The Undoing (HBO 2020)

5 Kernels

I binged the first five episodes this weekend, and then topped it off with the newly released season finale. It did not disappoint.

Let me say that Hugh Grant ages well. He will be handsome until his dying day. However, I never thought him a great actor until seeing him in this production of The Undoing. Stellar performance along side Nicole Kidman, who ruins my self esteem as I see her skinny body at 53 years of age and beautiful hair. Besides the physical appearances of these two stars, they make a great couple in this thriller of a story of who done it.

Meet Dr. Johnathan Fraser, an oncologist, and Grace Fraser, his wife, the psychologist. They are a power couple, rich, happy, with a fine young son attending a private school for the rich. Then arrives Elena into Grace’s circle of friends helping with the annual fund raiser for their school. She’s not as classy or rich, because her son has a scholarship. She comes to their first meeting, with a baby in arms, and unashamedly breastfeeds her daughter in front of the women. Needless to say it’s easy to see she’s not from their class.

As Elena oddly greets and speaks with Grace, she becomes uneasy and tells her husband about it. He laughs it off, but unbeknown to Grace there is more to the story than meets the eye. When Elena ends up dead, cruelly bludgeoned to death, the truth seeps out in bits and pieces “undoing” their perfect family picture.

Rather than spoil the show for you, I’ll highly recommend this series as a must watch for those who love the thriller who-done-it type stories. I hope Hugh gets a nod of an award for this performance. It was fantastic.

Florence Foster Jenkins (Movie 2016)

2 Kernels for the Movie/Story

4 Kernels Kiss for Hugh Grant

Streaming FREE for Amazon Prime members, is Florence Foster Jenkins.  Tired from a long day’s work, I plugged in and finally watched the movie.  It was a rather interesting story, but laced with sadness and irritation.

Hugh Grant (now old enough for his AARP membership) is still quite the looker and deserved his Oscar nomination.  Meryl Streep (who has never been a favorite of mine on the screen – sorry) was tolerable as Florence, whose character I found irritating and not just because she couldn’t sing. Simon Helberg aka Howard Wolowitz made it to big screen as Florence’s accompanist on the piano, Cosme McMoon, and was nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal.

The movie, of course, is based upon Florence Foster Jenkins’ love of music and dream of being a singer.  Lied to by her voice coach, encouraged by her husband, and Cosme quietly agreeing in order to keep his job, she actually believes that she can sing.  Unfortunately, she is utterly terrible.  Out of love or some other motive, no one has the gall to tell her to her face how horrible she sounds, so she continues to pursue her career taking it all the way to a performance at Carnegie Hall.

When you consider the fact, and if it is really true as portrayed in the movie, it’s a sad state of affairs that those who purported to love her misused her in such a way. Perhaps her husband didn’t see it as such, attempting to be supportive, but in the end it damages her more than helps.  Her marriage is a strange one, having been infected with syphilis in her first marriage she has never consummated her second.  Her husband, St. Clair, receives his comfort outside the bonds of marriage with another woman at an apartment that he keeps.  It’s an arrangement that is understood but never acknowledged even between the two of them.

Though an interesting story about a real-life person, I found the movie painful to watch by the extended period of off-tuned singing the audience is subjected to in order to make the point. When you listen to the actual recording of Florence, it pretty much sounds the same as Steep, sadly to say.

In retrospect, I would have preferred more background of their marriage and her life up to this point, rather than the one and only focus of her lessons, recital, the recording she paid for, and her ultimate rise to fame for some odd reason. Those sole points do not enlighten the audience as to who Florence was as a person beside her horrible voice. Her character itself isn’t portrayed as an intelligent or endearing one but rather odd, making it seem all the more cruel that people continue to humorously go along with her misguided intentions.  It is such a miss-match between her and St. Clair, you wonder why they fell in love and stayed married.

Her booking of Carnegie Hall, of course, is the pinnacle of her singing career.  However, when she comes across the one scathing review her husband tried to keep her from reading, her health deteriorates from a broken heart of finally realizing she couldn’t keep a tune after all.

I really cannot give the movie much more than a two on this one, but I’ll give Grant a four kernel kiss for his acting and handsome face.

Sense & Sensibility (Movie 1995) vs. Sense & Sensibility (TV BBC Mini-Series 2008)

senseOnce again, I’m back comparing two classics.  Who doesn’t love Jane Austen?  Well, maybe some biker on a Harley, wearing lots of leather and a skull helmet. Nevertheless, for the ladies of the world who revere her timeless stories, this is one of my favorites.

Like many other Austen tales, there are multiple versions of this first published work of Jane’s in 1811.  There was a 1971 TV serial, 1981 TV serial, 1995 film  and the most recent 2008 mini-series.  Do I have a favorite?  The 2008 version is the one that floats my remote, but the 1995 movie version is close behind.

The 1995 version had been my favorite, of course, until the 2008 mini-series came along, consisting of three episodes and 174 minutes.  Sense & Sensibility is one of my best-loved Austen tales. The 1995 version is the star-studded, well-known cast of Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Greg Wise (married to Emma Thompson in real life, by the way), Hugh Grant, and the infamous Alan Rickman.  Each of these talented actors make up cast who tells this fascinating tale of the Dashwood sisters.

The 2008 TV mini-series is much longer, of course, with a casting of new faces, at least for me, in most of the characters.  I had never seen Hattie Morahan (Elinor) or Charity Wakefield (Marianne) before this series aired.  Frankly, I loved them and found them both endearing in this version.  Kate Winslet, although, probably outshines as Marianne between the two. She is such a spirited actress. “Can he love her? Can the soul really be satisfied with such polite affections? To love is to burn – to be on fire, like Juliet or Guinevere or Eloise.”

Then we have the men who love these woman. Hugh Grant and a young Greg Wise in the movie version make good choices. In the 2008 version, we have blue-eyed Dan Stevens (the Downton Abbey heart throb) as Edward Farrars.  A more sleazy Willoughby, in my opinion, was the 2008 Dominic Cooper, who drew from a me a little more empathy in spite of being a rogue. There is quite a bit of sexuality played in the 2008 version with the seduction scene at the beginning. The interaction between Willoughby and Marianne is more tender and seductive as well. However, I’ve read that was a pain point with some critics (read here).  Austen and raunchy don’t mix. But in all honesty, there isn’t anything raunchy about the BBC version whatsoever.Sense1

Then we have Colonel Brandon, played by the late Alan Rickman in 1995, who did everything well on screen. It’s sad that he has left us and his fans have been robbed of great performances that were yet to come. Nevertheless, we are left with memories of older ones, even in this version of Sense & Sensibility.

In the 2008 version, we have David Morrissey, a handsome Brandon, who I thought more attractive but a bit too stiff in his role.   Alan had a little more heart in his performance than David did.  Morrissey is no longer wearing cravats and period clothing but has been on Zombie and sci-fi related shows in the past few years. Apparently, he’s working on another long-long-ago period drama set in 45 AD, Britannia. Maybe he’s taking up a toga instead.

Another thing that I like about the longer series version is that it’s not so rushed.  You also get to enjoy beautiful coastal scenery of Hartland, Devon, with quite a few shots of rolling waves crashing against the rocks. It brings back to me the quiet life of those time periods, when long walks, picnics, playing the piano forte, and finding husbands were the order of the day.

Both versions are available to rent and stream on Amazon.  However, the 2008 version is on Hulu, if you have a subscription there.

Florence Foster Jenkins (On My Watch List – Movie August 12, 2016)


Official movie site for Florence Foster Jenkins. Watch the trailer here! In theaters August 12, 2016.

Source: Florence Foster Jenkins Trailer & Official Movie Site | August 12, 2016

Well, definitely on my watch list for this summer.  Meryl Streep with Hugh Grant, and look who else!  Simon Helberg, who plays Howard Wolowitz on The Big Bang Theory has landed a movie role with some the screen greats!

Runs off to mark my calendar . . .