SHIVA BABY (2021)

Written & Directed By: Emma Seligman
Cinematography: Maria Rusche
Editor: Hanna Park 

Cast: Rachel Sennot, Polly Draper, Molly Gordon, Fred Melamed, Dianna Agron, Jackie Hoffman, Danny Deferrari, Glynis Bell, 

At a Jewish funeral service with her parents, a college student runs into her sugar daddy.


The film works as a character piece. Even though it takes place mostly in one location and is full of colorful characters who add comedy and point of view to the story. It all centers around the main character played by Rachel Sennot in a subtle and ultimately powerful performance. As she is out under high pressure unknowingly in a continuous situation. She begins to unravel in all sorts of ways.

What makes the film so strong is that while there is comedy it plays almost like a horror film or thriller. As the score seems to help tighten the rope around the character and set in such a crowded space there are fewer and fewer places to turn.

Even as she is struggling to keep her sugar daddy who is far from a Prince Charming and the longer he stays at the party. The more his farm diminishes, but he is the only thing she had control over and loses him. She will feel like she has nothing. So she keeps trying harder and harder to lessen herself to keep and seduce him. 

As it seems scene to scene she is running out of places to hide or things to distract her as she gets more worried and more people to talk about her and the danger of her secrets being revealed. As she tries to make things seem normal.

Even as she tries to seduce a guy who is her sugar daddy back and you begin to wonder is it more about the power and strength as he isn’t all that appealing or beating the competition for him in his successful wife who seems to know more than she lets on. Or did she actually fall for him as something more than just a client?

Is she just desperate to keep the status quo as anything different would force her to grow up? As the man ends up not being all that appealing. Which one can tell early on before any revelations are brought to the table 

The whole cast is eye-opening, they are funny and emotional. Though Polly Draper as the roads mother has the right amount of emotions and judgment to be frustrating and sweet

Rachel Sennot as the lead is a revelation as she plays so many emotions and feelings all at once. Even though it is mostly through facial expressions and actions more than dialogue. Not to mention her natural beauty comes through when being plain but also wants to be looked upon with desire.

The film also offers us a bi-sexual lead where the film does have sex and sexual language the film doesn’t become all about or into about the character’s sexuality as their defining trait 

This film could have easily been more of a simple dramedy that would Feel more staged or at least stage-bound the way it is shown and protested here is short but keeps the audience on their toes as each revelation or emotion feels like a jump scare or is looked upon with dread. 

Though it offers up a few surprises, by the end it leaves the characters uncomfortable but in it’s own way a happy ending. 

Thankfully for all the awkwardness and Cringe-worthy conversations and situations that play like horror the film still has its fair share of laughs and humor.

Grade: B+

SIDE EFFECTS (2013)

Directed By: Steven Soderbergh 
Written By: Scott Z. Burns
Cinematography: Steven Soderbergh (As Peter Andrews) 
Editor: Steven Soderbergh (As Mary Ann Bernard)

Cast: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Channing Tatum, Vinessa Shaw, Polly Draper, Ann Dowd, Laila Robins, Mamie Gummer, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Marin Ireland 

A young woman’s world unravels when a drug prescribed by her psychiatrist has unexpected side effects.


Following up his pandemic movie CONTAGION that was a bigger offering with a smaller tale might seem like a step-down but it’s a movie that packs a wallop even though you don’t expect it. Unfortunately by the end, you don’t feel anything. It’s certainly entertaining but it comes off more as a smart artistic popcorn movie. It does its job but at this point movie, fans might be expecting more or stronger From director Soderbergh from his journeyman auteur reputation. This might be what the film suffers from the most

It’s a movie where things happen but you never quite feel anything it is quite clinical to watch and experience. Even as the twists happen you should care somewhat 

It’s a claustrophobic tale of what happens in all Those high-rise apartments of the haves. As most of the characters come from money and are privileged. Though Channing Tatum heavily billed again he is in the movie very little. 

It feels like it should be bigger even though it focuses more on a singular story 

Each character is smart except for the early victim. So that is refreshing as the film comes more alive when Jude law’s character is more or less fighting for professional and personal survival and all the twists are coming to light, Just as the third act is his plan taking place 

It’s a tale you would expect to be told bigger and more extravagant but with Soderbergh’s style, it focuses more singularly on the plot dynamics allowing room for the character but more or less being to the point and less indulgent. While the film. Still has style and is more technical 

It’s a bigger film from him but still a smaller story though this film feels less experimental than some of his others. This one doesn’t call attention to itself as much and has a stronger script and story than usual.

It allows the mystery of Rooney Mara’s character vacant looks and silence to shape her character and situations. As again when a character uses it to her advantage what people believe about her by her silence and looks. What identity and beliefs they put onto her that might be totally opposite from who she is. They put a character onto her when she is an actual person. She ends up Being the ultimate muse in an unartistic story. One that is mroe made up of successful characters in the medical profession. An unexpected feels Fatale if sorts 

Showing how easy it is for even the most rational of us to fall into a belief of certain fantasies that take the form of supposed responsible thought. Though managed to do it without making it a tale of the weakness of falling into temptation and paying the price for it.

The film seems more like it will be a psychological drama. When actually it will be more of a character-based thriller. This works for this film as it is unexpected and you don’t see it coming. Just as the film involves sex it isn’t very erotic or sexy. 

This is one of the more commercial and straightforward films of Steven Soderbergh. As this one whole cerebral and technical doesn’t feel like an experiment it seems like a smaller project for him that is almost like a short story for him instead of a novel. Which is how full his films can sometimes be. Either with a story or the number of stars usually, cast. 

This is the most likable performance I have found so far of Jude Law’s career. Where he gets to be innocent yet shrewd and the only way out for him is through his Intelligence. Not his looks, wit, or tortured soul. What also helps is that here the performance is mroe natural and effortless. No baggage. As here he plays more of a person, not a character or type. No different look or wardrobe to hide behind. Here he and his performance are stripped down. 

You go into this movie looking for a twist or expecting a thriller and that is what you get but the film plays the more technical side than the emotional. Though it is shockingly mean-spirited and more psychologically ruthless than expected. 

It also shows the passing of time as in the past Catherine Zeta-Jones would be the seducer and audiences would have loved to see her in a same-sex relationship and love scenes. Here as she plays just another victim. It might remind some audience members of the passage of time. Times have certainly changed.

In the end, this is a film that seems simple but then grabs you and takes you through a maze. That is stronger than it appears to be. A throwback to films aimed at adults that wants you to think and figure them out. 

Grade: B- 

DEMOLITION (2016)

Directed By: Jean Marc-Vallee
Written By: Bryan Sipe
Cinematography By: Yves Balenger
Editor: Jay M.Glen

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Naomi Watts, Chris Cooper, Judah Lewis, Polly Draper, Debra Monk, Heather Lind 

A successful investment banker struggles after losing his wife in a tragic car crash. With the help of a customer service rep and her young son, he starts to rebuild, beginning with the demolition of the life he once knew.


The screenplay for this film was featured in the 2007 Blacklist; a list of the “most liked” unmade scripts of the year.

This is one of those almost movies. That feels like it is almost o to something but seems to get lost before it can say ultimately what it wants to or before actually saying something profound.

The film stays off-center yet always pretty in its presentations the films end up feeling too designed like the products he dismantled to see how they work. Which the film tries to work in the same way. But seems too on the nose to be quirky and accepting as it seems to want to be offbeat.

A character study where the protagonist tries to find himself and ends up attracting other so-called misfits fighting to find and be themselves. While also trying to be seen as normal and fit in. Though really questioning what that is.

It is basically the main character having to dismantle and destroy his life to rebuild and start again. Which is why his character seeks to take things apart and study them. To see how they work and how they function.

The film is meant to be more of a character study which it achieves and as usual unfortunately also introduces characters more interesting than the lead. Who get scenes of depth and drama, but ultimately seem more like ornaments meant to distract and beautify the film add some flavor, but never really get to shine themselves.

Which is becoming more common in director Jean Marc-Vallee oveure of films. Presenting a kind of reality that always comes with some quirk or bigger than life or life-affirming meaning that seems more magnified than normal. Her he seems to go through realistic characters take on life and challenges as we watch to see their journey through it to the other side. More like emotional action movies with a sharp eye for visuals

It feels more a film about trying to win awards. Though there is some heart in here and tries to say something about the human condition. More about finding yourself. Here it seems like the character was already on that path. Only a tragedy happened that really opened his eyes and lead him to it.

The film feels transparent. It speaks to the audience as the film asks how are you supposed to react to tragedy? Is it disrespectful if in your reaction you aren’t emotional enough or know how exactly to feel? It’s not exactly Always textbook. As we are all individuals. So it Aldo’s how do you feel when what came before was almost on autopilot of what was expected but. Ever felt fulfilling, deserving so that it was almost a lie.

It feels like a film as all of the things that happen seem more announced. I can go with the suspension of disbelief, but when made so obvious it is hard.

This is a feel-good film, yet it becomes what it seems to want to avoid by becoming overbearing after a while.

Jake Gyllenhaal’s detached performance is what will win you over. As he is at total opposites at times but he keeps the film spirited and lively. Where he not only becomes the center of attention, but the most entertaining aspect of the film.

What is at least original is that the film doesn’t paint the main character as some kind of saint or hero. He freely admits his faults and the bad things in the past. It doesn’t praise his wife but makes them look more like a human coup going through the motions of a relationship and never really talking about their problems or dealing with them before this accident happens.

I wish the same could be said of Naomi watts character who is interesting. As her problems are laid bare, but her wrong decisions make her at least interesting when it comes to her character’s psychology. Even as we are used to Naomi watts playing these complicated characters. The character is there but the performance never quite catches on as it feels too plain when it might be better to showcase more of her at war with herself. Here her character keeps it maintained maybe due to her pot smoking. Which might regulate those feelings.

As his late wife throughout the movie haunts him and the other characters but we learn little about her though by the end she becomes more real for us in the audience to get more of a sense of her and not exactly the saint she has been made to be at the beginning. Just that something bad happened to her that she didn’t deserve. As with most of the characters. She was just trying to figure things out and all the people who believe they have it all figured out have comfort but aren’t necessarily being truthful to themselves or are rather simple The other aspect of the film that is eye-catching is the more modern designed clothing and appliances. That comes off shiny and smooth and provide the perfect facade, before revealing their grungy and dirty insides once explored.

Other Than the tragedy the film easily comes off as more middle-aged wish fulfillment than anything else.

Though the film does manage to win you over at certain points and feels personal to a degree when it’s supposed to.

GRADE: B-