126 minutes, 2019
Surviving the “Teflon flu”
With the ravages of COVID-19 still wreaking havoc in virtually every corner of the world, it is particularly maddening and troubling to view the deadly results of corporate giants (DuPont and 3M—of the ironies for the latter, producing N95 respirator masks after willfully suppling PFOA in order for Teflon to prevent eggs from sticking!) employing massive amounts of wilfull blindness to keep bottom lines healthy—no matter what the cost.
Based on Nathaniel Rich’s 2016 article for the New York Times magazine, “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare” (readily available online), the screenplay by Rich, Mario Correa and Matthew Michael Carnahan pulls no punches in pillorying corporate America run amuck and the Environmental Protection Agency as weak and gutless: “Under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, the E.P.A. can test only chemicals when it has been provided evidence of harm. By journey’s end, 70,000 individuals banned together in a class-action lawsuit to do just that. Why did it come to that?
Playing Rob Bilott, corporate lawyer with a cause: representing sick individuals in his grandma’s neighbourhood with a DuPont landfill poisoning the water table, Mark Ruffalo carries the production much as his real-life counterpart brought truth to power. His long-suffering wife, Sarah—also a lawyer, but chose to be stay-at-home mom, is convincingly done up by Anne Hathaway. Tim Robbins plays Bilott’s supervisor, Tom Terp, in the mighty law firm Taft, Stettinius and Hollister (Cincinnati, famed for representing corporations, not individuals, with a balanced sense of duty and compassion to “do what is right”). Notable amongst the many victims are Bill Camp’s gritty take on ruined farmer Wilbur Tennant and the cameo appearance of real-life victim, Bucky Bailey.
Haynes brings everything together as the travesties and denials mount up. Seven years to conduct the necessary clinical trials and research are of small comfort to those who died before the guilt of DuPont and 3M was confirmed. And yet, with the “distraction” of the current pandemic, these corporate monstrosities will live to fight another day and make those concerned with new “poisons” have to prove their cases before anything happens. JWR
101 minutes, 2019
Life is ballast
Those seeking high-flying adventure as an escape from the ongoing tragedies of the current COVID-19 pandemic, will enjoy this fanciful retelling of the first journey in a balloon to seven miles above the earth. Only one of the two principals was a real person; viewers will readily cotton on.
This up-up-and-away production is a virtual two-hander: Felicity Jones portraying the flamboyant pilot with a sad past, while Eddie Redmayne (cross-reference below) does yeoman’s service as the young scientist whose life ambition is to predict the weather: seemingly at any cost or altitude.
There’s a smattering of a love story, but the elements push that, well, into the clouds.
George Steel’s expansive cinematography (deftly edited by Mark Eckersley), along with the special effects wizards, will have one and all thinking they too are miles above the planet, enjoying the spectacular views before enduring nature’s fury.
Next time you look at the Weather Channel, just try to imagine how we got there! JWR
Brittany Runs a Marathon
104 minutes, 2019
Paul Downs Colazzo
The race to self-discovery
Director-writer Colazzo’s first feature shows much promise: the writing is fun and crisp, the pace seldom lags, and his cast and crew do their all to support his vision of the “you’ll always be a fat girl” as she struggles to shed some pounds and, finally, discover life.
Largely known for her television work, Jillian Bell takes on the title role with honesty, gusto and a great sense of timing, from the dead baby joke to the set piece “run for the subway door” gag.
Her, at first, unlikely love interest and fellow dog/house sitter (doing the night shift) comes in the attractive form of Utkarsh Ambudkar, as Jern. With sex soon out of the way, the only question remaining is, “Is there more than just that?”
Morphing from overweight party girl (aided and abetted by Alice Lee’s convincing take playing shallower than a puddle, Shannon), and cheered on by a gay couple and friends (notably Lil Tel Howey doing up tough-love Demetrius to a T), Brittany’s metamorphosis may well inspire others to follow in her determined footsteps—one obstacle at a time. JWR