The Bock’s Office: Lots of love films available for Valentine viewing
February 11, 2016
Valentine's Day: a portion of the calendar devoted to romance that also happens to occur right in the dead of winter. No wonder Hollywood has so many love stories out this time of year. Whether your tastes have you wanting to flock to theaters to see Nicholas Sparks fare "The Choice," the rom-com "How to Be Single" or the alternative period piece "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" — Jane Austen absolutely would have written Elizabeth Bennet as a slayer of the undead if she had thought of it — remember there is a bounty of options, many that have been released in the past year or two.
"Welcome to Me"
When she wins a sizable lottery jackpot, a mentally unstable woman named Alice (Kristen Wiig) makes the only sensible choice someone can make with $86 million — she buys herself a TV show, a block of time for her to express herself and all that's on her mind.
Wiig is expectedly great as a lady whose search for love and acceptance takes many weird detours as she redefines the idea of the talk show with reenactments of her life that she alters to suit how she'd like to imagine things to a marathon neutering of pet dogs.
Though this certainly isn't a feature for everyone and should only be shared with someone as twisted as yourself, remember, even someone who only recognizes the world through a screen deserves a chance at happiness.
"Love & Mercy"
Middle-aged musician Brian Wilson (John Cusack) has spent years out of the spotlight, but when he meets auto salesperson Melinda Ledbetter (Elizabeth Banks), his stalled life and career seem to be improving. However, as much as she begins to care for him, Melinda is concerned that Brian's doctor (Paul Giamatti) may be an obstacle to them being together and may be the cause of many of his problems.
Cusack is fine as the depressed former Beach Boy and Banks wonderful as the woman who eventually became his wife and manager, yet it's Paul Dano who's the true star as the young Brian, bursting with talent and promise as he embarks on creating the album "Pet Sounds," a creative breakthrough period that saw songs like "Wouldn't It Be Nice," "God Only Knows" and "Good Vibrations" but also came at a hefty cost of the songster's sanity.
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Besides being a better-than-average musical biopic, it's also a testament to the lengths some people will go to when it comes to someone who holds their heart.
"I'll See You in My Dreams"
Widowed retiree Carol (Blythe Danner) is hesitant to get back into the dating pool, which, at her age, seems to her a waste of time and an awkward experience altogether, preferring instead to stick to the routine she's had for many years.
Nevertheless, sparks fly when she meets a man (Sam Elliott), and reluctant though she may be, Carol finds herself coming out of her rut.
Warm and well-acted, this character study — with a star who hasn't gotten to play the lead role often enough in her career — reminds us that it's never too late to open yourself up to something or someone new.
On the week leading up to their anniversary party, long-time marrieds Kate and Geoff (Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay) receive some unsettling news regarding a relationship Geoff was in before the husband and wife ever met. On the surface, the minuscule piece of information changes nothing in their lives — and yet it changes everything as Geoff is suddenly thrown back into the past and Kate no longer understands or fully trusts the man she loves.
In an Oscar-nominated performance in this portrait of a marriage in crisis, Rampling speaks volumes often without saying a word as a woman whose pleasant life is thrown into disarray as she stews with uncertainty and jealousy, questioning the last four-and-a-half decades and the man she's spent it with, while Courtenay is just as good as the guy who doesn't realize how hurtful he's being by dwelling on the past and creating a barrier that might be irremovable.
"Far from the Madding Crowd"
In 1870s Britain, Bathsheba Everdene (Carey Mulligan) finds independence upon inheriting her uncle's estate and successfully managing his sheep farm with the help of an experienced shepherd (Matthias Schoenaerts). Though she's made it a point to not fall victim to love, a wealthy neighbor (Michael Sheen) and a dashing soldier (Tom Sturridge) are among the possible suitors in her future, as well as the poor but dedicated farmhand who has become her confidant.
A stunning adaptation of Thomas Hardy's classic book, this ravishing drama captures all the beauty of rural of rural England, as well as the feminist undertones that become more relevant over the years.
Plus, let's not forget that a valentine figures prominently into the plot here.
In 1950s Manhattan, department store shopgirl Therese (Rooney Mara) strikes up an unexpected friendship with an older woman named Carol (Cate Blanchett) when the elegant sophisticate employs her services while purchasing Christmas presents.
What begins as something very casual becomes something much more as Carol turns to Therese for support while in the midst of a divorce due to "irreconcilable differences" from her husband (Kyle Chandler) and an ongoing child custody battle.
Though nowhere near as shocking as it must have been when written by Patricia Highsmith 60 years ago under the title "The Price of Salt," this look at a lesbian relationship when such things were not discussed in public is emotionally engrossing and stunningly shot as filmmaker Todd Haynes returns to the kind of "behind closed doors" look at the upper middle class he first approached with "Far From Heaven."
The actresses in question are typically phenomenal in a story that adjusts the original perspective — only seeing things from Therese's point of view — to make a balanced look at two different women finding a soul mate despite many complications.
Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.