Here are three things I’ve watched recently as we continue sheltering at home…
I am sick of movies and TV shows revolving around the sudden disappearance of someone’s wife or daughter (it’s never a son or husband), so when “American Woman” came out in 2018, I skipped it. Now that I’ve seen it, I admit that was a big mistake. It could have been a cliche-ridden story of Debra, a young, single mother whose teenage daughter Bridget (Sky Ferreira) vanishes without a trace one night. But thanks to the prodigious talents of Sienna Miller, the character becomes so much more. In Brad Ingelsby’s script, not only does Debra have to raise her grandson alone (like her, Bridget got pregnant at 16 and raised the child without the father around), she also has to deal with men in her life who keep failing her, not to mention a mother (Amy Madigan) who continually berates her for making bad life decisions. The only support Debra can count on comes from her sister, Katherine (Christina Hendricks), and brother-in-law, Terry (Will Sasso), who live across the street. In the midst of all of this, Miller — on screen throughout almost the entire movie — gives her greatest performance yet. As directed by Jake Scott, she imbues Debra with the soul of a survivor as she tries to keep things together despite the obstacles life throws at her. As I sympathized with her story, I couldn’t take my eyes off Miller (and not just because she and I were both in “Mississippi Grind”). It was also nice to see Aaron Paul show up about halfway through in a supporting role. Having missed “American Woman” in its initial release, I was happy to catch it streaming on HBO Max.
I also missed “Halt and Catch Fire” during its four-season run on AMC, but I’ve begun to catch up with it and like what I see. It’s the story of some very smart people who tried to revolutionize home computers in the early 1980s, when IBM was about to lose its grip as the most dominant player in the field. The cast — led by Lee Pace, Mackenzie Davis, Scoot McNairy, and Kerry Bishé — is eminently watchable, with the women easily stealing every scene they’re in. I am particularly impressed with Davis, who was so good in Jason Reitman’s “Tully” (which I reviewed here) and Jon Stewart’s “Irresistible” (which I reviewed here). I’m only ten episodes into “Halt and Catch Fire,” but looking forward to the remaining thirty via the AMC app.
“Speed Cubers” is a short (45-minute) documentary about young people who compete to see who can be the fastest to solve a Rubik’s Cube. Having tried and failed a few times, I’m amazed at their ability to see a random pattern, apply an algorithm they’ve stashed away in their brain, and get the job done in under ten seconds. The movie focuses on Feliks and Max, two competitors from different continents who became friends and cheered each other on to global competitions. Feliks, the Australian, comes off as a truly remarkable kid, not just because he dominated the events for a decade, but then developed a friendship with Max, the American with autism, who revered him even as he broke all of his records. “Speed Cubers” is a wonderful, family-friendly documentary that’s streaming on Netflix.