Sarah Knight Adamson is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and a voting member for the Critics Choice Awards for Movies.

Sarah Knight Adamson and Jessica Aymond are both Members of the Chicago Film Critics Association

Film Rating Code:

★★★★ Outstanding Film- Run, don’t walk to the nearest movie theater.

★★★½ Excellent Film- Highly recommend seeing the film in a movie theater.

★★★ Very Good Film- Recommend seeing the film in a movie theater.

★★½ Good Film- Wait for the DVD, the film is still worth viewing.

★★ Wait for the DVD and proceed with caution.

★½ Wait for the DVD the film has major problems in most areas.

★ Can’t recommend the film.

A Simple Favor (R) ★★★½

Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively star in “A Simple Favor” Photo Credit: Lionsgate

Dry Martini’s in the Suburbs

Despite the ambiguous genre of this excellent diabolical modern-suburbia film—that has themes of mystery, comedy, murder, romance, secrets, and betrayals—for sure it’s one of the best times I’ve had at the movies—just wish I’d have ordered a martini to enhance the experience.

Director Paul Feig, of “Bridesmaids” fame and Melissa McCarthy’s hit “Spy” seems to have a sixth sense when directing women, as he’s unquestionably catapulted Lively into the leading role realm as a bankable contender and expanded Kendrick’s impressive leading role career by adding another outstanding performance to her resume. Feig knows women— and it shows, his lens has captured their allure, chemistry, and most importantly—their talents.

The stunning no-filter fashion career mom Blake Lively (Emily Nelson), is the exact opposite of the buttoned-up schoolgirl, pleaser, brownie making, stay-at-home vblogger Anna Kendrick (Stephanie Smothers), both moms, polar opposites, are intrigued by each other’s company. Emily makes a mean gin martini, which Stephanie takes a liking to and their secrets begin to unfold like melted ice on a hot summer day. Both give captivating performances; their early scenes together are the film’s high points.

Adapted from Darcey Bell’s 2017 book of the same name, it’s been compared to Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” although clearly standing on its own in, as the twists and turns will keep you shaking your head and rolling your eyes in disbelief. Yes, the word comedic is mixed in alongside mystery as the second half of the film is both funny and entirely unforeseen. Refreshing is a term that comes to mind—I caution you not to read spoilers from others as this film is best viewed with limited prior knowledge—no spoilers here.

The majority of the film occurs in Emily’s expensive modern, floor to ceiling windowed home—and let’s not forget her ‘to die for closet’ filled with beautiful shoes, sequined dresses, and lovely accessories. Stephanie’s modest kitchen is multi-faceted serving as her workspace to videotape her ‘Mom Blog’ and to assist in the film’s transition from one event to another as seen through Stephanie’s eyes. The dynamic of women; Emily, guileful self-centered and cold is the dark mirror opposite of Stephanie—both struggle to hide the secrets of their pasts.

Enter Henry Golding (Sean) a floundering writer, Emily’s husband, and now there’s a triangle as stormy as the one near Bermuda. So many questions, one thing we do know, from the film’s opening is that Emily, after dropping her kindergarten-age son (Ian Ho) off at school asks Stephanie for ‘a simple favor’ to pick her son up and care for him until she’s finished working. In the first plot twist, two-days later, no one has seen or heard from Emily—the police are notified.

Stephanie, vblogs the disappearance asking viewers to help in locating Emily. Her site quickly gains followers as new discoveries unfold. The use of the mom-vblog is perfect for setting the tone for modern day times, and as viewers, we learn Stephanie’s point of view. It works beautifully. Does Emily re-appear, has she been murdered, did she and Sean fake her death, what are the womens’ secrets? All of these questions are answered and more in this satisfyingly, entertaining and thirst-quenching film.

Director: Paul Feig
Screenplay: Paul Feig and Jessica Sharzer
Cast: Blake Lively (Emily Nelson), Anna Kendrick (Stephanie Smothers), Linda Henry Golding (Sean Townsend), Andrew Rannells (Darren), and Jean Smart (Margaret McLanden)
Running Time: 2 hours 4 minutes
Studio: Lionsgate


Posted in Movies 2018, Reviews

Crazy Rich Asians (PG-13)★★★½

Constance Wu and Henry Golding star in “Crazy Rich Asians.” Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

A “Crazy Great” Movie

Director Jon M. Chu’s adaptation of Kevin Kwan’s book stands on its own, by adding key scenes, tweaking character’s roles while at the same time astonishingly bringing the over-the-top opulence to life. Unquestionably, Hollywood has been disconcertingly negligent by not producing films centering on Asian culture, can you believe its been 25 years since Amy Tan’s “Joy Luck Club” played on the big screen? Not to mention 13 years since “Memoirs of a Geisha.” What’s exhilarating aside from Asian ethnicity—“Crazy Rich Asians” is one of the best rom-coms certainly of the summer—and perhaps of the last decade.

Similar to a modern-day Cinderella fairy tale, the sweet, naïve Rachel Chu (Constance Wu), a New York University economics professor is unknowingly dating a ‘crazy rich’ Asian guy, Nick Young (Henry Golding), who in theory is Singapore’s equivalent to London’s “Prince Harry.” When Nick invites Rachel to attend the wedding of his best friend in Singapore, he doesn’t divulge his family’s wealth status—however, red flags are raised when Rachel’s shown to her first class private cabin seat.

Upon arrival in Singapore, Rachael is whisked to a multitude of lavish parties meeting Nick’s inquisitive friends and prying family—Rachael wasn’t prepared to be shoved front and center into the spotlight. Quickly she found a confidante in the bubbly and vivacious Peik Lin (Awkwafina), an unforgettable scene-stealing force of nature. Peik informs Rachel of the Young clan’s heritage and other families that left China generations ago to settle on a small island nation and thus transforming it into a cosmopolitan paradise. These billionaire clans scoff at mainland China’s newly attained wealth—while reserving distinct contempt for Americans, with their focus on self over family loyalty.

Rachel, an Asian American career woman, is seen as a gold-digger, an outsider, who will never fit into Nick’s world. Her polite but cold welcome from Eleanor, Nick’s mother (a compelling Michelle Yeoh) whom we soon find out is determined to prevent her son from marrying a person that she feels is incompetent in handling the Young dynasty. As important as her opinions may be, the final judgment is reserved for Nick’s grandmother, the matriarch played by the veteran Chinese American actress Lisa Lu (“The Joy Luck Club”1993).

Rachel’s key ally within Nick’s family, is his cousin, the glamorous Astrid (Gemma Chan), offers solace when she’s around, which isn’t much as she enjoys flying to Paris to frequent the couture houses of Dior and Chanel. The fun-loving Oliver (Nico Santos, supplies a dizzying stream of gossip, followed by encouragement and fashion tips.

Adding a comedic tone is Peik’s father is none other than the highly recognizable and hysterical actor/real-life doctor, Ken Jeong, from “Knock-up”(2007) and “The Hangover”(2009). He helps Rachel to “fit-in” giving instructions on how to survive the wedding and the endless planned lavish events. Each invitation requires detailed planning as in wardrobe, protocol, and expectations. Luckily, Rachel has help with all of these details except the fact that she, as an outsider born and raised in America will never truly be accepted as an equal. In an unconventional rom-com twist—as Nick falls deeper in love with Rachel during his homecoming—Rachel falls deeper into despair followed by utter confusion.

As Rachel begins to realize her back is up against the wall a marvelous occurrence happens—she unwaveringly takes things into her own hands to prove her worth. Although very different from the book’s ending—here we are treated to a strong feminine-based scene that is marvelously captured by cinematographer Vanja Cernjul—with stellar editing to match. The layered scene will forever be one of my favorites, as a cat and mouse scene in which the tables turn.

The Bottom line: Chu’s excellent film has so much going for it in which he can take credit for— rewriting key scenes from the book, along with the addition of new material enhance the film’s quality and overall tone. Rachel’s character rises to the top through great direction and careful rewrites. Truly a gem of a film that has something to say to all generations!

Running time: 2 hours, 1 minute

Sarah Knight Adamson©

Posted in Movies 2018, Reviews

BlacKkKlansman (R) ★★★★

Adam Driver stars as Flip Zimmerman and John David Washington as Ron Stallworth in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKLansman, a Focus Features release. Credit: David Lee / Focus Features

Spike Lee’s film is one of the years best; Ron Stallworth’s memoir is retold with passion and admiration—aptly Lee’s finale reminds us of our current gut-wrenching racial tensions. Be prepared for a history lesson of shock and awe—it’s about time the true story of bigotry is brought to the forefront. Yes, Spike Lee is angry, as we all should be. Through raw video footage, we learn of the atrocities of the ‘hate group’ the ‘Ku Klux Klan’ toward black Americans, Jews, and immigrants—this is not what most of us were taught in history class. Fortunately, Ron Stallworth a black undercover police detective in 1978 had the foresight and courage to save all of his memorabilia from his days as a member of the KKK—yes, he has his official Ku Klux Klan membership card as proof.

John David Washington stars as Ron Stallworth in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, a Focus Features release.Credit: David Lee / Focus Features

Stallworth, was also the first black police officer in Colorado Springs (1978), this intelligent, highly motivated young man assumed responsibility for his own advancement within the force. As a rookie, he asked his commanding officer for a transfer to detective work. Once a detective, in scanning the daily newspaper for potential illegal activities he spots a recruitment ad seeking members to join the Ku Klux Klan. He contacts the Klan by phone, all while pretending to be a white racist extremist, and shortly after that, he’s asked to become a member.

In the film, John David Washington, Denzel’s son plays a convincing Ron. A terrific Adam Driver plays his white colleague Zimmerman, who handles Ron’s in-person appearances. As outrageous as this sounds, Ron Stallworth’s book, “Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime,” is based on his nine-month KKK investigation and his numerous calls with David Duke the Grand Wizard of the group.

Shortly after publication in 2014, Hollywood began calling with offers to bring Stallworth’s book to the screen. He patiently waited until his story was in the right hands. QC Entertainment acquired the rights to the book, and following a successful partnership on the film “Get Out,” Jordan Peele’s Monkeypaw joined QC’s Sean McKittrick and Ray Mansfield to produce the film. They all agreed on one person to bring the personal story to the big screen—Spike Lee.

Myself, having read Stallworth’s incredible and historical book; can say it’s the cornerstone of the film as Lee follows it reasonably close. Although as with all Spike Lee films we are given his signature touch—a much broader and more profound (in your face) sense of the state of affairs. The real-life investigation took place in 1978, Lee and his trio of screenplay writers’ focus on the early 1970s, only two years after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the then active Black Panther group.

The real Ron Stallworth at age twenty-two (1975). From the book “Black Klansman” by Stallworth. Photo Credit: Flatiron Books New York.

To say that the film is a masterpiece of the culmination of Lee’s life’s work, is not too far from the truth, here through his genius comedic skill he toggles harsh realities with humor. Moreover, via his keen directing skills, garners stellar performances from Washington, Driver, and Topher Grace as David Duke along with a tremendous Laura Harrier (Patrice Dumas), as a college advocate for Black Power. Lee presents the parallel uprise of the Ku Klux Klan and the Black Power movement. We are also privy to ‘groovy fashions’ and ‘far out’ dance moves.

John David Washington and Laura Harrier. Photo: David Lee/Focus Features

Opening with an aerial shot of Vivien Leigh (Scarlet O’Hara) surrounded by dead and wounded soldiers in a scene from “Gone with the Wind” (1939) near the end of the Civil War around 1865. Next, we view black and white news clips of segregation with Alec Baldwin a fictitious (Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard) narrating his disgust of mixing white Americans with black Americans. Lastly just before we meet Ron Stallworth, racist scenes from “Birth of a Nation” (1915) are shown. Lee’s simply, setting the tone for the abhorrent racial slurs that are forthcoming in the film—be prepared this is an uncomfortable film to view, although it’s importance can not be stressed enough in shedding light on racism and conceivably gaining empathy for the atrocities people have been forced to endure.

The casting of John David Washington as Ron is perfect; he’s quick-witted, charming and aggressive when he needs to be. Washington’s a former college American football running back, at the age of nine he appeared in Spike Lee’s “Malcolm X” (1992) as a student in a Harlem classroom, his father played the leading role, since 2015 he’s appeared in the HBO’s “Ballers” as Ricky Jerret. There’s something about his charismatic personality. Whether he’s rolling his eyes as he chats with David Duke, pressing Flip Zimmerman to become more committed to the cause or his boyish ways when pursuing his girlfriend president of the Black Student Union at Colorado College, and the host to Black Panther Party leader Stokely Carmichael (who had just adopted the name of Kwame Ture).

Spike Lee and Adam Driver on the set of Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, a Focus Features release.Credit: David Lee / Focus Features

Adam Driver’s performance as the white Ron in reality is the more dangerous role as he’s Jewish born (although nonpracticing) yet he’s subjected to constant suspicion by the Klan. In a tense scene, he’s locked in the basement with a lunatic Klan member who at gunpoint forces him to take a lie-detector test. On a side note: In Stallworth’s book Flip Zimmerman, is known as Chuck, with no last name. The detective wants complete anonymity—wanting no part of the book or the film. 

Lee keeps us on the edge of our seats when the Klan is present; you never know what one of them is going to say or worse yet, what they might do. Depicted as unorganized, unpredictable, and uneducated losers who ‘get off’ on the comradery of hate. During a viewing of the film “Birth of a Nation” which is often viewed by Klan members, they whop and holler whipping themselves into a frenzy—scary stuff. The KKK handshake is ‘outed’ as in the book, along with the stupidity of their leader David Duke, who brags to Ron that he can tell the difference between a black man and white one by the way a black man pronounces certain words.

There’s so much more to this film that will surprise you that’s best kept quiet for now. I urge you to see the film on the big screen with an audience, believe me; you’ll feel a range of emotions.

“BlacKkKlansman” is one of those films that I’ll be viewing again; it’s that excellent and that memorable. The ending live newsreel scenes of 2017 leave a powerful message, nothing can prepare you for the experience, sit back while you’re immersed in real-life videos of today, and perhaps you’ll be moved enough to support the change or better yet, be the change.

Cast: John David Washington (Ron Stallworth), Adam Driver (Flip Zimmerman), Laura Harrier (Patrice Dumas), Topher Grace (David Duke), Robert John Burke (Chief Bridges), Alec Baldwin(Dr. Kennebrew Beauregard)

Director: Spike Lee 

Writer: (based on the memoir by) Ron Stallworth,  “Black Klansman: Race, Hate, and the Undercover Investigation of a Lifetime”

Screenwriters:Spike Lee, Charlie Wachtel, David Rabinowitz, Kevin Willmott

Crew: Cinematographer Chayse Irvin, Editor
Barry Alexander Brown, Composer Terence Blanchard

Run Time: 2 Hours 15 Minutes

Sarah Knight Adamson© August 10, 2018


Posted in Movies 2018, Reviews

Christopher Robin (G) ★★★

Disney Studios (2018)

A Visit With Warm Fuzzy Friends in the Enchanting Forrest

Oh bother, as Winnie the Pooh would say; this is not the live action over-the-top film kids and adults may expect; however, it is true to the laid-back nature of the books.

If you’re looking for a ‘bear hug of a movie’ Winnie the Pooh and his enchanting forest friends will not disappoint. Full of heart—garnering a perfect family message—spend quality time together, by just being together. Forget those extravagant hour-by-hour family itineraries—take a walk in the countryside, have a picnic, throw sticks in a pond and call it a day. We can all learn from a lovable bear’s unassuming logic—be with the people you love, go on adventures and help each other along the way.

Bringing you up to speed, Christopher Robin a young British boy and his beloved stuffed bear, Winnie the Pooh first appeared in a collection of verses written by author A.A. Milne in a book entitled “When We Were Very Young” in 1924. The follow up were books and newspaper articles filled with stories of the imaginary adventures of a happy-go-lucky boy, Milne’s son, Christopher Robin, his honey-loving bear, along with the rest of his stuffed animal collection of Piglet, Tigger, Eeyore, Kanga, and Roo; Owl and Rabbit were written in as make-believe forest friends in later books. The setting for the books is the fictitious Hundred Acre Wood based on Ashdown Forest in East Sussex, England where the Milne family lived. Embraced by readers of all ages around the world the beloved books along with their signature illustrations by E. H. Shepard are undeniably the most popular children’s books of all time.

The film begins with drawings of the beautiful artwork of the books continuing in sequence until a young Christopher Robin’s last days at home before he’s off to boarding school. We view Winnie the Pooh and the gang in a delightful, lively scene around a table in the woods drinking tea, and eating cake during the send-off party, each displaying their distinct personalities. Owl and Rabbit argue proclaiming their discernment, and Piglet’s the worrywart, Tigger’s a bouncy livewire, Eeyore’s gloomy and insecure, Kanga is motherly to her sweet son Roo, while Pooh’s dipping into the honey pot.

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover and certainly in this case you shouldn’t judge a movie by its trailer. Seeing only a ‘glimpse’ of the live action magical stuffed animals does not do justice to their personalities. Each is impressively realistic in the film, their gestures, actions, and specifically, their speaking is literally jaw-dropping. Jim Cummings provides the familiar and comforting voice of Pooh we’ve seen in Disney videos, movies and promotions for the last 30 years. He’s a standout in the film as he also voices gloomy Eeyore.

Boasting the strong writing team of Alex Ross Perry “Listen Up Philip,” Tom McCarthy ‘Spotlight” and Allison Schroeder “Hidden Figures,” with acclaimed director Marc Forester of “Finding Neverland,” “The Kite Runner,” and “Quantum of Solace”— we’re the benefactors of a lovely,  ‘sweet as honey’ relatable and timeless cautionary tale. My point of contention is the two hour run time, much too long for children.

In rapid succession, we view Christopher Robin’s life advancing until settling on his current high-pressure business job in London. A fantastic Ewan McGregor stars as Christopher Robin, a disillusioned workaholic—his wife a very worried Evelyn (Hayley Atwell) and his bright, yet neglected nine-year-old daughter Madeline (Bronte Carmichael) all live in London. Yep, it appears that Mr. Robin has lost his smile, laughter, and sense of wonder. Evelyn and Madeline both view him as stressed out and distant.

Pooh, has lost his friends and by searching for them he ends up in a park in London, he has a cute-meet with Christopher Robin on a park bench. Let the constant questioning begin! It’s clear from the get-go that Pooh has a one-track mind, he has missed his friend and wants to help. He senses the discontent, and like a broken record continues his message until Christopher Robin loses his temper.

Considering the natural forest setting of the books, the simple stories of day-to-day play, the message of kindness and goodwill—the film shifts quickly to the forest, immersing us into that innocent, childlike world of furry friends.  Ultimately, the books are for children, yet their messages are for all. And that is precisely why Winnie the Pooh and his friends are so popular. Who doesn’t need a good old bear hug now and then? In one of the sweetest scenes in the film, Pooh and Christopher Robin are merely sitting on a log hugging each other. Yes, they got this one right.

Voices: Pooh and Eeyore (Jim Cummings), Kanga (Sophie Okonedo), Rabbit (Peter Capaldi), Eeyore (Brad Garrett), Piglet (Nick Mohammed), Tigger (Cummings, again) and Owl (Toby Jones).

Studio: Disney

Run Time: 2 hours

* Author’s note: I visited Pooh Corner in East Sussex, England in September of 2017 by taking a train from London to Hartfield and then a taxi to Ashdown Forrest. There’s a delightful tearoom with an outside dining area and a shop filled with Winnie the Pooh memorabilia. Julie Ashby and her sister run the shop, and they gave me a map of the woods. I talked with them, and they did tell me that, as a child, Christopher Robin came into the shop with his nanny for sweets. Unfortunately, the woods were muddy that day, but I intend to go back in September to see Pooh Bridge and play “Pooh Sticks.” Stay tuned!

Posted in Movies 2018, Reviews

Mission Impossible: Fallout (PG-13) ★★★★

Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt in “Mission Impossible: Fallout” Photo Credit: Paramount Studios

Be Prepared For An Intense Adrenaline Filled Ride

The “Mission Impossible” film series launched in 1996 produced by and starring Tom Cruise at age 33 brought Cruise’s action skills to the forefront. In “Fallout,” 2018, the sixth film in the series, Cruise now age 56, continues to astound as an action hero. Age has its advantage here—as you can’t help but commend his perseverance in continuing to not only perform most of his own stunts, (at his age), but he continues to ‘raise the action bar’—regardless of your feelings toward Cruise as an individual his astonishing action skills can’t be ignored.

Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt in “Mission Impossible: Fallout” Photo Credit: Paramount Studios

Cruise has also made some smart choices in casting by continuing with screenwriter and director Christopher McQuarrie, of the prior film “Rogue Nation,” as well as expanding the female roles by adding more characters. Actress Rebecca Ferguson (Ilsa Faust), a former MI6 agent who has her own agenda at times shares the lead with Cruise. Bringing back (Michelle Monaghan) Ethan Hunt’s wife and resolving that storyline; gives us Ethan’s soft side, while visually showing us he’s human.
Another brilliant move is the addition of Angela Bassett (Erika Sloane), as the tough as nails CIA Director as she brings a different type of attitude to the character; she is ultra strong in her position with no hesitation in questioning the MIF on their motives and actions. Both female characters Erika Sloane and Ilsa Faust are timely in leveling the action genre playing field by providing intelligent, powerful and strong women roles—I applaud this move.

To be frank, adding Jeremy Renner as a side-kick in the prior films was a good move in sharing Cruise’s spotlight, however; “Fallout’s” character changes are decisively a greater mix. Casting a bearded Henry Cavill a CIA Operative Assassin (August Walker) best known as (Superman/Clark Kent 2013, 2016, 2017) ultimately provides a deeper appreciation for Ethan Hunt also works well.

Aside from the character changes, the visual effects and stunt work is another reason the film is such a standout. I’ve learned a new acronym HALO (High Altitude Low Opening) referring to helicopter jumping— special military operatives have used it in order to go as secretly as possible into an area. In “Fallout” Tom Cruise completed over 100 HALO jumps to get the right sequence. The stunts are reminiscent of the “Fast and Furious” series at times particularly with the ‘Tokyo drifting’ car chases, and has the nonstop intense action feel of “Mad Max.” It distinctly retains its own identity with it’s star, (Cruise), Ethan Hunt’s hyper speed running, motorcycle stunts and HALO jumps.

Most have seen the trailer of the battling helicopters; I can honestly say, “You ain’t seen nothing yet, as the conclusion of that scene alone is worth the price of admission.” Another thrilling adrenaline scene is the rooftop building jumps as in a Mario Bros. video game. Similar in concept, except MIF team partner Benji Dunn (Simon Peg) controls Hunt’s moves via remote communication, as to the direction; right or left turns, leaping straight on from one building to another building or jumping down a few stories. The result creates hysterical banter between the pair all while the audience is clinching deeper into their armrests with intermittent sighs of relief as the moves land.

The plot centers on a group called the Apostles with the goal to create chaos employing suffering and death. It appears they’ve been scheming with an insider named John Lark to obtain plutonium to create three dirty bombs. Hunt’s boss Alan Hundley (Alec Baldwin) sends him to Paris to locate John Lark before he’s able to buy the plutonium. He’s also given an unwanted sidekick, August Walker. Here’s where the action starts to ante up, with motorcycle chases, Hunt running full speed, building leaps and plenty of martial arts hand to hand combat fighting.

After Paris, the film shifts to London, with the finale in Kashmir Valley in India at the base of the Himalayan Mountains. The ending has three different storylines running simultaneously with razor-sharp precision, all nail-biting till the end. The last 45 minutes contain some of the best action sequences to date. They are thrilling, intense and entertaining.

It also appears that filmmakers have a message they’d like you to take away from the film. Here’s a line from the narrative regarding Ethan Hunt, “We need people like you that care about the life of just one as they do millions.” I sense Hunt being called a hero without specifically saying the word; another character said to Hunt, “I sleep soundly at night knowing you’re here.” My take away—I appreciated the addition of the strong female roles, the exhilarating action scenes along with the film’s implication—that all lives matter.

Sarah Knight Adamson®July 27, 2018

Posted in Movies 2018, Reviews

Interview with Marc Turtletaub Director of Puzzle

Director Marc Turtletaub and Sarah Knight Adamson after the screening of “Puzzle” at the Music Box Theater’ during the Chicago Film Critics Festival, May 14, 2018.

MARC TURTLETAUB on PUZZLE, Kelly Macdonald and Women’s Roles — Sarah Knight Adamson interviews                                                        

As producer, Marc Turtletaub has been investing cash and cred in femme-centric feature films since 2004, standing behind award-winning films such as Little Miss Sunshine with Toni Collette and Abigail Breslin, and Loving with Ruth Negga among others. Sitting in the director’s chair for this year’s Puzzle, he’s brought to life a most memorable female character named Agnes, a doting albeit repressed housewife and mother who finds her sense of adventure, self-esteem and new meaning in life when she casually enters the realm of competitive jigsaw puzzling. As with Turtletaub’s other cinematic credits, a great measure of Puzzle’s success rests with the film’s leading lady, Kelly Macdonald, whose complex and nuanced performance as Agnes is funny and heartbreaking and entirely relatable. Here’s what he had to say in a chat with AWFJ’s Sarah Knight Adamson after the Chicago Film Critic’s Festival’s May 14 screening of the film at the Music Box Theater.

SARAH KNIGHT ADAMSON: The audience at tonight’s screening reacted very warmly to Puzzle. That must be very gratifying. What do you like best about attending screenings of your films?

MARC TURTLETAUB: You never know how an audience is going to respond. One of the wonderful things about showing a film in front of a live audience, is, just as we had tonight, you feel the dynamic of an audience laughing. You could just feel the response as people are in a room together. You just don’t get that in your living room. We had that same experience at our premier at Sundance, it was as great a night as tonight.

ADAMSON: You’re often associated with films that have strong female leads, as does Puzzle. Let’s talk about your star, Kelly Macdonald. She is one of my favorite actresses. She’s so multidimensional in her ability to do comedy and drama, which she blends so beautifully as Agnes. Can you speak a bit about working with her?

TURTLETAUB: Yes, she’s brilliant. She gets herself completely lost in a role. She’s wonderful in everything she does.

ADAMSON: Yes, exactly. She’s so unobtrusive about her acting career. When asked about her role in Puzzle she’s quoted as saying; “Just to get the script where I’m actually the star is quite something.” It’s refreshing that she has such modesty about her tremendous talent.

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Posted in Celebrity Interviews, Film Festivals, Interview Archives, Interviews

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