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Life Through the Lens: When you are left with only pieces

“Word to the wise, Jimmy: stay out of the angel business.”

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There was this wall in town. We’re not talking “Great Wall of China” or anything, but it had its own mystique. Its own allure. Although unassuming in its appearance, its construction was the town’s pride. Long had it stood and long would it stay.

On a normal day, an abnormal feeling ran over Mr. Dumpty — a feeling of inadequacy and powerlessness. He had friends; he had a family; he had a decent job at a decent firm … but today was off. He couldn’t explain it, but it was dripping with unexplainable failure. And then he saw it … the wall. It called to him, “Climb me.” The ascension would show the whole town Mr. Dumpty’s courage and confidence. It would make the name Humpty Dumpty synonymous with success!

He slipped off his slip-ons, untied his tie, and began his journey to the summit. The thrill was invigorating his every breath — the adrenaline was making him feel younger with every beat! This would be the defining moment of his lif… THUD!

The ensuing pandemonium shook the whole town. The police pursued the “murder” angle thinking that Mr. Dumpty must have been pushed — he had no record of mental health issues … or balance issues. The family chased medical miracles — if they saved all of his pieces … maybe they could put them back together again? Every “pusher” was called in for questioning, every bricklayer was hounded about building-code — every lead was followed … but the pieces remained. The king himself sent some horses and men into the forensic fray to no avail. Humpty Dumpty was now simply the sum of some of his parts.

No amount of police detection will put those pieces back together again. No amount of family fortitude or relentless revenge will put those pieces back together again. Sometimes … the only thing to do is to pick up those pieces and move forward.

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“Promising Young Woman” — A not-so-young-anymore woman named Cassandra (Carey Mulligan) is on a mission: make all the sleazy men out there pay for their sleaziness. She works her dead-end job during the day, lives with her parents, but spends her nights on the prowl. Her tactic: act really drunk, allow the predator to take her home, let them begin to take advantage of her … then pounce!

Her motivation: her friend Nina was sexually abused during college but given no relief from the university or the authorities. The abuse turned to depression, turned to isolation, turned to suicide … all while her friend Cassandra could do nothing but watch. The trauma has caused Cassie to think only of retribution … and her moment has finally come. The parties responsible are all back in town and celebrating their successful lives. Now is the time for Nina’s name to be on lips and seared in minds.

The movie beautifully showcases the skill of Carey Mulligan. She is an actress with extreme subtlety and control — the role of Cassandra allows her to use all the weapons in her arsenal. Her pain is hidden yet seen — her anger is controlled yet volatile. She gives an Oscar-worthy performance!

Director-writer Emerald Fennell makes a fantastic debut! Her writing is urgent yet smooth; her directing is fun yet tortured. She brings incredible heart to this story and this cultural problem. She collaborates beautifully with the cinematography of Benjamin Kracun and music of Anthony Willis. They each add a unique piece to the movie’s stylish and modern feel.

It will be a movie that you cannot shake, a story that sticks in uncomfortable places. It can be viewed in the theater or as an early-access movie rental.

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REPORT CARD: “Promising Young Woman”

Grade: A

Comment: Stylishly-sharp and relentlessly-ruthless

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“The Little Things” — An aging small-town sheriff receives a simple task: go to nearby LA and collect some evidence. Sounds simple enough, right? Except Joe Deacon (Denzel Washington) hasn’t been back to LA in years since his issues began. He is greeted kindly by his former colleagues but hard feelings remain.

While in the big city, painful reminders surface. An ongoing case seems too similar to Deacon’s final LA case to be a coincidence. Deacon is pulled back in the traumatic unsolved murders that plagued him and pushed him out of Los Angeles. Lead detective Jimmy Baxter (Rami Malek) enthusiastically employs the experience of Deacon, unaware of Deacon’s haunted past. Turns out, Deacon’s past isn’t done with him yet.

I’ve read many negative reviews of this movie, most pointing toward the unanswered questions and the worn-out plot … but Denzel! His performance alone makes the movie worth every minute. Like all roles that Denzel chooses, it is a character rich in depth and painfully relatable. He is the master at making “the internal” visible … not a task easily done! Jared Leto (as Albert Sparma) is engrossing and unsettling — his performance was anything but subtle — but a lot of fun (in a potentially psychotic sort of way). Malek, though, did not impress me. He is talented but left his character largely empty.

Director-writer John Lee Hancock wrote this screenplay almost 30 years ago, only now finally able to achieve his vision. For that, you have to hand it to him! Tenacity! It has been receiving criticism for its “throwback feel,” but I didn’t find it unpleasantly nostalgic. It is dark, gritty, and bitter … just how I like my coffee. Psych — I am a creamer-kind-of-guy.

It can be viewed in the theater or currently streaming on HBO Max.

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REPORT CARD: “The Little Things”

Grade: B

Comment: Better than average but not perfect.

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