For all intents and purposes ‘Nyad’ is your typical sports drama filled with all the familiar uplifting cliches as human willpower is tested through sport. We get the roadblocks, the layers of mentality that drives our main character, an exploration of the particular sport at the core of the theme, and a musical score from Alexandre Desplat that delivers more than enough instrumental melodrama to fuel the film’s pathos. The direction from Chin and Vasarhelyi is more than adequate and how they visually capture this seemingly impossible (real life) swim Nyad made from Florida to Cuba is informative, inspirational, and filled with harrowing moments that build more than enough suspense which makes the film move swiftly.
‘Nyad’ doesn’t fully dive into who Diana Nyad was, it doesn’t over focus on her sexuality, nor does it seed much backdrop to why Nyad was the determined narcissist she was. She thought she was the best. To accomplish what she did, or to be the best at your sport, you need that confidence, that ego. This is what the film expects you to think as it focuses almost solely on exploring this one mission. Completing this swim and how the power of Nyad’s friendship with her coach helped her achieve her dream. This is where the performances from Benning and Foster more than elevate this by-the-numbers sports drama to make it memorable because both are impressive. They pump emotion, charisma, and humanity into these portrayals and watching Benning and Foster work off one another is magic enough to make this worth checking out.
CAST: Annette Benning, Jodie Foster, Rhys Ifans, Karly Rothenberg, Luke Cosgrove, Eric T. Miller DIRECTOR: Elizabeth Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin WRITER(S): Diana Nyad, Julia Cox DISTRIBUTOR: Netflix RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes RATING: PG-13 (For thematic material involving sexual abuse, some strong language, brief partial nudity) YEAR: 2023 LANGUAGE: English GENRE: Biography/Drama/Sport
At its core ‘Rustin’ has Colman Domingo’s impassioned portrayal of activist Bayard Rustin to lean back on, and overall this is a very well-acted film from top-to-bottom. When the scoring from musical genius Branford Marsalis takes center stage, this film does have an engaging energy that can lure you in. The narrative however struggles to completely balance exploring both Rustin’s impact on the Civil Rights Movement, and the hurdles of racism and homophobia he had to navigate, with more than a surface level exploration. The dialogue is smart, clever, and quick-witted, with effective doses of levity to lighten the mood.
The story on the other hand does feel procedural and there are stretches where it does feel like a big budget made-for-TV movie particularly during the quick scenes depicting the 1963 March on Washington where the greenscreen work is a tad distracting. The supporting cast is truly a great ensemble outside of a miscast Chris Rock with Jeffrey Wright delivering a scene-stealing depiction of Adam Powell Jr. to bring some charisma to the screen that can meet the level of Domingo. It paints a picture of Rustin’s life and his impact with a deliberate feel-good approach that covers the ideas of topics without pulley peeling these layers back as much as it should for a film clearly vying for awards contention. Which does work, this is an easily consumable biopic that delivers plenty of charm. But not enough emotion which in turn limits the effectiveness of the film’s hook, resulting in a film that fails to fully match the gravitas of Domingo’s exceptional performance.
CAST: Colman Domingo, Glynn Turman, Chris Rock, Aml Ameen, Gus Halper, CCH Pounder, Michael Potts, Johnny Ramey, Jeffrey Wright, Audra McDonald DIRECTOR: George C. Wolfe WRITER(S): Julian Breece, Dustin Lance Black DISTRIBUTOR: Netflix RUNNING TIME: 196 minutes RATING: PG-13 (For thematic material, some language, sexual material, language including racial slurs, brief drug use, and smoking) YEAR: 2023 LANGUAGE: English GENRE: Biography/Drama/History
If you’re looking for a relatively effective comedy that will deliver mild laughs, then ‘Quiz Lady’ is certainly worth checking out. Some of the humor is clever and hits nicely with an amusing charm. Other portions are a bit predictable, and a hefty amount is admittedly generic. But Awkwafina & Sandra Oh do deliver a lovable chemistry that manages to elevate this by-the-numbers plotline despite the script from Jen D’Angelo too often veering towards the easy punchline, and familiar attempts at situational humor. Seeing Awkwafina has her moments playing it straight, and Sandra Oh leaning into the eccentric with full throttle zeal is both comical and moderately fatiguing as they embark on a plug-and-play road-trip complete with all the familiar stops in the buddy comedy genre.
‘Quiz Lady’ does however have a capable supporting cast working in its favor. Holland Taylor is a strong number three, and both Will Farrell and Jason Schwartzman bring their own brand of humor to leave small imprints on this quick-moving comedy. It’s an easy watch, and regardless of knowing where this story will end up, how the arcs of the leads will progress, and a good bulk of the humor feeling a bit too forced, ‘Quiz Lady’ delivers just enough substance to result in a few chuckles and a couple laughs even if you’ll have forgotten a majority of it all by the time you wake up in the morning.
CAST: Awkwafina, Sandra Oh, Holland Taylor, Jason Schwartzman, Paul Reubens, Will Ferrell, Jon Park, Tawny Newsome, Tony Hale DIRECTOR: Jessica Yu WRITER(S): Jen D’Angelo DISTRIBUTOR: Hulu RUNNING TIME: 99 minutes RATING: R (For drug use, and language) YEAR: 2023 LANGUAGE: English GENRE: Comedy
Anthony J. Digioia II © 2023 SilverScreen Analysis