Friday, September 10, 2021

Weekend Screen Scene: Fauci, Everybody's Talking About Jamie, Language Lessons

One may initially assume a documentary focused on Dr. Anthony Fauci, coming out right now, is a case of filmmakers exploiting a terrible moment in history. But work on the National Geographic-produced documentary Fauci started before the pandemic even began. And frankly, I can't imagine the film would be quite as compelling as it is without the addition of our more recent history.

It's a good introduction to the man and his long career with the National Institutes of Health, with Fauci telling most of his own story, and family and co-workers filling in some color. The film jumps around in time, with the primary focus given to his work during the AIDS crisis and the current Covid-19 pandemic, reminding us that Fauci has always had people screaming for his firing. The difference between then and now is when AIDS activists were demanding that Fauci be fired, they still believed in science, and were demanding expediency in research and drug development. A far cry from the reasons some Americans think he should be fired now.

I don't think Fauci is going to convert any of his detractors, but for anyone who really didn't know much about him before this past year, it's both an entertaining and illuminating documentary. (And I hope it gets an Academy Award, just to piss of his haters.)

Fauci is now playing in select theaters and will begin streaming on Disney+ on October 6th.

Everybody's Talking About Jamie, the new film based on the stage musical of the same name, which in turn was based on the short documentary Jamie: Drag Queen at 16,  is, and I hate to say it. a drag. And not in the way I'd expected.

And I really hate to say that about a movie that is so earnest, and has such an uplifting message! Max Harwood gives an engaging performances as Jamie, a gay teenager in Sheffield, England, who wants to become a drag queen, and debut his new persona at his school's prom. But there is nothing surprising about how the school, his classmates, and some of his family initially react to this goal, or how it all turns out. A musical about an outcast who's eventually accepted and celebrated? I've never seen that before!

And, again, I feel terrible having such a negative reaction to a story that was actually true, but if any of the numbers were engaging, or the songs particularly memorable, I'd be singing a different tune. It's a strangely inert musical. Plus, Jamie's one moment of actual drag performance, while good, is woefully brief. What Jamie needs is more Mimi Me and less woe-is-me.

Everybody's Talking About Jamie is currently playing in select theaters and will begin streaming on Amazon Prime on September 17th.

I first noticed Nathalie Morales in the (woefully underappreciated) TV series The Middleman, and I've enjoyed her in everything I've seen her in since. She makes her directorial debut with Language Lessons, a comedy co-written with co-star Mark Duplass, making the best of pandemic production constraints by setting up a storyline that requires the two stars to perform for the camera, but not together. She plays CariƱo, a Spanish teacher offering lessons over video chat, and he's her initially reluctant student.

Despite the gimmick requiring them to remain separated in their own little square boxes, the two have good chemistry, and the film provides genuine laughs while also hitting some unexpected emotional notes. Hopefully this little film gives Morales the chance to do something even bigger.

Language Lessons is currently playing in select theaters.

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