Richard speaks to “CTV News at 11:30” anchor Andria Bain about movies on VOD and in theatres to watch this weekend including the family drama “Our Friend” (Premium digital and on-demand), the b-movie “The 2nd” (EST, VOD), and a pair of psychological dramas, “Make Up” (VOD) and “Together for an Unknown Period of Time” (TIFF Bell Lightbox and across Canada virtually and theatres).
Richard joins CP24 to have a look at new movies coming to VOD, streaming services and theatres including the family drama “Our Friend” (Premium digital and on-demand), the b-movie “The 2nd” (EST, VOD), and a pair of psychological dramas, “Make Up” (VOD) and “Together for an Unknown Period of Time” (TIFF Bell Lightbox and across Canada virtually and theatres).
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 family drama “Our Friend” (Premium digital and on-demand), the b-movie “The 2nd” (EST, VOD), and a pair of psychological dramas, “Make Up” (VOD) and “Together for an Unknown Period of Time” (TIFF Bell Lightbox and across Canada virtually and theatres).
Magazines may be becoming an artifact of the past but Hollywood still looks to them for inspiration. In the last few years a half dozen movies found inspiration in the pages of “Esquire,” “Vanity Fair” and “The New Yorker,” including “The Friend,” a new drama starring Dakota Johnson, Casey Affleck and Jason Segel and now playing In theatres and on-demand.
Based on Matthew Teague’s “Esquire” article “The Friend: Love Is Not a Big Enough Word,” the film uses a broken timeline—jumping back and forth—to tell the true story of Teague’s terminally ill wife Nicole and their friend-turned-nursemaid Dane. Affleck is Matt, a war correspondent with an attitude. “It’s Friday,” says his editor, “I’ve been tired of you since Wednesday.” He’s an up-and-comer, married to Nicole, a talented musical theatre performer played by Johnson. Her best pal at the theatre is Dane (Segel) a sad sack who can’t seem to get a girlfriend. “It’s not fair,” she says. “I’m the only woman who knows how special you are.”
By the time Nicole is diagnosed with cancer their lives have taken different paths, but Dane leaves his life in New Orleans behind to help his Atlanta-based friends. “Would it help if I stayed for a while? You don’t have to do this alone.” The planned week or two visit turns into months as Dane takes on more responsibility, becoming Matt’s pillar of strength and an indispensable part of Nicole’s transition.
Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite has made a sensitive film about finding your logical, not biological family. Dane is an anchorless man who finds a sense of permanence with his friends. Segel brings his trademarked relatability to the role, exuding warmth but also a sadness due to his rudderless station in life. Staying with Nicole and Matt and their daughters provides him with a home, but it is temporary, a state of affairs bound to end in heartache. Behind every one of his toothy grins is the anxiety of the situation, carefully masked to spare his hosts the extent of his grief. It’s lovely work that quietly defines the width and breath of selfless giving.
Affleck plumbs the depths of the circumstances, examining grief tinged with anger over a situation he can’t control and Johnson brings grace and beauty, especially in the way she looks at Matt, Dane and the children knowing that she won’t be there for their birthdays, holidays etc, to the role of a woman counting her time in days rather than years. Cherry Jones, as a palliative nurse—an “Angel of Mercy” according to Nicole’s doctor—gives a no-nonsense performance that drips compassion.
“The Friend” is a showcase for Segel’s easy charm but also gives the actor a chance to dig deeper. The former sitcom star delivers some much-needed laughs but they are tinged with humility that is very touching.
“You don’t really connect with people very well.” That’s what people tell Megan Leavey (Kate Mara), the title character of a new film from director Gabriela Cowperthwaite. Luckily she does bond with dogs and that gift saves not only her life but also the lives of many others.
When we first meet Leavey she is a withdrawn young woman, aimless, grieving the loss of her best friend. Living in Valley Cottage, New York with her divorced mother (Edie Falco) and the man who broke up her parent’s marriage, she looks to extricate herself from the drudgery of dead end jobs by enlisting in the Marines. When asked why she signed up she replies, bluntly, “To get the BLEEP away from my life.”
She finds her calling after an embarrassing incident. Caught urinating in public after a night of drinking she is assigned the worst job on base, cleaning out the dog kennels of the K9 bomb-sniffing unit. There she meets Rex (Varco), a violent and aggressive military working dog so powerful he shattered the hand of his former handler with one bite.
With the guidance of the gruff Gunnery Sergeant Massey (Common) and dog trainer Andrew Dean (Tom Felton), Leavey and Rex become devoted to one another and the job. “People count on us and if we do it wrong people die,” she says, “so we gotta do it right.” Spread out over more than 100 missions their teamwork saves thousands of lives but on the second of two deployments in Iraq an Improvised Explosive Device wounds both. Leavey finds the return to civilian life difficult, doubly so when Rex is declared unadoptable. “I’m just trying to give a war hero a home for the last few years of his life,” she says.
Based-on-a-real-life story “Megan Leavey” is a by-the-book but effective bit of storytelling. Guaranteed to tug at animal lover’s heartstrings it’s a love story between woman and dog. “I’d thank him for trying to teach me what love is.” It’s also a tribute to the largely ignored but long, honourable role of dogs in the military.
Cowperthwaite stages several tense bomb sniffing scenes and the troubled family sequences work well but the film is at its best when it explores the loving connection Leavey has with Rex. It’s “Benji” with bombs or “Lieutenant Lassie,” a movie that hinges on the audience buying into the camaraderie between dog and trainer.
Mara is a mix of vulnerability and steel will, a woman who finds meaning in the military and her relationship with Rex, only to see it all jeopardized following her injury.
“Megan Leavey” is a compassionate film that may be a bit too straightforward in its telling but nonetheless is a powerful example of the power of companionship—whether between people or people and animals—to heal the human heart.