CODA

What would a film featuring deaf actors be without the queen of deaf actresses, Marlee Matlin? She won the best actress Oscar in 1986 for the film Children of a Lesser God. And here she is after a long career, in the film that won the “Best” award this year. Note that I don’t agree that this is the best film. It was good, but not great.

Kudos to the writers and producers for assembling a fine cast and story that honors the deaf. But despite solid performances and decent cinematography the script wandered in multiple directions, seeming contrived at times even to the point of being hokey.

 

But perhaps reality is a bit that way. We seldom pursue objectives on a singular path. Life gets in the way. In this case, the following subplots collide in the person of Ruby Rossi, played by Emilia Jones.

 

She is the only hearing member of an otherwise deaf four-person family

Her parents can’t understand her love of singing. 

She works on the family fishing boat, struggling to make ends meet

She is shy, but loves to sing. A flamboyant choir director becomes her mentor.

Ruby wants to go to college. Her parents want her to remain part of the family business.

Her hyper-sexed best friend is hot for her brother. Not cool, friend.

A boy in her choir falls in love with her, screws up and is redeemed, then left behind.

 

This very un-subtle journey to a fairly remarkable ending is a vehicle for stuff we’ve seen before. Beginning to end, this is a showcase for American Sign Language, but as usual that requires subtitles and audible interpretation.

 

The setting is a typical roughneck fishing village, crews fighting over diminishing catches and “the man” who wants to monitor boats and control pricing.

 

Ruby runs out of her first audition, but winds up in the starring duet for the school concert. This all smacks of a very long GLEE episode, but despite a lovely voice she’s nowhere near that level of talent. In fact she spent nine months learning ASL, took voice lessons and learned to work a fishing trawler. And then she wound up in the year’s best picture. Go figure. Yay Emilia!

 

The most powerful scene in the film takes place during Ruby’s eventual audition for the Berklee College of Music in Boston. With alumni the likes of John Mayer, Quincy Jones, Donald Fagen and Al Di Meola, this seems a reach. But during her performance, with her family in the balcony, the film’s Director chose to go silent for a gut-wrenching thirty seconds. Here we are thrust into the silent world of the deaf. We hold our breath and ride it out. Sure, we don’t get to hear much of Ruby’s song, but neither do they. They are there supporting regardless. This is indeed the “Coda” of her journey. A wonderful play on words in a story about Children Of Deaf Adults.

A few laughs, some nice music and a tearful happy ending. That sure beats a slap in the face at the Oscars.

 

CODA runs 1 hour, 58 minutes and is rated PG-13.

 

The Lost City

If you’re a fan of Sandra Bullock movies like Miss Congeniality (1 & 2) and The Heat, you no doubt appreciate her mastery of physical comedy. The Lost City combines that talent with the action of recent treasure-hunt adventures like Jungle Cruise and Uncharted. The treasure-seeking genre seems to have hit bottom, and most attempts fall far short of Indiana Jones and leave you feeling as if you’ve seen it all before. The comic element here adds life to an otherwise repetitive story, but is it enough? It may be, since the film is filled with great comic lines.

Bullock plays reclusive action-romance novelist Loretta Sage, five years the widow of a real-life adventurer, on a reluctant book tour with her cover model Dash McMahon, played in a Fabio-like wig by Channing Tatum, who also does a good job here being funny and self-deprecating. Enter Daniel Radcliffe as crazed billionaire Abigail Fairfax, in a role that is certainly not his first break from Harry Potter, but you still find yourself thinking, “Oh, that’s Harry Potter.” Fairfax has a fragment of script in a lost language that is key to the location of a fabulous artifact, a red crown of some sort. He believes only Loretta can translate the text, so he kidnaps her and whisks her away to his archaeological dig in the jungle (The Dominican Republic) – The Lost City.

 

If humor isn’t enough, then cast Brad Pitt and Channing Tatum for the ladies, get Channing naked and put Sandra’s face about six inches from his naked bottom half, front and back while she removes leeches that are turning him into a “blood Jamba Juice.” It is reported they had to repeat this scene about fifty times because Tatum couldn’t deliver a line without laughing. Pitt, when asked by Bullock, “Why are you so handsome?” replies, “My father was a weatherman.” His time on screen is short, killed off while rescuing the kidnapped author from Radcliffe’s jungle compound.

 

Bullock spends most of the film in a “glitter onesie” that she complains is “giving me a wedgie, front and back.” The clingy jumpsuit is covered in red sequins that leave a breadcrumb trail through the jungle, and is mostly form fitting except that Bullock has gotten so thin it appears baggy at times, and her ribs can be seen in the low-cut front. Eat something Sandra! Somewhat sadly, she must be fighting the battle of many aging Hollywood actresses, despite her natural girl-nextdoor prettiness. Botox has given her mouth the occasionally awkward appearance of having come from the dentist. But Sandra, in the Producer role clearly enjoys being cast alongside hunks like Pitt and Tatum. Recall she was once married to Monster Garage host and badass Jesse James.

 

If you prefer Bullock’s serious side, like UnforgiveableBird Box and The Blindside, this is not the film for you. She has quite a range. This is her movie, but she shares nicely with Tatum. As action rom-coms go, this one’s a hit.

 

The Lost City (2022) runs 1 hour, 52 minutes and is rated PG-13

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