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Humane (2024) – Movie Review

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Humane (2024) – Movie Review

Humane, 2024.

Directed by Caitlin Cronenberg.
Starring Jay Baruchel, Emily Hampshire, Peter Gallagher, Enrico Colantoni, Sebastian Chacon, Alanna Bale, Sirena Gulamgaus, Uni Park, Martin Roach, Blessing Adedijo, Joel Gagne, and Franckie Francois.

SYNOPSIS:

In the wake of an environmental collapse that is forcing humanity to shed 20% of its population, a family dinner erupts into chaos when a father’s plan to enlist in the government’s new euthanasia program goes horribly awry.

Humane takes a darkly fascinating, timely concept regarding ecological collapse and overpopulation, competently establishes some of that world-building that’s not too far off from a potentially bleak future reality, and then devolves into an hour of filthy rich siblings, most of whom are unlikeable, shouting at each other in an attempt to decide who they are going to sacrifice as part of an ongoing government-funded euthanasia cleansing.

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There is also nothing wrong with these characters being offputting and morally bankrupt when a sudden gathering organized by patriarch Charles York (Peter Gallagher) turns into an evening of survival, especially when there are military personnel and individuals even more psychotic overseeing the euthanasia process (a procedure with rewards that seemingly sets up the rest of one’s family financially for life), but the script from Michael Sparaga lacks characterization and complexity beyond one or two defining traits for each sibling. As a result, much of the backstabbing and betrayal between two particular siblings strains credibility and comes across as the screenplay looking to stretch the physical family feud long past its repetitive breaking point.

This is frustrating since, again, the hook grabs attention. Charles is a former celebrated news reporter who financially benefited from years of society ignoring climate change, among other pressing issues. Somewhat of a failure as a parent and husband, currently with a new partner named Dawn Kim (Uni Park), who has faced racism at extreme lengths of having her restaurant burned down (the script also mentions that for whatever reason, Asians, in general, have been made public enemy number one for the current disastrous state of the planet, without ever really expanding on that.) Charles cares deeply about his legacy. He is also looking for some form of redemption, so he signs himself and Dawn up for the euthanasia process while inviting his four adult children (one adopted son) over to say goodbye without explaining what the reunion is about.

The children are Jared’s (Jay Baruchel) government mouthpiece for the euthanasia program, Rachel’s (Emily Hampshire) sociopathic businesswoman who doesn’t realize or seem to care that her heartlessness gets her daughter Mia (Sirena Gulamgaus) endlessly bullied at school, recovering junkie and adopted son Noah (Sebastian Chacon) and aspiring actress Ashley (Alanna Bale.) Due to not knowing the nature of this reunion, Mia also ends up in the house. It is also established that Noah and Ashley are closer to one another than everyone else in this dysfunctional family.

Following dinner, Charles blurts out what is happening here; the euthanasia enforcements arrive, insisting that the family figure out a way to provide a second body since Dawn had run off before they arrived. Whether there is a deeper significance to that remains a mystery. There is no backing out, and the menacing ringleader, Bob (Enrico Colantoni), scrambles the Wi-Fi and is certain that these people are so selfish they will try to kill each other to ensure they are not the second death. He also makes clear that this group does not euthanize children (although the slimy Jared is seen on television early on promoting the idea, admitting that he would allow his teenage son to consider it), ordering his armed guards to bring Mia outside and into his van as insurance while the family decides what to do.

The euthanasia process is unsettlingly creepy, as fully seen during an opening prologue juxtaposed with an upbeat, cheerful song choice. The film consistently finds pockets to quickly drop tiny bits of information about this world and how the service is handled in the public eye, including gallows humor commercials thanking regular citizens for their suicide contributions.

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That’s all one way of saying Humane has the ingredients to be a sharp and socially aware takedown of the rich and a reflection of a grim, possible reality if everyone on this planet doesn’t get on the same page to do something about devastating global concerns. However, the film takes that intrigue and squanders it all on a sibling match of who can yell the loudest and survive the most injuries. Characters repeatedly try to kill each other, form alliances, betray one another, and show their worst sides in ways that don’t always feel believable, even for these wealthy, self-centered assholes. It becomes exhausting, and at one point, we side with the gleeful euthanizing murderer for trying to convince Mia that her mom is an awful person. Hilariously, it also tries to give that character a dramatic backstory while dropping the psychopathic behavior for roughly two minutes.

What Humane does have going for it is that it is the debut from Caitlin Cronenberg, and while this is a different kind of horror from what her father and brother would craft (and sometimes a black comedy with Jay Baruchel eliciting some laughs), the violence still has some body horror that fits right in with the family portfolio. Fingers are forced inside stab wounds, and blood squirts so often that it becomes confounding no one is dead yet. As a director, there should be interest in what she does next, preferably something with a stronger screenplay and layered characters.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★

Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com

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Chhaya Kadam: Earlier my name wouldn’t even be written in film reviews, now I have a Grand Prix winning film at Cannes

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Chhaya Kadam: Earlier my name wouldn’t even be written in film reviews, now I have a Grand Prix winning film at Cannes

This is clearly the year of Chhaya Kadam! After a great run with the actor’s earlier releases, Laapataa Ladies and Madgaon Express, her film All That We Imagine As Light became the first Indian film to win the Grand Prix at the recently concluded 77th Cannes Film Festival. One of her other films, Sister Midnight, was also screened at Directors Fortnight. Talking to us after the Grand Prix ceremony, Kadam exclaims, “It was the first Indian film to be screened at the main competition in 30 years, and we directly won an award! We had a story rooted in our motherland about women like us. For a subject like that to get selected here… I have no words.”

Actor Chhaya Kadam

Acknowledging her great run this year, she says, “People in Cannes also recognised me as Manju Mai (from Laapataa Ladies); they would say, ‘hey Manju Mai, Chhaya Kadam’.”

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Kadam’s tryst with acting began in 2006, then she went on to star in Marathi films such as Fandry (2013), Sairat (2016) and Nude (2018). “Earlier, my struggle was to get work; now it is for good work,” she shares, adding that it doesn’t end there. While she’s enjoying the fame now, there was a time when the actor’s work wasn’t recognised. “Earlier, film reviews would miss out on mentioning my name, even if my character was important. Bura toh bahut lagta tha. But then I thought I should work so hard that people are compelled to mention my name in their reviews,” she ends with a chuckle.

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Ezra (2024) – Movie Review

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Ezra (2024) – Movie Review

Ezra, 2024.

Directed by Tony Goldwyn.
Starring Bobby Cannavale, William A. Fitzgerald, Robert De Niro, Rose Byrne, Vera Farmiga, Whoopi Goldberg, Rainn Wilson, Tony Goldwyn, Jackson Frazer, Greer Barnes, Tess Goldwyn, Ella Ayberk, Lois Robbins, Alex Plank, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Matilda Lawler, Joe Pacheco, Amy Sheehan, Barzin Akhavan, Donna Vivino, Jacqueline Nwabueze, John Donovan Wilson, Joshua Hinck, Sophie Mulligan, Thomas Duverné, Guillermo Rodriguez, and Jimmy Kimmel.

SYNOPSIS:

Comedian Max co-parents autistic son Ezra with ex-wife Jenna. Faced with crucial decisions about Ezra’s future, Max and Ezra go on a life-changing cross-country road trip.

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Undeniably made with good intentions, Ezra wants to tell a story about a young autistic boy and his father struggling to accept that uniqueness (lamenting that his son will never be “normal”) due to some personal baggage related to his rocky upbringing. Ezra is also a film that consistently gets sidetracked or finds itself telling that story in a broad, mawkish manner with outlandish plot beats that continuously sink the few elements that work. That’s also surprising considering screenwriter Tony Spiridakis (who had been working on the script for roughly 15 years) is basing that father-son relationship on his experience raising an autistic child. Why turn such personal material into… this?

A film about the challenges of parenting an autistic child and ensuring that everything from school to public behavior is going well has enough realistic, stressful drama to be relatable to anyone who has ever been in a similar situation. The dynamic that parents Max (Bobby Cannavale) and Jenna (Rose Byrne) are divorced (the actors are married with children in real life) adds another layer of domestic intrigue.

Directed by Tony Goldwyn, the film seems to have no awareness of when to stop manufacturing more drama or when it begins to feel like piling on for the sake of telling a story that quickly begins to feel false. It becomes less of an earnest look at autistic childhood and more of a far-fetched road trip flick where the logic for certain characters is nonexistent, and the narrative rapidly transitions to do something that could only exist in the movies, something that is counterproductive to why this film was made.

This is frustrating since there are touching flourishes whenever Max interacts with the titular Ezra (William A. Fitzgerald, a delight to watch and autistic). Despite getting expelled from school, Ezra is a kind soul with various stimulation triggers (such as hugs or sensitivity to eating with forks), who often speaks in famous quotes and takes everything literally to such a degree that when he overhears Jenna’s new partner jokingly talking about murdering Max, he frantically runs out of the house to warn his loving father. This leads to Ezra making the choice to run into the middle of the street while scared and avoiding a barking dog on the sidewalk, nearly getting hit by a car, with doctors under the impression that it was a suicide attempt, dealing with the incident by forcing the parents to put the boy into a special needs school and take antipsychotic medication.

That’s only the beginning of this exaggerated story, which then sees Max kidnapping his son from Jenna, believing that she has lost hope in fighting for his rights and is too comfortable listening to professional advice. He doesn’t like that the medication zombifies his son (understandably so) and appears to believe that allowing the boy to go to a special needs school means he is accepting that there is something wrong. Many of his hangups with accepting his son’s autism come from a tumultuous relationship with his father, Stan (Robert De Niro), a former chef who gave up his dreams to provide for Max after his mother left. This grandfather also has trouble acknowledging his grandson’s autism, uncomfortable uttering the term. Both of these men, in a sense, are hiding and running from reality.

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Perhaps a more skilled filmmaking team could make something out of that, but Ezra also has to contend with baffling subplots such as Max’s aspiring standup comedian career and his relative closeness to securing a spot performing for Jimmy Kimmel. There is also a road trip aspect that sees Max heading West with Ezra, coming across several old friends for the sake of convenience. In one sequence, the film makes the case that there will be kids (even girls) who accept Ezra and those who will bully him, doing so in a confused way, unsure if it wants to sanitize itself. It’s also accompanied by sappy music.

At a certain point, Ezra is officially reported as kidnapped with warnings and notices throughout the 24-hour news cycle. Max is aware of this, yet confoundingly still thinks showing up to audition for Jimmy Kimmel will end well. The occasional tender moments between father and son are continuously undercut by this stupidity and overblown narrative decisions. At least it follows suit, ending in a fittingly melodramatic cringe.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★

Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com

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Movie Review: “Mad Max: Fury Road” Now Playing at Boone Regal

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Movie Review: “Mad Max: Fury Road” Now Playing at Boone Regal
May 27, 2024 2015’s “Mad Max: Fury Road” was one of the most critically-lauded action movies not just of its year, not just of its decade, but of all time. I will forever curse “Pitch Perfect 2” for opening the same weekend and doing better at the box office, thus keeping me from reviewing “Fury Road” (for the record, I would have given it an enthusiastic B). While Tom Hardy’s Max was an important presence in that movie, audiences seemed to find themselves drawn to another character, one that had an even more commanding screen presence, did more to make the film instantly iconic, and more than warranted an expensive prequel. Alas, we’ll have to keep waiting for that origin story for the guitar-playing Doof Warrior. In the meantime, we have this movie about another beloved “Fury Road” character, Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa.  Read more
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