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Films I Neglected To Review: "It Had Its Moments."
by Peter Sobczynski

Please enjoy short reviews of "American Woman," "Plus One" and the new digital download release of "Game of Thrones: Season 8."

Although Sienna Miller's ranking as one of the most beautiful women in the world remains unquestioned, it is an unfortunate fact that her genuine gifts as an actress have never received similar acclaim, largely thanks to a filmography consisting almost entirely of either excellent performances in things you never got around to seeing (such as ''Interview,'' ''Foxcatcher'' or ''The Lost City of Z'') or projects that squandered her talents on bad screenplays and nothing roles (including one of those ''GI Joe'' boondoggles, ''American Sniper'' and ''High-Rise''). In the new indie drama ''American Woman,'' she gets a chance to stand front and center to show what she can do as an actress and rises magnificently to the challenge, even though the rest of the film fails to make a similar effort. She plays Deb, a working-class woman from the Pennsylvania rust belt with a go-nowhere job, an equally dead-end relationship with a married man and a 16-year-old daughter (Sky Ferreira) who has an infant son of her own and who seems destined to follow in her mother's dubious footsteps. Deb's already hardscrabble existence is thrown completely off-balance when her daughter goes out one night and simply vanishes. Over the next several years, we see Deb try to come to terms with the disappearance of her child while at the same time raising her grandchild and slowly attempting to turn her own life around as well despite the usual array of bad luck and poor choices, mostly involving the men in her life.

The main problem with the film is that screenwriter Brad Inglesby and director Jake Scott think that they are presenting Debís story as a low-key, slice-of-life narrative but they have jam-packed it with so many overly dramatic detours (including the all-but-requisite inclusion of a lover (Pat Healy) who proves to be an abusive lout) that it makes a hard shift from the kind of intimate chamber piece that it might have begun as to a more full-blown melodramatic approach that simply feels at odd with the story at hand. And yet, Miller's performance is so strong that you can almost forgive the dramatic excesses of the story. Although the deglamming process utilized to dial down her movie star looks may not always be fully convincing (and it is more than a tad distracting to hear here being constantly referred to as ''Grandma''), what she does with the character is so strong and convincing throughout that you automatically accept her in the part. She has plenty of the big moments that all actors crave and nails them without a hitch but she is even more effective in the quieter moments, such as in some of the scenes involving Deb and her somewhat more stable sister (Christina Hendricks). Because the storyline is too melodramatic for its own good at times (trust me, the portentous title is only a hint of what is to come), I cannot fully recommend ''American Woman'' but I do hope that casting agents get a look at it to recognize what Sienna Miller is capable of and provide her with a script that is more worthy of her talents.

The press announcement for the new romantic comedy ''Plus One'' hypes the fact that the film won the Audience Award for narrative films at this yearís Tribeca Film Festival. After watching it, I found myself idly speculating as to what film could have come in second place to this largely uninspired collection of hackneyed cliches and uninteresting characters. Ben (Jack Quaid) and Alice (Maya Erskine) are two college friends who, as the story opens, find themselves at a wedding for mutual friends that doesnít go well for either of them--the former classmate that he has the hots for turns out to be unavailable and she, having just broken up with her own boyfriend, becomes the obnoxious drunk who turns up at all nuptials. Realizing that they have 10 weddings between them to attend over the next few months--including her younger sister and his father (Ed Begley Jr.)--they make a pact that they will serve as each other's guest to the festivities and help them to find potential romantic partners among the guests. If you have seen a romantic comedy in your life--hell, even if you have only just heard of such things--you probably have a fairly good idea of how this is going to turn out. It is so obvious where things are heading, in fact, that I was just assuming that the writing-directing duo of Jeff Chan and Andrew Rhymer have something up their sleeve that would put a new spin on the material but that proves not to be the case as it plods along on the path established by so many of its predecessors. A bigger problem than the general lack of originality, however, is that the Ben character is so annoying and unappealing--especially when he goes on at length about his own wildly unrealistic expectations in regards to romance--that the mere act of listening to him becomes a chore. Erskine is more appealing--at least in part because her character is a little more interesting--but not enough to make a difference. ''Plus One'' is ultimately harmless and forgettable--it is only slightly ruder than your typical Hallmark Channel offering--but with better offerings in that genre currently out there, such as ''Long Shot'' and ''Always Be My Maybe,'' there is no burning reason to waste time on one as generic as this one.

It has only been a few short weeks since ''Game of Thrones'' came to its highly anticipated and deeply controversial conclusion but HBO Home Video has already made ''Game of Thrones: Season 8'' available via digital download ($26.99) in an edition that includes all six episodes, the featurettes ''The Long Night'' (concentrating on the creation of episode 3ís ''Battle of Winterfell'') and ''The Final Season'' (in which key members of the cast and crew look back on the conclusion of the show) and ''Game of Thrones: The Last Watch,'' Jeanie Finlay's feature-length documentary observing how the final episodes came to life). Of course, many are still feeling a little raw that the story didnít quite turn out as they had hoped but it was hardly the wild deviation that some of the more aggrieved fanboys have proclaimed. Face it, between the astonishing levels of hype and the pressure to bring such a groundbreaking show to an end, the finale was probably never going to satisfy everyone but even at its wobbliest, these final episodes demonstrate a stunning degree of filmmaking skill--both in terms of the astonishing visual elements and the ability to juggle so many characters and subplots--that find even the weakest installments standing head and shoulders over most recent feature films of a similar nature. Is it the best ''GoT'' season ever? Not really, but I suspect that once a little time has passed and people are able to look at it with fresh eyes, it will begin to earn a well-deserved reevaluation that will hopefully lead people to deem it a fitting conclusion to one of the landmark pop culture events of our time.

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originally posted: 06/14/19 05:20:23
last updated: 06/15/19 00:19:44
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