The Wedding Plan

An Israeli film with dialogue spoken in Hebrew, The Wedding Plan is a romantic comedy that is able to transcend the genre by providing a unique and creative twist and a charismatic performance by the lead actress. Michal, portrayed by the Israeli actress Noa Koler, is an Orthodox Jewish woman in her early thirties who is finally about to get married after so many desperate years but encounters a serious problem a month before the wedding when her husband calls it off. Adamant to not be single, she decides to leave her fate up to God by continuing to plan to get married on the day that was she was supposed to have her wedding. Despite the urging of her mother and sister not to go ahead with the quite unusual plan, Michal keeps the wedding hall booking in Jerusalem even though she does not have a groom because she has full faith that God will provide her a suitable match in time. Her outlandish decision leads to several comic moments as she employees two Jewish matchmakers who set her up on several blind dates with some fairly unusual men. At one point during the movie, she takes a pilgrimage to Ukraine at the tomb of a famous rabbi where she runs into a dreamy yet unsuitable famous Israeli pop star who eventually falls in love with her. Her family becomes increasingly nervous as the day approaches, but Michal remains confident that everything will work out due to her fervent religiosity. On the day of her planned wedding, the 200 invited guests, along with a now very nervous Michal, awkwardly wait and see if a man will show up to marry her. Everyone is eventually greeted with an unexpected surprise that makes the festivities possible. Overall, I found it to be an interesting and sometimes funny film that mixes religion and romance in unorthodox fashion and showcases the acting performance of an actress who must portray a sometimes contradictory and overly zealous character. 

Paris Can Wait

Written and directed by first-time feature filmmaker Eleanor Coppola who is married to Academy Award-winning director Francis Ford Coppola, Paris Can Wait is a light-hearted romantic comedy that takes the audience on a frivolous yet pleasant journey through the beautiful French countryside. Diane Lane plays Anne who is married to an aloof successful movie producer, played by Alec Baldwin, and unexpectedly takes a two-day road trip from Cannes to Paris with her husband’s suave and charming French associate. Jacques, played by the French actor Arnaud Viard, is an easy-going debonair aficionado of fine wine, food, and art who takes Anne on a wonderfully scenic tour of his favorite parts of France and stops at exquisite restaurants and quintessentially French landmarks. Initially, she wants to get to Paris as soon as possible and feels awkward participating in such romantic activities with a flirtatious bachelor while she is married. Over the course of the film, she welcomes Jacques’ suggestions after realizing that the trip provides a much-needed distraction from her secretly unhappy life and largely unfulfilled marriage with her busy husband, a typical Alec Baldwin character. The movie reminds me of several other Diane Lane movies, particularly 2003’s Under the Tuscan Sun in which she leads a carefree existence in a beautiful foreign country. Overall, I found it to be a pleasing film full of joy and beauty that provides a welcome respite to the viewer’s dull daily life; it is a nice little movie that should not be taken too seriously. 

Their Finest

Set in 1940 in the midst of World War II in London, Their Finest is an entertaining wartime film blending charming characters with the serious plotline of creating cinematic propaganda to help the British war effort against the Nazi. The vibrant and nuanced Gemma Arterton plays a young secretary who finds herself becoming a screenwriter for British films promoting the Allied cause. Although she is in a complicated relationship with a struggling artist, she develops a close bond with the main screenwriter, played by Sam Claflin. They are enscripted to work on a dramatic romance revolving around the massive evacuation of British troops from Dunkirk in the summer of 1940. Greenlit by the British Ministry of Information, the film is able to add star power by encouraging an older and rather pompous actor, played brilliantly by Bill Nighy, who is struggling to find work after enjoying great success many years ago. Arterton’s character eventually falls in love with Claflin’s character while on location on the British coastline with a large group of witty and eccentric actors and crew members. Despite containing elements of comedy and endearing romance, the movie makes the audience aware that it is a story set during war by showing the tragic impact of the German bombardment of London and emphasizing the characters’ roles in creating propaganda to help defeat the Axis powers. Overall, I found it to be a thoroughly engaging film that highlights an often overlooked aspect of World War II and effectively develops sympathetic and charismatic characters, especially those of Gemma Arterton and Bill Nighy.

A United Kingdom

Based on an incredible true story, A United Kingdom is a beautifully crafted film with strong acting performances that tells a remarkable story of forbidden love. Set in the late 1940s, the story follows Seretse Khama, the black King of Bechuanaland (modern-day Botswana) and portrayed by David Oyelowo, and his controversial romantic relationship with a white British woman named Ruth Williams, played by Rosamund Pike, whom he met during his studies in London. To the chagrin of British authorities and his family and tribe back home, they eventually marry and move back to his hometown in Africa to officially become the king of his people. The British government fear that the interracial couple will interfere with politics, particularly the government’s relationship with South Africa, which just imposed apartheid criminalizing interracial marriage. It is believed that South Africa could use the marriage as a pretext to invade colonial Botswana, or the British could lose out on the potential for oil and other minerals in the region. Despite opposition, internationally, and from Khama’s own powerful uncle who served as regent, they steadfastly refuse to divorce, and they start their own family in Bechuanaland even though they are threatened with exile and a lengthy separation from one another. At one point during a meeting with British authorities, he is not allowed to leave England and cannot visit his wife who is still in Africa. Their case to be allowed to live in his beloved homeland as ruler makes its way all the way through the British Parliament and is even discussed by Winston Churchill. The movie is especially poignant because it tells a truly extraordinary story I have never heard of about injustice and race relations that feels particularly relevant in today’s divisive political climate. It is made even more powerful as a result of the terrific performances of the two main lead actors whose chemistry makes the characters’ profound love feel realistic. Overall, I found it to be a must-see film about how forbidden love due to unjust laws can be overcome, with brilliant filmmaking and acting to boot.

Passengers

Directed by Oscar-nominated director Morten Tyldum who is best known for 2015’s The Imitation Game, Passengers is a fairly good and visually appealing sci-fi film that ultimately falls short of its lofty potential with its casting of Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. Set in the future when intergalactic travel is possible, Chris Pratt plays Jim Preston, a mechanical engineer from Earth who mysteriously wakes up too early from hibernation on his way to the distant colonial planet of Homestead II. Over time, he falls in love with the only other passenger to accidentally wake up, a beautiful young woman named Aurora who is played by Jennifer Lawrence. After their relationship begins on a rather controversial foot, they discover that something is very wrong with the spaceship they are traveling on with 5,000 other hibernating passengers. If they do not come up with a solution, the two are faced with spending the rest of their lives in space since they are supposed to reach their destination in 90 years. Although they are surrounded by luxurious amenities and a friendly robotic bartender named Arthur, played by Michael Sheen, they are desperate to find a way to go back into hibernation. The highlight of the movie is the terrific chemistry between Lawrence and Pratt, two of the hottest actors today whose charisma and attractiveness make their on-screen love interest more appealing. Also, the modern sets and props, accentuated by CGI, give the film a realistic and polished vision of future space travel. Overall, despite the visually arresting aesthetic, the movie never fully takes off and is beset by a slow pace with very little action, unusual for a Hollywood sci-fi blockbuster with such a high budget and talented actors.

Rules Don’t Apply

Directed by Academy Award-winning director Warren Beatty, Rules Don’t Apply is a light-hearted film presenting a glorified look into early Hollywood through a fictionalized romance between a starlet and driver in the employ of billionaire Howard Hughes. Set in 1950s and 1960s Hollywood, the story follows the young and religious Frank Forbes, portrayed by rising star Alden Ehrenreich, who moves to Los Angeles in hopes of getting a wealthy benefactor to finance a real estate project. As the driver for many young actresses under contract with Hughes’ movie studio, Forbes falls in love with one of these women, a young and naive actress named Marla, played by the fresh-faced Lily Collins. While this budding romance, strictly forbidden by their boss, surreptitiously unfolds, we witness the hilariously absurd behavior of the notoriously peculiar Howard Hughes, played by Warren Beatty in his first acting role in almost 15 years. Over the course of the movie, Forbes, along with another driver played by Matthew Broderick, becomes a close confidant to the obscenely wealthy business executive, aviator, and movie producer who is evidently plagued with a whole host of mental problems. Much of the film’s charm comes from the zany and often laughable antics of Hughes, whether it be ordering several hundred gallons of banana nut ice cream or hiding away in a hotel suite. At times, the plot seems to be all over the place and too reliant on poking fun of Hughes. Although it looks nice on camera and is filled with a wide range of Hollywood A-listers, the movie does not feel as polished and satisfying as some of Warren Beatty’s other works. It comes across as more of a piece of nostalgia harking back to the pinnacle of Beatty’s career as an international sex symbol in the 1960s and 1970s. It also seems like a platform for many famous actors and actresses to simply have the opportunity to cameo in a movie alongside such a highly respected figure as Warren Beatty. Overall, the film does contain entertaining moments that work as cheap laughs deriving from the quirky nature of Hughes, but it ultimately falls short of the high expectations set by the return of such a talent as Warren Beatty. It should not be treated as more than a superficially amusing comedy whose greatest asset is Beatty’s depiction of the exceptionally strange historical figure Howard Hughes.

Allied

Directed by Robert Zemeckis who is best known for the 1994 Academy Award-winning film Forrest Gump, Allied takes an unusual twist on the World War II-set Hollywood blockbuster by making it a predominantly romantic movie. The film starts in Nazi-controlled French Morocco in 1942 where we meet a Canadian intelligence officer, played by Brad Pitt, who is on a secret mission to assassinate a high-ranking German official. As part of his cover, he works closely with a beautiful French Resistance fighter, played by the Oscar-winning French actress Marion Cotillard. Eventually, they fall in love and get married after moving to London several months after their operation. Besides the constant bombardment of London from German bombers, the couple leads a rather normal life and even become parents to a daughter amidst an air raid. However, things begin to go awry after Pitt’s character is informed by his British military intelligence boss that his beloved wife may in fact be a Nazi spy. Extremely wary of what he is told about the woman he loves, he breaks protocol and decides to take matters into his own hands by personally uncovering the truth. Over the course of the movie, there are several thrilling scenes resembling a traditional war film, especially during their mission and the bombing of London, but, at its heart, it is a love story. Although with much higher stakes, it is essentially about times when one’s relationships are tested and who can one really trust when several allegiances overlap. Undoubtedly two good-looking people who are international superstars, Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard lend the film a certain quality of sexiness, which makes their on-screen chemistry even more appealing. Overall, I found it to be an enjoyable cinematic experience that was surprisingly more of a romance than I expected from a movie about German spies at the height of World War II.