By Kirsten Coachman
Welcome to another installment of Weekend Watches! It was another weekend of first-time watches–including my first James Dean film!
Work It (2020)
Confession: I love dance movies. Like, inject them into my veins. From Dirty Dancing (even Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights–don’t judge me!) and Center Stage to Step Up and Save the Last Dance, I love a good dance movie. Growing up, I took 15 years of dance lessons, so admittedly that’s part of the reason why I have such an affinity for them. Give me all of the choreography, because you better believe I will attempt it.
But I digress.
Work It stars Sabrina Carpenter as smart-as-a-whip high school senior Quinn Ackerman who has hopes to attend Duke University and is informed by an admissions officer (my favorite scene stealing queen Michelle Buteau!) that she essentially needs to step up (couldn’t help myself) her application to stand out from all the other cookie-cutter applicants. With the assistance of her best friend Jas (standout Liza Koshy) and
John Ambrose choreographer Jake Taylor (Jordan Fisher), Quinn aims to compete at the Work It! competition against fellow senior Julliard Pembroke (Keiynan Lonsdale) and the Thunderbirds.
I genuinely felt energized after watching Work It. I think that’s truly the mark of a great dance movie. The film was fun–dare I say joyful–to take in, it will fulfill your competitive edge, and it did a great job of highlighting consent during a fairly innocent dance lesson.
Clocking in at just over three hours, this generation-spanning epic was a bit of an undertaking. It starts with an affluent Texas cattle rancher Jordan “Bick” Benedict Jr. (Rock Hudson) that goes to Maryland to buy a horse and leaves with not only the horse and the owner’s daughter Leslie (Elizabeth Taylor) in tow as his new wife. Giant also happens to be the final feature film of one Mr. James Dean, who plays a young ranch hand, Jett Rink. Thanks to his desire to have something of his own and a “lucky footstep,” Jett oils his way into a fortune, so to speak.
The second half of the film focuses on the younger generation of (and certainly more tolerable) Benedicts that are preparing to enter the world as young adults. Opting to follow their hearts rather than fall in line with family expectations ultimately results in mounting issues between Bick and Jett coming to a head.
I’d be remiss not to mention the cinematography, as the film, especially the exterior scenes, was captured beautifully. But, to be completely honest, Giant struck a nerve. And not necessarily in a good way. I took to the character of Leslie, because she was strong in her convictions about treating people humanely–no matter their status in life. While I found the storytelling to be effective, mostly due to the performances of the cast, in the end, the moments that were upsetting (Leslie’s horse being repeatedly spurred on purpose, for example) outweighed any positives.
Road to Perdition (2002)
It wouldn’t be the weekend without a Paul Newman film these days, and my final watch, which also starred Tom Hanks, Jude Law, and Daniel Craig, was slightly more violent than I was expecting. For a movie about a young boy (Tyler Hoechlin) that discovers that his father is a hitman, I guess shouldn’t have been so surprised.
Aside from the various bloodshed and Law’s character’s fondness of taking photos of dead bodies (plus, those teeth!), Road to Perdition was one of my favorite watches of the weekend. Certainly not your average father-son-bonding-whilst-on-the-run movie, but I found it had some genuine heart to it. My favorite films starring Hanks are usually of the lighter variety, like A League of Their Own and That Thing You Do!, but this darker turn is definitely taking a place on my mantle of personal favorites.
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