Charlie Tahan

Poms

First Hit: There are several funny scenes, and although it gets to the edge of being silly, it never goes over the cliff.

My first memory of Diane Keaton (playing Martha) was at Orange Coast College where she was an acting student. Then, she was interestingly quirky — her own person and had a crowd around her (theater arts people). She still is the same kind of person, and in this film, she’s retired, alone and interestingly quirky.

The story begins with Martha selling her possessions. She’s moving to a retirement home in Georgia. The greeting is an over the top southern homespun reception that includes a tour of the grounds, and a lot of southern charm spread around like fertilizer.

This doesn’t quite sit well with Martha because, as a straight spoken northerner, we discover she’s there to be left alone and die a peaceful death from cancer which she is choosing not to fight.

She’s got a nosy neighbor Sheryl (Jacki Weaver) who intrudes on her. The interactions are, at first, exasperating. However, Martha soon warms up to her, especially when she learns that Sheryl substitute teaches to make extra money.

Martha tells Sheryl she was once a cheerleader and she had to quit before her first performance because her mother was ill and dying.

Sheryl and Martha start a cheerleading club at the retirement home. They need a total of eight people, and so they reach out, and six others show up for tryouts. They are; Alice (Rhea Perlman), Helen (Phyllis Somerville), Olive (Pam Grier), Phyllis (Patricia French), Evelyn (Ginny MacColl), and Ruby (Carol Sutton).

Each of them has a story as to why they want to be in the club, and we get to learn that some of these women have been or are being controlled by husbands for family, and by joining this club they are doing something they want, and they like it.

There are fun scenes that mostly relate what it is like to get older but having the spirit of being young still residing within.

There are ups and downs in this story, but the overall mood is, at times, poignant sprinkled with humor and fun.  

Keaton is perfect for this role. Her own quirky independent nature fit very well with the quality of this character. Weaver was excellent as the nosy neighbor who had reason to have her grandson live with her. Perlman was fun. When she showed her “guns” in the gym, I could see she enjoyed it. Somerville, Grier, French, MacColl, and Sutton were all wonderful in their roles as women looking for a bit more fun in their lives. Charlie Tahan (as Sheryl’s grandson Ben) was very good as the nerdy guy who gained confidence along the way. Alisha Boe (as Chloe a high school girl who helps the Poms) was terrific. She saw that everyone gets older and that someday she’ll be there too. Shane Atkinson and Zara Hayes wrote this screenplay. Although it was lighthearted and filled with fluff, it worked. Hayes also directed this group, and I’m sure it was fun for the entire crew — it showed.

Overall: I liked and enjoyed it more than I thought I would.

Love is Strange

First Hit:  Outstanding acting, powerful subject, and Love is expressed in this film.

Ben (John Lithgow) and George (Alfred Molina) are aging gay men who’ve had an ongoing committed relationship for over 30 years.

They decide the time is right for them to be married. When they do the Catholic School where George works as a music teacher, fires him because it is against a behavior agreement he signed when he was hired although the church knew he was gay and was living with his partner. Ben and George have lots of friends and some family who admire and love them.

When they have to move from their apartment, they move in with separate families. George with two gay policemen, Ben with his nephew and family. These changes create intense scenes of how they have to accommodate and be accommodated by the people who take them in. The stories therein are heartfelt and poignant.

The direction of this film was outstanding in a number of ways:  The scenes were beautifully shot and full of character. Scenes were left to play out in their entirety; a song on a piano, long scenes of dialog or wistfulness, and a music recital.

Lithgow was supremely wonderful. His soft tenderness and dancing eyes brought incredible life and spirit to his character. Molina was simply exquisite. His interaction with both Lithgow and the other characters in the film was divine. Charlie Tahan as the son of the couple Ben stayed with was amazing. He embodied a young boy trying to make sense of the world and to find his place in the family while growing up. Ira Sachs and Mauricio Zacharias wrote a beautiful script that was allowed breathe. Sachs was mostly spot-on in his direction of the script, scenes and characters.

Overall:  This film will stay with me for days in its tenderness and portrayal of a gay couples’ love and struggle to be able to live their love.

Charlie St. Cloud

First Hit: This was a good film which held together well.

A number of films which deal with the loss of a loved one, life after death, the space between life and death, and the dealing with death don’t do it very well.

Some films, like Sixth Sense, Heaven Can Wait and even Ghost, do it in interesting and thoughtful ways. Charlie St. Cloud can be added to this list.

The story is about a young man who, through his sailing abilities, gets a scholarship to Stanford. His single mother, Claire (played by Kim Basinger), has worked extra shifts at the local hospital to support Charlie (played by Zac Efron) and his very close younger brother Sam (played by Charlie Tahan).

Because Charlie is a good 6 years older and they have no father, Sam looks up to Charlie and Charlie reciprocates by teaching Sam what he knows about sailing, life and baseball. Charlie gets in a car accident and Sam dies in that accident. Charlie cannot forgive himself and forgoes his life at Stanford to keep the memory of his brother alive.

Five years after the accident we see him as the caretaker of the local cemetery. One evening out he wanders down to the dock and starts admiring a wonderful sailboat. He discovers that Tess Carroll (played by Amanda Crew), an acquaintance from high school, owns the boat and is preparing to sail around the world in a solo race.

Through a confluence of events of which I won’t go into detail here, he saves both their lives in different ways. What works about this story is that it is well crafted. It doesn’t waste time with over long setups. It doesn’t telegraph the ending, the script is clean and it stays on target all the way until the ending.

Efron is a good looking young man and he can act. It was great to see Basinger again; it has been a long time. Tahan is wonderful as the hell bent younger brother who is both feisty and thoughtful. Crew is wonderful and fits especially well with Efron. Ray Liotta has a small but key part in the film which was good as well. Craig Pearce and Lewis Colick wrote a good script and Burr Steers directed this film with a clear vision.

Overall: Yes it is a romantic drama between very young people and it works very well.