Richard speaks to “CTV News at Six” anchor Andria Case about the best movies to watch this weekend including the inspired-by-true-events drama “One Night In Miami” (Amazon Prime Video), the Netflix action flick “Outside the Wire” (Netflix) and the young adult drama “Words On Bathroom Walls” (EST, VOD, DVD, Blu-ray).
Richard sits in on the CFRA Ottawa morning show with host Bill Carroll to talk the new movies coming to theatres, VOD and streaming services including the inspired-by-true-events drama “One Night In Miami” (Amazon Prime Video), the Netflix action flick “Outside the Wire” (Netflix) and the young adult drama “Words On Bathroom Walls” (EST, VOD, DVD, Blu-ray).
Based on Julia Walton’s 2017 young adult novel of the same name, “Words on Bathroom Walls,” now on EST, VOD, DVD and Blu-ray, follows a teenager, diagnosed with schizophrenia, navigating mental illness and life in a new school. “How hard could it be to hide my burgeoning insanity from the unforgiving ecosystem that is high school?” says Adam Petrazelli (Charlie Plummer) in the film’s opening moments.
Adam is a foodie with dreams of being a chef but when he accidentally injures a classmate during a psychotic break in lab class his future is jeopardized. A diagnosis of treatment resistant schizophrenia leaves him ostracized from his former friends. They taunt him in the halls—“Where’s the straightjacket?” and call him “freak” as he confronts the voices in his head, the new-agey Rebecca (AnnaSophia Robb), the Bodyguard (Lobo Sebastian) and troublemaker Joaquin (Devon Bostick), a varied group he calls “my inescapable roommates.”
A new drug trial offers hope, as does a switch to a new Catholic school. For the first time in ages he feels like he has autonomy over his life. “I woke up to complete silence. No whispers. No banter. No visions. Just pure, unfiltered, beautiful quiet.” His friendship with valedictorian Maya (Taylor Russell) blossoms, but as the medication slowly affects his ability to cook he struggles to hide the side effects from mother (Molly Parker) and step dad (Walton Goggins).
“Words on a Bathroom Wall” is a coming-of-age story with a difference. Adam’s journey with schizophrenia is sensitively handled, with director Thor Freudenthal finding inventive ways to put the viewer into the main character’s shoes. The voices and hallucinations are brought to life without sensationalism or exploitation. Instead, they show us what is happening in Adam’s mind as he navigates the minefield of high school and first love. Far from demonizing his disease, as has been the case in other less humane cinematic depictions of schizophrenia, they add dimension to the story.
Plummer hands in a break out performance as Adam. He’s an awkward teen, a dutiful son who learns how to cook to comfort his mother and a teen struggling with an illness. His subtle performance goes a long way to creating a character in three-dimensions who is both strong and vulnerable. He shares good chemistry with Russell who brings depth to an underwritten Maya.
“Words on a Bathroom Wall” hits hard before settling into more familiar, optimistic territory but the respectful tone established early on makes up for the sappiness that bogs down the film’s final moments.
A weekly feature from from ctvnews.ca! The Crouse Review is a quick, hot take on the weekend’s biggest movies! This week Richard looks at the angry ape movie “Rampage,” the timely and touching drama “Indian Horse” and the boy-and-his-horse drama “Lean on Pete.”
Richard joins CP24 anchor Nathan Downer to have a look at the weekend’s new movies including the giant ape movie “Rampage,” the touching drama “Indian Horse,” the Middle East thriller “Beirut” starring Jon Hamm and Joaquin Phoenix in “You Were Never Really Here.”
“In all honesty if I heard about a film about a boy and his horse I wouldn’t want to go see that because I would think it was a family movie,” says English director Andrew Haigh. We are talking about his newest film Lean on Pete, which is, ironically, a film about a boy and his horse.
Based on the book by Willy Vlautin, it sounds like family fare but it is anything but. The cast should be the first clue. Steve Buscemi, Chloë Sevigny and Steve Zahn, all edgy 90s indie virtuosos, are the above-the-title stars, hinting that this isn’t going to be another National Velvet retread.
“The book is sad at times and tragic at times so the movie felt like a faithful adaptation of that. Oddly, I think that’s why I liked it because it was seemingly playing with more traditional ideas but telling the real life version of that. There could be a family movie about a boy on the road with a horse but it not going to be real. It was only after I finished the film that I realised, ‘This is going to be quite a challenge.’”
Charlie Plummer, last seen as John Paul Getty III in All the Money in the World, plays Charley Thompson a fifteen-year-old looking for permanence in his hardscrabble life. To pass the time he gets a job tending to an aging Quarter Horse named Lean On Pete. When the horse’s owner, a crusty old horse trader played by Buscemi, decides to get rid of Pete, to “send him to Mexico”—i.e.: the glue factory— Charley makes off with the horse, embarking on a road trip in search of a better life for both of them.
“It isn’t about the horse,” says Haigh. “It is about Charley’s desperate need for some stability, some security, someone to care for him, someone to care about him. That’s what’s driving him.”
As Charley the eighteen-year-old Plummer is magnetic, quietly creating the character of a desperate young man who does bad things for mostly the right reasons.
“It is not easy trying to cast someone about that age. Especially someone who has to both physically feel right, that they are still a kid but very nearly an adult. I knew I wanted him, in a frame, to look like a kid and then suddenly go older, then younger.
“There a lot of good boys that we had seen but Charley had something different. He approaches scenes in a different way. He doesn’t go the easy emotional way. He finds something a more challenging which sometimes keeps you at even more of a distance but then sometimes pulls you in with that amazing face he has.”
Haigh, who next project is The North Water, a sprawling TV movie about a disgraced ex-army surgeon now working as ship’s doctor on a whaling expedition, hopes people respond to Lean on Pete’s messages of kindness and compassion.
“If people leave the cinema and they feel for that kid and think about him that is all I can really hope for,” he says. “I hope it speaks to the importance of the need to help people who are suffering. I don’t know if people will take that away or not but it is certainly in the DNA of the film.”
The boy-and-his-horse story of “Lean on Pete” sounds like family fare but it is anything but. The cast should be the first clue. Steve Buscemi, Chloë Sevigny and Steve Zahn, all edgy 90s indie virtuosos, are the above-the-title stars, hinting that this isn’t going to be another “National Velvet” remake.
At the beginning of the story fifteen-year-old Charley Thompson (Charlie Plummer) and his single father Ray (Travis Fimmel) are starting their lives over in Portland, Oregon. Charley’s mom went out for cigarettes years ago and never came back. Since then father and son and moved around the country, Ray chasing work, Charley trying to find a place to fit in. They are more like friends than father and son. Ray offers up dubious fatherly advice—“The best women have all been waitresses at some point.”—and finds a new women in every new town.
To pass the time Charley gets a job tending to an aging Quarter Horse named Lean On Pete. Working for crusty old horse trader Del Montgomery (Buscemi) Charley finds purpose and despite the warnings of jockey Bonnie (Sevigny) not to get emotionally involved with the horse—“Don’t think of them as pets,” she says.—the teenager coddles the horse even as it becomes clear Pete isn’t going to win anymore races.
When Del decides to get rid of Pete, to “send him to Mexico”—i.e.: the glue factory— Charley makes off with the horse, embarking on a road trip in search of a better life for both of them.
There are many good messages here for kids about resilience and loyalty but again let me remind you this isn’t a kid’s movie. Del’s foul language and a scene where Charley beats a homeless man with a tire iron rule that out. What we’re left with is a story that feels like it was written for a young adult audience but made by someone weaned on mid-period Wim Wenders. Tonally it feels as though it has one hoof in YA, the other in more adult fare.
Tonality aside, the first hour works very well. Plummer is magnetic, quietly creating the character of a desperate young man who does bad things for mostly the right reasons. His scenes with Buscemi and Sevigny sparkle with a gruff warmth, setting up the lesson in resilience that dominates the second half. As Charley sets off into America’s hinterland Bonnie’s statement of fact, “There’s only so many times you can fall down, right?,” is proven wrong time after time. It’s a road trip of misery that sees Charley survive in very trying circumstances. Paced a little too leisurely in its second hour the road trip section, despite the dramatic events portrayed, is far less interesting than the character work of the first hour.
“Lean on Pete” is an effective portrait of a lonely boy but ultimately simply becomes a laundry list of Charley’s bad decisions.