Touching story about interracial marriage is slow moving, but solid performances and a timely...
“Loving” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.
Happiness is such an important part of existence that the right to pursue it is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States. But as the old bit of wisdom goes, my right to throw punches ends at your nose. What happens when someone’s right to pursue happiness results in the physical harm of another?
In the case of the “Trolls” that give the movie its title, harm is an understatement. They face death at the hands of big, ogre-like creatures called Bergens. The reason that the large and imposing Bergens feast on the comparatively puny Trolls is because Bergens have been told that the only way they can be happy is to eat a Troll, who are the most naturally happy creatures in existence (they even have light up reminders on their wrists to tell them when it’s “hug time”).
Another message hammered home pretty well is about finding happiness, and that happiness isn’t something you eat, or something you have, it’s who you are. The Bergens are brainwashed into believing that the only way they can be happy is through consuming Trolls. This is of course not true. Not even the happiest Troll cannot fill the void of unhappiness inside of the most miserable Bergen. It is up to the Bergens to make themselves happy. The parallels to our consumer culture in the United States are subtle and understated, but there for anyone who cares to notice them. Whether or not kids will pick up on this theme depends on the kid, but the seeds will at least be planted, and unlike some of the crap that’s put into kids’ minds by media, these are good lessons to learn. Amidst all of the colorful singing and dancing, there is a powerful message at the heart of “Trolls” that is pretty crucial. Buy it on Amazon: Trolls [Blu-ray].
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The problem with “Loving” is the same problem of history textbooks. That is, we get the names of people and places, and learn of events, but it is never personalized in a way that makes us care about the people involved, or why we should listen to their story. We’re just told: This is important, here’s what happened. The movie is based on the landmark 1967 Supreme Court decision that invalidated any state’s anti-miscegenation laws. The married couple at the center of it, Richard and Mildred Loving (Joel Edgerton and Oscar nominee Ruth Negga), should have their story told in a dramatic, compelling way. They don’t.
Take for example Richard, played by Edgerton as if he looks like he’s suffering from chronic depression. Who knows, maybe Edgerton did some research and knows something about the character we don’t—it’s never explained in the movie. How did he feel about his life, about his job as a mason, the community he lived in—did he like it in spite of the hatred he received? That would make sense since he and Mildred insist on living there, even after they’re banned from the state of Virginia, but I’m just guessing. This is one of the most tight-lipped main characters in recent cinema history. I couldn’t tell you a darn thing about him (or Mildred for that matter) except for what they do as they are shuffled from scene to scene as years go by. The couple have three children. Don’t ask me to name them or tell you anything about them—they’re not important to the plot, so they’re little more than accessories.
Imposing character actor Michael Shannon has a cameo as a photographer for “Life” magazine. Shannon steals the movie for the scenes that he is in, not only because the character is so warm and personable, but also because he gets to tell a crazy story about how he was hired as a photographer for “Life.” We learn more about, and become more endeared to this cameo role character than we do to the main protagonists of the story. While the silver lining here is the fact that Shannon’s role offers proof that there really are no small parts, it’s a big problem for the movie.
My final annoyance with this movie is the lack of time frame. We are told in subtitle at the start of the movie that we begin in 1958. With the exception of the fact that clothes and cars change styles, and certain events play on the news, no other subtitle is given. At least history books make dates and years very clear. This movie does none of that. It’s even so lazy that at the end we are told that seven years after the Supreme Court decision, Richard was killed by a drunk driver. Yeah, that’s great info if we have our bearings and know the year of the Supreme Court case—without having to Google it. Would it really have been that hard for them to name a year? They eventually do point out that Mildred died in 2008. Why couldn’t they have done the same for Richard?
“Loving” is certainly an important story about an important Supreme Court case that forever altered the course of the United States. It is a story that deserves to be told. It just deserves to be told in a much more personal way that really brings these real people to life on screen, rather than one that treats them like pieces on a game board to be shuffled around. Stream it.
More New Releases: “Frank and Lola,” a movie that according to the cover is about love, obsession, betrayal, and revenge, starring Michael Shannon and Imogen Poots; “The Take,” starring Idris Elba on a butt-kicking anti-terrorist mission in France; “American Pastoral,” about a family torn apart over polarizing political views, starring Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly, and Dakota Fanning; and “The Alchemist Cookbook,” about a young loner out in the woods who messes with dark forces and pays the price.
Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.