image, whereas Jane is a usual girl passing through the teenage phase with fear and uncertainties, who finds herself utterly unattractive and loathes her parents and their constant bickering. Their just arrived neighbors are Col. Fitts of US Marine corps who lives his life by rules and disciplines, his lifeless wife who lives like a vegetable and their teenage son Ricky Fitts (Wes Bentley) who lives under strict scrutiny of his father, works as a drug-dealer and loves to film everything that he finds appealing and beautiful.

As Lester’s lackluster life gets even more disastrous on account of being fired and as he fights to take a decision, he meets Jane’s teenage friend Angela (Mena Suvari) who plays the Lolita in Lester’s sex-starved life.  With Angela as the catalyst, Lester begins to bring a series of small and then major changes in his life and his life-style. Lester quits his job along with a hefty settlement on the threat of blackmailing, takes a job with least responsibilities at a burger joint, begins to work-out to get back into good physique and shape, makes a manly arrival on his home-front and he actually begins to enjoy his life alone.

As Carolyn strives to present an image of success and perfection, she meets somebody just like her and falls for him, leading to an affair. Ricky and Jane, two damaged and deserted teenagers find solace in each other’s company and plan to flee in order to start a new life. Col. Fitts, too scared to express his true-self, lives a double-faced life and Angela, too scared to be ordinary, pretends to be someone she is not.

As all these characters with their complex nature and problems intertwine, we witness their quest for beauty and happiness in their lives and their final outcomes in the face of adverse situations.

American beauty is a beautiful depiction of the impact of the societal norms on humans and their relations. How Jane becomes a damaged child because of non-attentive parents and how Ricky makes devious arrangements to escape his father’s vigilant eyes. How Angela becomes an element of desire for Lester and how he comes out of his fanciful thoughts. The movie gives us some of the most thought-provoking one-lines for the audience – “Never underestimate the power of denial” “It’s a great thing when you realize you still have the ability to surprise yourself.” are a few to mention.

Along with the complexity that the movie showcases, it has as much element of humor (though dark !!!)  in the screenplay through its well-played and well-timed dialogues.  At no time, the movie becomes too serious or grim for the audience to enjoy it. Kevin Spacey is actually at his best with his humorous lines and amazing acting. Neither can you neglect any other character and their performance in the film.

I do not intend to be a spoiler here but I can’t resist from saying that the ending of the movie is what intrigued as well as disappointed me the most. Why did the movie end like this? What exactly is the director’s message behind such end? And the fact that I feel I am the only one asking these questions, definitely means I have missed some critical aspect of the movie. Add to that, why did the colonel kill Lester? Probably he saw the video made by his son, or he blamed him for his son’s behavior, more so he believed him to be a pedophile or probably because Lester learned the truth about the colonel. Add to that, I am sure I missed something in this movie that others did not.

A winner of 5 Oscars (Best actor in leading role – Kevin Spacey, Best cinematographer, Best Director –Sam Mendes, Best picture and best screenplay) and various other awards, the movie is definitely a must watch for its satirical, dark comedy wrapped screenplay and the perfect well-selected cast. Having said that, do I call it a flawless piece of work? Well, I doubt that….


I had a tough time believing that Changeling is inspired from a true story. As soon as I finished watching the movie, I immediately began a secondary research on its content. From what I gathered, I found it a pretty close depiction of the reality. Changeling has all the elements of a suspense thriller, drama and emotions in absolutely the right amount, and yet it’s not fiction. All the elements in the movie get woven so intricately and delicately that makes you challenge its origin.

Changeling is the story of a woman and her un-deterred resolution to stand against the system for justice. First “A might heart” and then this movie, Angelina Jolie definitely seems to be revamping her image as the tomb-raider and I can’t deny that she is doing a great job at that.

The story takes us back to Los Angeles in 1928 when LAPD ruled like a dictator, crime-rate reached an all-time high, media and newspapers question every move made by the federal agencies and common public was nothing but mute spectators. This is the time when Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie), a single mother to a 9 yr old boy (Walter Collins) and a hard-working & dedicated employee at the telegraph company does it all to maintain a balance in her personal and professional life; on one such day, when Christine gets home after her shift, she finds her son missing and untraceable. After neglecting the case for a while, desperation to establish a positive public image encourages LAPD to picks this up as the right opportunity to do some damage control by tracking down this lost boy. As lucky as they could be, they succeed in their endeavor to locate Walter, and decide to bring him home under all media-frenzy and attention. Ignoring all the fanfare, as Christine waits to be united with his son, she realizes, to her absolute horror, that the boy in front of her eyes is an impostor, or so she feels. Afraid that the whole episode might turn upside down and cause them negative publicity, police persuades Christine about the boy’s identity and so does the boy. In her deluded state, Christine takes the boy home, but with every passing moment she is more convinced about the boy’s mistaken identity. As Christine struggles to take her case ahead, she gets supported by Rev. Gustav (John Malkovich), a popular radio preacher who fights against the LAPD. Christine gets thrown in the mental asylum for her display of audacity and undergoes physical and mental humiliation, where she learns that most of the patients in that ward are admitted on account of similar reasons as hers.

As Christine struggles in the asylum, around the same time, somewhere around US Canada border, a juvenile gets picked for illegal trespassing and is taken into police custody. What look like a simple illegal entry across US borders has a horrifying story behind it and as the terrifying story unravels, we come face to face with one of the most outrageous murder massacres in history, known as “The Wineville Chicken Coop Murders”, named after the chicken farm where the heinous crime was committed.

Once the reality is revealed to the common public, Christine and many other victims are freed out of the asylum with the help of Rev. Gustav. As Christine struggles to get hold of the reality, she decides to stand against all the injustice done to her and move the whole system. We witness court-showdowns, a psychotic killer’s capital punishment, the LAPD’s shameful state and a grief-stricken mother’s never-ending search for his son.

Years pass-by and Christine continues the search for her missing son. The year is 1935 and Christine is working late in the office when she receives a strange phone call from another victim of the massacre. What Christine hears and sees probably becomes an inspiration for her for a lifetime. It touches my heart that a woman has forever been in search for her most-prized possession and secretly I want her optimism to be awarded.

Yes it’s a woman oriented movie, which by itself gives it a huge shot at success. Yes it has Angelina Jolie, who, surprisingly, does a good job at playing a grief-stricken mother from yelling to howling, desperation to rage. But still it’s not “any other movie” for me. Clint Eastwood definitely deserves credit for some excellent direction work. The star-cast is superb, with each character playing its part just flawless, be it the lunatic murderer or the corrupt police officer. The colors and theme are just appropriate to set the mood for that era and the movie, though based on a slow pace, keeps you wondering “What’s next”. However, there are certain scenes that increase the tension and then break it without delivering the expected; that makes you wonder at the necessity of certain long and dragging scenes, one such to mention is the scene where the murderer is being hanged.

Nevertheless, it doesn’t come as a surprise at all that the movie was nominated for 3 Oscars for art direction, cinematography and lead role actress.  For the brilliant art-work, acting and direction, and the terrifying tales from the past, this movie definitely deserves to be watched.

“A beautiful Mind” presents an engaging, captivating, well-crafted screen-play and true life account of a Nobel Laureate, a brilliant mathematician and an erratic paranoid schizophrenic – Professor. John Nash.

The story begins with a rude and conceited Princeton student John (Russell Crowe) who is too aware of his gifted mind and too engrossed in accomplishing something out of the world. His teachers ignore him for his attitude and he has no friends in the college but his prodigal (so he calls!) roommate Charles (Paul Bettany).

So at the time when all his class-mates are busy preparing mundane thesis on all-common subjects, John decides to carry a research paper on one of the most absurd topics  – a thesis on the foundations of game theory,  which lies forgotten for a long time.

John becomes a sought-after mathematical wizard for his aptitude to break codes and life-engaging, real-time situations in no time; but nothing on earth happens to quench John’s thirst for doing the extra-ordinary and his only refuge lies in his college roommate Charles. Once he just happens to be returning from a confidential assignment at Pentagon, and that is when he gets approached by an incognito Agent William Parcher (Ed Harris) from CIA for doing some highly-classified cryptographical work for the government, which he readily accepts. Employed as a teaching faculty at the MIT University and immersed in the under-cover work, John ignores his scheduled classes and insults his students. This continues till one particularly challenged student dares to rise up and tries to involve John in to the regular events of the society. Alicia (Jeniffer Connelly), John’s student, immediately develops a liking for him and they both fall in love, followed by marriage and a baby boy. As much as John loves his family, he desperately fails to keep his personal and professional life distinct and the latter begins to interfere with the former, leading to life threatening situation for his loved once.

As John struggles to make the right choice for himself, what unfolds is both dramatic and unbelievable for him, his friends and his family. As we move ahead, we witness a man who struggles at the loss of his lifetime identity and feels embarrassed for his inability to perform simple tasks, a wife who gets scared and terrified while dealing with a life-long situation and yet refuses to leave his husband’s side in the hour of need and we witness friends who truly want to help his friend get back on his feet in his life and receive the honor he truly deserves.

As John learns to respect human relations, and learns to become part of social behavior, we witness John becoming one of the most profound personalities in the history of mathematics who formulated one of the most break-through theories.

Based loosely on the book of the same name by Sylvia Nasar, A beautiful mind is truly the story of a beautiful mind that is gifted in the most extra-ordinary way for the best and the worst, a mind that creates and solves the most mystical equations and solutions and in the end, learns to live with the reality and fiction that becomes an inseparable part of his life.  There are certainly no doubts that the movie bagged 4 Oscars in 2002, for Best picture, Best director (Ron Howard) and best actress in supporting role (Jennifer Connelly), and best screenplay (Akiva Goldsman). However, you tend to wonder how and why Russell Crowe missed it despite his brilliant depiction and involvement in the character.

My personal favorites are the scene when John sits in the university cafeteria and everyone around comes over and offers him their pens on the table as a symbol of respect and gratitude; and of course the beautiful speech that he renders at his award ceremony, which I can read/see again and again:

“I’ve always believed in numbers and the equations and logics that lead to reason.

But after a lifetime of such pursuits, I ask, “What truly is logic? Who decides reason?”

My quest has taken me through the physical, the metaphysical, the delusional — and back.

And I have made the most important discovery of my career, the most important discovery of my life: It is only in the mysterious equations of love that any logic or reasons can be found.

I’m only here tonight because of you [his wife, Alicia].

You are the reason I am. You are all my reasons. ”

Eat Pray Love (2010)

Eat Pray Love is a classic example of what happens to a lot of bestseller-inspired movies. Somewhere in the onscreen transformation the crux is under-communicated and the impact is lost. So we end up watching an unstructured, loose-ended and uninteresting movie.

Eat Pray Love is the story of a woman and her quest for peace, love, her own identity and above all God.

Married yet alone, settled but sad, resolute but fickle-minded, Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts), a successful writer, finds herself in a mid-life crisis. To find out what future holds for her, she visits a fortune-teller in Bali. Ketut, a timid and old guy, narrates her past and predicts her future. He foretells her two marriages, her loss of everything in life, its comeback and her second visit to Bali to meet him again.

As Liz is back in New York, she finds the predictions to be coming true. She decides to end marriage with her 8-years beau Stephen, who loves her dearly and is not ready to part ways with her. Out of her marriage and a bitter divorce, and into an affair with David (James Franco), a struggling actor, Liz is introduced to Guru Gita – a spiritual leader, by David. Realizing lack of passion and enthusiasm in her second relationship as well, Liz desperately wants to break the monotony of her life from one man to another, and come out of the downward spiral of her life. Intuitively, she decides to go on a purposeless and fancy visit to Italy, India and then Bali.

So here we see a divorced single women, going on a backpack vacation with all her savings, staying in rented accommodations, meeting new people, making friends, learning their culture, teaching them hers and appreciating the beauty of life. She learns the importance to self-nourishment, praying and meditation, and finally finding true love.

In Italy, she learns Italian, adores their cuisine and stuffs herself with food and learns the “art of doing nothing”. She visits places, draws parallels to her life, and struggles to find a word that describes her. In India, she visits Guru Gita’s ashram and tries to find peace and contentment through meditation, selfless devotions and prayers. But no matter how hard she tries, she cannot forget her past, and cannot forgive herself for having broken her relations.

And finally she goes back to Bali to meet Ketut where she eventually finds her balance. She meets a guy and falls for her, but fears to be in a relationship again.

Eat pray love tries to present a philosophical view to life, but gets really dull and uninteresting. The movie continues at the same pace, with no “up and down” moments. The idea of rejuvenation and revival in Liz’s life does not get reflected as it should have been. The insipid thoughts and philosophical content provides distraction from the movie and looks deliberately embedded. To add to all that,  the movie continues for a long two and a half hour, leaving to exasperated and tired.

You might need to be really having a downhill life journey to appreciate the movie. Still better, you can read the book. Eat Pray Love is a “sit watch forget” movie.

Philadelphia (1993)

Directed by Jonathan Demme, the winner of Academy award 1992 for “The Silence of the Lambs”, what sets “Philadelphia” in a different league is that it is the first commercial Hollywood movie to touch the then taboo subject of homosexuality and AIDS. Set-up in the 80-90s, when AIDS was the disease of the untouchables and the society was homophobic; Philadelphia handles both the issues with subtlety yet authority.

At the centre of the plot is Andrew Beckett aka Andy (Tom Hanks), an excellent lawyer at the prestigious Wheeler Firm in Philadelphia. Andy leaves no stone unturned in his efforts to conceal two major things about his personal life: one – he is a homosexual and two – he is suffering from AIDS. Just when he is being promoted by the firm to handle a big and important client, one of the partner notices a lesion on his face, particular to AIDS patients. Immediately after, Andy gets fired by the company on account of charges of incompetency, deliberately setup against him. Andy now wants to sue his employers against charges of discrimination.  After being refused by several firms for representation, Andy meets Joe Millers (Denzel Washington), who also on first meeting refuses him but later changes his mind after a chance encounter with him in a library. Six months later, the trial begins, causing a media furore for having two scandalous issues, at its core. With not much evidence in his favour, and his debilitating medical conditions, Andy doubts if he will be there to see the end of the trial. Just after he is being rushed to the hospital from the courtroom, the jury comes out with an expected but surprisingly tough verdict.

The emotions in the movie are just played to the right part, with not being overdone at any moment. You love the movie just from the onset with the Bruce Sprinsteen’s “Streets of Philadelphia”.  The casualness with which Andy says “I have got AIDS” is amazing. Andy’s family, friends and Antonio Banderas as Miguel, Andy’s homosexual partner play their small but significance part well.

 Miller’s withdrawal from Andy after knowing his medical condition speaks about the mental disposition of the general public towards AIDS, so does the librarians insistence to Andy for using a private research room and the Wheeler firm partners comments “Andy brought AIDS to our office and to our men’s room”. Also the public humour and humiliation that Miller faces for defending and supporting a homosexual speaks of the biased and demeaning attitude towards this subject. His courtroom outburst at homosexuality speaks for itself.

The script comes with a lot of decent punches and good quotes. You can’t help noticing Miller’s “Explain it to me like a two-year old…..”, his public image as the “TV guy”, and his strong change of opinion towards homosexuals. Andy’s “It’s exciting being part of justice being done”, his depiction of the opera and his honesty in the courtroom impresses you tremendously. So does his delivery as the wasting and dying patient. It comes as no surprise that Tom Hanks won the Oscars for “The Best Actor in Leading Role” 1994.

In today’s scenario, the movie might give the impression of being clichéd and mundane but back then it was definitely a trendsetter.  

For those of you who don’t know – The movie is inspired by the story of Geoffrey Bowers, an attorney who sued his employer “Baker and McKenzie” for his dismissal in 1987.

For Bollywood Lovers – Bollywood movie “Phir Milenge” (Starring: Salman Khan, Shilpa Shetty, Abhishek Bachchan) seems to be inspired from this movie though with a slightly different treatment. Another Bollywood movie “My brother.. Nikhil” (Starring: Sanjay Suri, Juhi Chawla) discusses AIDS and homosexuality together.

12 Angry Men (1957)

Sometimes when you sit down for an old time movie, you are not very sure what to expect coz you doubt its relevance to the contemporary world. That’s not the case with this movie. 12 Angry Men is undoubtedly one of the most amazing movies of all times.

It’s the story of 12 diverse men, who are brought together as the jury for a murder trial of an adolescent boy in a low-class locality of the town. The case appears to be absolutely open-and-shut, with all the evidences against the accused.  It’s an extremely hot day; every jury member wants to be done with his responsibility as the juror at the earliest and exit the scene. All the jury members vote in favour of the accused being guilty, except one Mr. Davis, Juror No.8 (Henry Fonda) on account of his reasonable doubt. His conviction for not sending an innocent man to the electric chair manages to change everybody’s disposition towards the case, slowly but persistently. They sit together in the closed room and discuss all the aspects of the case from various angles, bringing in their perspective on various issues and even doing mock-demonstration to view the possibilities. It brings to limelight the differences among the jurors in terms of their personality, biases, socio-culture, decision making, ignorance and indifference. After a series of discussion, debate, verbal assaults and threatening, the jury finally reaches a verdict, a verdict based on sound reasoning and logic rather than on the views presented in the court.

It is just amazing how the whole movie, being shot in one room, manages to grip you throughout. The narration of the whole murder trial, as well its evidences and witnesses from the jurors itself, rather than through the court proceedings is so succinct and clear, without anything being shown in first person. All the actors, despite not be introduced by their names, and addressed just by their number make a distinct mark on you in terms of their characteristics. I also love the ending of the movie, with the verdict being presented from the juror’s viewpoint, with no explanation whatsoever about the reality of the case.

The movie portrays the flaws in the judicial system which forcibly assigns a reluctant  lawyer to a case who sees no fame, no money in cases like this, where jurors just want to superficially fulfil their duty and where a slum-dwelling adolescent is subjected to prejudices, just to name a few.

My advice to you – don’t miss this classic drama. It’s worth the 95 minutes it runs for.

It’s surprising that the movie did not win any academy awards despite having 3 nominations, with no nomination for Henry Fonda for his lead role. But then these three awards went to another must watch classics of those times, whose review will shortly follow.  

For those of you who don’t know – The movie is inspired from a teleplay by Reginald Rose who acted as one of the co-producers of the movie.