Richard speaks to “CTV News at Six” anchor Andria Case about the best movies and television to watch this weekend including Golden Globe winners “The Mauritanian” and “The United States Vs. Billie Holiday” and a new coming-of-age movie on VOD “My Salinger Year.”
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 Disney’s animated action flick “Raya and the Last Dragon” (Disney+ with Premier Access and theatres), the long awaited sequel “Coming 2 America” (Amazon Prime Video), the biopic “The United States Vs. Billie Holiday” (VOD), the legal drama “The Mauritanian” (premium digital and on-demand), the coming-of-age story “My Salinger Year” (VOD) and the look at the war on drugs “Crisis” (on digital and demand).
“The United States vs. Billie Holiday,” the new film about the turbulent life of jazz singer Billie Holiday from director Lee Daniels and now on digital, is a showcase for its star Andra Day.
Day, in her first leading role, plays Holiday not just as a jazz and swing icon, but also as a
Civil Rights symbol, a woman persecuted by a racist federal government. “Strange Fruit,” her signature song, and musical protest of the lynching of Black Americans, was called a “musical starting gun for this so-called civil rights movement,” by a government office determined to silence her.
Using a framing device of a late career radio interview, hosted by a casually racist journalist (Leslie Jordan), the story quickly moves to flashback to reveal a campaign of terror launched against Lady Day because the feds were uncomfortable with the lyrics to “Strange Fruit.” The song, according to the g-men, is incendiary, a declaration of war, unamerican. “This jazz music is the devil’s work,” says Harry Anslinger (Garrett Hedlund), commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics. “That’s why this Holiday’s woman got to be stopped.”
The film follows the dirty tricks used to harass and harness the singer. Her popularity made it near impossible for the government to prevent her from singing, but well aware of her reliance on opioids, Anslinger focus on her drug use.
Based in part on the book “Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs” by Johann Hari, “United States Vs. Billie Holiday” isn’t simply a show business biopic. The details of Holiday’s life are well documented and presented, from the troubled relationships and fluid sexuality to the drug use and soul searching that seemed to fuel her transcendent talent. But this is a dual story. Daniels dovetails the story of a troubled life with the governmental interference that made Holiday one of the first victims of the war on drugs.
But of all the relationships seen in the movie, it’s the bond Holiday had with her music that is most revealing. She understood the efforts of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics to destroy her went far beyond putting her body in jail, they were trying to take something far more precious from her. “They want me to stop singing what’s in my soul,” she says. Muzzling her voice wasn’t about keeping her quiet, it was about taking what she meant to herself and others away. That “Strange Fruit” is still sung to this day, long after the war on drugs has been declared a failure is a triumph of Holiday’s spirit, even though that may be cold comfort to her fans and community. “Your grandkids will be singing ‘Strange Fruit,’” she says to the agents who harassed her on her deathbed.
Uniformly nice performances support Day in her striking lead debut. Vocally she’s a ringer for the late singer but the performance goes beyond mimicry to unveil the hurt that fueled Holiday’s personal and professional life.
“The United States vs. Billie Holiday” is an ambitious movie that delivers more than a standard biopic.
Richard speaks to “CTV News at 11:30” anchor Andria Case about television and movies to watch this weekend, including the experimental documentary “Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets,” the forlorn romance “Dirt Music” and the quirky Jenny Slate comedy “The Sunlit Night.”
Richard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel with host Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the new movies coming to VOD and streaming services including feel-good “From the Vine,” the based-on-true-events thriller “Target Number One,” the hybrid barumentary “Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets” and the forlorn romance “Dirt Music.”
It may be possible to gauge your interest in “Dirt Music,” a new film on VOD starring Garrett Hedlund and Kelly Macdonald, by its advertising tagline. “Lose Yourself… Find Yourself… In Love.” That inspirational, Nicholas Sparks-style slogan tells you all you need to know about this movie. Much like the story itself, it’s vague, involves love but what does it really mean?
Stretched over two hours the film sees Macdonald play Georgie Jutland, a former nurse now playing step mother to the two sons of her new boyfriend, crayfish magnate, Jim Buckridge (David Wenham). Life in the tiny Australian fishing port of White Point is uneventful and unhappy until Georgie slips out for a midnight swim. While splashing around in the cleansing waters she meets Luther Fox (Garret Hedlund), a fish poacher plying his illegal trade. It is love at first sight and soon the two begin a passionate affair.
Luther is an enigma, a man with a tragic past. His family gone, he drifts though the world, mourning their loss. He’s a damaged guy who abruptly leaves White Point when it appears Buckridge has discovered the affair with Georgie. He heads north to the remote Coronation Island, looking for solitude and safety. Unable and unwilling to let him go, Georgie, with Buckridge‘s unlikely assistance, embarks on an epic search to find her love.
“Dirt Music” is a story of longing that turns out to be over-long. At a hair over two hours it is a feast for the eyes—the Australian landscape is breathtaking—but the story is as under developed as the film’s terse tagline. Considering the epic nature of Georgie’s search for Luther, these star-crossed lovers spend very little on-screen time together. Certainly not enough for the depth of the connection to be made clear. The result is a bit of a head-scratching exercise in lust and longing. Despite the soaring Australian temperature the pair barely have time to generate the heat needed to make us care when they are torn apart.
The story telling in “Dirt Music” trades in melodrama while Macdonald and Hedlund are playing it straight. She’s an open book, he’s broody whose hobby seems to be staring blankly into the ether. Both are bound by grief but the very thing that connects them feels at odds with the film’s over dramatic edge.
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the weekend’s big releases including Brie Larson in “Captain Marvel,” Ben Affleck in “Triple Frontier” and a documentary about one of the most popular books of all time, “Invisible Essence: The Little Prince.”
Richard has a look at the new movies coming to theatres, Brie Larson in “Captain Marvel,” Ben Affleck in “Triple Frontier” and a documentary about one of the most popular books of all time, “Invisible Essence: The Little Prince” with CFRA Morning Rush host Bill Carroll.
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 latest Marvel superhero flick “Captain Marvel,” Ben Affleck in “Triple Frontier” and a documentary about one of the most popular books of all time, “Invisible Essence: The Little Prince.”